Friday, December 17, 2010

Some musings...

Um, I'm a more relaxed person today.  You see there have been a number of articles, web postings, some blogs and several op-ed pieces in defense of teachers.  A few have even argued against the evaluation of teachers by using student test scores.  A big thank you to all of you.  I thought for awhile that I was the last person to support teachers--I'm not.  And I'm happy.

But teachers are beginning to speak out although for the most part the teachers I have spoken to have by and large ignored the discussions and the blame.  A good friend of mine sent me two pieces of data in this regard.  Both items are from the TED website.  The first item is by Diana Laufenberg, a teacher who makes a number of important points--first, that students need to "own" the learning, no matter what it is.  Second, the teacher needs to allow students to make mistakes (Yesssss!) and third, that failure IS learning.  And I love Diana remarks on "how do you put that in a bubble on a test."  So here is a ten minutes talk by Ms Laufenbert--very close to my emotional core.


I've heard other types of responses over the years that are similar to the next offering by my friend, which is also from a TED web site.  But this one is good and it is emotional--at least for me.  "What do teachers make?" is by Taylor Mali and you know he is a teacher.  View the following:


I share these two items with you as a brief example of some of the responses to the "No Child Left Behind" and the "Race to the Top."  There is no question that we need to improve our educational system here in the United States.  Not because other nations are "ahead" of us but because it is in our nation's future that we must invest.  We have ignored our educational system since the seventies to a great degree as economy has become the focal point.  But we have forgotten that intelligent, inquisitive, confident, and demanding students drive the economy.  Those students are profit!  It's money in the bank for the community.

I really liked Ms Laufenber point in the first television example in that students in an earlier time HAD to go to the school to get the information.  The information was in the teacher's head and in the books that she had.  Today's students are masters at "googling" information.  It is possible that a student today might never leave home and "learn" much of the required information.  Isn't that interesting?  

What we need to teach students is how to learn.  When is a mistake a mistake? And how good can a student be?  Not good good but rather how hard can a student push his/her brains.  What box can they open they didn't know could be opened.  

There was a time in New York City way back in the 1800s when the city fathers worried about what to do with all the horse manure.....i.e., road apples.  As buildings got taller and more people lived in the city, more horses were housed in barns and the amount of manure was getting larger and larger.  I kid you not.  Look it up in New York City history of the early days.  But what happened was that the automobile was invented....and accepted by the populace and the horse manure problem slowly went away.

Well, we have sort of the same problem today but not with manure but rather with information.  An edition of The New York Times (November 13, 1987) was 1,612 pages long, contained about 2 million lines of type (over 12,000,000 words) and weighed a significant 12 pounds.  (Information Anxiety by Richard Wurman) Wurman also points out that this information was more than the average person was likely to come across in a lifetime in seventeenth-century England.  

I leave you with the following proposition that today we have information manure--so much information that we don't know what to do with it.  And this information can be had rather easily and quickly at home, or on a street corner, on the bus, on my boat, at a concert WHEREVER AND WHENEVER.  Isn't that fascinating?  I think so.  It sure makes deciding on a curriculum a much tougher chore then in the past.  Which information is of most worth?  Or a translation of that phrase--which learning is of most worth?

I wish you all well, have a satisfying holiday and winter solstice.  Thank you all for writing when you did this past year and adding to the milieu of this blog.  My New Year's resolution?  I'm glad you asked.  To thank teachers for all the work they do (see examples listed in the first of this blog).

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