Theory Vs. Practice: Separating What’s Important
28/01/2011 § 11 Comments
Let me back up.
Before I became I library student, I was a high school English teacher. Before becoming a teacher, I was an English and Education college student (note: English AND Education, not English Education – the former is much more helpful in the long run). I learned Piaget’s theories, and Erikson’s stages. I learned how to look inside the mind of a child and debate his or her maturity levels. Educational theorists were the definitive answer when dealing with children.
And then I started teaching. And everything I learned quickly disappeared. When I looked at my darling 16 year olds, I didn’t think which cognitive level they were at; instead, I thought “What can I do to get them to work.” (Or, more accurately, “What can I do to stop them from throwing the furniture.” Seriously). The literature read only went so far – it was my patience and understanding that got me through the year. It was my knowledge of the subject taught, and my willingness to work with each student one-on-one. Never in the year did I think “Okay, what would Piaget think.”
I bring this up because I’m currently taking an information needs for children class and we’ve approached the educational theorists chapter. Now, the class itself is wonderful. I love learning about children’s literature, and more so love discussing how to recommend books for various age ranges and maturity levels. I love reading about new children’s literature, and evaluating it.
Now, I understand that it’s smart to understand the maturity of a child before recommending a book (I wouldn’t recommend the Harry Potter books to a five year old who still can’t grasp vowels), but I also think a lot has changed since these theorists made their definitive decisions on the maturation of lives. (I highly doubt 12 year olds back then enjoyed shows such as Jersey Shore.) And while a basic familiarity with their ideas is nice to have, I hardly believe it’ll be the first thing that pops into mind when recommending a book to a 10 year old.
I’ve learned that a lot of the classes taken are a great backbone for the career, but not all of the information taught will help me in the long run. I think, ultimately, it’s smart to pick and choose what to use post graduation. There’s so much we learn that, over time, it’s easy to see what will help us in our careers, and what is just information. (Ex: how to run story time will help me; defining “information” probably won’t).
I’ve started to allow some classes to escape my mind, while pushed for others to be blazoned upon my subconscious for all they’ve taught me. I’ve learned to tell the difference between what will be useful, and what will just sit unused. And I think, ultimately, it will help me. (And clear my mind.)
Now, with one more semester to go, I’m sure there will be more I’ll take and more I’ll leave, but I’m looking forward to assessing what will be relevant to my future career, which classes will help me get where I want. And I know I’ll choose my next set of classes wisely, hoping to add another layer to my subconscious.
I wonder what Piaget would say about that?