Either unlearn or face the consequences (of your head in a garbage can)

When I think about how Dig Lit class has shaped my innovator’s mindset throughout this semester, I think about how the people in this class have changed my perspective on both learning and teaching.

Before taking Dig Lit, I had a pretty traditionalist view of education, because I thrived in a traditional learning environment. I loved standardized testing, and lecture style classes were my favorite. I was comfortable with my education being reduced to stats, numbers, and test scores (probably why I like math). While I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with traditional education, I’ve learned that some kids just don’t learn this way, and there’s nothing wrong with this either.


Imagine, some kids are a little scared by this. (Photo is stock)

After conversing with my classmates, I had a better idea of the fear, loathing, and disgust that testing and lectures evoke in many students. While I used to think that the students that didn’t like these formulaic types of learning just weren’t trying hard enough, I now know that hey, these styles of teaching just don’t work for some people. In addition, the people that don’t thrive in traditional education settings  have unique perspectives and skills that I can’t even dream of possessing, and can only attempt to emulate in small ways.

While traditional education works for some students, it definitely doesn’t work for all of them, but I don’t think the standard educational system needs a major rehaul; our schools just need a little facelift.


But not this kind of facelift. (Photo from moradimd.com)

One wonderful solution to our educational woes is increasing the proclivity of teachers towards having an “innovator’s mindset,” which is described as George Couros as “asking what is best for learners” and “creating and designing learning experiences with an empathetic approach.” Having an innovator’s mindset is a manageable fix that can be practiced by any teacher with an open mind. If a kid doesn’t seem to have enough focus to sit through a whole lecture, kinesthetic learning tools, such as models and diagrams, can be provided to him or her so he or she can feel and see the topic the class is talking about. If a student has bad vision, the teacher can provide this kid with audio recordings of lecture notes so they can get the information in their mind. Being an innovator doesn’t have to mean changing every aspect of school; being an innovator can mean taking what’s already present and modifying it for the unique needs of each student.

Similar to innovative teaching, “unlearning” is the process of taking what you know about education, and throwing it down the drain.

Alright not all of it, but a little of it.

Unlearning occurs when teachers take outdated forms of education, forms of education that are kept around just because “things have always been done this way,” and replacing them with tactics that actually work. For example, Will Richardson, in his blog about unlearning, mentions that teachers can take the idea that “teachers are the sole experts of content in the classroom” and toss it out the window. With the advent of technology, lessons by professionals in any field are just a click away, and students can often provide some tidbits of information that lead to greater knowledge by the entire classroom (teacher included). Unlearning is another tool that teachers can use to take what they know and either modify it to fit current needs of students or discard it if it’s just plain awful. (Like corporal punishment in the classroom. That’s probably a bad idea, Sister Mary.)

When reading about unlearning, the first concept that popped into my head was, “Hey! We need to unlearn that teachers don’t make enough money!” I’m not a teacher yet, but I know many teaching families that do well for themselves. These families have nice houses and can afford some little luxuries, and still put away enough money into their savings. I seriously don’t know where the outdated, and sometimes flat-out wrong, concept that teachers are poor has come from, and sometimes I think people use it just to deter students from pursing teaching. But really, if a kid is scared away from the profession just because they don’t think they’ll make enough money, then they shouldn’t be a teacher in the first case. Seriously, if one more person tells me that teachers don’t make enough money, I will take their head and shove it in a garbage can.

garbage can

Imagine, your head in here. (Photo from jesseleeproject.com)

Unlearning and innovative teaching are two concepts that I’ve been introduced to this semester, and hope to further develop as I continue my college career. It’s quite refreshing to me to know that outdated and unfair teaching techniques used by some of my least favorite teachers in elementary school are being replaced by tactics that actually work, and I can’t wait to see how I will develop them in my classroom. By conversing and vibing with my classmates from this class, I’ve developed a better sense of what it means to be an empathetic teacher, and why the traditional educational system doesn’t always work.

Plus, this is a warning that a trash can is in your near future if you tell me that teachers don’t make enough money.


One thought on “Either unlearn or face the consequences (of your head in a garbage can)

  1. I connected with your title right off. It made me think that a new generation of teachers are coming up in the world. Teachers, who are willing to unlearn and change teaching for the better. Existing teachers who don’t think they want to go along with this need to face the consequences. Those consequences may well be that they could find themselves without a job. This could happen because I think teacher who are willing to unlearn will teach more effectively and be able to produce better results when it comes to testing.

    This is probably not exactly true but it feel really good to say it!!! 🙂 ; )


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