Monday, October 17, 2011

Returning after a Vacation

Hello Patient Readers.  I have returned after a two month's vacation with some thoughts about teachers and teaching.  For those who are new to the blog (and for those with short memories like myself) this blog is devoted to the amazing world of teachers, primarily in the public schools, but in private, religious, as well as home schooling.  In spite of the recent national barrage of criticism of teachers which has resulted in "No Child Left Behind," most teachers are going about their jobs teaching children and  young adults about our world and about the students themselves.  As John Dewey has written in his book, "Democracy and Education,"  if this society is to survive and grow it needs to educate the young so that society can advance. And as Louis Armstrong, the wonderful jazz musician once sang:  

I hear babies cry...... I watch them grow
They'll learn much more.....than Ill never know
And I think to myself .....what a wonderful world

So this blog is dedicated to the many dedicated teachers in this wonderful world.

A word or two about my background and a bit of my biases.  I was born in the great depression in New York state.  For whatever reasons, we moved many times and by the eighth grade I had been in eight different public schools.  One of those schools was in the Italian part of town and the teachers did some of their teaching in Italian.  Unfortunately I don't remember much Italian.....just good food.  No matter where we moved, there always was a desk in a classroom for me.  

I still remember going to one new elementary school with my papers and asking to be admitted and the secretary asking where my parents were.  "My Mom is busy moving and my Dad is at work."  As I said, there was always a desk for me and a teacher to get me started.  

I did my undergraduate work in Music Education--I knew early on that I wanted to be a teacher.  High school band and chorus was my goal but I never got there.  I ended up being a grade school music teacher for several years as well as a fourth and fifth grade teacher.  At that time the school policy was not to allow men in below the fourth grade.  Strange.  Music teaching was fun but classroom teaching was demanding....hard work.  But there were rewards when a child leaned a math problem or could understand what they were reading aloud.  The smile on their face when they could do something new was the pay I craved.  Although grade school teaching was demanding it was also very rewarding.  And my colleagues, the other grade school teachers were equally wonderful.  I had found my niche in the world.

Somewhere in this beginning I went to a workshop on a new learning problem called Dyslexia.  The scary thing about that workshop is that I realized that I had Dyslexia.  It explained most of my problems in school throughout the years.  It even explained to some degree my father as he probably had it as well.  It was a scary time--would they fire me from teaching because I had a learning disability?  For a long time I never told anyone that I had dyslexia.

Forget Dyslexia for a moment if you will.  My next goal was to become an elementary principal and worked at summer school for a masters and elementary principal's credentials.  The moment I received my principal's papers I knew that I would never want to do that job....I wanted to keep teaching.  During this time I was assigned to be the audiovisual guy in the school--that person who collects, distributes and oversees the hardware of teaching--overheads, slide projectors, movie projectors and tape recorders. This world of teaching has changed considerably in the last decade.  

As I finished my master's degree someone suggested I work on my doctorate.  I did, in the field of Instructional Technology.  The field was in its infancy and main frame computers were just becoming available to the education market. Steve Jobs had yet to invent the Apple computer.  Actually, there is a bit of humor to this story.  I was suppose to do a foreign language for my degree and I convinced them that I should learn "BASIC", a then new computer language.  My committee agreed.  To this day I am still fascinated with the use of technology in teaching.  Did you know that the U.S.Army now gives iPhones to new recruits for use in learning?  Almost makes one want to re-up!  Almost...

Two significant things happen halfway through my program.  My principal professor said he was putting a computer in my office and I was to report back to the department how it might be used in education.  The other happening was that a regional state university, primarily a teacher college at the time was in need of a part time professor in audiovisual.  I got that job.

I stayed at that teachers college for another thirty two years teaching instructional technology and some graduate courses in methodology and teaching.  I enjoyed every moment at Western Washington University.  I can report that just recently "Western's" Woodring College of Education was listed at an education school whose graduates do "... an excellent job of teaching."  
I knew that!  

So teaching, elementary schools, educational technology, and Dyslexia are all primary biases to be considered when you read this blog.  I see these subjects through different glasses then do others.  

During my vacation (holiday for my Canadian colleagues) I read ten books, mostly historical novels, one political book that spoke about our educational system and a book on Dyslexia.  I dropped one book from my reading list, that of "The Black Swan" as it got more and more into statistics and probability.  All fine and good but not my cup of tea.  Not bad for a two months reading schedule and being a dyslexic.  

The book that has held my attention the most is "The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain" by Brock L. Eide and Fernette F. Eide ( - Aug 18, 2011).  So far I have found the book to be fascinating, enlightening and scary.  I suppose the scary part is okay at this time of year (Halloween) but this book certainly understands me better then I do.   Not only that but the authors comment about people in my home town of Richland, Washington.  

I plan to write about Dyslexia in a future blog--let me read more and then comment.  However, the next few blogs will be about what we want from our school's graduates.  What subjects should they study, what curriculum should be promoted and where do teachers fit into the new courses of study?  Does distant education have a place in our education system?  And (I say the following fondly) where does technology play in our educational system?  

I think we're on to a whole new system of education but still based upon John Dewey's cultural transfer of knowledge.  I think he would be excited about the changes coming to our schools.

And has been my theme these many blogs, I like to end each blog with the admonishing of my readers to thank a teacher for what they do.  I spoke this morning with a nurse who told me she would never be a teacher like her sister--that sister teaches first grade and she works at it night and day....and on weekends.  I spoke to another teacher during my vacation and she had just retired from thirty plus years of teaching, mostly in special education.  And she told me she was going back part time as she missed her kids.  Thank you, teachers of every grade and of every subject.  Thank you.