Thursday, September 24, 2009

"My class"

"Whose class are you in?" the eleven-year old asked the three-year old. Upper elementary students help walk new primary students to class during the first weeks of school, until the younger ones learn the way to their rooms and get comfortable walking there independently.

"My class," she replied.

I broke out in a big grin. Was this answer a statement of philosophy? Eleven-year olds are eminently practical, so the upper elementary student rephrased her question. "Who's your teacher?" She got the answer she needed and the two of them walked into school hand-in-hand.

The current issue of Education Week deals with this as a philosophical response. In Joan Goodman's article, "Anything a child can do, a teacher shouldn't," she talks about ways to shift perception, so that children come to feel that the school is "mine rather than theirs."

What is she reacting to? In schools that impose, "a rigorous curriculum along with strict behavioral regulations ... The cost of achievement is submission by all."

Is this a nightmare or an educational ideal? Wouldn't this result in well-behaved students who learn what we want them to learn?

Or is this the key to a mystery?

When I asked a group of business people how many consider themselves entrepeneurs, most hands went up. When I asked how many are told what to do when they go into work in the morning, every hand went down.

I asked who gets excited about learning a new skill or some new bit of information. Every hand went up.

Then I asked who liked school. Nearly every hand went down. Down.

Why is it, I asked them, that a group of adults who love to learn, disliked school?


  1. "Anything a child can do, a teacher shouldn't". THAT will be my new mantra in the classroom, and I will empower the children to do as much as they possibly can!! It's awesome, thank you!!

  2. You are most welcome. We all need to be reminded of this...often. I remember years ago when my father came to visit the middle school class at Ruffing Montessori School in Cleveland. I put him to work building some shelves with middle school students. At the end of the day he smiled and said, "It actually would have been easier if I'd just done it myself." I replied, "Yes, I suspect that's true. But that's not the point."