If you are looking for a challenging and fascinating take on disruptive pedagogical approaches to learning, read Eric Hoefler’s post from yesterday, “Coyote Teaching.” My favorite paragraphs are:

Tricksters are understood to be powerful creative forces, and creativity is both necessary and dangerous. It is the trickster figure who brings fire to the people, but also death. The secret to the trickster’s creative ability lies in his ability to disrupt. By disturbing the norm, by introducing chaos, by raising the difficult questions, by seeking outrageous alternate approaches, new understanding can emerge, new connections can be made. In order to do this, though, old methods are sometimes destroyed.

The need for creativity in education is becoming more and more evident–and I don’t exclusively mean “the arts.” Creativity is a component in all learning, in all disciplines. It’s the disruptive, propelling force of evolution and invention. It’s the power and destruction of fire. It’s what is too often missing from the classroom…Students need shepherds and coyotes. And native cultures will tell you that anyone who follows coyote’s path risks great danger … there’s a price to pay for coyote’s immortal, creative power. Indeed, coyote stories are only told in winter, when the powers have withdrawn into the earth. (It’s a cold February day here, so I think I’m safe.)

I agree our students need both coyotes and shepherds, but I worry in many cases they may not be getting either. This reminds me of the teacher-character “Mrs. Chud” in the outstanding book by Kevin Henkes, “Chrysanthemum,” which I read to my kids before bed tonight. (It’s a favorite, especially of my 3 year old right now.) I think our classrooms may have lots of “Mrs. Chuds” in them, but we need more coyotes and shepherds. I’m not sure if either label exactly fits “Mrs. Twinkle,” she’s an artist and a child advocate! (A passionate champion!) We need a lot more teachers like her too!

I don’t think I want to adopt Mike Wesch’s term “anti-teaching” to represent the development of critical capacities and students as question-askers. I’m thinking inquiry-based learning is supposed to be all about students asking more questions than the teacher, and that is a form of TEACHING, not “anti-teaching.” But perhaps I’m getting overly focused on semantics. The idea and goal Mike relates for “anti-teaching” (and Eric begins his post discussing) sounds good, but I think he needs different terms. He writes:

Teaching is about providing good information. Anti-teaching is about inspiring good questions.

I would change that to say, “TRANSMISSION-BASED TEACHING is about providing good information. Inquiry-based and constructivist teaching is about inspiring good questions.” Some of the commenters to Scott Mcleod’s post on this seem to agree. Instead of “anti-teaching,” we could call this alternative “good teaching.”

But what of the way of the coyote? Who are the disruptive coyotes among us in the blogosphere? Will it be a coyote who will lead us to the educational promised land of school 2.0, or a shepherd? I bet it will be a combination.

BTW, why aren’t any coyotes running for the local school board in my city?! It’s probably because all the coyotes were shot in Oklahoma a long time ago, and if one is ever spotted he’s gunned down as quick as can be by well-meaning locals wanting to preserve a “safe environment” for our kids. 😉

I actually know we DO have some coyotes still around, because I saw one a few weeks ago when I was driving east of town. It’s the WOLVES that have been all shot and killed. I’m not going to extend these metaphors any further tonight, however!

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4 Responses to Consider the way of the educational coyote

  1. Mrs. Durff says:

    Allow me to be even more disruptive…
    “Teaching is about providing good information. Anti-teaching is about inspiring good questions.”
    I assert that providing good information is in accordance with the industrial age model and inspiring good questions is in accordance with the digital age model. Some are calling these School 1.0 and School 2.0. A rose by any other name….

  2. Eric Hoefler says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    The problem with coyote is that no one likes him–he’s always doing things the wrong way, messing things up, asking too many questions, getting into other people’s business, and generally causing trouble. I think that’s the main reason we don’t have enough coyote teaching happening … the powers that be can’t stand coyote. (Not to mention there are real risks involved.)

    Of course, we also have coyote students … and we know their fate in the typical school environment. (I like to call them the future artists and entrepreneurs.)

    I wonder how we can best handle coyote in the schools … teachers and students.

  3. Doug Noon says:

    In Alaska Native cultures, Raven is the trickster. Raven is revered as a survivor and as a creator. The disruptive creative force need not sacrifice itself if it is managed judiciously. We all benefit from good information and good questions. Some tricksters are simply more troublesome than others, I suppose.

  4. Eric Hoefler says:


    I definitely agree with your statement that the “creative force need not sacrifice itself it it is managed judiciously.” Well-said. I think this is one of the more important lessons trickster tales are meant to teach.

    That’s what is so interesting about the Trickster archetype, at least for me. The trickster acts as a fool, clown, and scapegoat, but also as a creator, culture hero, and teacher.

    I’d only add that Raven, in his role as trickster, can be just as dangerous and disruptive as Coyote. (For example, see The Dictionary of Native American Mythology by Sam Gill and Irene Sullivan: “[Raven] has an insatiable appetite for food and sex, is very deceptive, and cannot be trusted. In many stories he is a scapegoat who loses the conflicts he instigates.”)

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