Bird Droppings August 24, 2020
Driving up a mountain takes effort
I am looking forward to another trip to Black Rock Mountain in North Georgia, the site of the Foxfire Museum property and the former site of the Piedmont College’s teacher’s class in The Foxfire Approach to teaching. My oldest son took the course as a piece of his master’s degree program at Piedmont College as did I. But interestingly enough several folks from Loganville Georgia attended his course. One of the teachers as we went around the room doing introductions made a comment about an interesting point for her was the first time she had ever held a snake was in my room at Loganville High School holding Stevie my ball python. Sadly, Stevie has since passed away at over thirty years old. Sitting here thinking actually there is a picture of her 2003 State Champion Softball team on my wall as well.
Sitting and listening to teachers and teachers to be in the discussions that go around the room with lead facilitators providing a frame work within which to expound or expand the conversation is a starting point of a weeklong session. Just prior to leaving the house to drive up a few years ago I had hit on an idea for my dissertation topic which has been eluding me for some time. I had been sitting in a discussion with a former student and he offered the idea of that I had shown him or helped him find out more about a subject through the stories I would tell from experience. The topic caught wind and is now developing into my dissertation. Inspiring passion in learning through storytelling.
When I left Mountain City from that last course and drove back to the lower lands of Walton County I felt excited about the course going on and my own epiphany that morning with the idea of storytelling as a key to learning. John Dewey’s book, Experience and Education sits to my left as I write and the past few days, I have borrowed from it several times as I jotted ideas down. But it is within the community of fellow learners and teachers we find answers and again more questions to ask. I thrive on the idea of learning even though I am sure many of my high school teachers and some college professors would argue. When students want to learn and desire to learn amazing things can be accomplished.
“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuse the work teachers and learners do together.” Core Practice One from The Foxfire Core Practices
John Dewey and his thoughts run through the Foxfire Approach to Teaching with an emphasis on a democratic classroom, experience as a means of learning and student input into the process of learning. I find that this is a rather simple statement this initial core practice which along with the other nine have evolved over the past nearly fifty years of teacher interactions and discussions from literally around the world. But so often a key attribute is missed and that is that students and teachers do this undertaking together. Last summer listening to sixteen nearly teachers and active teachers respond to why they were involved in this class provided me with a sense of maybe there are a few who get it in the world.
In education we talk about test scores which are also what is used to measure in most schools to federal and state guidelines. Standardized tests given to all students at the end or near end of a school term on specific subjects that are to measure what students have learned. Sadly, many students could take the same test at the beginning of the term and score the same so is that really a valid measure of what is learned probably not. Far too many teachers avoid discussing the concept of learning; they are engrossed in standards, curriculum, forms and teacher manuals on the subject. So, I sit here offering learning is a stream to cross and or an art form. Both of these ideas are fluid, moving and ever changing.
“Measuring tools lead to quantification; the tools in the arts lead to qualification.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind
Do we ever truly measure learning? I have been wondering this since I started back into teaching although in various different words and meanings. A simple measure would be giving a pre-test and post-test which would show where a student started and where they ended. On a far more involved scenario would be that of using portfolios gathering the evidence as the student progresses through material. They are effectively used in some schools to measure learning and student’s growth. These would consist of gathering artifacts along the way from the student. Essays, reports, assignments, any piece of material that is involved in the student’s educational life could be considered an artifact.
“With respect to art and its meaning I share Dewey’s view that art is a mode of human experience that in principle can be secured whenever an individual interacts with any aspect of the world.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind
I am wandering as I sit here this morning pondering an article to write on critical pedagogy after a weekend trip to see grand kids and a week back teaching. I sat down yesterday, trying to write but my energy level had deteriorated even after two five-hour energy shots and I did little more than ponder a moment. I am excited thinking about the kids I am teaching currently perhaps among them a future teacher who will be experiencing some interesting and enlightening ideas and concepts across their course. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)