Tweak your Teach: Dr. Tae’s Building a New Culture of Teaching and Learning

I am working on a new section to the blog that focuses specifically on education. In keeping with the tweak theme, I’ll be posting new articles under the category ” Tweak your Teach.” If you read this blog, you know, I am committed to the “tweak” in all its forms. Tweak your slides, your speech, your life, and definitely your teaching. At no time has this final point been more important in American education than now. Dr. Tae is one of my favorite educators.

Dr. Tae uses storytelling, simple truths, and skateboarding to present his case for a new culture of learning at TEDxEastSidePrep

Dr. Tae uses storytelling, simple truths, and skateboarding to present his case for a new culture of learning at TEDxEastSidePrep

His 30 minute talk, “Building a New Culture of Teaching and Learning” is inspirational and a must watch for superteachers. In this inspiring talk, Tae ses humor, impeccable logic and evidence, and the testimony of educators as well as weaving in his own personal and professional anecdotes to convey a simple and very sticky message:

School sucks, especially in science and math.

Tae then explains that the problem is not mutually exclusive to secondary schools. The entire educational model–from elementary to university level is broken. But why is the system broken? The problem begins in secondary schools. Firstly, schools do not hire great teachers because the focus is on certification and not qualification or quality. Further, the structure of schools is broken. Our students are given a fixed and finite amount of time in which to learn something and their performance is based on grades, which are coercive by nature. I had this experience–Mr. Feldman, my high school physics teacher is one of my most memorable teachers–because he was so completely awful. He demeaned students who were not already great at math and science and showed complete contempt for the entire experience of teaching his students. He taught me that physics sucks and that I am not smart enough to understand it. Definitely NOT the goal of education. This is a product of the standardized test driven model of education we inherited after the industrial revolution. The problem is compounded in universities, which have become a depersonalized experience, where the culture of open discourse and the exchange of ideas are considered burdens to the more “important” work of research.

So, what is Tae’s solution? Skateboarding. No, really, skateboarding. Tae then reveals a very simple truth.

To learn something properly, you work your ass off until you get it right. That’s it.

Schools are in complete opposition to this model. Schools don’t give students open time to master a skill; in school, students are motivated via coercion, but true learning must be self-motivated and guided by responsible mentorship; in school, students often turn to cheating (because what matters is the grade, not true learning), but according to Tae, real learning cannot be cheated. Mr. Feldman’s counterpart was Dr. Earls, a published author and authority in humanities, who pushed me to take control of my learning, who helped me to see the place education could have in my life, and who truly cared about empowering her students to be more than they already were or are.

Tae’s model of education is wonderfully idealistic–when I first encountered this talk two years ago, I was and am still stoked to know there are teachers committed to a renaissance of teaching and learning. Ultimately, Tae’s solution involves more than just a restructuring of the education system; it is the creation of a culture of education where each of us takes a role in teaching others, whether formally trained or not.

I think it’s important that you watch the video, dear reader, so I won’t rehash everything (even though I really want to). Instead, I’ll focus on just a few key points from each of the major segments of Tae’s talk.

All of us can share and teach. It is our responsibility to distribute and share what we know. We can all be great teachers; we can share our knowledge freely and really change our world. Knowledge should not be selfish. Teaching and learning are part of our cultural habits. They should not just be something we do in school. Share what you know. Watch Dr. Tae’s talk and be inspired to Tweak your Teach!

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