In general, technology is valuable for what it does to the continuum of space and time. Technology allows us to access knowledge like never before – the library doors are wide open and so many can enter. There is no bottleneck and no 9 to 5 access. So I did consider the #1 reason to use tech as being “time on task” or “connectivity”. Students have more access to language, the distinctions between ESL and EFL are blurring, they can have more contact with language through online immersive experiences and contacts. Still, I’m voting for differentiation when it comes to “teaching”, when it comes to the typical language classroom.
Technology allows students to encounter language in control. It provides levels and support so the language learner won’t be bewildered and overwhelmed. Think of our typical language classrooms and be honest – 70 – 80% of students are usually tuning out after the first 5 minutes because there second language brain just gets too hot and they can’t cope. Technology makes the chaos of authentic language manageable and can provide students with material at their own level and pace. This is, if it is used correctly and in a self directed fashion not just as a one size fits all thing on a screen. Here’s a wonderful example of a school in South Carolina.
No matter how good your placement test, you are going to have so many students with such different levels and knowledge in your language classroom. It is impossible to cope, to find a common space. Technology solves this problem and gives learners the tools to learn what they want, at the right time and moment. This is why I’m working hard and so excited about the video corpus and suite of tech tools for language learning we are creating on EnglishCentral. Learners can acquire language in a safe, controlled environment. They can practice and repeat, review, rewind, rerecord, redo, respeak until they feel ready to speak and test themselves in the town square that is life.
Differentiation – so important in language learning for language is a type of knowledge that is so personal and so close to us.
There is one thing that too often gets left behind in all the post it notes stuck on the door of educational reform: Teacher – student relationships. Not enough do we hear the message that what education really is about is what invisibly transpires miraculously when a teacher and student connect, really connect.
All of us have had a teacher who really made a difference with us. Rita Pierson in this piercing (pun intended) talk really explains this well. Her talk is sterling, a must watch. I’m glad someone else is pounding the pulpit on this important facet/core of teaching – here’s what I’ve written previously. Teaching is an art, the art of relationships. (this article so finely describes this)
I took away a few more messages from her talk beyond that of relationships.
2. The relationship a teacher has with students is about trust. And trust takes time. Too often it never happens because teachers are pushed to wade through knowledge without regard to it ever really being learned, understood, synthesized, digested by the students. Here’s my view on this.
3. Lastly, the thought that maybe technology will free up teachers from being disciplinarians and will allow them time to truly become conductors of the human spirit. With technology driving self directed student learning, teachers will have time to think of how to connect with students and form the important relationships with students, the relationships and mentoring that is truly needed. Technology won’t take over a teachers job, it will allow teachers to do more of the job they were born to do.
Here’s Rita’s amazing talk. Sit back and enjoy! Hat tip to Larry Ferlazzo for putting me onto this great talk!
Over the last 5 to 10 years, I’ve been developing new ideas about how we should be teaching in our classrooms. These ideas have changed as the possibilities and promises of educational technology have become reality.
The most fundamental of these ideas are always revolving around learning and the student. The possibility to differentiate and deliver personlized study to students is the most important possibility before us teachers. Technology allows us to tailor curriculum, materials, delivery to and for each student. It allows us to correct the most horrid feature of schooling – that everyone learns the same thing, at the same time, at the same rate.
Here are three approaches that I espouse and have worked to develop.
SCC, student created content Students create the content that will be the basis of their language learning. We start from the students’ world and understandings and build on that. A teacher elicits language from the students, forming a material. This material is the basis for further language activities and practice. The teacher is the facilitator and organizes the language practice and learning of students – there is no direct instruction.
The Flipped Classroom for ELT Students can learn and practice the structures, vocabulary and content of our language classrooms through mediated self directed learning. Either in a computer lab or BYOD class at school or as homework. No longer do classes need a teacher in the front, leading the whole group. Classroom time is taken up with actual production and the teacher having direct time with the students assessing, getting feedback, engaging. The teacher no longer has to spend time (usually wasted), teaching infront of the class a language point or eliciting language for a group on a topic probably only 2 or 3 students are interested in.
Low impact classrooms are classrooms where a teacher is not the dominant focus, the central power and puppeteer. EFL has always been for better or worse, led by a teaching model where the native speaker was the primary source of authentic language/input. Nowadays this shouldn’t be so and needn’t be so. Students in most parts of the world have access, immediate access to all kinds of spoken English, even at an appropriate level. So now, the role of the teacher shouldn’t be one that dominates and talks but one that organizes and disappears. The best teachers are invisible, just like the best use of technology is.
Low impact teaching is about organizing the environment in which the students will learn and then, as I’ve referred to Sugata Mitra’s approach – “going away”. It is about driving back into the learning environment organic, intrinsic student motivation, curiosity and independent learning. And that is the end goal of all education, helping to create a learner that will learn when we are not there, when nobody else is looking …… Low Impact Teaching is “I’m going away now” teaching – where the teacher doesn’t tell the student the answer but teaches slow and allows the learner to learn for themselves. It is about putting students back in control. Low impact teaching but high impact learning.
It’s so energizing to be involved in education at this moment of time. Beyond opportunity, we teachers must realize there is a heavy responsibility on our shoulders to not let things get hijacked and to push for change, be disruptive and enact approaches like Low Impact Teaching or the Flipped model in our classrooms. Once we’ve changed the existing cultural paradigm of teaching, I’m sure we can then take school out of the walls it inhabits and into the wide open world where it will best flourish and nurture students.
Metaphors are powerful things for teachers. They are the very building blocks of thought and allow us to see what isn’t there, to connect on a higher level to hidden realities. Cynthia Ozick in her timeless essay, “Metaphor and Memory” talks of metaphor as
“inhabiting language in its most concrete. As the shocking extension of the unknown into our most intimate, most feeling, most private selves, metaphor is the enemy of abstraction. “
Think of how powerful this famous metaphor of Shakespeare allows us to understand what life and the world we live in, is.
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.”
Metaphors can help teachers see who they are and where they are going, they are a driving force in our professional development. In my own teaching, I’ve borrowed an idea from Finney Cherian, asking my teachers to bring in an object that they believe represents themselves as a teacher. They explain to classmates how the object represents themselves as a teacher. I’ve had students bring in baseball gloves, Q-tips, medals and even toilet paper! What’s crucial is that this becomes a metaphor around which they can clearly see themselves as a teacher. It helps them begin their life as a teacher on solid ground. The object I chose was a chalkbrush. It represents what I feel is the ephemeral, ever changing nature of teaching. Also, that we can begin each day with a clean slate, ever hopeful. We don’t accumulate but are in the act, we teach in the here and now.
What is your metaphor?
As I mentioned, metaphors are the building blocks of thought, as argued by George Lakoff. He outlines how our thought and conceptual systems would break down without the concrete stickiness of metaphor. They link the real and the ideal. They are what makes us human, so human. His “Metaphors we live by” is a great read. Metaphors have been the basis of all great inventions and breakthroughs in knowledge. With the proper metaphor, things become clear and what was hidden, revealed. Think of Einstein imagining a man running through a telegraph wire and keeping up with the message. Think of Farnsworth plowing a field back and forth and imagining how an image could be scanned as a series of lines for transmission, the basis of electronic broadcasting and TV. Think back further of Archimedes and his Eureka! in the bathtub as the water rose (and arriving at a way to measure the mass of an intricate object). Think of Faraday and his vision of lines of force which led to the invention of the electric motor. Lastly (but we could go on forever concerning great advances and thought) Kekule who gave us the greatest discovery of organic chemistry ( that organic compounds are not open structures but chains or “rings”) after seeing a snake bite its tail.
Metaphors allow us to link “like to like”, to make x=y, to give a name of one thing to another. It is magical and like some kind of thought full homeopathic cure, we can build from two “likes”, a healthy, new, greater idea.
I think linguistics, education, learning how we learn language, needs a metaphor. A metaphor that will allow us teachers to understand how language takes birth and grows in a person. Chomsky comes closest with his use of “growth” and that language isn’t built but is organic and grows like a plant. But we need more metaphors in language and about learning – metaphors to help us understand what we do and guide us teachers.
Michael McCarthy uses the geographical metaphor of “confluence” to suggest how two speakers engage in conversation and negotiate meaning (confluency). A wonderful way to understand this complex process, by analogy to two rivers meeting and mingling.
We might also ask how we could use metaphors in our own teaching, how they might allow students to conceptualize language and understand that which is foreign. Metaphors are the means by which we organize information and we might ask how a knowledge of semiotics and metonymy might inform teachers and help learners in their study of English. Imagine a course of English study where language was not just thematic but properly metaphorical?
I’d like to have more metaphors about teaching, about learning, about language acquisition …… do you have any to share?
Here is a nice article detailing various metaphors about school/schooling
Last week I watched the “Reinvent Learning” roundtable with Howard Reingold. As I walked and ran on my treadmill (got in a good 14 k), I listened to the pronouncements of all the experts about what is happening or should happen in education right now. Lots of food for thought but two things really got me questioning this leadership and that despite their great ideas – they don’t quite “get it” and live in a little bit of a plastic bubble.
1. Communication. I was struck by their “lingo”. Now, I’m well versed in it but even I had a hard time following each person’s plethora of terms and labels. If you can’t communicate in a simple fashion, what should be done and why – it doesn’t stand a chance of ever getting done. We have to get rid of all this “educationalese” before any substantial reform will happen in the constituency that counts – students, parents, the common man. We as educators have to speak simply, commuicate the essential of what education really is and its importance.
2. Power. There seemed to be a pink elephant in the room that nobody wanted to talk about – namely “who has the right to tell anyone what they need and must learn?” The point was touched on ever briefly but I feel it is central to what is happening in the present learning revolution. Also, who has the right to tell a person, even a child, they must go to school?
We need a real reformation in education, not just reform. Having read my Erasmus, the reformation was all about challenging the powers that be, decentralizing and making it about the people and not pronouncements and power. The reformation had a profound effect and a reformation in education could have the same. It could take the power to certify, to graduate, to say “who passes Go” out of the hands of the academic watch towers and into the hands of the community and the people actually teaching and learning. It would give value to learning and not just “doing time”. This to me IS the issue and focus of change these days. Everything revolves around it. Technologies allow access to knowledge/learning for pennies to all – how we handle this, just like the Reformation eliminating intermediaries between man and god, is what we’ll be judged by. Not whether we are for or against digital learning etc ….
We need to begin making our schooling our education (to paraphrase and reference Twain’s famous quote). That process begins today with all of us tearing down the walls, the authority, the ivory towers that stand between the student and learning.
I watched this CBS special report about the use of “solitary confinement” and restraints in US schools and have been thinking about it all week. Disturbing. View it below.
It was a good reminder, disturbing as it is. A reminder to me that our schools must be abandoned. They can’t be fixed or repaired. They are broken and must be replaced. If I hear the word school reform one more time, I think I’m going to burst …..
My sister and I often have the same argument (she’s also a teacher and I’ll offer the disclaimer that she thinks I’m detached from the reality on the ground, in academia, training teachers etc… but forgets I spent years in classrooms long before she ever thought of teaching.). My sister would be all in favor of these kinds of “treatments”. I think a lot of practicing teachers would also. Of course they would never do things “so extreme”, or so they’d say. But it is a very, very slippery slope – controlling students in these manners.
My sister is at school for and loves the obedient, eager students. The insolent, disobedient, disrespectful students she detests. And she’ll tell you there are so many of them! She feels they are the product of a society that gives them too many rights, that allows them too much freedom. What they need is to do a good days work, discipline and to see how the real world works. I disagree.
Student behavior (or misbehavior) is a product and reaction to the present wider society and culture. No amount of coersion, shock therapy or force will change that. If teachers want “better” behaved students in school – they need to join a wider revolution within society and make for change. As it stands our society, our families produce these “problem” students. A teacher, like any citizen IS part of the problem. We can’t punish students and make the world turn back into 1953.
Furthermore, we have an environment in school and out that treats children as second class citizens. Students today grow up so fast, gain so much “intelligence” so quick – of course they figure out quickly how irrelevant school is in this day and age. How they have no rights and are daily ordered like prisoners to do this, go here, be that. What might Carl Rogers say at how ill school is at the most fundamental feature of education – creating strong social relationships and personal “value”. As he says, student must feel “at a deep level that their subjective experience is both respected and progressively understood.”
The cure is not more restraints, nor more punishments. Education, teaching is about “doing no harm” and creating citizens and a society we want. Why do we continue down the road of competition and ranking students by intelligence when the end goal is to create a well adjusted individual? Shouldn’t the students we applaud be those who are happy, who have independent personalities and inner strength and will?
I look at our society and I feel shame. Perhaps besides being a teacher, that is why I am a poet. I want the world to see how shameful it is, as it is. I’m shamed that we would do these things to children. I’m shamed that our culture is so militant and violent, passively violent. I’m shamed how the Ultimate Fighter can be part of school curriculum yet peace is given such short thrift. I’m ashamed that teachers don’t have the freedom to teach nor students the freedom or permission to learn. I’m ashamed how students spend hours and hours in school and learn all the wrong things. I’m ashamed how teachers the world over never, ever, ever ask their students what they’d like to learn today.
Last week, took down Summerhill from my bookshelf for a read on the toilet. I read over his thoughts describing the difference between license and freedom – the free and unfree child. They should be required reading for all teachers. I’ll end with a few quotes
I believe to impose anything by authority is wrong (in school). The child should not do anything until he comes to the opinion – his own opinion – that it should be done. The curse of humanity is the external compulsion whether it comes from the Pope or the state or the teacher or the parent. It is fascism in toto. pg 114.
It is this distinction between freedom and license that many parents cannot grasp. In the disciplined home (school), the children have no rights. In the spoiled home (school), they have all the rights. The proper home is on e in whcih children and adults have equal rights. And the same applies to school.pg 107
People who protest the granting of freedom to children (students) and use this argument (that life is hard, we need to teach children to obey and have discipline – my entry), do not realize that they start with an unfounded assumption – the assumption that a child will not grow or develop unless forced to do so. Yet the entire thirty nine years of experience of Summerhill disproves this assumption. pg. 109
People are always saying to me, “But how will your free children ever adapt themselves to the drudgery of life? I hope that these free children will be pioneers in abolishing the drudgery of life. pg 114.
Call me a rosy, academic idealistic, my sister certainly would. But look around, do you see much else working? I do hope one day to have my own school and “cultivez ma jardin” and be the change through some boots on the ground. Until then, these mere words and a beating heart must suffice.
PS. I wanted to throw a lot of links/references into this post but decided against. Used my own voice and that should suffice.
The Gates Foundation is pouring money into “better educational outcomes”. Lots of money. But little of it is going into the pockets of working teachers. In fact, most of it is going into designing tests, creating standardized curriculum and what I call, “fudging”, designing a system that will give improvement by the book but hides an underlying lack of learning and preparation for the future. The Gates foundation preports to know what makes a “great teacher” and thus can judge teachers, fire the bad ones and make the whole system better. Their constant refrain is that the most important factor in improving student outcome is the teacher. Very true. However, you aren’t going to do it without paying teachers well. That’s the bottom line.
The only direct factor across the board that makes an educational system strong is the support of teachers through respectable salaries, job security, benefits. The ONLY thing that works. It is the prerequisite to any reform of the system. All the nations that truly have great results according to PISA are all paying their teachers VERY well, giving them job security and benefits to rival higher income earners in their own country. As the saying goes, you have to “put your money where your mouth is”. That there is no talk of dramatically increasing teacher salaries – really speaks to how hollow their good intentions are.
You don’t need piles of fancy curriculum and glossy textbooks or blinking technology to get great student results. You also don’t need fancy buildings and an Ivy league look. Nor draconian school environments which control students behavior through brainwashing regiments of school discipline and “school pride”. You don’t need fervent testing and longer hours of study. None of this. What you do need is to pay teachers well and make them happy in their job. Attract the best – you’ll get great outcomes. It’s that simple and any other fix for education is just snake oil.
Some background. I’m a capitalist at heart. I love the fact that money created “common ground” and value where none existed before. Money, along with the wheel and the printing press (widespread literacy) is a human invention without equal. But we so often tend to think other things are causing problems and it isn’t “money” – we get sidetracked.
I began teaching as a steelworker. I “fell” into teaching, literally. Spent weeks in the hospital and woke up to become a teacher. Lots of accidents in the steel erecting industry and a lot of people trying to fix it and make it safer. But these fixes won’t work until steelworkers are paid a living, a good wage. Then safety will come and good outcomes. The metaphor works for teaching too. I watched this Frontline program last night and the metaphor hit me. In this documentary, they explore why hundreds of workers are dying while building towers so our cellphones work. Governments have been trying to do many things to stop these deaths. But they keep happening. And why? Well, these tower erectors get paid $10 an hour that’s why. No regulations will work until you pay the workers better. You’ll attract a better tower climber, one with experience and who knows how to do the job safely. Companies will have an incentive to keep the employee too. You’ll have better outcomes, less deaths – its the same with teaching. I urge you to watch the program and see how the metaphor works for teaching too.
There is one thing I always wish for the teachers I’ve trained and taught and shown the door into the big wide world of teaching – the freedom to not follow a script, to not teach to something but for something, the room to explore, to take the road less traveled. I know that I benefited from this kind of environment in my early years, in the newly minted uncommunist Czech Republic, I know it will work for all teachers, for all students at any place and time. Too often though, more often the case, teachers are shackled by textbooks, programs, tests, standard curriculum and set agendas/schedules. Why can’t we have a field instead of a factory?
If I wish for anything this Teacher Appreciation week – it is for us to trust teachers and give them the freedom to teach.
You see, teaching is an art and it depends upon the freedom granted a teacher. If there is no freedom on the part of a teacher, there is no trust in the teacher. And without trust, the social contract is nil – there is no investment by any part other than to pass/fail. Learning is left in the ditch, real inquiry is but a distraction. Without trust in a teacher, we suck the life out of teaching.
A lot has been written recently about Finland and why they have such success in education. It isn’t rocket science though. It isn’t a matter of masters degrees or small class sizes. It is all about freedom, the freedom to teach that Finnish teachers have. The trust their society gives them and has in them.
I came across this quote from a blog recently, it asks the right questions we should be asking ourselves about teaching;
How many teachers have the legal and moral authority to determine the materials their students read, watch, listen to or produce? How many take the initiative to design “curricula” based on broad but common goals? How many see change as the only constant and take calculated risks for the benefit of their charges? – Another dot in the blogsphere
She was writing about Finland and how teachers there are asked to be creative, to teach from their heart not just their head. The most achievement in the least number of hours. They are edupreneurs with the freedom to teach, with the freedom to fail. It’s that failing that counts. Here’s an nice video overview.
This freedom is the number one thing we can grant teachers, if we care about our children’s education. Our trust will pay off. Alas, especially in TESOL, there is so little of this. Seems the higher up the food chain a teacher marches, the less freedom a teacher has. Isn’t that strange? But thank god for those younger teachers given freedom, a classroom, a closed door and all that potential and possibility! Ah, I wish I could have that again ….. maybe that’s why I love doing things online, this sense of freedom and potential – things in my own hands, the teachers own hands.
Let’s hope we as a society have the guts to give teachers the space and time to be. To be edupreneurs and to speak from their hearts that beat the same sound, the same rhythm of what the future ought to be.
To end – a fav song – It’s A Matter Of Trust, Billy Joel. This goes out to all the teachers out there, struggling towards freedom on Teacher Appreciation week.
Sometimes one is surprised by how life conspires to throw things into your path. In doing so, you just have to trip over them, notice them and come upon a clearer view and vision of “the way” and what is there.
I’ve been training teachers for a number of years. In that training, I’ve always accented two approaches; teaching less to achieve more and the benefits of using technology (properly). Slowly but surely over the years, I’ve sniffed a new “way” in the air and teachers realizing more and more that we need to do things differently or risk irrelevance.
3 things of late have been thrown into my path and clarifying my own view of “the way” forward.
1. Last week presented at RSCon3 on The Flipped Curriculum. Great response and many emails from teachers offering their own versions of “flipped”. Great.
2. Then, listening to the radio yesterday and hearing a teacher comment, “I only teach as little as I have to” – meaning that the accent wasn’t on teaching but the students learning and teaching themselves individually or as a group.
3. Reading the local newspaper today, the North Bay Nugget. Read a sterling column by a local, level headed man, John R. Hunt. I’ll post when it goes online. He tells of a blind girl who failed high school despite how they “cared”. She finally got her degree (and straight As) through independent learning and “less” teaching. A cry for more innovation, more ways for informal learning to be recognized. Spot on.
The times are a changing. We need to harness the passionate minds of our youth. We can only do that if we “teacher less” and let them run more in the field of possibility, now provided by technology. Not a call for teachers to lose their jobs, just for those jobs to be transformed and energized. Let’s start, let’s change.
I had a great time presenting some of my ideas on The Flipped Curriculum at RSCON 3. Thanks to all who attended. Here’s the “short” version, a rerecord. Please go to the webpage I mention, for videos, resources, readings on the Flipped Curriculum. Aplogizes for the low volume! But I”m killing two birds with one stone – also showing you a site I love and with lots of potential - Knovio.
I’ll post up shortly, my own thoughts about the sessions I attended. A valuable conference and let’s keep walking down this road of educational reform!
As this video suggests, we have to get out of the “assembly line” approach to education. It isn’t easy, we are addicted to quantifying “learning”. We are addicted to “cosmetic tinkering”. We are addicted to the “herding” of children into rooms. We are infact scared of the truth. (see John Taylor Gatto for a whole plethora of info. on the history of the assembly line education following the Prussian model)
Most of us teachers pretend we are “modern”. I don’t think we are at all. Mostly because the underlying principles which maintain the factory approach, still rule. Timetables – punch in, punch out. Memorization, recall. A focus on efficiencies, rules, order. Age grouping. Class lists. Command and control from curriculum bosses. I could go on and on ….. don’t let all the fancy “reform” ideas fool you. If you teach these days, you are most likely dancing to the tune of a grammaphone.
Yesterday, attended a delightful talk by Kieran Egan about his Learning In Depth initiative. He’s one of my heroes, for many reasons but mostly for his focus on what works in student development/learning. Students connecting with ideas in a passionate, literate, human way. Creating learners rather than creating “knowers”. Here’s one other teacher’s appeal.
Let me be frank and “take out the cork”. School is so irrelevant these days. Truly. That’s sad, I’m saddened that these places of so much potential – do so little to light a fire and better the world.
I joked during Kieran’s talk about “not letting schools get hold of this” (his project), “they’d ruin it”. And that is true. Why? That’s what we have to look at.
I see 3 fundamental problems with schooling. Unless these are fixed, we don’t stand a hope in hell of “reform”.
1. It’s compulsory. Meaning, there is no value given to work done outside the factory. The informal side (but I hate this term) has no relevance but truly that’s where things are happening in our world.
2. It’s one size fits all. Students are grouped by age when there are more important criteria to consider – learning style, personality, interests, skills, maturity level, motivation/goals for learning etc…. Further, there is little attention to which teachers get which students. A crucial thing in the whole mix. Please read Ira Socol for a full report on this “illness”.
3. Learning is commanded. We know this doesn’t work these days. Knowledge is too vast, we can’t control it any more. It’s about “how” not “what” these days. Yet we continue with this silly model of “the system” dictates, “you” regurgitate. No matter how you lipstick it – it still is this pitbull approach which we go by.
It would be a long discussion to address all the issues in these 3 points. Let me just pose a few questions to leave you thinking – a few questions about point #3 – the command approach.
Why don’t we have schools where the students decide what to learn?
Why can’t they learn the basics through things that they are “sparked by” instead of having to wait hours to ask a question or days until the curriculum hits upon something they are passionate about?
Why can’t we let go? Why can’t we start educating children to be adults instead of just “better children”?
Knowledge is now accessible to most in Western societies. The school no longer has a stranglehold on “the rabbit in the hat”. So why don’t we let students run free in the garden of knowing? Why do we keep the apples hidden away?
How can we bring back student interest in school? So they want to go to school for knowledge’s sake and not just sports or to socialize with their friends? What if Johnny went to school to learn what he wanted?
Ending with a few thoughts from “Kids Aren’t Cars”.
Public health intervention more than any other “science” has done more for humankind than anything else over the last 200 years. Forget industrialization, forget inventions – how we live in abundance and health is most definitely related to the things put into place by public health: sanitation, universal medical treatments like vaccination, pre/post natal care, medical screening, public safety measures and so much more…..
I find it curious that we don’t have “public education intervention” as a core policy and fundamental tenent of creating a society that is educated. There should be an office in every country/city with a budget and the power to effect these kind of “pan” educational changes.
We know the effects that poverty has on education. High drop out rates, delinquency, school violence, decreased motivation, poor results/grades etc….. Why not focus efforts away from better tests, more “X” in schools, fancy textbooks, better teachers (yes, I mean this), decreasing standards etc…. They are only dealing with the symptoms of a much wider problems – call it, “the poverty of stimulus” problem.
Children that are poor under perform for the following reasons.
1. Poor nutrition. This effects their day to day learning and more so, their development. Physical development of nerves, tissue, the whole physical system is retarded.
2. Health. They live with limited access to proper health monitoring. Children in many places live in poor environments where health is effected by unsanitary and impurities (toxins, like lead are more prevelent in poor environments).
3. Poor inputs. Families are more prone to disruption, violence, stress. This effects children. Their home environments lack books, internet access, critical conversation. Role models stressing the value of education are lacking and in total there is a poor stimulus. Children don’t learn because their environment is “intellectually” poor.
I think we need a new science in education – the science of Public Education Intervention. Let’s put our dollars into attacking poverty. If we do – we’ll get many more results than better tests and more assessments. Let’s stop such magic shell games.
Stephen Krashen bless his soul, has focused on this important issue. Watch this interview with him (he’s in marvellous form) and think about what if…. What if put huge resources into enriching the educational access and environments of all children. What if we put our efforts towards creating the conditions for proper learning rather than the “dog eat dog” world which now exists? Education should not be a way out of poverty. Education is about a lot more …….
Here’s a doc. that discusses the above – from a Canadian perspective.
I watched this part of 60 Minutes this evening. Whatever else, it stimulates the mind and gets one thinking about both A)Why some kids are not as “smart” and B)Who is responsible?
A) My own opinion is that there are very large social issues that must be tackled. I commend people, courageous people like Geoffrey Canada – those who pay it back and who fight each day and give their heart to education, without holding punches. Kudos.
However, the root of the problem must be addressed. The racism that still exists, the divide of rich/poor and how those born into poverty have little chance but military enlistment and “luck” to get out. It is a cultural problem and we have to solve it within our society and with dialogue, honest dialogue. IT IS NOT A SCHOOL PROBLEM.
B) One amazing sentence struck me during this video. Canada said, “We will no longer put the blame on the students”. Hallelluja! We need each teacher, each person involved in education to take up this call and take up this “Educational Hippocratic oath”. It won’t solve everything but it will start things. I’ve worked in too many schools and heard too often this tired, “I give up”, “I blame them” refrain…. No more…. Each student can be walked into the light and we need those who see the light. The rest – get out and collect a paycheck elsewhere…