Bird Droppings August 21, 2011
Staring into a starry sky listening to an owl call:
LEARNING – KNOWING – FINDING
When I went out on my morning excursion this morning or I should say several times as I think my dog and granddaughter plotted against me. I heard my granddaughter and went into check on her and then the dog wanted out so my granddaughter and dog went for a walk in the wee hours of the day you could hear owls were calling off in the distance. The area of the county we live in is relatively flat and it is easy to hear surrounding calls from far off. Much of the land is still in timber although there are a few houses. Several hundred acres behind us is dormant right now since wheat harvest in spring and is standing four feet tall in brush. My mornings are always a treat contrary to the verbal threats on the dog’s life as I get awakened.
I received an email from a friend that actually help steer me along the pathway many years ago. She has in her midlife crisis changed directions and found new answers herself as well. Something we sometimes do not get the chance to do is thank people who have actually showed us or taught us in life. Often it is an expected situation such as at school with a teacher we expect to be taught; however true teaching is symbiotic it is not simply a one way street. There is thanks in both directions from student to teacher and vice a versa. So this morning thank you to all the students and teachers I have had.
“The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple.” Amos Bronson Alcott
“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” John Cotton Dana
So often I watch teachers believe they have learned all there is to learn; a great vocabulary and witty way and they are the world’s gift to students. But teaching is about learning and learning needs to never cease.
“There is no human reason why a child should not admire and emulate his teacher’s ability to do sums, rather than the village bum’s ability to whittle sticks and smoke cigarettes. The reason why the child does not is plain enough — the bum has put himself on equality with him and the teacher has not.” Floyd Dell
A simple thought yet so often true. Why do students not learn or reject a teacher? A simple thought equality, students even small children know when they are being taught down too and not taught too or with.
“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Somehow always an Emerson quote floating around and I have found Emerson had a world view that would be impressive to many in today’s world. But this thought is truly what teaching or education is about, taking a concept that some do not know and making that understandable to others. Finding a way to convey knowledge and develop thoughts. I have heard the term strategies thrown around from many educators but there is more to it than a packaged strategy or curriculum.
“The teacher is one who makes two ideas grow where only one grew before.” Elbert Hubbard
Several of my recent emails concerned APATHY and in emails with several friends we discussed APATHY as well. One word kept creeping into the dialogue relevance making what is taught relevant. APATHY often is from lessons that have nothing to do with the student absolutely no relevance. I use the word context quite often as well when discussing relavance. Hubbard offers that teachers are growing ideas, which is so true. John Dewey in his thinking addresses drawing from experience and using experience in education and in learning.
“To teach is to learn twice.” Joseph Joubert
“What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” George Bernard Shaw
As often as I walk into a classroom I find students who want to find answers or look for new an idea that is pursuing knowledge. It becomes so easy to teach when that process occurs. It is providing the atmosphere that will allow that to happen. Often traditional desks in rows and chalk board stifle creativity and something so simple a change as tables versus desks and rolling chairs open new doors.
“We must view young people not as empty bottles to be filled, but as candles to be lit.” Robert H. Shaffer
I have used often an illustration from Sydney J. Harris of education should not be as so many surmise a sausage stuffing machine but more like culturing pearls in oysters. Throughout our educational system especially in light of legislation such as NCLB, as an example, the sausage stuffing idea putting in what is needed and filling the space is what many school systems are doing. I often wonder if somewhere there is a school and or school system where culturing is occurring and if there are any teaching openings there.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William A. Ward
A simple definition for quality in teaching and capability of teachers – Great teachers inspire in their students.
“Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.” Allan Bloom
“Getting things done is not always what is most important. There is value in allowing others to learn, even if the task is not accomplished as quickly, efficiently or effectively.” R. D. Clyde
Recently in a meeting about a student a teacher complained that this student never finishes their work. I made a comment that I never had that issue. I produced a 300 word essay and said it was worked on till complete. I was asked how much time did it take and said three days. “well it should have been done in a day” was the response from the angry teacher. Too often teachers are looking at more than one piece of information the complaint was not finishing work which I showed is being done then it changes to time, which I was not worried about. Interesting how the addition of time alters the first complaint. So it becomes are we looking at completing work, staying on task or completing a given assignment in a given time, two different aspects and yet many see as only one.
“Those who trust us educate us.” George Eliot
This works both ways there needs to be trust in the student for the teacher and trust in the teacher for the student or true learning will not occur. Memorizing facts is not learning. Using facts to accomplish a goal and then understanding those facts is learning. Several years ago I recall my middle son raising an issue while a student at Georgia Tech. In his senior design class several students who were straight A students and at Georgia Tech that means have never left their rooms albeit always studying had a difficult time equating their learning to physical design. The book knowledge did not have context for them. These straight A students were floundering in senior design. My son while not a straight A student had great conceptual understanding of information from working in the lab.
I thought back a few years to a former principal who would dress up as a goat herder in his social studies classes when a teacher. He would use a method of teaching many would take offense to, almost a virtual history class. The students would actually live out within the confines of a game, world history. Sometimes it takes dressing up in a goat skin and rattling bells to get a point across. So today a special dedication to all the goat herders (even those who were recently selected principal of the year in Georgia) out there, let’s rattle some bells and shake up a few minds. Keep students on their toes and thinking let us all make APATHY a word never having to be used again. Please my friends let us all keep so many who have been harmed and all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts