Sunday, June 10, 2007
The classroom as a family
The Russian doll metaphor would be more accurate if each doll showed greater individuality!
Long ago John Dewey wrote that what every parent wants for their own child should be provided to all children. He believed strongly in the concept of community - a community that respected the contributions and individuality of every learner as long as others were not put at risk.
The concept of a 'learning community', based on caring moral beliefs, is once again in vogue but it is still not easy to replace traditional 'mindsets' about school and relationship based on who holds the power. Today the true power, or authority, that teachers possess is the power of establishing positive relationship with all their students.
Thankfully there are always teachers who are able to create classroom where all students feel comfortable - even with students who have reputations for causing 'trouble' in other classes. Such teachers treat all class members with the respect and expectations they hold for their own family.
They 'know' a few important things:
They know that all children are both like all others and are different from all others.
They know they all need unconditional acceptance for who they are.
They know all children want to believe they can become something better than they are- and that the key is to tap into their students dreams, interests and passions.
They know children need help live up to their dreams.
They know all children want to make sense of their experiences.
Children make better sense if teachers work with them; when teachers accept their ideas and help them extend them.
Children need action, joy and peace.
Children need to feel they have power over their own lives and need to be helped to make their own choices - and to learn from their mistakes.
Children need to be helped to use their power wisely and to think of consequences particularly as it affects others.
And most of all children need to feel secure enough to take learning risks.
These understandings , often not explicit, make up a perceptive teachers set of teaching beliefs.
The focus of such teachers is to make children happy ( often through the pride gained achieving difficult tasks).Their goal is to make their students more responsible and independent.
Such teachers observe children learning carefully monitoring growth and providing guidance as required. They celebrate, build on, and amplify each students strengths. They provide guidance, discipline and support as necessary, being careful not to encourage an unhealthy dependency.
Such teachers are proud of all their students achievements - proud of them for their particular mix of gifts and talents; and they make it clear they give up on no one.
Such teachers are examples of 'tough love' teaching ; high on standards but short on standardization.