Season’s Greetings for Real

December 7, 2010 at 10:09 PM Leave a comment

It’s the season for wishing each other peace and hope, with love.

But really, what does ‘love’ mean? How can we make it real in our working, daily lives in the class room?

In a school setting, I’d say that love can mean a mix of compassion and respect for our students. And of course some maternal love mixed in on a personal level – I hope I’d run back and fish them out of a burning building or crow-bar out the wounded in the more likely earthquake.  I’m interested in their lives and am genuinely happy to see them at the start of class. These days, I enjoy wishing them a great day individually, as they leave. Not everyone every day, but enough to keep my spirits up too.

But what about the policies and procedures of the class room? The curriculum and pacing? Assessment? Those reveal more of the teacher’s real heart.

Humane, respectful policies I think include do overs for mess-ups, so failing is an hors d’oeuvre to learning. Enough time to do projects properly. Enough time to do a lab and talk it over. Not rushing them. Enough time to think during tests to allow them to do their best.

Sending kids out to cool down instead of yelling at them in front of the class. Then chatting later about what happened. Taking time to listen to their side. Starting by assuming that they have a good reason for flicking another kid, not handing in homework, or doing a poor job on a project and being curious about what is going on.

Find out where they are coming from before accidentally patronizing them with stuff they already know. Giving them the maximum amount of choice and voice that I can stand without completely losing my mind – the essential motivator of project based learning.

As I’m writing this list, time comes out over and over. We are rushing our children and our selves. See “The Race to Nowhere” if you can. I don’t agree with it 100% but it really sums up the time pressure and how cruel rushing children is. That’s the bottom line. It’s unkind. Depth over breadth is in the end about treating our students with compassion and respect, as well as being much more effective as judged by international education comparisons like the PISA and TIMSS tests.

So yeah, I’m going to take on depth over breadth as a moral imperative on the district curriculum committee, as well as in my class room. I’m going to write letters to the governor about the new state board of education appointees – see California Science Teacher’s Association’s legislative blog by Christine Bertrand for background on the current mess that might be getting better.

21st Century Skills, Depth over Breadth, are various sexy ways to frame it up, but in the end, it’s about compassion and respect for our young learners, who will shortly inherit a warmer world filled with problems. It would be good for them to have those values too. Plus a healthy dose of flexible thinking, problem solving skills, optimism and ability to work well with others. That’s the hope.

Your thoughts? Where you see organizations making people behave better than usual – what’s their secret?

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Entry filed under: Assessment and grading, Class Management, Education Psychology. Tags: , .

When the going gets tough… A humbling inquiry experience…

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