Language Re-Boot - Edition 1
In a recent blog on BigThink, Laura Rittenhouse, comments on use of language in our modern society by studying how, “language obfuscation is deeply impacting our culture.” And through this study coming to terms with “how words shape how we think.” She says there is “not only a cultural and financial cost, but indeed a deep spiritual and cognitive cost, to language obfuscation.”
This got me to thinking.
One of the interesting perspectives that is coming to light during this amazing time in Education is the unifying of a profession. What I mean by that is because of social media, #CCSS, and a national imperative for college and career readiness, we as educators are having the same conversations, which I believe is leading to a re-birth of teaching as a profession. Through our discourse, which because we are teachers is often conducted in public, we are elevating the profession as a field conducted by professionals.
In this new perspective there is some language I would like to advocate banning. Language that was intended to appeal to our basest needs, but through our enlightened conversations we interpret as the insults they were always meant to be. I apologize now if you still hold these terms dear.
Anything, and I mean anything, that touts itself as teacher-friendly is sending a message that “Hey, guess what? No thinking required here. Just open me or plug me in or hand me out or copy me and everything will take care of itself." Teacher-friendly removes the professional decisions that are essential from highly-effective teachers. Teacher-friendlyremoves the heavy-lifting of thinking and treats us as incapable of “figuring” out how to make things work. Don’t believe me? What does teacher-unfriendly look like?
To slightly change the discussion, have you ever heard of doctor-friendly? lawyer-friendly? accountant-friendly? Is the tax code written in accountant-friendly language? Would you go to a doctor who complained that he/she couldn’t perform a procedure because the device wasn’t developed to be doctor-friendly? While these may seem like absurd questions, I believe we do this all the time to ourselves as teachers. We convey messages to students, parents, administrators, and legislatures that WE aren’t capable of doing the heavy cognitive lifting necessary to help our students.
Ok. This one may surprise you that it’s on my list today. But hear me out. Think back to your last “learning” experience. Either one you created for students or one engineered for you in a professional learning venue. I’m willing to bet that there was some sort of poster, sorting and matching, yarn, dots, etc. etc. etc. activity. Am I right? While these activities make us generally feel good because we are “doing” something, does this “hands-on” activity really allow more multiple solutions to a complex problem? Or is the activity funneling us toward a common solution? If the answer is the latter, and for my experience it usually is, then the “hands-on” activity is essentially a mindless one. What we should do when we create experiences for learners, and I mean all learners, is to engineer tasks that force minds-on. Minds-on activities can look like hands-on, but the intent of the experience is much different. Hands-on activities typically fall into the realm of actually removing the thinking. We, as learners, fall into “task completion” mode and attempt to follow directions to the T, in order to be compliant. Real learning, real thinking, occurs outside that paradigm. True meaning-making happens when we engage cognitively, not just physically.
So, what words would you add to the list? Feel passionate enough to guest blog about it? Let me know. I expect that there are many we could add.
Thanks for reading,