In his posting on No More Heroes? – Who is the Hero?, Mark raises several crucial issues which have been on my mind. In a way, this entry is my reply to Mark’s posting and my own reflections on the issue of being a hero, an educational leader and a facilitator today.
Let’s begin by expectations. Just like the bride to be who is left speechless and wondering how a suitor can be so heartless and insensitive, I too often wonder how common it is for educators to be talked down to by professional trainers who deliver PD sessions. Teachers today are more empowered than ever before; teachers today connect globally, making decisions which are shared, and often inspired by open sources of information. Teachers today expect that PD will engage them, and that training courses will also take into consideration their personal teaching context and professional expertise.
Which brings me now directly to Mark’s questioning of the role of the facilitator today. Referring to Nancy Duarte’s work on presentations, Mark questions the role of being a facilitator and the need to connect to people. Just like Nancy Duarte’s explanation of how a public speaker needs to connect to the audience, I too think that this process of connection is vital when one considers classrooms and learning processes.
As an educator, I play out different roles. One moment I am the manager, the next moment, a facilitator, a carer, a participating member of a social group; and yet, no matter how I wish to soften and make my role more “democratic”, in the end I am also the leader of the cIass I am responsible for teaching. Above all, I am definitely an agent of change.
So, the question is – is there a difference between connecting with an audience when making a presentation and when one is teaching? Is there a difference being a facilitator or a leader in education?
In my view, one can only teach and lead others if one is able to connect with them. An educator can only “lead”, can only teach and enlighten students when there is a bond which positively connects them. Educators - whether in the role of teachers or trainees – are bridges. Bridges to further understanding of knowledge and doing; this includes features such as understanding what really motivates us as human beings to other learning aspects, such as learning how to use a new tool for teaching. Being once again in the role of a student, I expect my trainers to be both leaders and facilitators. Just like the students who face me every day, I too want to be engaged, intellectually challenged in order to learn and hopefully, inspired to become a better educator for today’s students. I expect my trainers to facilitate my learning, in the sense of guiding, while at the same time, valuing and acknowledging my professional expertise. I regard facilitators as bridges, pointing the way, letting me stumble, perhaps, but not letting me drop into the abyss of intellectual boredom and frustration.
These are not simplistic expectations. These are demanding and challenging. Nevertheless, these too are the expectations teachers are constantly being told in regard to their students. My question is, if this is merely common knowledge, then why do so many teacher trainers still disregard their trainees – trainees who are often more connected, more updated in teaching practices and in tune to younger generations?
Among other relevant points, Mark also raises a critical reference to a hero’s journey cycle. I often tell my students that they are heroes, for learning is a heroic task which involves change and challenges. As a learner, I too question my learning process and whether I will overcome the anxiety of not meeting a deadline, not being able to connect constructively with my students (so that they may embrace learning and change), with my colleagues (whose support and collegiality I respect and need for change to occur in my immediate professional setting) and yes, I must refer to educational management.
For constructive change to take place, there needs to be inspirational leadership which will facilitate transformation and growth. This is one of the imperatives of education. This is a necessary connection.
How does one connect with the hero within?