Tuesday, July 22, 2014

For our kids...



I now think the greatest danger to our children’s education might be teachers and administrators who don’t question what it is they are asked to do. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

My focus at the moment...



The habit of expecting children to raise hands in class: Why do we expect this?  I always said, “So we all can be heard.”  It seemed like a perfectly reasonable answer.  Who would question that?  …but I now think this is bull.  It’s really only about maintaining control…and doing something just for the sake of crowd control is a sad enough reason for me to question it.    
  
I know there are other alternatives to raising hands that can be used…but the bigger question is: How am I providing an open learning community when I expect the children to basically wait for permission before expressing themselves?  

…and this was a problem in my open classroom last year.  Children felt open to talk to me, and others (yes, even about the topic we were learning) and yet, I struggled to make sure they all shut up about it so we could have mostly one person at a time answer or ask questions. It was a contradiction of intent, was frustrating for us all, and I wondered why all my work to create an open learning environment was being compromised by their need to talk at the “wrong” times.  

I’m a shy person.  It takes a lot for me to raise my hand in meetings.  When I do, my arm is fully extended, and I’m literally only thinking about the question I have in my mind instead of still listening to the conversation.  Often, my anxiety about being called on, or frustrations about the relevance of my question passing by as the minutes pass with my hand waving in the air are detrimental to my own learning experience.  

I’m sure many of my students are experiencing the same thing…and a large percentage are feeling much more comfortable hiding in this scenario; keeping their hands down and their brains checked out. 
I like the idea of talking or sharing thoughts with neighbors…but despise the name “think pair share”.  Can’t we just call it “discuss”?  Why do we have to qualify the value of discussion by giving it a different name? 

I can see how writing answers on little boards (chalk or whiteboards) might be informative for the teacher…but I dislike how traditional and threatening this feels to children who aren’t yet understanding the concept being taught.  I also think this approach promotes cheating.  Actually, I know it promotes cheating…doesn’t promote deeper thinking, but rather “right answer getting”…which taints the information you think you’re getting from this technique as a teacher.  

Pulling numbers or names out of a jar is just as frightening…and is a “gotcha!” technique.  My role isn’t to catch them and essentially say, “Caught you!!  See!  Had you been listening, you would know the answer!!!”  It’s an authoritative approach that I don’t believe strengthens self regulation skills, but rather strengthens a sense of fear.     

In a real conversation right answers aren’t relevant, and compromises are made in terms of who is being heard.  People don’t simply “take turns” speaking…they respond to each other and build on each others points.  So, how can I assist or teach my first graders to converse in this manner?  That’s my focus at the moment.     

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Freedom...



I think of myself as an advocate for childhood.  Whether you agree with what I have to say or not, what I publish and share online or in person with you are thoughts based on experience, love, and genuine concern for your children and mine.  I might be saying something different…a perspective you might not have heard…something I hope is important to hear.  …but my voice will be silenced without tenure…along with hundreds of other teacher voices out there who dare to ask “why?” and dare point out problems with our current path, dare to think differently, and dare to ask for change.  I’m not guaranteed a job with tenure.  What I am is reassured of my right to express my concerns as a parent and educator without fear of being fired unjustly at the whim of anyone who doesn’t like what I say.  A teacher with tenure is not “unconstitutional.”  What is unconstitutional is losing my freedom to speak up.