Thursday, April 11, 2013

To Teach is Human: Part Two


I recently had the opportunity to hear Daniel Pink speak at my Alma Mater, North Central College. He was doing some speaking engagements related to his newest book, To Sell is Human, and was brought in by the wonderful Anderson Bookshops. As someone who has spoken with Pink personally, he will be the first to tell you that he writes for business folks in mind but understands that some educators pull ideas and concepts from his work. As with Drive and A Whole New Mind, his newest book has some cross over into the world of education. I already mentioned the three characteristics Pink outlined for salesmen that I thought had cross over into education. In addition, Pink discussed the notion of information asymmetry and information parity, which I think, has huge implications for educators.

The story that Pink shared was that of an individual going to a car lot and looking to buy a car “back in the day”. The buyer had basically no information other than what the seller had to offer and possibly what they read in the newspaper about the car. The information and control was completely in the hands of the seller. This is what Pink called “information asymmetry.” Now fast forward to current day car buying experience. The buyer can hop online and access numerous resources to find out the exact same level of information that the seller themselves have. At this point we have “information parity” in which the buyer and the seller are on equal ground in terms of access to information.

Let’s take a look at classrooms and schools and how that notion plays out there. Twenty years ago the teacher and schools had the information and knowledge that students wanted and needed. A student had to come to a school in order to get that information. The information asymmetry existed and the teachers were at an advantage in that they were the key to accessing that information. Yet, is that the case anymore? I don’t think so. We are in an age of information parity in our schools as much as we are on the car lots. But what does that mean for educators?

First, we have to realize that in some cases our students come into our classes having more exposure and access to information than we can even offer them in our classes. In addition, the potential for a student to know more about a subject than we do is not only possible but also probable. Teachers are no longer the keepers of the information and frankly are not needed to access that information. Does this mean that teachers are no longer needed? Not at all…in fact they are needed now more than ever.

Teachers have to shift their thinking around what their role within the classroom is in this age of information parity. No longer are teachers needed to help students find information or even to deliver it to them. Rather, the role of the teacher shifts to making sense of that information and curate this overwhelming flood of information. Students rarely are in need of being told how to find information but rather need to be taught what to do with the information they have found. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

To Teach is Human - Part One


I recently had the opportunity to hear Daniel Pink speak at my Alma Mater, North Central College. He was doing some speaking engagements related to his newest book, To Sell is Human, and was brought in by the wonderful Anderson Bookshops. As someone who has spoken with Pink personally, he will be the first to tell you that he writes for business folks in mind but understands that some educators pull ideas and concepts from his work. As with Drive and A Whole New Mind, his newest book has some cross over into the world of education. For me, his speech hit a few things I think educators can certainly relate to and learn from.

One of the things Pink went over was three skills that those in sales needs to have and I tend to see a connection to teaching:

Attunement – The ability to understand a person’s point of view.

This is clearly the skill of a good teacher as well. Good teachers are able to take the point of view of a student in order to engage and connect with them. In addition, effective teachers are able to put themselves in peer’s as well as parent’s shoes in order to gain that perspective. Attunement is a skill that should certainly be valued by teachers and frankly by anyone that works with other people.

Buoyancy – How to stay afloat in the face of rejection.

Yet again, this is a skill teachers need to hone. Things will go badly when you teach. Lessons will bomb. Kids will fail. Parents will push back at you. Administrators and peers will reject your ideas. How you react when things don’t go your way will be a huge indicator of your success as a teacher. What coping skills have you developed to handle that failure and rejection?

Clarity – Curate and make sense of information rather than finding information.

Anyone that is teaching in today’s world of information overload knows this to be true. Good teachers are no longer focused on helping students find information. Instead, they are helping students make sense of the seemingly infinite amounts of information at their fingertips. The skill of curation is quickly becoming highly critical in today’s society and therefore is and should be mirrored in our classrooms.

Yes, I recognize these three skills were written by Pink with business professionals in mind, specifically with those in sales. However, as with much of Pink’s work, these skills are human skills. The way in which humans interact with each other is universal regardless of what industry.  Some might say that teachers are “selling” ideas and concepts and in some cases themselves in the work they do. Regardless of if you agree with that, the three skills of attunement, buoyancy and clarity can play a critical role in being a successful teacher.

*Stay tuned for some more thinking about information parody and asymmetry from Pink’s remarks.