Friday, 1 June 2007

An Interesting Phone Call

You might remember my friend Brisley – see Blog entry 22 May 2007

Well he phoned me a few evenings ago; to ask if he can enrol in my Digital Movie Making course. 'Sure', I told him. There’s a new one starting next week, so his timing is great. He sounded excited and told me he’s trying to come to terms with his new-tech knowledge deficiency. He said he recently put an idea to his history students that they jumped at. He suggested they make a movie of their history assignment topic instead of handing in a written essay. He said he was amazed by the positive reaction he got from the three class storm troopers; guys who spend their testosterone powered energy devising new and creative ways to disrupt his lessons.

Bris gave a dry sort of laugh and said he had to admit they came up with some pretty unique ways to sabotage his efforts. They created havoc while he tried to lead students through forty minutes of historical fact, peppered with a little fantasy.

The sabotage swat-team attacks included stuff like taking over the whiteboard and filling it with profiles of gangsters and con men; complete with dates and details about their social misdemeanours; all written in the most colourful language of course.

Brisley said he spent most of his time trying to restore order and always went home riddled with guilt about the fact he’d wasted another day and hadn’t taught the students anything worthwhile. Poor Bris; he suffers from acute Mae Culpa Syndrome. A severe complaint, which is the direct result of his Christian Brothers, private education.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I have great respect for the Christian Brothers, but if you’re over forty, I’m sure you’ll agree the guilt thing left its mark on many kids who came through the Catholic Education system of old. The good news is, those times have long gone, and Catholic Ed doesn’t use guilt as a control mechanism anymore.

As a former pre-change Catholic Ed student myself, I can completely sympathise with Bris. I’ve had a long fight with the guilt police myself.

Anyway, back to the phone call. Bris told me he had a couple of quality reds (wine) and did some serious thinking. He knows the trouble makers are bright kids; perhaps the brightest in the class. So he asked himself what he was doing (no, not doing) that made these kids want to wreck his lessons? He said he took his mind right back to his uni days of classroom practice 101, and he remembered his lecturer saying, ‘when things don’t work, don’t blame the students. Examine yourself. It’s always something you’re doing, or not doing, that is the real problem.’ Bris was pretty fired up by now, and he said, ‘as tough as it is to admit, it’s true.’

CP 101 made him take a hard look at his teaching techniques. ‘The solution’, he said, ‘is engagement. I haven’t engaged their minds. And I’ve failed miserably in my teaching role. These kids are really bright. They've got truly creative minds. And they've shown me they know how to research. I was always amazed by the stuff they dig up on their gangsters and cons.’ He laughed again, 'Where the hell do they find that stuff?'

'They Google it, maybe', I suggested. 'So it's all systems go then, Bris?'

'Absolutely. And you know, I'm really looking forward to it.'

Well that was yesterday. The future is full of promise for Brisley and his students. Especially as he’s already told them he’s new to modern technology and they’ll be learning together.

What a great outcome. One we can all learn from. Way to go Bris!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great story. I hope more teachers are making the change like Brisley. It can't be easy, but what a fantastic outcome for his students.

He is a real teacher now. Anyone who can examine their own methods, find them wanting, and then do something positive about them is a great role model for us all.

How often is it that the trouble makers are just bored and need someone to make the classroom a more interesting and challenging place for them to spend time?

I hope other teachers will apply Brisley's method of working alongside their students, to make lessons more exciting for the whole class.