One day I might spend a summer working in an orchard, picking fruit. I imagine this would be exhausting, yet rewarding work, to labour in the outdoors, under the warm sun, surrounded by foliage, using your hands and knowing that you are contributing to the cycle of life. I think I might enjoy the sensory aspects of such a task, and would find it quite meditative. It appeals to me in the same way as mowing lawns or raking leaves. With such jobs, the progress is noticeable and the completion is visibly apparent. Some would say that teaching provides a similar sense of fulfilment, when students experience an ‘ah-ha’ moment, when the ‘light bulb’ switches on, or when that ‘empty vessel’ starts filling up. I don’t prescribe to any of these educational metaphors. They restrict the learner to being passive recipients and perpetuate the ‘sage on the stage’ role of a teacher. Not my preferred model of teaching and learning. After twenty years as an educator, I am constantly revisiting my pedagogy, as the educational paradigm shifts within a rapidly changing world. And yet, I seldom blog about education. For some reason, today I thought about apples.
Raised and educated in a Catholic environment, I was subjected to the Garden of Eden narrative, where the innocuous apple represented the source of knowledge and subsequent fall from grace of the entire human race. I find it curious that this somewhat bizarre biblical symbolism has been appropriated by education. A little research reveals that the origins of giving an apple to the teacher may date back to the 1700′s in Denmark, Sweden and the USA, when poor farmers would pay teachers with their crops. The choice of an apple might have been because it starts with the letter ‘A’, the ultimate reward for good work, or it might have been related to the biblical source. The notion of giving an apple to the teacher probably seems nostalgic and quaint to students of today. Similarly, the concept of a teacher imparting knowledge to students seems quite archaic in this digital age, where learners have unlimited and immediate access to information.
And yet, the humble apple will live on through the ingenious branding of one of the leading marketing companies of the 21st century. I confess to still being a PC user, but the day will soon come when I will be a disciple of the Church of Apple. I admit to drooling a little when I fantasize about integrating the use of ipads in my classes.
Imagine being seated in a circle with your students, under the sheltering branches of a Eucalyptus, working on some collaborative project within a global community, with your ipads on your laps. An apple tree might be better still as it could provide us with a juicy afternoon snack. Until that one apple fell like a missile onto a forehead or worse still, the ipad screen. Ah, but an effective educator could transform that into a learning moment.
Causes Cindy Sullivan Supports
Plan: 'Because I'm a Girl'
Fred Hollows Foundation