Yes, that’s Ringo on the drums. Yes, this song is as overused in its reference to schools as “We Don’t Need No Education” by Pink Floyd, but Supertramp is one of my all time favorites and deserves a place in at least one blog. And it’s relevant to the topic. Play it loudly with good earphones, it’s much better.
I threw out my first student last week. I used my famous line from when I was teaching in the 1990s, “You are no longer invited to class today.” There was something about the ‘de-invitation’ that always worked for me, like we were having a party and me as the host decided things were out of control and the social contract had been broken. It was time to go. “Ivan” grabbed his belongings and walked out, not putting up an argument. The suit works, sometimes.
As a Principal who teaches, you’d think I’d get the instant respect that comes with the position. You know, the man in the suit who looks important. Logically.
Not so with ‘A’ block digital literacy. The first line in the song is so pertinent to my boarding school students.
When I was young it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, it was magical…
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, oh responsible practical…
It’s not as bad as it sounds. Our students have it pretty good. Perched on the side of the Swiss Alps, they don’t have much to want for and are well looked after. But a lot of them come from very traditional systems of learning. And when I tried to experiment with a more student-centered approach, something that put them in the driver’s seat of choice, responsibility, and assessment, I felt the teacher control slipping out of my hands. It was exhilerating and alarming. Some of them, like “Ivan” took that as permission, even with the Principal.
It all started with a project using Instagram. At first they did presentations using various mediums like PowerPoint to talk about an issue they cared about. But they were so dry and one dimensional that I came up with the idea of using Instagram. Three pictures, one story, convince me that this is important. It actually went pretty well. Until it was my turn. I put myself in their shoes, and thus became one (of them). My three photos were of a girl in Haiti who had no where to go to school. There was the picture of her, her village, and then a photo of her finally having someplace to go to school. In the middle of it Ivan pretended to cry, mocking both the girl’s plight and (I thought) my presentation.
After I threw him out, we had a heart to heart. I didn’t get a lot out of it other than my own reflection that I was trying too hard and I was invading their medium (read prior blog ‘Hands off my Hashtag’). Maybe I was reading too much into it, but I took what was their expression and I co-opted it, putting myself again in the teacher/Principal seat. I should have just left well enough alone and gave them all the attention. Ivan made me pay. You want student centered? You got it. Mockery and all.
And they showed me a world
where I could be so dependable
clinical, oh intellectual, cynical.
Okay, so Ivan got me there. He treated me like a ‘student’ in student centered teaching and I should have expected the outcome. But I reacted and disinvited him to the party.
The good news is that I made my way up to his MUN presentation the next day and watched. He was so handsome in his suit, and I wearing my casual sweater that we took a photo.
Yes, we posted it on Instagram. Sepia. He smiled and hugged me.