With Teacher Appreciation Day and May the Fourth right next to each other, I thought we would celebrate one of the best pedagogues from a galaxy far, far away: Yoda. As a nerd and an educator, these are my two feast days. Yoda has been an educator for 800 years, so let’s see what we can learn from him.
Unit 1: “You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Transitioning from the high school to the college classroom can be very difficult. You’ve “taken your first step into a larger world.” The most important thing that we have to unlearn, in any stage of transition, is the fixed mindset. Whether told in high school that we’re just good at math, or we’re praised for our writing in college and told we should go on to grad school, most of us have probably internalized the idea that we are locked into certain aptitudes. Research can’t really prove whether the growth or fixed mindset is right on the philosophical level, but it can show that students who adopt the growth mindset are more successful.
Unit 2: “Control, control, you must learn control.”
Whatever course we’re running, once the foundation is laid through vocabulary development or learning important methods and models, we then need to foster control and mastery through practice. Teaching students poetic forms? Then have them write a sonnet or villanelle themselves. Ending a unit on innovation management? Have your students develop and propose a new product or service that meets the criteria of an innovation. No matter what we’re doing, everything is a craft that requires control.
Unit 3: “Do or do not; there is no try.”
I struggle with this one. I’m much more of a fan of Master Luke’s view when he tells Leia that he has to try. That’s probably why I incorporate so much freewriting and revision into my own classes. But, as educators, perhaps we need to learn from Master Yoda too and unlearn what we have learned. On a moral level, I completely agree that we can only try and that there is dignity in trying and failing. But thinking we will only try at everything can be a self-limiting mindset. How different would the classroom be if we entered it on the first day, not thinking “I will try to help students achieve the learning objectives,” but “I will help students achieve the learning objectives”? Maybe then it would be easier to strategically chose lessons and activities that will actually lead to the objectives.
That’s it from Master Yoda. Don’t forget his sure-fire way to grab your student’s attention on the first day:
What are your favorite lessons from Star Wars?