Blog Carnival – Memorable Teaching?

The excellent Katherine Haxton recently issued a call for something I’d heard about in other contexts, but never here: a blog carnival. A perfunctory glance at my posting history will reveal that I’m not a natural blogger, or even really a micro-blogger. I think it’s the motivation rather than the medium, so I’m glad for an excuse to tell a story about My Most Memorable Tea-ching Session So Far. Truth may be assumed, or hoped for, or found in spirit but not in substance.

On one occasion, I was facilitating a jigsaw group-work session that involved student discussion, digestion, and presentation of material. Breakout groups would look at a chunk of a problem then present back to each other – their first experience of public speaking. The only possible way I’d have any unexpected surprises would be the ludicrously unlikely joint circumstances that a) students didn’t know in advance they’d be giving a presentation, and b) one of them had an extreme reaction to unexpected public speaking.

Turns out, nobody told them they’d be presenting, and someone in my group had an extreme reaction to unexpected public speaking. The first and hopefully last time that someone’s run away while I’ve been teaching.

Some of my earliest teaching experiences were in small group tutorials, and I firmly believed then in the power of hospitality. I had a tutorial box, full of mugs, coffee, teabags, a kettle, and the occasional fresh milk. I’m not an authoritarian; approachability isn’t a USP but it’s all I got. Plus, the literature has my back: people are more receptive when holding a warm drink than cold. I cater any tutorial with less than 6 scheduled attendees, and it really helped to get students onside in the early days of my career, largely as a substitute for experience.

Back to the teaching session: This was an emergency, and I needed the best tool I had: tea. Delegating one student to rescue their friend from a nearby bathroom, and another to put a table near a power socket, the hospitali-tea box was deployed and the entire group shortly fed and watered (there are bourbons as well, I’m not a monster). Hearts settled, exemption to speaking issued, and we carried on without further incident.

So when you look for a learning technology. It’s not a VLE, or a smartboard, or even an electricity-free pedagogical framework. Technology could be something as simple as hospitality.

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