I firmly believe that a strong and appropriate education system, well researched and implemented, aligned from pre-birth through adult, provided equally for ALL people, monitored and evaluated both formatively and summatively, will result in a free country with liberty and justice for all.
May 12, 2019 Education Entry
The World At Your Fingertips
In the words of poet, Maya Angelou, "Segregation shaped me; education liberated me." "Without education, there can be no freedom. Education opens our eyes and ears. It informs us that the singularly most important freedom is the freedom of the mind. Without that, there is no creative expression, no justice and no choice. Education is the key that unlocks the chains of oppression and brings the world to our fingertips."
In the writing above, "The World at Your Fingertips", Guilloume quotes Maya Angelou, and I quote them both because I wanted to use these quotes to begin my own narrative about early childhood education. I have taught and administered at all age levels over the last 50 years (I know, I have a hard time believing it too! But time flies when you are having fun, don't you think?). I have found that you can make the biggest difference in a person's life with the least cost in terms of dollars and effort spent, if you "get to 'em" when they are very young. Volumes of research inform us that a person's brain is approximately 90% developed by the time he or she is 6 years old. In the first 6 years of life, personality is mostly developed, the way of experiencing the world is learned, trust (or distrust) is learned, how to learn is developed, to love or not to love, and how to love is molded into the person's psyche, etc. My experience over the past 50 years of working in education has imprinted on my mind that this is SO TRUE. I started out teaching in high school, then middle and elementary school, then adults and college level students, then teaching in and administering Head Start, preschool, and early childhood special education. Now I am administering Head Start (3 to public school age, generally through age 5), Early Head Start (serving children pre-birth to age 3 and their families); included in this is serving children with disabilities.
I have had my stints of working with older children through their teenage years who are in residential treatment centers because of social and learning problems, including juvenile delinquency. I have counseled adults who are incarcerated. I believe that many of these people would not have been in these facilities if they had had proper early education and supports before they reached 6 years of age. And the costs of serving older individuals is exponentially higher! Developmentally appropriate early childhood education is both cost effective and people effective!
I will write more on this subject in the future and why most of the social and economic problems this nation is now facing could be mostly alleviated if only more effort is directed towards developmentally appropriate early childhood education. The old adage Pay me now or pay me later could not be more true! And in terms of education, paying now (when children are in their early years) is SO much more COST EFFECTIVE and PEOPLE EFFECTIVE! I'll give examples in later writings. Thank you!
October 23, 2018 Education Entry
A SHOUT OUT FOR LIBRARIES
As I have traveled these United States doing educational consulting work for not just years, but for decades now, I have gotten much of my writing done in libraries. Libraries are usually a good place to reflect on my thoughts, find a good solid writing desk or table, get on the internet, or read the latest news whether it be in newspapers or research journals. Also, most librarians are very willing to assist people as they search for information. One of the best libraries I have had the opportunity to use is the LIED library in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and I want to acknowledge their expertise and friendly willingness to help a patron whether it is researching a subject, helping a patron of any age (early childhood to older adult) navigate the internet, write legibly, etc. And this library has special programs for all ages, preschoolers, teenagers, and adults. In fact, I joked with the librarians today that the entire block which the expansive building sits on, along with the large lawn on the south side that usually has kids playing on it, is really just a very large classroom! So, this is my shout out to the LIED library in Scottsbluff, Nebraska on October 23, 2018. YAY for LIED library! Keep up the good and competent work! I hope that you all have access to a library like this one and that you are as much impressed with libraries as I am!
A SALUTE TO TEACHERS
When was the last time you . . .
-visited your child's classroom?
-visited your grandchild's classroom?
-thought deeply, really deeply, about how you learned to write? About how you learned to add, subtract, divide, or do advanced math? About how you learned the geography of the world? About how you were introduced to the science of water, your body, electricity? About how you learned to work in groups? About how you learned to cooperate and collaborate with other people in groups who were a different color than you, who had a different spiritual faith than you may have been taught or been exposed to at home? About how you learned to _________ (you fill in the blank)?
And when was the last time you reached out and thanked a teacher that you have had or that you have watched teach?
I have always had a deep appreciation for teachers. Many former teachers of mine won't believe the previous statement, and many others are probably rolling over in their graves! (And my friends and former classmates are probably laughing out loud!) But maybe there are a few believers? I hope so! But at this point in my life, I don't think that I really care. It is what it is.
To kick off this topic , I am going to talk about a teacher I witnessed just a few days ago. I visited his classroom for an afternoon. Joel Falk teaches 5th grade at Gonzalez Community School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I obtained permission from Joel to use his name in this writing as well as the permissions of the principal and assistant principal. They all three told me that I could mention their names as long as I did not mention kid's names nor take or post pictures of kids. And I know better than doing this without first getting parents' permission and the school's permission!
I travel quite a bit working as I do as a consultant in education. Whenever I visit a locale, I try to find out as much as I can about some aspect of education or "learning" in the area. After interviewing several people about the schools in Santa Fe, hearing both the perceived positives and the perceived negatives, I wanted to visit a public school classroom and see for myself. There are quite a few private schools in Santa Fe and I visited one last year and wrote about it in this website (please see The Waldorf School). So now, a public school classroom.
When I got to the school in the early afternoon, I went through security in the office, and then was escorted to Joel's classroom by an office staff person. Three students were standing by a screen and were giving a report to the rest of the class (I counted 19 students) which seemed to me to be a combination social studies/science/language arts/technology/public speaking report. How is that for teaching across the curriculum to the whole child? The students had been placed by Joel in teams of 3 students to a team several days or weeks earlier and their assignment was to research a particular topic (for example, a hurricane, or the moon landing, etc.) and develop a slide show on the topic. They made their own slides, and put them on a flash drive which they gave to Joel who saved the slides in an electronic combined format. Each team, with all 3 students taking turns speaking, gave an oral report along with the slides which were advanced by Joel from his desk. After each report, the students answered questions that were asked by the audience (the other students). After about 15 minutes, the team presenting sat down and the next team gave their report. These kids were what I would call "typical" of kids in Santa Fe, that is, representing different ethnicities, from homes with a range of different income levels, a range of abilities, 2-parent homes and single parent homes, both boys and girls, etc. This is a "public" school meaning that if a parent or guardian has registered the child, then the school serves the child. In spite of all of these differences, Joel kept the kids on task and focused. All appeared to be learning from the exercise.
Joel has these kids in his room all day except for, of course, recesses and lunch periods. He teaches a variety of other subjects including math although I am not going into detail on these other subjects. My purpose for going into detail on the social studies/science class was to be precise on what goes on in a typical elementary classroom and exhibit a teacher on task keeping the kids on task in an effort to facilitate learning and nurturing appropriate academic and social development of our future community, national and world leaders. In my opinion, this is what should be happening in our nation's schools. I want to add that these children were polite to each other and their teacher (and myself) and interacting and learning from each other. Further, I also want to add that Joel showed respect for all of the children, even when he had to perform some "mild" discipline and addressed all of the kids by name.
At the end of the regular day when school was out and the kids left the classroom, a new group of kids came in and got out their chessboards and started playing chess. Joel explained that he volunteers to sponsor a chess club that meets after school.
Some other observations of this classroom: 1. Joel had put a historic timeline on the walls depicting several thousand years up to the present and the kids had placed on the walls, next to different years, the significant events such as when different presidents were elected, when WWI occurred, when WWII occurred, the moon landing, etc. 2. The writing process all the way from brainstorming through pre-writing the first draft through proofreading, final draft, and publishing was clearly depicted on the chart on the wall. 3. There were further charts and posters around the room regarding the math process, behavior in the classroom, the New Mexico State Pledge, and the Gonzalez School Pledge. One poster that really caught my eye, and to me was original, was a poster that was labeled "R.I.P. Dead Words" and some of the words that Joel and the kids had listed were "dumb" "stupid" "ugly" "stuff" "idiot" and "jerk" which are typical put downs that our culture seems to be enamored with. My opinion is that these words need to be buried!
I have presented what I observed in a classroom in a Santa Fe Community Elementary School. This teacher was on task and working. As a former teacher who still sometimes stands in front of a room full of students trying to convey knowledge while at the same time facilitate learning, it is hard to be prepared, focused, and on task! It takes a lot of energy and commitment! It takes a love of learning. And a love of human beings. And a love of life!
We need to salute our teachers as they prepare our future leaders and doers. I challenge readers, YOU, to attend a public school (or a private school classroom) and tell me what you observed. And tell others. Thank you! Our society is too many times focused on the latest hyped news drama on TV, criticizing one political party or the other, gossiping about the neighbors or passing along the latest thing read on some social media site whether it is true or not (and many times is NOT, just someone's idea of "fake news"), talking about how bad "the" schools are. And many people criticize and talk about how bad the schools are even though they have not been in a school classroom for years, public or private! And whomever coined the two words "fake news" and spouts the term should be put to hard labor!
So, I implore you again, go visit your local school. Maybe even volunteer in a school. You might be surprised at what your kids are learning. And that teaching is not a piece of cake job but hard work. But also is very rewarding! After visiting, then go tell your neighbors what is really going on in the schools. And inform and challenge the politicians to really learn about and help the schools instead of only spouting rhetoric prior to an election and then promptly forgetting what they had said and were going to do for the schools and for education after the election is over!
Thank you for staying with me on this subject! Now go pat a teacher on the back! Please! (And keep those cards and letters coming) And comments! What I have written comes from my mind and heart, and after having spent several decades in the schools. What are your opinions?
Most of the time, I try to keep my writings positive and talk about the "good" things happening in life or have happened. To stay with this idea, I have decided to write about some of the great teachers I have had over the years starting with my earliest remembrances of entering the school house.
Stay tuned for my next post for the latter part of October, 2018 or early November.
February 1, 2017 Education Entry
As with the "Writing" menu tab, I will make posts on education periodically on the "Education" tab. This posting may be an opinion of mine, based on research I have done, or a post on education from a guest. All posts are to be on improving education, from pre-birth through adult.
I have been in the business of education for over 50 years but of course there is much about education that I do not know. We must all be continually learning! And using this learning for the good of humanity. There are many different educational methodologies and practices in the United States and worldwide. I find it exciting to study and learn about these different methodologies and practices!
Recently I had the good fortune to be given a tour of the Santa Fe, New Mexico Waldorf School. I was amazed by what I learned and what I saw. Waldorf schools seek to educate the whole student, from preschool through high school, based on humanitarian principles--at least this is the impression I got from my brief 2-hour tour of the school and listening to Waldorf educators describe their practices to me. They say that the schooling that they provide the students is schooling for the head, hands, and heart. For example, playing music is part of each day's activities in all the grades. And, from the fourth grade on, all students learn to play a musical instrument. All students plant a garden. Each class, under the direction of its teacher, stages a play during the year. These are just some of the examples I either witnessed or were explained to me.
I left the school with the thought that all students worldwide ought to be able to enjoy the benefit of attending a school that seeks to provide a way for the complete development of each student's full potential. A schooling of the head, hands, and heart. Of course, we all know that unfortunately this is only happening for a very small percentage of children worldwide. But it should happen for all children! And it could if adults would but work together cooperatively and collaboratively.
Since my exposure to the Santa Fe Waldorf School, I decided to research the Waldorf methods more thoroughly and this took me to the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) website. After much research and study of the Waldorf methods in this website, the reader is invited to make comments and post them on the Waldorf website. The following is my post on their website on February 1, 2018:
"Our world is in perilous times! People are struggling; countries are struggling. There are grabs for power and domination everywhere. Countries are seeking to destroy each other culturally, socially, educationally, physically, morally, ethically, and in so many other ways. Survival of the fittest. Wars are happening, millions are being killed. AND WHAT DOES THIS SAY TO OUR CHILDREN? It tells them that adults are out of control, that nothing makes sense! It destroys children. And this will destroy the world!"
"Education is the only way out! Education is the only way to survive and progress. We, as adults, must seek to provide an ethical, moral, and compassionate developmental education for ALL children worldwide. We are all human. We all have intrinsic value. We must develop and practice better ways! I have been an educator for 50 years and I am studying Waldorf education methods and practices, along with many others. I have dedicated my life to this pursuit. Please see my website davidhaineseducationandwriting.com. Please join/communicate with me."