Filter, barrier or conduit: It can’t just be about semantics …. can it ?

I was reminded of this set of ‘nonsense’ “what I writ” a while ago now earlier in the week and it made me re-visit it. I’m not sure I’m any further forward with finding the answers to the questions – or even the questions to the answers – so I thought I’d “publish and be damned”  I was also prompted to think about this because of the various inspection observations I’ve had over the last two weeks in my job – and got another next week as well – and then consider how I square the circle in terms of the feedback from my students (this semester my student satisfaction rates are ranging 85 – 97% across my modules) and what I’m being ‘forced’ to do in order to tick boxes for various inspection regimes (Ofsted, internal quasi-Ofsted) and how that just doesn’t seem to gel with what I think and feel. Anyway, that’s where I am right now. Of course, in a perverse, paradoxical kind of way me just entering into some kind of public Blog activity is contrary to how I view what it is I do anyway. As someone much cleverer than I once said, “It’s a funny ol’ world ain’t it !”.

For the last month or so I’ve been having periods of wide awakening and revelations. I’ve also been wrestling with those ‘inner demons’ that sometimes posses me and cause me to question, doubt and look for answers that I don’t know the questions to yet. Some of that has had to do with work.

One of these occurrences has focussed on what I think I am and what I think I do here at HC. The title on my temp contract (I still don’t have a perm one !) refers to me as a ‘lecturer’. However, when I look that up in the Oxford English Dictionary it tells me that a ‘lecturer’ is ‘someone who lecturers’ (someone got paid for that one ! J) but more investigation reveals that a ‘lecture’ is “a speech read or delivered before an audience or class, especially for instruction or to set forth some subject”. Well, if I did that I’d get straight Graded 3’s in observations so that can’t be right. Maybe I’m a ‘teacher’ then. One more reference to the tome that derives from Oxford informs me that this person ‘teaches’ (double sigh !) and that teaching is about imparting knowledge or instruction to a class. Okay, now the doubts really start to surface and the questions start to come fast and furious. If that is so then it suggests that I ‘impart’ knowledge from a position of some authority, personal understanding and instructs. Set aside the OFSTED and Phil Race debate about the term ‘understanding’ for a moment and it also implies that I choose to impart this knowledge which might also suggest that I choose what to impart ! My understanding of the term ‘teacher’ derives from a much more ethereal place – that of someone who widens horizons for others, who awakens curiosity and personal development. If I am a ‘teacher’ then that’s what I think I’d like to do and not impart what I already know and certainly not to ‘instruct’. I don’t think I ever instruct but I hope I ‘invite’ – okay in the case of a fire in the room then I might instruct for to ‘invite’ the people in it to evacuate would be stupid; “There appears to be some flames over that side of the room. If you feel you want to leave the room now then you’re free to do so”. Along the same lines of thinking I ponder the terms ‘coach’, ‘mentor’, ‘leader’ and really wonder if people have a good grasp of what these terms really mean as opposed to just being bandied about willy nilly and in a meaningless less meaning way.

It can’t just be about semantics …. can it ? I understand that if a person is ‘labelled’ one way they are more likely to act that way – research on labelling children as ‘failures’ or not supports this view along with lots of other reading. How we are called then must have an effect on what we do and how we do it. I’ve never been comfortable with any of those terms above except that of ‘coach’ or even ‘facilitator’. I believe my role to be one of facilitating learning – to help it along, to guide it, to inspire it to occur (sometimes I might even do some of that ‘inspire’ stuff !). Now here’s the question that I’ve been dreading. If I am whatever I am, do I ‘filter’ information or do I act as a conduit for it to occur ? Okay, let’s just hop back one step to see if we can address the ‘biggy’. We ALL filter most of the time. We read what interests us; we view what we like to see; we have opinions (and most of us express them !); when we give opinions they are based on filtered pieces of information as we address that which we recall; has meaning to us; is full of meaning to us; we can understand. We can all look at the same thing at the same time and see different qualities in that image. Let’s face it do we ever really see ‘reality’ as that ‘reality’ that we do see is filtered in some way. Now if we accept that as a possibility (and humanistic psychology would suggest it to be so – more filtering !) then if I lecture or teach or impart knowledge then I’m filtering it in some way. I have to be. It’s what I choose to give away. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) would suggest that modelling a person is the only ‘pure’ way to get through this filtering. To understand the person, the motivations, the thought processes and peel away the ‘onion layers’ as Donkey referred to it in Shrek. Another favourite character – Winnie the Pooh – refers to the simplicity of thinking; being ‘simple minded’ (having a simple mind not imbecilic); being pure of heart and mind; freely giving – not at all like Owl who sought knowledge for the sake of it or Rabbit who had no time to seek it or even Eyeore who could see it but didn’t want to accept it.

You see why I don’t feel like a ‘teacher’ (in the dictionary sense at least). No, I don’t want to filter information to those around me. I want to help them become educated (the act of acquiring knowledge and to develop powers of reasoning and judgement to live a mature life the dictionary informs me – who filtered that one ? !). Now, that’s more like it ! That’s more what I want to be about. That’s more of how I see what I do most of the time. I don’t want to say, “That’s right” and “That’s not” but for folk to have a reasoned judgement of their own. “Oh dear”, I say to Myself (Gallwey says that we have conversations between ‘I’ and ‘Myself’ – Self A and Self B he calls them and I’ve just had one). “If that’s what I want to be, how I see Myself, what I want to do how, does that fit with the teaching observation framework ?”. “Good question”, Self A replies and goes on, “If you don’t comply to ‘their’ rules and regulations you know it’ll mean trouble. Better not be too much of an educationalist then. Go back to being average and you won’t attract attention”. I suppose it all comes down to interpretation doesn’t it ……… doesn’t it ?

For some the discovery of new learning will take place between the designated hours of whatever the ‘lecture’ is and the observer can be happy to tick a range of boxes. The problem occurs when, for some, the learning doesn’t occur between those convenient times and they need to go away and process for themselves, maybe come back and ask questions and seek examples. “You see”, Myself says to I, “If I’m facilitating educational effort and being a conduit for knowledge to develop, then I have to accept that for some that process may take longer than for others, ‘Us All Being Different’ as Pooh would say”. Should this process be different at different levels of learning ? Is FE different to HE for instance. Accepted ‘wisdom’ might suggest the answer to that is “Yes, it is different as we’re dealing with different intellects”. “Rubbish !”, I’d say. We’re all born broadly equal in that department. The thing that ‘changes us’ is our environment. So, if it can change us at one stage of development then it must be able to change us at another ! I’m not suggesting there wouldn’t be challenges along the way – least of all the so called ‘education and awards system’ (Exam Factories and all of that) – however, being an educationalist over a ‘filterist’ must leave the person we’re dealing with better equipped for life and a life of learning and us more satisfied …….. mustn’t it ?

Back to the top of the oage then, are we barriers or filters to knowledge or are we conduits through which knowledge can develop and flow ? Do we have to be one or the other ? Is there a way that my ‘filter’ isn’t recognising yet ? How does any tension between assessed observation and education become reconciled ? How do we help a person move from one system of, so-called education to another ? I know I don’t want to instruct. I know I don’t want to lecture. I know I want to facilitate the gaining of knowledge and I know that my students buy into that idea more than the others. I also know “It only works !” as Black stated.

The questions are:

What do YOU think ?

Are you an educational facilitator or are you a filter ?

Can you, and how do you, change – if you want to ?

What sort of people do we want to come out of the ‘system’ at the end of the day ?