Clear and Unclear Windows

EDU 6120 Clear and Unclear Windows

During, our 3rd session of, Foundations: American Education Past and Present Dr. Scheuerman introduced us to the 4 cardinal Greek values that represent virtuous living: Courage, Wisdom, Moderation and Justice.  Dr. Scheuerman then illustrated these qualities as triangle of virtues to strive for through our preferred endorsement areas to ultimately find a balance in the search for justice.  Too much of one, say moderation, could make you glutton-ness, too little, empty.  The idea is to find balance where all parts of the virtues are equally represented and incorporated to ensure the fourth virtue of justice.  Dr. Scheuerman then went on to pose the question, “What is clear about making this work and what is unclear about this with regard to meaningful instructional environments?” These big questions brought forth much contemplation for me this week.

What is clear to me is that in order to have a balanced curriculum and classroom I must live a balanced life.  If I need to teach the standards brought forth by the state but want to teach with a focus on creativity through music and drama then I must find a way to strike a balance.  As a teacher I must find a way to incorporate the fundamentals with experiences, to teach, say, math skills through music appreciation.  This is all a practice of living Viva Activa. Viva Activa is a life of action.  Dr. Scheuerman said, “Progressive change comes when you create Viva Activa experiences in your class.”  I explored this concept last week when reading about Paidea.  To have a circular curriculum that builds skills, incorporates the community, promotes group action and interaction, develops critical thinking skills and teaches the standards required by the state is no small feat.  It seems to me that this can only be accomplished through an active life.  Creating experiences in the classroom that get kids moving, thinking, building ideas and skills, involving the community through service and outreach, introducing new concepts and ideas, creating personal interests, making decisions both individually and as a democratic group to promote general welfare, is how a class can see progressive change.

The example  I suggest is one that my daughter is doing in her 3rd grade class.  The students are making a calendar to raise funds for our sister island of Ometepe, Nicaragua.   In order to accomplish this children have learned about Ometepe through an association, BOSIA, (Bainbridge Ometepe Sister Island Association) and have hosted a guest presentation and Q&A session in the classroom (geography, critical thinking skills). The students have picked a theme, farming (group decision making, compromise) and they have visited local farms to understand what it takes to be a farmer and how to farm (critical thinking, community involvement). The students then have been partnered up to create the calendar illustrations and weekly date grids for each month (group and individual decision making and creative personal interests, math skills, reading skills, writing skills).  The entire class will engage in a field-trip to the printers to see how the calendar is created from start to finish (group and community interaction and introducing new concepts/ideas).  Students will sell these calendars to the community (understanding skills/concepts, math skills, personal performance skills, group promotion, verbal presentation skills). Lastly, the entire class will decide  where the funds  will be applied in Ometepe through classroom discussion and consensus (democratic processes).  I understand the amount of work that goes into this process, and have been directly involved in many facets of the operation I think that there is no better way to teach than through experiences.

What I am unclear about when it comes to these types of real world project based experiences are the technical details, I hope they will clear up with time and experience and support of mentors.  For example: How do you get funding?  We discussed in class, briefly, underwriting from community businesses, but what do you do if this is not viable option?  I am curious about, if faced with an unsupportive administration, how you find a way to develop projects such as these?  What are the limitations on project –based curriculum? How do I find the time to develop these types of projects?  Can there still be significant value in everyday teaching if this type of large experience is unavailable?  Can a project like this have down- sides for meaningful instructional environments?  I hope that as I progress in this MAT program that I am able strike my own personal balance in teaching techniques and to answer these, and many more, questions that will surely arise.

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2 thoughts on “Clear and Unclear Windows

  1. Sarah,

    Thank you for your detailed and clear sharing, illustrated with a wonderful example of a successful project in a real classroom, – on how to apply the ancient concept of Paideia to the settings of modern schooling. I enjoyed you insight about teachers living a balanced life in order to have a balanced curriculum. Truly, we can teach children only what we ARE – not what we are not! A teacher indeed needs to be centered and balanced in order to embrace all the opposites and challenges in the classroom, and be spontaneous, alert, and totally with the flow of the present moment.

    The topics you mention as unclear, concern me, too, and, like you, I hope to obtain clarity about them further in the MAT program. Concerning your question about the funding of the service projects in class, I would suggest Foxfire funds, school fairs, car wash, bake sales, fundraising concerts and talent shows among possible answers.

    Masha Ellis

  2. Sarah,

    I too wonder a lot about finding funding for exciting and useful lessons. I just finished reading the book “The Essential 55” by Ron Clark, which is basically a list of his classroom rules, and the great results he has gotten, including a lot of examples of huge class projects. One project started with raising a few bucks to put ads in local and regional newspapers with trivia questions which the general public would respond to. After that, the kids decided they wanted to go global, and put an ad in USA Today… which would cost $12,000. The kids didn’t want to give up, and the short story is that they received enough money to do that, and then more for a subsequent trip to the white house. I think I’m an idealist, but I also think that if you let enough people know that you’re trying to do something important and exciting, you will find enough funding to do it. Thanks for the great post!

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