Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fear Factor

I've seen a lot of posts lately and have had some real-life encounters that relate to the idea of educators being afraid of change/technology/learning. I really don't quite understand it. I get the arguments that people don't have time or even don't really want to do something new with their teaching (the curmudgeon argument), but afraid? Will Richardson has a post that really got me thinking. He says he's been trying to get the teachers he talks to to think about their own learning, but they are resistant to doing so. A ways down in the comments, Terry Elliot says:
Is this assumption true: all teachers are learners. Yes, but for different reasons. Some learn from fear. They are the ones who are afraid of being left behind or not getting tenure or of looking bad. This is very shallow learning at best. Of course they will not entangle themselves in the tools. They fear them. Just like students don’t really learn for the long term when fear is the motivator.
That is precisely what I was thinking. I made the assumption that since I stuck in the education field because I loved learning that that's why everyone else was in this business, especially those who teach. But I'm beginning to think that there are a whole host of other reasons that people become educators. And I'm beginning to think that there are quite a few people who aren't in this field because they believe in learning at some kind of fundamental level. Which is depressing. One can find ways to provide time for teacher learning and work around curmudgeons, but it's much harder to change basic attitudes.

Perhaps the teachers simply reflect the student attitudes. You know, the ones that just want the grade and don't want to actually learn anything. Trillwing writes about this problem, asking for suggestions for how to get students over it. I have to say that I've only had one teaching experience at one institution where the students as a whole were overly focused on the grade. Sure, nearly every class has one or two students who constantly ask, "Will this be on the test?" or "How do I get an A?" I think they're all afraid, too. As Barbara Ganley would say, they're afraid to take a risk and fall on their face. Our educational system isn't built for such risk-taking. It's a one-shot deal.

What I don't understand, I guess, especially for teachers is what, exactly, they're afraid of. Embarrassment? Looking stupid? I don't understand.