Teaching the unteachable child

Bird Droppings September 14, 2011
Teaching the un-teachable 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

I was working with some young people yesterday when one who continually has been a problem for various teachers was acting out. It was easy, far too easy to see the behaviors he was demonstrating than to look past to any possible ability at the time. Working in a co-teaching setting this year I can see more distinctly the differing perceptions of another teacher’s versus mine. As I pondered during class as to what to do it kept coming back to find the positive aspects of this young man rather than the very obvious negative, reinforce the positive. It must be coincidence that I attended a conference training session on positive behavior support or PBS and just pulled that folder out of my files.

“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

We met for a faculty meeting a few weeks back and one of the topics was the Governors Honors program which is six weeks during the summer for top students from high schools around Georgia. My son was privileged to go nearly ten years ago. When he came back he had a great difficulty dealing with students who did not want to learn. After spending a summer with peers who literally learned on their own and sought additional learning to come back to school where many students simply ride the waves and basically are just there, even in honors classes’ was hard.

“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 difficult to try and inspire those who prefer ignorance to education those people who are content in life being unaware. I often joke that you could go all day in a high school with seven or eight words. If you actually listen many teenagers can communicate with a few statements and words and literally 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. I was asked by a teenager yesterday about something in front of me and if she needed to learn it will there be a grade when I said no she fine I am not interested.

“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 often due to behavior as I think back to my incident yesterday and a student who was acting out. My first reaction was to get rid of him, get him out of the class and I am the behavior teacher. I could 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 of I am not in school I do not get covered”. It is an interesting enough thought process to understand the reality of the world. So this student is in effect stuck somewhere where he doesn’t want to be yet currently not willing 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 one hundred years John Garner saw aspiration in students and in 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 problem student, was his behavior an act of escaping from who he is and from where he is or was in life?

“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 truly educating students, are we preparing them for what they may encounter in the real world. We bantered ideas back and forth and constructivism kept popping up in my mind.

“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 http://www.funderstanding.com/constructivism.cfm

Recalling John Dewey’s lab school and the idea you cannot learn about something truly learn 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 was he coming from and where did he want 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 up rather than tearing down. Today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Filtering into bottles

Bird Droppings August 10, 2011
Filtering into bottles

Starting back to school again today and sitting here on day one and thinking back. I remember how hard I was hit by the impact of No Child Left Behind so many years ago. I was testing or reading a test to students who within their IEP’s were allowed modifications in testing. As I read an idea hit me, a liter bottle holds a liter no less unless you choose to not fill it and no more or it will spill out.

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

Nearly a hundred years ago Dewey developed his ideas and philosophies about education. Much of what he thought was in a different league than where and how education was going at the time. Much of what he thought was ahead of where we are going today. Many months back I saw an interesting head line in our Sunday paper about the current educational mandate of “No Child Left Behind”. “Are we leaving children behind?” was the title.

“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

“It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid.” Albert Einstein

How and why we educate children is crucial. Is it for some greater good or for the individual that we offer and provide education? Bloom states we need to provide a means for students to pursue learning, to interest that child so they actively seek education. Einstein wants learning to be simple enough that anyone can learn, he does not say easy but available for all.

“The secret in education lies in respecting the student.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

John Dewey wrote extensively on the democratic class room, many graduate school programs today teach democracy in the class room. I throw out the word symbiotic in terms of education, but respect is an awesome word as Emerson points out and it is in respecting the student that we educate.

“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” Anatole France

“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

So often the simplest answer is the correct one. An easy word is encouragement and yet we so often use it to little. We can do better, we have the capability yet sit back and relax letting students in effect suffer.

“The most important outcome of education is to help students become independent of formal education.” Paul E. Gray

“Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don’t know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.” Sir William Haley

It is a simple concept to teach children to know where to find answers. I have written now several times and reflected often on the idea of filling a liter bottle. Real teaching isn’t so much the filling of the bottle but the filtering and teaching of how to sort the knowledge into groups or subsets. It is that information we absolutely need and can remember, what fills the bottle. For the less significant information perhaps we can borrow a bottle and fill so we know where to find it.
The information we really do not need, it can spill to the ground. It is teaching the difference. It is teaching to sort and manipulate the information. Each child is different and capacities vary but if a child knew how to organize information I feel they would then in turn begin to teach themselves. As Gray states it is to be independent of education and Sir William with having that “desire to learn it”. This is what teaching is about. So recently many children in our area headed back to school, it can be a great day and a wondrous day. Please a reminder to keep all in harm’s way on your mind and n your heart. namaste
bird

Filtering into bottles

Morning Bird Droppings July 8, 2011
Filtering into bottles

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

Over a hundred years ago John Dewey had ideas about education that were considered progressive. Much of what he thought was in a different league than where and how education was going at the time and has gone since. Much of what he thought was considerably ahead of where we are going today. Interesting head line in our Sunday paper about current educational mandates and cheating on required tests all based on “No Child Left Behind” legislation. The title was, are we leaving children behind?

“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

“It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid.” Albert Einstein

I have not been a fan of Allan Bloom’s thinking but this thought caught my attention. How and why we educate children is crucial is it for some greater good or is it for the individual that we offer and provide education. Bloom states we need to provide a means for students to pursue learning and to interest that child so they actively seek education. Einstein wants learning to be simple enough that anyone can learn he does not say easy but available for all.

“The secret in education lies in respecting the student.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

John Dewey wrote extensively on the democratic class room and being a fan of Dewey’s and The Foxfire Approach to teaching this thought of Emerson’s ties right in. In some graduate school programs today they have classes teaching the idea of democracy in a classroom. I throw out the word symbiotic in terms of education where teacher and students are mutually involved in learning. But respect is an awesome word as Emerson points out and it is in respecting the student that we educate.

“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” Anatole France

“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
So often the simplest answer is correct be it an easy word encouragement and yet we so often use it far too little. We all know we can do better and yet we also have the capability yet sit back and relax letting students in effect suffer and not learn.

“The most important outcome of education is to help students become independent of formal education.” Paul E. Gray

“Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don’t know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.” Sir William Haley

It is a simple concept to teach children to know where to find the answers. Often this simple thought gets left by the wayside. Several days ago I reflected on the idea of filling a liter bottle, it only takes a liter. Real teaching isn’t so much the filling of the bottle but the filtering and teaching of how to sort knowledge into groups and condense so the bottle is not just filled but contains the crucial pieces. That is information we absolutely need and can remember that is filling the bottle. That which is left who knows but maybe perhaps we can borrow a bottle and fill with information we know where to find. The information we really do not need, can spill to the ground. It is teaching that makes the difference, that teaching of how to sort, use and manipulate the information. Each child is different and capacities vary but if a child knew how to organize information I feel they would then in turn begin to teach themselves. Gray states that it is to be independent of education and Sir William says with having that “desire to learn it”, this are the keys. This is what teaching is about. So today many children in our area are home from school forgetting what they learned last year. As I came into the school today a little girl was registering for the upcoming year. She had dropped out and did independent studies while she had a baby and now is heading back to school. Today it will be a great day and a wondrous day and a reminder to all to keep all in harm’s way on your mind and n your heart.
namaste
bird