Monthly Archives: September 2017

Show a Pro

 

Do you get annoyed when your students come to you for every little thing? Or conversely, maybe you sometimes feel yourself getting frustrated when one of your students speaks up about something they know lots about, rudely interrupting you when you are trying to teach that very same thing to the class.

Schools and teachers need to re-frame the classroom so that the teacher is no longer the knowledge-holder. If we continue with the perception that teachers have All The Knowledge and just need to dispense it at the correct time for students, we may as well stop now. When students leave school, where do they go for information if they no longer have a classroom teacher?

Young people are now digitally connected to overwhelming amounts of information and ideas. Amid this, students greet teachers’ attempts to deliver content knowledge using traditional didactic approaches with scepticism (Fullan and Langworthy, 2014). Students need to learn how to become well connected with the world around them and know where to go and who to go to when they need information. They need to know that there are millions of people within their reach who are all experts in something. We need to get kids connected. 

I am a big believer in the idea of “Show a Pro“. That is, rather than teaching everything about a concept or skills yourself, find an expert in that field to connect with your students, speak to them or coach them as they work in that same area. Even better, have your students discover ways to reach out to experts.

Some simple and powerful ways to Show a Pro are:

  • Draw on your students’ parent expertise. If you have a parent that works in a bank, get them in for your unit on finance. If you have a parent who is a works in a trade, get them in to talk about how to manage projects with lots of tasks. If you have a parent that is a programmer, have them come in and give tips to your students on their own coding projects. The possibilities are endless. Do a quick survey at the beginning of the year, asking parents about their occupations and special interests or skills, and whether they would be interested in speaking to students about an aspect of their job.
  • The internet has it all. When my students were making short films, we listened to filmmakers from the Pixar team explain how to create and pitch a storyboard via a video on their website. There’s nothing I could have taught about films that the Pixar team couldn’t have said better. While videos can’t always replace a teacher, listening to videos of legitimate experts on how do do things best is a powerful way for students to learn new skills and concepts.
  • Skype or Google Hangouts. Almost anyone can connect this way, and it can be easier and less time consuming for your guest to be able to connect via internet rather than to travel to the school. Once (through the Tech Girls are Superheroes Competition) I had a newspaper editor connect with a group of students via Google hangouts to coach them on a business they were designing, and the impact of having a mentor for their project was profound for this group.
  • Check out Skype in Education There are guest speakers, other schools and teachers and even virtual field trips.
  • Look for people and organisations that are willing to come into schools. For example, my team booked a poet to coach classes and run workshops for 4 weeks during a poetry unit. This poet offered a program for working in schools, and was able to adapt his workshops to what we needed from him. Even if the person or organisation you are interested in doesn’t usually offer a program, it is worth getting in touch to see if they are willing to put something together.
  • See what your council offers. Your local council can be a goldmine of opportunity for students to meet someone who makes real change in a particular area. You could be looking at experts on sports, community groups, local parks and rec spaces, recycling and sustainability, transport. For example, I had a local MP meet a group of students who wanted to know about the problems the local council experiences with bike safety in the area, and he was able to give them data the council had collected on this problem. Plus, did you ever hear of a politician giving up the opportunity for a photo of themselves speaking to a class full of students?
  • Draw on the local community. People who are part of the school’s local community are often very keen to be able to contribute to schools as a way of ‘giving back’.
  • Get in touch with universities. They are full of experts, a lot of whom are looking for ways they can share their knowledge or build their skills. Faculties will often have students who are looking to work with schools on different projects.

 

Tips

  • Ask your students who they think they should talk to to learn more about their topic. Have them make suggestions about WHO might have the knowledge they need, and HOW they might get in touch with them.
  • Some people you ask (especially parents) might feel that they don’t have enough to share. It’s important to be clear on what information you would like them to talk about, what you want them to demonstrate, and what level of understanding the students will come with. This can make it easier for your guest to understand how their expertise can help your class.
  • In most cases, experts are experts in their field, not in teaching or public speaking. It can be very helpful to provide some information on how to run the session, or for you to run it and allow time for your guest to share, and manage question time for them.
  • If your expert is willing, get their contact details so that if students have a follow up question, you can get in touch to find out their answers.
  • Excursions and incursions can be very expensive. Finding experts in other ways is often extremely inexpensive and is most likely more tailored to what the learning needs of your students are.

 

References

Fullan, M. and Langworthy, M. (2014). A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning. [online] Available at: http://www.michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/3897.Rich_Seam_web.pdf [Accessed 6 Sep. 2017].