Saturday, February 29, 2020

Seymour Sarason

Seymour Sarason compared teaching to a performance art. In the classroom, the teacher stands in front of class and engages the students attention, or at least makes the attempt to do so. But unlike a musician, or a theatrical performer, the teacher gets little or no direction to improve performances, and no rehearsal time.

He or she is judged from outside the classroom based on whether or not order is maintained. The teacher's power over his or her students is the basis upon which administrators and fellow teaching staff judge the teacher's effectiveness, and yet when it comes to kids, intellectual engagement is more often expressed by an enthusiasm that would be adjudged intolerable in many schools. So one can see that administrators and policy makers would like to find some way to measure teacher performance without having to put directors and stage managers in every class.

Seymour Sarason had maintained a rather dark but realistic view that every attempt at reform of public education would fail and so far he's been proven 100% right.

The charter school movement takes a spitwad approach. Throw a bunch of new ideas (that are really old ideas) in the form of charter schools (most of which follow a single not so new formula and most of which are intended to turn a profit) against a wall, and see which sticks best. Sarason, on the other hand, suggests that the secret to effective schools may have more to do with how we train our teachers for collaboration within and between classes, training them to draw forth from students their deepest engagement.

His thoughts are a deep well, and should be read by all who might take an interest in the subject of school reform. With between 40 books and 60 articles, getting to know Sarason would be a monumental task, but for the book I'm reading, the Skeptical Visionary, edited by Robert L. Fried

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the likelihood of learning likewise.

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