Trying to teach an unteachable child

Bird Droppings June 3, 2022
Trying to teach an unteachable child

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” John F. Kennedy

As I walked out of the house today, the sky was unusually cloudy; I got lucky; just after the sun came up, there was a break in the clouds, and I got a few photos. Earlier in the morning, I saw stars and an almost smiling moon looking out the window. Orion was shining over the pines somewhere to the southeast. My mind was filled with many thoughts’ grandkids, graduate school, finishing my dissertation, and how to deal with some cooking this weekend. I recall working with some students just before school was out in 2020, especially one who continually had a problem for various reasons. It was easy, far too easy to see the problems than to look past any possible ability issue. Teachers were not teaching students. As I pondered what to do, I kept coming back to find the positive aspects of this situation rather than the obvious negative and reinforce the positive.

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” Aristotle

“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

I recall when we met for a faculty meeting, and one of the topics was the Governors Honors program which is six weeks during the summer for top students. My son was privileged to go about thirteen years ago. When he returned, he had great difficulty dealing with students who did not want to learn. After spending a summer with peers who learned on their own and sought additional learning to return to school, returning to high school, where many students ride the wave and are just there, even in honors classes, was hard. In his capstone presentation, my oldest son used the example of showing our passion for our profession or subject to instill in students a passion for learning. Far too quickly, we write off so many students as unable to learn or mediocre. He had been having issues with students in his classes, and I told him to take in a snake. He needed a reason, and finally, he figured enzymes. It was a long story and biological, but he took in some snakes, and the principal came by to see the demonstration and loved it as it engaged and enthralled the students, hook, line, and sinker.

“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

“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” Edward Everett

It is challenging to try and inspire those who prefer ignorance to educate those who are content in life being unaware. I often joke that you could go all day to a high school with seven or eight words. If you listen, many teenagers can communicate with a few statements and words, and you could walk through any high school in America and use those few phrases and words and communicate all day long. Unfortunately, most perpetuate ambiguousness; my favorite is whatever, used perhaps more in a day than any other word in the English language, at least in high school.

“Nine-tenths of education is encouragement.” Anatole France

“What usually happens in the educational process is that the faculties are dulled, overloaded, stuffed, and paralyzed so that by the time most people are mature, they have lost their innate capabilities.” R. Buckmaster Fuller

So often, we discourage rather than encourage due to behavior. I think back to my incident several months back and a student who was acting out. My first reaction was to get rid of him and get him out of the class, and I am someone with a behavior disorder background. Maybe in my old age, I am taking the easy way out. I would march him down to the administrator and be done with it. The student did not want to learn and did not want to be in school. His attitude was, “I am only here for insurance. If I am not in school, I do not get covered.” It is an interesting enough thought process to understand the world’s reality. So, this student is stuck somewhere where he does not want to be yet currently unwilling to learn.

“We learn simply by the exposure of living. Much that passes for education is not education at all but ritual. The fact is that we are being educated when we know it least.” David P. Garner

“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now, we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner

“If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them to become better than they are.” John W. Gardner

One of the great thinkers and reformers of education and society of the last century, John Garner saw aspiration in students and society.

“Josh Billings said, ‘It is not only the most difficult thing to know oneself but the most inconvenient one, too.’ Human beings have always employed an enormous variety of clever devices for running away from themselves, and the modern world is particularly rich in such stratagems.” John W. Gardner

As I think back to my student with a problem, we could get into a deep discussion of this rationale of why kids are in school, and if we include the students, we may be able to find the antecedent to the actual behaviors.

“Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often, we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” John W. Gardner

I got into a discussion after our faculty meeting with another teacher are we genuinely educating students, or are we preparing them for what they may encounter in the real?

“Constructivism is a philosophy of learning founded on the premise that, by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world we live in. Each of us generates our own “rules” and “mental models,” which we use to make sense of our experiences. Learning, therefore, is simply the process of adjusting our mental models to accommodate new experiences.” Engaging Kids, Funderstanding

Recalling John Dewey’s lab school and the idea that you cannot learn about something honestly without doing it, as Dewey would say. In discussing with this teacher, we drew a similar conclusion it takes hands-on for students to learn beyond simply pouring facts into the mold. Going back to my problem student of yesterday, perhaps looking at where he was coming from, where he wanted to go, and why and accentuating those issues would provide a pathway for him. Each day is a new day, and each thought adds to the thought pool and process; it is about lifting rather than tearing down. Today, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


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