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Sunday, October 5, 2014

From the Three R's to the Three C's

First a video from this week's Saturday Night Live, just for fun, but which talks about the rain:

Now on to the discussion of the Ira Shore article.  

It seems as if we are discussion the movement/revolution in education from pedagogical "readin' ritin', rithmatic" and the role of teacher as lecturer, to a newer model of teacher as "problem poser" and the idea of students as creative, critical, and curious.

What teacher would not like to describe their students with these words?  What teacher actually describes all their students with these words, check out the 2nd video, by Sir Ken Robinson, who discusses exactly the model of schools we have been accused of in the Shore article:

The first time I ever saw this, I was ready for the revolution.  It helped that, the same year, I was moved from a middle school reading classroom, to a high school multiple pathways program.  I was in fact asked to energize, motivate, and engage a group of students, for whom the educational process had become "endullment"(my favorite term from this article).  I chose project-based learning as my format for ELA class, and we read Into the Wild by John Krakauer.  My first year in the program was spent in students self-discover, and despite a few hiccups, was quite successful.  To my surprise, many students found that school was engaging, and worthwhile, and that learning at their own pace, and being asked to figure out what topics meant to them, and then being asked to apply this knowledge in a practical way, inspired them to want to pursue new knowledge.  

In many ways, this style brought me back to my 2nd grade classroom, where Sr. Beatrice, rolled out the Scholastic Reading Leveled System.  Which to this day remains my favorite unit in any school experience (except of course for SED 561).  In this unit, there was a box with 50 or so colored levels. Students would all begin at level 1, then proceed through as quickly as they could test out.  Our teacher allowed us to choose our readings, and supported us all individually.  I flourished, as did many other students in class, but it was the expert facilitation of our beloved Sr. Beatrice that allowed this to happen.  

I believe the art of teaching, is the student focused-student centered support of learning, with citizenship, empowerment, and participation at the core.  This article hits me right where I live, and leaves me with the question: How do we make this the norm rather than the exception?


  1. Brian, I love love love that RSA Animate, another favorite is "The Power of Outrospection," in which they discuss empathy leading to social change. Interesting thoughts we should share with our students.

    Also, I remember those Scholastic Reading cards! I know they were supposed to help us individually, and would allow our teachers the time and means to work with each student on his/her needs, but I remember LOVING them because I was always so far ahead of my classmates, by at least a couple of colors. Looking back now, how did my classmates feel seeing me prance to the back of the room to move on to yet another level, when they were stuck on theirs for a lot longer? While teaching during this unit was individualized according to our ability levels, it may be seen as a competitive practice....which, according to Shor, "interferes with the cognitive development of many students" (23).

  2. Brian,
    I absolutely loved that video, I loved what the narrator had to say but most of all I loved how it was visually stimulating at the same time. I really could follow what was being talked about by listening and watching the animation happen in front of my eyes. Thank you for sharing and I can't wait to watch some more of the RSA Animate. This may be my new favorite site!

  3. I had never seen the RSA animate before and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. I totally agree that, "The arts are victims of this mentality." The speaker mentions that experiencing the arts is being fully aware and completely focused on the moment. The aesthetic experience is VITAL to real unadulterated joy. When we are watching a Shakespearean play or playing the clarinet as part of a band, we are in the moment. We are not distracted; we are as alive as we're ever going to be. This reminded me of an ongoing situation in Cranston in which our city was forced to cut all elementary school music programs. To me, this is a complete travesty. Students who, most likely, would not have had the opportunity to take private lessons, now aren't even able to take them through the school system. As a result, our community is now experiencing the dismal results of this lack of funding. The marching band at Cranston West is a third of the size it was ten years ago...and shrinking. We NEED to offer the arts in our public schools. Not only for our students' cognitive health and vitality, but also to help students develop an appreciation for the arts in a world that doesn't seem to care anymore.

  4. Brian, I had seen a piece of that RSAnimate this summer in my RI Writing Project class. The part that stuck out to me then and is still with me now is: "We still educate children by batches. Is that the thing that's most important? The date of manufacture?" Sometimes, yes. I think it is healthy that kindergarteners don't ride the school bus with 12th graders. Middle schoolers need different support than college freshmen. However, the beauty of the RI Writing Project as well as this grad class is the fact that the "date of manufacture" doesn't matter. Though Tina and I are in the first years of our careers and Melissa is at year 10, what's important is our mutual desire to become better teachers. We can learn from each other's experience and feed off one another's energy. We pose problems for each other and are creative, curious, and critical together. I think Shor and Robinson would approve!