Love and Affection. Learning. Report Cards. Fritz Redl

I originally posted these quotes (see bottom of post) over a year ago. They resonate deeply within me.

Love and Affection by Today is a Good Day on Flickr. Click image to view source.

Love and Affection by Today is a Good Day on Flickr. Click image to view source.

Love and affection can not be bartering tools. They just need to be. I believe they are conditions for learning, for real learning to happen. But what is real learning? It’s learning beyond the test. Learning beyond the classroom. It’s collaborating with others to move forward in whatever you might be working on – for students it can be learning about work ethic and motivation by spending extra time to make sure you are on the right track, to make sure you will be successful. For teachers it can be the same thing when we spend extra time collaborating with each other and with our students to make sure we are all successful.

I want my students to believe that my love and affection is there whether they do well or not. Of course I want them to succeed, but I certainly hope they do not seek me out after school in order to ‘win’ love and affection. I hope they seek me out because they sense the caring and because they want to succeed for themselves.

It’s report card time. I have a love/hate relationship with these times of the year. Because I have some students who are going to fail this semester. At least, they are going to fail on paper. But these same students have made such amazing advances compared to where they have come from. Advances that have nothing to do with the number that just might crush them on that government mandated piece of paper that reports on content, not process called the report card.

I’m off to battle the numbers.

Image: Fritz Redl found on Milestones: A Timeline of Wheelock College

“The children must get plenty of love and affection
whether they deserve it or not: they must be assured of the basic quota of
happy, recreational experiences whether they seem to have it coming or not.
In short, love and affection, as well as the granting of gratifying life
situations, cannot be made the bargaining tools of educational or even
therapeutic motivation, but must be kept tax-free as minimal parts of the
youngsters’ diet, irrespective of the problems of deservedness” (1952).

“Boredom will always remain the greatest enemy of school disciplines. If
we remember that children are bored, not only when they don’t happen to
be interested in the subject or when the teacher doesn’t make it
interesting, but also when certain working conditions are out of focus
with their basic needs, then we can realize what a great contributor to
discipline problems boredom really is. Research has shown that boredom
is closely related to frustration and that the effect of too much
frustration is invariably irritability, withdrawal, rebellious
opposition or aggressive rejection of the whole show.” (1966)

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(originally Published on: June 3, 2007 at 8:16 pm)

blogs and wikis: a teacher’s perspective

Steve Ransom pointed me towards this video of a grade 1 teacher and how she uses blogs and wikis in her classroom. There is also some parent and student commentary. Her advice is to start small, with a blog for your classroom, and let yourself grow with it.

I’d like to hear her principal’s perspective as well!

(Oh, and I certainly hope she doesn’t work in this superintendent’s district. If she does she may need to watch out.)

Just whose achievement gap is it, anyway?

Image: found on the Internet Ray Tracing Competition website

Found this, love it.

We must reject the ideology of the “achievement gap” that absolves
adults of their responsibility and implies student culpability in
continued under-performance. The student achievement gap is merely the
effect of a much larger and more debilitating chasm: The Educator
Achievement Gap. We must erase the distance between the type of
teachers we are, and the type of teachers they need us to be.

From Teaching in the 408 by TMAO (really hoping that means what I think it means.)

Reminds me of a quote that used to hang in a colleague’s office:

If you’ve told him how to do it a million times and he still doesn’t get it, then who is the slow learner?

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The tao of teaching in ambiguity

image: Shadowed Crones by Rudha’an, found on flickr and offered under a creative commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license.

What I love about keeping a blog is the insight I glean from those in my blogging community. The other day I published a post called Understanding the Machine and in one of Christopher‘s comments I found a pearl:

…but until I know who I’m going to be teaching, and how many, I’m stuck at an exploratory stage.

This describes how I feel each time I prepare for a new group, whether they be elementary school students, high school students, university students, or any of their teachers and support staff. In fact, I feel that I am always at the exploratory stage and as soon as I feel I’m not, well, it’ll be time to change gears and start teaching something new.

It also pretty much sums up the foundation of socio-constructivist approaches to teaching and learning like Differentiated Instruction.

I was always amazed at teachers who were able to create detailed course outlines at the beginning of the school year. I remember asking a colleague how he could do so before he spent some time with his students and he answered, “Simple – there are 32 chapters in the text book and 4 terms in the school year. I just do the math.”

I can’t see it as simply as that. Even for content courses with standardized testing (like Secondary IV Physical Science or History of Quebec). Until I get to know my students things are somewhat ambiguous because they make up most of the meat of anything I teach.

My job is to continuously replenish my toolkit so that I have as many options as possible to explore with my students so that I can be sure the strategies I use mesh with the way they need to learn.

I think that part of the magic of teaching is learning to live with ambiguity, yet to do so with inner authority and compassion, allowing course design to emerge based on community (classroom) needs. Oh, and to keep learning learning learning about as many different strategies as possible so that, as I create my courses (an ongoing process), I can say, wait – I know what might work here, let’s try this!

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Preparing the waters for change.

St Lawrence River
Image: photo of the St Lawrence River taken by me, available on flickr.

mrsdurff introduced me to Class 2.0 in a recent comment on Understanding the Machine.

I love the idea behind this site, and behind different workshops that places like LEARN in Quebec offer teachers.

How do we negotiate the space between resources on the one hand (PD seminars and workshops, online tutorials, peers, books…) and teachers on the other?

I asked some of these questions in an earlier post called Creating a Whole Brain Model for Education Reform

* How can we create a ‘mashup’ of left and right brain tasks and environments that make sense to kids as learners and teachers as educators?
* How can we create professional development experiences that not only teach these ideas but model them as well?   

* How can we manage the transitions?

It is that last one that I find so delicate and integral. We can create all kinds of curricula and workshops to share them with teachers, but unless teachers want to learn about them and use them..well, not much will change.

I think the answer lies in sustained professional development. PD that spends a lot of its time, at first, with teachers in conversation about what is important to them, their values. Time spent rediscovering (for some) and fueling their passion for teaching and looking at how Web 2.0 fits in to all of that.

When I say sustained I mean not one session at the beginning of the year, but each month throughout the year – throw away the %$#@! monthly staff meetings and replace them with teacher development time, where the community gets together to share, talk, and grow. Invite a student every once in a while to keep us on our toes as well! Make sure parents know what is going on and are involved in learning sessions as well, to keep the school accountable for the change.

This requires a leader with a strong vision who recognizes the needs of his or her teachers at the same time as the students.

As you can see, this is something I think about a lot. I have begun the process at one school I work at and we are seeing change in small yet integral areas. It is infectious and exciting. The waters are flowing.

We will surely be using Class 2.0 with some of the teachers at this school!

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