Thursday, October 09, 2014


Our beautiful forest
I am a part-time teacher and attempt to blend my teaching with writing, and making. But the challenge of keeping abreast of the education field is enormous. Each day, I receive links to papers, published tips and policy reports that would be overwhelming if I took the time to read so much.

Some of what's  published is worth reading. This report on Kindergarten assessment puts the job of assessing back into the framework of teacher observation where it was before the standardized testing craze took over. Kindergarten-Readiness Tests Gain Ground. The tests mentioned are more like the observed benchmarks, that teachers were once taught and trusted to use for themselves.

Still, most teachers have little time for reading self-help materials and even if a teacher is at his or her profession full time, there's a disconcerting avalanche of information to process, and spending time at that diminishes the amount of time available to be fully engaged in relationships with real kids.

One of the rules of educational sloyd is to move from the concrete to the abstract, and most of the information put into the hopper for the betterment of teaching is generated by too many in academia who have too little time working with real kids. In other words, abstract. Most of this, is of course, based on the idea of class teaching. Throw a great deal of information out to students or to readers, and like spit wads, some of it might stick.  Some good and useful ideas, too. But the overwhelming amount of it is empty fluff that few can sort through.

In all things, individualized instruction is the only way the teacher can be assured of both the communication of information and the ability to process and apply that information once received.

In teaching the kids to use sketchup, I address it in three ways. I have printed directions for them to follow. Then, I demonstrate it on screen using a digital projector, and then to make certain each student gets it, I travel around the room as they are at work and give individualized instruction where needed. Every facet of this is difficult for some kids. Generally computers offer play. In this case, we are trying to do something that requires precision. Each step must be done exactly right. Today was challenging for some. They found errors that needed to be fixed and for some that meant starting over. But that is a good way to learn. Repetition can work wonders for the comprehension.

Still,  let's start with a couple basic assumptions. Teachers become teachers because they care about kids and want to be engaged in helping their growth. Not all teachers are as good as it as some others. Collaborative frameworks in which teachers are engaged one-on-one with skilled mentors, rather than being stuck in schools of education where learning is kept for the first three years in the abstract would be far better than the situation we have now. And reading hundreds of articles on the internet will not be the best course for helping teachers to become better at their work.

On the other hand, I believe that simple reorientation will help move education in the right direction. When we remember or discover that we learn best, most thoroughly and to greatest lasting effect when we learn hands-on, and discover too, that any other means is less efficient and wasteful of time and human lives, we would make a significant change in how we expect kids to learn and how to design schools.

We might even restore wood shops to schools,  and music and art to the lives of children.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. The level of reading and "continuing education" preparation that different professions require was brought home to me last time I went to see my doctor. Teachers have it a bit easier by comparison.