If you've ever spent time working on "various
computers" - that is, computers belonging to different people
as well as computers in various business locations, - you will note
that each and every computer has different programs, different settings,
different capabilities. That is pretty much the same way we are
as individuals. Each of us has different programs, different settings,
and very different capabilities.
Formal education attempts to "normalize knowledge"
for the individuals involved as learners, but provides little or
no consideration for the variables involved as "differences."
People learn at different paces, different levels, by different
means. It is more up to the individual to learn whatever the subject
matter is by his/her own capabilities.
As a teacher of foreign languages, I provided vocabulary
lists that were frequently extensive. It wasn't up to me to decided
which words/terms the students were to learn - other than basic
vocabulary used by ALL speakers of the target languages. Because
students have different interests, differing directions and aspirations,
different vocabularies, I allowed them to learn a specific number
of terms, but those appropriate for themselves as an individual.
If a person doesn't eat broccoli, s/he doesn't
need to learn that word in another language. If you don't work on
carburetors, why do you need to learn that term in another language?
Almost every profession has its own "-ese" -
meaning its own specific set of terms (legalese, medicalese,
avionicsese, etc.). It would be ridiculous for every student
to be required to learn every professional term for every profession
in his/her native language - and by the same token it is ridiculous
to expect that they learn "irrelevant vocabulary" in a
As a teacher it is most helpful to be able to facilitate
learning by providing resources that learners can use to help them
in their studies. Nowadays there are extensive resources for just
about any topic, especially through the internet, so that it is
not really justifiable to require any specific text or textual material
for any given course. Established curricula cover extensive areas
for any given topic, but again, very frequently information can
be overlapped and repeated to such a degree that learning becomes
Most of the failures that I have seen in student
behavior and formal evaluations have been the result of ineffective
teaching. A teacher who establishes criteria based on ego and megalomania
does much to quash incentive and progress in formal learners. When
the student is the focal point for classroom activities - rather
than the information or the teacher's desires - there is more likely
to be achievement and success. How many teachers have I seen who
threw their hands up in the air and stated: "I just can't do
anything with this student!"
More often than not, it isn't the student's fault.
This is comparable to a computer that cannot open "particular
documents" simply because something in the formatting doesn't
match a particular program's settings. Teachers who focus on doing
things one way and only one way have set up their classroom for
student failure. The effect of this behavior generally has life-long
repercussions, and sets the student up for continued failure. What
kind of teaching is this? Any teacher should be willing to learn
how to present information in a variety of ways. If we can't be
excited about figuring out how to get a point across, we shouldn't
be in the classroom.
I encourage any self-learner out there to dig and
find resources that will help you achieve your goals. Such resources
can provide helpful information for areas not covered in the formal
classroom. By the same token, if you're in a formal classroom where
ineffective teaching is transpiring, use that as an example of "how
NOT to teach." Above all else, keep in mind
that the world is your textbook, and life's lessons will never stop
teaching you something. So make it a point to keep on learning!