What is the Shape of My World?

I believe that I can save the world, one child at a time.  I believe that while I may not make an impression on the vast artwork that is our world, I can clean up my little corner.  I believe that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and that each step after that is just as important.  I believe that children learn what they live.  I believe.

The Framework of SEL

Did you know that there are state SEL standards?  Yep, they are right here:  http://www.isbe.net/ils/social_emotional/standards.htm

Until I took this job (Student Engagement Specialist) this year I did not know they existed. Who would have thought that we would start looking at our students and trying to understand their background as part of our teaching process?  And that we would actually come to understand that a student’s social emotional status would directly affect their ability to learn?

Case in point:  I have a grade level this year that is truly a mess.  Half of the grade is failing; that is not an exaggeration.  Two of the students have had to be hospitalized,  the gossip mill is horrendous, fights keep breaking out and the teacher’s are at wits end.  This tribe, this community needs help coming together and learning to respect each other.

We are currently working at implementing 2nd Step at our school.  It is our first year doing so and it is not going to give immediate results. I am also working as the CHAMPS coach to work on positive classroom management.  All my work is motivated by SEL and the truth that children learn what they live.  I believe that if my students can be taught empathy and skills to navigate life they will be successful in school and life.

Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog’s Tails

Sugar and spice and everything nice…

Clearly, the person that wrote that rhyme was not a teacher, or even someone that came within five feet of a child.  I would like to point out gently that our children are born sociopaths.  I am not saying that it is a bad thing.  The human race is hard-wired that way and without this we as race could not have survived.  For more information on this, there is a fascinating article printed in Time Magazine last year, “The Evolution of a NarcissistJeffrey Kluger @jeffreykluger Aug. 21, 2014″.   The article speaks about how we must teach empathy to children because they are not born with it.

Which comes round to my point (in a rather convoluted way).  Children learn what they live.  In order to teach a child you have to know that child, because you need to know why the children are manifesting their behaviors.  Why is little Tommy suddenly becoming more aggressive?  Do you believe it is just because he is bad or could it possibly be because the family unit has been broken up and he is mad and this is the only way he knows how tell people?  Jenny is mouthing off to all the adults and stopped eating.  Johnny is displaying highly sexualized behaviors.  Are these kids the bad seeds?  Not really, when you start to investigate the behaviors and the reasons behind them you discover that a large portion of your students are suffering from abuse at the hands of the people that should be treating them with love and respect.

Understanding my students stories informs a large part of my practice.  I have learned that as a teacher, it is probably more important for me to listen than to talk.  I know that to raising my voice to these students could be interpreted as a precursor to abuse because that is what they know.  I do not always accomplish complete patience and love when I work with my students but I try.  Kids know when you don’t like them, you know?

The more time I spend with children, the more I think our model of teaching is wrong.  I do not think a teacher should have any more then ten students and six is probably the optimum number, because then the teacher could truly know the student and  they could know how to teach them to the best advantage.

Snake Eyes!

High-stakes testing means that for the most part the teachers will teach to the test.  As teachers we need to stop this practice.  Students who are taught to the test have a very shallow pool of learning.  If we do this, then our role changes from that of a teacher to just a container of information.  If we’re just passing out information with no pedagogy involved we might just as well let the corporations deliver their box ‘o knowledge on the front steps of the school and go home.

Even worse, these adults who should know better, cheat.  If you put someone’s job, their reputation, their pride on the line, it’s not just cream that rises to the top.  Case after case has come to light about adults who faked tests results just to make sure that their school “won”.  In truth, because they cheated, no one one at all won and the students that were marginalized fell further behind.  To read one such horror story, check out this link here:  http://lewisvilletexan.com/xoops/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2970

High stakes testing has become a high stakes contest, sort of our reality show “Hunger Games”, something we need to win at any price without reflection on what the costs of our actions will be.

What we hold within

If you bring together a group of people and hold them in a setting, you will develop a tribe.  Each tribe that you create this way develops its own sets of rules, beliefs and worship system.

The tribes that inhabit our public schools believe that learning can be shared, that it is what gives us freedom and that we must pass our knowledge on to the children.

Stop the Insanity!

I am not quite sure how we stop the stories told by the dominant powers; I only know that we must.  We cannot afford to lose our public schools.  We cannot allow the privatization of our schools.  If the magnet and charter schools are all that we have, what happens to those children that do not make it in to those schools?  Are we culling them?  Do they just become the servant class?  Sort of like an American version of Downton Abbey?

John Dewey has been a hero of mine since I started college and first read some of his writings.  His belief in the power of the public school and the need for quality education for everyone has been inspirational to me.  I have taken his words to heart and try to incorporate them into my teaching.

Can we look at Finland’s model?    Can we talk about that teaching model and spread the word that teaching is an honor.  That it is a hard job, but a job worth doing well.  Could we teach new teachers how to manage their classrooms so they could actually teach the kids?  Could we have administrators that were teachers instead of CEO’s so that they understand what we were talking about?

I think these things might help…