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Posts Tagged ‘Teachers as Facilitators’

Education: A teacher’s response…

September 20, 2011 1 comment

I sent my pal Rob, who is an X-Teacher, an article from the New York Times on character development. His response is poignant for all of its ideas, hard work and sincere effort on the part of the many teachers and staff who participated in their search for solutions to student motivation and behavior problems. I am posting the letter here as I feel it makes an important statement from an educator who was fighting the good fight. I have another post but thought it could wait. Read this and see how you feel. It is posted as it is written except for a few minor corrections made for clarity of thought.

Hi Sandra….. Hope this finds you well….

The “gritty” NYTimes article about character development brought these things to mind for me:

·    STARS
·    TAP
·    Random Acts of Kindness
·    Bulldog Bucks
·    Traffic Tickets
and others which lacked witty acronyms or slogans.

These were some of the “character-based” initiatives that were required for each teacher to implement at the middle school in which I taught.

STARS: Each letter stood for some character trait; those that I do remember are S= Success, T=Teamwork, A=Achievement, R=Responsibility (or was it Respect?  probably was Responsibility, as this was in the time before bullying became such a focus, thereby not a real emphasis on Respect back then)…  and the final “S”, I just don’t remember what it stood for. Each IDT (Inter-Disciplinary Team) had to meet and brainstorm and agree to and submit to the faculty its clever acronym for the “new” “character building” program that year; STARS, (submitted by my IDT by the way) won the honor by majority of votes.

TAP: This one, the Teacher Advisory Program, was in effect the year I started teaching and lasted for only a few years longer. It was a “special” extended homeroom period once a week during which time the teacher was to “get to know” those students and become their mentor, their adviser, that one teacher each student could count on and come to with any problem they might have. This program was to be centered on teaching values, with several resources available in the faculty section of the library (Media Center didn’t exist then) in case one needed help with planning a lesson or two.  This program was resurrected a year or two after STARS fizzled out.

“Random Acts of Kindness” was a big focus for a marking period or two. Teachers were given a quantity of mini certificates which were to be discreetly given to students who were observed performing a kind act to another. Students could feel better about themselves having been recognized for doing something kind.

“Bulldog Bucks” was the name of the recognition/reward initiative of my IDT in which students were given “Bucks” for not only being kind to others but for completing homework, having materials, raising hands, and other expected student behaviors.  Unlike just receiving a certificate of kindness, Bulldog Bucks had an added incentive in that students could “cash in” their bucks for homework passes or save them up to attend the big ice cream party at the end of a marking period. Of course some students found ways to trade bucks for favors, bully others into parting with theirs, or even steal them on the sly. So each student then had to sign each buck, making it personal with a deterrent for fraudulent use. I recall that Bulldog Bucks went bankrupt before the end of that school year.

“Traffic Tickets” were an effort to improve conduct and behavior in the hallways.    Students were to monitor themselves and each other. This program didn’t last very long, as there were too many police and no consequences for the offenders.

Another program that began in earnest was some sort of small group sessions of selected disruptive or behaviorally challenged students meeting weekly with the school psychologist and the school counselor. What they actually did there, or what they talked about, or any results, or really just anything about this program was pretty much kept under wraps. These students missed a class a week, and were responsible for making up the work. Don’t know how long it lasted. God knows they could still be having these sessions even to this day!

After reading the article again today, these things came to mind and perhaps I’m anxious enough to talk with you about it that I just couldn’t wait until Friday’s class (in the gym) to share. Each of those programs came and went, some lasting longer than others, but mostly they were short-lived. I think TAP lasted several consecutive years; the others hardly a year at most.

And what, Sandra, do you think these programs accomplished? All of the thought and planning, and meetings and planning, and time and effort, and more meetings that went along with each of these ideas??

And why, Sandra, do you think these well-intentioned programs “failed”?  What was the biggest deterrent to their extended successes?  The program itself?  The kids?  Think the most obvious answer is………..

Thanks for sending the article. It was very interesting to say the least.
Hope to see you at the gym on Friday!

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Education; Teacher as Facilitator, Students as Collaborators

February 3, 2011 1 comment

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki

Creativity in children begins at birth. Children come to us innocent, trusting, and ready for life. At the beginning of their life it is the responsibility of their parents, both of them, to develop and encourage the creative directions of each child’s curiosity. It is the Parents who prepare their children in their early years for education that takes place in the K through 12 grades. A teacher is merely a facilitator for children once they arrive in the classroom.

Each child is a masterpiece when they arrive, whether they are rich, poor, black, tan, white, yellow, or red. They all have their own precious experiences to share. The classroom is their place of curiosity exploration and creativity and knowledge expansion, whatever condition they are in when they arrive. The teacher and the classroom should be the place where the best qualities in children are honed.

Teachers know that we can’t just teach facts anymore. Facts/Information are fluid and changing daily. Eric Schmidt, who shares responsibility for Google’s day-to-day operations sates, “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003; that’s something like five Exabytes of data. Let me repeat that: we create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003.”

Another life experience for this generation we must put into perspective is that today’s students will have 10 to 14 jobs by their 38th birthday, as the U.S. Department of Labor estimates. As a parent and former teacher I find this information astonishing!

It is no longer an option as to whether we educate for Industrial Problem Solving or Creativity in the Global Knowledge Economy. Industrial problem solving is no longer relevant to this generation of students. Problem Solving is a repair activity and inherent in this concept is the removal of an obstacle or difficulty. This was fine in the Industrial Age when people were told what to do and then did it. On the other hand, Creativity is not about fixing things that are broken but about bringing new things into being. Problem-solving asks the question, “What is broken?” Problem Solvers believe there is a right answer, and it’s in the teacher’s edition of the textbook. Creativity asks the question, “What is possible?” Creative Thinkers presume there are not one but an infinite number of possible solutions. It focuses on creative and critical thinking skills, collaboration, social skills, and embraces the search for multiple solutions to complex problems.

Industrial Age work aims to transform raw materials into products which improve our lives. Its focus is on making things, and its primary method is production efficiency. To be successful, industrial work requires specialization where the boss divides work into tasks, which can be learned more easily and done more efficiently by a lower-skilled worker. It involves mechanization of tasks, where machines automate the specialized function making it easier. It involves centralized control, which coordinates work flow. As a result work becomes centered on the machine. Without highly-skilled work, pride in craft is lost. Eventually, more and more tasks become automated, and the workforce becomes not only disillusioned but obsolete. It happened in the United States and it will eventually happen in the third world countries where our corporations moved all their factories. I guess the global corporations will go to Mars next for their unskilled workers.

Information work transforms raw data into information which improves our lives. Its focus is not on things but on what they mean. In peace and in war, in work and in life, better information leads to more opportunities, better decisions, and better results. The primary method of information work is not efficiency of production, but rather, proficiency of induction; the ability to find patterns and imagine possibilities. A valuable information worker is one who can find or create meaning that was previously unseen. Successful information work requires generalization, which finds opportunities from examining information from across a wide range of sources and disciplines. It requires humanization, which involves seeing the world in new ways and making connections that we didn’t think of before. This requires human imagination, creativity, and intuition. It requires decentralization. Cross-disciplinary, creative work gains strength from greater diversity and more points of view. To manage this kind of activity requires collaboration rather than control. Someone who is trained by our system to be a good industrial worker will only be confused and disoriented by an information-oriented workplace.

Transforming education to meet this revolution in information and technology is not an easy task when one admits how hard it is for people/teachers/parents to transform how they have lived and worked their many years. Habits are difficult to change when people are in their comfort zones. The answers to the many challenges we face, not only in the education of our children, but also in the world in which they will live, are far from clear. Some pioneers are already out there leading the charge, and if the U.S. is to remain globally competitive, change in how we educate our population is not an option, it is an imperative!

“I never came upon any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”

Albert Einstein

 


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