Today, I’m at the beautiful Portofino Hotel for the second year in a row for the GE Conference, where I just heard Robert Marzano (The Art and Science of Teaching) speaking to us about the marrow of this skeleton we call “teaching.” I read his work and wasn’t particularly interested since I’ve heard much of what he says throughout my school and in education blogs. Yet, hearing him speak actually made me think better of his work. Imagine someone who actually goes into classrooms to observe AND absorb the environment, trying his or her best to get this evasive idea of good teaching, not just nitpick the negatives. That’s barely evident with many of the voices in the grand conversation.
Then again, that’s what we risk when we go to conference: we have experts and we have “experts.”
While Marzano spoke, we had lots of people nodding and saying, “We understand.” Others still said, “We have that, but we may need more of this.” Also acceptable. However, you’ll always those one or two people who’ll say “Shut up and let us discuss,” which translates into “Shut up and let me speak.” That’s when you have no choice but laugh out loud to their faces, regardless of whether they’re your peer or your superior. Listening takes so much skill, from opening our ears to opening our minds. If we’re not able to pay full attention to someone whose intentions are genuine, and feel like we’ve learned it all, then we’ve already lost sight of the big picture.
Oftentimes, these “experts” are genuinely jealous of the attention the presenter has attained, or doesn’t see that they don’t have the skill to present the ideas behind the work better. I think it’s important for listeners to be critical of whatever the presenter shows, especially if the presenter doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but if the track record’s strong and the presenter’s actually personable enough to engage the audience in serious dialogue, then the expert who isn’t presenting would be wise to show a little class.
A big part of being a Marzano, a Delpit, or these other luminaries isn’t just about your content knowledge; it’s about being able to present it in such a way where the people feel like they’re part of it, and that’s where “experts” miss the boat. These days, people have started to learn how to filter out the plastic and commercial when they’re in need of substance. There’s an honesty about Marzano’s work that I see now that I’ve heard him talk about it that I can’t speak for when I read others. And if I know the person producing the work and they’re dishonest, I’m much more likely to discard their work, even in the unlikely event that they’re more intelligent.
Because let’s be real: the person behind the work counts just as much as the work itself these days. And when the person behind the work comes in with a quasi-omniscient attitude, we’re turned off by that. Virtue reigns.
Fortunately, I never have to worry about that. The karma police usually takes care of people like that.
Jose, who’s on a Radiohead kick lately.