“The Mug & Jug Theory”

By:
BRIAN G. KASPERITIS

Not long ago, a fellow teacher asked me, “What changes would you like to see in education?” I answered the question as best as I could at the time, and the thoughts stayed with me. Suppose I had a magic wand that could produce only one change in our educational system. What would that change be?

I finally decided that my imaginary wand would with one sweep cause every teacher at every level to forget that they are teachers. They would all develop a complete amnesia for their teaching skills, which were so painstakingly acquired over the years. They would find themselves absolutely unable to teach.

Instead, teachers would find themselves holding the attitude and possessed with what is referred to as a facilitator of learning. Why be so cruel as to rob teachers of their precious skills? It is because I feel that our educational system is in a desperate state; and unless our schools can become exciting, fun filled centers of real learning, the traditional public school, as we know it, could quite possibly become doomed.

In my opinion, the traditional teacher, the good traditional teacher, seemingly asks questions of this sort: “What do I think would be good for students to learn at their particular age and level of competence? How can I plan a proper curriculum? How can I instruct them in such a way that they will gain the knowledge that they should have? And, how can I best examine them to see whether they have actually gained this knowledge?”

On the other hand, the facilitator of learning asks questions such as these, not only of himself, but of his students: “What are you curious about? What issues concern you? What problems do you wish you could solve?” When the facilitator has the answers to these questions, he may then ask himself, “Now, how can I find the resources, the people, the experiences, the learning facilities, the books, the knowledge within myself, which will help me, (the teacher) to learn to provide answers to the things that concern my students, in order for them to become eager to learn.

The attitudes of the traditional teacher and the facilitator of learning in some ways are completely opposite. Traditional teaching, no matter how disguised, is based essentially on what I call “The Mug & Jug Theory.” Whereas, the traditional teacher may ask, “How can I make the mug hold still while I fill it from the jug of these facts which the curriculum planners and I regard as valuable?” The attitude of the facilitator has almost entirely to do with climate. The facilitator of learning may ask questions such as: “How can I create a psychological climate in which the student will feel free to be curious, will feel free to make mistakes, will feel free to learn from his environment, from his fellow students, from me, from the overall experience? How can I help him recapture the excitement of learning which was possibly in his infancy?”

Personally, throughout my career as an educator, I have been trying not only to teach the established curriculum, but also, moreover, strive to be an innovator; one who teaches towards the needs of the environment at hand. I am with great hope that my efforts continue with success as I too continue to learn while pursuing graduate study in the arts and education.

Although I don’t have a magic wand, I will however make this wish; that one day astonished students and adults alike will visit the school where I am teaching and someone may hear another say, “I can’t wait to get to school today, because for the first time in my life I am finding out about things that I want to know.” Or, “Hey you! Drop that brick! Don’t you dare break the windows in my school!”