How do you feel about what you know?

Teaching ViolinWhen I graduated from high school, history was probably the very last subject I thought I would ever be interested in pursuing. All of my social studies teachers had also been coaches, and, with the exception of one, they were primarily coaches.  Being a bad teacher would never have gotten them fired. Being a bad coach…? Well, let’s put it this way.  Residents of the small mill town I grew up in didn’t wait at the local newspaper offices on Wednesday afternoon, for our weekly to go on sale, so that they could read about their children’s performance on a history test.

It all changed when I went to college and attended history classes that utterly mesmerized me. I wanted to become a history teacher. Now my relationship with history was not without its ups and downs. I probably changed interests while I was in college more times than a flee hops hairs on a hound dog. But I always came back to teaching, and never considered anything else but history.

Much of it was because I wanted to tell stories, like my college history teachers.  Telling great stories about great feats in time — well it sorta makes you part of those great deeds and almost insurmountable odds. But I wanted to be a teacher because…. Well, let me put it this way.

My daughter is in her last year of education school. She’ll student teach next semester, and she, too, wants to teach history. But she doesn’t get it yet — at least the way that I did when I was teaching. I watched, almost exclusively, the PBS channel, any show I could identify as having anything to do with history, or even science if it could be applied to our social world. I subscribed to far more magazines than I could afford (asking for subscriptions from family members for Christmas). But she’s not doing that, and it worried me until…. Well it’s the teacher thing.

Aside from the master story tellers, I saw in those history teachers at Gaston College, and later experienced as a teacher, an entirely different relationship between me and what I learned. It seems that there is an altogether different relationship between topic and teacher than between topic and student. For students the relationship is probably more akin to that between me and my food. I need it. I consume it. I think about it, probably more than I should. But it is not, in much way, an integral part of me, other than sustenance and my almost regularly fluctuating girth.

However, as a teacher, my relationship with topic is much more a part of how I express myself. It is much more like my relationship with my cloths. Perhaps even more so, as a teacher, its like the relationship between a musician and a violin, which becomes an extension of the players mind, expressed as music.

Any teacher will say that they learned what they teach better, after they started teaching it, than when they were a student in university. Is it this new relationship between teacher and topic that is the cause? Would it be possible to create a similar relationship between topic and student? Would it require completely redefining student, learner, classroom, curriculum….

I think that these issues are probably going to be explored, if not explicitly, then at least in the air around the many floating presentations of the 2007 K12 Online Conference — which starts tomorrow!


Image Citation:
Sarah. “Violin Lesson with Sim.” Usedcarspecialist. 26 Jul 2005. 7 Oct 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/usedcarspecialist/28752586/>.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.