May 17th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

Reading

Reading is to me one of the greatest pleasures. It takes me to interesting places, it allows me to entertain conversations with people I do not necessarily know in person, it lets me live in the skin of fantastic characters, it feeds my thoughts helping me develop my own concepts, ideas, and theories. It is no coincidence that I became a Reading Teacher, since the main reason that drove me to teach was to take part in the development and enrichment of young people’s lives and minds, providing them with the knowledge they yearn for.

Necessary Evil?

To my dismay, however, I have been constantly encountering teachers who still hold a dated perspective of schooling as the necessary evil, the work students have to do to get to the reward. These teachers tend to use anything from free time to candy as such reward, disconsidering the principle that human beings are inherently curious and hungry for knowledge – which is the drive for young children’s explorations, and that continues throughout life if their environment allows.

Learning for life

I see the importance of taking breaks and watching a movie, playing games, or reading a story every once in a while, and I do negotiate with my students that if they do not waste instructional time I can add that fun twist at the end of the week. However, it is not at the expense of teaching, it is one more piece in the puzzle, and it is usually when my students do most of the work. It is what I would call the “application” piece, because when they are watching a movie, playing a game, or reacting to a story, they are independently using the structures and the vocabulary, or digesting the ideas we have been studying – sometimes with my guidance to stay on track, but often not needing it because the “entertainment” is chosen to fit the teaching, and the teaching is chosen to fit their lives, to be useful and meaningful. So the “fun stuff” is actually part of the plan, and it is when, ideally, the cycle comes to a conclusion.

Work x Pleasure

So when I hear teachers defending that the children need rewards, that they need a reason to read (!!!!), or that they are allowing free time as pay for passing a test or doing homework, I feel my heart beat fast and my blood rush to my face in desperation that these children are not being taught that learning IS rewarding – an idea most of them came to school with and are being robbed of. It also leads me to question whether these students are being taught to connect school content with their lives, if they are being stimulated to make sense of what they learn.

Work AND Pleasure

The impression I get is that, in the long run, these children are not being taught that work is what we choose to do for a living because we believe in it, because we enjoy its results, because it fullfills us personally. What they are learning is that work is what we do between our moments of happiness.

I wonder if that is how these professionals feel about their work too.

Posted in Education, life
May 10th, 2011 | No Comments »

The other day, talking to teachers I work with, I stated a few lessons I learned concerning parent-teacher relationships. One of the key enlightenments I had, in my opinion, was to realize that parents are supposed to advocate for their child, and the teacher’s job is to take their experience in and respond with understanding and with actions as much as possible. I still get annoyed by some situations when I am overloaded with work and a parent brings up something like a toy that has been lost – when the school policy is to keep toys at home to begin with. In moments like this I need to remind myself that teaching is not really about the subject, but about the learning that happens when dealing with the subject. Having that idea permeating my philosophy and my actions as a teacher turns the toy situation into a teaching moment when rules, responsibility, and search strategies can be discussed and exercised. Furthermore, the importance of the lost object for the child does not change just because the school wants the object to stay out of its grounds, so there is suffering that needs to be understood rather than yelled upon.

The down side of this whole ideal is that I find myself juggling priorities: the child who has no autonomy to change clothes when wet, the child who does not join the group, the child who speaks too softly, the child whose parents are divorcing, the child who is regressing because of a younger sibling… That, as well, is part of being a teacher: to teach the whole child, conflicts and all.

Posted in Education