My friend Mr. M, having walked out of an abusive situation as a newbie teacher in an inner-city middle school, is now teaching high school in a prison and blogging about it. I have to admire his bravery, both for taking the job and for letting the world know what it’s like. I only hope he doesn’t get dooced.
There are so many gems in his blog that I want to link to all of them. There’s his use of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy as a teaching tool — in a prison! Truly the forces of homophobia are in retreat, despite what the red-staters say. There’s his link to an Onion article straight from his first job, “Teach For America Chews Up, Spits Out Another Ethnic Studies Major.” There’s his idea to produce videotaped read-alouds by people who look and sound like his students, rather than their white Middle-American teacher. (Any amateur video producers in the New York area want to help him with that? Or help him webcast the results?)
But what prompts me to post about him here, rather than in my other blog, is some of the things that he and his commenters have to say about teaching methods. One of them asserts that teaching should be boiled down to the Vygotskyan method:
1. I do, you watch.
2. I do, you help.
3. You do, I help.
4. You do, I watch.
There’s not really a lot of doing or watching in the program I’m in — with the exception of public speaking, which may be the most useful specific skill we will all share by the time we’re done. Is there a point at which learning by doing becoming less important than learning about doing? Or is that a classic fallacy of advanced education?
This relates to an interesting discussion of whether learning specific tools should be part of our curriculum (that link is the tip of an offline iceberg), but more on that another day.