One of the sessions I went to during our recent Teacher’s Convention was a panel discussion about trends in education. There were four panelists, a former premier and minister of education, an ATA executive officer and adjunct professor of Education at the U. of A., an NDP candidate and former Edmonton Public School Board chair, and an award-winning journalist and author at a local newspaper.
The journalist had been very vocal in criticizing the new math curriculum and discovery or inquiry-based learning. His columns had irritated me with his claims that drill-n-kill, sit-n-git, emphasis on standardized testing style of teaching was what was needed in elementary and junior high. What did he know?
I went there with the intent to prove to myself that he had very little credibility other than a media platform that enabled him to spout his uninformed opinions. Or so I thought.
As I was listening to his story, though, I felt my defensiveness and righteousness begin to slip away. I realized that it was his experiences as a parent and the schools his children attended that influenced his thinking. Just as it is with all of us. It is our experiences that shape who we are. I was reminded once again of the wisdom behind “Seek first to understand” as Steven Covey wrote.
I’m thankful for the reminder. I still don’t agree with some of his ideas, but a better understanding lets me listen from a place of openness, curiosity, and willingness. That’s a far better place to engage in a debate or discussion than in being defensive or righteous.
I’m also thankful for people who force us to look at public policy, corporate ideology, or personal beliefs from different sides. We need critical questioning, constructive criticism, and respectful debate to help keep us from bubble wrapping ourselves in confirmation biases and echo chambers.