I was invited by the center I formerly studied Japanese at (Ceija, here in Santiago) to give a short workshop. It was an open invitation, as I could suggest what the theme for it would be. I decided long ago that I’m no good as a teacher, so I almost rejected the request, but finally decided to propose a non-traditional program in which I would not be a teacher but just someone who’s been studying longer (a senpai, as a Japanese person would put it,) and turn the classroom into a more level place for discussion and discovery. The themes to discuss would be the Japanese kanji writing system, and self-study. I called it kanji metaclass, loosely using the ‘meta’ prefix the same way it’s used in the word ‘metadata’: that is, to suggest recursiveness, learning about learning.
Although I haven’t found the teacher in me, I do think about education a great deal. I’ve been teaching myself lots of things since I can remember. I am largely frustrated by the way in which education has been institutionalized. And I work developing ludo-educational software.
I strongly believe in intrinsic motivation as key to learning. Extrinsic motivation would be grades, rewards and punishments; that is, how most schools nowadays work. Intrinsic motivation would be doing something because it is its own reward, or because it leads naturally to our reward. Put another way, I think that mainstream education teaches us to hate study and learning, by making those the hurdles we need to hop over to get to the carrot they put in front of us instead (or to get away from the whip behind.) But, of course, there’s no better stimulus to learning than just wanting to know.
So this class I’m about to finish offering this week reflects my views on education at large, and experimental as the format is (for someone inexperienced like me,) it’s been, from my point of view, a great success. My main priority was to make everyone curious, invested, and in charge of their own learning. I got everyone enjoyably (even excitedly) discussing varied subtopics, once they got comfortable enough with me and one another (that is, by the second session.) The flow of each session is almost entirely freeform, it leading wherever the discussion takes us. I prepared beforehand a long document full of little packets of (largely personal, even anecdotal) information, though, which I use as a resource to plant new ideas and questions. It still remains to see how this influence impacts their learning, but first I just felt the need to impact their mentality.
So that is one of the things I’ve been up to. And to end this post, here’s a little bullet-point manifesto I wrote for myself, to keep me focused on my goals for this workshop:
- The classroom is a place for active discussion, exploration, and exchange of knowledge and ideas by and for all.
- Our themes are Japanese kanji, self-study, and the intersection of the two.
- When leaving the classroom, study has just begun.
- A student questions, asks, errs, researches, teaches themselves, shares their knowledge.
- The teacher is but a guide.
- If one must teach, teach that which is elementary and general.
- Better than teaching is suggesting.
- Better than suggesting is asking.
- Better than asking is listening.
- Anything can be debated.