California Educator

April / May 2019

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S T H E S C H O O L year draws to a close, it's a good time to remember and reflect on our continual mission to engage our students. I believe a balanced approach in the class- room is key, whether you are a "sage on the stage" — the transmittal model of teaching — or a "guide on the side" who supports the new and improved constructivist theory of learning. e transmittal approach, you ask? Simply, this approach follows the traditional lecture style of teaching, where the teacher transfers knowledge to students and adopts the prem- ise that students' minds are empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge and information. This deep- rooted approach can be effective if the speaker is talented, engaging and brief — especially for young learners. However, it is typically and negatively perceived today as a passive learning approach, equated to the teacher from Ferris Bueller's Day Off droning, "Bueller… Bueller…" while saliva trickles down students' faces from boredom and lack of interest. e constructivist theory, you ponder? is principle resides in the active approach to learning, based on the premise that engaged learning occurs when a student draws on their own intrinsic motivation to seek out a connection to their own authentic learning experi- ence. e "sage" instead is a facilitator and organizer guiding the experience. These experiences are often structured in cooperative small-group environments where students can also find value in the social aspect of learning. is system is also potentially effective and engaging, but from my experi- ence, can lose steam if overdone and too repetitive. Both methodologies have value. Both can be effective — if balanced. e conflict arises when teachers settle on one systematic approach to learning. Whether transmittal or constructivist, monotony, repetition and boredom set in on students like a fog. And for the teachers operating in real-time live action with 34 students in the room, the haze of directives and responsibilities is equally over- whelming. Under pressure, teachers grasp what's most comfortable and manageable in the moment while adhering to administrative mandates, exe- cuting new curricular initiatives, responding to parental pressures, and supporting individual stu- dent demands. In these pressure cookers, we teachers move to extremes, either getting stuck lecturing for entire class periods, or becoming complacent as our student-led "centers" domi- nate too many weeks on end without meaning ful change or direction. Our overall teaching performance falls flat — and our stu- dents disengage. Here, a balanced approach takes center stage and an old algorithmic adage enters stage left. Remember the tag line quote by Gail Godwin on every teacher email? "Teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theater." is formula, although slightly askew in my opinion, holds value. Oration, with all its significance and art, is still important, still necessary, and is still a fundamental tool a teacher should have the capability to access when needed — with skill and brevity, of course. How- ever, ideally, a lesson's core must thrive in an active student-centered activity that is also relevant and concise. A balanced and blended approach is optimal as it provides variety and nuance to our instruction. Lastly, the final act of a lesson should reflect on the cooperative experience — cel- ebrate the breakthroughs and plan for the follow-throughs. I constantly remind myself of the importance of balance in my practice and craftsmanship as a teacher. Articulacy and oration pair best with a well-structured, student-based approach. Old-school and new-school systems have a place in the same school. Gregor Trpin, Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers Asso- ciation, is a middle school humanities and social studies teacher. View his TEDx talk, "180 Days: Ode to My Students," at " A balanced and blended approach is optimal as it provides variety and nuance to our instruction." Balance the Performance Should teachers be a 'sage on the stage' or a 'guide on the side'? a 23 A P R I L / M AY 2 019 Y O U R V O I C E S By Gregor Trpin

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