In instructional oops: Trying to be the best teacher I can be

Guilty. Palmer, in The Courage to Teach (2019), clearly explains how objectivism impairs our ability to be the best teachers we can be. Our objectivism comes from the fear that our knowledge will be challenged by our students rending our knowledge obsolete, and therefore ourselves as teachers obsolete. We can understand the fear associated with this assumption, and reflecting on recent lessons we can see small examples of objectivism creep in to our teaching. Why am I guilty? Because I reflected on a conversation with a student that indicted me. It went something like this:

Parm (not real name): I want to write about SNS help us do well in university.
Ken: Sure, what’s your topic sentence?
Parm: Google helps students complete assignments.
Ken: A good start, but is Google considered SNS?
(Student googles the question) Parm: No, it isn’t.
Ken: Okay, so what can you replace Google with?
Parm: Facebook helps students complete assignments.
Ken: Sure, Facebook is SNS, but Facebook is not a credible source of information so you can’t use it to support your ideas in a paper. (My objectivism shining through in my answer)
Parm: You can’t?
Ken: No you can’t. How about Facebook can’t help students complete assignments.

Looking back. I should have just said, “Sounds good. I’m not sure I agree but I would really love to hear your argument. I don’t use Facebook so you would know better than me.”

Looking at what I should have said addresses another key concern in the classroom, a concern that all instructors have: The silence in the room after asking a question. Parker mentions that silence stems from fear, the fear from being a marginalized person in the room afraid to speak up with power (instructor) in the room. Pushing her farther in the margins, I know Parm will think twice before asking my opinion next time.

I don’t know Facebook, students know it better than I do so who am I to tell Parm she is wrong? Objectivism, or the limited amount of time I have spent on Facebook forming an opinion that Facebook is all subjective, tells me Parm is wrong. My objectivism is wrong. Unlearn and start at zero as Ghandi said (Fratto, 2019) and listen to Parm’s argument. Just something to keep in mind when conversing with students. Open your mind as I will open my mind and I will learn something, too.

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