A DIFFERENT, but HONEST, VIEW
It's 3 in the morning, I'm wide awake, and my mind is buzzing.
So, knowing I won't fall asleep again, I'm going to get up, go to my study, open my laptop and type what's in my head.
OK, it's now 3.10 a.m. Here I am, in my pyjamas, at my laptop, with Matilda, our darling pussy cat, on my knees........
So, what's in my head?
Why is it full of buzzing bees?
Well, first, some context:
As a former teacher, teacher advisor, Principal of two schools in the UK, creator/director of two Alternative Teacher Education programs, I have visited and interacted with teachers and students in over fifty classrooms, in 20 or more schools, here in Colorado.
I see effective, successful teaching.
I see teachers, some in their first/second year, some more experienced, enthused by their students, eager to take their kids on and on, igniting their curiosity and enriching thie rlearning levels each and every day.
I see others battle with students who are appalingly disrepectful, metaphorically taking their teachers apart.
I continue to get emails from such teachers.
Here's last night's from J.
'Hey, JP:) I'm doing better with a week off from school under my belt. I still feel, though, like I'm struggling and battling students more than helping them. So strange how hard it is to put into action all the theories and straegies I can talk about, but struggle actually doing. Anyhow, I keep showing up, and reflecting, and trying, so I figure I'm learning and may find my stride some year soon. On the job hunt to return to Colorado.........expanding my search to consider non-classroom positions/non-traditional educational/art positions.
Who knows :)'
IT was THIS, last night's reading of this particular email that set my brain on fire.
So, this is what's in my mind NOW!
Well, I started teaching in the 1960s at a school that became one of the places to visit if you wanted to see OPEN EDUCATION as it was then called in play. My Headmaster, Ted Ward, encouraged me and my colleagues to set up and resource activities that stimulated curiosity, motivated and engaged our pupils, and thus give them the focus and the drive to read and write and measure and draw - and think.
Academics linked our teaching to the philosophies of Jean Piaget and John Dewey.
Much later, this teaching style has been given the name of CONSTRUCTIVISM.
Today, wanting and trying to teach like a constructivist hasn't, it appears, helped those in my teacher ed. program who have gone into city public schools, where, by and large, they battle against large classes, an imposed curriculum, imposed testing, being told what and how to teach, being evaluated by someone watching from the back, clipboard in hand, poverty, lack of parental guidance and support,and, finally, being judged by polticians (who have never taught!) as failures!
So, let me be blunt! It's time to cut out the crap in education!
It's time for a COMMON SENSE approach to teaching. (OK, Matilda, move over a bit, please.)
It's time to honor teachers, repect their commitment, and trust them to teach their kids they way they feel is best - best for them, and, therefore, the best for their students.
It's time to put in place everything that each teacher needs to create classrooms where a visitor feels the classroom student community respect, and sees and feels an obvious passion for teaching and for learning.
It's time to cut out inappropriate, expensive professional educational programs where those not in classrooms tell those who are what and how to teach.
It's time to shift those $ into classroom resources.
OK...........here's MY COMMON SENSE approach to creating optimum teaching conditions:
First, recognize that teachers are overworked and underpaid.
Let's give them a salary that's commensurate with their education, dedication, and experience.
- Let each teacher OWN his/her classroom, its resources, and what goes on inside the four classroom walls.
- Let him/her be responsible for identifying and meeting the needs/learning goals for each and every student.
- Support him/her by creating easily accessible funds for minor teacher purchases (including snacks) that support individual and group social, physical and learning needs.
- Consider altering class sizes (I think that an elementary class, for example, should have no more than 20 students, mixed gender/ability/race).
- Bring in more qualified and experienced professionals who are adept in mentoring teachers (hate the word 'coaching') and who are adept at helping those students with significant social/learning issues.
- Provide appropriate furniture for student seating, storage, display, etc.
- Recommend particular accessible, proven ideas that enrich all subjects - including technology for students and teachers, that bring science, mathematics, social studies, art and literacy, alive.
- Create a free food program that is accessible to students throughout each and every day.
- Create a time-table that gives teachers appropriate breaks at regular intervals.
- Create weekly one-on-one opportunities for the teacher to interact with a trusted colleague/mentor to share ideas and experiences.
- Involve parents more and more in classroom life.
And, finally, ensure that each principal ( a former teacher, of course ..........) will introduce all of the above, and who will cover classroom teaching when the teacher needs a break!
OK.........it's nearly 5...............time for a cuppa.
Matilda, want some brekkie?