You can read all of my course assignments for my Unschooled Master of Theology in Biblical Studies here.
Let’s get started….
What Are My First Principles for Teaching?
There are three major First Principles from which I desire to teach and operate my classrooms in the future. 1. Flexibility (for both Instructor and Student) 2. Sustainability 3. Engaging Content.
I found it quite fascinating, while haphazardly watching a WordPress.com webcast the other day on their productivity product P2 (basically a low rent LMS for schools with no e-commerce capability), the hosts referenced recent studies that illustrate how students in both high school and college are now revolting against synchronous learning online. The students are apparently willfully skipping out on “in class” Zoom calls and demanding a more asynchronous learning environment.
This is what I’ve been screaming for years. All through high school, when the school counselor kept telling me to go back to class. I wanted to take learning into my own hands instead, spend my time at the library where I had access to so much more knowledge, where I could work on my own, at my own pace. But no. I had seat time to meet. When I started community college, I realized quickly that this simply wasn’t going to work. I did not need a repeat of high school all over again. I had just spent 4 years in hell as an enlisted soldier, I did not want to start going back to a “classroom” five days a week and put up with working with people. Oh, the humanity of it all was so dreadful!
I was fortunate that my start in college was right in light with the birth of online learning. My community college didn’t have online classes yet, but the neighboring town’s college did. Within a semester I had all my classes transferred and within two semesters I had moved to the coast and was living in a cabin in the woods, downloading assignments (asynchronously) at the tiny public library.
Asynchronous learning, of course, is the model that best suits my affinity to learning and if I’m predominately boxed out of the economic stream of education (given my caste status, my worldview disposition, etc) then I’m going to tailer my independent courses optimally for my own tastes and what I believe is best for learning.
The First Principles Described:
1. Flexibility – This is offering student the very best in how the learning and material is approached, whether via through technology or a simple content structure. Everything needs to be streamlined and organized in such a way that it is not only hyper efficient but incredibly relevant. Gone are the days of simple discussion question assignments (though I do like answering discussion questions), or essay assignments, or weekly quizzes for points. Once I received my Black Belt in the Martial Arts, one of the major shifts I undertook was no longer seeking a “belt” achievement, but rather I desired to hone what I already possessed. I wanted to make what I already had more effective, I sought out profficiency across all areas, competency instead of merit based assessments. When taking on my three step-children as homeschoolers, I knew I did not want to spend my afternoons lecturing them on history or mathematics. I wanted to teach them how to learn on their own so they could teach themselves. These can all be accomplished as goals by building into the curriculum fa great deal of flexibility at each state in the learning process.
2. Sustainability – This is two-fold. Not only do I want my future curriculum and deployment designed in such a way that it is able to sustain itself (fund itself), but I also want it to survive beyond me. I can do this either by equipping others with the ability to turn around and teach what I’ve taught them, or construct my system as a self-perpetuating organism that is hosted and delivered autonomously and perpetually, without involvement from myself or others. This would include selection of the proper delivery system (websites, workbooks, POS, marketing, etc) to the selection of curriculum topics (evergreen content that remains relevant into the future).
3. Engaging Content – This can only occur if I become an expert in the field or subject. I am not going into teaching as a vocation where I derive my overall income from it. It is an avocation. A calling. If it truly is, this remains to be seen. If not, I will be so very thankful and will simply continue to post on my blog (for myself rather than others) and will write fiction books (for myself rather than others) and will slip off into eternity as obscure as I was while alive. But if truly called by God to teach his word, to teach Christian Philosophy, to disciple students who are just starting out in their educational pursuits, then I would like to become an expert in the material I’m transferring to the next generation. The best way to do this is through engaging content. Keep in mind, I did not say entertaining. I’m not interested in entertaining. Too many pastors and Bible teachers are entertainers first (and I believe all in worship of the true god they serve, mammon). I want to pursue pure research into Christian Philosophy and Theology as a means of foster growth in foundational studies, in personal formation and sanctification studies – to bring about change of the individual and overall growth of the body of Christ.
How Can I Apply Those Principles to Teaching?
Flexibility can be achieved through, first and foremost, asynchronous learning. From the ground up, my curriculum will be designed in such a way that there will be no in-person or in-place requirements. No time requirements. No date requirements. Students will work at their own pace, in their own space. They will complete assignments as they complete them and there will be no timetable. They will have a host of different options for how they participate in the course itself, either with a remote mentor that they dialog with via email with each assignment as they move through the workbook or completely on their own. The can chose to participate in all the assignments, some of the assignments or none of the assignments. Their level of engagement will be up to them.
Additionally, they will have no hidden fees, no shyster marketing gimmicks and no endless push for more monetary support. Courses will be self-contained within each individual course workbook with external links to additional resources as needed, such as email correspondence, online forums for Q&As, practice testing, audio/video content, etc. There will be one set price for the workbook at the beginning of the course, and the purchase of the workbook is the start of the course with no arbitrary semester schedules or limitations.
Sustainability is not only a financial concern (having an actual ROI) but is also an infrastructure and administrative one. Too often teachers at both the K-12 and post-secondary level complain about the paperwork required just to teach their courses. Grading papers, administering tests, staying on top of grades, then having to deal with disgruntled students, or worse, disgruntled parents. Add to this already distressed workload behavioral issues in K-12 (and sometimes in post-secondary as well), makes education for teachers synonymous with many realms of hell.
To avoid all of this, especially in today’s toxic climate in college and universities as well as seminaries across the country, my hope is to design and develop my own curriculum over time, to create independent courses that are highly streamlined and heavily leverage technology in such a way that I as the “instructor” (lecture model) or “mentor” (discipleship model) can 1. Develop a course one time that can be reused limitlessly into the future with building upgrade features that allow for quick and painless updating of content 2. Operate courses on a perpetual open registration schedule that functions with minimal hands on interaction. 3. Leverages the very best content available from third parties.
Engaging Content is crucial to both word of mouth as well as effective completion rates of students. Since the main goal of my future courses will not be profit but the distillation of information in the spirit of the independent philosophers of ancient Greece, the content I provide needs to be of the very best caliber possible, leveraging all third party sources to provide an excellent learning experience without compromising on the other fundamentals above. This would be done with using audio, video lectures on all courses, exercises, case studies, academic articles, student writings, and flipped exams (for mastery), as well as providing student with the opportunity for open interaction using third part forums and e-portfolios.
Teaching, I would imagine, is a very rewarding enterprise if one can circumvent the traps and hardships associated with the endeavor. Too often, I think, the vocation is overly romanticized, leading prospective teachers over extended, overworked, and under fulfilled as the realities creep in. It is my hope that operating my future curriculum, courses utilizing the three first principles of 1. Flexibility, 2. Sustainability, and 3. Engaging Content will allow me to realize the absolute best environment where I can research, learn, design, disseminate, interact, and ultimate profit from the enterprise of teaching.
Until my next assignment….
Excerpt from Our Daughter:
“Okay, mom,” Randy said.
“You behave yourself and be nice. You’re lucky to have company while you wait for the doctors.”
The woman turned and started back the way she came.
“The nurse said it would be twenty or thirty more minutes, so we’ll eat quick and be back up here before they take you in, okay?”
“Sorry for him,” the woman said to Katie as she walked by.
As the woman left, Katie noticed the boy moving around again on the bed. Before she realized what was happening, the tiny lump disappeared and she could hear the faint sound of bare hands and feet on the tile floor.
He was low crawling under the beds toward her.
A moment later, Randy popped his head out from under the nearest hospital bed, craning his neck around to look up at her.
“Hello, there,” Katie said.
Randy disappeared back under the bed, the bed sheet draping down almost to the floor. Katie could still see three little fingers pressed to the tile.
“What are you here for?” Katie asked, readjusting her seat in the chair, trying to get the ache in her chest to lessen.
For whatever reason, the wheelchair was really uncomfortable.
“Why are – ”
Randy’s voice trailed off for a moment as he looked around.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m getting my leg fixed,” Katie said. “See?”
Randy poked his head back out from under the bed and looked at the leg she was pointing to.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“The doctor said it’s broken,” Katie said. “Shattered.”
“Can you feel it?” Randy asked, able to stay out from his hiding place.
“I can feel it, but it’s not too bad,” Katie said, then tapped the IV in her arm. “This thing is giving me medicine of some kind for the pain. At least that’s what the nurses said.”
“Why are you – ”
Randy stopped mid-sentence.
He scooted out from under the bed entirely and slowly crept over to her on all fours.
“What are you, some kind of spider?” Katie asked, giggling a little.
“What are you?” Randy echoed.
He was now only about a foot away from her chair and sat there, his legs folded up under him, gawking up at her.
“What are you staring at me for?”
“I’ve never – ”
Randy put out a hesitant hand and ever so gently touched her arm.
“Are you some kind of ghost?”
He looked around again.
“Are you – ”
He leaned in, talking in a whisper.
“Are you dead?”
A nurse came around the corner and stopped abruptly, spotting the empty bed in the far corner where Randy should have been.
“Randy Andrews,” the nurse said, her hands now on her hips. “You get right back into the bed and you stop playing around, please. They are ready for you in surgery.”
Katie watched as Randy scrambled on all fours under the beds and back up onto his, pulling the sheet back over top of himself again.
She started to ask him about his question, but couldn’t get the words out before his parents appeared at the door.
Katie sat there quietly, watching Randy stare back at her from under his sheet. She glanced over at his parents and the nurse, noticed Randy’s dad had no hair on the top of his head.
Are you dead?
What kind of question was that?
The snap of the wheel locks being disengaged on Randy’s hospital bed jarred Katie out of the confusion she was in.
The doctor she’d first seen was now at the door, waiting for Randy.
He was his surgeon.
They wheeled Randy out of the room, his parents following right behind, disappearing to the left, heading for his operating room.
The pre-op room was empty again.
Are you dead?
What kind of crazy question was that?
The nurse came back through the double doors.
“It won’t be long now,” she said.
Katie tried not to think about the dull ache growing just behind her sternum.
The nurse disappeared around the corner as Katie watched the double doors to the operating rooms slowly shut.
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