Friday, August 1, 2014

The Good Teacher: Part Three

The Good Teacher: Part Three

The good teacher enters his or her classroom with an open mind.  Above all, an open mind towards the students in that class, is imperative.

As a teacher of many years, I can attest that we are always given files, also called Learning Profiles, of each student.  We are supposed to read these and tailor lessons around these profiles, or learning styles.  In other words most of the kids have been pigeon holed, some of them for years, into these styles. 

I find it nearly impossible to look at young student and not feel kind of cornered into emotions surrounding that child, stemming from these reports.  “Ooh-oo, gotta have written instructions for this one, he can’t learn from spoken lessons.  Gotta really do a special one-on-one with this other one – she is really shy and won’t interact otherwise.”  And so on.  As the teacher I always feel such pressure and even, sometimes, resentment towards a kid that has been identified as one who needs kid gloves.

And yet I have also often found these reports were full of shit.  I find the vast majority of kids just need somebody to validate them as actual people.  Most of their lives they have had stuff just thrown at them and it has been expected to stick.  If it didn’t then some reason was invented as to why it didn’t, or generally doesn’t, stick. 

This is a practice that has become nearly doctrinal throughout all educational institutions today.  We keep testing and testing, hammering at the poor kid’s id until we break it into pieces that we, being the adult educators, can understand – can quantify and label. Often many of those, who have actually determined these learning differences, rarely ever enter a real classroom and observe the same students they have labeled. 

An educational classroom is a dynamic entity.  It almost seems to be a living, breathing organism.  And each different class is unique.  There is the teacher, who derives a satisfaction from teaching and interacting with young minds anxious to learn (usually) and the students, who, each in turn, interact with the teacher, each other and the class as a whole.  This entity moves, it spins, it consumes knowledge, it creates new thought, and sometimes it bogs down and needs a bit of recharging.  It can seem to rest, even sleep and then awake and start going at it all all over again.

I admit there many children who do have somewhat specific input, as it were, channels that seem to work better than others.  Hell, we all do – all our lives.  Everybody is unique in just about every way possible.  The short person can’t reach the highest shelf and so tends to ignore things that are way up high.  The very tall person is generally banging his or her head on door jams and so tends to be looking up a lot.  Or, things like that. 

I am a visual spatial learner.  What I see, I tend to remember.  And that’s a lot of what it’s all about, isn’t it?  What you remember.  What you can spit back on a test.  ??  Is that knowledge?  Is that wisdom?  Or is the whole objective to be able to do something?  To be able to actually perform some function that returns a value to your society and to your sense of a happy fulfilling life? 

If the second part of this thinking is the objective we are seeking, then sticking some label on a kid as soon as you can justify doing that, isn’t that rather counter-productive.  How can you truly know until enough educational experience has settled into the child’s brain?  Maybe the year the child was labeled as a visual learner was the year that child had a teacher with really strong accent or speech impediment, and the kid just couldn’t understand that teacher.

I have been teaching for over twenty-five years and I have yet to witness a Learning Specialist in my classroom.  So how, or why, should I spend a great deal of time on reports that are going to close my mind to any child and the potential that I might discover?  Is it not reasonable that I remain open minded as I begin a new class, a new school year, as I will in just a few weeks from now.  And let my lesson plans evolve as my own experience has served me, then I believe I have a better chance of tendering some actual learning in that class.

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Dale Clarence Peterson © 2014
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