Meaningful Learning

Sam Tanner is another teacher that inspires me. He isn’t a national thought leader – yet – but his head is in the right place. While he actively avoids technology himself and in his classroom, he has the same mindset about education that attracts me to the digital advocates. He is a perfect example that it isn’t the device that makes quality education, it’s the teacher, the philosophy and the pedagogy.

Sam blogs. It is wacky (his word), irreverent and honest. As he prepares to leave public high school teaching for the hallowed halls of higher education (where I’m sure he will continue to challenge the status quo in his own quiet and very meaningful way) I have enjoyed his recent observations on public high schools.

For example:

I proctored an ACT test two weeks ago. Simply put, here is what I think after being a high school teacher for twelve years: building art with high school students is meaningful and testing them isn’t….if what you are advocating limits creative potential, I’m not interested. I’d rather spend my time with people making new, strange things. That is my conception of education, naysayers be damned.

Fortunately for me, my daughter had the opportunity to take a number of classes with him. It’s about all that got her through school. I’m not sure that he fully understand yet what a gift he has been to the students lucky enough to work with him.

Doors Slamming Shut

Once again, Will Richardson’s blog inspires me. Well, it makes me mad – not at him, but again, at the public school system.

I’ve been saying for years that if you’re in education and you’re not feeling uncomfortable right now, you’re not paying attention. Our collective discomfort with the system should be growing. And the window for action is closing pretty quickly.

I have been uncomfortable with education for many years. Like Mr Richardson, I have two teenagers about to head out into the world. One graduates from high school in a matter of days. The window for her in K-12 is closed. It slammed shut a couple of years ago, although in retrospect, it had been slowly closing since entering public school. (It is one of my biggest regrets that we kept her in this school and didn’t move her. We first seriously considered moving her in 3rd grade. Oh, how I wish we had.)

The damage – and it is significant – has been done. Because she doesn’t learn in a way that fits the traditional mold, the message has been pretty loud and clear that she doesn’t measure up. I, however, see her as a creative, insightful person who has tremendous gifts. I can only hope her next stage of life rewards this instead of snuffing it out.

Teachers as Learners, not Teachers

Will Richardson is one of my favorite thought leaders in the education world. He has a new book out, which I will have to purchase and read. (“From Master Teacher to Master Learner.”)

Quick quote from his new book, as previewed on his blog:

Teachers must move their own practice in transformative ways toward a focus on learning, not knowing. That’s not to say that the need for knowing isn’t still important. (Though there’s a strong argument that there’s way too much curriculum to know.) But it does suggest that to best help our students become powerful learners in the modern world, they need teachers who are master learners as well.