I spent a good three to four hours yesterday scouring the Seoul Folk Flea Market (an absolute must see – Sinseol-dong Metro, Exit 6) for that elusive treasure. That piece of yesteryear that someone had grown tired of, attached a price tag to and set out on a table for me to find. That thing that I didn’t know I needed until right then, as I stood looking down at it on the table.
As I searched the tables for that elusive treasure I was constantly amazed at what was out on show and up for sale. Musical instruments, old tools, gramophones, film projectors, fishing rods, shoe cleaners, sleds, bikes, spectacles, etc, etc, etc. If the Seoul Flea Market doesn’t have it, then it hasn’t been invented, used and forgotten!
Of all the tables of goodness, the one table I simply stood and gaped at was a table with baskets full of old surgical instruments. Being an appreciator of all things tool-like, this was a most interesting basket of interstingness. There were some things in that basket that I had no idea how they were once used. Some things that I could imagine what they might have been used for, and some things that would cause me to either faint or run a mile if I saw a doctor coming at me with them. And it got me thinking… Do they still use these surgical instruments? If they don’t, what do the new instruments look like? How did the doctor find out about the new instruments and what prompted them to drop the old ones and begin using the new ones? Did they receive training in how to use the new surgical instruments from someone, or was it trial and error (during a surgery!!!)? Was there a book? Was there a YouTube video (Heart Surgery Fails March 2014)? Or was it by word of mouth (doctors discussing their new equipment over beer and chicken!)?
Whatever way it happened, the tools changed, practices improved and now on a table at the Seoul Folk Flea Market there sits a basket full of old surgical instruments available for sale, ready for some D.I.Y. home surgery (who needs ten fingers anyway!)
Then reality returned with a bang and I found myself sitting in my office at school, planning and preparing for the upcoming professional development day. I was reading through article after article on best teaching practices. I was watching video after video of teachers in classrooms discussing best practices for student learning and I began to wonder… Do we, as teachers, have a basket of old instruments and tools sitting on a table, for sale in the flea market of old teaching tools? If we do, what do the contents of that basket look like? Or more pertinently, what do the new tools look like and where did we find out about them? Who showed us? Who convinced us they were “better”? Are some of us still using leeches? And if we are, then why?
If I go to the doctor today, I EXPECT the doctor to have all the latest tools, know all the latest techniques and use all the best surgical instruments – I mean, what is more important than my health!? I trust the doctor is taking time to keep abreast of the latest findings in the field of medicine and is applying that knowledge, understanding and skill when I am the patient. If she is going to pull out one of those surgical instruments and cut something off then I hope she is doing it using the latest and best techniques.
And it is the same when I send my daughter to school today! Shouldn’t I EXPECT teachers to be using the latest techniques and best practices – I mean, what is more important than my daughter’s education? I trust the teacher is taking time to keep abreast of the latest findings in the field of education and is applying that knowledge, understanding and skill when my daughter is the student. If the teacher is going to pull out one of those teaching techniques and teach my daughter something then I hope the teacher is doing it using the latest and best techniques.
We expect doctors to be up to date with the latest and best in their field, but not teachers. Why not? With all the social media, online training, videos and research databases available it is now easier than ever to keep up to date.
So I encourage you all spend a part of your day reading/watching/listening to someone who is presenting ideas on best practice/latest techniques/research based findings about learning/education/teaching. You can only get better!
Note: If you need ideas on where to start, feel free to drop me a line. Twitter is my single most valuable professional learning tool, second are podcasts, third are online journals and beyond that the world wide web is a revelation!