This topic was an interesting one, unfortunately, I was plagued by lousy internet and piles of work, and missed a meeting due to this. But we produced an excellent topic outline and created something really special in the end. What I really noticed was how scaffolding works, This idea got me thinking about a lot of things, like when we design scaffolding we design it with the intention of delivering content, we try to structure the curriculum in a way that makes sense narratively and logically. This made me think about another concept that we use in Acting. Internal narrative. What about internal scaffolding? What if we build the structure first and then fill it? 

I want to investigate whether there is a universal process that can be applied to all subjects. A way of teaching that can be used by anyone to teach anything. Maybe that should be the course that I create “How to teach anything”. I have been teaching for over 10 years now. From a little container school not knowing at all what I was doing in the middle of Hogsback, the very same Tolkien town, where I lived and worked as a volunteer on a self-sustainable permaculture farm for a few months while I was trying to collect myself hitchhiking and working around the country after I had finished university. To a high school located in what used to be an office block, on the outskirts of townships, where I had experienced the depths of degradation our education system was at, abuse, bribery, neglect, fraud, and teachers that weren’t there to teach but just to get paid, outright nepotism, etc, it was here that I was inspired to take education further. I was outraged at a system that was failing our youth, I had learned during university that it will always be the youth that will lead the way, we just have to pave it. and so I had an idea, I wanted to start school, a school for teachers, I wanted to start at what I thought was the core element in our education system, the biggest reason I found was that it wasn’t just the content and structure, it was the delivery as well. It was how the content was being taught. I had taught many subjects in my exploration of our education system. And despite the subject I usually yielded good results, like geography, the class average increased people thought I was being too lenient, but the truth was, I wasn’t I was pretty strict with marking, and still am, I just found a way of getting through to the students. There is just so much to assess beyond the typical parrotted repetition of the content we were trying to achieve with the pupils, it was a notion of instead of changing the way we teach a certain subject, just changing the teacher. It was also at a special needs school so I had to find ways to get to these kids that would never sit down for 5 minutes, and were prone to outbursts and attacks of all sorts. If one child missed their medication, the whole class misses theirs in the sense that it’s just chaos all day. But I managed, and it worked, somehow.

When I was finally asked how I did it, I just said “I made it fun”. And that was it. From early in life and still, to this day, I learn by having fun. And I learn the most when doing so. Even I was surprised at the marks I got for my theory papers in school for drama, and it wasn’t because that drama was an easy subject, it wasn’t, it was history, biology, psychology, and athletics, learning lines and studying for theory tests, all mixed into one, as teenagers. It was a lot. But I did well, well better than other subjects. And I realized then it was because it was fun, classes had activities that we looked forward to, things that weren’t necessarily fun, but they were different from other classes, even before we did theory we did warm-up exercises as it helped us focus and we enjoyed the discussions because it was drama so everyone was encouraged to use their voice, so this made us want to learn because it made sense to, we had to learn to get better at performing. To excel one had to have multiple intelligences all working together to create something so simple as a believable performance. There were so many layers to it. So when I really got into teaching I wanted to bring this element into anything I taught. I learned to layer my approaches, I can’t expect the student to understand step 5 if they don’t understand step 1. The only formal training I had in education was in university where majored in “Dance culture and Education”, it was an honors year course that focused on using elements of movement and dance to design and teach a curriculum, the aim was mostly primary and preschool, where that type of class would be more acceptable. But those same elements seeped into my attempts at formal teaching the official curriculum. 

I had to keep the attention of thirty 3 to 5-year-olds for a whole hour, so when it came to teenagers with attention issues it wasn’t too difficult to get their attention. Looked into music that was popular for example, had it playing on my phone as they came into class, or maybe I was singing along to it in my ears, this built a rapport with the students. I had established a level ground for the class, and then I would use the song to lead into the content for the class. The class unknowingly played along and worked, discussed how things related, and made their own connections together, despite thinking they were just carrying on a conversation. It would build an internal correlation for them to the content, now they will remember the class as the class with that cool song and talk about such and such. Or maybe I would just talk about something trending and make a joke, anything to level the class before we started, to make them feel like part of a conversation from the get-go. I would lead it back to the focus of the class by connecting any arb factor that could lead back to the subject. It is something that comes from acting, when an actor begins characterizing they have to first find the correlations and experiences that could align with their character’s experience and emotion, one way of doing that is Association, which also helps in delivering lines. The actor associates their own experiences and memories to that of the character and their thoughts, if the character is speaking about a certain traumatic or funny event in a line, then the actor can think about a funny or traumatic event in their life to help deliver the correct expression for the line. With this association idea, I ran with it, made every class original and memorable, did something out of the ordinary every time, made them laugh, performed an impromptu guitar solo, anything that would create a node in their brains that they could connect the content to. And it had to be fun, it had to be something that they would remember positively as this had the biggest impact on their learning. They had the largest retention of knowledge in the classes that they had the most fun in. 

And yes I know it seems absurd, make academics fun? How even? Well, that is what I hope to find out. This journey of mine into ONL can pretty much stem from one moment when a staff member I was training in 2020 on this concept actually, how to make classes more appealing, etc, and they asked “How do you make math fun?”. This really rattled my brain, I wanted to share a bunch of memes with him at the time, but I thought “Oh no, jokes, memes, and gifs aren’t academic, can’t use that. This isn’t a Twitter chat thread”. I subsequently learned that is incorrect and that memes are a viable form of transferring academic information and Twitter is a great source of actual academic discussions. In fact, we were encouraged to use memes to help deliver concepts and create social media groups and discussion forums, how to actually deliver a class in a more appealing way. And looking back, I can see that a lot of it was actually from ONL. So it was really cool to see the source of the process and how the ideas started and have been applied. It has built an entire archive of things I want to try and fix and change. 

Reflections on Topic 4: Blending learning