Schools have many dilemmas that need to be fixed. My mission is to promote individualized learning in the classroom, and utilize personal talents within students to ensure they are excelling in all disciplines.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Hollow Abyss

A lot of times, teachers don't like their kids talking. They shut them up, like they are the only ones that exist in the world. The truth is, if a teacher does not let their student talk, how will they ever know them? It would be an impossible thing to do.
Teachers have to let students have a voice or say in almost every activity. The more you involve a student in the classroom, the more rapport is created. And that is of utmost importance when in a classroom. 
Because if you don't have love, then what do you have?
Just nothing.
Think about it. If a teacher doesn't let their student talk, how will they ever love their students? Yes, teachers need some peace and quiet in the classroom to get work done, but if a teacher doesn't like their students talking, then why would students want to learn? Whether students like a class or not does depend on the student, but it really depends on the teachers themselves, the classroom environment, and the bond between each teacher and each student. Most of the time, that bond doesn't exist. When a teacher greets a student, it's a very empty "Hi." It's a very hollow smile. It's a very forced expression. If a class is like that, a student will never learn. No matter how hard a teacher says they are trying. In fact, if a student doesn't like a teacher's class, the teacher isn't trying. They're not doing all they can to get to know a student.

The bell rings. A student knows he's late, so he picks up the pace.When he reaches the classroom, he sees the teacher waiting at the door, and the teacher sticks out his hand and gives the student a high five. "Hey! What's up? Just take a seat, we'll get started in a minute." The teacher says. He grins a satisfying grin. He loves nothing more than greeting his students, seeing their faces every morning. A few minutes into the class, the teacher starts talking about a topic, but is interrupted by one of his students. He looks at them, waiting for them to speak. He hears the student out, listening to the argument the student is providing. The teacher nods. He does not tell the student to stop talking. He doesn't say "Shhh." He just nods. He listens to his heart's content. As that is what every teacher should do.
As of how to do it, it's very simple. Greet students with a bigger, brighter smile. Let students provide their side of the story. If a student is talking, don't stop them. Let them talk. Let them prove their point. If a teacher listens to their students more than they talk to them, both students and teachers will have the classroom they deserve.

Yes, our world is not a world in which everyone is at peace, and not everyone can be friends with everyone. All I'm asking is for a teacher to try. For a teacher to bond with a student and do all they can to form a relationship. A relationship, that, one should hope, is love. And if all a teacher yearns for is a silent classroom, they can't have love. They'll fall into a empty and hollow abyss, a black hole they can never exit. They won't find what they want to find in life. The truth is, if a teacher yearns for a silent classroom, the don't yearn for love. And if you don't yearn for the love of people, what will you achieve?

Silent classrooms are looked at as form of exceptional discipline, a way of learning. Teachers have to understand that their job is not always a one way route. The students learn from the teachers, but, more importantly, the teachers learn from the students. And teachers can not--no matter how hard they try--learn from their students if the students stay silent and listen to the teacher talk, the words slipping out of their mouth like empty, meaningless string. A string that never stops.

Love is not created through silence. Not in a classroom, no. Love is created through problems. Through conflict, through discussion.
Just recently, my dad and I had a discussion. It was late in the night, about 10:30 pm. We had nothing to do, so I suggested we go on a walk, just go twice around the neighborhood. My dad shrugged, agreeing. We got our sweaters, and opened the garage door. As I stepped outside, I felt an odd sense of warmth.
I learned a lot about my dad that night.
Of course, we talked before in my life, but talking to him that night made me feel closer to him. We talked about his childhood, about how he loved to play in the trees in the villages of where he lived. We talked about what happened in our daily lives, about our problems and our pet peeves. We formed love.
That kind of relationship can be formed in a classroom.
You just have to be willing to open your mouth.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Throwing the Parachute

The student looks across the classroom, studying the teacher. This is the first day of school, and the student needs to know as much about his teacher as possible. He has to work hard to capture every detail, every nook and cranny. The teacher is at her desk, not looking up from the paper that she is reading. Her eyes scan over the paper, not sliding up, not once. The teacher hasn't spoken to the student. All he knows about her is this: Her name, and that she teaches this class.

The fact that the student in this scenario is even working hard to know the teacher is a fault in a lot of modern classrooms. The teacher only has one thing in mind; to teach the students, and to only teach the students. Not to love them. 

This time, the teacher's perspective is going to be represented, and I am going to display an entirely different scenario.
The classroom door's handle turns, and the teacher dusts herself. She is very anxious, and has been waiting for this moment. The students will start to pour through her classroom in a second. My students, she thinks with a jolt of excitement. The door opens, and in come the kids. One by one, they file into her classroom, looking around the room for signs of fun. Immediately, the teacher starts showering and peppering the students with information about her. Who she is, her hobbies, her personal life, her pet peeves, fun things about her, etc. In a relatively short period of time, the students know the teacher like they know the backs of their hands. 

Individualizing learning isn't just about knowing the student, a different approach is available as well. If a teacher can throw information out to a group of students like a parachute, a student will be able to be more comfortable in your classroom, and therefore ask you more questions. And the more questions that a student asks a teacher, the more a teacher can get to know a student. So, the more students under the parachute, the better. And if the teacher keeps lifting that parachute every now and then and lets new information seep through, the classroom will be in exemplary, if not perfect shape.

A great example of this was my fourth grade teacher. I always loved her, but I never really figured out why. Now that I am focusing on this topic as much as I am, I have figured out why I was so comfortable in her classroom. She shared practically her whole life with me, her stories, her ups, her downs, the people she loved. She even brought her children into the classroom, and exposed us to her personal life. I absolutely loved her, and I hope that she loved me. 
That's how a relationship between a student and teacher should be. If all is well, then a student should love the teacher as the teacher loves the student. A teacher should always be looking forward to the next class, the next opportunity to see the students that they love. The next parachute to throw. 

In the book ZIGZAG, by Tom Romano, he mentions that he loves to plan his schedule. Romano loves to make his schedule because he loves teaching. He loves his job. He also mentions something in his book. Dr. Witham, Romano's theater teacher, writes a letter to Romano saying, "Teaching is amazing. We go in every day and do our jobs and don't stop to realize we are throwing stones into a pond. And who knows where the ripples will go?"

A teacher should learn to love those ripples. A teacher should be proud that they're creating those ripples. And a teacher should share with those ripples. No matter how far away those ripples go, always keep track of them. Always love them. Embrace the fact that when you are teaching, you are a friend. And friends don't keep to themselves. They share. They share with others, information about themselves. And if a teacher can't do that to they're students, the ripples won't ever go far. They'll just ricochet, and come back.

{"isAjaxInProgress_B001ITX2CA":"0","isAjaxComplete_B001ITX2CA":"0"} Tom Romano (Author) › Visit Amazon's Tom Romano Page Find All the Books, Read about the. "Zigzag: A Life of Reading and Writing, Teaching and Learning (9780325011257): Tom Romano: Books." Zigzag: A Life of Reading and Writing, Teaching and Learning (9780325011257): Tom Romano: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2017.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

An Airplane, Striking.

The teacher is standing in front of the classroom, glancing at the students warily as she explains the process of cell division. For many, the information is thrown into the air, but is settling only in the air, and not in students' brains. The teacher rants on, pausing every few minutes and gulping. She has been talking for a very long time.
Very few students are actually grasping the information provided by the teacher. The rest aren't paying very much attention. This isn't something they want to learn. The teacher's words slip past the majority of the students' ears like paper airplanes whizzing past someone's face.

Even if the material in the classroom is something that a student does not necessarily want to learn, there is a way for teachers to truly drive the information provided into their heads. 
Individualized learning. 

Now, the teacher is not talking. She is showing a picture on the Promethean Board, of the reasons for the American Revolution. She only does a bit of talking, and asks questions to the students frequently. One of the students has a look of confusion on his face. The teacher recognizes it, and immediately calls the student's name. She asks about why he is confused. The student immediately responds: "This process is not making sense to me." The teacher nods. She knows the student very well. He likes telling stories. The teacher says quietly, "In a story, when the Prince and Princess have a disagreement, they separate, correct?" The student thinks. He gets it now. The Colonies didn't agree with Great Britain, so they eventually split after many conflicts. 

My goal is to help school systems have a more individualized touch to them. I want classrooms in a school to work very unlike the first scenario I described. The teacher talks endlessly, up there, in front of the classroom, no doubt blindly saying exactly what was written in her curriculum. If the teacher just stopped talking like a robot and knew the students enough to personally provide the information to them by creating analogies and real life scenarios that relate to that student on a personal level, the paper airplane would not fly by the student's face. It would graze them. If teachers really taught personally, the plane could even touch the kids. Strike the students right in the face.
A great example of what a teacher should be doing in a classroom is what Penny Kittle did with a student named Lucas. Lucas first walks into her classroom, and when Kittle found out that he was from New England, she started showering him with all types of questions: "You skate right across the basketball courts?" "No way, really?" She learns so much about his life in New England, all because of the questions that she asked her student.
And Lucas probably got smacked with the airplane. Because Penny Kittle asked questions.
I remember my third grade teacher very well. It was a long while back, but I still remember him. This is probably because he was such a great teacher. When I first walked into his classroom on Open House, he asked me all the questions he possibly could. He pointed to his different posters and said: "Do you like Star Wars, Nihar?" Then I would nod, and he would nod as well. "We're going to have so much fun this year."
And we did. That was the most fun I ever had in Elementary School. He taught such hard subjects, yet I remembered everything. It never slipped from my brain. He taught me in such a way that I would never forget.
I miss it.
That is the way a class should be. If the teacher really teaches the way he/she should, the students should wholeheartedly miss it.

The movie Freedom Writers very well displays the variation of classroom environment. The movie is about a teacher, played by Hilary Swank, who teaches a group of students in a very unsafe area. Most of the students are in gang affiliations and do not listen in her class at all. The other teachers in the school don't really care about what happens to the students, and they teach very poorly. Most of the students don't even pay attention in the other teachers' classes. At one point, one of the other teachers in the school even talks about how loving and caring for the students is irrelevant to teaching. But when Hilary Swank's character sees her students not paying attention, she changes her classroom. She incorporates games and debates in her curriculum, and lets the students write in journals everyday. She lets them write about their life, and their struggles as a child. The students' grades go from F's to B's, sometimes even A's.
That's the way a teacher should teach. 

The teacher has to know the student. Really know them, personally. Enough to teach them on a personal level. The teachers have to realize that every student is different. Each kid has different talents, and those separate them from the way other students work. If the teacher knows what questions to ask when students take their initial step into his/her classroom, each teacher will definitely know which way to teach to help that student get hit in the middle of the face with the airplane.

There are a vast collection of ways to do this, but one that I have found interesting is writing. Teachers can find so many things out of a student's writing. If you let the students all lose and let them choose what to write about, then you can learn real-life experiences that each and every student has faced. Writing is a great way to learn more about your students. And, using the information that you got from their writing, you can teach in the way that you think that the student will grasp the information. And, if you are doing this right, even twenty, thirty years from now, that student will remember your name. And you, hopefully, will remember theirs.

Kittle, Penny. The Greatest Catch: A Life in Teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2005. Print.

Freedom Writers. Dir. Richard LaGravenese. Perf. Hilary Swank, Imelda Staunton and Patrick Dempsey |. Paramount Home Entertainment, 2007. DVD.