This week, I talk with Memphis piano teacher Jim Cornfoot. Many informal educators have a relatively narrow sense of our field’s scope. We tend to think of our community as looking just like us – just outdoor educators, or museum docents, or just coaches. From my conversation with Jim, though, I think you’ll realize that we have a lot in common.
Mainly, informal educators represent a link to the “real” adult world that young learners often lack. We stand apart from family and classroom teachers, sometimes as a role model of a professional adult and sometimes as a mentor. A couple of weeks ago, museum educator Kady Yeomans was on the podcast and talked about her first experience with science as a preschooler:
The whole reason I decided to go into science was a field trip. We went to a place called the Etowah Indian Mounds. I can remember sitting on top of the mound, making a whistle out of grass as the lady talked about it, and looking out and going, “Wow, this is what I want to do forever. I want to learn about people and teach people and be a scientist.”
And that’s the advantage we informal educators have over classroom teachers: learners don’t take us for granted. Students locate us in a rarefied corner of their lives, an exciting adventure that stands apart from their daily existence. Informal educators leverage that advantage to make connections with our students.
Among other things, Jim described the importance of making a personal connection with your learner. This week, I blog about how critical that connection is – touch on some of the research proving it, too.
The jargon of the week falls along those lines, too – I write up the term reflective dialog, which is one of the many communications modes teachers can employ with their learners.