Many people might consider me a pessimist because I am realistic about things. I always think it is interesting when you actually acknowledge that what you really wanted to happen will not and that you would be much happier changing direction and channeling your energies into something different. When I started this blog I had real visions of grandeur and used to eagerly await my rankings on various sites to see if you I was achieving what I set out to do. But over the months, or should I say years – these expectations have changed and now I have a much better idea of where I am going. I had similar expectations when I moved from primary school teaching to higher education and it is only recently that I have had a similar moment of realisation about things…
When I first created this blog, I had visions of it being viewed by academics and practitioners a like and the posts being circulated within the spheres of academia with quotes and comments flooding into the site on a regular basis. As the years have past I realise that I feel am actually writing for quite a different audience from that which I initially thought I was writing for, one which is more relevant to me and one which I hopefully have something more to contribute to. These ‘waffles’ are not of academic standard, they will never be classesd as an ‘output’ or discussed in academic circles. They are not supported with references and might even not be considered as a ‘voice of authority’. They are, however, just my views and thoughts about things and, as such, are more of a reflective account of situations and topics. As for my audience, I guess that I am writing for you – yes you – the person who is listening and reading this, since you are coming back week after week on a regular basis. I would like to think that I have more to contribute to the learners rather than tutors and academics. Maybe I am wrong about this, but currently I am writing with you in mind and to be honest with you, it feels quite nice, sitting down with you and having a chat over a coffee.
This week I attended a day of meetings and discussion with the governing body of the institution and other members of academic board. Although the topic being discussed was the academic community, I actually found myself thinking more and more about the academic relationship between tutors and students. After a really interesting input from the School of Language and Linguistics, I started to have a think about the following points.
I’m not suggesting that I want to be invited out on every ‘night out’ and spend my evenings dancing round the local revolving dance floor with the students
Two way learning – I’ve never considered myself an expert of anything, although I do have experience to share, I’m always open to new ideas and concepts. There is this perception that the person stood at the front of the classroom is always the expert. This is probably the case although as academics we often find ourselves becoming more and more specialised and this can, in some cases, cause us to find seeing and acknowledging connections difficult. I always want to challenge learners and I hope they feel that they want to challenge me as well. I don’t mean that during the mathematics sessions I want them to ask me to solve quadratic equations in 30 seconds in mirroring the Countdown game, but more that I want them to challenge my views and opinions about education just as I will be challenging theirs. Creating this open learning environment is important as is the ability to engage with reflective discussion. If I have created a feeling that I know more than everyone else in the room, then it will mean that people are not happy sharing their opinions and thoughts about a topic. One of my colleagues mentioned that at the end of her sessions she finishes with a brief summary of what she has learnt from the learners in that session. What a great activity! definitely going to add that to my list.
Shared learning – spaces and ideas – I am definitely still learning – every day I work with experts in a range of fields who know more than me and support me in my learning in gaining a better understanding. Whether this be in my gaming, radio, academic activities or even my webpages/blog work. I really like sharing and engaging with discussion and I feel that this often is more beneficial away from the classroom where there no longer exists that teacher/student power dynamic. I’m a great one for working in the library. Not only do I really like the building/space as a whole, but I enjoy working in an environment where other learners are learning/studying and that we can see each other engaging with the learning process. I think it makes me appear more human as well. I did used to have a real problem with entering the student union space although I feel now that this was more of a confidence issue rather than not feeling welcome one. I really like the idea of working with learners in shared spaces and working on new ideas. We are all learning and I am sure that there are specialists on the programme who could definitely teach me a thing or two.
Don’t forget to check out last week’s Wilson Waffling Live
Tutor or colleague? – Even when I wrote that sub heading I wonder whether I have got it wrong. When you are a primary school teacher there is a definite distinct between teacher and learner. What has taken me a long time to realise and acknowledge, is should there be that distinction within higher education? Sometimes students invite me for a coffee or a drink and I often think that it would not be professional to meet with them, but really this is me working within my old primary school role. I’m not suggesting that I want to be invited out on every ‘night out’ and spend my evenings dancing round the local revolving dance floor with the students (apparently one does exist!). But there should no longer be the us and them thinking. Sometimes, I think that tutors who have been trained in pedagogy and have years of experience within primary education, fail to acknowledge that they are now teaching adults and that expectations need to be altered. Yes, and I am sure that even some learners would agree with this, there are some learners who need to take more responsibility within sessions for their own learning, but the lack of this can not be greeted with the tutor taking their playtime off them. Initially, I wanted to use the sub heading of ‘Tutor or Friend’ for this section. I’m not sure if friend is too relaxed – maybe colleague is more appropriate and, if we want everyone to be part of a learning community then colleague is a much better term than student.
As you can imagine, I enjoy writing these waffles and it really helps me reflect on what I am thinking. What also helps are our opinions and it is always great to see that I have a comment on these waffles. Remember this is an open and non-judgemental arena, so please feel free to engage with what I have said and what others have posted. If you are wondering where to start then just click that register button at the top of the page to get an account and then add a comment – Not sure what to write? well here are some questions as starters;
Should tutors be the experts within their fields?
Do you feel there is an ‘us’ and ‘them’ feeling at university?
Should tutors be like teachers? or like colleagues?
Do you think that university is a learning environment?
If you wish to comment on anything else then please do so – or if you want to write a response to any of my posts, just let me know. If you want to catch up with the latest educational news, tweets from the programme and some teaching ideas, then please check out Wilson Waffling Live. So, have fun guys and I’ll catch you all later and, until then, consider yourself waffled!