“Adults have not understood children and they are, as a consequence, in continual conflict with them…The adult must find the unknown error in himself that prevents him from seeing the child as he is… All who speak out on behalf of children should make this accusation against adults and they should do so constantly and without exception.”
- Maria Montessori: The Secret of Childhood
Adults, take note: “J’accuse!!!” The epidemic of edu-babble that is infecting our schools and our thinking, deflating teacher’s passion and making children miserable, needs some attention. And so these steps to inoculate good-hearted teachers and administrators, to keep us away from the Kool-Aid and steer us toward the natural spring water fresh from the stream in our recyclable bottles. I gave some examples in yesterday’s post, but the “wise and seasoned teacher,” tongue firmly in cheek, gave me some feedback after reading the post that reveals what we’re both talking about.
“In reading this article, I'm not sure that you demonstrated knowledge of effective teaching strategies aligned with internationally recognized educational technology standards.
And ask yourself, did you really locate and apply information about students' current academic status, content-and standards-related learning needs and goal, assessment data language proficiency status and cultural background for both short term and long-term instructional planning purposes? I think not!”
People, people, people! Can we just return to simple talk, the kind your grandmother used? Jargon and dogma are the ecologically destructive dams that block thought, stop the flow of the live flowing stream of our intelligence and releases water in measured quantities at scheduled times according to some bureaucrat sitting in some office.
But let me say it yet more plainly. Even if there is a good idea behind a jargoned term, it dies in captivity. Rather than throw back more darts of sophisticated educational philosophy and pedagogy (and I have a big collection), I want to switch the focus to the simplest and most important questions to ask before making busy, overworked, underpaid, underappreciated, undervalued teachers jump through these hoops. It’s as simple as this:
1) Does this required (or even requested) activity increase or decrease the teacher’s passion for teaching? Allow them to teach in the style of their own character and genius and narrow them down to a scripted robot? Make them yet more happy or enthusiastic about their choice of career or less so? If the answer is no to the first clause of each phrase (and having talked to hundreds of teachers, I can guarantee you that it is), then it’s time to stop.
2) Do the prescriptive ways of teaching and evaluating teaching serve the child as he or she actually is? Does it open further their innated curiosity, sense of wonder, love of exploring, need to play their way to understanding? If not, on behalf of Maria Montessori, “J’accuse!!!”
I seem to be portraying the teacher as a passionate, dedicated, intelligent and imaginative person who equally loves his or her craft, the teaching of the craft and the children she or he teaches. Truth be told, most of the teachers I know and meet are at least aspiring to that ideal, if not embodying it fully. But I know from the teachers I had and from the stories of teachers from around the country that this simply is not the universal case. And perhaps it was in some fear of teachers not measuring up that all these educational methods and enforcement of such developed. But is it effective? Are teachers made better by such micro-managed techniques? I think not. So between letting teachers wholly alone with no external accountability and running them through the maze of top-down management, there is another way that might make teachers and children happier and both the learning and teaching more effective. Not a one-size-fits-all- program that guarantees results, but a specific, satisfying, individually-suited way of mentorship and self-mentorship.
Read on for Part III.