“Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?” –Jane Nelson
A number of years ago I remember at one of my interviews I was asked “What are reading?” I remember thinking “Reading, when do I have time to do any reading!” In a surprising moment when I didn’t say what I was thinking; somehow I knew it wasn’t the answer they were looking for; I answered some educational author that we had just done in a book study. The second question was “If you could meet and talk to anyone living or dead who would it be?” Who walks into an interview thinking these are the questions that I would be asked? At the time I was teaching a unit on ‘Human Rights’ and had just finished sharing the “I have a Dream Speech” made by Dr. Martin Luther King so at that time the answer was easy.
Looking back on those questions they are important ones that we need to be asking ourselves as we embark on our journey to create a community of learners. There are many factors that create situations that create environments for learning for children. Surprisingly they are the same as what creates an environment for learning for adults. Two of these factors for children and adults are cultural factors and friends. Cultural factors are what we do in our spare time, what factors influence us be it our conversations, reading, work ethic, sports and so on. It is all our experiences that create our culture all those things that influence our thinking.
Friends are an interesting one. We all have many friends and we all like to think we control our actions as adults but the habits of those around us will certainly influence our thinking and habits. The views and lifestyles of our friends can influence us and I dare say change us. Each of us go through ebbs and flows in our lives but if we reflect on the times we learn the most, we would mostly likely say it was when we were surrounded by people and activities that promoted thought.
Penny Kittle a leading educator in bringing writing into the classroom is reading Kelly Gallagher. He talks about in order to change how our students read and write we must change what they read and write. We must create controversy in their minds. Create the reason and discussions in their minds in order to challenge their current thinking. I used to work with this teacher who almost every day challenged my thinking (not in a bad way). It was that conflict that made for deeper thought. Rich literature and writings can also do that.
We have so much knowledge at our finger tips, through the Internet and Television. What are we doing, reading and watching? Are the things we are doing enriching our minds or changing our culture and belief systems? These influences affect our children as well. In order for our minds and our children’s minds to grow we really need to think about what that means for ourselves and our classrooms.
Can we teach music without sharing the music of the great musicians or art without studying artists? Can we teach reading and writing without reading great literature and sharing great writing? Can we become better teachers without seeing, reading and talking about great teaching? It is funny, even for becoming a better cook, it comes from learning and understanding food, watching and working with chefs and then trying what you learn.
So what is the last book you read? So if you could talk to someone living or dead who would it be?