I read a cool blog this week from a teacher in Connecticut. He spoke of ‘acoustic teaching’ – the ability to teach without relying on technology. I love this phrase. Like me he was a guitarist who started off playing the acoustic guitar and honed his craft and eventually became very comfortable performing. It was quiet, clean and clear. He then, again like me, eventually became interested in an electric guitar; he bought an amp and foot petals and joined a loud rock/dance band. He learned to play louder and faster. It changed the way he approached music. As a teacher, he began to see the similarities with technology in his profession. Technology could easily take over and mask the original purpose of standing in front of students.
As a guitarist, it is much easier to cover up for mistakes when you are plugged in, loud and using all the bells and whistles of an electric guitar. Add some reverb and some time delay and you can pretty much make anything sound cool. The trouble is, it really isn’t great guitar playing. It is often just for show and to impress the audience.
At Brentwood we take great pride in the integration of technology in our classrooms. However, we also believe that every teacher should be equally effective with or without SMARTboards, Nings, Moodles and the all the other technologies that seem to emerge each day. Like any great actor or musician, teachers must not rely on props to be effective. The most powerful music we can hear is often unplugged, naked in its honesty and powerful with its emotion. As teachers we know it is not the props that make a lesson effective, it is the teaching. It is the connection. The latest gizmos won’t make a poor lesson better.
Last week I heard an interview with an educator from Washington, DC. It was all about the new documentary “Waiting for Superman” which reveals the fragility of public education in America. In this interview the guest said something that resonated with me. He said that ‘watching a great teacher is as awe-inspiring as watching any great artist, actor or musician’. He alluded that the ability to impart information by breaking it down and explaining it so that teenagers can understand it was a gift that not everybody has. Brentwood hires its teachers on yearly contracts. Teachers here have to be good. Yes, they have to be technologically savvy , but primarily they have to be ‘acoustic teachers’.