At the end of the term, most of my students agree that our time together was well spent, and it was probably one of the best classes they have had. Hence, I would like to share my secret on student engagement:
By early October the children have been taught four different secular mindfulness techniques. They have been encouraged to choose one technique that supports them in focusing their mind and calming their bodies. This mindful snapshot is about one of the first practices I teach each class.
I'm noticing more of the ways that we constantly ask kids to have an opinion, to develop and defend a view -- even if they know next to nothing about the issue at hand. It's as if we as a culture believe that the mere having of an opinion is worthwhile in and of itself.
This march was as much about protecting schools that provide low-income children a chance they wouldn't otherwise have, as it is about protecting a new way of supporting teachers to make them masters at their craft.
Living abroad has convinced me that between our advantages in access to education, teaching and learning methods, and national conversation around education, cries that the U.S. is falling behind are overblown.
Technology has become an equalizer in a variety of situations, from making smaller nations more of a threat to traditional world powers to making students from smaller colleges and universities equally qualified for careers as their counterparts from the Ivy League.
We've rendered the phrase "the art and science of" almost meaningless by using it to describe nearly any endeavor. But "art and science" is a nuanced way to think about the unique properties of teaching, one of the most important endeavors in any society.
If we don't want education to be dressed in a culture of defensiveness and excuses, then we must take them away by welcoming such classroom foibles as authentic opportunities to flourish, not as shortcomings to bemoan.
The idea of "learning by doing" stretches back to education legends Maria Montessori and John Dewey, both of whom felt teachers should act more as guides to students' independent discoveries than as founts of information.
Just like I encourage my sons to "read the book" before they see a movie, I encourage students to experience concepts through real-life exercises before they play with technical simulations. Tie knots. Fold origami. Play with Legos.
Nowadays, we are seeing the topic of genocide being covered even in the elementary grades and there is no consensus on when it should be introduced or taught. In my opinion, the topic of genocide should not be discussed prior to grade six.
I spotlighted Jennifer Isbell, a teacher from Central Coast New Tech High, who was using her summer to collaborate as she prepared to be a founding teacher at this new public high school, which opened its doors last week.
Folks often said to me, "Oh, you're a teacher -- that's so great! You must love it! It must be so much FUN!" and I would look at them, force a smile, and decide if this person was worth an explanation on what teaching is really like.
The problem seems evident in the language. We 'adopt' programs. We 'purchase' materials. We 'integrate' technology. We even 'train' teachers. For all of the changing programs referenced, how many teachers actually changed their practice?