The Collaborative

When did everyone go to the seminar on how to run a seminar? Since I graduated college, every class, training, conference, and workshop I’ve attended has run on the same lines and those lines are collaborative learning.

Collaborative learning (or teaching?) is what I call (maybe correctly?) the classroom technique where, at its most basic, a teacher becomes a ‘facilitator’ and learning takes place through groupwork with colored paper and constant mini-presentations. Along with it come all sorts of New Age brainstorms, notecards, markers, stickers, interactivity, storytelling, and everything else you left behind in elementary school.

This just doesn't say 'professional learning environment' to me

This just doesn’t say ‘professional learning environment’ to me

Peace Corps was the first offender, but it has some valid reasons for the technique that I’ll get into in a minute. The PC’s stated reasoning, or at least the reasoning our trainers gave us, was that adults learn fundamentally differently than adolescents (and, apparently, the slightly younger adults who learn like normal people in college). They backed up the methodology with a couple of learning-style tests that ‘proved’ that only about a quarter of our group (and ostensibly of humanity at large) learns through the tired old “teacher actually teaching” format.

Nearly every session we had ran on these participatory lines. Maybe three or four, all taught by outside educators on a one-off basis, were traditional lectures, and I don’t think it’s coincidental that those were clear favorites among the volunteers.  Many of the rest of our sessions had us dividing large packets on running workshops, community organizing, environmental education, etc, among ourselves, reading an assigned section in small groups, and then “reporting back” to the larger group what we’d read. Blind leading the blind-cum educational philosophy. Other favorites had us breaking into groups to fill poster paper with brainstorms, lists of contacts, commentaries on the training, and always “reporting back” to the main group, that is, “reading the poster verbatim to the class (who can read it from where they’re sitting and in any case has the same information as everyone else’s poster)”.

Which begins to take on a certain tone after awhile

Which begins to take on a certain tone after awhile

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There’s a Gif at the End of the Tunnel

Gloomy and post-precipital on the deck today. DC has been unseasonably cool, and I’m far from hating it, even though it makes chilling on the deck chillier than it ought to be.

Truly a noble subject

It’s boring out, so here’s an artsy shot I’m working on

It’s getting down to it, folks. In twenty-two days, I’ll be flying out of DC and into the sun, stumbling around Mexico City International, hopping a bus with “carry-on snacks provided by Peace Corps Mexico staff,” and heading to Querétaro. Emails about PST, Pre-Service Training, have been flying thicker and faster, and the number of acronyms has skyrocketed. COTE, for example, is the Calendar of Training Events, although I like to think I’ll call it the ‘calendar.’ Ditto my TAP, or Training Advisory Packet. Maybe I’m being too hasty.

I know I’ve described this whole ramp-up to many of you like camp. I idolised my saxophone teacher in high school, and when he said I ought to go to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp (the very same band camp they spoofed in American Pie), I informed my parents that I’d be going. When the week before arrived, I was nervous and desperate to finagle a way out of the commitment (both times). But after the awful site-read madness of auditions, I always had a great time. While my anxiety is piling up along with the emails, I know things will settle out once I get there.

I miss band camp

Like I did when I was here

What’s helpful is that all of the orientation materials read like they did before I shipped to Spain, and the process feels familiar. Today I had my moment, the one where I realize it’s going to happen and soon. I was smoking and speaking Spanish to myself, because that’s what I do when I’m alone and about to go to Mexico, and I got done and was chuckling to myself, and I said: ‘Well bud, looks like we’re going to Mexico.’ It would be hard to overstate how important that dumb admission was. I’m pumped, I’m excited, I want to know what my Adult Experiential Education Spanish Interview Proficiency Level is, and more than that, I want to start using it. We’re going to Mexico.

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