Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A lesson in humility

The black strip is 100 feet long and made of felt. It represents all the time since the creation of the earth. It is undifferentiated except for that half-inch wide strip of red at the end. As she rolls out the black strip, the teacher tells the story of the earth's history, adding details such as when the earth's crust solidified, when life began, when fish first appeared in the sea, and when dinosaurs appeared and disappeared. The last half inch is red -- and represents the entire time period we humans have lived on earth. Dr. Montessori called this "a lesson in humility." Give elementary children the big picture, a cosmic perspective. Help them to appreciate their place in the universe and in human history and culture. Help them to understand the debt we all owe our forebears and the responsibility we have to each other in the present and to the people of the future. This lesson in humility is not just about being small. It is also about being large. We are significant; our actions matter.

Imagine my surprise when one of our teachers, Joseph Lockett, sent me this web site: a Montessori lesson done with toilet paper!

And on the "aren't we humans amazing!" front, that lesson comes from the Worsley School in northern Alberta. The internet has expanded our reach, our connectivity, the speed of our communication...and shrunk the earth.

Friday, May 22, 2009

parasite lessons

This is from Trevor Eisler, a dad who has written "a parent to parent argument for Montessori education.":

"Parasite lessons constitute what John Taylor Gatto calls 'a national curriculum.' He lists, with anger and regret you can almost taste, the seven awful lessons he realized he was actually teaching, even as he was being praised as an award-winning English teacher:

1. Confusion...Everything I teach is out of context...Behind the patchwork quilt of school sequences and the school obsession with facts and theories, the age-old human search for meaning lies well concealed....

3.Indifference...I teach children not to care too much about anything, even though they want to make it appear that they do...I do it by demanding that they become totally involved in my lessons, jumping up and down in their seats with anticipation...But when the bell rings, I insist they drop whatever it is we have been doing and proceed quickly to the next work station...Nothing important is ever finished in my class not in any class I know of.

4. Emotional dependency...By stars and red checks, smiles and frowns, honors, and disgraces, I teach kids to surrender their will...Individuality is a contradiction of class theory, a curse to all systems of classification.

5. Intellectual dependency...I teach [that] good students wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. It is the most important lesson, that we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives.

6. Provisional self-esteem...I teach that a kid's self-respect should depend on expert opinion. My kids are constantly evaluated and judged...A monthly report...is sent into a student's home...[indicating]down to a single percentage point, how dissatisfied with the child a parent should be...Self-evaluation is never considered a factor...People need to be told what they are worth.

7. One can't hide...I teach students they are always...under constant surveillance...Students are encouraged to tattle on each other or even to tattle on their own parents...I assign...homework so that the effect of surveillance...travels into private households, where students might otherwise use free time to learn something unauthorized from a father or mother, by exploration, or by apprenticing to some wise person in the neighborhood."

New York City teacher of the year three times. New York State teacher of the year. This is what he says he was really teaching...the unconscious curriculum...how we learn shapes who we become.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The marshmallow test: blog of the day

Here's the blog that refers to a New Yorker magazine article that reports on a forty year old study involving children, marshmallows and self-control. Google "the marshmallow experiment" and you get 32,000 entries! I guess self-control is a compelling issue.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What have you learned from failure?

Rolf Smith asked that question. Rolf is the director of the School for Innovators He has a habit of asking questions that turn your thinking on end. Mistakes are one thing. Errors in the learning process. That seems temporary, transitory to me. I have a friendly relationship with error most of the time -- unless the knower side of my personality rears its ugly head.

But FAILURE? That seems bigger, more permanent. Well, I guess you could talk about materials failure. If a wheel on my bicycle collapsed, that would be a materials failure. I can see that could be painful, but not the same as a personal failure.

What have I learned from failure? Drat you, Rolf, made me think...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Reality (blog of the day)

Attachment to reality.

What's wrong with pretend play, Batman?

Does Montessori discourage imagination?

Check out the blog of the day: