On January 29th, I received my official letter of termination. Our district has lost more than a million dollars in funding and any new teachers were immediately cut. On February 1st, I received my official letter of re-assignment. This story has a happy beginning.
Title I funding was used to bring me back (me in all my un-tenured glory) as a literacy intervention teacher. I have a class size cap of 10 students and the freedom to build this course from the ground up.
First assignment: I had students watch this video clip:
A video on how to teach a dog to roll over using operant conditioning. Students were utterly confused, wondering what sort of class they were put in, and I had them just where I wanted them. I asked them to then describe what happened in the video. I stayed silent until a student mentioned how this video may apply to real life.
"We get treats for doing things."
"Yeah, oh yeah -- chores!"
The conversation quickly moved to schools. Right...
If I directed everything my daughter was to ever learn in her life--or if someone else did, for that matter--I would abandon all hope for the survival of her creativity, originality, and sparkling personality itself.
I have plenty of experience with having those three things and then some crushed by plenty of people who were supposed to educate me, after all. But I'm beginning to notice just how much she learns and sees on her own, and if I or anyone else tried to take that from her, she simply wouldn't be the same person.
Yesterday I was cutting the top of a facial tissue box off so we could use it to hold our growing pile of colored pencils. My daughter promptly asked if she could use it for a hospital bed for her sick (stuffed) dog, who'd fallen and hit his head. I realized that she was thinking about how my father had fallen and suffered a head injury last fall and was coming to terms with it in her own way, and immediately agreed to give her the box. She proceeded to care for...
There are many variables to being a great teacher. And not every great teacher necessarily teaches the same way, nor shares the same traits.
I have marveled at amazing teachers of my past and present, as I'm sure many other folks have with their own instructors. And likewise, I have thought back to those teachers that just did not seem fit for educating.
I write to discuss one quality, in particular, which can be found in educators that just don't seem to be made for teaching. That quality is impatience.
So many times, at least in my life, teachers have grown upset at me or others for not quickly and easily grasping concepts that they were trying to teach in class. They've grown so upset, that the focus of their attention had strayed from teaching a lesson in class, to lecturing a student on paying more attention or refraining from clowning around. And then, after a mighty lecture, the teacher would offer no further clarification of whatever the students were supposed to be...
He stood there like a statue -- dressed head to foot in the full uniform of a United States Marine. His hands were behind his back with unmatched pride. He stood behind a table that was sitting in the middle of my cafeteria. The banner on the front of the table read "Marine Recruits."
Another man, slightly older, stood beside him, also in uniform. My peers looked curiously over at the table, and most of them wandered over and talked to the two men. The kids asked them questions and looked through all of the material the men had brought.
Later, I talked to one of my friends, who had gone over to talk to the recruiters. He announced that he had decided that day to join the Marines. I asked him why, and he told me he wanted to do something with his life. He wanted to be a hero. He told me that he was going to go into the Marines and then they would pay for his college education. After college, he was going to be a police officer. I told him he could be hurt in combat in the Marines,...
When Melia Dicker, IDEA's Communications Director, first asked me to become involved with this project, I thought, "Me?" Then she comes up with this "ImprovEducation" title, and I thought that maybe there could be something there for me to write about. The improvisational aspect of my teaching style comes naturally, and sometimes yields something pretty darn good.
I wrote on January 19 ("Quadrant Spelling") about the way I deliver spelling words to my fourth-grade students, via a pocket chart in the form of an x,y quadrant graph. They all know about coordinates, points, rows and columns now, and participate with great enthusiasm.
We recently began adding fractions with uncommon denominators. Heady stuff. Many blank faces. Confusion. In fact, many students still do not really have a grasp of what a fraction actually is.
Wait, what about spelling? The idea popped into my head to ask them to tell me the fraction of letters in the word at point -3,-5 (where I'd posted the word...
On Feb. 1, President Obama vowed to toss out the nation’s current school accountability system and replace it with a more balanced scorecard of school performance that looks at student growth and school progress.
I love the idea. Mr. Obama and education secretary Arne Duncan have repeatedly criticized the No Child Left Behind Act for keeping the “goals loose but the steps tight.” On their watch, both men aspire to introduce a new law that keeps the “goals tight but the steps loose.”
With that more flexible standard in mind, I have a scorecard to propose: the ABC’s of School Success. It provides both structure and freedom by identifying five universal measurement categories—Achievement, Balance, Climate, Democratic Practices and Equity—and letting individual schools chose which data points to track under each category.
Homeschooling affords families the opportunity to travel and experience a wide variety of flora, fauna, culture, and...pretty much everything. During the winter months, that can be difficult to do, especially if you're snowed in for days at a time. Thankfully, traveling afar isn't necessary for learning; in fact, much can be learned from your very own kitchen, your laundry basket...even your pets. Here are just five out of the many things that kids can learn without the aid of expensive curricula or educational toys--and with Fluffy or Fido instead.
This might sound far-fetched ("I've got two cats and a fish--there's not much counting involved there!"), but it's been a better numerical inspiration for my kiddo than play dice, counting books, or any other traditional tool. From guessing at our tabby's stripes (which changes every day) to covering our very tolerant calico with bingo chips, she's had a blast while learning to count well past thirty.
Many of us who strive to nourish democracy in our society and strive tirelessly for equality, justice, peace and compassion have a break down in execution when it comes to our own home life. It's very easy for even the most mindful, progressive parents to replicate systems, dynamics, and roles we experienced in childhood, rather than the ones we aspire to create in our adult lives. Most of us working for in progressive education or for progressive causes didn't come from that experiential background.
Our young children don't have access to our intellectual sensibilities or our academic pursuits regarding education, democracy, sustainability, or anything else. And they could care less. What they do have is us. Just us. As people. And we are, to these brave new souls, merely the sum of our actions and demonstrable attitudes. To create a nurturing household that reflects the society we dream of requires more than the mental gymnastics that have supported our studies,...
It's a good thing I don't have enough money to do just that, or our house would be filled to the roof with chemistry kits, pretend food, costumes, and pretty much every other educational (traditional or otherwise) item available for purchase. Some people love to buy shoes or clothes--my thing is books, stickers, lacing boards and the like.
Cognitively, I know that most of these things are a waste of money; the small Melissa & Doug beading set I just bought, for example (it was on sale!), could have easily been made with some plain cord and pony beads. Yes, my daughter loves it and has made several necklaces, but she would have loved choosing her own bag of beads just as much.
I'm continuing to read The Unschooling Handbook (and enjoying it for the most part), which strongly cautions against buying a bunch of junk that you don't need to supplement your child's education. Use all of the things that you normally use in daily life, the author advises. And I...
The concept of democratic education was not introduced to me until summer of 2004. I was aware of homeschooling, and slightly familiar with unschooling, but had never really pushed to find an understanding of either approach. But in 2004, The Village Free School, of Portland, OR, was undergoing its first stages of creation, and I was fortunate to be around for it. It is something I took a deep interest in.
The idea of children having the freedom to do what they feel inclined to, all under the premise that they are receiving their education during that time....boy, that was a bizarre concept for me.
As strange a concept as it was, though, I was very intrigued by it, and in theory found it to be a marvelous approach to educating. One thing that really kept me thinking that the free school was going to work so well in educating people was my personal experiences with my nephew, Kristofer. What gave me confidence that this approach to education would succeed was those experiences I...
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