Bird Droppings August 23-24, 2010
Essential Bird Pedagogy Part 1
“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” Dr. Carl Rogers, considered the father of humanistic psychology
Carl Rogers in 1969 published a book, Freedom to Learn. You would think that in a country with mandatory public education including in 1974 education for all children with the passing of IDEA that we were free to learn. As I progress in my understanding of experiential learning and John Dewey’s concepts which are tied to the Foxfire Core Practices and my dissertation I am finding learning is a misunderstood word. Rogers in his writing describes two types of learning. Cognitive learning which he calls meaningless corresponds to such learning as many academic functions where memorization is involved vocabulary or multiplication tables. The other type of learning is experiential learning and Rogers calls this significant learning. The key is that experiential learning addresses the needs and wants of the learner.
“Significant learning takes place when the subject matter is relevant to the personal interests of the student.” Carl Rogers
I titled today’s writing as essential Bird pedagogy and granted this has been a long time in the making. Seldom do I even use the word pedagogy which is a favorite of graduate education schools around the country. Vocabulary word number one as you start a masters or specialist degree. As I think back I still have never used the word other than in papers being turned in where sufficient language and vocabulary of the topic were crucial to the structure and format of the paper. As to why it is essential and why use my own name pedagogy is so often described as a blanketing sort of word. As an example a teacher might say my method of teaching falls within the such and such pedagogy from so forth and so on. Pedagogy is how we teach to paraphrase most definitions. How we teach is a unique aspect of who we are and borrowing from Carl Rogers, I have often thought you can not teach another person how to teach.
“My experience is that I cannot teach another person how to teach. To attempt it is for me, in the long run futile. It seems to me that anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential and has little or no significant influence on behavior. I have come to feel that the only learning which significantly influences behavior is self-discovered self-appropriated learning.” Carl Rogers
As I am reading Carl Rogers words my current research and undertakings in Foxfire lead me back to Core Practice three of the Foxfire Core Practices.
“The work teachers and students do together enables learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.”
Can I define how I teach, my method in my madness perhaps? I started looking at my own history going back in time and for me now that becomes a foggy glimpse nearly fifty years back when I was in school and when I actually started teaching. All of my early life our family was involved in teaching swimming and Red Cross lifesaving courses. My father was the instructor trainer for the county and as we grew up we went from being students almost sort of evolved into teachers of swimming. Once you attained a certain level of capability my father would have you work one on one with another less adept student.
“Classroom work includes peer teaching, small group work, and teamwork.” Foxfire Core Practice seven
“I find it very rewarding to learn, in groups, in relationships with one person as in therapy, or by myself.” Carl Rogers
“Cooperative/collaborative learning is interactive; as a team member, you: 1. Develop and share a common goal 2. Contribute your understanding of the problem: questions; insights and solutions 3. Respond to, and work to understand, others’ questions, insights and solutions. 4. Each member empowers the other to speak and contribute, and to consider their contributions 5. Are accountable to others, and they are accountable to you 6. Are dependent on others, and they depend on you” Joseph Landsberger, Study Guides and Strategies
As I came up through high school I became a Red Cross instructor and taught swimming and Lifesaving through Boy Scouts, Red Cross and the YMCA. Many of the little tricks of the trade I still use recalling the idioms and anachronisms of my fathers lessons. Sitting on my front counter are little reminder cards FIDO, frequency, intensity, duration and over again. A small card and a simple reminder for students to study although I would add relevance to the learning process as well. My process of becoming a teacher while somewhat planned as I participated in training sessions was very hands on and something I wanted to do.
I started teaching in 1970 or so working in Paoli Pennsylvania with severely disabled children in a private program as in that day and age IDEA was still just a dream. In 1970 many children were not served in public schools. I found it essential to understand the children I was working with and in those days research was still very archaic and for the most part even doctors were recommending residential placement for many of the kids I was working with, as they felt they would never amount to anything anyway. Getting to know a nonverbal child is somewhat of an undertaking and often is an emotional roller coaster. Trying to understand where that child was coming from in their interpretation of the world and how they perceived reality was difficult to say the least. As I look back this aspect of concern and caring was critical to my own development as a teacher and my own essential Bird Pedagogy.
“The belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative.” John Dewey
My teaching and pedagogical journey took me through several colleges and several more teaching jobs which eventually took me to Georgia. In 1975 I began teaching in a small program in Warner Robins Georgia where I was teaching thirteen Learning Disabled teenagers. I was upset as I was handed first and second grade reading books for this group of kids as several were reading on that level. It was just prior to this I found my first Foxfire book in a bookstore in Macon Georgia. Reading the various stories in the Foxfire book and having through my additional reading and own experiences found when something is relevant to a student they tend to learn it far better I needed new reading material for my students.
It was a Monday when I started with magazines of interest to the kids in my class and amazingly enough they went for it. I bought some wrestling, car, hunting and a girl’s magazine or two for my one female student although she was a wrestling fan as well and it changed attitudes and attention spans. By the end of the year reading levels were up and my principal was all ready to order more of her reading books when I broke the news to her. I was not fired and actually was offered a raise and would not have to drive the school bus anymore.
“Significant learning takes place when the subject matter is perceived by the student as having relevance for his own purpose.” Carl Rogers
“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice two
I actually started this topic yesterday but was in and out of meetings, did not get any sleep the night before and then last night I had saved my first paragraphs and notes on my off-line drive and left it at school so here I am finishing in the later hours of the morning what may be a several day effort to describe and define my essential Bird pedagogy. We are in so many ways hoping for a day when fewer people will be in harms way but today it is still a dream. Please join me in keeping all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.