Heroes for Today

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.

And yet.

How does one connect with the hero within?

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6 thoughts on “Heroes for Today

  1. Cristina you have ‘hit the nail on the head’ with regard to teacher-trainers and presenters! I have witnessed SO many sessions where it is very obvious that the presenter has not done their homework ‘qualifying’ their audience. Before one stands at the front of a room or on a stage they should have done their homework. Can they answer these questions before they open their mouth?
    1. What is the average ‘years of experience in the field’ of your audience?
    2. What is the average educational level?
    3. How many languages does the average listener speak?
    4. How ‘connected’ (online) is the average audience member?
    5. What’s the personal profile? (well-travelled, single, age, gender, etc)
    The presenter does not need to conduct a formal survey, just ASK a few people in advance!
    In this day and age, I also think that speakers should encourage discussion and if the audience is large, then provide more time (then in the past) for questions and comments.
    Just as ‘the lecture’ is losing its value in HEI in many circumstances, so is the 45 minutes key-note address (unless you’re Sir Ken Robinson!).
    As always, thanks for your thought-provoking ideas!

  2. HI Susan,

    Thank you for your vision and comments. You are absolutely correct when you say that the traditional lecture is losing its value in HEI; that element of change has already happened. Students know that.

    Do educators at HEI? From what I see, not all are aware that a moment of change has occurred and that processes of social and intellectual change are flowing as quickly as the river meeting the sea.

  3. Thank you for responding to my ‘Hero’s’ post here. I enjoyed reading this and liked the image. I also understand your criticism of some PD providers and their lack of respect for the audience and homework.
    I have also seen it work the other was as well though. Some teachers do seem to have terrible learning habits, modeling behaviours that they would find unacceptable in their students.
    It may come down to whether there is really a desire to learn. A presenter or PD facilitator can learn much from every single encounter, if they have the right mindset and the same goes for those in the audience. Wish we had more time to look at all these aspects of learning.

  4. Hi Mark,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on trainers and trainees/teachers and learners. I do agree with you, however I must defend teachers who undergo the most boring and mind-deadening PD sessions which are imposed on them.

    Of course there are risks when training others. Aren’t there risks when a regular teacher steps into their classroom? So much happens in the space of 50 minutes. It may appear that classrooms are self-contained but they are not. The life of classrooms expand, they transpire through walls and windows to the outside world. In many ways.

    I shall share a personal story here. Once, in my very early years of teaching, I told a class that “alguidar” (a plastic tub) was one of the most beautiful words in the Portuguese language. (well…at the time the sound and movement of the word did fascinate me!). Many moons later, while living in the Arabian Gulf, I made a visit to Portugal and as I was driving in Lisbon looking for parking space, I heard a DJ on the radio mention a teacher she once had and how she (the teacher) thought that “alguidar” was a beautiful word. At first I could not believe what I had heard; it could not be possible! But as I listened to the radio and the DJ’s story unfold, I blushed, knowingly.

    This is a simple story and we all have many such stories in our lives as learners and educators. Yet the fact remains the same: teachers, trainers, facilitators, educational management and leaders – all need to connect to their audience. In order to be heard, to be remembered and perhaps even, to initiate positive, constructive change.

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