Just another Saturday

Bird Droppings July 31, 2010
Just another Saturday

I woke up like most other days and for some reason sat at my computer pondering much longer than normal. I was looking at some comments and reviewing a post I had made the day before and thinking about what direction to go. I started reading Ayers book To Teach yesterday and found it similar to Dewey and other educators that I enjoy reading. As I looked at a blurb from GAE Georgia Association of Educators denouncing the plan to go ahead with submission to Federal Department of Education grants stimulus award program since educators were not involved I was a bit concerned. I agree with that idea of involvement but the key component GAE is upset about is that it would require teachers to be more accountable and that accountability to be more thoroughly evaluated.
Currently in Georgia teachers have either one, two or three twenty minute walk through’s by administrators as their evaluation and that is primarily a state produced checklist of things to be looked for. It impacts your yearly evaluation and whether or not you will be asked back the next year. But it does not impact pay. Teacher pay in Georgia is based on years of experience and degrees. The longer you teach the more you get paid and the higher your degree the more you get paid. Problem is a teacher that is not good can pass their entire walk through and then have good annual evaluations and be one of highest paid in school. Their students may not be succeeding but that is not a reference point.

“Learning to teach takes time, energy, hard work. Learning to teach well requires even more: a serious and sustained engagement with the enterprise, an intense focus on the lives of children, a passionate regard for the future – that is, for the community our students will inherit and reinvent and for the world they are arching for.” Dr. William Ayers

I started an idea the other day which may seem redundant and silly. Instead of No Child Left Behind let’s approach education as One Child at a time. The more I thought about this idea and read does it not make more sense to approach each child as an individual rather than as a group or score or where they lie on the bell shaped curve. Granted it will take a bit more work to get to know each kid to know why and how each student works and understands but in the end I truly believe it will accomplish so much more and provide us with a future of thinkers instead of simply a society of consumers.

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.” John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor Gatto another outspoken educator trying to alter a system that has been struggling within itself for so long. John Dewey had it right a hundred years ago and it is still considered progressive education. Give your main customer a say so in the education of themselves. Have a democratic classroom. Amazing how quickly people and teacher go quiet when that suggestion comes up. A favorite actor of mine during his lifetime came into acting when most folks are retiring. Chief Dan George began his career opposite Dustin Hoffman in 1970 at seventy one years of age. One of my favorite films and his roles was that of outlaw Josey Wales side kick in the Movie of the same name. He had a famous line as he told the story of the civilized tribes going to Washington and being told by the president to endeavor to persevere.

“But in the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The white man’s strange customs which I could not understand pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe.” Chief Dan George

Today in education and in life the struggle of the winners dictating the outcomes in what ever arena we put before us is still true. Which ever party is in control will pass legislation be it for people or against with the people having little say. In education seldom are teachers involved in educational decisions and never are students and it is those imposed choice then that make education so overwhelming. I am writing my dissertation about the loss of soul in education and this is not in reference to religion but to the individuality of the children. We strip away in the early grades inspiration and creativity and soon only the motions of learning are occurring. We are teaching to the test. Cramming the information needed in the space provided.

“Can we talk of integration until there is integration of hearts and minds? Unless you have this, you have only a physical prescience, and the walls between us are as high as the mountain range.” Chief Dan George

It is about an integration of hearts and minds that is needed in education. The walls are getting higher as I write and one day it may be insurmountable. I am hoping enough people choose to look differently at how we educate children and begin to realize we need to address the soul as well. So sitting here pondering away I close as I have for eleven years please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Maybe we are in the wrong

Bird Droppings July 30, 2010
Maybe we are in the wrong

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember al the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who have no right to talk. Too many misinterpretations have been made; too many misunderstandings have come between the white men about the Indians.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce January 14, 1879 addressing representatives of the President of The United States

Sadly nothing has changed over the hundred plus years since Chief Joseph surrendered. Today there are over three hundred thousand complaints against the Bureau of Indian Affairs that are unanswered and in courts throughout the country and the highest suicide rate of teenagers is on reservations. Around the country we are arguing about illegal immigrants. In Arizona and New Mexico many of the ancestors of this people were kicked off their land when we won the Spanish American war. Navahos, Apaches, and many other tribes were dispersed to the Indian Territories in Oklahoma never allowed to return to the ancestral homes. We are so self centered that we can argue about illegal immigrant’s maybe it is us who are truly the illegal immigrants.

“If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to grow and live.” Chief Joseph

So often my thoughts come random after a few hours sleep and rising to take the dog out a point or idea will stick. Last night about four in the morning our westie woke me up to go out and in heading out something came to mind. It seems the powers to be back in the day and now always want to mass produce. In the world of the late 1800’s as far as Native Americans go it was coming up with a blanket policy and no pun intended to cover all tribes. There was no consideration of culture of language just this was it including education using the Carlisle School as an example. Basically the white way was the best. No exceptions Indians should be farmers like white folk no more hunting and gathering, no more Sundance ceremonies banned in late 1800’s or rituals that might offend Christian folk. Treaties and promises were made almost with little or any attempt to truly fund and or implement that plan. Corruption ruled what little funding did find its way to reservations and holding areas. As I thought it was very easy to coincidently tie this government outlook to education of today.
In 2004 a massive educational bill was passed entitled No Child Left Behind. A key point being that by 2014 all children would be on grade level in math and reading. Sadly funding was left by the wayside and for states to implement as best they could. However penalties were still in place for not meeting standards imposed. All children that includes all socio-economic, cultural, children with disabilities, ethnic groups and any other sort of subtitle that might be thrown in. Children would be evaluated with standardized tests given in specific grades and to graduate. Dr. William Ayers, that same fellow accused during the last presidential election of being too friendly with our now president is a nationally known educator and author.

“The root of the word evaluation is ‘value’ and authentic assessment includes understanding first what the student’s value and then building from there. Authentic assessment is inside-out rather than outside-in. It’s an attempt to get away from sorting a mass of students and closer to the teachers question: Given what I know, how should I teach this particular student.” Dr. William Ayers

One of our states efforts to get assessment in line with national standards and accountability has been a new math curriculum and of course subsequent testing. On the front page of today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution “Only 52% of the students who took the End of Course test for Math II in Amy passed.” This was across the state averages in high schools on this particular test. State department of education people are saying they will get it just will take time for students to get use to new curriculum. In special education we have been told to start telling parent’s in IEP’s that kids may be in high school for five or six years due to higher standards for graduation. I question who is setting the bar up and why?
In reading the Atlanta Journal Constitution it is due to mandated standards set in No Child Left Behind legislation. What about schools that are so far behind that no matter what bar level is set it will not happen. Many reservation schools and inner city schools have never hit AYP to date in nearly six years of testing. Another sad point is it is common knowledge among administrators and educators that test scores and zip codes have strong correlation. How is that for a statistic? Borrowing a phrase now that is a Catch 22, yes most definitely. I had an idea last night after a brief discussion in a blog over what could be done. I asked for some time to think about solving this dilemma. By chance I went by Barnes and Nobles to get some back up material.
Great educators have known the answer for many years. John Dewey offered suggestions and thoughts well over a hundred years ago. Numerous other authors have expanded on and clarified Dewey’s thoughts and all seem to come to one conclusion the solution is not in one test fits all, one curriculum fits all, it is not about leaving children behind which is happening at an alarming rate currently. So here was walking my dog last night and a thought came to me. It’s about one child at a time.

“Teachers are explorers. As they explore the world and lives of their students, they cast lines to different ways of thinking. Teaching is often bridge building; beginning on one shore with the knowledge, experience, know-how, and interests of the student, the teacher moves toward broader horizons and deeper ways of knowing.” Dr. William Ayers, To teach the journey of a teacher, 2010

You might say where do we start, we start asking students. After talking with many students of the Foxfire program who have graduated many years back I am seeing that there are commonalities in their opinion of what they learned. They learned about community more so than any other topic this has come up numerous times. It was nota measurable academic lesson or standardized test score it was the interactions with others in a useful and viable manor. It was being allowed to be an individual and to be creative. It was about one child at a time.
“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice One

John Dewey emphasized the democratic classroom and giving students a voice and allowing their past experiences to be utilized not just those perceptions and experiences of the teacher. This idea of One Child at a Time may sound a bit far fetched but when you look at how we currently test and evaluate it is not truly an indicator of what a child knows or even cares about. It is what ahs been drilled in the past semester. So often you will hear the term life long learner and yet is cramming for a standardized test life long learning? Is 52% of students taking test failing life long learning? What if we could take a bit more time learn who the student is allow that students weakness and strengths to be incorporated into the learning process and developed. I would say wouldn’t it be great if we could do an individual IEP for all students instead of a blanket testing policy. Would it not be great if each student had a portfolio that accompanied them in each grade showing progress and showing their achievements? It is one child at a time that is the key to educational success and or failure. I will wander more another time so pleas keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namasate
bird