I don’t like the Decemberists. I’m geeky. I love books. Yes, I understand their varied allusions to obscure literary figures. And yet, I can’t stand their music. Instead of allowing knowledge to be a gateway to understanding, they use it to form a gated community, with a big invisible sign reading, “If you’re enough of a geeky trendy hipster, you get to enjoy our tunes.”
I like indie bands that remain indie, not because they are so elusive, but because they refuse to conform. I love storytellers that recognize the democracy of humanity; who manage to avoid talking down to their listeners while avoiding pretentious jargon. I don’t pretend it’s easy, but when it happens, it’s beautiful.
So, I’m at a professional development session. The speaker launches into a long PowerPoint explaining why he’s the most qualified, credentialed badass to show me how to differentiate my instruction. He offers his allusions to Marzano and Freire and even manages a decent out-of-context quote from Dewey.
He’s a Decemberist.
I don’t mind theory. I don’t mind scholarly journals. I’m geeky. I enjoy academic endeavors. However, if you want to reach me, don’t use your knowledge as a pretentious gated community that I can’t join. If you want me to grow as a teacher, you need to use your wisdom as a gateway. If you want me to listen to your story, tell it honestly, humbly and humanely.
Don’t talk down to me. Instead, reach out to me.
Don’t explain why you know everything. Instead, admit what you don’t know.
Don’t use advanced language to describe simple concepts. Instead, use common language to explain complex concepts.
Ditch the Decemberist approach and take a cue from Sufjan Stevens. Tell a story with grace and simplicity. Let your voice guide people humbly and teachers will be open to sustainable change.