Confession #1: I had planned on calling this post, “Edupunk or edubunk?”
That was before reading this simple, but very powerful post by Jen D. Jones. Now I need to change my approach. My main point sits under Confession #3 below.
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Confession #2: I am not an edupunk… I’ve always been too much of an edunerd to qualify.
That said, I’ve always sat ‘outside the box’ looking in. I’ve always felt like a square peg in a round hole. I’m an ‘A’ student who went through my first university degree with a ‘C+’ average. I handed almost everything in late (and almost always with no marks off)¹. I ignored criteria and wrote what I wanted. Sometimes this was rewarded, most times it was punished. When I was disinterested in an assignment I walked a fine, and I might add brilliant, line next to what would be considered plagiarism, it was a great strategy that got me through the mundaneness of many useless assignments. I crammed for exams, and I’d stay awake for 3 days (usually after the due date) writing an essay. I’d go into the library and end up half an isle away from the resources I needed, reading something ‘unnecessary’… my pre-FireFox tabbing.
On my transcript there is a ‘A’ that I got in a course where I didn’t do an assignment worth 25% of my mark (do the math) and there is also a mark of ‘Zero’ for another course. I appealed the ‘Zero’ and then refused to follow the terms of the accepted appeal. I felt the Appeal Board was scolding me with terms I specifically said would make the timeline for completion difficult for me. I punished myself by refusing to meet their requirements on principle… the irony is not lost on me here.
I spoke up and I spoke out- I never bit my tongue in class. I worked my butt off in a warehouse the summer before university and decided that I was going to get my money’s worth while at school. It always amazed me when I’d ask an obvious question or ask for an explanation because “I’m lost”, and students would thank me after class… “I was so lost too, thanks for asking”… Why didn’t they speak up? What were they afraid of?
It didn’t matter if I was in a class of 20 or an auditorium of 200, the professor knew my name by the second or third class… sometimes this was to mutual benefit and sometimes purely my own… but I was not intentionally disruptive and I certainly never ‘sucked up’ though I often had to endure the stares of Marshmallows² who thought I was sucking up… I didn’t care.
My favourite learning experience in school was not from a course. I had a Wednesday night class in the second term of my first year, and after the first class I was invited to join a few people for coffee. (As I tell this I have to chuckle at the fact that I have no recollection of what the Wednesday night course was.) We were a motley crew that spent the next 12 Wednesday nights discussing Religion and the Meaning of Life over a cup of java. Present at these coffee-shop-talks were a third-year student who was Atheist, his second-year devout Catholic girlfriend, a 35 year old ex-Hare Krishna of 14 years who served as their head chef for nine of those years, and then there was me. My values and beliefs were challenged beyond any classroom ever challenged me. We had our own Socrates Cafe where Big Questions were asked and we all took turns trying to answer them.
As for classes, well I excelled at classes such as the one on Educational Leadership where the The Tao of Leadership was the text, and topics of study included holistic learning. Meanwhile, I floundered in courses like Environmental Geography where I was lectured to from class beginning to bitter end. I have a box somewhere in my garage with some impressive doodles created in that class.
I remember taking a Philosophy course on Plato in my first year. Whenever I made a point contrary to my professor, or asked him a challenging question, he would respond with, “Well I think Plato would say…”
So, I was no longer disagreeing with him or questioning his ideas, but rather Plato’s instead! I lost all respect for him after he marked a paper with a comment that went something like this:
Very well thought out,
too short! C+
I knew the word count quota, but felt I’d said all that I needed to³. So I guess that if I had added about 150 more words of fluff, then and only then would I have earned an ‘A’ or at least a ‘B’ on this philosophy paper? To my Plato-Wanna-Be professor I was no Aristotle. By the end of the term he hated me… that was another fine line that I walked!
My dissent towards criteria was even evident with my Master’s Terminal Paper, (that I finished just two years ago), which is now used as my advisor’s example of what not to do (…of going too far, and being too long). At one point she asked me to shorten my paper so I edited one paragraph by about two sentences and then widened my margins.
So, am I an edupunk? To me, the answer is still ‘No’. I’m not a rebel, I didn’t buck the system. I was just a stubborn learner who let my surrounding environment determine when and if I chose to learn… not a lone wolf as much as a disgruntled sheep. The truth hurts, but I’m a big boy now and I can take it.
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Confession #3: I don’t like the term Edupunk
…I am going to take Jen’s advice seriously when she says about edupunk “Don’t dissect the metaphor“. Edupunk, if nothing more, has got many people talking, exploring their beliefs around education, and in some cases, reminiscing of day’s long past. The educational community is much too diverse, as it should be, for anyone to cling on to one single metaphor for meaning.
Well, it certainly got me reminiscing, so what’s wrong with the term?
These are not Edupunks, they are Educational Leaders! The reality is that anti-establishment, Do-It-Yourself, transformative, collaborative, networked teachers doing new things, in new ways, in new wall-less, time-zone-less, textbook-less, standardized-test-less classrooms are paving the way for a new kind of schooling. I’ll say this again in a different way:
These are not Edupunks, they are Educational Leaders! They are our role models paving a new path to a more meaningful educational experience in our schools. They may be on the fringe, but they are also at the forefront. They are leading the way.
“The fringes are the source of most truly innovative ideas in cultures, economies and organizations.”
But a problem arises in,
“…recognizing when the fringe has created something so important that it no longer deserves to be fringe.” (Alex Trisoglio, pg.31)
Our so-called Edupunks are figuring out a new path as they go… this isn’t about rogues, it is about adult learners who are trailblazing without a map.
“As a general rule, adults are much more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking than to think their way into a new way of acting.” (pg. 14)
Also in the book, Monsanto’s CEO Robert Shapiro speaks of Foresight (seeing ahead), Insight (seeing deeply), Speed, and Courage (pgs. 82-85). These are all things that I see in the educators being called Edupunks.
Let’s not put our leaders into fringe categories. Let’s recognize them as the trailblazers they are. They are Surfing the Edge of Chaos (or should I say educhaos)… and what they really deserve is our appreciation, thanks, and respect.
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Footnotes: As a teacher…
I guess you could say that at times I too have ‘acted my way into a new way of thinking’. My actions as a learner influenced my actions as a teacher, as these footnotes suggest.
¹ As a teacher, I don’t take any marks off for something coming in late. It is my job to make sure that students demonstrate their learning and meet the learning outcomes during the year. All time lines within the year are arbitrary (and usually teacher determined) and not a requirement worthy of penalty. Exceptions may be made where either Personal Planning or Goal Setting are part of the outcomes.
² As a teacher, I am very vocal about students needing to speak up and ask questions. “Don’t be a Marshmallow!” was a saying that I took from my Grade 10 English teacher Mr. La Point who used it to symbolize placid students sitting in his class and choosing not to speak up. At first being called Marshmallows in my class was funny, but soon students would catch on that they were not meeting expectations when they were being Marshmallows!
³ As a teacher my response to ‘how long does this assignment need to be?’ has always been, “It needs to be as long as it needs to be.” Students hate this answer, but after a while they get it. In a nutshell: I’ve read three brilliant sentences that have said more than three long-winded paragraphs.