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Following Up…

June 1, 2010

I have just re-watched Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk from my previous post.  I am again, blown away by his words and his insight.  It renders me speechless, really.  It is hard for me to string the words together to let you know how powerful this idea is.  It is not like I haven’t heard this before.  Not at all as eloquent, but the whole “Industrial model of Education” was being discussed when I was an undergrad, and when I was in grad school.  The truth is astounding.  All we need is the conveyor belt.

When I was in the classroom nine years ago, we were one of the pilot sites for the graduation standards that were being implemented in the state of Minnesota.  I helped write some of the lessons for these standards.  We spent countless hours writing, experimenting, rewriting, studying and classifying student work and submitting lessons.  The reason it took so much time, was because these standards were being written for the learning process.  There was content to be “covered” but it was the process that was evaluated.  When a new Governor was voted into office, he threw it out.  The standards were rewritten and based on mastery of skills.  It went from looking at the child and the child’s growth to the content and what should be learned.  Many people were very happy, because they understand these standards.  You either know it or you don’t, right?  What they don’t understand was how limiting these standards are for kids.  It narrows the view of their learning considerably.  When I was listening to Sir Robinson, I couldn’t help but think that when our original work was thrown out, it was a step backwards, back into the industrial model of education.  Many people argued that it was just semantics, that the same content was mentioned in both sets of standards, which is absolutely true.  The difference is the lens that is used to evaluate the children.

The other thing that came to mind was Reading Recovery.  I loved teaching Reading Recovery.  Now I understand why.  The whole premise for the program is “follow the child.”  The entire curriculum is customized to each individual child.  Purely organic.  Each child is still taught how to read, and each child follows their own path to get there.  It totally fits.  And it fits with me as well.  One of the only reasons I am apprehensive about this new job this fall is the focus on “skills” in the curriculum.  In real life people are not given a paragraph and told to find the main idea of the paragraph and three supporting details.  But, that is how my whole department seems to teach these poor struggling readers.  I believe that I need to figure out how to meet them where they are and nudge them farther down the line to become good readers.  Every rung of the ladder counts, they just might all need them in different orders from each other.  Direct instruction and practice in finding the main idea might be perfect for a few students, but disastrous for others.  Authentic assignments seem to fit the bill in my perspective.   This TED talk inspired me and gave me permission to listen to myself more than I have been.  (Ironically, I got an email today that my reading text-book has arrived!  I can go pick it up tomorrow.)

I guess my conclusion is that there are things schools are doing that are customized to “create the conditions under which [students] will begin to flourish.”  The problem is that these programs are misunderstood and expensive, so they are discontinued.  I believe that there are tons of programs out there that take Sir Robinson’s advice:  Reggio Emilia preschools, for example.  If every child had the opportunity to attend Reggio Emilia preschool, our education system would have to change to fit the kids, because that is what Reggio Emilia does.  I would have loved to send my kids to a Reggio school, but it was way too expensive.  I was very bummed about that, but not surprised.  It seems like all of the really good stuff is really expensive and controversial.  “Follow your bliss” to many people sounds namby-pamby.  They need to watch this TED talk.

I love that Sir Robinson spoke of passion and how time changes when you are enthralled in your own passion.  What is your passion?

**On a side note, I saw that the author of  The Diamond in the Window posted that she is doing Nablopoma this month, and so I am going to follow her lead and try it too!

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4 Comments
  1. June 2, 2010 9:25 am

    How lovely that you’re going to blog every day! I love it when my bloggy friends do that!! :)

    • June 2, 2010 9:27 pm

      I am not sure it will be lovely. I will try it though. I have been feeling like my posts are few and far between, and I wanted to step it up. Why not go whole hog?

  2. June 3, 2010 3:48 am

    I have to confess, I don’t really have well-formed opinions on educational models yet. My own education until college was… well, weird… a mishmash of teachers and classes and do-it-myself propelled by my parents’ paranoia of the world at large. I have a natural love for learning, even for busy work, so I did well academically despite everything… but I’m the only one of my 8 siblings to do so, and I’ve always resolved that my own children would get the social experiences and competent teachers that I missed out on. Right now, Natalie is wrapping up her second year of public preschool/kindergarten. She hasn’t learned any traditional school subjects yet, but she gets plenty of opportunity to practice the things she loves: drawing, acting, playing pretend. She adores school and still thinks of learning as one of the facets of daily life. (When she asks how something is made, we look up an educational clip on YouTube. When I read stories to her, I point out letters and sounds. Her education is still organic, like you said, and passion-oriented, and I’m thrilled with that. For now. We’ll see what I end up thinking in ten years once exams and research papers have joined the program…

    • June 4, 2010 8:04 am

      Sounds like Natalie has a wonderful start to school! When I taught Kindergarten, apparently back in the dark ages, it was all about social skills and experimental learning. Kind of a play to learn model which is how we all learn best. When Sarah got into kindergarten it was mini-first-grade. Handwriting (!) and skill worksheets, but they still played and had snack and the benchmarks were higher than when I taught, but not unreasonable. Two years later, when Katie and Nicholas began Kindergarten (this year) it is even more academic. Expectations are much higher, and the teacher was told by the district that he could have playtime OR snack but not both. My kids are fine with this. However, there are children in our city who have not had the experiences that my children have had, and the expectations for those kids are just asking for them to feel like failures. Failures in their first experience in school. Kids walk in the door “behind.” It just breaks my heart.

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