“When you have an established scientific emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it.”
I am a staunch supporter of equal access to high quality education for all students. That being said, as I work with schools around the United States, I am gravely concerned that we’ve departed from the notion of free and appropriate public education for all students by tinkering with the system to such an extent that it is now designed to provide advantages to a few while leaving many wanting. The reality is that all schools must consider themselves as market competitors, regardless of where their funding comes from.
We began moving away from the “public” in public education a long time ago. In fact, treating public schools like a business these days is largely a matter of fact in many places. Parents have pushed for school-choice policies that encourage shopping for public schools that they hope will give their children an advantage and for the expansion of charter schools that are run by private organizations with public funds. Large numbers of public schools have selective admissions policies that keep most kids out. And parents pay top dollar to buy into neighborhoods zoned to “good” public schools that can be as exclusive as private ones. The glaring reality is, whether we are talking about schools or other institutions, it seems as if we have forgotten what “public” really means …
Even when they fail, the guiding values of public institutions, of the public good, are equality and justice. The guiding value of the free market is profit …
Democracy works only if those who have the money or the power to opt out of public things choose instead to opt in for the common good. It’s called a social contract, and we’ve seen what happens in cities where the social contract is broken: White residents vote against tax hikes to fund schools where they don’t send their children, parks go untended and libraries shutter because affluent people feel no obligation to help pay for things they don’t need.
If there is hope for a renewal of our belief in public institutions and a common good, it may reside in the public schools. Nine of 10 children attend one, a rate of participation that few, if any, other public bodies can claim, and schools, as segregated as many are, remain one of the few institutions where Americans of different classes and races mix …
“Welcome to the U.S. teaching force, where the “I’m outta here” rate is an estimated 8 percent a year — twice that of high-performing countries like Finland or Singapore. And that 8 percent is a lot higher than other professions.
The teaching force is “a leaky bucket, losing hundreds of thousands of teachers each year — the majority of them before retirement age,” says a recent report from the Learning Policy Institute.
…overall, teachers and researchers say, educators want a bigger voice in school policies and plans. Many feel left out of key discussions.”
ECET2 = Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers. It was born out of a desire to provide a forum for exceptional teachers to learn from one another and to celebrate the teaching profession. The convening experience is designed to inform and inspire colleagues, develop attendees’ leadership potential, and hone their craft.
The ECET2NJPA 2016 theme is: The Strength is in the Room. The focus is on using the combined power of each invitee to collectively strengthen individual pedagogy, knowledge, relationships, and trust. Every person in each classroom working together makes the entire population better. When educators share openly, vulnerably, in a trusting environment, where the focus is on supporting the profession as a whole, students and their families prosper.
On a recent #FITTeaching trip to upstate Michigan, I was invited to go kayaking on the Rifle River. While I have been a passenger, I’ve never kayaked solo before. I was a little intimidated, but also intrigued, and my hosts reassured me that it would be a piece of cake. I was told there was one important thing to remember: don’t grab onto a branch because that will tip you over.
We began paddling down the river and it was truly spectacular. The sun was shimmering on the water and shining through the trees.
I relaxed into the journey, chatted with my hosts, and craned my neck to view the scenery. I became overconfident and failed to anticipate a branch leaning well into the river and the next thing I knew, it was coming up fast. In my panic, I did the one thing I wasn’t supposed to do: I grabbed the branch, tipped the kayak, and dumped myself into the river.
No injuries (except my pride) — and my hosts kindly retrieved my kayak (now well down the river) and helped me back in. As we continued, they gave me some pointers on how to properly hold the paddle, how to use it as a rudder, how to control my speed. I focused more on my job and managed to stay afloat, despite the occasional obstacle.
Here’s the thing: at a certain point in life we become comfortable with our skills and enjoy our expertise. We tend to concentrate on doing the things we’re good at. It can be easy to forget that there’s great value in trying something new.
For those of us who teach, it’s critical to remember that our students are novices. We ask them over and over again to experience discomfort and try new things. That’s really hard — and we need to be there to support them when they take the occasional fall into the river.
Will I try kayaking again? Absolutely. My hosts gave me an opportunity to experience successful failure. I dumped myself in the river and learned from my mistake. I look forward to another outing where I can try out what I’ve learned and develop a new set of skills.
“Students are not empty vessels,” he says. “Students are full of all kinds of knowledge, and they have explanations for everything.” From birth, human beings are working hard to figure out the world around us … cognitive science tells us that if you don’t understand the flaws in students’ reasoning, you’re not going to be able to dislodge their misconceptions and replace them with the correct concepts …
Teachers who find their kids’ ideas fascinating are just better teachers than teachers who find the subject matter fascinating.”
Read the interview here.
When I was a fledgling doctoral student, my mentor Ralph Ginsberg introduced me to the work of Seymour Papert. Reading The Children’s Machine profoundly changed my thinking about teaching and learning … his books continue to influence all of my work — whether I’m teaching children or adults, whether my focus is on teaching specific content, or coaching, or supporting groups to strategize. Constructionism always informs my purpose.
As I prepared my dissertation proposal defense years ago, I struggled with my literature review. My committee chair suggested I get in touch with Papert, since I relied so heavily on his work. I felt as though I was reaching out to an ancient greek philosopher and couldn’t believe he’d have time for a lowly Penn student. But Seymour replied quickly to my email, patiently answered my questions, and shared several articles (some of them unpublished) to assist me. He didn’t just accommodate my requests — he also encouraged me to push my thinking and consider aspects of instructional design that I hadn’t previously considered. As impressed as I am with his theories and passion about education, I will never forget that he took the time to support me (a complete stranger) in learning.
The world lost a great mind and a superb teacher yesterday. Let’s continue his work.
“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.”