Looking Back: Stop talking about classrooms that don’t work

As part of my Looking Back series, the sentiments I articulated in this post from August 21st, 2010 are still very alive for me. There are classrooms that work, that work very well. Click on the title below to go to the original post with its comments.

Here is an example of a ‘traditional’ classroom in Japan (scroll down to ‘Inspiration in a Japanese elementary school’). Can you imagine if these students did not have this place? What a shame that would be.


Stop talking about classrooms that don’t work

This morning I read a thoughtful post about what ADD may or may not be. Despite the timeliness and depth of thought present in the article, I was stricken by one paragraph about the perils of classrooms on our children. How our young children today, so rife with creative potential, are doomed to a future of diagnosis and boredom because they will be subjected to school.

I was not only stricken but insulted.

Does all of the work that I and many of my colleagues have done over the past years have no bearing on the future of education? Do all of those teachers out there in schools all over the world who care about their children not count?

I feel we need to get beyond the system is broken kind of thinking and focus on what is working. We see what we look for and if we keep focusing on a broken system we will only succeed in creating more broken system.

Instead of creating a doomsday effect by telling ominous stories of the proliferation of ‘traditional’ classrooms that stifle creativity and connectivity, I prefer to point towards learning that does the opposite, learning that works and educators who ‘get it’.

George Couros
Michael Doyle
Lori Centerbar
Kevin Hodgson
Glenn Moses
Linda Clinton
Elona Hartjes
Darren Kuropatwa
Kelly Hines
Karen S.
Dea Conrad-Curry
Zac Chase
Angela Maiers
Chris Lehmann
Jose Vilson
Damian Bariexca
J. M. Holland


You get the point. There are good educators who foster good learning in good classrooms in good schools. I keep this in mind as I work towards hope for the future within (and without) the walls of my own school.

the very best teachers…

Just saw this tweet. Felt the need to record it.

The very best teachers spend every day of their lives ignoring or subverting the curriculum

via @paulawhite, via @Neilstephenson, via @kmadolf, via @alfiekohn or something like that…

It’s basically about shifting from getting people to love you, to you loving them.

This post is going to be about an excerpt from Stephen Downe’s blog summary of Michael Wesch’s talk at D2L Fusion. Wait, you think that was a bit confusing? Before I get into the meat of this post, let’s take a moment to recognize exactly how I found these words.

This morning I decided it was time to update a few things. Many of my networks still had me as living in Montreal, QC, which I moved away from about 6 weeks ago. (Facebook won’t let me make the change, it apparently won’t let you list a current city that it doesn’t recognize and, well, Bainsville is not exactly the largest speck on the map.)

After doing that I decided to update my blogroll (go see the new ‘hot blogs‘, they really are), and then I decided to change up my featured blog posts (those are the ones in the black strip at the top of the blog). So, as I was reading through some of my favourite posts to determine which ones to add to the list, I also read through the comments. I had forgotten about Heidi Pence, and there she was, commenting on ‘Who Are Teachers?’. So I clicked through to her blog, Think, Think, Think and found A New Beginning, a post about what is on a lot of our minds as we get past the middle point of each summer: the year to come, where I came across this sentence, attributed to Dan Meyer:

It’s basically about shifting from getting people to love you, to you loving them.

So, I clicked on over to Dan’s blog to see the context and found its attribution to Michael Wesche. And yay, there was a link so, of course, I clicked through it and found where the sentence began – with Stephen Downes. It is embedded in a lengthy blog summary of a talk by Michael Wesche. So, I can only with certain accuracy attribute it to Stephen Downes, awesomely inspired my Michael Wesche. (Yes, I am a bit of a research geek. A bit.)

This is basically what that all looked like:

That 23 and sunny business is a lie. I need to find a new weather applet. Haven't found one yet that recognizes Bainsville either...

That 23 and sunny business is a lie. I need to find a new weather applet. Haven't found one yet that recognizes Bainsville either...

Ok. That being recognized, here is the meat, snipped from Whatever by Stephen Downes at Half an Hour:

…her hairdresser said, “Love your audience and they’ll love you back.” Instead of focusing on self, she focused on the beauty of the audience and the whole event. And I allowed myself to do the same thing.

I never let that leave me. I would start with that. I would start with loving my students. And it’s striking how much my teaching has changed in five years, as a result of that. It’s basically about shifting form getting people to love you, to you loving them. It has four parts (Fromm, 1956):
– caring
– responsibility
– respect
– knowledge

It requires all four. For example, caring without the rest is like patronizing. Respect without the rest is idolizing. The four together are true long. And focusing on that, instead of focusing on your performance, opens you up to your audience. It makes the walls go away.

Be genuinely interested, caring, kind, and loving to your students. Heidi’s going to be mindful of this come September, I am as well. I can’t imagine teaching any other way. If you don’t do it with love, why at all?

I appreciate how he framed it – teaching really isn’t about being liked. Some of the teachers I have worked with in the past who have had the most difficulty in terms of classroom management and getting students to perform were overly worried about whether or not their students liked them. Of course it’s nice to be liked. I know I would generally prefer to be a well-liked person than a poorly-liked person. I still find myself at times thinking, ooh – but that won’t be popular, they may not like that (and by extension, me) but teaching is not about that. It is about loving your students and caring for what happens to them both in and out of the classroom. And then it is about making sure all of your decisions are, if not based in, at the very least touched by that love.

It’s a lifelong learning process, keeping that frame in place.

Edit —> Added, a few hours later.
Look what just showed up in my feed reader from Kelly Hines. I had to include it here, it’s so timely. There are no accidents.

So, no, I don’t teach like my hair is on fire. I don’t really think that Rafe Esquith does either. He teaches like his heart is on fire, and that’s the greatest thing a teacher can offer his/her students. And when you are reading about astounding things that others are doing, don’t get overwhelmed by the how’s. Focus on the why’s. When you do that, you will find inspiration to light the fires of your students.

Sunday Inspirational Video

Who would’ve thought that an old standard could be given new life?

My friend Jeff Hall, fellow Human Systems Intervention MA grad, Anglican Priest, and Independent Organizational Development Consultant, turned me on to this phenomenal reprise of Stand By Me via facebook.

Student Poetry 2: ‘Center’ by Kait

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins. My students and I are liking this one. Click to view source.

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins. My students and I are liking this one. Click to view source.

We’re reading Impulse by Ellen Hopkins, a novel written in free verse about 3 teenagers at a psychiatric hospital for trying to commit suicide.

I asked my students to write some of their own poetry, as if they were there with them. Here is one that Kait recently sent me. She has agreed to let me post it here.

centered in feeling so unbelievable
unbelievably small.
so here i am
here we all are
wanting, hurting
absolutely nothing
here i am wanting to feel pain
any, any, any sort of pain
to make me feel here, alive
in the center
getting centered in
just desperately wanting so much more.
so much more then this, then ever
confined in the center
of a world that is filled with colors, emotions, feelings
pain and hurts
i see grey, i feel nothing, i am nothing
and here you are
here i am
screaming loud and clear in this sound proof room
here we are in the center
centered in
feeling all sorts of different kinds
of nothing.