I’ve returned to high school, a harumphing bad example of access/inclusion

I’m back in school.  High school that is.

A few evenings ago I found myself perched on a somewhat tottering chair, holding handouts in one hand and a cookie in the other.  I was peering over my reading glasses at the figure in the distance, the principal, as he spoke into the darkened room to a gymnasium full of parents and caregivers.

It was the end of a long day and I was harumphed.  aka tired and bit grumpy.

So when he introduced some of his staff, I harumphed to myself – turn on the lights so I can see them.

So when he talked about differentiated learning, a term on his powerpoint slide, I harumphed – what the heck are you talking about? (replacing ‘heck’ with a far less polite term)

It took me some time to catch up and realize that differentiated learning were classes aimed at everything from honours students to students who need additional support.

I shouldn’t have had to catch up.

It was a case of having made my brain work too hard on stuff that wasn’t ultimately important.  The concept is important, the actual term is not.  Instead of spinning my wheels on figuring out what differentiated learning was, I should have been focusing on how I can continue to support my kid as he continues his journey through high school.

Differentiated learning needed to be explained up front.  Pronto.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s a great school.  I’m a big supporter.

I’m also a parent with a Masters Degree, who feels very comfortable in academic settings.  Being the trainer I am, harumphing as I was, I couldn’t help but wonder what other parents might be feeling.  Parents who, for a variety of reasons, don’t feel comfortable in an academic setting.  Parents whose first language may not be English.  Parents who may not be fully literate.

Not a good example of being accessible and inclusive.  Not a good example of soothing parent’s brains (e.g. explaining terms) so energy can be focused on things that matter.

As trainers we’re experts in our subject area.  Remembering what it’s like to start out, to begin to learn about our field can be hard.  An example of how easily we can turn off learners and have them off harumphing is to simply not define terms.

Funnily enough a great example of trainers using terms happened a few days later with my other kid, but that’s another blog post.


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2 Responses to “I’ve returned to high school, a harumphing bad example of access/inclusion”

  1. Leigh Says:
    February 8th, 2011 at 12:46 am

    Yes! I just went to the TedxPhnomPenh event this weekend. Some of the speakers made their topics so easy and accessible. One speaker stood out, but not for the right reasons. She was talking about justice- a topic she clearly knows a lot about as she’s got her masters in it. But, that was the problem. She was using terms she’d been kicking around in academic writing + circles intimate with justice ideas. I found myself working so hard to understand the terms. And, that ultimately took away from being able to actively listen and absorb the talk.

  2. Lee-Anne Ragan Says:
    February 8th, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Hi Leigh- oh how cool that TED extends to PhnomPenh! Ahh so sorry for your brain having to scramble to decode & swim through the swamp to understanding. I think it’s so telling that university profs don’t have to have any training in how to teach. I think this has bled into society in general and has made for some less than stellar trainers.

    It’s assumed that if you’re a subject matter you can also teach. No no no no- it’s my mission to unravel that pesky myth. Teaching / good and better yet great training, is a separate skill unto itself.

    The Heath brothers refer to your specific example as not being able to unring our own bell – eg be able to remember what it was like to not know all about our own subject matter expertise.

    Onwards & upwards.

    Besides it being so telling that you are relaying a negative example (because they stand out, are highlighted and in marquee lights) what did you take away that was yummy good? Do tell.

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