Friday, August 12, 2016

Students Recall Meaningful Learning

Ever since the release of Harold and Maude* (and maybe a little before that), students have been presenting their teachers with apples, knowing, probably, unconsciously, that the fiber-rich fruit symbolizes knowledge, desire, learning, temptation, and education in general.

In the current decade, however, that apple has been pureed into a sauce so putrid and rancid not even a buzzard could digest it.

Let the testing begin . . .

To shine a light on the evils perpetrated on our school systems and, by extension, our children (who are our future, as I learned first from George Benson, then Whitney Houston), I have been writing a series of rants entitled "Choosing a School," and I have followed the lead of the band Chicago in naming them (e.g., "I," "II," "III," etc.).

I thought I was overstating my case in order to strengthen it.I was wrong. In the last week, I've spoken with high-school teachers, students, parents and staff, and the situation is much worse than I thought. 

But today, I have good news for you. Miracles really do happen. Even though "the State" and many (but not all) school administrators, have gone out of their way to hobble their lowly servants, great teachers still find ways -- that cannot be tested or Marzanofied -- to change the lives of their students for the better. And, as you will see eventually, terrible teachers can do that as well.

Here are a few responses (there will be more in later posts) from my Facebook friends when I asked them to tell me about immeasurable gifts they received from their teacher(s). I have omitted names, except for one, and I only then because the responder paid me $75:

"Do NOT open booklets till you're told to do so."
"I think one of the the most valuable things . . . a teacher can do is show that he is an equal, but still an authority figure [and] a role model. [In this teacher's] class I felt complete relief. In addition, I saw that he always found ways to involve the quiet classmates who didn't usually participate. He referred to us collectively as 'friends,' and that made all the difference."

"A great teacher shows respect for students, and is honest with them. It was nice to be treated like we already had the ability to figure everything out, but then were given some extra tools to work on solving things a little more efficiently. It was nice just to be treated like we were on equal ground with our teachers and that there was something new to be heard from us, as well. Being treated like a person still while being a lousy student -- I can't tell you how much that has meant to me over the years."

Do NOT eat this!

"I liked that my teacher would let the class go on a tangent, and we would end up discussing something that was only meant to take ten minutes . . . everything from those classes always seemed to stick, and it was always great to bounce ideas off each other and build on to those ideas."

"I liked learning that [works of art] can be interpreted in so many ways. and letting those interpretations be realized instead of waving them off because they weren't on the test. They're valid even if they might translate into a 'wrong answer.'"

"My professor came up to me and said that I seemed quiet but I was a 'simmering teapot' and she couldn't wait to see what I did with my life. It still means so much to me that she said that. She was passionate, kind, and interesting and always found a way to connect with us on a human level."

"Mark Hardin, my middle-school choir teacher, believed in me, pushed me, and made me feel truly talented, and worth something. His impact on my life was certainly not something that could be revealed by a true/false, multiple choice test, letter grade, or EOG score. Instead, his impact is measured in how I interact with and teach my students every day when they walk into my classroom. I strive to make my classroom the same nurturing, loving, encouraging environment his was."

*Maude is first seen eating an apple under a tree. Get it?
See? There's always hope. Oh, and this isn't Maude.

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