I think teaching has an explanation problem. I don’t think this is a new thought by any means, but more than a lot of professions teaching suffers from the Curse of Knowledge. Most everyone teachers meet has done school. Often for 12+ years. This leads people to believe they know what teachers do since they’ve been around them so much.
The other side of this problem that I see is that people often respond to inquiries about what they “do” with a job title. This is especially true in widely known professions (I suspect polysomnographic technologists don’t have this problem). As a side note, I actually try not to ask that question as I prefer “what do you love?” or “what lights your fire these days?” when meeting new people. Way more interesting answers. Try it.
Here is my proposal. We need elevator questions. I don’t think I’m capable of explaining what I do as a classroom teacher in 5 minutes or less in a way that is comprehensible and actually encapsulates the work that goes into herding cats, so I’m not going to go there. What I am trying to figure out is an answer that starts something like this:
Random Person: “And what do you do?”
Me: “I teach. Hey, you’ve done school. Could I get your opinion on this …”
RP: “Huh, I’ve never thought about that. What an interesting/challenging problem!”
where the “…” is an actual classroom scenario that is short, comprehensible to non-educators, and presents a true problem in teaching were multiple options are being weighed. I want to give the general population something to chew over in a way that helps elevate teaching beyond “advanced show-and-tell”. I want everyone to associate teaching with thoughtful and complex and wonderful.
I’m pondering my own “…” and once I work it out I’ll post it. For extra credit reading, I recommend checking out the book The Art of Explanation. If you want a quick overview, check out the author’s 5 minute Ignite! Seattle talk from a few years back.
So what’s your elevator question that will give me a glimpse of the nature of your work?