Many of the things I hear or read from teachers lead me to think they live in a fantasy world.
Today I participated in an hour-long chat via Twitter on the subject of how technology can help build community in the classroom.
The chat was one in the Edchat series of Tuesday chats. Usually upwards of 50 people participate in the chats and the tweets come fast and furious.
I usually just scan them as they roll by on my screen. I respond to a few, but usually just occasionally drop in necessarily terse (there’s a limit of 140 characters per Tweet) comments.
Today’s chat really irritated me and led me to post the comment I used as the first line here.
For an hour I read messages about the advantages of creating communities in classrooms and how tech may or may not help one do so.
For an hour I read idyllic comments about creating learning communities in which everyone teaches and everyone learns, and other ideal situations.
It was like watching the teacher version of a Disney movie in snippets of text.
Well, I am going to be the evil witch.
You cannot create communities in which all learn and teach in a classroom.
You can create a situation in which the students learn and teach, and the teacher learns while teaching, but they are not members of the same community.
As my friend and self-described “big goober” William Chamberlain pointed out, communities are created around similarities.
Let’s examine the similarities between teachers and students:
Teachers spend all day in a classroom.
Students spend all day in a classroom.
Teachers are paid to be in the classroom.
Students are required to be there.
Teachers have authority in the classroom
Students are subject to that authority.
Teachers determine the décor of the classroom.
Students’ completed work is part of the décor.
Teachers specify the procedures in classroom.
Students have to follow those procedures.
Teachers determine the activities of the class.
Students have to perform the activities.
There’s not much similarity or common interest, is there?
Instead of spending an hour dreaming, thake the time to think about the power dynamics in your classroom.
William Chamberlain again: “Forcing students to work together when they don’t want to is like hitting your head on the wall. It feels good when you stop.”
Think about the idea that your students are aware that the idea and demand for community is coming from the only person in the room with any power.
When that happens, community becomes a requirement.
Required community doesn’t sound very good, does it?