Friday, October 9, 2009

What would @AlfieKohn say?

I have recently rediscovered Alfie Kohn. He is still my hero! I have been reading some of his articles and a thought struck me.

How much longer are we going to continue to do things to students and not with them. (This probably struck me because Mr. Kohn says it a lot)

Case in point: Reading! Evidence absolutely supports the practice of having students read 20 minutes a day. What happens when this becomes a club used to beat the students? Because this 20 minutes a day is so important in many of today's classrooms it becomes the bulk or sometimes the entire measure of the students reading grade. Therefore a student who is struggling to report his or her reading because of organizational difficulties gets beaten down. Not because he or she can't or doesn't read, but because he or she is to busy reading to bother writing it down.

How much of our jobs as educators is to enforce a factory worker model of responsibility? How much of what we do in our day should be to instill in children the need to: be on time, turn in your work, be quiet, don't disrupt? I have written about this before: the fact that our traditional schools instill values that aren't the qualities necessary for leadership.

I wonder too how much of our job as educators is to be the guardians of civilization. The educational system is designed and sturctured to hold fast to the values of a world that is rapidly changing, but I wonder if we do that too often by holding to the practices of a world that has largely disapeared?

When I was in the classroom it took me 10 years to really learn that what mattered most was not instilling in students the values that I held so dear. Not to force them to comply or conform to what I thought was most important, but rather to help them learn to value what mattered most to them . I am not sure I ever quite got it. But, I do know that the longer I taught the more I strove to give kids multiple ways to demonstrate competency. Multiple modes to learn and demonstrate learning. The more I valued the uniqueness and distinctness of each student. We have to teach classes because it seems to just work that way, but it is still each student that learns. We have to value that student. To do that we have to measure more than: "Did little Susie write down that she read 20 minutes last night"

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