“We make the road by walking”, part deux

Recently, Dr. George Reese (MTSE, CTRL-Shift, etc) emailed the CTRL-Shift list about a video he had watched of the “Good Morning Mission Hill” school model (from Founder Deborah Meier). I asked about borrowing it, so he brought it to the Blind Pig for the CTRL-Shift gathering tonight. I took it home and watched it straight away.

Now I am agitated inside because there is so much that I love about this school model that I dearly want to see in my local schools, but I don’t know how to make that a reality.

There are some major things that hit me hard.

First and foremost, it comes down to allowing humans to be human, allow the natural to be natural. And fundamentally to grow relationships. In fact, there was a line that a teacher used that almost exactly echoes the way Lisa Delpitt ends her “Other Peoples’ Children” book – “to teach you, I must know you”. Relationships are hard things, and our modern schools do not prioritize relationships. Yet, in my opinion, learning how to “do” relationships is probably the single most important factor in a successful society. I would ask Martin if he agrees, since we share many aspects in our world view. It seems to me that humans, and many other living creatures, are naturally hardwired for relationships.

Second, the school takes integration to a whole new level. It so much reminded me of Paulo Freire and Myles Horton (in fact, when I write my blog post about this, I will steal the title of their book, “We make the road by walking”) and their Highlander Folk School. So while we use new words like “project-based learning”, “collaborative spaces”, “student-directed outcomes”, really this just repackages older ideas that have older names (and so says Rebecca Patterson, who lived through something similar). For all I know, Freire and Horton recycled ideas that predated even them. They not only integrated, very successfully, people who are “different” (differently-abled or otherwise), but they integrated assessment (I absolutely love how they rendered assessment as “to sit next to”) and life-skills right into the daily flow of class time.

Third; while I do not yet share Dr. Reese’s conviction that PARCC writers set out to destory public education (*grin*), I would consent that standardized testing has had that end result. It seems that standardized testing killed what was great about Good Morning Mission Hill. But why? At the Blind Pig today we talked about what an awesome school Leal was. Is it merely the nature of these things to ebb and flow, to wax and wane like a moon visiting each chapter of its interminable cycle?

 

Conclusion

During a brief chat with Todd Lash and Minsoo Park at Kenwood today, I was commenting about how we got to where we are, and Minsoo wisely, succintly said “money”. Big money drives the federal mandates, while at the same time sucking away the very money needed to support those mandates. At the same time, “little money” is spent frivolously, without accountability – our tax dollars hard at work.

Last night I read the “young reader’s edition” of “I am Malala“; this was a totally fascinating, if shortened, account of a woman with tremendous bravery, amazing courage and wise beyond her years. She literally put her life on the line, multiple times, to pursue that which is good. Is this not what we all should be doing?

We will not be judged by what we say but by what we do. The path our feet make will show where we have been and how far we traveled.


I titled this post “part deux” because I have written about Freire and Horton’s book before.

Amazing time at Kenwood today

kenwood_stem_topics

I have been in touch with Kenwood Assistant Principal Jessica Pitcher for quite some time about tech stuff in schools, even before her migration over to Kenwood. Since joining Kenwood, we have talked about how Kenwood is doing a full-fledged pilot of eToys with signicant help from the University of Illinois (MTSE and GSLIS). As mentioned several times on this blog, I have been helping out with a smaller-scale eToys excursion at Carrie Busey; ever since hearing about it, I have been itching to get into Kenwood to see how they are “doing” eToys.

 

 

Today I had quite an opportunity. Kenwood had a special event going on, and part of the event was to cram as much STEM stuff with eToys/Scratch as possible. I took some time off work (thanks boss!) and dove in.

(To the left is a partial schedule listing of concepts covered at Kenwood on April 16th)

 

First off, one of my favorite things about walking into any Unit 4 school is how open the doors are. Literally, almost every classroom has the door open. I was greeted at the front door and after signing in, I marched down to my first pick. It happened to be a split 4th/5th grade class, and they were working on creating an advertisement. The teacher left it up to the students what they wanted to sell; they had to come up with something and then attempt to make it flashy and likable. I talked briefly with the teacher and was introduced to a very common theme for the rest of the day; teachers are seeing themselves as facilitators. As door-openers. Not so much the safari guide, but perhaps the travel agent.

 

After that, I had the honor of meeting and speaking with the Kenwood librarian, Todd Lash. As another staff member said, Todd is the Energizer Bunny who doesn’t know when to stop. 🙂 He is full of charisma and passion for teaching kids about technology. He was in-between things, so I only had about 30 seconds of his time – more on him later.

 

I hit up a class that was using eToys to animate a seedling as it grew into a plant. The children had already Read the rest of this entry »

Curriculum, pedagogy and Common Core Standards

Like Poseidon’s Trident, I have a feeling that education is coming to a point. Sometimes it feels like Government wants to wield this thing to exert their will, and then I read about Michelle Rhee of StudentsFirst and her attempt to bridge the gap between Big Brother and the taxpayers. People (smart, dumb and everyone in between) have spouted out opinions, facts (some with apostrophes) and dogma, for millenia. And we still have issues. Obviosly, we haven’t quite figured it out yet.

Figured out what? Like Douglas Adams writes in his “Hitchhiker” trilogy of five books, we do not even know what the question is. But we know the answer, darnit! 🙂

First I’ll start with Common Core Standards. Then I’ll talk a little about a pilot curriculum being introduced in our high schools. And then we will wrap up quickly with Read the rest of this entry »

systemstate dump (aka, flushing out my head)

Over the past week or so, I have been reading and searching (is that called researching?). I am a bit overwhelmed and so for the sake of my own sanity, I am going to dump it all right here in a post. I apologize up front if this is in a format that is hard to consume.

Warning: Clicking “read more” may give you a link-heavy wall-of-text. Read the rest of this entry »

Wednesday at Houlihans: update

So first off, no “official” gathering next week (Dec 21). But don’t let that stop you from reinforcing the habit of dropping by at 11:30 on a whim. 🙂

This week (Dec 14th), we continued to have some excellent discussion. Again, I fear I am not going to do justice to all that was said, so I am hoping (again) that others pipe up and share their thoughts. We had with us a Champaign Council rep, an EEE Committee member, a Prairie Fields Homeowners’ Association BOD rep, myself and Chuck Jackson. Looking back at that list, I am realizing that all those folks wear multiple hats as well.

Wanna hear what we talked about?  Read the rest of this entry »

Pedagogy

Pedagogy (play /ˈpɛdəɡɒi/ or /ˈpɛdəɡi/[1][2]) is the study of being a teacher or the process of teaching. The term generally refers to strategies of instruction, or a style of instruction.[3]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedagogy

After reading about NoChildHeldBack, I started browsing the Huffington Post, or  HuffPost. Their Education section has a bevy of articles – wow! Several caught my eye, and one that stood out (for me) was an article about “Independent Learning” based on an example from Mexico.

Reading through the article calls to mind some kind of enlightened, futuristic, sci-fi learning atmosphere, you know, with sterile white walls, everyone wearing robes, an austere, almost holy silence except for a few sharing ideas. From my own experience teaching at Parkland, I know how engaging the students to teach each other has profound and amazing affects. When I am in the middle of a “learning environment” and am subjected to hour upon hour of a blathering monologue, my “learning” peaks somewhere in the first 10 minutes and my brain turns to mush after that. Is it possible, or even practical, to pursue this kind of “instructional strategy”? When I hear teachers in the area that have gone outside the box, I hear some amazing stories. Granted, there are amazing stories even inside the box. 🙂 I cannot discount that. I guess a big part of me just really wants to escape the trap of “one-size-fits-all”.

This also calls to mind the “Pedagogy of Oppression”, from Brazillian author/educator Paulo Freire, who touches on this very topic. Coincidence? What in the world are they doing south of the US?!? 🙂 Again, I confess that I am biased because I have a very strong dislike for the way we “teach” around here (don’t ask me about college). I recognize that there are different styles of learning, and some people actually do a pretty good job of transferring knowledge via the old standby lecture format. But what about those of us who do not?