Posted by: arieliondotcom | October 21, 2008

When the Teacher Doesn’t Show Up

My “Spidey Sense” was tingling again last night as I was thinking in terms of the next paper for CCK08. I was trying to imagine how we could allow children to be free to make connections. Too much freedom would make them afraid and feel insecure. Then, in today’s Daily, I read about Terry Anderson “Virtual Canuck” article discussing the safety of groups:

“The sense of common identity characteristic of groups creates the opportunity for construction of safe spaces. If one doesn’t feel safe one doesn’t learn – or at least not very effectually.”

So what would happen if students were totally free? Remembering when I was a boy and we had student teachers, the students made their own connections in the group and decided how the class would be led/”railroaded” for the day, dragging the unsuspecting substitute along for the ride. Talk about making your own learning!

I wondered what would happen if no teacher, substitute or otherwise, showed up, if children were left to their own devices. They would, as we said, probably feel unsafe. Unless at least the physiological and safety levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs were met. But once they felt secure, who knows what learnings they might make in their connections to each other and the materials in the room that others wouldn’t have imagined.

More to follow…



  1. I don’t know why but ‘Lord of the Flies’ immediately popped into my head when reading your post!

    The teacher isn’t needed for learning per se, but the teacher is probably needed, especially in the case of children, for learning which will be of benefit to society.

    With adults we are all teachers whether or not we recognise it, but I’m not sure about children. Like you, I’m going to think about this a bit more!


  2. Jen

    Thanks. That’s funny because I was just going to write about Lord of the Flies when I got called away from the computer. 🙂 So we made a connection there without my even writing it.

    I agree that adults are their own learners, but I think the point of Connectivism is that so are children. Society just wants (needs?) to direct those connections so that they don’t go off on anti-social paths (to the detriment of the society). How much of that control is necessary? Reasonable? And how to do it? A lot to think about.

  3. I wondered about home schooling in response to your post, Ariel. Is order and control a function of size and institutional context? My experience of alternative schools and the Small School movement is about enabling young children to self-organise in supportive, physically safe environments where the playfulness of learning is a fundamental characteristic of the learning environment.

  4. […] read Ariel’s conjecture about the non-appearance of teachers and commented on his post. Bits n Bites took me back to Valdis […]

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