Why Smaller Classes are Essential for The Success and Well-Being of Your Child. 94

Why Smaller Classes are Essential for The Success and Well-Being of Your Child. 94

Small class sizeIn this post I discuss how class sizes are one of the biggest, yet most overlooked problems in the current education system – both when it comes to facilitating students academic achievement as well as nurturing their overall wellbeing and development on a personal level.  The questions I raise in this post has to do with the priorities we make within the education system, and so for our children and ultimately for the future of humanity. They are questions I suggest that every parent, teacher and concerned citizen considers for themselves, because although it seems trivial, this is an example of the disintegration of our education systems through a hostile takeover by the corporate world, that we’ve come to take for granted as ‘the way it is’. But it doesn’t have to be.

I will begin by sharing recent experiences I had within teaching here in Sweden to exemplify how grave this problem is and how it can be seen having tragic consequences in the seemingly trivial events of our children’s daily lives.

Recently I was teaching a three-year old student in a preschool. While we were playing, he found a tiny Lego wheel on the floor and joyously said, “It belongs in the Lego box!” So together we walked out of the playroom and with determination he marched towards the Lego box in the other side of the room. Meanwhile, one of his regular teachers had heard that we were going to the Lego box and promptly stopped him in his tracks, telling him to go and clean up where he had played first. I saw that she had misunderstood his intentions and I explained to her that he was simply on his way to put the Lego piece back in the box. It was interesting because I could see that she was rather embarrassed over having gotten strict towards him in assuming that he was just leaving what he’d been playing with to now play with something else. The more important question is: what did the boy learn from this experience?

To see the consequence of this type of misalignment between the teacher and the student, let’s look at another example, this time with an older student that has already been conditioned through the education system for a number of years:

I was walking down the hall at another school with a teacher when a 6-year-old student came in from the outside. As soon as he saw the teacher, he quickly started explaining how he was just going to the bathroom and that he was not wearing his shoes indoors. Already before she had even opened her mouth, he was already preparing himself to get in trouble, assuming that he would get in trouble, even though what he was doing was perfectly fine. Situations like this happen all the time in schools all over the world, and as trivial as they seem, they have the consequence that many children become timid and afraid of adults, always feeling like they’ve done something wrong, even if they haven’t. This on the other hand creates distrust, resentment and a desire to rebel within the children, perpetuating a self-fulfilling prophecy where the children become that which the teachers expect them to be. And as adults, who do these children become? Followers or leaders? Strong, independent human beings that take responsibility for their own lives or apathetic, confused teenagers that never really grow up?

When teachers become snappy with students and when they make quick judgmental assumptions about children in general, it is not because these teachers are ‘bad’. What many outside the school system might not realize is that there are so many students and so much going on at one time that the teachers simply can’t see everything or direct every situation. Therefore they come to rely on assumptions about how children tend to act. This is not optimal, it is not even acceptable – but it is the education system and the conditions we have accepted for our children.

An example of how a teacher can be so overwhelmed that she compromises her ability to effectively teach, was a situation where I was waiting for a 1.grade student while standing in the class where the teacher was teaching the rest of the students. The students were moving around, making noise and there was a general sense of confusion. The teacher (who is new) stood in the doorway and she yelled at a student for walking out of class saying that he couldn’t do the assignment and that she could do it. She told him that it was disrespectful and that it is his own responsibility to learn. As he walked out the door, another student came up behind her with a timid look on his face holding a paper. He quietly asked what he was supposed to do and she brushed him off and told him to go back to his seat. This was significant to me, because the student had simply asked a question, but because the teacher was already involved with a conflict with another student, she took her irritation and frustration out on this student, who went back to his seat with a despondent look on his face. Mind you, these are 7 year olds we are talking about.

Now – what I would like to clarify is that none of these examples has to do with teachers being ‘bad teachers’. Granted, there are teachers who aren’t necessarily meant for the teaching-profession, but the reason why I share these examples is to show that one of the biggest problems for teachers today is that there are simply too many children in the classroom. It affects the teacher’s ability to teach effectively.

I have furthermore seen for myself how these seemingly small mistakes, where teachers make assumptions or rush to conclusions, can create big consequences for a child’s life and self-development, especially when they are repeated on a daily basis over and over again. And the bigger the class is, the more students the teachers have to oversee, the easier it is to make assumptions and ‘small mistakes’.

In my line of work I see many different schools throughout the week and in reflecting over which schools are more effective in their approach towards children, I’ve been surprised to see how it is not necessarily that certain schools have higher standards or better teachers, but simply that they are smaller. I for example go to a public school in a rural area that has the exact same budget and curriculum as any other public school. But a big difference is that it is about the third of the size of other schools. All the children know each other and they know all the teachers and the teachers know them. Unlike most schools, the school was built in 1997 and was designed by an architect. Most schools here in Sweden are either archaic buildings from the 60’s and 70’s that are drawing their last breaths or are designed ‘economically’ to hold large capacities of students. Classroom sizes may seem like a small detail that shouldn’t affect the actual learning environment, but it does – greatly so.

No teachers can effectively teach 20 or 30 students at once, let alone 50 or 60, as is the case in some countries. Furthermore, the younger the child is, the more supervision and support is needed and I would go as far as saying that any child’s optimal learning environment would be based on one-on-one lessons, at the very least no more than 5-10 students in the classroom. (This may sound controversial and for those interested in reading more about this, I wrote a blog post about this as well which you can find here.) Unfortunately most of us are so used to the cramped and smelly classrooms housing at least 30 students that we don’t even consider the possibility that it could be different, let alone that it should be different.

Some researchers claim, as for example the ones quoted in this[1] article from The Economist, that classroom sizes doesn’t matter as much and that raising teachers salaries is a much more equitable way to optimize education. They used the example from primary schools in China where there can easily be up to 50 students in a class. The problem is that the supposed ’effectiveness’ of such classes is based on strict discipline and a model of teaching where children are expected to be passive recipients of rote learning and memorization techniques, models that may produce great results in grades, but that leaves very little room for the students self-expression, creativity and critical thinking skills to flourish. Other studies such as the one mentioned in this[2] article claims that ‘teacher quality’ is more important than smaller classroom for students overall academic performance, but fails to consider that an education that does not only provide students with the best possible learning environment, but also supports them to grow and develop on a personal level, requires both the best teachers and smaller classrooms; one certainly should exclude the other. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking comes from an outlook on education that first and foremost looks at keeping budgets down while ensuring students academic performance.

In alignment with my direct experiences from working in schools, many studies does however accredit small class sizes to students academic achievement as well as to their overall wellbeing on a personal level. To show the overwhelming evidence of the importance of class sizes, I’ll refer you to a large selection of studies done in recent years showing exactly this.[i]

Anyone who has tried teaching or directing a class of more than 10 students knows what a challenge it is, and how difficult it is to make sure that each student is given individual attention to suit their needs. Instead teachers are forced to provide students with standardized lessons that is supposed to at least fulfill the academic needs of the majority of a class and it might teach most students how to read, write and do math at a basic level – but the question is how low a standard we will accept just to keep the budgets on education down? Simply because something works on a marginal level, it does certainly not mean that this is optimal – and as a society we ought to look ourselves deep in the mirror and ask why it is we’re not providing our children with the most optimal learning environment possible? Why are we accepting non-supportive learning environments as the norm and even more so: why do we believe that simply because it is the norm, it is automatically the most optimal? With smaller classes, optimally no more than 5 students pr. teacher, each child will be able to be supported on an individual level, which in turn will enable the teacher to assist the child to develop their full potential, based on their individual natural learning ability.

If we truly valued our children’s lives and with them, the future, wouldn’t we want to create the best possible learning environment? And how can we even pretend to answer that question with a solid ‘YES’ when we so blatantly accept our education system to be subject to a hostile takeover by the corporate system?

At the Equal Life Foundation we are proposing real long-term solutions, solutions that involve parents getting much more involved in their child’s education. We are also proposing solutions that will enable parents to take more active part in their child’s education, thereby relieving the pressure on the education system to live up to the task of raising and educating our children, a task that it is in no way equipped to handle. There is absolutely no reason why all children should not be given the best possible education available – and when the sole argument against this fact, is money, we know that there is something utterly wrong with the way we prioritize in this world. This is not a responsibility that solely falls upon the politicians to sort out. It is in fact the responsibility of all of us, because it is our future that is at stake, the future of our children, of this planet, and of life, as we know it. Get involved today, investigate the education system in your area, expose the denigration of the school-system and join us as we embark on this virgin-voyage to, for the first time in human history, create a life we can actually be proud of.

[1] http://www.economist.com/news/international/21616978-higher-teacher-pay-and-smaller-classes-are-not-best-education-policies-new-school

[2] http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2013/12/10/excerpts-from-the-pisa-report-on-class-sizes/

  • [i] Zyngier, David. (2014). Class size and academic results, with a focus on children from culturally, linguistically and economically disenfranchised communities. Evidence Base, issue 1, 2014.  In this research summary, the author examined class size reduction and its effect on student achievement by analyzing 112 peer-reviewed studies, and showed that the overwhelming majority of these studies found that smaller classes have a significant impact on student achievement and narrowing the achievement gap. The author writes, “Noticeably, of the papers included in this review, only three authors supported the notion that smaller class sizes did not produce better outcomes to justify the expenditure.”
  • Schanzenbach, D. W. (2014). Does Class Size Matter? National Education Policy Center Policy Brief. “This policy brief summarizes the academic literature on the impact of class size and finds that class size is an important determinant of a variety of student outcomes, ranging from test scores to broader life outcomes. Smaller classes are particularly effective at raising achievement levels of low-income and minority children.  Policymakers should carefully weigh the efficacy of class-size policy against other potential uses of funds. While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall.”
  • Achilles, C. M., et al. (2012). Class-size Policy: The Star Experiment and Related Class-size Studies. NCPEA Policy Brief, 1.2. “A reanalysis of the Tennessee STAR experiment found that small classes (15-17 pupils) in kindergarten through third grade (K-3) provide short- and long-term benefits for students, teachers, and society at large….poor, minority, and male students reap extra benefits in terms of improved test outcomes, school engagement, and reduced grade retention and dropout rates.”
  • Shin, Yongyun (2012). Do Black Children Benefit More From Small Classes? Multivariate Instrumental Variable Estimators With Ignorable Missing Data. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 37 (4). An analysis of experimental data from Tennessee’s Student-Teacher  Achievement Ratio study show that, for Black students, reduced class size caused higher academic achievement in the four domains (reading, mathematics, listening, and word recognition skills) each year from kindergarten to third grade, while for other students, it improved the four outcomes except for first-grade listening in kindergarten and first grade only. Evidence shows that Black students benefit more than others from reduced class size in first-, second-, and third-grade academic achievement, substantially narrowing the achievement gap.
  • Dynarski, S., Hyman, J., & Schanzenbach, D. W. (2011). Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Childhood Investment on Postsecondary Attainment and Degree Completion. NBER Working Paper. “The study concludes that attending a small class increases the rate of college attendance, with the largest positive impact on black and poor students.  Among those students with the lowest predicted probability of attending college, a small class increased rate of college attendance by 11 percentage points.  Attending a small class also increases the probability of earning a college degree, and to shift students toward earning degrees in high-earning fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), business and economics.”
  • Bascia, N. (2010). Reducing Class Size: What do we Know?. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Reviewed research base and analyzed statistical data collected by the Canadian Ministry of Education between 2003-04 and 2007-08. Involved field research in eight school districts, 24 schools, and 84 classrooms. Classroom observations were undertaken at each primary grade level, from K-3. All teachers were surveyed in each school. Parent surveys included representation from every school district in Ontario. “Nearly three-quarters of the primary teachers reported that the quality of their relationships with students had improved as a result of the smaller class size, and two-thirds said their students were more engaged in learning than before class size reduction…Many parents of children enrolled in smaller classes reported that their children appeared to be learning more and were more comfortable at school.”
  • Heilig, J.V., Williams, A. & Jez, S.U. (2010). Input and student achievement: An analysis of Latina/o –serving urban elementary schools. Association of Mexican American Educators (AMAE) Journal, 48 -58. Examined readily available input variables in Texas Ed. databases in three of the four largest TX districts (Houston, Dallas and Austin) in 419 schools that are majority Latina/o over 4 years (2005-2008). Evaluated variables such as school funding expenditures, tests scores, ethnicity, and teacher certification, teacher-student ratio and degree obtainment to identify any impact on student achievement in urban elementary schools. “Most powerful predictor of changes in reading and math in all models was decreasing the student teacher ratio…. Essentially, decreasing the student teacher ratio by 1 percentage point would increase the percentage of students proficient on the TAKS by 3% for reading and by 4% for math (p54).”
  • Jepsen, C., & Rivkin, S. (2009). Potential Tradeoff between Teacher Quality and Class Size. Journal of Human Resources, 44.1. This paper investigates the effects of California’s billion-dollar class-size-reduction program on student achievement;….”[T]here is little or no support for the hypotheses that the need to hire large numbers of teachers following the adoption of CSR [class-size reduction] led to a lasting reduction in the quality of instruction,” according to the study. “Overall, the findings suggest that CSR increased achievement in the early grades for all demographic groups….”
  • Konstantopoulos, S., & Chun, V. (2009). What Are the Long-Term Effects of Small Classes on the Achievement Gap? Evidence from the Lasting Benefits Study,” American Journal of Education 116.  A summary of the effects of smaller classes on the achievement gap through eighth grade.  Effects significant in all tested subjects, and for those in smaller classes for four years, very substantial. “The results … provided convincing evidence that all types of students (e.g., low, medium, and high achievers) benefit from being in small classes (in early grades) across all achievement tests…. in certain grades, in reading and science, the cumulative effects of small classes for low achievers are substantial in magnitude and significantly different from those for high achievers.  Thus, class size reduction appears to be an intervention that increases the achievement levels for all students while simultaneously reducing the achievement gap.”
  • Babcock, P., & Betts, J.R. (2009). Reduced Class Distinctions: Effort, Ability, and The Education Production Function. Journal of Urban Economics, Vol. 65, pp. 314–322. Empirical findings indicate that class-size expansion may reduce gains for low-effort students more than for high-effort students, Results here…suggest …that larger gains for disadvantaged students may have occurred because small classes allow teachers to incentivize disengaged students more effectively, or because students are better able connect to the school setting in small classes.
  • King, J. (2008). Bridging the Achievement Gap: Learning from three charter schools (part 1), (part 2), (part 3), (part 4). Columbia University (Doctoral Dissertation).  “School size and class size are linked to the five key cultural values ….: a culture that teaches effort yields success; a culture of high expectations; a disciplined culture; a culture built on relationships; and a culture of excellence in teaching. Small classes and small overall student loads allow teachers to spend more time working with individual students to help them track their own progress and develop their skills – thus reinforcing the principle that effort yields success. High expectations are easier to maintain when teachers know their students well (because of small school and class size), can identify whether a student’s poor performance on an assessment reflects deficiencies in their effort or their understanding, and can respond accordingly.”
  • Lubienski, S. T., et.al. (2008). Achievement Differences and School Type: The Role of School Climate, Teacher Certification, and Instruction. American Journal of Education, 115. Multilevel analysis of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics data for over 270,000 fourth and eighth graders in over 10,000 schools finds that smaller class size is significantly correlated with higher achievement.
  • Magnuson, K.A., Ruhm, C. & Waldfogel, J. (2007). The persistence of preschool effects: Do subsequent classroom experiences matter? Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22(1), 18 – 38. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten cohort (ECLS-K), it has been demonstrated that children who attended preschool enter public schools with higher levels of academic skills than their peers who experienced other types of child care. This study considered … the types of classrooms in which students who did not attend preschool “catch up” to their counterparts who did. The findings suggested that most of the preschool-related gap in academic skills at school entry is quickly eliminated for children placed in small classrooms and classrooms providing high levels of reading instruction. Conversely, the initial disparities persisted for children experiencing large classes and lower levels of reading instruction.
  • Ready, D. D., & Lee, V. E. (2006/7). Optimal Context Size in Elementary Schools: Disentangling the Effects of Class Size and School Size. Brookings Papers on Education Policy, pp. 99-135. Study finds that class size rather than school size makes a positive difference, and suggests that “if children remained in the same elementary school for five or six years … differences would be very substantial: a roughly 10-point advantage for children in small over large classes by the end of sixth grade, or 4.5 months of additional learning.”
  • Unlu, F. (2005). California Class Size Reduction Reform: New Findings from the NAEP. Princeton University. Study found that California’s fourth grade students who were in reduced class sizes in grades K-3 had substantially higher scores in math on the national assessments (NAEPs), of between 0.2 and 0.3 of a standard deviation, compared to closely matched students who were not in smaller classes.
  • Finn, J. D., et. al. (2005). Small Classes in the Early Grades, Academic Achievement, and Graduating From High School. Journal of Educational Psychology. “For all students combined, 4 years of a small class in K–3 were associated with a significant increase in the likelihood of graduating from high school; the odds of graduating after having attended small classes for 4 years were increased by about 80.0%. Furthermore, the impact of attending a small class was especially noteworthy for students from low-income homes. Three years or more of small classes affected the graduation rates of low-SES students, increasing the odds of graduating by about 67.0% for 3 years and more than doubling the odds for 4 years.”
  • Dee, T. (2004). Teachers, Race, and Student Achievement in a Randomized Experiment. Review of Economics and Statistics. Study showing that student/teacher racial differences appear to negatively effect student achievement in regular size classes. Yet in small classes, students learn more, and racial disparity between teacher and student has no significant effect.
  • Barton, P. (2003). Parsing the Achievement Gap. Educational Testing Service.  Despite the fact that class size reduction has been shown to narrow the achievement gap, this study reveals that schools with large numbers of black and/or limited English students are more likely to have classes of 25 or more.
  • Institute of Education Sciences. (2003). Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported by Rigorous Evidence: A User Friendly Guide. U.S. Department of Education. Class size reduction identified as one of four K-12 education reforms proven to increase learning.
  • Krueger, A. B., & Whitmore, D. M. (2002). Would Smaller Classes Help Close the Black-White Achievement Gap? from: Bridging the Achievement Gap, Brookings Institution Press. “Our analysis of the STAR experiment indicates that students who attend smaller classes in the early grades tend to have higher test scores while they are enrolled in those grades than their counterparts who attend larger classes….Moreover, black students tend to advance further… from attending a small class than do white students, both while they are in a small class and afterwards. For black students, we also find that being assigned to a small class for an average of two years in grade K – 3 is associated with an increased probability of subsequently taking the ACT or SAT college entrance exam, and 0.15-.20 standard deviation higher average score on the exam.”
  • Fidler, P., Phd. (2002). The Impact of class size reduction on student achievement.  Los Angeles Unified School District, Publication No. 109. “The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of class size reduction (CSR) on achievement among 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students with different numbers of years of participation in CSR…. We believe that CSR will help to increase student achievement, especially for students who need it the most: low SES students, limited English-speaking students, and those students in inner-city schools…. It can be concluded from the results of this study that CSR does help to increase language achievement gains, especially for ELL students.”
  • Biddle, B., & Berliner, D. (2002).  What Research Says About Small Classes and Their Effects.Wested. “When it is planned thoughtfully and funded adequately, long-term exposure to small classes in the early grades generates substantial advantages for students in American schools, and those extra gains are greater the longer students are exposed to those classes.”
  • U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. (2000). School-Level Correlates of Academic Achievement: Student Assessment Scores in SASS Public Schools. NCES 2000-303, by Donald McLaughlin and Gili Drori. Project Officer: Michael Ross. Washington DC. The most authoritative study showing the importance of class size is in all grades, analyzing the achievement levels of students in 2,561 schools, as measured by performance on the NAEP (national) exams.  After controlling for student background, the only objective factor found to be positively correlated with student performance was class size, not school size, not teacher qualifications, nor any other variable that the researchers could identify. Student achievement was even more strongly linked to smaller classes in the upper rather than the lower grades.
  • Grissmer, D., et. al. (2000). Improving Student Achievement: What State NAEP Test Scores Tell Us. RAND. “States with higher per-pupil spending, lower class sizes and more pre-K have higher achievement levels. Disadvantaged children are the most likely to gain benefits from such programs.”
  • Pritchard, I. (1999). Reducing class size: What do we know? U.S. Department of Education. A comprehensive and wide-scale analysis of CSR analyses, experimental studies and state initiatives. “Researchers have used various techniques to study how class size affects the quality of education.… Overall, however, the pattern of research findings points more and more clearly toward the beneficial effects of reducing class size.
  • Bracey, G. (1999) Distortion and Disinformation about Class Size Reduction. EDDRA. Critique of Hanushek’s analyses of class size reduction.
  • Cromwell, S. (1998). Are smaller Classes the Answer? Education World. Thorough analysis of contemporary research articles evincing the benefits of smaller class sizes.
  • Achilles, C. M. (1997). Small Classes, Big Possibilities. The School Administrator. “Perhaps the idea of small classes for students in the early grades is so commonsensical today that educators don’t consider it a challenge. Yet education’s leaders must look beyond the surface variables to understand the systemic, domino-effect possibilities of class-size changes.”
  • NCTE: National Council of Teachers of English. (1996). Statement on Class Size and Teacher Workload: Elementary. Guideline for NCTE’s position on educational issues is in strong support of smaller class sizes, complete with facts and challenges. All of the major professional organizations in the field of composition recommend course sizes of no more than twenty students for K-1, based on the literature on class size and writing.
  • Mosteller, F. (1995).The Tennessee Study of class size in the early school grades. (1995). The Future of Children, 5.2. Formidable results from the historic large-scale experiment for early grades, Project STAR. “After four years, it was clear that smaller classes did produce substantial improvement in early learning and cognitive studies and that the effect of small class size on the achievement of minority children was initially about double that observed for majority children….”
  • AEU Fact Sheet Number 1. (1995).Class sizes do matter. Australian Education Union. Fact sheet with evidence from class size research projects and reading list for the general public.
  • Boozer, M., & Rouse, C. (1995). Intraschool variation in class size: patterns and implications. NBER Working Paper, No.5144. “We find that not only are blacks in schools with larger average class sizes, but they are also in larger classes within schools, conditional on class type…it appears that smaller classes at the eighth grade lead to larger test score gains from eighth to tenth grade and that differences in class size can explain approximately 15% of the black-white difference in educational achievement.” – Source: http://www.classsizematters.org/research-and-links/

 

 

 

 

 

Emancipated Learning and the Self-Empowered Student. 93

Emancipated Learning and the Self-Empowered Student. 93

Students Thinking of GoalsIt is a new school-term and the beginning of a new year in the world of teachers and students. In our world it is not New Years Eve that marks the most prominent transition from the old to the new, but the end of summer and the progression into yet another grade in, what for many students feels like the never-ending hamster wheel we call school. For teachers, the beginning of a new term gives us the opportunity to reflect on our teaching methods and curricular and to start over, with new students and new material and sometimes, with an entirely different perspective on life and learning.

Since I started working as a teacher, I noticed how demotivated the older students were and how the ‘spark of life’ that is so prominent in them when they are younger, slowly but surely starts dying out until what is left is the apathetic, withdrawn, passive aggressive and illusive human being that we call an adult. School is an artificial construction based on abstract simulations of reality, but it is not a part of reality itself – at least not the students´. An educational philosopher, whose name escapes me at the moment, once said that school is the only place in the world where what you do doesn’t’ matter or has any significant purpose in the world. What is produced in school is for the school – and that includes the student. Obviously we can come up with all sorts of existential and evolutionary explanations for why children have to go to school, but I assure you that the burden of the survival and advancement of our species is the farthest thing on children’s minds – at least on a conscious level.

To them, they go to school because their parents tell them to, because the teacher’s says so and because society is built that way. School becomes a place that children are forced to go to every day where they learn things that they do not see as having any connection to their reality. Obviously they understand that they have no choice and it is not like they are singlehandedly going to start a revolution in the classroom, so they do their homework, reluctantly and they sit still and pretend to listen to the teacher, reluctantly. This is perhaps the worst possible environment when it comes to the scientifically proven best conditions a human has to be in to learn, and yet we manage to shove just enough information into their heads so that they can advance to the next grade and the next. Many of the things students care about are considered irrelevant and obstructive to adults just as the questions kids ask are seen as interruptions and sabotage. From the age of seven the downward spiral begins, where the sprightly, curious child with a lust for life is forced into the sharp industrial cookie-cutter of the school system and as a someone who teaches students throughout all the grades, I see this devolution taking place on a daily level.

So I decided to do something about it and I realized that one of the reasons students become so demotivated and why they lose their passion for life, is because school is not their own. I realized that for children to be engaged on a genuine level school has to be meaningful to them and it has to be something they decide to do for themselves. This is not an easy task, because obviously there is no way to get around the fact that school is mandatory and that the children has little to no say in the matter. So I looked at how I could support the students to rather change their perspective on going to school, so that school becomes something they do for themselves.

As I was discussing this with a 7.th grade student I used the example of doing dishes, which is something everyone has to do, but not many would volunteer to if they had a choice. But even with doing the dishes that is a chore many of us disdain, we can change our perspective – and through that, we can make dishes something supportive that we do for ourselves and even enjoy and have fun doing.

So I asked the students to write down their academic and personal goals. The assignment was divided in two parts. In the first part the students had to write their academic and personal goals and before starting with the assignment we discussed (especially with the younger students) the different definitions of what a ‘goal’ is and what it means to set goals for oneself. I very explicitly point out that it had to be THEIR goals, not their parents goals, not their teachers goals and that they shouldn’t write something just for my sake. In the second part of the assignment the students had to write what they were going to do to reach their goals and how their parents/teachers could help them to reach their goals. I deliberately wrote, “What am I going to do to reach my goal” rather than “What can I do to reach my goal” so as to emphasize the commitment the students were making to themselves. I was very curious to see, especially how the older students would approach the assignment and I expected that they might be oppositional towards it. To my surprise most of the students took the assignment seriously, especially when I said that the goals were to be their own goals and that they should rather not write anything instead of writing something insincere just to please their teachers and parents.

However I did also gain some insights that I had never expected to come out of this exercise. I’ll share two examples here that further emphasize the grave problems we are facing in our school systems when children have no ownership what so ever over what they learn.

A 7-year-old student in the 1th Grade had as her personal goal to get a cat. She couldn’t come up with any academic goals so we agreed that an academic goal she could set for herself would be to study and learn about cats. She was satisfied with that. It made me realize that academic goals cannot be separate from the personal goals if they are truly to be goals the children set for themselves, for their own sake. Consider it for a second, how absurd and meaningless does school not seem when we don’t even know why doing it or how meaningless life seem when we are told to go to school just so that we can grow up to survive? In bringing academic and personal goals together, the students learn that they can utilize the situation of going to school that is forced upon them, to actually support their true potential – and in turn embrace education as something they do for themselves and not for anyone else.

Secondly, a 13-year-old 7th grader said something profound when I discussed his goals with him. He said: “I don’t have any goals for myself. My teachers and parents decide all my goals. They set all the goals for me, so I don’t have to have any.” I asked him: “Okay, but how about simply setting a goal for yourself that is entirely your own?” He then said: “what if I said that my goal is playing computer games?” I said: “well, what’s wrong with that?” He said: “my mom wouldn’t like that.” I told him about a young man I know who’s only passion it was to play computer games and who now has embarked on a degree to become a computer game designer.

What was cool about this conversation was that through opening up the possibility of playing computer as a goal, as opposed to something he does that he knows his mother and teachers don’t approve of, he could for the first time start considering the point for himself. So as he reflected on it, he realized that playing computer isn’t really a goal he has. He said that, not me. Eventually we agreed that he would look at finding goals for himself that are his own to next week.

When students have no say or ownership over their education, it is no wonder that they become demotivated and apathetic, let alone that they don’t learn to take responsibility for their own lives and seeing their own potential. So this is what we will work with this term: makings education something that is real, relevant and meaningful in the students lives; something they do for themselves – so that they can take their life into their own hands at a substantial level. Isn’t that what we would all like for our children, let alone ourselves?

For more information on how you can become a catalyst of change, investigate the Living Income Guaranteed proposal.

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

How Much Reality Can a Child Handle? 87

How Much Reality Can a Child Handle? 87

How much reality can a child handleAs teachers it is our responsibility to teach children about life, about the world, about the history of human civilization and about the best practices that we as humans have come up with to co-exist effectively in this world. It is a responsibility that for all intends and purposes should not be taken lightly considering how we, through the education of today, are shaping the future of tomorrow.

I am continuing here from a series of blog-posts that I wrote about introducing children to real-life issues.

I Know the World. Do You? DAY 82

Connecting Learning to Real Life: DAY 81

Cultivating Social Change Through Education: DAY 80

In my work as a teacher I often find myself wondering, “how much is too much?” when it comes to introducing children to the reality of what is going on in this world. I once suggested to my colleagues that we should do a project about death and this was something that many of my colleagues thought would be too much for the children to handle. But what I saw within this was that we as adults tend to project our own fears, our own taboos onto children and so because we have an unresolved and emotional relationship with death as a theme, we assume that children would have the same. The thing is that children haven’t developed taboos or fears towards certain topics until these are imposed upon them from adults, either directly or implicitly through the adult’s own fears and emotional reactions. Another dimension entirely however, is the question of whether a topic is too abstract or complex for a child to understand and that the child would thereby be introduced to information that it simply isn’t able to effectively comprehend. This is something that is most certainly valid to consider, however it can also be intervened upon through an effective presentation of the information in accordance with the child’s current capacity of comprehension.

Time and time again I am surprised by how much children actually see and understand about this world, about human nature and the world systems. Yesterday for example I talked to a 6.grader, which at 12 years old understands that movies for children today are deliberately scripted so as to not introduce children to what is really going on in the world and thus keep them docile. We were having a discussion about a book that has been made into a movie and then an animated re-make of that movie, with the first one being done over 30 years ago and the second one only recently made. What he shared came from his own discernment and was not something that I or anyone else had coached him into saying. Considering the complexity in his perspective with an understanding, not only of a historical context of the production of movies, but also a conflicted relationship between adults and children, it is quite advanced for what we would normally expect of a 12-year-old. As I have mentioned in previous blog-posts, I also have a 10-year-old student who is already up to speed with the latest ‘conspiracy theory’ information on the Internet and on YouTube specifically. Unfortunately, this is something that is not recognized by the ordinary school system or by his teachers as being pertinent or relevant and therefore his research is mostly done without any form of adult participation with his buddies after school.

On a general note I find that the students I teach have a much greater capacity for comprehension and a much greater awareness of what is going on than adults give them credit for. We tend to have a certain expectation towards what children are supposed to be able to understand and comprehend at specific ages and we vehemently stick to these when we teach them, and even when we simply communicate with them or listen to them. What we tend to neglect the fact that children growing up today have independent access to information at a completely different level than we did as children. This means that our 10-year-olds and 12-year-olds on their own volition for example go online to find information to try to make sense of this world and themselves within it and along the way come in contact with information that most certainly has not been pre-screened to ensure that they in fact are able to effectively deal with the information and contextualize it in a commonsensical way in relation to their own life. This involves everything from hardcore porn to chat sites and commercials that is accessible to children but where no adult intervention or guidance is involved. What I have seen in my own work is that children often see adults as fake, as not caring, as making assumptions about them and their ability to comprehend the world around them. This creates the consequence that children do not share their perspectives, their concerns or fears with adults because they’ve already given up on adults in a way, they know that adults don’t see them for who they are as Beings. Instead many adults see them only as ‘children’, a category identified by size, age and gender that the adults then speak TO but not WITH.

What I have found with my students, in particularly the ones who are already interested in what is going on in the world is that their eyes light up and it is as though the suddenly ‘come to life’ when we are talking about real life events. So this is something that I am working on implementing into our lessons, to talk about the extinction of animals, about war, about poverty. But it is a fine line where one has to consider the maturity level of the child without making any preconceived assumptions. It is interesting though that it tends to be us as adults that do not believe that children are interested in reality. We often carry an assumption and a belief that fiction and fantasy worlds are so much more interesting to children that all they care about is Disney princesses and violent computer games. But what if their apparent disinterest in real life matters is simply showing that the reality we have been presenting them with isn’t in fact the ‘real’ reality? If we take a long self-honest look in the mirror we will see that we as adults often aren’t really here in fact. We are so busy in our minds being stuck in the ‘rut’ of every day living, while juggling our own desired fantasies and virtual realities that we come across to children as these ‘shells’ of something that was supposed to be a real living human being but that is nothing but a constructed personality putting on an act and expecting them to play along. Luckily many children do not fall for it, although unfortunately most eventually join in the choir of parroting personalities, going with the motions without really being present in real time reality.

What we can do as teachers is to introduce more real life themes into the curriculum and to as such bring the technical side of for example learning how to read and write together with current issues. This way we may stand as catalysts for children to become involved and engaged in the issues of the world in a way that is aligned to their current level of comprehension but without making preconceived assumptions. This requires courage on the part of the teacher, to not stay stuck in personal beliefs or opinions but to allow what opens up in the discussions with the students, to unfold unconditionally. Creating an interest in and a consideration for what is going on in the world is imperative because at the moment so many of us are lost in fantasy-realities and the real world is suffering because of it. This doesn’t mean that fantasy and fiction cannot still be part of a child’s education, but simply that there is so much more going on in reality that we aren’t making children aware of, most likely because we aren’t even making ourselves aware of it. But as I have seen with many of my students, children actually want to know what is going on – but they want the real story, not the manufactured censored version constructed to fit their assumed level of comprehension. So as a teacher, I am making it my commitment to find and develop effective ways to introduce children to what is going on in the world without making assumptions about what they can and cannot handle to hear and still take where they are and who they are into consideration. The school year is almost up so as part of my summer’s leave I will be planning next year’s term and the projects we will be working on in class. To prepare myself for this, I have asked my students what they want to learn about next term. I was not surprised to hear that many of the younger students want to learn about the game Minecraft (or rather: teach me about Minecraft) and so in relation to that I am considering doing a project about architecture. When asking a couple of my other students if there is anything they’d like to learn more about, an 7-year-old boy posed the question: “Where are babies before they are born?” and another 7-year-old student added the question: “How do babies learn words?” From my perspective these are important and rather existential questions and they would not have been asked had I not been open to take an interest in what it is that children are interested in. So because of this, we will be doing a project about The Body and will see how we can find relevant answers to these questions and as such educate ourselves – the children and I together – about this world and so ourselves within it.

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

 

 

A Political Awakening of the Young Generation or a Return to 1950’s Survival Strategies? DAY 68

A Political Awakening of the Young Generation or a Return to 1950’s Survival Strategies? DAY 68

youth unemploymentA mother is planning the perfect future for her child. A mother wants her 9-year-old daughter to go to private school so that she can eventually marry a rich man and never have to work. Does this sound like a good idea to you?

On February 12. 2014 a British mother Rachel Ragg published an article about the subject in the Daily Mail. Ragg talks about how she is planning for her daughter to go to Oxford to increase her chances of meeting a wealthy man because that is what she would have wanted for her own life. She talks about how most of the women she know who are juggling both career and children often are left miserable, poor or both and how being a stay at home mom would have been her dream life, had she only married a wealthy man. At the same time there is an irony in Ragg’s appraisal of the life of a stay at home mom, because when she boasts about the £3,000-a-term private school her daughter currently attends, it is the professional merits of its female alums she highlights: ”Cheryl Taylor, controller of CBBC, Kate Bellingham, BBC technology presenter and engineer, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s first female president.” The irony is that while all of these women attended this prestigious school, yet none of them went on to become a stay at home mom. (Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2557949/I-spend-fortune-send-girl-private-school-shell-marry-rich-never-work-An-unashamed-confession-RACHEL-RAGG.html)

Now – while it would be obvious to discuss gender roles and a regressive return to the 1950’s way of viewing women, I will instead look at Ragg’s perspective from a consideration of where young people currently stand in today’s education system and job market. Because while I disagree with Ragg’s approach of wanting to force her daughter into the kind of life she would have wanted for herself without taking her daughter’s perspective into account, I do see that there is a strategic logic about her approach. Let’s have a look at why that is:

Even with a higher education it has become increasingly difficult to get a job and it doesn’t matter where you live in the world. But especially for the generations under 30 does this ring truer than ever. According to statistics done for the British parliament 920,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed in Britain between September and November 2013.
And a report by Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, and Jonathan Robe shows that “The proportion of overeducated workers in occupations appears to have grown substantially; in 1970, fewer than one percent of taxi drivers and two percent of firefighters had college degrees, while now more than 15 percent do in both jobs. (Source: http://centerforcollegeaffordability.org/research/studies/underemployment-of-college-graduates)

Another study done by researchers from Northeastern University, Drexel University, and the Economic Policy Institute, based on data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor showed that “About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields.

Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year.“ (Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/53-of-recent-college-grads-are-jobless-or-underemployed-how/256237/)

So while the youth of today not alone face great unemployment when they are uneducated, even those with higher education are at risk of not being able to enter the job market or having to take jobs for which they are (at least academically) overqualified for.

A little over ten years ago when I was a youngster coming into the job market we were coming out of the economic ‘golden era’ of the 1990’s where it seemed like all opportunities were open for us. We were therefore told to choose something that would make us happy and fulfilled, something that we were really passionate about. Little did we know that soon enough we would be unwilling participants in one of the greatest economic recessions in the history of the world and that our degrees in literature, journalism and sociology would become redundant. Little did we know that traveling around the world for a few years or island hopping around various fields of education would have the consequence that we would be too late to invest in property, making us eternal slaves to lease agreements on studio apartments. And the generations that came after us have only faced this even more extensively.

Is it therefore so odd that a mother’s biggest goal for her child is to ensure that she gets married rich?

Obviously it is not a very supportive perspective on one’s child’s future if their best opportunity is to marry rich because it is like telling them that any other skills they may have would be worthless. Sending them to demanding private schools without any expectation of academic achievement also isn’t very motivating for a child to do well at school. And thus the problem would come full circle. But at the same time there is also an element of realism in this mother’s approach whereas other parents might still tell their children to follow their dreams and passion in a world system with increasing competition where very few educational fields guarantees work after graduation.

We often talk about how a very small percentage of the world’s population is sitting on most of the monetary resources, but seldom do we consider that these people are all roughly speaking between 35 – 75 years of age. These are also the same people who are for example able to invest in the property market making it increasingly difficult for people under 30 to enter into the property market. And while it may be attractive for a few young women to strategically target a rich older man, it is also an indication of the severity of the situation we are finding ourselves in, if we have to regress to survival strategies deployed and archived more than 40 years ago (obviously only in wealthy countries). Young uneducated men are the most vulnerable group of unemployed and some statistics say that youth unemployment in Southern Europe have reached staggering heights of 50-60 percent.

So as is evident by now, returning to 1950’s gender roles might seem alluring and as an easy way out for some young women, it is certainly not a solution to the overall problem we are facing.

We are reaching a dangerously critical mass and with apathy and delusion accompanying the rocketing unemployment and student loan rates, it is of great importance that young people start coming together to develop a sustainable solution. Because we are currently supporting a small group of rich people in their efforts to maximize profits with the consequence that we are continuously at the brink of destroying the planet we live on just in the hopes that we might one day become them.

It is the first time in history that the young people coming into the world are facing a situation that is worse than their parents – and this can only mean one thing: that the older generations do not have our best interests at heart. Therefore it is up to us to ensure a change in paradigms. The good thing about all of this is that young people aren’t as stuck in their ways as the older generations. And this means that we’ve actually got a shot at establishing a new and improved way of living together on earth – if we pull our resources together and stand united in the aim of making sure that our children do not have to face a world that is worse off. It is up to us to be the example our parents so clearly never was.

Investigate the Proposal for a Guaranteed Living Income System – a proposal for a system that has the potential to fundamentally change the concept of ‘work’ from something that we do to survive to something that we do to support and expand ourselves to thrive and LIVE.

I also recommend reading the following blogs:
Parenting – Perfecting the Human Race Series
Natural Learning Abilities blog series – a MUST READ!
Automation is the Key to Effective Education
Education in the New World Order
Education – Equal Money Wiki
Education is a Human Right
Deconstructing the Root of All Evil
World’s best Education is based on Equality
The Fall of our Education System
Application of Knowledge, is it being Fostered in our Educational Systems? – Education Research Part 1

Additional sources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21302065
http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/06/07/the-unemployment-news-is-worse-for-many/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nC4N6aLb2jE
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/uk-youth-unemployment-million-jobs-work-foundation-499067
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nearly-a-million-under25s-still-unemployed-despite-growth-8935723.html
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/nov/29/eurozone-youth-unemployment-record-high-under-25s
http://www.good.is/posts/young-educated-and-unemployed-a-new-generation-of-kids-search-for-work-in-their-20s

What I have Learned About Education from Teaching: DAY 67

What I have Learned About Education from Teaching: DAY 67

In the last post I talked about the past year where I have been teaching and I looked at the point of going to work every day and the experiences that come up within that of how we often drag ourselves to work in the morning only to find a brief relief for a short moment during weekends.
In this post I am going to review the last year I have worked as a teacher in terms of what I have learned from teaching.
Because as I looked back upon the last year I realized that I have learned more about education in this short time than in all my years of higher education.  I’ve worked with education for more than ten years, first as a teacher’s aid in various facilities such as kindergartens, after school programs and care homes for disabled people.
My first degree was a professional bachelor (undergraduate) degree in pedagogy which in a Danish context means that I would be schooled to take care of human beings both within the child care system, but for example also addicts or mentally disabled people. So it is a very broad education. But during the years where I studied I was continuously surprised at how academic this education was. We learned very little about how to care for children or people with mental illnesses. Instead we learned about the history of pedagogy and took lessons in theater and music. We did have 2 x 6 months of practical internship, which is where I realized that I wasn’t going to work as a social worker or preschool teacher because I was so unsatisfied with the current care facilities and this actually brought me to go to the next step of going for a master degree with the intend of eventually working with changing the educational systems.
So I went to university to study educational sociology, a term that I find quite misrepresentative as what I have studied is not an educational form of sociology or how to teach sociology but rather the sociology of education and thus education systems, philosophies and principles within society. We would read all the classics, which is actually what we would do throughout the two years where I studied. A lot of it was fascinating and it certainly wasn’t boring but I kept asking myself (as well as the professors) what the point with all of this was. To me it was just a lot of mudding around in knowledge and information – because a lot of the theorists had cool thoughts on how to change reality, but then another theorist would come and counter argue and many years of intellectual battles would ensue leading nowhere in practical reality. I spent my final year as an exchange student at Stockholm University in Sweden and there I for the first time experienced a significant benefit of higher education. Ironically it was through a course on gender and feminist theory and not education and one of the reasons why I learned so much was because we had guest lecturers by Ph.D. graduates who had been in the field and done actual research. They connected theory to practicality and this gave the theories a backbone that I hadn’t experienced before.
Now – last year I started teaching. In many ways I am not qualified to this job because as you can see, most of my training has been strictly academic. I guess you could say that I am educated more to theorizing, to researching and thinking than to actually spend time in practical reality and effectively direct points in the real world. Like I mentioned in the last blog-post, when I came there were no material or curriculum and I had never before stood before a class. So everything was completely and absolutely new and I had a lot to learn. Furthermore I am the only teacher within my language group so although I can rely on my colleagues for points that has to do with general stuff around teaching, a lot of times I have to work things out for myself. So every day is filled with learning new and practical things, like how to communicate with children, parents and school employees, how to teach, how to create a curriculum, how to schedule my time effectively and how the school system works. And in many respects I have learned more about education in this year than in all my years studying education as a theoretical subject.
A lot of times we see people who have been academically schooled, like politicians and various consultants come in and write proposals for changes within a field or working environment and often these proposals seem so utterly out of touch with reality for the people who actually work ‘on the floor’.  It is thus no wonder that a lot of highly educated people have trouble finding jobs in the current system because many of these educations, especially within the humanities does not gear the students to a practical working life, and so we learn a lot about thinking, analyzing and philosophizing, but very little about placing those theories into a practical context.
Plato thought that it was the philosophers of society who were meant to be rulers and leaders because they had the capacity to reflect objectively on reality and thus were able to see what would be best for society as a whole, but what I have found is that it is the people who are in the thick of it every day who has the most commonsensical ideas for how to change the system.
I would go as far as saying that in many respects we don’t need to keep philosophizing and producing knowledge, because within the fields of knowledge-production there is a lot of repetition and regurgitation where it seems as though knowledge is produced for no other sake than producing knowledge – it is an inflation. What we need, especially in these times are innovative and transparent ideas that can be practically implemented and that are based, not only on theoretical reflections but also on practical experience. Obviously one can also get so caught up in practicing in one’s field that one starts growing blind to new possibilities and ways of looking at things. And this is where theoretical reflection becomes applicable and useful. But knowledge without a practical dimension is useless.
Of everything that I have learned in the last year one of the primary points has been to remain open, flexible and humble towards the children and teachers and environments that I meet on a daily basis. This learning process has primarily come from a point of slowly building up reactions of resistance, reluctance and irritation for example towards specific children who might not be as enthusiastic towards learning as others. It will show itself in thoughts where I would project myself in to the future in my mind and think: “oh god, now I’m going to that child, that’s not going to be fun, he’s always so resistant.” The consequence of this approach to my work is that I will literally encase and limit myself to specific expectations and experiences and will plainly speaking get into a ‘bad mood’. And it is certainly not fair or respectful towards the children – no matter the demeanor they meet me with – because I decide before hand ‘who’ they are and within that do not allow for any other expression to open up. So as I have explained in previous blogs, what I have done to stop this from escalating is to firstly stop the thoughts when I see them ‘pop up’ in my mind, but to also place myself in a stance of unconditionally embracing the uniqueness of the moment that I am walking into. And this has assisted the point of humbleness to develop within my work, which in turn has allowed me to discover new and unknown dimensions, not only of the children but also of the teachers, the school environment and of myself.
Today I attended a mandatory course in pedagogical documentation in preschools. It is basically about using various forms of documentation and observation like video and audio recording to expand oneself in one’s work as a teacher. There was within this an example from a Canadian preschool where a researcher and preschool teacher spontaneously had started a project with a group of children within which she took their interests and from there lifted these into an educational process of development. One of the things they did for example was to discuss and investigate McDonalds and their happy meal boxes, something that often catches the attention of children. They did so in a way where they eventually were able to discuss pricing, salaries, gender discrimination and nutrition – and this was a group of three to five year olds. This example showed me yet again how much I still have to learn and how important it is to learn from the people that have gone before us, who can give practical examples and provide learning-by-doing guidelines for how to approach a certain topic. Because within my work I often see that there is more to it, like a deeper meaning or the possibility to take the project to another level of development – but I have not had the practical tools to do so. Here theories are cool to assist oneself in reflecting, but what is needed most of all are practical suggestions and ways of working with the material.
What I want to say with all of this is that this entire point and what I have realized about my learning process can be transferred into a larger societal context in looking at how much we preoccupy ourselves with virtual realities and abstract knowledge, thinking and believing that this is what is needed to transform ourselves, the systems we live in or even the world as a whole.
One day I came to a preschool where the children (ages 0-3) were sitting around a table with containers filled with dry chickpeas, rice and other grainy products. Each of them would have two containers, one filled, the other one empty and perhaps a spoon or a whisk. The children were completely immersed within the activity, which basically consisted of sticking their hands into the containers and taking rice or seeds from one container to another or whisking it around. I sat down and participated and enjoyed the exploration of chickpeas together with my two-year old student. Later I discussed the activity with one of the older teachers at the preschool and she explained to me how she had made it a priority to use materials from real life rather than plastic imitations in her work. This makes complete sense to be, because we are so fascinated by imitative products that we quite often forget the wonders of actual reality – the reality that we’re supposed to grow up and participate in, but that we are taught to remain completely disconnected from.
Conclusively I will say that all of us, no matter where we are in life or what kind of work we do, need to get back to physical reality, because this is where our attention is required considering the conditions of the current world-system. And within turning our focus and attention back to reality, to nature, to animals, to our bodies, to practical living – we might discover new and unseen dimensions that give us the opportunity to look at ourselves in a new way.
Investigate the Proposal for a Guaranteed Living Income System – a proposal for a system that has the potential to fundamentally change the concept of ‘work’ from something that we do to survive to something that we do to support and expand ourselves to thrive and LIVE.
I also recommend reading the following blogs:

Education in the New World Order

Education is a Human Right
Deconstructing the Root of All Evil
World’s best Education is based on Equality
The Fall of our Education System
Application of Knowledge, is it being Fostered in ourEducational Systems? – Education Research Part 1

What You Should Ask Yourself About Why You Go to Work Every Day: DAY 66

What You Should Ask Yourself About Why You Go to Work Every Day: DAY 66

Today I am taking inventory and within that re-committing myself to the work that I am doing as a teacher – with a new starting-point and direction. I invite you to walk with me here:

It has been a year since I started working as a teacher in the Swedish school system.
Today one of my students asked me if I liked teaching children. She is 7. I answered that I like it a lot and this is true. I learn something new every day, about children, about communication, about relationships, about the school system, about scheduling and organizing and about teaching. It has taken me the better part of a year to establish an effective way of teaching. When I started the job, I came to a position where no lesson material or books existed, without any experience with teaching. (I’ve worked in preschools previously but never with older children in a school setting). So it has taken me quite a while to build up lesson materials and a functioning curricular. In addition to this, I teach 40 children from age 1 – 16 who is each on completely different levels and thus requires some form of individual lesson plan. I teach them on up to 25 different schools so I spend my week taking the bus or train or ride my bike from place to place, having almost more time transporting myself around than I do actually teaching. The time dedicated to planning my lessons are allocated to evenings, early mornings, weekends and holidays and I have finally found a way that works for me and where the students actually learn something and where I don’t have to spend every waking moment thinking about schedules and planning lessons.

I have been told by my colleagues, who has been the single most important point of support in this process, that it takes up to 2 years before a new teacher is ‘settled’ and can stop running around like a beheaded chicken. Because a lot of what I do can only work in a trial-and-error kind of fashion and I have learned that this is okay. This job has been humbling to me. And when I when I came back this January after the Christmas holidays I was very reluctant and resisted going to work. When it has been at its worst, I have thought only about making it through the week, counting the days until the weekend and then felt frustrated and stressed when realizing how short the Saturdays and Sundays goes by.

So today I had a chat with myself about this point, about how I’ve pitied myself because I have to go to work, about how petrified and desperate I’ve felt every week when Monday came around. I know that many people in this world feel the same way; we know that we are virtually existing as work-hamsters in the hamster wheel of the global economy, we know that there is no escape, we know that we have no choice but to do it – – and still there is a part of us, an awareness that this is not how it is supposed to be, that this is not how life is supposed to be. Now – obviously within the current world-system there are no alternatives to the daily rut of day (and night) labor in all its various shapes and forms. Sure, we are offered the seductive illusory carrot that is American Idol or Professional sports – but we all know how slim the chances of getting into such a position are, how few people win the lottery.  And if you’ve seen the movies The Island or The Matrix or the Hunger Games you know for a fact that there is no bounty beach waiting for us at the end of a hard working life. (If not I suggest go watching them).

So what I realized as I was having this chat with myself while walking through slush ice from one school to another is that the situation is what it is. I cannot change the fact that I have to get up and go to work each morning and that when Monday morning comes, the whole cycle repeats itself, week after week, year after year.

What I can change is my starting-point within how I experience myself and how I see the situation. Because – I am here, all limbs intact. My work is not dangerous or debilitating. I don’t have to work two or three jobs to support a family – which is a faith bestowed upon millions of people in this world. I am fortunate enough to even have a job. In fact, I have a cool opportunity within my current position in the world to establish stability within an effective work ethic and myself as I go about my day. I am grateful for everything that I am learning every day. I am grateful for the interaction with the children that I meet. And so I decide to change my starting-point – not because I have suddenly realized how good I have it compared to other people. It is not that kind of realization, although that is something that I have also had to open my eyes to, in terms of understanding how and why I have reacted the way I did, basically do to having lead an incredibly luxurious (read: spoiled) life until now where I’ve spent the last twenty years educating myself in a soft-core education system without any accountability on my part. So it is obvious in this context that it has ‘shocked’ me to enter into the ‘work-force’ and become part of the worker bees of society, a shock that I can imagine most people go through when they realize what it actually means to become an adult in this world.

The realization however has to do with an understanding that, yes, the current system is fucked beyond borders – but there is nothing I can currently do about it. And I am certainly not going to retract to a cabin in the woods just because I can, because that would be traitorous to this very realization and delusional in fact. So the only choice I have left is to be a good little iRobot and produce, produce, produce, in my case produce well-educated children – and while I am doing that and becoming effective at my work, I am slowly but surely standing myself up to recreate this desolated world along with everyone else who has realized the same within their lives – because that is the only choice I can make. That is the only way I can change this situation. And it might not be in my lifetime or in yours. But if I do not want to live this kind of life where work is something we do for the sake of deluded entity called the ‘world economy’ and not to support ourselves and each other to life the best possible life, I wouldn’t want it for the children that I teach either. I do not want them to grow up with the illusion that we have to exist like rats in a maze eating our own tail to survive.

And so this becomes my self-empowerment. And the point of ‘me’ and ‘them’ in the equation dissipates – because it is about the bigger picture now, about all of us. So I go to work in gratefulness, because I have a job, because it doesn’t kill me, because I get to educate myself on how the system works, how the human psyche works. And while I do so I have the opportunity to walk my process of becoming a self-directed individual, who no longer is governed by preprogrammed response and reactive patterns. I have the opportunity to transcend the symptoms of this diseased system such as stress, anxiety and frustration – experiences that I have allowed myself to go into on a daily basis because I was resisting the situation that I am in. I was hoping it would change. I was so spoiled that I felt like it was unfair that I am in this position. But within that reaction was a realization. And that realization is that what we’re doing here on this planet is unacceptable. That realization is that it doesn’t have to be this way, for any of us.

That realization is that this is not what life is and can be – this is not living. And so, I accept the fact that I cannot change it tomorrow and that I have to go to work. But I realize that I don’t have to stress about it, I don’t have to lose anything of myself. I don’t have to feel like I’m wasting my time. I don’t have to feel like I would rather be somewhere else. I don’t have to look at the clock every ten minutes just to see how many hours are left until I can go home. No – I can immerse myself within my work. I can walk my process as I participate in the world-system. I can dedicate myself to do my job with integrity and common sense and remain open to the moments of opportunity that emerge where I can make a difference. And by doing so I can make myself an example, however humble and meager at first – that we are directing the world-system to a change of principles, a change of starting-point.

And so I am committing myself to letting the resistance and reluctance that I have allowed myself to accumulate within me go and instead embrace a new starting-point where I walk into my day as a woman of steel, malleable, but durable and unbendable – and I look differently at the task at hand, because although I am doing the same work as I did yesterday, I am no longer doing it in a desperate hope to escape. Instead I walk with this system that we have created together, hand in hand – to change myself and to change the system as myself, one step at a time.

Investigate the Proposal for a Guaranteed Living Income System – a proposal for a system that has the potential to fundamentally change the concept of ‘work’ from something that we do to survive to something that we do to support and expand ourselves to thrive and LIVE.

I also recommend reading the following blogs:

Education in the New World Order

Education is a Human Right
Deconstructing the Root of All Evil
World’s best Education is based on Equality
The Fall of our Education System
Application of Knowledge, is it being Fostered in ourEducational Systems? – Education Research Part 1