Sparks of Learning

Recently I have read a series of other people’s posts and websites that have helped me realize  that we, as teachers, often sit down, roll over and play dead when we should be questioning, expressing our opinions, trying new ways in our classrooms and sharing with our peers. WE are the experts in our jobs and we should be educating parents, students and our administrators NOT to expect the same thing we have always seen or done in schools.

I have NEVER had a parent say  to me, “I don’t want my child learning the topics s/he is interested  in and learning to read and write in real contexts.”

I have NEVER had a parent say  to me, “I don’t believe you can see what my child knows and doesn’t know about reading and writing by looking at their writing (blog, wiki, etc.)  as they read and write in real ways.”

I have NEVER had a principal say to me, “Your students are so animated and alive with excitement about learning every time I come into your room. PLEASE STOP MAKING THEM  FEEL THAT WAY!”

You see, I began as a primary teacher.  I became a primary teacher because a saleslady discriminated against me as a child, and when it happened, I decided right then and there I would grow up and work with children and NEVER treat them the way that  saleslady treated me. I am not the only one who has had a childhood experience shape their views about education.

As  a primary teacher, one constantly has to be teaching social skills and showing students HOW to learn. In the primary grades, it is all about processes–learning to read using many strategies, looking for patterns and relationships in math and numbers in our world, doing science as scientists do,  studying history through stories and books, and writing about what we were studying.

I am NOT a cog.

I NEVER believed in being a widget myself.  I have never believed in producing my students as widgets. I refuse to believe that teachers are SUPPOSED to be widgets or create them.  (Read The Widget Effect for more info.)

I recently had a friend share that her son had told her he believed “teachers were people who were unable to get jobs as dictators.”

I am not a dictator, either.

I believe, instead, we DO need to be cheerleaders at times and that we need to also be important to our students–which means we need to cultivate a caring, respectful relationship.

I believe we know what is best for our students and that we buckle under to pressure NOT to do that, in the name of standardized tests, raising state test scores, time  issues, access problems,  and a myriad of other things that interfere with us following OUR passions.

I’m not going to roll over and play dead anymore. I am not going to sit by quietly while my Board of Supervisors and school board make budget cuts that will kill some of the best parts of our world class school system.  I am not going to watch programs be decimated by the economy without a fight.

I am going to become a gladiator for my kids, for my colleagues and for myself.

I am going make sure EVERYTHING  I do looks, feels and sounds like who I am as an educator–an advocate for the children.  I am going to do so with all of my heart and in ways that impact upon others’ hearts, so that they too will feel the call of leading the learning in ways that matter in our division and in our world.

I am going to share my kids’ passions with our school board–with our money guardians–and with my students’ parents.  I am also going to share their words  and their ideas as they share them with the world as to what they want THEIR school to look like and be.

Will you join me and follow your heart in your classroom, your school, your interactions with students?  Will you plan a lesson or series of interactions for tomorrow that will light a fire in some reluctant student and help them want to come back?  Then, will you share that lesson, that idea, that spark with a colleague to ignite them as well?

Let’s BE the experts and begin to lead from the heart, from the classroom, from the base as we build a quality way of doing business that does NOT kill curiosity, wonder and willingness to problem solve and figure things out. Let’s build that love of  learning we all dreamed about when we first began OUR trek into the world of school.  Let’s make sure the people who make the decisions that impact our very essence understand the effect their decisions have upon our future. . and our students’ future.

9 thoughts on “Sparks of Learning

  1. Bravissima. I am often confused about what’s expected of me as a teacher. This post will be a landmark against which I can plot a truer career path following students and their learning.

    I feel like we need an un-union to support this work.

  2. Wonderful blog, Paula. I think you are already doing a lot if I can judge by your Twitter comments. Your dedication to teaching comes through in what you write.

  3. Great post! I have a small quibble with dictator, though. I let students speak out of turn all the time, if they are on topic. But I won’t let anyone disrupt or stop learning, even a student (I teach HS). I can be flexible, but HS students have told me they don’t like it when teachers never stop the off topic murmurs in the back of the room.

    And hey, my union is fighting to keep class sizes small.

  4. Inspirational, Paula, thank you. You are one of those educators who raise the bar for teachers and students alike.

    I would like to add my thoughts to the “dictator” comment.
    I work with three types of teachers: First, there are those who are dedicated to teaching because they have a passion for learning themselves; they never stop learning or pushing themselves further; they are constantly reflecting upon their own thinking and how their decisions affect their students; they are always aware of the prevailing attitude in the building in which they teach.

    Second, there are those teachers who do a “good” job, keep to themselves, occasionally step outside of the box just to see what it feels like, and almost never make other people reflect on their own practices. There may be some growth, but not a great deal of teacher “learning”.

    Lastly, there are a few teachers who have opted to teach because of some deep-seated need to control others. These teachers are driven by ego and emotional responses to the behavior of the children they teach. They may not even be aware that this is the impetus behind what they think is just keeping things under control. In this kind of environment students are habituated to always deferring to the teacher as the authority and they are exploited to further educator careers. Recently, I heard a teacher proudly tell a parent that when she says “jump”, the kids jump without ever asking why. Widgets in the making.

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