a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher
When I first came to China 20 years ago fresh from an MA TESOL program, I taught—with some pride—in a fully Western (facilitative, activities-based) way. I even gave workshops on facilitative methods and taught demonstration lessons in middle and high schools. As I think back now, I’m thankful for the grace shown by my Chinese colleagues in the face of what came across, I’m sure, as a judgmental attitude.
Ten years later after a second stint in graduate school, I returned to China where I began with 2 years of Chinese language study. When I finally made it back into the classroom, I found myself swinging away, to some extent, from facilitative approaches. In every lesson, I would start with what my students were comfortable with—lecture, and work my way toward activities that asked them to analyze or apply and sometimes evaluate or create ideas and understandings.
This pendulum swing was partly influenced by my time as a student in a Chinese classroom but also by the courses I was teaching. I’m not sure how much my students learned about intercultural communication and pragmatics, but the lessons I learned were invaluable as I asked them to analyze cultural mistakes in my interactions with students, colleagues, and department heads.
Ten years later again, and I find my personal pendulum oscillating back toward the facilitative side. I’m now teaching courses in my field (TESOL), and my lecture-to-activities approach hasn’t worked. In trying to be respectful of my students’ ideas, I’ve left them with the sense that facilitative methods won’t work in their context. Since they’re graduate students and future teachers, I’ve become convicted that I need to push them beyond their deeply held beliefs if only to force them to articulate a clear rationale for persisting in them. I don’t do much lecturing at all these days.
The most important lesson I’ve learned from these vacillations is that I don’t have all the answers and never will. Not even in my area of expertise. In fact, no one does…except Yahweh. That’s what this blog is about. Whether we need knowledge about methods, managing a class, or dealing with a problem student, the Master Teacher has the answers. If we’re trying to figure out how to work (and live) as a follower in a professional setting or an unwelcoming world, the Author of all wisdom can guide us.
As we write and you read about teaching and navigating the professional realm, remember that even when we act like we know what we’re talking about, we don’t. Instead (and feel free to remind us), as we attempt to integrate profession with life and faith, we’re seeking wisdom from above and hoping to exercise it in Yahweh-honoring ways.
Join us two weeks from today (and most Wednesdays) for more on seeking, integrating, and glorifying. We’ll start by talking about Yahweh’s wisdom. Although we have some ideas about where to go after that, we’re committed to keeping our ears and eyes open. And we’re anticipating your perspectives to reveal wisdom that points us different directions.