Tearing it apart to confuse the kids. By David Reid Otey

I teach for a living. I’ve been at it for twenty years. I love it. I have an unusual special education class. I know I am fortunate. Throughout all these years I have been studying the process of education, of how we really learn the best, through personal  experience and repeated questions and possible answers from my own mind. The basic operation being used in most cases and most places, from what I see, no matter how the package is relabeled and redefined on paper, is an unfortunate simple process of breaking things down and presenting various modes of repetition for fact memory. In a best situation there will be the hands on projects where students actually create–not simply duplicate–to understand and have ownership of a process.

I tutored for two summers, meeting my two girl students in the local library. We each had to travel half an hour from opposite sides of the library’s town. I was determined that they receive more than just ”the same old same old” routine from their class rooms. I decided upon building their confidence in themselves first and foremost, to get that most important foundation built much stronger than it was. I knew their current math and reading challenges came from a weak beginning understanding of their own inner powers of learning. Each of their first tutoring sessions went like this.

I said, ” The first thing you need to know and believe is that you already have a ton of knowledge/information inside your brain. You are much smarter than you think you are. It shows in your eyes. Smart people can never hide their intelligence if someone can look in their eyes. You’ve seen people who you know are not very smart. You look in their eyes and you can even see their limits. But you have the look of a smart kid. So, you are smart. If it were possible to hook your brain up to a typing machine and to type a copy of everything you know right now, typing it all on both sides of each sheet of typing paper, and then stacking all of those papers neatly on the library floor, this library would be stuffed with those papers clear against all the walls and up against the ceilings and the doors such that no one would be able to get in. There would be no place to stand. No room for anything else at all.”  At this point they look around the room, look at me and smile, and sometimes say, “really?”.

I say, “Yes, and you already know the answers to 90% of what you are going to have in math next year, and probably in science and social studies and even in reading, if you happen to like to read.”  Then I explain what happens from the beginning.

When you are born your mind begins instantly to take in information of all kinds without judgement, without refusing any of it, without any resistance at all. You will no doubt complain about some things and cry at what hurts. Your spirit bonds with your mind and your body through this process of ”taking it all in”. Before you ever set foot in a school you have already had practical real life,  hands-on, creative, reflective experiences. You have observed, wondered, planned, experimented and discovered results and made new plans based on discoveries from the past attempts. You know land marks and how to get around your town. You know the architectural designs and differences of the homes of your family and friends and some of there buildings in town. You already understand elements of art and music and social skills. You understand psychology through interaction. You understand history by personal experience. You have experience in nutrition, in ethnic foods, in classifications of fruits, vegetables, grains, meats and dairy and other groups such as spices and herbs. You understand language, listening, reading, speaking and even some writing. It is really amazing what your mind has absorbed and experienced and acted upon in such a short time.

Then you walk into school where they tear it all part. All that knowledge you have is shown back to you in pieces, totally discombobulated, dislocated, shredded, mangled,  renamed, hidden from its connecting pieces that make sense of it all, suddenly becoming mysterious. Yet, after awhile, your brain tells you that you are familiar with this. There is something about it that you ”feel”. So you open your mouth and say what’s on your mind. The teacher, however, has a ”plan” to follow and your information cannot come out too soon. It might ”confuse” everyone else. So the teacher says, “Just hold that thought. We’ll be getting to that soon.” That means maybe by the end of the week or more likely not until next week.  Soon you feel dumb, stupid, and bored because, after all, your brain knows very well that this is old news being regurgitated. It’s also being forcefully applied by an unnatural formula unrelated to how the real world works. This begins your downfall. This is why you end up not even trying to ”get it” because you feel like you never had it and never will.  Now you are left with trying to survive with some speck of self-respect and self-confidence, to prove you belong somewhere important in the school. You have by then accepted the school’s definition of what a smart kid is and how a smart kid acts. You lose your own self-definition and give in to the status quo. The last thing I do is begin the process of showing them how to use the ”pieces” to bring in the whole of what they’ve known all along so that they can truly add knowledge without the torture of having to go backwards and redefine the meaning of what they’ve lived.

I have a neighbor who understands this idea very well. She home schools her boys and she makes them use ‘what they know, to figure out at least some part of what is needed to add on. When they do the process of discovery on their own instead of being shown every little piece, they like it better, learn more, remember more from creating with it. In short, she teaches them to teach themselves, to carry on the torch of never stopping improving their knowledge of themselves and the world.  End

 

Kids are NOT Pill Boxes. By David Reid Otey

Kids are NOT Pill Boxes. By David Reid Otey

Pill boxes are nice for organizing the right pills for the right days and for the right times. This ensures having exactly what you need when you need it and in the right amount you need. There is no creativity involved in the process. It is cut and dry, simple as pie, easy as a straight line. Structure IS important for specific ultra sensitive issues such as medical needs and physical therapy and making healthy safe meals. Each of these areas have detailed task analysis, proven action-reaction relationships, undoubtable proven results from definite combinations of elements with very predictable expectations. BUT-kids are not THOSE kind of elements.

Kids are human beings. The variations of human beings cannot be simply classified by IQ, environment, heredity, neighborhood, county, state, country, continent nor economic status. The results of human reactions to thousands of variables have shown that one can always expect to be shocked and surprised at the predictable unpredictability of human beings. Senseless things can be of the upmost importance, like the songs, Red Solo Cup, and What does the Fox say. Humans shake their heads at each other, wondering if we as a species are going forwards or backwards, or maybe in consistent circles.

The attempts of government are to try really, really hard to force our species into some sort of straight line of great intellect and common sense, to save us from killing ourselves off or from making too many idiotic choices that could turn all of humanity upside down and drive us all back into caves. Standards have been the main chosen route to gauge the success of anything. Set a standard and make tests that match. Then make matching curriculums and the trio of success is certain. God bless the trinity of standards-test-curriculums. Great money maker, for sure. Great way to shake up a country into a state of confusion. While the public scrambles to deal with the pain and shell switch tactics being forced upon them, making them look the other way, government leaders associated with related businesses, who see the opportunities here, quickly make their moves for their own benefits.

I teach for a living. My occupation is steeped in absurdity. That means we are already working in a consistent fog. It is hard for us to see who is sneaking in to do us more harm than good. It’s never boring, that’s for certain. But it is very frustrating many times because the power we think we really have as teachers is only half as much as we are told. That’s ok, I guess. Because the real leaders of how things turn out are those little people sitting in the desks. You can try any trick you want. They all work for awhile, until the kids figure out the game—which their minds are always looking for–and then sabotage reigns.  Bandaid after bandaid, meaning standards after standards, cover a wound too deep to ever heal. I know this because I’ve watched the history of this nonsense. The government cannot apply the real medicine because of human unpredictability. Most of all the government cannot apply the medicine needed because it would mean losing their power, their hold over the districts monies, their demand to force education to be 99% College and University directed with no other equally viable alternatives. Absurdity Prime. Kind of like a game character isn’t it ?   End

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.

“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.

Driven By Research-? By David Reid Otey

A recent article about people angered over Common Core Standards included a statement from CCS supporters that the CCS system is “Driven By Research”.  I teach special education in a grade school as my day job. It’s been a joy for eighteen years and still is, more so today than when I started. Not because of any specific standards but because of why I do this job: the love of learning and of helping children grasp, understand, practice and master skills they will use later to help preserve the existence and progress and success of the communities they live in.

In my work I stay aware of the pros and cons of every new system that comes a long as a result of someone figuring out a way to get government grant money for ego-building projects disguised as national improvement utopian plans. CCS is the newest happy meal in the mix. I have listened to  peers praise and damn the CCS. The phrase ”research driven” has been used so much that it makes me laugh now. One lesson I finally understood after decades of learning and sorting through pros and cons of any issue is this: Research is as subjective as anything else in life. All research is driven by whichever club, committee, family, organization, street corner gang, political party or neighborhood watch group has an interest in researching anything. Here is the clincher. WHY they are researching in the first place: to affect an improvement that benefits and advances the position of control, fame or finances of their group.  Experts exist on both sides of every issue. It becomes a match not of wits so much as of who advertises the most, yells the loudest and convinces the best with expertise in all styles of social-political propaganda (which, in itself, is good or bad–depending upon which side of the propaganda you stand.)

A  teaching friend told me recently she was frustrated by the stresses CCS is placing on our students. She said it very unfair to shove this system into a place where it doesn’t belong. I smiled as I said, ” I agree. But we know something those great researchers overlooked or never worked with kids in the first place to understand. Kids Rule. They always have and they always will. They rule by giving the results that prove what motivates them and what they consider to be important techniques to keep them interested. It’s a business. The kids are customers, like it or not. They can shut something down pretty fast. If they understood their powers better, they would be shutting a lot of things down regarding curriculum choices in their schools.”   I have seen curriculums change, watching old text books of past “research driven high quality perfection” being thrown in the dumpster.

In the meantime, as the cloud of controversy slowly moves its mass across the crowds of protesters and praisers, the clock keeps ticking. I have never yet seen the three hands on my class room clock stop because of issues, only because of dead batteries. The kids show up and we get started with “ok, today we look at this and how….”.  Numerous reading and math programs have sailed through the halls of every school, each one being labeled as the ”King James” version for all to use for the conformity systematic learning, as if all minds were wired the same, as if all families agreed on the same standards for raising children, as if all families shared the same importance of education in their homes.

Bottom line is this. We teachers will do what we have to do, are told to do. But when we see THAT LOOK, that warning sign in the faces of our students, equally represented by the shifting grades they receive from assignments, WE will shift, too, as we teach them, as we feel what they are telling us with their moans, with their aggressive or nervous energies. We are the real experts. We know how to intervene with subtle weavings of ”common sense standards” between the scripted sentences of the teacher manual. We know how to reach the minds we have interacted with consistently in close quarters for a long, long time. Think of it this way: combine the film where the children’s eyes would glow as they stared at anyone to hypnotize them into a self-destructive act WITH the opening speech of The Outer Limits-“we control your tv set” (mind), and you have the reality that makes ALL “good” teachers instantly engage with ”sanity preservation standards” to run a smooth, happy, successfully learning class. And THAT, by the way, comes from ”driven research”. 🙂    Have a great day.  The End.

 

Education–the struggles to get it right. Part One. By David Reid Otey

I teach Special Education for 95% of the finances I earn to eat, have a home, a car, clean clothes, pay bills: all the stuff you have to do, too. And it’s a big deal, really, to think about what ”real” life is. It’s being able to contribute to your own needs and desires first of all. Then life is made up of ”going somewhere” by having and practicing and perfecting skills in something you really want and like to do. That’s a brief synopsis of what education is ”supposed” to be for. Did I hear someone say, “How long have you been a teacher?” I’m glad you asked. Finishing fourteen years at this point. Plenty of time to absorb the challenges, to grow with the right turns and wrong turns of my planning and reacting choices, to eventually enjoy the security and reality of the absurdity of my occupation.

I love what I do. I love the variety of topics and of the kids. I love the electrical energy of curiosity and imagination from the grade school kids flowing all around me, as I walk up and down the halls. Their humor, their bravery, their “I own this world” disposition. The clock starts as soon as they show up for the free breakfast, forty-five minutes before the first class begins. I start then, too, because my morning duty is to help toss out leftovers when they bring up their trays. Rows of kids chatter, laugh, tease, maybe one will yell, but they all mingle. They all socialize, blend, slowly developing the future community. Out there dressed in many different ways, wearing various hair styles and walking proud, or meek, or somewhere in between, are the next business leaders, bankers, police force, medical personnel, social service people, art people, music people, everything under the sun. Maybe even one of the future Presidents of the United States is sitting there. I watch all of this, and I’m always thinking and imagining what their ”reality” will be. I wonder how well our system ”prepares” them for what they want to do rather than what everyone else wants them to do.

 You can read hundreds and hundreds of articles and newspaper reports about failing schools, angry parents, ”distant” politicians trying to “fix” schools in districts they don’t dare drive their cars into, school consolidations spreading like wild fires just to keep some form of education present for their youth, and especially about kids graduating high school with little to no sense about how to handle money, how to have a successful work ethic and attitude, or how to handle physical passion and personal relationships. The really crazy thing is that these reports come from every single generation in the United States, starting in the late 1800’s to the present.

A lot of money has been made for over a century now from ”utopian” curriculums, new ”paradigms” and many so called new ”cures” that promised to finally lead our youths and the nation to higher educational performance so that we can compete with the ”brains” of other countries. Well, guess what. Every new program isn’t really ‘new’. It’s always a redesigned format of something past generations have all seen before. The pretty packaging and the statements of ”scientifically proven and tested” for the new and improved curriculums and state standards are business as usual. Sometimes there are better ideas such as combining past programs that compliment and supplement each other, or that join the right and left hemispheres of the brain. But none of them touch the foundation of where all education begins. None of these programs can start where the spark of curiosity begins; in the homes of the children from the very first day they enter the house of the family they were born into. That is where it all begins.  

What I share next is to show the variety of emotional states of the students every school has and tries to teach. When I stand in front of my class and pass other classes during a walk down the hall, here is what I see. Kids that are loved by their families, kids that are tolerated by their families, kids that are almost hated by their families, and some kids with temporary families because their kin are dead or in jail, or simply ran away from the responsibility. I see kids who know more about drugs than some of the teachers, who know what pornography is and have seen it, who are used to having the police visit members of their families regularly and who know how get around town on their own late at night because no one at home cares where they are. I also see kids from families that are very poor but doing their best to work and make things balance out.  Single moms and single dads, working when they must, depending upon family to baby sit their kids. Then there are the poor families who have adults that don’t want to work and who have learned how to use the system. They’re not stupid, just lazy and living the way they want to. We also have the kids from homes where the parents care, work hard, know how to handle money, watch over their kids day and night, making sure they’re home by dark. There are more varied conditions and combinations of conditions. All of these conditions are what children live in and experience before they ever step into a school. I have learned that stereotypes fit reality maybe 60% simply by my observations. I have also learned that there are kids who want to learn, who have pride in themselves, who love to know things outside of their ‘home’ world and will work hard because they love what life offers—these kids come from every single condition I have listed. It was a curve ball surprise to me when I first noticed a ‘well-off’ kid manipulating, whining and throwing fits to get out of school work and try to get kicked out, and then see a poor kid in old clothes loving the school work and doing everything asked by the teacher, smiling, asking questions, really enjoying the process. It took awhile to see that attitude trumps everything else. The best books, the best programs, the best of anything is effective only if it is in the hands of a person with the right attitude.  End of Part One.