We Need to Stop Pretending…#makeschooldifferent

Let’s stop pretending:

That children don’t know what they want and that they can’t be trusted.  Children are born to learn and do know what they want to learn about.  Why can’t we let them follow their passions?  Is it because we don’t trust them?  Do we think they will play video games or do something else we judge as not worthy.  I wonder if traditional school models create conditions that encourage poor behaviour because we are trying to control the behaviour of other human beings through “classroom management”.  Is it possible to be more democratic; can management of behaviour in schools be collaborative?    Democratic schools exist all over the world and they work.  Maybe we can learn from them.  For those who argue that democratic schools only work for the privileged read this.

 

That we need to group children by age into distinct classrooms with one adult.  Why?  Because it’s convenient and easier.  Why can’t we have a space where children can roam from place to place.  From the garden outside to the science lab to the maker space to the computer lab.  Why can’t we have cosy nooks for reading and day-dreaming.  There is so much possibility if we would only trust.

 

That we don’t need to have more interventions by true specialists for reading.  Are guided reading and short-term withdrawal really enough for students with learning disabilities?  Would it be possible to give them on-going, consistent, individualised interventions on a daily basis for years?  That can’t be done in a classroom or when a school with hundreds of children and only a few SERTS but can we change the ratio somehow?  See how Kenneth Gordon Maplewood school in North Vancouver works.  Why shouldn’t public school children have access to such effective interventions?

We need to stop pretending that we know what is important for students to learn.  Is content really that important?  Are problem-solving, critical-thinking, communicating and interacting positively with others are more important content knowledge?

That schools don’t play a role in creating bullying situations. Is there something about our wider culture and school cultures that set a stage for bullying situations and behaviour?  Is there something we can do about that within a school?  What is it?  Perhaps more study on these issues is warranted withing the school setting?

11125273_998556766823936_4190145285163655687_n

Most of all, we need to stop pretending that we can’t do all of this in public education.  Public education is important.  If we change the system will people stop opting out?  In order to do that we need to communicate how things can be different with others.  All citizens need to work together to make it work because it will be messy.  Change is messy.  Learning is messy.  Life is messy.  But life also has the potential to be wondrous.

 

I want my girls to continue to love learning every day their childhood years (and lives).  Let’s work together to change things so that our children continue to love learning.

 

I’d like to challenge @peterskillen  @brendasherry @tk1ng @mrswideen @acampell99 to share the five things they think we should stop pretending.

What Matters Most in Education?

Relationships matter most in education.    And in life.

 

I’ve been back from unplug’d 2012 for just about a week.  I’ve had some time to reflect on the experience, new relationships, old relationships, work & life.   And, it always comes back to relationships matter most.

 

What I hope will stay with me after unplug’d 2012 is the willingness to be vulnerable.  Vulnerability is something I really struggle with, as do many other people.  Just read some of Brene Brown’s research on vulnerability.   Even at unplug’d I struggled to open up.  I was afraid I wouldn’t measure up to my colleagues there, so many fantastic educators who have accomplished so much in their schools.  My fears of being judged seem to be always lurking below the surface, waiting to be proven right.  But I did it, I opened up.  I shared a piece of myself and of my past with my writing group.  Soon it will be shared with the world.  And it was good.    The theme of our group:

 

You are not alone.

Photo by Ben Hazzard

None of us are.  We are all connected to one another in so many ways.   If we only take the time to listen.  If we open our hearts to what others are saying and feeling.   The photo above is of our writing group.  I am so fortunate to have met and bonded with these people.  From left to right:  Alan, Karen, Me, Rod & Kelly.

 

So my focus this year will be developing strong, trusting relationships with my students and colleagues.  Nourishing my relationship with family and friends.  Unplugging more often so that I can really connect.

 

Yes pedagogy and technology are important.  But relationships are what really matter.

 

Photo by A. Forgrave

Always Thinking and Learning about Reading

The thing about teaching is I never leave it behind.  I’m continually thinking about how to improve my practice.  About how to make school more relevant even though I’m struggling up stream against a current of “system”.

 

I’m only four days into summer holidays and I’m planning away in my mind.  I’m thinking a lot about language arts because I’m teaching English to grades 3-6 students who are in the French Immersion Programme.  I have to catch them up in terms of reading and spelling and support their writing.  Particularly for the grade 3s who have to write EQAO in English even though they have never had any instruction in English – I’ll leave that rant for another day.

 

My dilemma is how do I make teaching reading relevant?  Writing seems a bit easier since I’m going to introduce blogging to my classes.  I have the summer to set it up.

I plan to use the Daily Five and Daily Cafe routines set out by The 2 Sisters, Gail Moser Bouchey and Joan Moser.  I really like their routines and methods for individual conferencing and guided reading.  I will try to find interesting texts to read.  I have a great classroom library – full of books I’ve been collecting over the years.  I’m hoping to set up the routines so the students can work independently on reading, writing and word work with choice as to what they read, what they write about and when they work on specific tasks.  The thing is, I won’t have that much time with them.  The grade 3s will only have 40 minutes per day.  OY.  So – how to make a language class meaningful and relevant and include critical thinking and technology (I won’t have much access to technology actually, although I’m working on a plan).

 

So I need some help with the critical thinking, word work, real world connections, technology integration, etc.

 

Suggestions are very, very welcome.  Thanks in advance.

Image is CC  http://www.flickr.com/photos/83955435@N00/7229079 courtesy of Old Shoe Woman

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

Neo-Liberalism and Me.

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”  Rosseau

 

I had a Twitter conversation this morning with a friend from grade 9.  A fellow passionate educator whom I reconnected with last summer while I was at the OTF Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century conference.

It started when I tweeted her to ask if she was going to the #ITSE2012 conference in San Diego.  She isn’t.  For some interesting reasons.  The conversation got to the school system and how the neo-liberal system we live in binds the hands of teachers who want to do “radical” things with their students.

I’m thinking that a lot of my discomfort with the system relates to the neo-liberal paradigm.  Considering that I studied Political Science for my undergraduate degree you would think I would have paid more attention to this idea.

I never really thought of myself as radical but I guess I am.  I do know that I never felt like I really fit in anywhere.  I never did find my niche in terms of my philosophy.  I don’t mean my educational philosophy, I mean my personal and political philosophy which I haven’t fully defined.

What does this mean?  It means that I think children should have autonomy.  That they can direct their own learning.  They can ask their own questions and follow up with research.  It means that they shouldn’t have to create a diorama, essay, blog, or anything else to prove it.  Assessment.  A waste of time.  We spend so much time and money on it but what is the point?   To prove that a student has learned some content?  To prove they know how to learn?

As I’ve written over on Urbanmoms.ca here and here, I want to unschool my children.  Some of my reasons revolve around the school system as I write about here.  My husband and I have not made that possible.  So far our choices revolve around my job.  Teaching in a neo-liberal system that I don’t think supports human learning and development.  I want my kids to have models who are mindful, empathetic, passionate about life and learning, naturalists, and free.

I believe in public education because I believe in equity.  But our system is not equitable.  Neo-liberalism does not foster equity.  I don’t think a paradigm shift is coming any time soon, so in the meantime I will learn as much as I can about inquiry learning in the classroom.

I need to think about this a lot more.  Good thing summer is coming.