Monday, March 30, 2015

lively minds...

Yesterday, one day late, I referenced Comenius' 423rd birthday. There was no party for him in American education where we seem to have neglected to watch children at work. Lilian G. Katz, like Comenius, recognizes that children have "lively minds", and that there is a difference between keeping them intellectually challenged, and academically challenged, with the former being more important to their lifelong learning than the latter. Her paper "STEM in the early years," spells it out.

When you look in on an American classroom and observe children squirming in their desks, it's not because they are not prepared to learn. They are each itching for that. But you will often find that their interests fall out of the scope of studies, that have either bored them or passed beyond their comprehension. The problem stems from the idea of classroom learning. And because children are itching to learn by getting up from their seats, all kinds of classroom management strategies must be brought into play, and teachers spend more time wrangling children's attention than teaching. It's not a good thing for children, and certainly not good for teachers either. As described by Lilian Katz:
...academic instruction puts children in a passive and receptive role, rather than in an active and interactive one. On the other hand, in investigations or projects, the children are active and take responsibility and initiative in determining the research questions and how to collect the relevant data, how to represent and to report it, and so forth.
Thus we can begin to see that Otto Salomon was right in his assessment of things, that classroom studies paled in comparison to individualized instruction. But we know also that the absolute singularity of individualized instruction does not meet the needs of children either. They rapidly develop as social beings. For a child to sit all day under the controlling situation of one on one instruction would lead to rebellion. So, the best way to both instruct effectively, and to manage a classroom is to move between three forms of engagement.

My daughter demonstrated this when we were visiting her in New York. She had a classroom session with her standing at the board, listening to her students' responses to a question, then she went seamlessly into group work in which the students worked in a social and collaborative manner. While they were at work, she was able to travel around the room giving individualized attention and encouragement as was required. Teaching is truly an art that must be practiced and which requires as much sensitivity as any other art form.

In Annapolis Maryland, members of the Annapolis Woodworker's Guild have been busy milling hardwood lumber to make boxes, and I will arrive there on Thursday April 9 for three days of box making classes. Today I'll assemble a box of show and tell boxes and supplies to ship off via UPS so that they will be there upon my arrival. I am also working on boxes for Appalachian Spring in Washington, DC.

Make, fix and create...

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