The struggle is real

I’m perhaps starting to realize just how much of my “knowledge” for teaching lives not in my mind as things I can access, but as contingent ways of responding to stimuli that I’ve built over time. You might think that as an education researcher, I’d be more able to describe it. … and While I might be able to describe teaching knowledge in some generic way, I think that most of my own personal teaching knowledge is encoded so differently as to not be communicable by me.

This has become apparent to me in many ways, but one way I know is that I’ve gotten worse at doing model lessons. Its gotten very hard for me to teach a lesson to a different audience or to even describe lesson plans in a way that is accurate to what I actually do. 

It’s almost feels like asking me to waltz to a song in 4/4.. or It’s like knowing how to dial a number with your fingers but not knowing how to say it. For the act of dialing is the knowledge, rather than the dialing being an outcome of knowledge. 

For this reason, I am finding it more and more impossible to share my teaching with others. My honest best attempts are not just incomplete, but I think even inaccurate. 

Is this because of improv? Like if you ask an improv group what their skits are going to be, they can say something about it, but whatever they say about it, it will neither be what happens nor will it represent the knowledge that allowed that improv to unfold. If you press the actor to say even more specifically what he might say or do, he may not be able to say, but more likely what he says at that moment will not be at all true to what would actually transpire.

That’s how I feel. When pressed to say something too specific, I may say something, but I’m not sure what that something means anymore beyond me responding to the stimuli immediately in front of me. Feeling like what I’m about to say will just not be true makes me hesitant to say anything at all. 

Does anybody else feel that way?

4 thoughts on “The struggle is real

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  1. I don’t know if I feel like teaching has become more and more muscle memory, but I do find it harder and harder to describe. I might attribute it to overthinking, rather than to it being a response that is encoded in a less conscious way, although maybe that’s not true either. What I want to do, when asked to describe teaching (mine or others’), is provide all the context and nuance and detail (but if this had happened, then I would have x, but I was assuming based on y that z might happen if I did j so I thought q might be better than p in case of w), and yet I know that whoever I’m talking to/writing for probably doesn’t want to hear all that (or would be confused by my inability to articulate it in a linear fashion), so I’m stuck not knowing what to say at all.

    1. That’s also how I feel at times– its like to me the unfolding “context” is part of the lesson, so much so that it feels like the context holds some of my knowledge for me. And I agree it’s not quite like muscle memory… Maybe i do think more like knowledge for improvising, like in jazz. Jazz musicians do communicate the framework, but that serves as the basis for “playing” together and responding to each other. For musicians, asking them to say exactly what notes they are going to play, you may not get an answer, and even if could get an answer, what would that answer represent?

  2. Yes, yes, I do. (I wrote a bunch more and deleted it. I’m having a hard time even writing out what I’m feeling in response to what you wrote!)

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