Something Rotten in the State of Education: DAY 21

Something Rotten in the State of Education: DAY 21

 Today I’ve heard on separate occasions from a parent and a teacher respectively sharing their perspective from within their own current situation regarding the state of the education system and themselves in it. Both were tragic tales but from opposite sides of the education continuum. The parent felt that her child since starting school had become withdrawn and competitive and even that the child had lost confidence in himself. She explained how through the eyes of the child, the teachers are instigating competition through playing favors with specific children. She also explained how she had tried to voice this to the school, but were met only with the blame being placed on the child. The teacher’s perspective was one of feeling that teaching is an ungrateful profession, that the things teachers have to put up with from kids is nearly unbearable and he asked me if I know what teachers have to go through each day. I do know and I do understand how tough a job it can be to be a teacher. As I’ve mentioned previously this is exactly why I didn’t wanted to become a teacher, because I could see how exhausted and worn out many teachers become.

Our educational systems are in a rotten state to say the least.

We have parents and teachers feeling absolutely powerless towards the situation they’re in. Parents often have little choice as to which school they send their child to and even less influence over what goes on in the classroom, let alone the courtyard of your local public school. Teachers are forced to follow curricular that they have had no influence in developing, written out by people who have never said foot in a public school classroom and whose main concern is the next term’s election. Teachers are paid a low wage and are hardly given any time to prepare for their classes, let alone receive any form of support or supervision from their peers. Parents blame teachers for not being attentive enough or caring enough. Teachers blame parents for not sufficiently disciplining their children to behave in school.

However – there is a different side of the story: the children’s side.

And then there is the side of the story where the solution to solving this problem lays, not in parents or teachers blaming each other, but in each group taking self-responsibility for their role in the current education system. Children barely have a voice. This is due to the fact of their status in society as literally being parents’ (and to some extent teachers’) ‘property’ that they can do with and ‘raise’ as they please. And children do become grown-ups. I mean they grow up, but are they really raised? Wouldn’t being raised imply that children are supported to become and be their utmost potential in this world? Caring, considerate, respectful human beings with confidence and integrity? Children also don’t have a voice because it perhaps isn’t as easy for them to express themselves – often they don’t have the vocabulary required to make their voice heard and be taken seriously. This doesn’t mean that they don’t see, that they don’t hear or that they don’t feel the effects of the current education system on their minds and bodies.

As I’ve mentioned previously, seeing a child transitioning from kindergarten to school is often literally like seeing a light going out. It is a tragedy. Children come into this world full of life, embracing the world and other people absolutely unconditionally with curiosity and genuineness and child after child entering into the school system, they are broken down in innumerable ways until nothing is left but a flicker of the potential of what the child could have become, had it had adults around it that understood and cared and honored the life of the child enough to actually provide it with an educational environment that supports the child to grow and develop to its utmost potential.

And this is what we call our education system – this is what we accept as normal.

On one hand we have the teacher who has become bitter and spiteful and who feels powerless and who pities himself against the image of a horde of obnoxious students. On the other hand we have the parent that feels completely powerless towards teaching her son values that truly matter in life and see him slowly slip out of her hands and into the world of brutal competition, lies and deceit. And this is in no way to saying that ’teachers are bad and parents are good’ or to judge either group – because at the end of the day parents and teachers are equally responsible – along with everyone else, for the current state of the education system.

It is absolutely unacceptable that we’re accepting an education system where we have teachers who hate to teach and students who hate going to school. It is absolutely unacceptable that education is seen as a production facility for the competitive ability of a nation on a global financial market. It is absolutely unacceptable that we as parents and teachers blame each other as well as the system AND our kids while we do absolutely nothing to change the situation. I mean, don’t we realize that what we’re creating through the education system, is the future of our world – literally?

Parents feel powerless, teachers feel powerless, children feel powerless – but we can’t just leave it at that and then go on our merry way, because as we’ve all noticed: the way we’re currently living on this planet is not very merry.

The solution is simple yet requires all of us to make perhaps the most difficult decision of our lives: to realize that we are each co-responsible and self-responsible for the state the world is currently in and to through that realization allocate ourselves and how we are contributing to safeguarding the status quo of the world. For most of us it is the very fact that we’ve abdicated all responsibilities to government organs that doesn’t in fact support our best interests because these organs are now entirely embedded within a corporate rule that is slowly but surely laying the earth barren and destroyed. In many countries we have implemented democratic systems but these systems are rather ‘consumer-democracies’ than actual democracies where each of us partake in voting for causes and values that have a substantial impact on our lives – causes as for example education and values such as the equality of all beings. As such neither teachers, parents nor children stand a chance of a different education system, a system that we’d all like to wake up and go to – if we don’t take co-responsibility – and self-responsibility for changing the entire world system as it currently exists.

This is exactly what we’re doing at the Equal Life Foundation working towards Real ACTUAL Human Rights and with the Equal Money Movement, researching ways to implement a system of equality where all supports each other in living the best possible life and at Desteni and with the Desteni I Process where we take individual responsibility to face and change ourselves and educate ourselves so that we can stand in and with the world-systems in equality and direct them to become living systems that supports what is best for all life. Whatever else happens – we decide.

 For more information about Equal Money and Education, I reccomend reading the following blogs

Education is a Human Right
Education – Equal Money Wiki

As well as viewing the videos on my YouTube channel here and on the Equal Money wiki channel here

Teachers Conflict in Denmark and Within: DAY 8


How are we as teachers valued in society? That is what we will be discussing in this blog post.
Through the last couple of months I have been working as a teacher. As mentioned in several of the other blog posts and videos I’ve made thus far, my initial approach was to give myself to job and give it my all in terms of becoming the best teacher I can possibly be. However the last week I have slowly but surely started experiencing doubt and regret towards my chosen field of work.
Let me explain: In Denmark where I am from there is right now a big teacher’s crisis where the government has meddled in the negotiations between the teachers ‘union and their employer, the united municipalities. The consequence has been that over 50.000 teachers has been ‘lock-outed’ which means that they’re not allowed to work and thousands of children can’t go to school.
To find out about how the two are connected, watch my vlog of the week here:
The Art of Teaching Children: Didactic Humility and Directiveness: DAY 4

The Art of Teaching Children: Didactic Humility and Directiveness: DAY 4

How are we as adults – and as parents and teachers especially – responsible for forming and shaping children through our communication and interaction with them?

Last week we discussed how children become more and more apathetic the older they get. But what if we reverse the process and instead of looking at the human beings children grow up to become, look at the adults they exist as today? We might ask ourselves: what happened in that person’s childhood that made them the way they are today? For example: why do people become emotionally crippled, angry, fearful, fake or untrustworthy? Is it simply in their nature? Is it their parents fault and what role do we as teachers play?

I recently listened to an interview from Eqafe where a man shares his experiences with how he as a child was exposed to a teacher’s aggressive and loud behavior and how it affected him for his entirely life to the point where he had an extensive fear of conflict. He describes how he had never in his life experienced such behavior before and because of that it literally shook him to his core. The interview is called Facing yourself in the Face of Arguments

I am sure many of us can relate to this, the experience of hearing and seeing an adult exploding in anger for the first time. I remember for example how I would play with something or do something without knowing or realizing that I was not supposed to do that and then when I was told off by an adult I was completely shocked and was shaking inside. But one of the things that boy in the interview experienced was how what he had previously experienced as a ‘safe-zone’, the class-room, suddenly was now not safe anymore and never was again from that moment onwards. And all of this because of one incident where one teacher lost her cool and started yelling and screaming for the children of the class to shut up. Now – obviously it is not all children that suffer livelong traumas from such experiences. Some children are born into violent and hazardous environments from the get-go. Some might develop a ‘tougher skin’ when it comes to arguments and yelling. But the fact of the matter is that we as teacher can and do have a tremendous impact on the children we teach, even with moments we’d brush off as insignificant. Because for the child, this is not just one moment in a long row of moments upon moments, no – for the child, this moment is part of his or her introduction into the world. Everything the child sees, gives them a clue about how the world works and how human beings work, and what standards human beings set for their interaction with each other, what is okay to do and say and what is not.

Being a new teacher, something that I’ve found to be difficult is how to communicate with all the children in a way that is the most supportive to them. I have from the beginning been very aware of being very gentle and patient and have therefore surprised me that with some of the children, the response I’m getting from them suggests that I’m not being patient or gentle enough. This is something that most predominantly comes through when the children are writing and make a mistake. A general rule I’ve learned from textbooks and other teachers is that up to around the beginning of the second grade one does not correct the children when the misspell the words or if they flip the words around. From there one is then supposed to require more and more accuracy from the child which obviously mean that one has to correct them when they’ve made a mistake. Now this is something I am acutely working with at the moment in terms of fine-tuning how I communicate with the children about making a mistake. I can also see that there are differences in their responses and reactions. As such I can’t decide upon a streamlined cookie-cutter model of how to approach children. And I can see how this must be even more difficult if one works in classrooms of for example thirty children. So some of the children for example can’t even handle if I suggest that something might be different. And my ‘handle’ I mean that they instantly react and for example say: “I know I know…” or they say they know what the correct answer is even when they don’t. This suggests to me that they’re self-conscious but also that this point is one where the child has started to develop an ego. It also happens more with the older children – they don’t react as much to me, but more invert it onto themselves. I explain to them that no one is expecting for them to be perfect at it and that this is why I am there to assist them to learn. I explain to them that I understand how it must be frustrating because it can feel like they’re stepping back because this language is new to them. I explain to them how I experience the same problems as I am busy learning Swedish and how it can be frustrating. I explain to the oldest children how they might have to make the same mistake over and over until they get it and that that is simply how it is and nothing unnatural considering how they are used to another language’s grammar and pronunciation. But even when I explain all of this it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference to them.

Then there are other children, especially the younger, where they react in more like a shock-type of reaction. This is especially where I see that I can make a difference through carefully being aware of how I speak, act, move and interact with the children. One example was when I was teaching one of the younger children some writing. He was sitting with a sheet of exercises and when I looked to check, a word was misspelled. So I say: “Hey!” From my perspective it was a ‘friendly/funny’ type of ‘hey’ but he jumped in his seat and looked scared, so I understood that I have to be very careful with how I address the point of correcting the children. But it is most certainly a balancing act because at the same time, I’ve also in some instances found myself going too far in the ‘friend-zone’ and actually did not correct a miss-spelled world simply to not upset the child. That is obviously also doing the child a disservice. Because for one I was lying to the child and telling them that a result was correct when it was not. Just consider how that type of behavior will shape a person. Secondly I did it to spare their feelings but also so that I did not have to be the bad guy. Too bad that their ability to spell correctly was jeopardized in the process just because I did not want to hurt their feelings. So – I told them and I simply said it straight up and direct, yet with a gentle tonality in my voice: “try and look at this word, there’s one letter that’s not accurate, do you see which one it is?”

Another adult recently told me when I discussed all of this with them that they as a child hated when the adult would pretend not to know the answer deliberately and then ask the child. Lol – I even remember that myself. But now I do it. I’ve found it to be a very effective method to get the child to open up, is to act like I don’t know something. This works well for example if I’m sitting far away or if I’m seeing their exercise upside down, because then I ‘can’t see it’ and it makes it legitimate why I would ask without pretending not to know something that we both know that I know. Lol. But after this conversation I’ve been looking at other ways I can allow the child to open up the information for itself without actually lying to the child or being fake – because I surely remember how frustrating it was that adults were constantly being fake. It taught me that to survive in this world, I too had to be fake. So I’m working with this point daily. And in some ways I am fortunate because I have children in all the different age groups and all the different levels – so I really can only take each lesson at a time and see slowly but surely what works.

The theory of learning is called didactics. In other words didactics is about how information is best taught by the teacher. I’ve always found didactics to be significantly boring – lol – but I’m starting to see why it is such a big field in education and pedagogy at the moment. Because at the end of the day, the textbooks can be marvelous (which is also a form of didactic in itself) but if the teacher isn’t able to properly communicate the information to the child in an absorbable way, then the textbook will be useless. And we can even flip it around and say that everything that happens in a child’s life has a didactic effect on it, because the child’s brain is busy computing and processing information to develop a way to live and function in the world based on an understanding of how the world works.
What this means is that a child is in a position of learning in every moment of every breath. When it hears its parents fighting it is learning about the nature of relationships and the dynamics between men and women. When it hears its mother manipulate it into doing something using candy as bribery it is learning about how people can manipulate each other and be manipulated. When the teacher is impatient and say: “no, that’s wrong!”, perhaps the child interprets that as a huge mistake and end up fearing reading and writing to the point of becoming dyslexic because of it.

As such – I see that my responsibility as a teacher goes beyond the facilitation of teaching children a language. Because I am teaching them about the world in every moment. When I rush to catch my bus, I teach them about time. This actually happened. I was teaching one of the older kids and the previous time I had been late and had to wait for the bus for thirty minutes which meant that I had to be late at the next schools I had to go to. So this time I wanted to make sure I got the bus. Since my lesson is only thirty minutes I don’t have a lot of ‘quality time’ with the children and this particular girl is one of the children who absolutely loves it when I come – so I see that I have to be absolutely directive about what I fill those thirty precious moments with. This time I was stressed, I was constantly looking at the clock and I was not fully present giving her all my attention. I finally ended up running to the bus, after which I had to stand and wait in the cold for five minutes because I had been too early. So the next time I went there, I had decided to not look at the clock and to immerse myself fully in the lesson and to simply sit relaxed and do the work. But what happened was that when the lesson started the girl came rushing in guns blazing and this time she was in a state of stress and rush the entire lesson and was worried about me catching my bus.

So I learned an important lesson about the impressionability of children and how humble and self-aware we have to be as teachers, because children are far more observant and absorptive than we realize. The same goes for making sarcastic and ironic jokes. Some adults do it a lot and some children, like me, simply don’t get it. I mean I often still don’t get it. And I find that adults using sarcasm on children are a really cheap trick to claim intellectual superiority – something that is completely unnecessary and that the adult most likely picked up from other adults when they were a child themselves.

My goal, specifically when it comes to teaching the children to write, is to do it in a way where I don’t have to be fake and where I can stand as a pillar of support in assisting and supporting them to be able to write accurately to whatever level they are on. My goal is also to work with each child at an individual level based on where that child is. Here it is also vital to mention that I often meet the children in a thirty minute lesson squeezed in between other lessons or in a lunch break or after school. Therefore there can be many external factors as to why the child might have difficulty concentrating or be motivated. So therefore I also have a goal to make the lessons fun and enjoyable – because that is what I would want if it was me who had to learn a new language every Thursday in my lunch break. And I see that it can be fun – and that requires a creative surplus in me in terms of understanding what exactly a child finds fun. Lol – so that’s an entirely new phase of discovery that I’ve got yet to embark upon. For now I am focusing on specifying and directing my voice tonality, coordinate my movements and to find the right works to use when I communicate with the children, so that they learn what I teach and I can make myself a better teacher based on their feedback and responses.

Thanks for reading. See you next time. Questions and comments are welcome.

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A Teacher’s Journey to Life – Introduction: DAY 1

A Teacher’s Journey to Life – Introduction: DAY 1

On this, A teacher’s journey to life blog we will discuss education and teaching in the context of having a look at how education and thus also how teachers are contributing to creating the current world society and the collective mess we are in as humanity.

Consecutively with exposing the problems inherently in the education system we will be having a look at possible solutions to changing the education policies – from policies that teach children to grow up and become consumers without a care, to policies that are based on teaching children to become dignified human beings that care about life. I will in the blogs draw upon scholars in the field of education and I will also use myself as an example and therefore I will also simultaneously walk my own process as a teacher in terms of becoming the best teacher I can possibly be.

So in this introductory post to the blog we start with me sharing my story about my relationship to school and teachers and how I against all odds ended up being a teacher myself.

Because see, I never wanted to be a teacher. I always thought that teachers had one of the toughest jobs in the world and it was not something I dreamed of doing for myself. I also always thought that people who grow up to become teachers are those who loved schools and homework… you know the goodie-two-shoes of the class. I was NOT. I have terrorized and haunted many a temp with elaborate questions about their ideas about life, I’ve tricked my teachers into speaking about something entirely else than what was on the curriculum through finding out what their real passion in life was. In the seventh grade I talked my entire class into going on strike and leave school because I had heard from a teacher that classes under three students would be canceled. So as you can see, to say the least: I was a handful.  I also never went to public school except for kindergarten and not until my adult years in university. Instead I went to private ‘free schools’ as it is called here in Scandinavia which is basically hippie schools for hippie parents hippie children. So I grew up with having to plan my own weekly schedule. I, of course detested math so each week from first to the third grade I would fill my days learning Danish (my native language) and doing drawings. I quickly learned to read and write, but the math I never picked up entirely, something that I’ve spent many sleepless nights blaming the school for.

In the school we also did not go to ‘classes’. Instead we had ‘groups’ in which we gathered which consisted of twenty-some students ranging from six to twelve years of age who would attend the same class room, each getting individual help from the teachers and with a principle of the older students helping the younger. The school had based its core principles on the pedagogical philosophies by the French scholar Celestin Freinet. He believed that kids only play because they’re not included effectively in the work of the adults – so we were put to work, printing books for our classes and it was us, the students, who cleaned the school too.

In high school I also went to an alternative school, directly translated to ‘the free high school’. Here I learned mostly about Marxism and communism and how to riot and rebel against the authorities. We would be given the day off if there was an important political rally to attend and when the school had to hire a new principal all the students participating in a ‘job interview’ which meant that the two candidates had to sit in front of the whole school and answer gut wrenching questions. Every week we had meetings in plenum where we discussed issues about the school. The rule was that no one left until all agreed which in praxis turned out to be nearly impossible to achieve and after many hours of discussion, we often settled the arguments in a democratic voting process.

I also did not train to be a teacher. My education is in pedagogy which is basically the science or philosophy of education. I’ve got a bachelor in this field which in my country, Denmark is something similar to the equivalent of a kindergarten teacher. The difference is however that this education supposedly qualifies a person to work with a multitude of ‘users’ (as they’re called in Denmark as opposed to ‘clients’ or ‘patients’ for example) such as homeless people, disabled people, troubled young adults, people with learning disabilities or addicts. I am saying ‘supposedly’ because I did not experience myself as getting educated in actually knowing how to care about other people – at all. Instead we had sociology, anthropology, theater, music and health care courses – but very little about the actual work we would be performing. In this education that lasts 3½ years I spent respectively 2 X 6 months and 3 months as an intern in three different institutions. That is where I found out that I was NOT going to work as a pedagogue and that I would much rather participate in changing the education system. I’ll share about this in another blog where I’ll explain what it was that made me change my mind. After this I hobo’ed around different jobs until I finally decided to upgrade my education with a university degree. So instead of starting over with a brand new education I decided to do an MA in educational sociology. (I still don’t get why it is called educational sociology, because it should be called the sociology of education. Educational sociology sounds more like the science of how to teach sociology.)

This is the education that I’ve finished a little while ago and from where I’ve now jumped into a job as a teacher. It simply happened almost at random that the job was available and I needed the job. After taking the job I’ve realized that I am completely miss-qualified. I don’t think that I’m either under- or over-qualified, but I certainly have not learned how to be a teacher.

So – I am learning by doing.

And I have some awesome support in my team of colleagues at the language school here in Uppsala. We are a group of teachers, some educated, some not who each work with their own native language. There are about 60 of us so I meet people from all over the world, coming from all kinds of social and economic conditions. I’ve got a new friend from Burundi for example who is having trouble finding educational material on his language because there simply has not been written any books for children or they are simply not accessible on the internet. Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world. The Kurdish people have their own problems because their language has been illegal in many countries in spite of the fact that many millions of Kurds live around the world. I’ve also been assisted by a Danish teacher who works in a different city who has worked as a teacher in Denmark for 13 years. So I am slowly but surely getting the hang of the job at hand.

All the while I am not educated as a teacher and all the while I’ve never attended public schools and all the while I was no honor student myself – I call myself a teacher. I work as a teacher. I sit every day with a child before me whom it is my responsibility to assist with obtaining access to information that is not already in the child’s sphere of reference. I landed in this position much by coincidence, but I have decided to give it my all and to dedicate myself to become the best teacher I can possibly be. It is interesting to work with something that I did not have any passion towards. Because it requires that I move myself without riding on waves of energy or excitement but instead remain humble and dedicated towards the task at hand. I am much grateful for this opportunity and it is an honor to meet this children and I do not take this responsibility lightly. At the same time I can see in my teaching, as I am sure all teachers can, the inner monsters crawling out where I am not always the best listener or where my prejudices creep through or where my patience runs out. I’ve also discovered that my words weigh heavily for these children and therefore I understand that I have a responsibility to be directive in my words, meaning that I am aware of what I am saying and I am speaking the words in an understanding of the possible consequences.So these are some of the points I am working with perfecting and changing myself within.

The words of a teacher are some of the most important on the planet because they can plant and implant directives and principles and when we look at the world and see what a mess it is, it would be odd not to look back at the teachers and ask: what are we teaching our children? To be effective at surviving in a broken system? Or to become dignified adults that care about All Life.

In my next post I will share more perspectives on education and the process I am currently walking of becoming a teacher.

Thanks.

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