Thursday, May 24, 2012

celebration of the child...

Today is the last day of the school year at Clear Spring School and the night of high School graduation. We are proud of our students, of our graduates, and of our school.

Yesterday, Mitt Romney went on the offensive against teacher's unions as being the primary cause of educational failure in the US. He claimed that we have a 3rd world educational system, and that teachers and most particularly teachers unions are to blame. You can make up all kinds of stuff and get people to believe you. But for those actually interested in education and making things better for our kinds instead of just cheaping out on education in the first place, there are some facts in play beyond low performance by American students in the international PISA tests.

Poverty has been determined the primary factor in whether or not children are successful in school. We know that children in poverty can still do well. But can teachers do it all? And should they be blamed when the problems in American schooling are so immense, and teachers themselves have been blamed, marginalized and disparaged in the media and used as a political football? Shame on Mitt for pandering to such anti-intelligent destructive nonsense.

I have been reading Leonard and Gertrude by Pestalozzi and have gotten to the part in which the local land owner has witnessed Gertrude's teaching of her own children and has decided to build a school based on her methods. In this you can see that the novel is inspired by Pestalozzi's own life, in his observations of the loving methodology used by his own widowed mother in providing the spark for learning, even in the midst of poverty.
Although Gertrude thus exerted herself to develop very early the manual dexterity of her children, she was in no haste for them to learn to read and write. But she took pains to teach them early how to speak; for, as she said, "of what use is it for a person to be able to read and write, if he cannot speak?-- since reading and writing are only an artificial sort of speech." To this end she used to make the children pronounce syllables after her in regular succession, taking them from an old A-B-C book she had. This exercise in correct and distinct articulation was, however, only a subordinate object in her whole scheme of education, which embraced a true comprehension of life itself. Yet she never adopted the tone of instructor toward her children; she did not say to the; "Child, this is your head, your nose, your hand, your finger;" or: "Where is your eye, your ear?-- but instead, she would say;"Come here child, I will wash your little hands," "I will comb your hair," or: "I will cut your finger-nails." Her verbal instruction seemed to vanish in the spirit of her real activity, in which it always had its source. The result of her system was that each child was skilful, intelligent and active to the full extent that its age and development allowed.

The instruction she gave them in the rudiments of arithmetic was intimately connected with the realities of life. She taught them to count the number of steps from one end of the room to the other, and two of the rows of five panes each, in one of the windows, gave her the opportunity to unfold the decimal relations of numbers. She also made them count their threads while spinning, and the number of turns on the reel, when they wound the yarn int skeins. Above all, in very occupation of life she taught them an accurate and intelligent observation of common objects and the forces of nature.

All that Gertrude's children knew, they knew so thoroughly that they were able to teach it to the younger ones; and this they often begged permission to do...
One of the things one learns from a reading of Leonard and Gertrude was the use of crafts as a tool in the education process. Gertrude used spinning and weaving as a means to enhance her children's understanding of the world and develop character.

As seen in the photo above, yesterday was our last day of wood shop, with the first, second and third grade students finishing their kangaroos and making tops. The children in wood shop are nearly never ready to finish their lessons. They are sorry to see the school year end, and have told me they would like wood shop lessons to continue all summer.

The following TED talk by multimillionaire Seattle venture capitalist, Nick Hanauer, which TED produced but has refused to promote on their website is shown below:

Make, fix and create...

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