Friday, October 15, 2010

#PLENK2010 What I learned today (10/10/15)

What a lively bunch we were today.  We were on a topic that was very dear to our hearts.  This exchange totally astonished me.

Me: The model of the ideal teacher is the factory foreman: setting enough work (not too much or too little) and making the workers (students) do it, and docking the slackers.
:@Skupik -- you are not serious, are you?
: Govt. wants a 70% success rate for students!
: @Skupic - Oh dear!
: Gotcha.
: @Skupik that is the industrial model
Of course, that is the industrial model.   It is the model of the 19th century concept of public (for all economic classes) education that Ken Robinson talks about in his video at
   It is the one described in Overschooled But Undereducated by John Abbot et al.  It is the model of the school in which I was educated, and in which most government leaders were educated, and it is the model that many parents recognize.  It is the school of Charlie Brown and of Bart Simpson.  
   When I was teaching Grade 5 in Toronto, I asked my class: What makes a good teacher?  They told me: Someone who gives us the right amount of work, not too much or too little, and sees that we do it.  That's not a teacher, I thought.  That's a foreman.  And, of course, it was.  But from their point of view, they needed reasonable expectations that they could achieve, and their parents, who worked in the factories of industrial Toronto, would have expressed the idea of the fair foreman in just those terms.  
   When I was teaching in a remote village in the Chilcotin, the children complained to the bus driver that I was "so mean".  The  bus driver, who was my friend and who told me this story, really wanted to know how nasty I was.  He was afraid that maybe I was, after all, one of those sad teachers from the days of residential schools who hit the kids and punished them unmercifully.   "What does she do?" he asked.  "She makes us do our seatwork!" That is the authority of the experienced teacher.  The head of the maintenance department remarked to me, "You must be doing something right in here because I haven't had to replace that window once this year."
   There are some very good things about the traditional schools when they function well, and those successes need to be examined and retained or modified to suit the new situation of the wired world.  And the hinterland needs to be brought into the wired world for sure (but that's another discussion).
   I have observed that many people try to reproduce the conditions of their childhood when they become adults a) because that was when they lived in a world that was safe and nurturing (their personal Garden of Eden) or b) because they are imprinted with a model they must work out.  Gabor Maté in Hold On To Your Kids describes how the culture of a well-functioning community supports the parents and helps them raise their children, citing Rognes, Provence as an example (40).  And when the powers that be consider the ideal school, if their experience was satisfactory in their terms, they design their expectations and funding accordingly.
   One new feature of the "modern" school is that a huge number of the students, who are still children, are not oriented for attention to the adults around them.  They have no respect for parents and teachers because those people have not given them the attention they needed when they needed it.  The modern student is oriented to their peers who do give them the attention they crave.  Of course, the attention of their peers is not a nurturing one because the majority of children don't have the capacity to nurture others.  (The brain does not finish growing until about 25 when the 'wisdom' teach begin to hurt.)  That peer world is run by bullies and their hangers-on.  It is the world of "flaming", harassment and suicides.  As with a flock of birds, the different one is pecked to death, because difference will draw the attention of the hawk.
   I met one of these "lost boys".  She was 8 years old, going on 18.  She told me she didn't want to learn to read and to do well in school because then she would not appeal to the "in" group of (16-18 year-old) males.  Smart, manipulative and beautiful, she was in a hurry to become "queen" of the party-gang.  When she was 12, on a slippery road at night, she drove into a tree. 
  It is true that in elementary school and in high school, the teachers are very conservative.  Some are conservative because, frankly, they are not with it and don't know what wonderful applications are out there.  But some fear for the students who don't have a solid emotional grounding or are naive enough to be seduced by predators on the make in the cyber-world.  In loco parentis is taken very seriously by those who watch over our children.
   At least, in the industrial-style, bricks-and-mortar school, the kids were kept within sight of the teacher and the teacher knew what they were doing within those four walls.  
   I am really enjoying this course, and while we are thinking about assessment, grades and authentic thought, let us not forget that many of the students coming into the universities are still children no matter that they have left high school behind them.

To return to this comment : Govt. wants a 70% success rate for students!
  If 80% of the possible "correct" answers is taken to mean mastery, and it is, on standardized tests, can we expect that 80% of the time, the teacher is "successfully" teaching?  Is the student learning 80% of the time?  If the student is learning 80% of the time, and the teacher is teaching 80% of the time, can we say 80% of 80% is equal to 64%?


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