Final Paper

EDU 6120 Final Paper (response to questions 2 & 3)

Sarah Taylor

Seattle Pacific University

December 1, 2010

Final Paper Response to Question #2: Taking into consideration the three best ways by which we obtain knowledge (received, discovered, constructed), what are the implications for achieving proper balance in teaching and learning?

The acquisition of knowledge is rarely a straight line from the source to the recipient.  As teachers it is imperative to strike a balance between teaching and learning while addressing the three rudimentary ways in which knowledge is obtained.  Just as there are multiple-intelligences so too are there multiple ways in which all people create understanding:  In The Aims of Education (1916), Alfred North Whitehead explores the idea of receiving knowledge, as seen a way build a stable foundation from which to develop comprehension.  John Amos Comenius pursues the idea that knowledge discovered is done so by living a life of “Viva Active” through the theories in The Great Didactic.  While Quintillion and Plutarch explore how knowledge is constructed via the theories of balance in the readings and lectures.

In “The Aims of Education” Alfred North Whitehead examines how building a strong and sturdy foundation in a student’s mind allows a teacher to deliver a base information support the student’s growth. “A merely well-informed man is the most useless bore on God’s earth.” (Whitehead, 1916)   In Whitehead’s philosophy a student receives knowledge from the teacher that is expert in nature.  Whitehead focuses on the thought that “inert ideas” must be cast aside in order to attain retention expert knowledge and proper application of said knowledge.

In the history of education, the most striking phenomenon is that schools of learning, which at one epoch are alive with a ferment of genius, in a succeeding generation exhibit merely pedantry and routine. The reason is that they are overladen with inert ideas. Education with inert ideas is not only useless; it is, above all things, harmful—corruptio optimi, pessima. Except at rare intervals of intellectual ferment, education in the past has been radically infected with inert ideas… Let us now ask how in our system of education we are to guard against this mentality. We enunciate two educational commandments, “Do not teach too many subjects,” and again, “What you teach, teach thoroughly.” (Whitehead ,1916)

In this passage it is evident that “inert ideas” are the same old, recycled ideas with no new thought or change.  This would leave the student with no reason to have interest or power to support retention of knowledge.   In the last line, “Do not teach too many subjects,” and again, “What you teach, teach thoroughly.”  (Whitehead, 1916) it is apparent that the teacher must know their content comprehensively.  Teachers must focus on students reception of knowledge by introducing “few and important” ideas.  Too much focus on many subjects and not enough depth on the “few and important” can cause a student to flounder.  For a teacher to build upon these “few and important” subjects allows the student to form a lasting and concrete foundation for future knowledge to be discovered.

It is the teacher responsibility to observe the students interests and incorporate these into the curriculum, “…that theoretical ideas should always find important application, with the pupil’s curriculum.  This is not an easy doctrine to apply, but a very hard one.” (Whitehead, 1916)  In this statement it possible to hear the words echoed by, Dr. Scheuerman (personal communication through lecture October, November & December 2010), each week, “What is most important is a compelling curriculum.”  Whitehead emphasizes that it is up to the teacher to find inspiration for the student.  The teacher must passionately inspire and share knowledge and encourage the use of this knowledge daily.  “The best education is to be found in the gaining the utmost information from the simplest apparatus.  The provision of elaborate instruments is greatly to be deprecated.” (Whitehead, 1916)  In other words, let the basic information, in its simplest form be the bricks laid to form the foundation to support discovery of new knowledge.

Secondly, it is important to explore the ways in which discovery becomes an active process in attaining knowledge.  Through John Amos Comenius the significance of the Greek theory of “Public Square” becomes apparent.  While exploring Comenius’s pedagogical methods it is obvious the importance that progressive change and discovery comes from experiences in the classroom.  Comenius argues for the pursuit of living a life of, “Viva Activa” both inside and outside the classroom; which will translate into rich and vibrant life lessons.  Dr. Scheuerman expounded on Comenius’s idea, “The classroom should be arranged to engender ‘as much pleasure as fairs”(Comenius 1592-1670).  It is fascinating and inspiring to envision a classroom that is busy, active, colorful, and as exciting as a fair; the classroom environment, design, decoration and construct now become a tool for teaching.  To illicit discovery in young students a teacher must think and teach at a level that is appropriate.  The teacher must additionally encourage students throughout the discovery process in a way so as to promote expansion of knowledge.  The teacher then, too, becomes a constant learner and partner in this process of discovery.  Comenius focuses then on the role that is the obligation of the teacher:

The Beginning and End of our Didactic will be to seek and find a method by which the teachers teach less and the learners learn more, by which the schools have less noise, obstinacy, and frustrated endeavor, but more leisure, pleasantness and definite progress, and by which the Christian State will suffer less under obscurity, confusion, and conflict, and will enjoy a greater amount of light, order, peace, and quiet. (Comenius, 1633-38, sel.)

Comenius focuses on the teacher as a guide to create a classroom that is fun, exciting and full of the pleasure of learning through discovery.  Teachers then are required, by Comenius’s example, to become active guides in the discovery of knowledge as opposed to simply dump trucks for unloading this knowledge on the student.  Through all this receiving and discovering of knowledge there must be some sort of construction for which this attained knowledge can be applied.

Lastly, in order to examine how knowledge is constructed and how it can be applied it is imperative to first visit the idea of balance.  Throughout the exploration of all the great philosophers there is a common theme of balance.  This balance is seen in the four cardinal Greek values of courage, wisdom, moderation and justice.  Balance is seen in Judeo-Christian values of faith, hope and love.  Balance is seen in the Roman values of memory, monuments and festivals.  It is this Roman set of values that aids in the exploration of Quintillion’s and Plutarch’s vision of balance for the use of constructed knowledge.  In The Education of Children, by, Plutarch (46-120 AD) there is a constant theme of balance in order to construct knowledge.

As a general statement, the same assertion may be made in regard to moral excellence that we are in the habit of making in regard to the arts and sciences, namely, that there must be a concurrence of three things in order to produce perfectly right action, and these are: nature, reason, and habit. By reason I mean the act of learning, and by habit constant practice. The first beginnings come from nature, advancement from learning, the practical use from continued repetition, and the culmination from all combined; but so far as any one of these is wanting, the moral excellence must, to this extent, be crippled. For nature without learning is a blind thing, and learning without nature is an imperfect thing, and practice without both is an ineffective thing. (Plutarch, 46-120 AD)

The balance that Plutarch argues is essential is the balance of nature, learning and practice.  It is crucial that this balance occurs in order to construct knowledge that is applicable and vital for existence in society.  Teachers need to actively balance this construction of knowledge to enhance the student’s desire to pursue further knowledge in the future and to become and active citizen in the world.

Additionally, it is important to discover Quintillions expectations when striking a balance of constructed knowledge.  In Quintillion’s examination the teacher must implore the student to seek knowledge constructed through a balance vis-à-vis monuments, memory and festivals.  Within this construct of knowledge the teacher can see the pedagogical implications revealed.  Monuments stand for visual construction of knowledge that inspire and create passion within the student.  Memory impresses upon the student the actual need to recite or draw from words the importance of an idea or symbol.  Festivals represent the sharing and applying constructed knowledge with a group or community.  For example a teacher could develop a lesson for Independence Day around Quintillion’s idea of balance.  The teacher could take the flag as a monument and explore what the meaning is behind the stripes and stars.  For the memory the student could delve into the words of the Pledge of Allegiance and recite for a school assembly.  Lastly, for the festival the teacher could have the students celebrate the 4th of July in a class party by re-enacting events that led up to the writing of the Declaration of Independence.    It is through actions that Quintillions theories are echoed in developing curriculum in the classroom today.

For as a rule the result of the dry textbooks on the art of rhetoric is that by straining after excessive subtlety they impair and cripple all the nobler elements of style, exhaust the lifeblood of the imagination and leave but the bare bones, which, while it is right and necessary that they should exist and be bound each to each by their respective ligaments, require a covering of flesh as well. (Quintillion 35-95 AD)

Quintillion expresses here the importance of teaching to a life of “Viva Active” in comparison to simply the textbook.  That to simply teach from a book with no personal discovery or hands on learning is contrary to Quintillion’s philosophy completely.   Quintillion urges teachers to take an active role in their student’s exploration and physical style of learning.  This style of learning allows the student to gain knowledge while the teacher strikes a balance.  In this balance the student is able to receive, discover and construct knowledge that will be the ground work for their future education.  Once the student has become comfortable with this style or balance they will then learn to actively seek out more knowledge in this manner.

All these pathways help to develop the teacher’s ability to design a compelling curriculum.  This curriculum then becomes the foundation for the teacher and the student to build upon.  For it is with a sturdy foundation that is solidly built with a balance of values, teacher and students alike will be able to pursue life-long endeavors for a more educated future.

Final Paper Response to Question # 3: Of all the individuals and philosophers we have discussed during this course, select one or two whose ideas have influenced you the most.  What are those ideas, and what relevance do they have to your own philosophy?

Of all the individual authors and philosophers that we explored this term the one that has left the biggest impression on me is Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841).  His philosophy of “Circle of Thought” engendered a sort of enthusiasm in me that I hope to pass along to my future students.  Through the investigation of Herbart’s pedagogical philosophies, in context to his time, I was astounded by how applicable they still are today.  Herbart’s role of teacher, instructional technique and classroom management style were forward thinking for his time and are all still very appropriate for today’s student, teacher, and classroom.

“The term virtue expresses the whole purpose of education.  Virtue is the idea of inner freedom that has developed into an abiding actuality in an individual.  Therefore, as inner freedom is a relation between insight and volition, a double task is at once set before the teacher.  It becomes his business to make actual each of these factors separately, in order that later a permanent relationship may result.” (Herbart, 1776-1841)

Herbart expresses, through this passage, the amazing task that we as teacher have set before us.  Teachers must not only teach the course material but we must help to develop a student’s sense of moral being.  We must encourage the student to examine and strive for a better individual moral purpose in life versus concern for what society might deem moral or just.  Herbart explains this by simply stating, “(H)uman dignity consists of respect for one’s own conscience, not in fear of external punishment, human or divine.”  (Herbart, 1776-1841)  In other words we as teachers are obligated to pass along the best to them and to actively guide students with high moral character.

During our time together this term we were asked to interview current master teachers.  Many of my fellow MAT candidates remarked how their interviewees possessed and exhibited “passion”.  In fact the teacher that I interviewed had that same passionate desire to help the students be better.  When asked about why she teaches,

“It’s a wonderful job, hard and thankless at times but the rewards are huge.  What drives you to keep going are the hugs, the kids love and the excitement when they get it.  You have to have fun with the kids, connect with the kids make sure the kids by into it.  You have to hold on to the small things because it is so worth it.”  (Personal communication Interview of Amanda Bailey 4th grade teacher Ordway Elementary School, October 13, 2010)

In this statement I see the passion to enjoy the students at their very core as contributing individuals.  Mrs. Bailey’s job is to teach the children the standards; however, it was a common theme throughout all the interviews that it is also the obligation of the teacher to help shape the moral character of a human being.  Mrs. Bailey seems to invoke the spirit that Herbart was hoping for all teachers to, “cultivate humanity to impart a natural morality” through being an “active guide”.

Dr. Schuerman often referred to “Crazy Passion” (personal communication through lecture November 2, 2010), as quoted from Jeffrey Canada of Harlem Children’s Zone, as being one of the single most important traits of an effective and memorable teacher.  Herbart echoes this sentiment when he says, “Our neglect in tending this realm of intellectual potential is to deny youth their inheritance.” (Herbart, 1776-1841)   Here I believe that Herbart is calling us to action as teachers.  Saying that we can plant the garden but without work that garden will die.  A teacher must actively cultivate the minds of children.  In order for a garden to grow, blossom, develop a crop, harvest and cultivate new and sustained crops it must be carefully tended to.  Water, food, sun, fresh air, weeding, fertilizer, tools, hours of sweat and so forth these are the things that make a garden grow. It could be said too, that this is what a child needs to grow.  Water and food to feed the brain, sun and fresh air to energize the mind and redirect thinking, fertilizer (new material) to support innate knowledge, tools (strategies) to grow knowledge and discovery new possibilities and hours of sweat (hard work) from both the student and the teacher to work together.  Here is where the crazy passion becomes the driving force, because even when tending to the garden, a teacher must now plan and plot for a new garden with different crops and unique soils, year after year. Herbart’s philosophies suggest a conclusion that if a teacher neglects the work of tending to the minds of children then that teacher has failed.   A teacher, by Herbart’s standards, must have balance or “many-sidedness” of social, academic and artful interests in order to promote “desire and will to be good”.

In this garden analogy it is clear to see Herbart’s emphasis on 5 instructional techniques:

1.      Preparation

2.      Presentation

3.      Association

4.      Generalization

5.      Application

These instructional techniques carefully planned and included in lessons incorporating the great works, social and academic interests of the student can help to promote the balanced life.  Using Herbart’s model of this type of educational planning a teacher would be successful by including the student’s active involvement in the learning process and thus would allow another opportunity for the teacher to lead by example.  As Herbart promotes “a life of volition” it is imperative to have both the teacher and the student playing an active role.  If a teacher embraces this idea they can take student interest and incorporate that interest into the lesson plan.  With this active involvement the student becomes a vital cog in determining what they want to learn and consequently will do well.

The most compelling and readily applicable of Herbart’s idea is the notion of the classroom being a microcosm of a governing body/democracy.

“Where a number of students are assembled there arises, naturally, on a small scale, a system of laws and rewards.  This system, and the demands, which in the world at large spring from the same ideas, must be brought into accord.”  (Herbart, 1776-1841)

In a classroom it is possible introduce the idea of democracy and governing rules.  If the students set up the rules, with the guidance of the teacher, at the beginning of the year there would be a natural buy- in that happens.   Moreover, when the students are involved in decision making, creation of class expectations and sanctions, i.e., determining what is acceptable there is a natural group “law” and order.  The teacher and the students must work together in order to grow and create this partnership in success.  In this, Herbart seems to allow for failure.  He contends, “The constant presence of the idea of perfection easily introduces a false feature into moral education in the strict sense.” (Herbart, 1776-1841)  To have a student try and fail and show them the correct way is, one way of teaching.  However to try, fail, encourage the student to try again a different way only to succeed is a powerful tool.  Herbart was imploring teachers to encourage students to learn through failure, to try an alternate, and share the joy of searching for a connection.  Herbart encouraged non-perfection because perfection is an end.  To be imperfect is to involve the students in searching and exploring while promoting a desire for innate curiosity.

Although Herbart was extremely focused on religious values, moral character, and virtuous development, the well balanced life, or “Circle of Thought” style of curriculum development, seemed very forward thinking for his time.  His passionate desire to improve the life and minds of the young seemed to influence my thinking the most.  I hope to build a philosophy of my own centered around a well-balanced curriculum that incorporates the arts, sciences, mathematics, languages, reading, music, philosophy, social studies, physical education, and the state standards without sacrificing myself in the process.

References:

1.      Comenius, John Amos (1633-38, sel).  The Great Didactic. Retrieved December 1, 2010 from http://mountainlightschool.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/session-5-humanism1.pdf

2.      Herbart, Johann Fredrich (1776-1841).  Circle of Thought & the Ethical Basis and Aim of Instruction.  Retrieved December 1, 2010 from http://mountainlightschool.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/session-6-enlightenment1.pdf

3.      Plutarch, (46-120 AD). The Education of Children.  Retrieved December 1, 2010 from http://mountainlightschool.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/session-4-rome1.pdf

4.      Quintillion, Marcus Fabius (35-95, AD).  The Institutes of Oratory (sel.). Retrieved December 1, 2010 from http://mountainlightschool.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/session-4-rome1.pdf

5.      Whitehead, Alfred North (1916).  The Aims of Education. Retrieved December 1, 2010 from  http://mountainlightschool.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/session-1-goals1.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authentic Application

EDU 6120 Week 9 Reflection

Authentic Applications

Throughout this week of Thanksgiving I was reminded of many reasons I have to be thankful.  I am thankful for heat, for electricity, for an extra two days off with my children, for my family and my friends, for generosity of community, for candles, for a change in the weather, for the opportunity I have to be going back to school, for a job, for laughter and health and mostly for the opportunity to slow down and reflect on the importance of enjoying each day.  I have also been giving thought this week to other people’s perspective’s and what they may or may not be thankful for.  From a historical point of view Thanksgiving can be view from two very different perspectives; white man and non-white man perspective.  I have been exploring my role as an educator in examining and comparing these two distinctly opposite perspectives.  As teacher I think I need to take every opportunity to keep difficult and possibly uncomfortable perspectives in open view and to have conversations often and honestly in my classrooms.  I have said this before and I will continue to say this, that if we support and encourage these difficult conversations often and openly they will not feel so awkward or uncomfortable. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, as we do every year,  we are provided with a perfect time  to revisit what Thanksgiving really is about and some the more unpleasant and relative history…contrary to the light and happy version.  Don’t Drink The Water, by Dave Matthews Band is a powerful video and a contemporary way to start a dialogue in the classroom and add to the reality of history of the Native American people.

I also found a website edchange.org that supports many different social justice sites and provides information for educators.  Through this website I found this social justice song index.  Since music is such a big part of my life I am sure that it will be a big part of my teaching.  This index provides lyrics to hundreds of songs that all share a common theme of social in/justice.  I feel that can be a really great way to introduce children to social justice without offering to many visuals.  For the younger children some of these images are harsh and downright frightening.  And while I don’t think that kids should be sheltered from these images there needs to be a filter. Songs can do just this; provide fantastic imagery that can lead to amazing discussions. Although, I have provided the video for you, I feel that this is a good example of how words alone, that are echoed throughout the song, can provide a starting point an excellent verbal imagery for a powerful conversation:

Don’t Drink the Water
performed by Dave Matthews Band
from the album Before these Crowded Streets
about European colonization of Native American lands:

“Away away
You have been banished
Your land is gone
And given me
And here I will spread my wings
Yes I will call this home
What’s this you say
You feel a right to remain
Then stay and I will bury you
What’s that you say
Your father’s spirit still lives in this place
I will silence you”

 

I Can Teach

EDU 6120 Week 8

I Can Teach

This week we were given the chance to apply our knowledge, understanding and comprehension of the theories and ideals set forth in the ideals of the founding teachers of education.  The focus was to take the myriad of information and apply it to a lesson of our choosing.  I wanted to focus on the idea of incorporating many of the ‘ways of learning and teaching’ into my lesson; akin to the theories put forth in this week’s readings by John Dewey.  I wanted to “unleash the power of their innate curiosity” and get the students involved in active learning.  I chose to do a creative writing exploration through music. My idea: to take an instrumental musical piece and have students listen to it to create a story that can be put to the music and shared.  The music would serve as inspiration for the student to paint a mental/written piece with the palette of their own imagination.

I am thankful to have two willing children and therefore students experiment this on.  I first started by talking with the students about what a creative story is.  Then I asked if they liked listening to music and what kind of music.  We discussed if music ever invoked feelings or images in their mind while they listened to it.  I then shared what we were going to do; listen to music and write individual stories, share these stories with the class and then record and share on our class blog.  Since this was our first attempt at creative writing through music I started the process by mentioning the name of the song “January Rain” by David Gray.  I thought this might help some students come up with ideas they could write about.  (In the future I could let the kids pick their own themes, have the class decide on a theme or let there be no theme and see what the students come up with on their own.)  I then had the students find a comfortable place to lie down or sit with their heads down and eyes closed.  I played the one minute segment of the song three times; asking the students as they listen, to think about what kind of images they see as the music plays, what feeling they are experiencing and what kind of story they can create around these images and feelings.  Then, I asked the students to find a quiet comfortable place to write: sitting, lying down, at a desk in the corner, etc.  I let the student write for about 10- 15 minutes, while continuing to playing the full track in the background.

After the allotted time the students were asked to stop their writing process and redirect their attention back to me.  I played the song again while each student read their own story silently.  After, I paired them up to listen to each of the other’s story while making corrections and any alterations as appropriate.  Each student had the opportunity to share their story with the class.  Later, I made a recording of each student reading their story to the music and shared that via pod-cast on our class blog.  In an actual class setting students could access these stories from home to share them with families and/or caregivers.

Each piece of this lesson took a considerable amount of time, it could not happen in one session.   The time-line was broken down into these basic components:

1.      Students listen and use their imagination

2.      Students write and create the story

3.      Students take a break for reflection, rest and alternative activity

4.      Students revisited, edited and shared with the class

5.      Stories were recorded using free web-based technology and then published on weekly class blog.

I feel that this can be a very powerful lesson for all students.  I enjoyed incorporating the music into the creative writing process.  I think it helped generate ideas and helped keep the students focused while they wrote.  I think it is an important skill to share work with each other to present in front of the class.  There is something special about students hearing, sharing and developing their voice and sharing it with others.  I think that all these things “unleash” a student’s curiosity by empowering them to have an individual voice.  I really liked the idea of incorporating audial skills with creative writing, as well as providing students a forum to demonstrate verbal competence coupled with active audience participation.  It became a lesson that involved “Viva Activa”.

Delaney’s Story

Addison’s Story

All Things Considered

EDU 6120- Week 7

“All Things Considered”

Throughout this week’s, readings each author seemed to speak about the need to teach to the masses.  That is our responsibility as teachers to, no matter what a student’s situation or home life might be, guide support and educate without bias.  This idea has also been echoed in my diversity class for the last seven weeks.  Clearly this is an extremely important thread to weave throughout every lesson as we move forward into our role as the teacher, but how to do this seamlessly is our challenge.

As I read, “On Education and National Welfare” by, Horace Mann, I was repeatedly reminded that if we, as teachers, refuse teach to all those who seek an education aren’t we just adding to the problem of inequality?  Mann states that “…density of a population has always been one of the proximate causes of social inequality.”   This seemed to present the idea that no matter how large or diverse a population may be, each student should have the opportunity for an education; moreover, there needs to be a teacher to provide the tools, resources and skills to access this learning.  Mann then goes on to say, “Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the condition of men, — the balance wheel of the social machinery.”  In this statement I am reminded about the tremendous responsibility that goes along with teaching and the fact that education is such a powerful tool for shaping a society.  Education can and should be transformative- it provides the opportunity to erase dis/advantages of class and social status.  More overwhelming, is my role as a teacher to support through education each student’s independent search and path.

In Booker T. Washington’s selection, “On Achieving Social Equity”, I was most impressed with the idea that what we do as individuals in a society directly shapes who we are as a societal whole.  Meaning that we can either succeed together of fail together, but it is up to individuals to embrace and support one another for the good of the group.  He wrote,

“There is no escape through law of man or God from the inevitable:

The laws of changeless justice bind

Oppressor with oppressed;

And close as sin and suffering joined

We march to fate abreast.”

I see this being true in a classroom setting as well as in everyday life.  As I teacher I am going to need to support every student’s individualism and encourage them to share that with the class.  Building community happens one step at a time.  It begins with the individual student, making connections and developing a sense of belonging and acceptance.  The next step is to bridge the individualism with a collective identity of the class, the school, and the district.  Together, as individual parts we are going to need to connect as a group whole.  To do this we are going to have to struggle and search for what is right and just.  We are going to have to accept and embrace all that is presented in the group.  This is when we will truly see our efforts to succeed together come to fruition.

 

References:

Mann, Horace. (1848). “On Education and National Welfare” 1848 Twelfth Annual Report of Horace Mann as Secretary of Massachusetts State Board of Education (1848).

Washington, Booker T. (1895).  “On Achieving Social Equity”.  Selections from Booker T. Washington, Atlanta Exposition Address (1895).

 

Search for Meaning

EDU 6120-Search for Meaning

This week we are left to ponder the search for meaning.  As I explored Herbart’s idea of “Man’s worth does not lie in his knowing… but in his willing.” I was confronted with a story about my own child’s search for meaning.  My 8 year old daughter, Delaney, is a passionate reader.  She consumes books and loves to explore words.  In this exploration there are constant questions as to what a word means.  The other day during our morning routine, Delaney asked, “Mom what does crestfallen mean?”  I said, “It is when someone is sad or disappointed about something.”  That was it Delaney kept reading and breakfast continued while I packed lunches.  It was not a huge “search” but it was what followed that made this inquiry so memorable.

Later in the week Delaney was extremely excited about going to a jump rope class with her good friend.  She had been talking about it all week.  However, when she arrived there was no room in the class for her; she was not going to be able to participate.  The friend’s mother, Ann, had dropped the girls off and when Delaney couldn’t participate decided to bring her home.  When she arrived on our door step Ann recalled a conversation that she had with Delaney in the car that “amazed her”.  Ann said, “Delaney I am so sorry that there was no room in the class for you we will have to try again another time.”  Delaney, without missing a beat replied, “That’s okay Ann I am only slightly crestfallen.”  Ann said that she could not believe that that word came out of an 8 year olds mouth but more shocking was how appropriately she had used it in a sentence.  I told her about Delaney asking about the word earlier in the week and realized that she now not only understood the word within the context of a sentence or story but that she now had another word to use in conversation.

This simple story illustrates to me that a child’s thirst for knowledge button is always on.  They never stop learning and neither should we.  Now while I by no means think this is extraordinary for my child, I think the process of acquiring knowledge is fascinating.  Did Delaney try to use this word earlier in the week and fail?    Did she wait for the opportune time to use it perfectly?  Had she been thinking about the word all week or had she just remembered it?   Whatever the process was for Delaney, her willingness to try was successful and she has since acquired new word that I keep waiting to hear come out of her mouth.  She had taken on Herbart’s idea that knowing is simply not good enough but willingness to use this knowledge is the goal.

I would like to explore a student’s search for meaning through a literary example.  I think that reading can be a great way to explore and search for meaning. A story is a safe place for a student to relate to, explore, and experience new meaning.  They can explore unknown worlds, ideas, characters, places, cultures, families, words, etc.  The list is endless.   The key to this type of searching is to make it a safe place for students.  To allow students to ask questions, explore ideas, support failure, and encourage further exploration.  For example I could start a “book club” in class.  I would ask students to find 3 words per chapter that they might not know and find out what they mean (use dictionary, infer the definition, ask someone what the definition is, and search on a computer).  Then encourage students to use these words class discussion.  Support failure and encourage practice, because often through failure meaning can be discovered.  Talk about where the book is taking place and have them research it’s location; or if it is a fictional place have them each draw an illustration of what they think it looks like and compare. Talk about different cultures and investigate what different cultures are represented in “our class community”.  There are an infinite number of ideas to present when searching for meaning yet the key is to promote exploration, to ignite the students’ individual passion for discovery.

Dr. Scheuerman lectured that it is our job to “find a way to engender enthusiasm”.  As a teacher I need to find a way to take what I have knowledge of and find out what is meaningful and relevant to the students, combine the two and teach with “crazy passion”.  Herbart wrote, “Present… such men as he would like to be,” in other words; lead by example.  Share my thirst for meaning in everything I do and teach.   If I can ignite the quest for knowledge in a student  then the student can decide what they want to learn and discover with the teacher as a support and guide.  “The goal of the Herbartian approach, therefore, is a life of volitional virtue, and the means is and “artful” combination of psychological and pedagogical practices.”   A tall or order but one I am eager to realize.

Key Idea Identification

Reflection 6120-Key Ideas

Through this week’s reading and subsequent (and previous) discussions in class I have been consistently reminded of one key idea: the absolute necessity for compelling curriculum.   I know that we covered this in our first meeting; I think we even covered it at the Camp Casey but each week, no matter what the topic, compelling curriculum sneaks in.  This week as we evaluated a student teacher observation that Dr. Scheuerman had completed, we explored some of the strengths and opportunities that the student teacher should be aware of.  Now, while it is very easy to pick apart someone’s lesson, especially when he or she is not there, it was a little bit hard to constructively criticize knowing this experience is in our not so distant future.  However, after a bit of prodding we opened up as a class.  The student teacher we all agreed had to cover the material but what he needed to cover and what the kids were interested in were not necessarily the same thing.  As questions were asked by the students, a concise answer was given but never explored more deeply.  Additionally, the teacher didn’t ask much of the students other than their attention.  It seems to me, the opportunity invoking the key idea of compelling curriculum was missed.  Even though there is a required standard that each teacher must meet, isn’t there also a requirement of us as teachers to compel our student to go beyond simply learning information and involve them in the learning process?

This notion was echoed as we explored the methods of Comenius.  Comenius saw the role of the teacher as, “the servant whose mission is the art of cultivating.”  This cultivation is in reference to the minds of the young and our obligation to: compel insight and encourage an eagerness to seek knowledge.  This quest for knowledge (as opposed to just content acquisition) with the guidance of the teacher encourages a partnership to aid individual students to grow as they enter society.  Comenius saw this being developed through: books of all types, visual aids, a classroom designed that provoked energy, excitement and fun, investigative observations, practical applications to every-day life and fun time activities that include different handicrafts.  I really felt like this was a fabulous example of compelling curriculum.  That we need to teach students through and in an environment that is appropriate for their learning.  Kids need to play, move, touch, explore, apply, fail, and succeed.  In this I think Comenium was introducing us to the key idea of compelling curriculum.

Learning Illustrated

This week’s challenge to reflect on “Learning Illustrated” compelled me to search back over my lecture notes and readings from the past four weeks.  Although we are barely into this two year program we have already covered an immense amount of pedagogical theory, teaching techniques and how to incorporate teaching methods of the past, present and future.  I decided to illustrate this with key concepts.  Pulling from each week the lessons and curriculum those core ideas that compel a teacher to teach with passion.

Learning Illustrated

(Click on above link to view)

I also wanted to reflect on a teacher that I had in the 3rd grade.  Her name was Mrs. Wiley and to this day I remember her class.  Not because she was the easiest, hardest, nicest, meanest, greatest or worst teacher.  I remember Mrs. Wiley because she was the most creative.  In Mrs. Wiley’s class we learned math, reading, writing just like everyone else in the 3rd grade but in our class we learned it in a way that compelled an 8 year old.  You see, at 8 years old I still liked to sing and dance and play and that is exactly what we did in her class.  We performed plays, did art, had story time and sang songs all the while learning what we needed to creatively.  Two songs in particular still to this day are stuck in my head, 3 times table and 4 times table. We would sing these songs walking from activity to activity, from the playground to our classroom even when it was time to get settled.  It became over time a memory that I would never forget.   I have even taught these to my own children and often hear them singing them while doing their math homework.  I thought about Mrs. Wiley’s creative classroom as I read Quintilion this week and was struck by this observation,

For as a rule the result of the dry textbooks on the art of rhetoric is that by straining after excessive subtlety they impair and cripple all nobler elements of style, exhaust the lifeblood of the imagination and leave but the bare bones, which, while it is rights and necessary that they should exist and be bound each to each by their respective ligaments, require a covering of flesh as well.

So yes, teaching the standards is important but compelling your student with curriculum through activities they enjoy and that they are interested in is a gift, thank you Mrs.Wiley for this gift.