Bird Droppings July 31, 2010
Just another Saturday
I woke up like most other days and for some reason sat at my computer pondering much longer than normal. I was looking at some comments and reviewing a post I had made the day before and thinking about what direction to go. I started reading Ayers book To Teach yesterday and found it similar to Dewey and other educators that I enjoy reading. As I looked at a blurb from GAE Georgia Association of Educators denouncing the plan to go ahead with submission to Federal Department of Education grants stimulus award program since educators were not involved I was a bit concerned. I agree with that idea of involvement but the key component GAE is upset about is that it would require teachers to be more accountable and that accountability to be more thoroughly evaluated.
Currently in Georgia teachers have either one, two or three twenty minute walk through’s by administrators as their evaluation and that is primarily a state produced checklist of things to be looked for. It impacts your yearly evaluation and whether or not you will be asked back the next year. But it does not impact pay. Teacher pay in Georgia is based on years of experience and degrees. The longer you teach the more you get paid and the higher your degree the more you get paid. Problem is a teacher that is not good can pass their entire walk through and then have good annual evaluations and be one of highest paid in school. Their students may not be succeeding but that is not a reference point.
“Learning to teach takes time, energy, hard work. Learning to teach well requires even more: a serious and sustained engagement with the enterprise, an intense focus on the lives of children, a passionate regard for the future – that is, for the community our students will inherit and reinvent and for the world they are arching for.” Dr. William Ayers
I started an idea the other day which may seem redundant and silly. Instead of No Child Left Behind let’s approach education as One Child at a time. The more I thought about this idea and read does it not make more sense to approach each child as an individual rather than as a group or score or where they lie on the bell shaped curve. Granted it will take a bit more work to get to know each kid to know why and how each student works and understands but in the end I truly believe it will accomplish so much more and provide us with a future of thinkers instead of simply a society of consumers.
“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.” John Taylor Gatto
John Taylor Gatto another outspoken educator trying to alter a system that has been struggling within itself for so long. John Dewey had it right a hundred years ago and it is still considered progressive education. Give your main customer a say so in the education of themselves. Have a democratic classroom. Amazing how quickly people and teacher go quiet when that suggestion comes up. A favorite actor of mine during his lifetime came into acting when most folks are retiring. Chief Dan George began his career opposite Dustin Hoffman in 1970 at seventy one years of age. One of my favorite films and his roles was that of outlaw Josey Wales side kick in the Movie of the same name. He had a famous line as he told the story of the civilized tribes going to Washington and being told by the president to endeavor to persevere.
“But in the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The white man’s strange customs which I could not understand pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe.” Chief Dan George
Today in education and in life the struggle of the winners dictating the outcomes in what ever arena we put before us is still true. Which ever party is in control will pass legislation be it for people or against with the people having little say. In education seldom are teachers involved in educational decisions and never are students and it is those imposed choice then that make education so overwhelming. I am writing my dissertation about the loss of soul in education and this is not in reference to religion but to the individuality of the children. We strip away in the early grades inspiration and creativity and soon only the motions of learning are occurring. We are teaching to the test. Cramming the information needed in the space provided.
“Can we talk of integration until there is integration of hearts and minds? Unless you have this, you have only a physical prescience, and the walls between us are as high as the mountain range.” Chief Dan George
It is about an integration of hearts and minds that is needed in education. The walls are getting higher as I write and one day it may be insurmountable. I am hoping enough people choose to look differently at how we educate children and begin to realize we need to address the soul as well. So sitting here pondering away I close as I have for eleven years please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.