Monday, August 22, 2016

More Learning That Lasts

My "Choosing a School" series reminds me of that one biblical story I'm sure you all remember (unless you're a raging heathen!): The one where Abraham uses an ad misericordiam ("appeal to pity," more or less) argument to convince God not to destroy Sodom.

Move Abraham into a school setting and he is essentially saying, "Teacher, you can't punish the whole class just because some of us were cheating!" So he starts with 50, and God says he won't destroy Sodom if there are 50 decent human beings there. He gets the Creator of the Universe all the way down to 10, and God's generosity stops right about there.

I don't think I have to tell you what happens next. Think Dresden. Think Morton's. Think "When it rains, it pours."
Nothing worth saving here!
Likewise, I have been trying to find enough good in our Educational Sodom to keep it from being completely torched. No luck, so far. But I come to you today with more miracles: Students can still benefit from teachers even in a system that grew antiquated a century or so before the dawning of Classical Greece.

We'll start with some really good news: You can be a mean, grouchy teacher and still help a young student find her best self. The student below was suffering through terrible family related difficulties, and she began to miss classes or come in late, and her morale and motivation pretty much dissipated. And then,

"This one teacher openly ridiculed me in front of my peers. She . . .made me feel like I wasn't enough, and that I would never achieve anything great in life. . . . But guess what? In the five years that have passed since I was in her class, I have received one college degree and have one more semester until I receive my second. Then, I'm going to get another degree in social work. I'm going to become a foster parent so that at least one less child will have to feel the way I grew up feeling. I have become a person that I am proud to be. And it was not through what this teacher taught. It was through what I taught myself."

Here are other responses:

"My [biology] teacher taught [us] measly freshmen that you don't deserve a prize for just showing up and that you need to work hard in order to be successful. She taught us this in a not so subtle way by calling those who could not 'hang' leeches or parasites or some other unwanted creature that takes from others."

"Respect is most easily earned by showing love to others, even in the most challenging of times. One teacher taught me that happiness is infectious and that you should infect people with it as often as possible.Another taught me that it is okay not to fill your plate so high and spread yourself so thin, because everyone has a breaking point. And another taught me that there is a civil way to discuss opposing viewpoints, and sometimes you just need to throw out a yellow flag and think about what you're saying to another human."

"I have been blessed with some passionate, enthusiastic, genuine, and loving teachers. My 5th grade teacher showed me that I didn't have to misbehave to get attention. I credit her with turning my life around in the school setting, where I went from being a real problem child (behavior-wise) to a high achiever and model student. This teacher always pulled the best out of me, praising and rewarding often, and really advocating for me in many ways. She really tapped into who I truly was and helped me to tap into myself as well."

"[One] taught me how to handle tragedy as 9/11 occurred while I was in his class. He taught me how to deal with difficult students, and showed all of us each and every day that he cared about his students as people. He showed me what a teacher is supposed to look like. All of my teachers that helped make me the teacher I am today made the class more about the general subject than the text. They had a love of their subjects and made a point to connect with students on a personal level. It's so much more than test scores."

There will be more later. Until then, here's a school (click on "Prospective Students") that public education could look to for some pointers. We'll talk more about it later, and will post links to other schools that are getting it right. 

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