Walker Way Notes
When I was a younger teacher, an older, veteran teacher said that she had watched the same debate about education go on throughout her career. Is teaching a science or an art?
Over the years, I have pondered this question, and decided that good teaching is a mixture of the two. Sometimes it lends itself to the science side and at other times to the art side; however, too much of one creates an imbalance that robs from the whole experience of teaching and learning.
The science side encompasses all the statistics, percentages, test scores, and demographics. It is this science approach where money and funding also land. It levels the playing field, at least on paper, and allows for study of the details of the nameless, faceless masses.
The art side is what teachers fall in love with. This is where spontaneity, creativity and humanity rest. This is the force that calls to those who stay with teaching their whole lives. I'm not talking about those who move into administration. I'm talking about those whose classrooms are second homes where they pour their hearts out to willing and unwilling students alike. The art side holds the passion to make a difference.
Through the passing decades, as society has demanded more and more from public schools, government has leaned farther and farther to the science side of education. After all, the science side is easier to put on a spreadsheet and numbers are a good concrete grasping place especially for those who are not teachers. This shift sadly marks the deep diminishing of teaching as an art.
Education is losing the art side because teachers are dictated to by those in power who are not driven by the passion, or by the dream.
Teachers are weighted down with more and more paperwork and charts and formulas that track this, that and countless other things. They are to be all things to all students, filling the gaps and making everyone whole and functioning. Then, when they fall short of this herculean task because teachers are mere mortals, they are blamed and punished for not fixing the ills of a selfish, immature society.
The time for spontaneity is being done away with - treated as frivolous. Creativity is no longer funded - seen as a waste of tax payer dollars. The humanity of teaching is being squelched - too unpredictable throwing off statistical data. Teachers are now expected to be like robots as cold and predictable as the technology society so loves. The art, the heart of teaching is being killed off.
The students feel the loss even if they can't quite put their fingers on it. The older teachers know and shake their heads in dismay, but still trudge along with the hope that the pendulum will one day swing back before they are too old to live the dream.
If the art dies, what happens to those who are called? Those who crave the dream? Will there still be teachers? Perhaps so, but maybe not in the way most have known as a child, or dreamed about as a teacher. And what about the children? Will they live in a cold world of robots devoid of the spark of life, hungry for humanity? Perhaps, one day, the pendulum will swing back allowing for the play, the passion, the dreams of teaching to live again.
Today, a colleague shared the following quote with me:
"Children who are loved at home come to school to learn. Children who are not loved at home come to school to be loved." - Nicholas Ferroni
What a profound observation! What an amazing reminder to all teachers and administrators the raw stop-gap that they provide.
Sometimes in education and in the controlling or funding of education, folks spend a lot of time looking at reports and figures and percentages where students are reduced down to mere numbers on a page. Everyone must remain ever mindful that those numbers represent real kids. Living, breathing, dreaming, needing kids who are far more vulnerable and impressionable than adults are often mindful of.
The everyday-ness of the rigors of running a classroom or school or district from day to day, can bog everyone down obscuring the true goals. The children are whole lives hurdling through life just like everybody else, but they have the added burden of being trapped in whatever circumstance nature has seen fit to drop them in to. They also lack the experience to know what is best for them.
This lovely and astute quote should bring us all back to the original starting point with a refreshed view. The everyday blinders need to be pulled back, even if temporarily, resetting our hearts and minds.
October 12, 2016
Today feels like a new dawn for me. I have decided to start writing a blog. Whoopee! Right? Well, maybe. I suppose I feel like most people in that I have lots to say, and a longing to be heard. But in my case perhaps, being an elementary school teacher, I am privy to endless blogging fodder that will at the very least be worth spending a few minutes to read. I should always have something new flowing from my daily life with my students to ponder, to discuss, to laugh or cry about. At the end of each day, my mind is typically full of thoughts, ideas and observations about kids, education, kids, parents, fellow teachers, parenting, kid...get the idea? Hey, maybe I can go further and inform, entertain or even inspire! Gosh! I'm all a twitter...blogger...anyway, here goes.