A little bit from here, a little bit from there

Published by Lori Pickert on April 6, 2010 at 07:06 PM

From my post yesterday, veteran teacher Mr. Hollen Mott, who taught in rural one-room schools for 38 years and was interviewed in 1973:

This educational whirl runs in cycles and when the pendulum swings, it’ll swing too far to one side. If only we could pick out the good of both and put them together...

From Joanne’s post yesterday, veteran New York teacher Arthur Goldstein in 2010:

Almost once a year for the last 25 years, I’ve listened to some expert or other explain there is one way to teach, only one way to teach, and that anyone who wasn’t teaching that one way was simply not doing things correctly. The new way was far better than every other way, there was no doubt whatsoever, and anyone who questioned the validity of this method had no business pretending to be a teacher.

Why can’t we take a little bit from here, a little bit from there, find out what works for us, and then use it?

Why indeed?

We are moving away from allowing teachers to be individuals, working with kids in their own way. The standardization movement is standardizing not only the methods, but the human beings who work with children … and the children themselves.

It’s important to find your own way. Especially if we want children to find theirs.


Comment by QueenBee on April 6, 2010 at 10:10 PM

I needed this message today - thank you! =D

Comment by Alice on April 7, 2010 at 01:23 PM

I was commenting on how I think that grammar is tought excessively here in Italy, over Easter with my in-laws, and by the looks on their faces and their negative comments, I think they thought I was suggesting we revolutionise schools and throw out grammar - and were horrified at the thought. Personally, in my house, I would - but I think in schools, where you are talking about a group, where you can't gauge each childs' progress/reaction on a daily, one-to-one basis - then you can't afford to make huge radical changes.

One little change at a time - see what the teachers feel happy about, see what the kids are happy about - are they reading more? participating more in class? These are good indicators that change is working.

Teachers should be given more power to choose what is right for their classes, their students. Teachers should get more time to study, travel, teach in other countries. We should spend money on teachers, and listen to them.

Portfolio's are in at the moment, in Italy:)

Comment by Deirdre on April 26, 2010 at 08:31 PM

So happy to see this post today.

Reminds me of when I first started teaching. I would use my prep period to observe other teachers I admired, and I was lucky to have generous colleagues who let me ransack their files. I was searching for "the answer," the best way to teach, but I would see teachers with opposite styles both creating amazing classrooms. Michelle Zundel (who is now the principal there) gave me Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach. Reading his book was like having the lights turned on for the first time---there wasn't one secret method that would work. Bringing authenticy, my own style, and allowing students theirs, is what made the classroom work.

I came by today to see if you had written about Tools of the Mind, which is getting a lot of press due to the book Nuture Shock. Curious of your take on it. I'll do some more looking around in case I missed a post on it.

Comment by Florence on April 29, 2010 at 02:08 AM

The nice folks at the U of Illinois Reggio list just referred me to your blog here and I could fall down and weep I'm so happy to find it. I wish I had read your "find your own way" post several months ago. It describes my experience exactly.

The good thing about traipsing through all the dogma of the various approaches is that some nice things stick and eventually I guess we/I learn to trust our/my instincts and observations.

The perilous thing about the journey through the various yahoo lists is that there is SO much intolerance and rude communication that it leads some (me) to want to hide in one's turtle shell and never come out again.

And that seems a shame because we all have so much to learn from each other. And to find comfort and reassurance along the way -- like that I'm not the only one whose son could play (and often does play) with Legos ALL day long.

Thank you so much for this space you've made here.

Isn't it funny that so much of the pull to homeschooling is because whatever schooling choices we have available don't seem to meet our kids' needs and then we find ourselves faced with all these homeschooling voices who seem to replicate that same one-size-fits-all experience? I'm not sure funny is the word I'm looking for...

Comment by Andrea on May 5, 2010 at 03:21 AM

I just heard on NPR that in CO they are passing a bill that links a teachers salary with standardized test scores. sheesh seems like a step in the wrong direction to me.

Comment by Kimberly on May 9, 2010 at 01:15 AM

As a teacher in the US - I completely agree with your post. We are strangling our teachers and students with the standardization and the regulations - and then punishing the teachers/schools with a bad image and bad marks when they fail to meet an arbitrary standard. We are punishing our students by taking away their recess and art and replacing it with more drilling for the test. It is sad.

This will be my last year teaching because my husband and I cannot have our children in this environment anymore. Next year I will homeschool them so they can escape the testing environment. This year my 1st grade son's teacher was required to gauge how well he will do on the state-mandated standardized test he will take - the test isn't until the 3rd grade!

Comment by barbara on May 19, 2010 at 09:55 PM

"It’s important to find your own way. Especially if we want children to find theirs."
a great reminder!

Comment by Lori Pickert on June 27, 2010 at 06:40 PM

thank you, QB. :^)

thank you for your great comment, alice!

deirdre, thank you ;^) and YES YES YES -

"Bringing authenticy, my own style, and allowing students theirs, is what made the classroom work."

so isn't it awfully depressing how teachers aren't allowed to do that anymore (by and large)? all this scripted teaching and every classroom must be marching in lockstep with the classroom across the hall?

when i visit a school to talk about reggio-inspired learning and long-term projects, i often (very often) find that the most "traditional" teacher there is actually the one who is working closest to the way i am advocating. she may have an outwardly-appearing strict and traditional style, yet she has her classroom discipline and structured nailed down so that her kids have more time for extra activities and she is the one doing the "extra" work that turns flat learning into holistic learning.

i haven't read "tools of the mind" -- i will check it out! thank you!

florence, thank you so much! i wish you'd left your e-mail address so i could e-mail you. :^)

"The perilous thing about the journey through the various yahoo lists is that there is SO much intolerance and rude communication that it leads some (me) to want to hide in one's turtle shell and never come out again."

oh yes, yes, yes .. it is very discouraging. and paradoxically, the lists that preach total freedom for kids and letting them find their own way are the MOST rigid and dogmatic toward other adults! interesting .. is definitely not the word. ;^)

i hope to see you here again! :^) and thank you to the Reggio-L list for recommending this blog. ;^)

andrea, well .. mm .. it is certainly where we seem to be headed. the value is placed on standardized test scores, period. so i guess they are pushing that agenda forward. it has nothing to do with what i want for my own children, of course .. but i gather that doesn't matter to the powers that be! ;^)

hi, kimberly, and thank you. your comment jibes perfectly with deirdre's.

that first-grade gauging for third grade is NOT unusual! (as i am sure you know...) it's all about testing from K on, unfortunately. even from pre-K if it occurs in the public school system.

i'm sorry you had to leave teaching, but congratulations on homeschooling, and i hope it is a wonderful experience for your family!

thank you, barbara. ;^) xo

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