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Philosophical Meanderings

What Do We Often Forget?

Recently I read Ben Grey‘s post on “maintaining” instead of “planting brilliance.”  I’m on a math listserv with some really smart Canadians and Josh Giesbrecht responded today, “I can think of a few good (and a few bad) reasons to grade a math journal.  Mostly it depends on how you’d answer this question: What are students demonstrating mastery of through their journaling?” I watched as a response came in that basically said we hide grading journals in grade fog, and I’ve listened to an admin friend this week talk about some high school teachers quibbling over a grading program that doesn’t average to the hundredth decimal place. I sat recently with a group of teachers who were splitting two classes into three, (see “Once Upon a Time, I WAS That Newbie!“) and I’ve been in conversations with teachers in my building about how kids can pursue their passions and what do we, as teachers, do with that–do we grade their work? How far do we let them go?  Where does that work play  into the required curriculum? I’ve also done data analysis on 3rd, 4th and 5th graders to help set up some instructional groups, and thought a lot about my last post here, “Museums, Playgrounds, or Something Else?” I’ve read a reflective comment by one of my teachers on our proposed 1:1 project here, and I’m thinking of all the comments I’ve read on Twitter about professional development and how we usually don’t differentiate it.

All of those recent experiences have me wondering where we, as educators and administrators and teachers and parents and students, (and any other interested parties) find time to share our ideas, to think through processes and plans, to stimulate each other to “plant brilliance” as Ben says, or to question and reflect…to learn from each other.  I think about Kirsten’s post, “One Inviolate Hour” and Zoe’s post, “Why Are We Afraid to Explore Issues Essential to Our Children’s Future? and wonder when we’ll get time to talk and reflect and learn the latest research and do action research and talk to each other about our learning. My school is using Google docs and wikis to talk, simply because the asynchronous ability helps us find time.

But with all of that conversation about grades and averaging, and responding to intervention and thinking about finding time to talk, and how to manage new parts of the day like our Mastery Extension, I think we forget something sometimes–and that is that we are working with children who need our kindness, our compassion, our smiles, our caring and our understanding to become the compassionate, caring adults we want the world to be filled with in the future. We get so busy in our daily plans and the responsibility of our job that we forget that we are there  to help find “out the conditions of the environment and the kinds of activities in which the positive capabilities of each young person could operate most effectually.” (John Dewey.p 139)

For me, it’s about finding student strengths, building on them and helping young people discover the innate kindness and caring within them to support each other to become more knowledgeable–and not forgetting that first and foremost, they are children–and I work to keep that in the forefront of my interactions. What about you?

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About Paula White

grandma, teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE), DEN STAR, Google Certified Teacher, camper, Gifted Resource Tchr, NETS*T certified, lover of learning

Discussion

7 thoughts on “What Do We Often Forget?

  1. Ah! The curse of grading. All that time spent quibbling over the minutiae and then the endless debate over grade inflation and whatever.

    And then the toll of the kids whose focus will always be on the grade .

    And when you are a straight A student there is only one way to go and that’s down. The alternative is a deadly game on the hamster wheel of perform and produce and perform and pray that some teacher does not come along and find something unworthy of the A.

    Can schools experiment with a grade moratorium? Or move the ungraded years up from early childhood bit by bit? Oops – I forgot – the pressure in kindergarten is way to high to focus on learning.

    Posted by Josie | October 10, 2010, 7:49 am
  2. This post is like the first sip of coffee, it both wakes me up and comforts me all at once. Paula, I am so glad I get to learn with you. I know I say that every time, but I believe it is true. You have such a balance of understanding and care. I wish you could be the voice of teachers, not Superwomen (though you are), but just a balance honest voice to change the current conversation! Thank you for this.

    So what do you see in your utopia? What does life look like?

    Very inspired by this post!

    Thank you!

    Posted by dloitz | October 10, 2010, 1:12 pm
  3. Thank you, Paula.

    I think we also forget that we are learners and have inside of us curiosity. We are not “just” teachers and authorities, I can feel myself masking my humor and worry sometimes in power struggles at school. While my reactions to such instances are greatly altered and much more nuanced, measured, and student-centered than they were at the start of my career, when things get tough I have to remind myself to be curious about what’s happening and attentive to what I can do to help students, rather than myself.

    I have to learn to care more than the system requires of me.

    Is that a fair thing to say?

    Best,
    C

    Posted by Chad Sansing | October 10, 2010, 7:39 pm
  4. Well said, Paula. I’ve often wondered whether we shouldn’t make our schools year round with summers being the time for teachers to spend together, reflecting and learning. I also love SLA’s Wednesdays, where students head off to internships and teachers work in teams, talking about their kids. We need to carve out this time somehow, don’t we?

    Posted by Susan Carter Morgan | October 13, 2010, 9:23 am
  5. we should all get a face-to-face Paula…

    Posted by monika hardy | October 13, 2010, 10:47 pm
  6. Not to be all researchy-assholey (hey, we all have our problems!), here’s a quote I use all the time when I’m talking to teachers about how much relationships matter.

    “Students told us the way teachers treat you as a student or as a person actually counted more than any other factor in the school setting in determining their attachment to the school, their commitment to the school is goals and, by extension, the academic future they imagined for themselves.”
    – Linda Darling-Hammond

    Paula, your kindness and intelligence inform our work. Thank you.

    Posted by Kirsten | October 14, 2010, 9:46 am

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