Monday, August 27, 2012

A Guitar and a Vacuum Cleaner: All You Need to Teach

Okay, in my defense, I had to get these things out of my house, because they were cluttering up the entryway from the kitchen into the garage. But...I did carry a guitar and a vacuum cleaner into the building as I headed up to my office this morning.

And no less than three colleagues commented on the odd pairing.

The best quote of the morning:
"Dave! A guitar and a vacuum cleaner? I guess that's all you need to teach!"

He was smiling as he said it, so I know it was meant well. Also, I taught his kids as a middle school science teacher in a former life, so he knows the (sometimes non-traditional) angle from which I approach my classroom practice.

By now you're probably wondering just why I would be hefting this odd pair up the stairs toward the faculty offices. Fair enough...

I'm very accustomed to teaching with a guitar close by. One never knows when the right moment will pop up for that perfect song! Now that I don't have a classroom of my own (really), I'm planning to hang my first guitar (20 years old now...yikes) on the wall of my office. Call it "art"...but there's also part of me that can't quite imagine not having a guitar at hand when I need one.

And the vacuum...well, that's a little harder to explain. It was time for us to invest in a new one at home, but the former middle school science teacher in me can't bear to throw out a possible piece of lab equipment. An old vacuum cleaner? So much potential! Maybe I'll take it apart and it will become a model wind tunnel, or maybe we'll use it when we talk about teaching meteorology (gotta create some wind!), or maybe I'll just keep it in the back supply room for when we make a real mess of the lab in the Methods for Teaching Science course I teach.

My colleague's comment got me thinking though...what do I need to teach? What is preference, and what is essential?

Do I need a SMARTBoard to teach well?
Do I need an iPad?
Do I need high-speed Internet access?
Do I need an overhead projector?
Do I need a chalkboard?
Do I need pencil and paper?

I am a techie teacher, after all. I have a pretty strong preference for teaching with technology--assuming the tech tools actually enhance what I'm doing.

But do I need them?

I'm blessed to be in a teaching situation where I have a whole lot of great tools close at hand. I know of many colleagues in education who don't have the same blessings.

I'm picturing a school I know of in a nearby town--a friend's kids attend there--where they have about a dozen computers that are shared by the whole student body of K-8 students. That's a different situation.

I'm picturing a school I know of in the Dominican Republic--a former student is teaching there--where they are happy to have any cast-off colored pencils, crayons, notebooks, etc. American kids are ready to toss out at the end of the year. That's a different situation.

I'm picturing a school I know of in Nigeria--another former student teaching there--where they have Internet access...sometimes. They have electricity...sometimes. That's a very different situation.

What qualifies as a "necessity" for teaching in 2012? Is it dependent on the surrounding culture?

Time for more reflection...

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