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Long winded Introduction

I don’t know what my contextual statement is.  I find reading others attempts at this task intimidating.  I’m here to try something new. 

I’ve been teaching for ten years, and only in the last two have stopped feeling like an impostor.

I have taught roles that demanded a jack of all trades master of none approach ; alternative education (for kids kicked out of schools), Whanau classes, working with special needs, high school and adult education for the long term unemployed.  

In some classes I’ve had to line up my students and bring them informally to settle them down. On the same day with  a different class, if I don’t shout “Kia Ora Tim!, Hay Whanau! How has your day been!”as they come in and greet them each with a noisy welcome/conversation and pat on the back , then I would never be able to get them to work.

Teaching is a performance art where you really need to know how to read the audience so you can set their minds on fire.

I specialize at working with beginner students.  I love working with students starting out on their journey.  Their fear, their assumptions, their attempt at figuring out how to study.  The joy of becoming addicted to learning as they figure out what series of learning behaviors work for them.

I specialize in this because I understand it intimately.  Fun labels like high functioning dyslexic, adhd, and slow learner were stuck in my reports as a kid.  School frustrated me.  I understood most things – could read books in a mirror, taught myself to code from a book on a commodore 64, and yet I failed in the classroom.  I was called lazy time and time again because I would not (could not) write things down.

When I was 19 I realized I was not retarded. I can remember the moment distinctly – I can see the room I was in.  I can even hear the dot matrix printer I fixed zapping away in the background.  I  had to teach myself in different ways that were not being used in the classroom.  I had to teach myself .

I had to carefully choose papers not heavy with written work – but  I have managed a Bachelors in Information Technology and a Post Grad in Teaching and Learning. At this point I’d like to acknowledge all the teachers who called me lazy by politely ‘flipping the lot of them the bird’.  (:

This personal experience has, while far from being a master, left me reasonably clever at jump starting people’s love of education.  My current role is teaching first year IT degree/ bachelor students a variety of subjects.  Specifically – Web design, Networking, and Software design.  Occasionally I get sent over to China to teach 2nd year programming. An event that has the underlying goal of breaking them into their first experience of westernized education.

Academically i’m currently enthralled by this piece of research, by  Derek Alexander Muller, regarding the counter intuitive truth about how to produce video for classroom use.  Below is the sort version on YouTube. Being dyslexic, writing formally is like trying to drink a milkshake with a shotgun.  It hurts my head. It’s a bad idea and. It. Just. Doesn’t. Work.  Your academic graces fill me with envy.  I use video a lot to assist my foreign students when we go to fast for them in class, allowing them review of almost every tutorial complete with subtitles.

My bias of working with beginners has me investigating motivation theory in the oddest of places, some of with you might find interesting. (Be patient, its from a different field but still very interesting, and before you ask a big “NO” I’m not advocating for or am a fan of gamification of the class room.

Jason VandenBerghe delivers the latest entry on his “domains of play” series to help explain the best ways to think about player motivation in game design.

Nick Yee presents the results of a global survey that help inform game developers about the different motivations of players, showing the different types of potential customer that exist in the video game market.

Ben Lewis-Evans has a PhD in human factors psychology and works as a user experience researcher.  Here he dispels the neuromyths around dopamine to focus on the psychology behind reward systems in game design.

Now for the hard part. Which pedagogy do I mostly align with?  Honestly…
My subjects mostly involve problem solving.  

Learning how to do something right with technology is actually not that useful.  

Teaching people how to fall in love with problem solving, identifying and working through the enormous realm of odd errors technology comes up with and finding a work around. That’s what I do all day.  

I teach thinking about thinking – which is a rabbit hole worth diving into, so my students can figure out how they learn, and can grow to be able to learn in a variety of ways.

This means Motivation theory, behaviorism, constructivism, experiential learning, social learning and dammit yes even on occasion rote learning all find a place in my classroom.

We paint outside the lines.  We break things to see how they work and risk not being able to make them work again.

And there it is.  The word I was looking for to express my “teaching contextual statement”.WE.

  I teach people first and my subject second.

Working in IT has this special edge to it were my classroom journey starts with me in the lead, but my goal is to get them to the point where they are asking questions I don’t know the answer to.  For every class, for every age, for every ability range.

But  I still find writing impossible… This has taken me 5 hrs to write (not even kidding), and I will seriously need to get it edited, but just for shits and giggles here’s a link to what a dyslexic person’s first draught looks like.

Note#  Feel free to ask questions (or publicly correct my spelling).  Having a dyslexic teacher among educators and academics can leave my colleagues with queries that might seem ‘too rude’ to ask.  Ask away.  I thrive by being constantly vulnerable with my spelling while teaching and lecturing, this vulnerability creates a wonderful tolerance and feeling of safety in the class room,  encouraging risk taking, braking stuff and asking stupid questions (mostly “whats that word on the board Craig?”) and feeling like they can challenge the status quo. 

However … if any one else wants to suggest for the millionth time in my career that I should try speech to text, let me tell you a what a friend once told me after looking at my attempts at this.

“My spoken word and formal writing do not go ‘hand in hand. But more like fist in face”.  

Flattering no? But I appreciated the honesty.

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