Hacking Education? Hacking Education.

In the past few months, when I’ve talked with people who have expressed interest in helping me start a new chapter for All Hands Active, I’ve thought about the criteria needed from my prospective fellow instructors. To me, there are only a few things every educator without collegiate knowledge, or as I like to call them, “Education Hackers,” needs to know to teach a class properly, regardless of subject matter.

  1. There are going to be conflicts. Not everyone gets along, and not everyone will agree with you. Your goal is not to get all the students to like you, it is to educate them and the rest of the student body. You need to determine right off the bat whether a student responds well to positive or negative reinforcement, compare to the rest of the class, and work accordingly. You may need to be the bad guy, and that’s okay. Being an authority figure means not everyone is going to like you all the time. What matters is the respect that comes out of conflict resolution.
  2. Compassion is not a resource. You can’t look at your own patience or understanding as something that can run low or run out. You aren’t teaching kids for your own recreation or as a way to make money, you are there for them. This means you are a constant reminder of an unmovable force, and a representative of what a strong support structure of a human being you are supposed to be. If you grow impatient, so will the students. A genuine smile and constant enthusiasm is contagious.
  3. Communication will advance progress exponentially. There was a picture I saw years ago of a flowchart displaying the relationship between teachers, students, and parents. You cannot have success in a child without effort from all three. Not only can knowledge be gained from this interaction, but wisdom, motivation, ambition, and deepening the value and understanding of social skills. I am still talking to one of the parents from the summer camp we had, and every theory I’ve had about how I should be as an educator I have discussed with her. She approves it or gives advice, and I implement it. I look at this interaction as the most valuable resource I have the honor to use, and it also gives the parents another perspective as to how their child behaves outside of the home.
  4. Learn to use your instincts as a tool. If you sense a child (or even a fellow instructor) is struggling, even if they don’t admit it when asked, help them. If someone is going for a power grab at the expense of the rest of the class, act like the alpha wolf and bring them back down to the correct level. I’m not saying act like a barbarian and display archaic displays of intimidation, nor am I saying fight fire with fire and embarrass the child, which results in either shame or anger, but use your instincts to find symptoms of an issue that need to be addressed.

I’m not going to be so pompous as to think that I’m completely correct in any of these theories, because that’s the thing about hacking education as a process, isn’t it? You need to adjust to what’s needed by each student or class. You create a theory or a process, apply it to real life situations, take a peek under the microscope, and record your findings. That’s why I really like teaching on a hackerspace level. I have no formal training on educating those who are of a later generation than myself, but I believe I have the skills needed to do the most important thing, which is to just go for it and adapt as needed.


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