Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A short conversation with...David Wees @davidwees

I recently discovered a website named Teachmeet New Jersey: Fresh Ideas for Education. The site introduces educators to its readers by conducting short interviews. I really like that idea so I asked a few people from my PLN to answer a few questions about education. Enjoy.

David Wees

How long have you been teaching?

I’m currently in my 9th year teaching. I spent 3 years working in Brooklyn, NY, 2 years in London, England, another 2 years in Bangkok, Thailand, and the last 2 years in Vancouver, Canada.

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?

I think that my core philosophy has not changed much, but my understanding of this core philosophy has changed quite a bit. I believed initially that if you engage the learner in meaningful and interesting activities, that you can “get them to learn anything.” This is kind of like covering the ugly learning medicine with some sweet honey. It goes down sweet, but still leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Now I’m becoming convinced that this approach is unnecessary. I think you can select activities, especially if you give students choice in the selection, which appeal to the learner and have the ability to inspire and motivate them, and which are themselves interesting learning. Learning doesn’t have to be something you disguise with a sweetener.

Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?

Twitter has opened my mind to the field of education in a way that neither of my degrees has done. First, I am exposed to a much wider world of possibilities. I cannot imagine finding the works of Gatto, Holt, Hern, Freire, Meier, and Ravitch without Twitter. I think it could easily have been years before I learned about unschooling, homeschooling, and other forms of alternate education which are so interesting to me now.

I’ve been fascinated by the adoption of technology, and have enjoyed learning about both the phases of technology adoption, and the types of technology out there to use. I’m constantly impressed by the innovative practices I see, while still skeptical of other practices which have been aptly named pseudo-teaching.

I have the opportunity to discuss these ideas, and debate them with people from all over the world. I learn about resources, trouble-shoot, brain-storm, and chat about all sorts of different topics. I’ve met people who are doing amazing things, and am helping to lead some small changes in BC education as well. The ability to get a group of people together and be inspired to try out a completely different professional development model is super cool, and our planning of Edcamp Vancouver has been a terrific learning experience for all of us who have been involved.

The most important lesson I have taken away from Twitter is that I am not alone, there are many other people who think the way I do.

What's the best advice you have received as a teacher (or can give to a new teacher)?

Try something new in your teaching everyday, and do your best to remember what worked about you tried, and what didn’t work. You cannot become an exceptional educator without a willingness to experiment, and an ability to be reflective and analyze your practice. Most of your initial lessons you create will be awful, you will be lucky to have 1 in 5 work. Recognize this, don’t take it personally, and move onto the next day when you can try something else.

Watch other teachers do what they do. Make sure to go and observe the practices of everyone in your building if you can. During my first 3 years of teaching I made sure to at least informally observe every single teacher in my school.

Watch children while they are learning, regardless of the context. If your objective is to improve as an educator, you must recognize that education is not so much about the procedures you do, as the outcomes of what you start (or support) in your classroom, specifically students learning.

David's Blog

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