The IDEA Blog

An Inadvertent Lesson From My Nephew

As of late, I have been observing what it is like to maintain a high level of patience with my 4-year-old nephew. For example, he can sometimes take a very long time to complete a task that he knows how to do, because he is trying different methods. And sometimes, his experimental process can be a nuisance, depending on what kind of time frame we have to spend with each other. If we need to be at the park down the road to meet up with his parents at 3pm, and he needs to get his shoes on in the next 3 minutes, or else we will be late, then his efforts to successfully throw his flip flops onto his feet can be straining on whoever is responsible for him. But lately I have been allotting a lot of unplanned time when hanging out with him, and letting him lead our adventures in his own way.

Allowing him to take his time, and giving him the opportunity to try to do things however he wants to is very interesting. He seems to just fiddle around sometimes, and really make no progression...

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Posted on Jul 06, 2010 - 04:51 PM by Shawn Strader

AERO Conference Digest

I've just returned from the 7th Annual AERO Conference in Albany, NY and to say it was phenomenal is a bit of an understatement.

The truth is that, in many ways, it already feels futile to try and capture the experience I have just had. In telling it to friends I find myself using the same words -- like "incredible, inspiring, amazing" -- over and over again. I struggle to articulate what has been a deeply perception-altering experience. I say “perception-altering” instead of “life-altering” because while I am certain that my life is in fact altered, it is born out of a greatly expanded awareness of my own ideas and beliefs particularly those I had held regarding the people I am hoping to effect change with, and on whose behalf I am acting.

It is as though I entered the conference dialogue with a uni-dimensional objective and as the workshops, keynotes and days went on the nature of the thought(s) grew into new forms; from one- to two- to three dimensions and possibly more.

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Posted on Jul 01, 2010 - 10:11 AM by Cian Sawyer

Introducing Me

Well hello IDEA readers and bloggers!

I have to confess this is a teeny bit nerve-wracking as it's my first time blogging for someone else. Usually it's a ramble about stuff that I hope someone will eventually read. This time, I pretty much know it's being read. By you!

So let me tell you a bit about me, because this is really a segue to another post that I would like to add after this.

I was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica and I am now living as a resident of the archipelagic island nation of The Bahamas. I am a passionate unschooling mother of two and an unwavering advocate for what I believe is every human being's birthright to organic learning/self-directed education. Having experienced the traditional school system as a student, and later as a teacher, I began to think that there had to be a better way for people to go about the business of being educated. I was initially drawn to Montessori's experience-based learning, later exploring other methods such as...

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Posted on Jul 01, 2010 - 09:59 AM by Cian Sawyer

Drop Down Thinking

Yesterday afternoon, I had a conversation with a rather pleasant woman named June about our nation's current population of youth, and the ways in which our youth seems to process thoughts. June provoked the conversation after we had discussed that I study philosophy at ASU.

She began by mentioning that there seem to be many people, especially today's younger population, who seem to lack any notion of a creative way of thinking. That is, she recognized that many kids nowadays are being taught what to think, as opposed to how to think, which seems to be giving rise to a population of people who seem to struggle when problem solving alone, and sometimes even in groups. I was very excited that this woman, who I had never met before, had brought up a topic so relevant to my work with IDEA upon our first meeting. June and I were quick to agree that the ways in which we educate youth right now seem rather unfitting, at least for the most part.

June next brought up the idea of drop down...

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Posted on Jun 21, 2010 - 01:28 PM by Shawn Strader

Goals met?

The last meeting of the year is just winding down, the walls of the classroom are bare, and there is not a single piece of paper on the floor. It is officially time to start summer, at least for me.

My official evaluation was a week ago. I have my copy of it around here somewhere.... Anyway, things went wonderfully according to my vice principal. She was very happy with my performance. That is good, because I need to keep my job. She is happy, and my family has health insurance. My goals for the administration were met.

I do recall that I set different goals for myself, than I turned in for the powers that be. I wrote about my goals in my first post for IDEA. Let's see how I did....

1. I will work to create an atmosphere of personal responsibility, where people are able to express their needs of the curriculum, and get those needs met.

I established a good report with most of my students this year. I will admit that not all the 150 kids in my class were always happy to be there,...

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Posted on Jun 18, 2010 - 08:42 AM by Alison Bagg Brink

Good Teachers or a Good Education

In this post Jonah deconstructs the teacher tenure debate and calls for a change in the way we think about stand out teachers.

Hi Jonah, I have a question about the teacher tenure debate. I am currently in college and when thinking (back) to my high school experience, two types of teachers stand out in my mind. The first were the teachers that worked really hard, they were often young, inspired and inspiring. I liked being in their classes and I felt like they really taught me things. Then there were the teachers who had become disillusioned with teaching decades ago, used the same lesson plans year after year and seemed to show up just so that they could collect their check. Isn't it "undemocratic” to protect these teachers?

Sebastian R.
Montreal Canada

Thank you for the questions, Sebastian. Teacher tenure is a complex debate with logical arguments on both sides. Teachers do not want to leave their fate in the hands of administrators and policy makers who do not necessarily...

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Posted on Jun 18, 2010 - 08:12 AM by Jonah Canner

Another major language

Spanish, like every other major language, is indeed a crazy quilt of various dialects as there are
countries, regions, and cities where Spanish is spoken. If so, why do we still have all of the academic research in education, and its literature, referring Spanish to us as a “minority language”?

As many agree, education research findings, and the American population at large, should begin
interacting more to further necessary critical awareness if we are to make it out of
the dualistic grip of “reformers” versus “those-who-oppose-this-reform” talking heads (cf. Dana
Bennis' “The Education Policy Debate”), who add more confusion instead of resolution to our dire public schools, and overall education problems.

Having recently completed a Masters in Childhood Education with a bilingual extension, I still
hear in my mind the “minority language” label (status) that was attached to Spanish by all of the
research and texts that were to help me comprehend the complexities of bilingual...

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Posted on Jun 16, 2010 - 02:53 PM by Luis Moreno

Because I’m a part of it

School has been out for a weekend now and as soon as the last bell of the school year rang, a couple of my friends and some of my students got right to work on our presentation for the U.S. Social Forum. Our presentation is called "Urban School Awakening: Critical Elements of Urban School Reform."

For our workshop, I've invited several students to help facilitate the break-out session of our presentation. I selected students who over the years have demonstrated the product of true liberating education. And what's the litmus test? I am getting wind that these students are getting in trouble in other classes for speaking up for themselves.

This is music to my ears because as our theory of action outlines:

"To combat the rigidity of dysfunctional school environments and didactic instructional scripts associated with underperforming urban schools, students must be the ones to demand a reevaluation of school practices and structures to best serve their educational and life...

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Posted on Jun 15, 2010 - 07:25 PM by Ammerah Saidi

10 Reasons to Unschool

There are so many different philosophies of education in the world to choose from. It's a rich, diverse world, so it's only natural that there are so many different ways to learn and grow. It's a shame, however, that most of these paths toward learning are concealed from the majority of people. If asked what education means, most people cite the public school method; and though others might also toss in private or homeschooling, there are still so many variations out there that go unnoticed, or even unheard of.

If made aware of all of the different options available to them, I believe that many parents would not choose to send their children into public schools as they are currently operated. I do know many parents who seek out religious or secular private schools, but not many who consider--or, most likely, are even aware of--the dozens of other options available. On my own quest to discover what education truly means to me as both a teacher and a mother, I learned about many...

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Posted on Jun 13, 2010 - 09:17 PM by Sara Schmidt

Is Chaos a Bad Thing?

I am teaching two summer classes this year (my "summer vacation, ahhhh" was actually just for one week!) and in one of them we have been talking a lot lately about free schools. Of the 18 students in my class, I would say that about 75 percent of them reacted extremely negatively to the idea that kids should have freedom to learn what they wish, how they wish, and when they wish. Now, my students are definitely not in favor of our current conventional, very constrained system of education, but they seemed pretty appalled by the level of freedom that kids have at places like Summerhill, the Albany Free School, and the Sudbury Valley School. The most oft-cited opposition to these schools was the concept of chaos. My students felt that without an authority figure of some sort benevolently guiding the children, that the result would be complete and utter chaos (defined by them as a negative thing - a disorderly, confusing jumble).

Why do people automatically jump to this assumption...

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Posted on Jun 10, 2010 - 06:06 AM by Kristan Morrison

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