Monday, March 9, 2015

Being three times the age of your students

             Old teachers can savour the zest of these words, yet young hats will get the pleasure of taking the trip through time back to the golden age of creating and sharing knowledge amiably and with lots of love and mild moral authority for both teaching and learning sake. However, everything changes except for the basis on which schools have been designed from the start.

            The very essence of being an educator is not teaching but making learning enjoyable. Therefore teachers are not dealing with students any more. They are rather dealing with new friends every academic year. The teacher doesn't choose her students and vice-versa, neither the students choose their classmates. The whole set looks like a cluster of islands, each of which has its own proper weather and topography. They all meet without prior arrangement to interact, and they have to make sense of this new experience.

     Compared to the old generations of students, this generation’s life is quite complicated, hence their awkward attitude towards learning. They don’t look interested in anything which requires a little hard work and attentiveness. Yes, everything seems complicated with them due to lots of new factors that until recently they have been completely unknown to us. Technology has terrifically changed their lives upside down. Consequently, the values themselves have been contaminated and some of them have the wrong side up while some others have almost been lost. Therefore, teachers have to deal with this delicate new situation using innovative methods that would fit the era quite well.

     If it happens that a teacher insists on educating this new generation the way she used to do a few decades ago, she will suffer greatly. She should be aware of the changes, and she should know for sure that

    The learners are leading a life where there are no boundaries between reality and illusion.
    They are torn apart between what they want and the means disposed for reaching that goal.
    Some of them don’t even know what they want or what they are heading for.
☺  Concentration becomes so low that few of them only could say what is going on round them.
    They become multi-tasking “machines”; so it has become harder and harder for them to concentrate.
    Their assimilation has fallen to almost null owing to the virtual world of internet and video games they dwell in most of the time.
    They cannot make the difference between the normal and the anomalous in terms of behaviour.

Thus, the teachers’ job is getting more complicated itself. All that they need to do before everything else is,

Ø      Trying to understand this generation’s interests well.
Ø      Never criticising them.
Ø      Assisting them in discovering their weaknesses, and providing them with the adequate tools to surmount them.
Ø      Helping them to identify with the real world.
Ø      Giving them the opportunity to recognize and master their emotions.
Ø      Trusting them when they decide to do projects that allow them to regain confidence in themselves.
Ø      Emphasizing their individual abilities to consider improving them.
Ø      Amplifying the very little skills they have so that they could feel their worth and importance for their future life.
Ø      Engaging them into collaborative and team work.
Ø      Teaching them to think critically by exposing them to challenging true to life problems.
Ø      Avoiding providing them with readymade solutions, and letting them brainstorm.
Ø      Encouraging them to innovate and come out with creative answers to different issues.
Ø      Motivating them to be positive initiators.
Ø      Teaching them to develop and employ self-discipline appropriately.
Ø      Paving the way for them to fully position themselves in their community as useful citizens.
Ø      Sensitizing them of the significance of knowing how to evaluate and assess anything they get from doubtful sources. (active critical reading)
Ø      Inciting them to think outside the box.

   That’s too much, I know; still there are more. The youngsters today have no idea how much their personality is patchy. They are fragile and anything seems new and often shocking for them. They should be given the opportunity and time enough to open their eyes on different issues of life through school.  

   This generation is known for its enmity with reading (print). They rely greatly on the visual to be informed about what happens around them. When it comes to media, they are spoiled for choice, Satellite TV, DVD, internet, and others. As they live in the illusion of the visual and the virtual, it is indispensable for the teacher to tune, adjust and improve their perceptive faculties to be able to see the imperceptible.

-          The videos they watch are likely to be fabricated.
-          Visual effects are distorting the original story.
-          Subliminal messages are recurrent in some videos.
-          Make ups give false impressions.
-          Voice is boosted through technology.
-          Almost nothing is true to life in videos.
-          Deceitful manoeuvres are heavily deployed in most what they see.

Once they couldn't get to this fact about diffusion, the consequences will be fatal. They can easily be fooled if they are not equipped with robust critical views.

   Nowadays, it becomes so easy to formulate pieces of information with evidence (footage). That’s why they are misled though they know for sure that there are programs, like illustrator, Photoshop, video editor, movie maker and so on which are able to change the original copy completely, and that everyone can use them, kids included. However, when they see a video or an image, they tend to react to it positively or negatively as such unquestionably. They would even give it a like, share it or disparage it idiotically.

   They are lost in the medley of this complicated world of theirs where there are no borders between right and wrong, legal and illegal, real and fantasy. The internet especially has made everything chaotic to the extent that during tests and exams the youngsters don’t know if they are cheating while doing it. They think it’s their right to “cheat”, to plagiarize, to download copyrighted music, movies, and anything else available. They have no idea what is a private property. The black hat hackers have become the knights of the internet for them. Violence has become a symbol of manhood. They smoke, drink or gamble just because their favourite hero in the movie does. They identify with singers, football players and others. They dress like them, have the same haircut and so on. In brief, their idols have no real physical identity.

   Because of all this, they become the least motivated for education. They have become disappointing in class. For the teacher to cope with this situation, she has to soldier on and keep inspiring them. Therefore the teacher’s role has greatly transformed to include other facets of her connection with the youth apart from “delivering” knowledge. The new relationship is based essentially on showing them how to learn outside the classroom because the amount of lessons they have to learn outside greatly outnumber those they get in class.

Not mentioning the affective filter and the use of humour among others, the teacher has to focus on reason based tutorials. This generation needs to know,

Ø      How to use logic in reading and writing (active perception of the world)
Ø      How to avoid jumping to conclusions
Ø      How to spot fallacies and rebut them logically
Ø      How to detect stereotypes
Ø      How to differentiate between facts and opinions
Ø      How to discover bias
Ø      How to stop being negative and dependent
Ø      How to deal with the virtual world wisely
Ø      How to be tolerant to novelties with caution
Ø      How to keep their privacy protected
Ø      How to be creative and inventive
Ø      etc

Before I close, I still have two pseudo-questions to pose.

   (1) Are teachers doomed to be outdated rapidly? I’m not talking here about the “continuous training” (software), I’m rather referring to the values of being The Teacher (the hard disk). Any program (software) could be installed, re-installed, updated or uninstalled. However, the hard disk cannot be uninstalled, when it is outdated, you must get rid of it once for all, and change it with a brand new one. Such is the case with the old teachers who bear the gracious values of being a mentor and a healer.

   (2) Could the novice teachers win this battle? I doubt it. Curricula and educational policies must back them up. Life is keeping changing incessantly, and things will get more complicated for both the learners and the teacher. Therefore, teachers should all be on their toes ready for any eventuality. New approaches should be constantly tailored to fit every here and now. They should also be put into practice immediately to cope with the complicity of the world that is getting more and more complicated so fast that only a few can catch up with. The business of electronics will never let us take our breath, and the kids are the first to embrace novelties in the field of technology. If teachers could not cope with this rapid change, school, which is still arguing about how to integrate I.C.T in teaching, will soon be outdated before it reaches a decision. Unfortunately, his article, itself, will be outdated even before it reaches you, I’m afraid.

   Finally, let’s just be optimistic and beaver away to save the moral authority of school and never let it deviate from its basic role as a gate for knowledge, intellect, progress and prosperity. The best we can do in such a rickety world of complexity is to hope for a better life for this generation and for those to come. 

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