Bird Droppings August 25, 2019
Teaching is making a difference each day , even if only for one student
I was leaving a fast food joint yesterday and my leg was bothering me. I have been in casts now since mid-July. As I was walking out a Viet Nam Vet walked in. I am assuming judging by his age and baseball cap stating such. We smiled at each other said good morning and he offered it could be worse, I think he noticed my grimace as I walked. I looked down and he had lost a leg overseas in service to his country. I shook his hand and thanked him for his service. I went to Physical Therapy shortly after and I am paying for it today. Perhaps my point for today is we all have battles we are fighting. Others have been there and often been through far worse. We can overcome and we can get stronger.
I do have days where I am more concerned about leg pain than whether a student is understanding what I am saying but I try to persevere. I have been a teacher for most of my life. I have always felt I need to e learning as well. In working with Emotional Disturbed kids over the years they do often respond to a simple process I just happen to excel at. I can hold my own in the talking mode but I also can listen when I need to. Dialogue is a two-way street. It is offering words of wisdom but also listening when the wisdom from the other is coming forth.
“Dialogue, is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world” Paulo Freire
A Brazilian educationalist and one of the most influential thinkers of the late twentieth century made famous the term dialogue in his writing. As I read a bit about Freire this morning a word in his vernacular that is interesting, praxis, for teacher’s praxis is that horrible battery of tests for certification. For Freire a meaning with import, “acts which shape and change the world”
“Man must prove the truth, i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice…. All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mystics, find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice…. The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” Karl Marx, 1845 Theses on Feurbach: II, VII, XI
It is through thinking that events change and draw meaning it is not simply thinking but applying these thoughts.
“It is not simply action based on reflection. It is action which embodies certain qualities. These include a commitment to human wellbeing and the search for truth, and respect for others. It is the action of people who are free, who are able to act for themselves. Moreover, praxis is always risky. It requires that a person ‘makes a wise and prudent practical judgment about how to act in this situation” Carr and Kemmis 1986
Wise and prudent are not often used terms in most human situations. It is infrequent that most people go about thinking in terms of world good even community good we live in this more self-oriented society, a society of hedonism.
“Dialogue in itself is a co-operative activity involving respect. The process is important and can be seen as enhancing community and building social capital and to leading us to act in ways that make for justice and human flourishing.” Mark K. Smith, 1997
There are pieces here I started with a word dialogue and have moved rather rapidly through the concept of praxis but reading Mark Smith’s comments the idea of human flourishing impresses me. I find it is what we do that perpetuates the species and ideals and thoughts of the human kind. I did a questionnaire for the state department of education on Thursday last week. The questions were discussing standards and assessment and such combine that with teachers who are so uptight with only five weeks or so left two till end of course tests. This is now standard in most states but part of quantifying but I question are we making strides in education in this manner. It becomes all about cramming pieces of information into the minuscule brains of teenagers. I recall Sydney J. Harris’s comparison to stuffing sausages. In our great effort to quantify we have stripped quality.
“Educators have to teach. They have to transform transfers of information into a ‘real act of knowing” Paulo Freire
So, in effect cramming and pouring vast quantities of information into students to take a test that had to be pushed up due to calendar and state parameters makes a lot of sense. How much water can be poured in a one-liter bottle and how many state officials will it take to figure out that one. I recall a summer or two ago reading tests to students with learning disabilities almost a paradox in and of its self “reading graduation tests”. I looked across at my water bottle and that thought hit me can we put more than a liter of water in a liter bottle. Immediately I was thinking freeze it water expands when chilled then heat it again expansion and so how do we put a gallon of information in a one-liter container or is it actually ten gallons of material?
It was back in the winter on a trip to the mountains and a walk-through visit to the Foxfire museum that the reality of doing this hit it is possible to fit ten gallons of knowledge in a one-liter container. The museum curator and guide held up a copper device and talked about the mainstay of mountain life years gone by, “moon shining” the device he held up was a condenser used in making white lightening, grain alcohol, or moon shine. In theory you can condense and distill those ten gallons to whatever capacity you want. You teach the necessary aspects borrowing from Freire, “transform transfers of information into a ‘real acts of knowing”. This is the key taking the content and applying context then it will be remembered and provide the latitude to advance thinking and that person’s direction in life and to making a difference. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)