The Mother Land ?–The United States Of America. By David Reid Otey

First of all, I am a teacher. I am very good at what I do because, so far, I have the freedom to teach according to my gifts of understanding, connecting, guiding, helping kids to see their gifts and enlightening, encouraging and empowering them to become the “real” them instead of a merely cloned worker of whatever anyone else may want them to become. But I wonder how long even I can be myself, using my  gifts the way I know they must be used, teaching with MY talents to see what must happen next according to the scope and sequence combined with the emotional and psychological make up of my students.

This push for a national standard system so that every single kid in the good ole’ U.S.A. will be “learning” exactly the same things at the same time all over this grand country of “individual freedom” strikes me as a paradox. Is the idea supposed to be that if every kid has the exact same standards and every teacher has to teach “according to the tests” which is what really happens here, then the whole nation will be saved from the fears of poverty and idiocy ?  Hmmmmm.

What does individual freedom mean in this case ?  Are we going to blame all the teachers of this country for the increasing poverty and idiocy reported by media ?  What about families who choose drug addiction and all types of abuse within their families to frustrate their own children with a life of fear and anger ? Does this count anywhere in the equation or are teachers to blame for that, too ?

Is college education –“college readiness” the only important target for defining the purpose and direction of education ?  Is this whole ploy a market saving scheme, to save colleges from losing their usefulness in a world that increasingly depends upon entrepreneurship, active, experimental, useful, consistently creative imagination gained more from apprenticeship within such companies who themselves teach what they want their employees to do ?  “College Readiness” is no longer the best  direction to aim for.  How about Life Readiness ? Where are the standards that stress money management, first aid, family planning, job skills (of which homework and class room ass-sitting have nothing in common with), talents development, community service, personal psychological and emotional development, making sure every kid can swim and more ?

This push of Common Core States Standards is taking out a middle ground , an island of safety for children, forcing more pain and confusion, increasing lack of hope for dreams of talented people who could really turn this country around if given the reigns to aim their own talents in the directions they have the gift to see for themselves. If we keep allowing this to grow and take over our states, will we be courting the same disastrous results as some other nations where some higher grade students commit suicide over the pressure of trying to prove themselves “worthy” of the mother land ?

The “real” progress we seek for our children and for the future of our country’s positive growth will come ONLY FROM enhanced OPPORTUNITIES for personal growth in the talents through the public education system. The truth of educational growth NEVER HAS BEEN the state standards. It’s been the Parents Standards and the Student’s Personal Standards. What a shame this country is now embracing the “one size fits all” mentality–and to the tune of the billions of dollars it costs for the production of the NEW standards supplemented by the NEW tests and NEW curriculums that all of the state enforced cooperating school districts must pay for  out of their own pockets when their own states hold back the financial support already owed to their school districts.   Yes, what a trick of the old con game genre to make someone believe that if they eat this one pill they will become ten times smarter. On and on and on it goes. How far will the people of the U.S.A. let this one go ? No one knows. BUT I can tell you WHO will make the final decision. It will be THE KIDS. I am a teacher, and the greatest barrier that I can NEVER beat is when a totally frustrated child stops working, stops trying, pushes the paper and pencil to the floor and lays his head on the desk or simply walks out. he might just look up at me and say, “Make ME Do It.” It is a challenging thing for me at 60 years of age to see the lunacy of our country’s leaders allowing this sort of con game to be played on their people, their populace who voted for them.  Time will tell how far this “Mother Land” concept will go. I hope the parents and the children rise up and show the spirit this country stands for, that “independent” right of each state to run its own show in education.   The End.

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“REAL” SCHOOL By David Reid Otey 11-09-2014

The basis of this piece is founded upon the fact of how knowledge is naturally acquired and naturally applied. All knowledge ever gleaned by humankind has come from the process of “living”. Living means experiencing the elements and connections of knowledge through personal relationships with observation and motion with all working senses collecting information into the brain. Living is made up of collecting and experimenting. Living is a scientific process in natural form. Science is the result of living. You learn something (gain knowledge)  from all your senses. Then you get curious about some of it (an idea comes from your brain’s connection of facts). Then you experiment in some fashion ( try out the idea based on the question “what will happen if and when I do…”). The results are more knowledge gained. The point to understand here is that before any experimentation was done knowledge was first collected through natural experiences. That knowledge was eventually written down to guide the next generation so they could “keep on experimenting” to review, maybe double check and then to further the knowledge and understanding,  to add content of “what we learned by this point in time”.

In most schools all knowledge is taught separate from experiencing it. Lists of facts and photos and sentences “telling” you what things are and how they connect are presented like a ready made meal on a ready made plate with ready made tools to eat with. The only act required is to take it in, ingest it (memorize it) and say it back, write it back, pick out the right answer from the wrong ones and say it back. Occasionally you are asked to create a copy of what you memorized (like the models of Indian villages displayed in a library). That is a very unfortunate, extremely limited  process of  education. It is only the first step of learning and it is not connected to “really using” that information at all. It is NOT the way people have successfully learned how to create and connect all that we have in this amazing world we live in. I have another teaching idea that involves the “living” process over the spoon fed process.

Here is my dream school for all students starting with at least 6th grade. All Special Ed and Regular Ed kids would be in the same class room because they would be peer guiding each other as a supplement to the teacher guided lessons.  This school would combine academics with apprenticeship to create “real” knowledge, meaning lessons that form understanding in a context allowing immediate application to real life situations.  Gone is the concept of teaching pieces of knowledge separated from their original source of real life connections.  Gone is the mystery of how all the knowledge connects. Gone is useless repetition of facts and figures that keep younger generations  in stupefied mystery. Here is how it works.

I start this enlightenment with the first day of registration. You and your child  walk in the front door and are directed by guides to the main hall where a series of professionally designed posters show a list of ‘occupation’ classes.  The ‘occupations’ cover plumbing, carpentry-house framing and finishing work, wood working crafts, building furniture, electrician, cooking-choice of two areas/types of meals, musician-choice of two instruments at the same time, medicine (beginning with first aid)–aide, nurse, doctor, medical science, veterinarian, space science for astronauts or space exploration, writing to be a writer, mathematician-to teach or to work in a field of math, clothing design and creation/sewing, business development-choose a business you would want to create, money management for banking and investing, sports-choice of 2 at the same time, the arts-dancing, theater, painting, drawing, clay, statues, etc., exploration-historical studies of great explorers and real-life explorations as a class in field trips, journalism, broadcasting, and more.  I think making everyone learn first aid and how to swim would be powerful personal growth confidence features.

The students show up for their classes where 2 or more teachers will instruct their sections of  the class. In PHOTOGRAPHY, for example, the class sections will be already arranged by the teachers. Some would say it is necessary for professional photographers to teach the class. That will be true at a later stage of the lessons where the services of the local professionals, already connected to the teachers during the planning stage, can be paid to add practical authenticity for instructions, as well as ”field trip” locations to practice.  Sections can be divided into the history of camera development, of techniques developed by historical photographers, comparing the old cameras to the new cameras, of making a home made box camera, using ‘film’ strips, developing images from negatives, practicing with natural and artificial lights and angles, taking care of cameras, switching lenses, all sorts of detailed lessons connected through the art of creating images and catching historical moments for family and community. Taking photos can start right away, giving real time photos as examples of how certain images are created and to show how and why we get weak or strong results. Learning a bit about each historical photographer and life in their times, and what it took for them to be able to make just one photograph compared to today, can count for history and social studies. Studying the photographs of historical moments through world history will enlighten the students and spark questions for discussion and for ideas to flow. Photography will teach students to look inward as well as take a closer look at the outer details of their world and their lives. This creates an inner awakening for some. Every occupation comes with a list of terms, a vocabulary. These terms contain the ideas, the processes and the connections of the occupation. Students will be writing about their projects, planning projects, actively creating projects alone and with others, accomplishing reading and language skills related to not only this occupation but also to other concepts in life: such as, how your own life “develops” from who and what you “expose” yourself to for a specific amount of time. Can you see how the development of confidence through personal growth of a “real” work can happen here ? Math is used in the angles, in the amount of light needed, in the distance for clarity, in the varying degrees of focus for effect and much more. Teachers are trained first and foremost to be excellent at research. That means finding, understanding, arranging in sections for lessons, any content that needs to be taught. Connecting with professionals who do that work for a living adds the life element to create the perfect class. My vision is for consistent activity in the class, always creating something while learning the foundations, even if they are not immediately connected.

A University teacher of mine told us the order of understanding. It is something I never forgot. It is MPCB-First comes Motor skills which lead to Perceptions which lead to Concepts which lead to Behaviors. He stated, in my paraphrasing, ‘ If there are any holes in the first two, there will be serious deficits in the last two.’  I feel, as a professional teacher, that our public school system seriously shuts down the Motor skill area to the point that student boredom and carelessness result and then lead to the eventual negative behavior problems so prevalent in every school.  That’s always the challenge, isn’t it? What is commonly said that teachers talk about in teacher lounges ? Problem students.  And what happens to most of the graduates from high schools ? They just ship off to another school (college) for more of the same unsure about a degree direction while they pay good money for useless training of the first two years, or go into the military, or begin working for someone else who wonders why they cannot add or write well or even remember a list of things. Now, some graduates end up growing in the business they started in as a clean up person or server of some sort, to eventually become their own boss opening their own business of the same type. And why did that happen ? Real life learning, knowledge connected with a real job in real time learning and actively doing real things that mattered. And what was their test ? Improving in the job in skill and in attitude and their grade was the praise and raise they got from their boss.

A story to share that has influenced this way of thinking for me. I had a student in Junior High School whom I felt–by my professional experience and perspective–was heading to a life of working for the local developmentally disabled business agency. The only jobs there are sorting recycled trash and cleaning at local businesses. I had not been at the same school to see that student graduate. I discovered later from talking to his parents that he ended up working on cruise ships and then connecting to a photographer and traveling with that person. His life had turned out far richer than I anticipated. His mom was super happy for her son, even though it meant he had to be away from home to have this life. I learned a lesson: maybe the doors are not already set as ‘closed’ for those who “seem” to be unable to succeed. There was something there regarding connections to “real” life to understand.  That something is this: LIFE is the real school. So why not turn school into a reflection of real life.

If we run schools the way I see them as being successful, then we have a guarantee that our children will graduate ready to work in a chosen field, ready to be deeply involved in the process of maintaining and improving the communities they live in, ready to handle their choice of college starting at a higher level instead of repeating the last four years of high school all over again at a faster pace during the first two years of college , and ready to make a life instead of crawling through life as a cleverly ‘educated, conditioned and enslaved’  worker bee for mass production. Some will choose that mass production life/work style happily for themselves and that is fine. But it is very wrong to maintain an educational system geared to ‘force’ a mindset and extremely limited opportunity lifestyle upon our children from k-12. The basics can be covered easily between grades k-5. The REAL SCHOOL can start at grade 6 and we can watch our children grow into the strong and talented people they were meant to be.

The end.

Education’s Changing/Unchanging Cycle By David R. Otey

It is crazy the way the same road of education is taken over and over again. To me, it looks like only one road is traveled on.  At a certain point someone goes back to where we used to be and repaints that part of the road a different color, adding some new bushes and benches, new clocks and happy music from a speaker. Then they shout ahead and say to the leaders, “Hey, turn them around. We’ve got this section ready for them again.”  No matter how you dress up state standards, change the lingo to create the “new and improved” paradigms, restructure and repackage the curriculums to sell the same content for higher prices, tack on a “new and improved” state testing system worth billions to the geniuses behind that, present some very serious looking smart people in front of a camera for the ‘public display’ of intelligence at work, it’s STILL the same routine, the same interference of non-educators making the rules for “real” teachers. The content is the same, too.

What I understand from the articles and videos I’ve studied so far about the origin, the con-artist push for connecting to states with financial aid packages to accept the program without public involvement, and the methods of practice involved with the Common Core Standards and the multi-million dollar business creating matching curriculums and matching state tests, there are two main factors that stand out.

One main factor is the utopian idea of a national set of educational standards. This forces every participating state to accept new curriculums, making them replace very good already being used great curriculum  Every kid studying exactly the same thing at the same time so they all come out of the cookie cutter assembly line with exactly the same smartness and abilities for academic wonder kids. Imagine the kid assembly line idea Pink Floyd used in their classic film, The Wall (1982)-for their  song, Another Brick in the Wall.  Now is the time, I guess, for the country to try and do with schools what has been successful for fast food franchises. Uniformity for the sake of conformity, for the sake of having a stronger hold to ensure the survival of a dying system of education that has not met the needs of society for the past 50 years at least.

Is there really that much difference between the states for teaching Reading, Writing , language and Math ?  I was educated in New York, Florida, Georgia and Maryland when I was growing up between 1960 and 1972 when I graduated. I remember all the numbers looking the same everywhere I went. The letters for the words looked the same, too. Even their sounds were the same, give or take a slight difference in dialect for pronunciation. I was taught the same lessons for periods and commas and exclamation points–all of that stuff. It was all exactly the same in every blessed school I attended.

How about this ”new math” idea coming around with Common Core, driving the parents and teachers–I’m one of each–crazy. Guess what. It is NOT new math. It is another style, another method, another way of looking at how to process numbers. It’s been around a long time, taught in higher level course work. I feel like it was purposely chosen to alienate the parents from being able to have any control over the education process and direction. The programs disable the effectiveness of parents in relating to their children for school work.  My school recently sent a letter to the parents stating we are doing all we can to also master the new forced changes and will try to help them as much as possible, for the parents to please remain patient and to call with any questions and the teachers will collaborate with the parents.

I work a full time job in special education in a grade school, and I shake my head at this ridiculousness. I also foresee a great increase in the population of the kids I teach. Just watch the “resource rooms” blossom in population within the next 5 years. The only plan to prevent that might lie in the fact that our state has been requiring that by the year 2015, if I’m not mistaken, every special ed. kid is to spend 80% of his/her day in a regular class room. Combined with that has been the push to make every class room contain 2 teachers teaching along side each other, sharing the responsibilities of both groups of kids in the same room. You already know how that works, don’t you. The same as it always has worked. The main lecture of the lesson is given to all at the same time. This time with 2 teachers instead of one. Then the class is split into 2 or more groups according to “their abilities” (academic level). Forget “confidentiality”,  which is a joke anyway, as far as communities go, because everyone knows who can and who cannot “get it” in the academics kid world. So, this new set up can hide the weakness this program will create, is already creating.

An instructor of mine at the University I attended said this, I paraphrase. ” Every 20 years the system changes. First they had all of the special ed. kids in the same room. When the parents screamed about the hardships their kids were going through the system split them up into different rooms according to their abilities. Now, you watch..”, he said in 1995 as I sat listening in class. “You watch what will happen. They will put them all back into the one room again.” As he spoke, he placed one after another of those plastic transparency sheets on the overhead projector so fast no one could write the information down. His point was to simply show us the research already accumulated about this practice by that time. He had at least 30 of those sheets. I never forgot what he said. The shift didn’t start as soon as he said it would. it actually started five years later. But I saw him in a grocery store one day, knowing he retired, and I told him, “You were right. It’s happening now.” He smiled and nodded.

Another factor is this push for government control of the nation’s education system. It is another chapter following the fiasco of No Child Left Behind. This plan looks more innocent but the same “program” is  within the Core like jelly in a donut. State rights are being conned out of the public sector without any avenue for the public to fight for the protection of their statehood. State governments sell out their people for big piles of money to supposedly help the state in other ways. Governmental destitution and desperation override creativity and communication, as this wave of control freaks plug in their sales pitches to grab a whole side of the Monopoly Game neighborhood for long enough to drain more of the taxpayers money and local school districts money through forced purchase of those curriculum texts and new state tests.

The love, care and skill of real teachers and their administrators for their students, their schools and their communities will make them learn and guide others through this swamp. They know how to work through bad days and bad plans without giving up. They know how to handle sudden changes. Support your teachers. Ask what you can do to help all around. Be patient and also think about visiting your capitol leaders to encourage them to maintain state rights for their education.

The end.