A tale for a change

This post has been cooking for a while now – a long while, to be honest – as I haven’t exactly had the proper state of mind to write recently. However, as I’ve just finished reading Brad’s post on the matter, I decided to finally revisit my thoughts and give it a go. Perhaps something good will come out of it, or maybe it’ll turn out to be good for me to get back in shape. I’m well aware it’s different from my other posts, but I do hope you’ll enjoy it! 🙂

Can puppets choose what to do? | Photo on Flickr by János Szüdi

Once upon a time, there was this puppeteer who had a show with two puppets – Lenny and Teri. The story he told was something like this… Lenny and Teri, as the story goes, have always been close to one another. Lenny had always seen in Teri someone who would always be there for him, giving him proper feedback, support, guidance and pushing Lenny to his full potential. Teri cared about Lenny, and wanted him to thrive. However, it seems that, after a long standing relationship, these two old friends started to fall apart. In the beginning, Teri saw herself as being more important than Lenny – she believed to be a lot more mature than Lenny. Teri was responsible for telling Lenny what to do and where to go. Lenny, however, grew up and decided it was hight time he started walking on his own feet. To make matters worse, Teri got sick and tired of her position as the sole provider of knowledge and experiences for Lenny, as if it were pouring liquid in an empty vessel, and of getting very little recognition for doing so. Needless to say, the relationship went sour and a gulf of differences quickly presented itself between these two ol’ pals. Could there ever be a happy ending to these two in the future?

Along came a third puppet, Beth, and Lenny quickly started flirting with her. Beth was a lot brisker than Teri had grown into and she presented to Lenny myriad possibilities for self-improvement – Beth wouldn’t dare telling Lenny what to do, she told him that he’d have to find it out on his own. Not surprisingly, Lenny found out there were many things he could do by himself. Teri, for a while, tried hard to fight back and prevent Beth from ever stepping into the classroom – it was a moment for Teri and Lenny alone. Teri still had, rooted deep down, the hope to win Lenny’s heart back again – Beth was just a fling. Little did Teri know of the power and influence that Beth had over Lenny. Beth was not only looking for a place in the classroom to sit next to Lenny, she was looking for a place next to Lenny – period! Beth couldn’t understand Teri’s hatred towards her. “One day, Teri will see that I’m not trying to take over her place, just help her with Lenny.”

Thus was so for a while. On ever fewer occasions, Teri still managed to have her moments with Lenny in ways that Beth could only dream of – it was bonding at its best. Teri was learning to listen to Lenny, and Lenny once again felt as if he mattered to Teri, and that he could contribute more than simply memorizing whatever it was that Teri forced down his throat. Ah, but Beth was not going to give up, and decided that the best way to help Lenny was by spending some time with Teri outside the classroom. Little by little, they became friends and Teri started wondering whether her decision of not allowing Beth in the classroom was right. Up until then, Teri saw Beth as a threat, a menace to be avoided at all costs – it was something that would interfere in the long-standing relationship between Teri and Lenny.

Beth, however, played her hand beautifully. She finally managed to show Teri that she was not trying to take her place; Beth was simply trying to help Teri win Lenny’s heart back. Teri, however, took so long to finally see it, that now that they’ve all come to terms with each other Teri is having a hard time trying to let go of old habits. From time to time, Teri still has her moments of rampant rage and kicks Beth out of the classroom when Lenny starts paying more attention to Beth than to her. Beth has also come a long way and has now understood what was happening when she came on stage. It’s now time for our three friends, Beth, Teri, and Lenny, or should I say, Tech, Teaching, and Learning, to learn that they can be together if they learn how to work together towards the same aim. And so let’s hope for the best, Let’s hope that Technology (Beth) is able to help in the relationship between Teaching (Teri) and Learning (Lenny). The good part of the story is that it’s all up to us, the puppeteers, to learn when we should bring those three onstage at the same time, and when one of them ought to leave the scene and let the others shine. Are we capable of making this choice?

In a world in which we are spoilt for choice, we’ve got to learn how to think on our feet if we want to become successful puppeteers. The difference, however, is that our puppets have a life of their own – we can merely choose what we’re going to give them to play with and hope for the best. If we want them to have a happy ending, we can only choose the props, and never forget they write the plot on their own.

13 thoughts on “A tale for a change

  1. Hey Henrick-

    Loved the analogy. I kept wanting to skip forward to see who was who 😉 Analogies are very powerful. One, they open up a mystery for readers— where is he/she going? They also allow us to demonstrate contention/problems/emotions without naming the “true actors”… if you had said from the start “teaching” “learning” “tech”… i don’t think I would’ve been as interested in reading, nor would I have seen the contentious nature of 3 actors that can actually get along together just fine.

    From 2 seemingly different perspectives, I wonder if our posts aren’t saying the same thing: “we can only choose the props, and never forget they write the plot on their own”. My drive was to elicit discussion, create reflection on the quality of “props” we choose and how that quality is largely determined by subtle pedagogical factors behind them. Last thing I wanted was to start yet another tech, no tech discussion, though getting close to the subject can almost always tug us into the black hole 😉

    The most powerful part of your entry is the contrast that you slap on at the end. Students are of course not puppets, which means you abandon the analogy after having already planted a number of fruitful seeds. The analogy of a puppeteer is of course one of power, whereas as the analogy of a good teacher would be more of an EMpowerer… what could that analogy be— a windmill maybe : Accepting the wind that comes in as student interest and needs and helping to churn out learning. LOL

    In any case, if there was any doubt about the value of your “tale for a change” (nice pun btw), i’ll vote for letting that doubt go. Great read, and thanks again for the mention.

    Cheers, brad

    1. Hi Brad,

      I was actually worried the analogy wouldn’t be clear enough, so your feedback is more than welcome. As an RPG fan and a storyteller myself (NERD!), I’ve always enjoyed writing stories and similar things, but had never done so on this blog.

      To be fair, I believe our posts are indeed saying the same thing. It’s not only about tech and no tech – I certainly feel some of us are way ahead that point in time – but it’s exactly about keeping an open mind to new possibilities without losing sight of what really matters. I had never thought of the windmill analogy before. I wonder if that happens because I’ve never really seen a windmill myself in real life. I guess we build analogies trying to keep things closer to our reality. I must say I enjoyed the analogy, though! 🙂

      Thank you for the vote, and for the post that’s triggered in me the urge to refine this draft and publish it. It feel good to write, but first things first – got to take better care of myself before I can actually resume doing all the things I like doing in my free time, such as having the chance to interact more with all the wonderful people I met online and I’m yet to meet f2f. 🙂


  2. Hear Hear:

    “got to take better care of myself before I can actually resume doing all the things I like doing in my free time…” Man… I’ve gained like 20 lbs in the last six months. I used to be a yoga and martial arts teacher, and now I’m a computer potato !

    Balance… hard to find. Thanks for the dialogue, Rick. Cheers

  3. Professor, I’ve just read your analogy and I have to say I need a time to think about that before telling what I really think. Tomorrow I teach a very independent group, the day after tomorrow a very challenging one so and I’ll observe what you wrote this week, but I may need some more explanation on how to make students think on their feet using technology.

    1. Hi Héryta,

      It’s great to read your comment here. I’ll be waiting for your comment after you’ve taught these challenging groups. Truth be told, we’re all on the learning process when it comes to using technology in the classroom… how couldn’t we? Each group is unique, each student likes different things. If we ever think we’ve found what works, we’re certainly doing the wrong thing! 🙂

  4. I always give my students my email, that is the way I found to avoind undone homework due to misunderstanding and to help those who miss the classes or even the ones who prefer asking for my help in private, the point is, I think it is a wonderful tool but I’ve realized that most of the ss prefer excuses to having means to solve their problems (maybe it is just a human behavior ). Last class (dependent ss) I really got upset because nobody did what I asked (some extra hw on the internet)and that was obviously the reason why they were having a hard time to understand all I was teaching… I wonder if technology is more than a simple tool that helps those who want and if we, teachers, can do more than just giving ss some hints

    1. Hi Héryta,

      Assigning extra homework and checking whether students have done it is quite a task, isn’t it? On the one hand, technology has made it easier than ever for students to practice and learn beyond the constrains of the classroom. On the other hand, it’s also made it incredibly easier for people to digress. At the end of the day, what really matters is that we make sure they are given the tools, that we show them there’s a way to improve. Whether they’ll take advantage of that or not is, in my opinion, not really up to us. We may encourage, check, talk about the benefits and all the other things teachers should do. We can’t, though, actually force them to do anything.

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