Thursday, June 22, 2017

size matters.

Last Saturday in a discussion of public school, one of my students started to place blame for the problems in public education on teachers. There may indeed be teachers who are burned out. There may indeed be people teaching who are frustrated with the profession. There may indeed be teachers who were poorly trained. There may indeed be teachers who are less qualified. But the vast majority have good intentions and apply themselves diligently in circumstances that are far less than ideal. They are expected to overcome systemic obstacles that are insurmountable.

The two primary obstacles that children face in education are well documented. The first is that the number of years children face living in poverty is a primary determinant of their educational success. Help to lift children out of poverty and educational attainment will rise.

The second is that too many children in a class tie the teacher's hands. Class size matters. When my mother was a kindergarten teacher in the Omaha Public Schools, she would feel greatly relieved at the beginning of the year if her class was as small as 25. Her classes had been as large as thirty, and she knew the difference that 5 extra students could make. It was not just that an extra five students made more work for her. It was that the extra five students diminished her capacity as a teacher and diminished the amount of attention she could give each one and the families from which they came.

This is not rocket science, or the theory of relativity. This is something that's easy to understand if you've been given the blessings of both mind and heart. Some educational policy makers have not received those gifts.

Today one of my blog readers will be making a presentation in Indiana on the necessity of Career and Technical Education (CTE). He will use some photos from Clear Spring School to make his point. My point in that is that every child should receive it. They should each become makers in their own right. What we do with our hands informs the mind and determines its character. If we want our world to be a better place, we must empower our children (all of them) to create.

Make, fix, and create. Insure that others learn likewise.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

advocating for smaller class sizes

At the Eureka Springs School of the Arts (ESSA) today,  Woodworker Steven Palmer will begin a class with six students. I'll check in during the day to take photos and to deliver pipes for pipe clamps. Yesterday I got the dust collection system assembled just in time for the launch of today's class. For the balance of the week I'll prepare for my box making class at ESSA that begins Monday, and clean my own wood shop to prepare for an article for Woodcraft Magazine.

Fine tuning of the new studios will take months, as we need to develop storage for tools and supplies, and we will still have new equipment arriving over the coming month.

Anyone who thinks class size does not matter in education is a nincompoop. Divide the teacher's attention by one more student and the time he or she has available to others is diminished. Does it require a brain to know that? Can we not see that for a teacher to have 12-15 students in a class might be just enough?

At Marc Adams School of Woodworking I had 18 students and 3 assistants, making certain that each student got the attention required for safe work. Careful supervision and instruction are particularly required when students are doing real things as they (in a real world) should be expected to do. If you want to know more about class size, go to Class Size Matters, https://www.classsizematters.org/research-and-links/ where they've collected enough research to convince even the most reluctant of educational policy makers that class size matters (but experience observing the long history of educational policy makers suggests that will not be the case).
"Reducing class size is among an even smaller number of education reforms that have been shown to narrow the achievement gap. Its benefits are particularly pronounced for lower-income students and children of color, who experience two to three times the gains from smaller classes.

"Smaller classes have also been found to have a positive impact on school climate, student socio-emotional growth, safety and suspension rates, parent engagement, and teacher attrition, especially in schools with large numbers of disadvantaged children."
The new Federal legislation on education (ESSA) Every Student Succeeds Act, has the same nickname as our local school of the arts. Not to worry. The way federal education legislation comes and goes, it won't be around long enough to compete for the use of the name. In fact, for states to use Federal funding under the Every Student Succeeds Act to reduce class sizes, will require evidence of positive effect. The whole of Federal education policy is so closely tied to standardized testing one must wonder if its a plot. We had no child left behind. Then we had "the race for the top." Now we have Every Student Succeeds, and that will not be the end of federal foolishness.

In the meantime, teachers all know that class size matters. Parents should be brought up to speed on the notion, and schools should be required to stop cheaping out.  We should invest in education like our future depends on it. In actual fact, it does.

Make, fix, create and increase the likelihood that others love learning likewise.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

today...

An example of student creativity.
I will resume getting the new ESSA wood shop ready for classes today following my week at Marc Adams School of Woodworking. To get the dust collection set up in the machine room is my primary objective. I also need to make sleds and router tables, and begin arranging some of the new tools that have been ordered.

Getting all arranged in the classrooms will take time.

I have had students ask where else I'll be teaching this summer. My weeks at ESSA are June 26-30 and July 24-28. On August 7 through 11 I'll be teaching box making at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking in Manchester, Connecticut. For readers on the East Coast, there are still openings in the Connecticut Class. Join me there if you can. Each student will gain confidence in creativity and technical expertise.

Reports are that our first woodturning class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts was a great success. Our next scheduled class in the lathe studio will be a class by nationally known woodturner Judy Ditmer. Class enrollment is limited at 8 students guaranteeing the instructor's personal attention to student growth.

Monday, June 19, 2017

checkmate

Oh, if this was but a game, we could clear the board and carefully place the pieces and start over. But it is not. Educational policy makers and politicians have made such a mess of American education. Ideas and patterns have become deeply entrenched, and the politicians keep hammering away at it, most often from the wrong direction.

I am intrigued that as toddlers, some will begin walking as early as 10 months, and others as late as 13 and pediatricians tell their parents, not to worry. We know that to walk requires the development of two things, (not necessarily separate things) the brain and the body. Not all children develop at the same pace. But when it comes to reading, parents and teachers are programmed to panic if their children are not at their proposed "level" when they're in first grade. The stupidity of that is enormous and destructive. Not only do schools then have reading experts to apply special attention to those kids who do not measure up, some children learn to hate reading and form a resistance to it.

Do we think that children past the age of 5 no longer have variations in the rates at which their minds and bodies mature? Or do we know enough about the variables of human development to understand that developmental ranges widen rather than narrow and that academic success may be denied to many children simply because the pressures of their schooling denied them the gift of receiving the right stimulation at the right time? I suggest that we ease up on the early years (and all the years), allow children to play more in school, feature things for them to do and allow academic success to come in its own time. Let's allow for the late bloomers.

I watched 60 minutes last night and they featured a chess program in Franklin County, Mississippi in which the game of chess has been introduced to elementary school children as a means of assisting their academic success. The program is remarkable. Chess has transformed much more than school. Many of the children play the game on and out of school, and have been made aware of their intelligence. Many now want to go to college, an idea that would never have occurred to them in the past.

The point is that there are very many wonderful things to do in school other than fill out worksheets. The children in Franklin County, Mississippi are going home with chess, not homework, and because of their enthusiasm for it, get much more than homework worksheets could provide.

There are any number of ways that schooling can take advantage of real life to capture the child's attention and interest. Music is one, making useful beauty another. How about dance? It appears that chess is another. Are our children not worthy of the investment?

Make, fix, create and offer others the opportunity to love learning likewise.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

heading home

Today I'm driving home to Arkansas, following a great class on making Froebel's gifts. We made gifts 3 and 4 in addition to viewing a video trailer on the History of Kindergarten documentary film and going through my slide lecture on the subject. We also made miter boxes for the students to take home so they can make more.

The History of Kindergarten documentary extended trailer can be viewed through this link: https://vimeo.com/214080852/5b3a212cdf  and features students at the Clear Spring School doing woodworking.

I am tired after 6 days of class. During class I am busy moving at every moment from 8 AM to 6 PM to make sure my students needs are met. But that's what teachers do... Make certain each students needs and interests are met.

Educational policy makers on the other hand, seem to have other interests at heart. These are apparently, to keep kids off the streets, and efficiently managed at minimal expense regardless of the damage inflicted on the individual child. If a child can't sit still in a classroom of kids, use drugs. But that same child, given a hammer and saw will make useful beauty to serve family, community and self.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

by this time

By this time on Saturday afternoon, I'll be loading up to travel back to Arkansas following 6 days of class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. In the meantime, fidget spinners seem to have risen to the top of the charts and now sharply fallen as far as their  popularity is concerned. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/fidget-spinners-are-over/

They were claimed to be a cure for what ails you. Attention deficit disorder? Spin the thing and avoid the rising costs of ritalin. I suspect that if we had children in schools doing real things in service to family and community, we would need neither. Ritalin and other drugs are given to kids to get them to sit still for passive learning, but children as observed by Comenius in the 17th century were as follows:
"Boys ever delight in being occupied in something for the youthful blood does not allow them to be at rest. Now as this is very useful, it ought not to be restrained, but provision made that they may always have something to do. Let them be like ants, continually occupied in doing something, carrying, drawing, construction and transporting, provided always that whatever they do be done prudently. They ought to be assisted by showing them the forms of all things, even of playthings; for they cannot yet be occupied in real work, and we should play with them."
The great stupidity of education in the US is that educational policy makers refuse to accept the theories of the father of modern pedagogy, Comenius. The foundation of Comenius' thought was based on observation of real children and how they learn primarily through the senses. All of them.
"The ground of this business is, that sensual (sensuous) objects be rightly presented to the senses for fear that they not be received. I say, and say it again aloud, that this is the foundation of all the rest; because we can neither act nor speak wisely, unless we first rightly understand all the things which are to be done and whereof we have to speak. Now there is nothing in the understanding which was not before in the senses. And therefore to exercise the senses well about the right perceiving of the differences of things will be to lay the grounds for wisdom and all wise discourse, and all discreet actions in one's course of life, which, because it is commonly neglected in schools, and the things that are to be learned are offered to scholars without their being understood or being rightly presented to the senses, it cometh to pass that the work of teaching and learning goeth heavily onward and offereth little benefit."
I spent the day today talking about students about the potential of woodworking education to transform the education in this land. I thank the Marc Adams School of Woodworking and my students for allowing me to do so.

Make, fix, create, and help others to learn likewise.

Friday, June 16, 2017

day five, box making at MASW

This photo of my class shows evidence of learning ready for the journey home. These are not all the boxes made during the week, as two students were required to leave early and others chose to only put some of their boxes on display.

I am grateful for the experience of watching my students grow. It seems that my students set a record for the number of boxes made. They also came up with some interesting designs.

Tomorrow I have a class on making the gifts of early childhood. Then home to Arkansas!

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.