Retreat!

After a long break from blogging, due to sickness and exhaustion, I return, renewed and enthused.  I also attribute my refound enthusiasm to a recent “Tired Mothers Retreat”.  Retreats are opportunities for people to remove themselves from every day life.  Retreats offer individuals space and time for reflection and renewal.  In the past, I have attended retreats with church groups and even my co-workers.  When they’re over, though, reality sets in.  It’s not fair.  Why can’t retreats exist in daily life?

In a seemingly non-related conversation today I was discussing my notion that teachers do not need to offer consistency in classroom management and/or daily routine.  I think each teacher should be able to create the environment that they deem appropriate for their content and personal teaching style.  In a way, every classroom should be a retreat from daily life, and from every other classroom that students experience.  Seems simple, but it’s really not in the current education climate.  Why would it be scary for teachers to have autonomy over their class environment?  Well, students may rebel against uncreative and, to be honest, boring teachers!

In another, seemingly, unrelated conversation today, a teacher expressed that she felt students “in this generation” have an undeserved sense of “entitlement” and that they are “spoiled”.  Seems familiar.  Students feeling entitled?  How dare they?  In every faculty meeting and professional development “workshop” that I have ever attended, it has been discussed that these students are entitled to the best possible education and that it is our responsibility to figure out how to provide that.  We spout out terms like “21st Century Skills” and “preparing students for a world that we can’t even imagine yet.”  So how do we respond?  By resenting students for not accepting our attempts to teach them the content that we learned and in the way that we learned it?  Seems contradictory!

What we’re all trying to cope with is that education, and the profession of educating others, is fluid.  It changes in response to the people who participate in it.  What’s the best possible situation for students and teachers?  An environment that can adapt with people.  There is no initiative that can act as a panacea.  There is no one person who we should look to in order to copy.  There are no bad teachers.  Whoa!?!  The fact is that anyone who chooses education is a good teacher.  All students can learn.  Central offices are not inherently evil (there is no us vs them…)  The only bad ju-ju in education is the mistrust of the others we are involved with (that includes students and politicians).  This is not to say that we should take everyone at face value or that we should simply accept the status quo of the current system.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  We should question everything, and we should be open to being questioned.

There’s a certain uneasiness we all feel in being questioned.  It makes us feel defensive and unappreciated.  The art of debate has been bastardized and repressed because it creates discomfort, but it shouldn’t.  In my experience, most people I know have said that they grew the most when they were totally broken down.  Our nation has only grown through conflict.  Enlightenment happens when people speak out against the status quo.  On the other hand, we attribute peace to people’s mutual respect for law and order.  How do we balance our need for rules to follow (be it social, moral, martial, etc) and our need to question and become more enlightened?

Retreats!  Allow people (including students) those mountaintop moments in math, science, language, art, media, social studies, etc to explore, question, and grow and you will find societies of engaged and enlightened individuals.  If we make our classrooms into educational retreats, we don’t need accountability measures and unifying procedures because learning will be a reciprocal process that adapts at warp speed.  I think we’ll find parents who show up because they find they want to understand what is happening.  Its kind of a “If you build it, they will come…” situation.

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2 Responses to Retreat!

  1. Blake Parsons says:

    Ditto on having every classroom different. Consistency sounds like fascism to me and I ain’t down with that.

    The argument about there are no bad teachers seems a little far reaching to me. Just because someone choses education does not place them in the realm of a good educator. They may have chosen education in a public school system for state benefits or job security (the latter may seem ridiculous). Though education, especially k-12, is an admirable job, it is unfair to other professions to automatically say they are good at what they do. To be broad we could say that if someone choses leadership as an occupation, they are automatically a good leader. Leadership is an admirable job that has many opposing and joining forces pulling for and against it, like teachers, however not all leaders are “good” leaders.

    And let’s stop debating! Can you ever remember a debate where you actually convinced the opposite person to abandon their beliefs?! I definitely cannot…maybe a few where I enlightened them on certain aspects or they to me. However true inspiration and change has never come from debate. Now DIALOGUE…that is something I can get behind. Once we start abandoning debates and participating in dialogues we can truly accomplish new thought, from both sides. That means suspending certainty (that is how certain you are of your beliefs), courageous speech, listening, and respecting. See William Isaacs’ “Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together.”

    P.S. You are really getting old now…can’t believe you go to the Tired Mother’s Retreat…

  2. dancecookie says:

    Ok, Blake, I have to concede that you are correct about the concept of debate. I agree that discussion is better, however, in the realm of K-12 education, we are approaching, if not already involved in, a revolution of civil rights. The idea of discussion is compelling, but right now, there is a lot of false “discussion” going on when there should be debate over opposing views of how we can humanely educate our future “leaders”. For more info on my views on leadership, please visit my original post where I shared an interesting video on “Lone Nuts”. And, yes, it is a big a leap to say that there are no bad teachers, but one might argue that I learned as much about good teaching from the many “bad” teachers that I had. For example, Ms. Harris, a seemingly bad teacher in 8th grade English, taught me that reading Billy Budd the Sailor out loud to 13 year olds was not an effective way to teach. Any time I read out loud to a class I reference that experience and question myself on whether or not I am teaching anything by reading a paragraph out loud. I also learned from that teacher that discrimination is not something only white people do to others (and that there’s no such thing as “reverse discrimination” but just flat out racism can go either way).

    And yes, I am getting older… and I am also a “Tired Mother”. That doesn’t provoke me in the way that you probably hoped! I realized, this weekend, that I am fairly well-adjusted thanks to Mom’s participation in things like that retreat. The great thing about getting older is that my perspective is getting bigger as I accumulate more experience. My opinions are better formed and I am able to appreciate aspects of life that I may not have been able to appreciate before. For example, I must have said ten times this weekend, “Blake is such a talented and beautiful writer.” I am more and more inspired by your unique view of the world and your authentic ability to express yourself. I am not at all intimidated by you because I still have great pictures of you in my bikini as well as a Christmas day memory of your eating like four king sized Snickers bars while cruising in your Cozy Coupe…

    Thank you for challenging me, that’s the whole point of me writing a blog. I never want to feel like what I say is 100% right, but that it brings about thoughts and reactions that will keep the conversation about education alive!

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