Build and Grow

Are we micro-managing reading, and not seeing the big picture?

Can the skills for the future be taught? 

Skills–strategies –the future will depend on our ability to solve problems–and that ability relies heavily on strategies–

Actually, legitimately taught and learned?

Two things crossed my view recently. Using my mental ‘crazy wall’ yarn and thumbtack skills, I’m going to play and mold how they may be related:

Turns out, Bigfoot does not work for the CIA.

Reading scores are stagnant for U.S. children: reading, and loving to read, has become a source of shame for many students. In a recent Hechinger Report, “Third Indication U.S. Education is Deteriorating” by Jill Barshay discusses the conundrum that parents and educators face. This does not surprise me. Consider the vitriol and desperation of many of us educators to help students read we’ve managed to kill the love of reading altogether.

And then there’s this:

Hidden Brain interviewed Alison Gopnik:

The Carpenter Vs. The Gardener: Two Models Of Modern Parenting

And the TL:DR is: “To get to good outcomes [sic] …not worrying about outcomes at all.”

Alison Gopnick.

The carpenter parent believes in raising children with blueprints: with planning and preparation, they can craft their child into the proper structure. The gardener parent encourages growth and happy surprises. Of course, there should be a balance between the carpenter and the gardener, but we’ve swung our hammer far too wide to the carpenter side with prescriptive reading programs, reading logs, and all sorts of canned curriculum, and haven’t dug deep enough into many of the wonderful and innovative ideas out there. It would appear, nothing is being done very well.

Perhaps if parents want their children to grow, a refresher on how to construct reading is in order.

Also: let children play.

The Importance of Play

Piaget stresses how important learning the rules of the game is in the process of socialization; a child must become able to control himself in order to do so, controlling most of all his tendency to act aggressively to reach his goals. Only then can he enjoy the continuous interaction with others that is involved in playing games with partners who are also opponents. But obeying the rules and controlling one’s selfish and aggressive tendencies is not something that can be learned overnight; it is the end result of long development. When he begins playing games, a child tries to behave as he could in his earlier play. He changes the rules to suit himself, but then the game breaks down. In a later stage he comes to believe that the rules are unalterable. He treats them as if they were laws handed down from time immemorial, which cannot be transgressed under any circumstances, and he views disobeying the rules as a serious crime. Only at a still later stage—often not until he has become a teenager and some even later than that—can he comprehend that rules are voluntarily agreed upon for the sake of playing the game and have no other validity, and that they can be freely altered as long as all participants agree to such changes. Democracy, based on a freely negotiated consensus that is binding only after it has been formulated and accepted, is a very late achievement in human development, even in game-­playing.

So let me see if I understand this:

  • Some students have a difficult time just being in class–understanding and cooperating with the community, the guidelines, protocols, and the rules–the simple rules–of how to function in a classroom.
  • Some students did not get enough time to play–to interact, socialize, and learn basic forms of human interactions…(and they still don’t)
  • Some students are in the classroom challenging and disrupting every aspect of those protocols*: the teacher’s instructional practices, the expectations for himself or the instructor, and constantly surveying and monitoring the pressures and praises of their peers…

If we miss out on “…it is the end result of long development” and come to the place in secondary education where a student struggles to function from hallway behavior to classroom cooperation it is our obligation and responsibility to ensure secondary students understand this and offer solutions to why they’re acting out, and what impact that has in the present and long-term.

It’s time to return to helping students see themselves for who they are, and who they can be. The grand potential is over time, not in a single moment.

*When the status quo is oppressive and racist there is a demand for disruption and protest. This is not a call for blind obedience–the opposite–this is a call for reflection and nuance, and most of all empowerment.

I really miss my friend and colleague who worked at our building until this year. She single-handedly brought back safety and community to our building and helped students find their integrity and honor, and consistently built bridges between teachers and struggling students. She’s doing good and important work elsewhere, but she’s left a vacuum. One of my strengths is building relationships: I did it before she came to our building, and I’ll do it again. But I’ll take the gardener approach, thank you.

Back to my original question: can we teach what we need to, and can students learn it?

We need to ask this question first: What do we want them to learn? — Answer: We want them to learn how to be in the world andcooperativelyy solve problems.

That has always been the answer, and they learn this by playing.

Oh: and the Digital Dogs blog is going very well. I still have a few students who need help finding their voice, but it’s a work in progress.