Monday, January 15, 2007

Captured fireflies --- and entry-year teachers

In her classroom our speculations ranged the world
She aroused us to book waving discussions.
Every morning we came to her carrying new truths, new facts,
New ideas cupped and sheltered in our hands like captured fireflies.
When she went away a sadness did not go out.
She left her signature upon us.
The literature of the teacher who writes on children's minds.
I've had many teachers who taught us soon forgotten things,
But only a few like her who created in me a new thing, a new attitude, a new hunger.
I suppose that to a large extent I am the unsigned manuscript of that teacher.
What deathless power lies in the hands of such a person. ---by John Steinbeck

I opened the first day of the teaching professions program I taught with this poem. The first time I had read it, my life stood still. The students in that group reacted much the same; there was a deathly silence with an intense sense of commitment--

Mrs. C. and Darren have opened windows to their classrooms allowing us a glimpse of the power of such a classroom through their professional, class, and student blogs found here, here, here and in the sidebar here. Through these windows, I think we see exactly what Anne Davis mentioned to me in an email:
"We need to give students time to really take delight in their learning. Helping them become reflective learners really does require a different way of teaching and learning in our classrooms."

That way of teaching and learning are modeled for us all---These posts of Mrs. C invite, engage, and celebrate the Blogicians here, here and here. What youngster wouldn't take up any challenge or return with some special idea here?

And Mary, Lindsey, Eddie, and Emmy respond to truly validate that teaching.

Darren's posts invite us to view a group of students creating their criteria for excellence on his unique flickr assignments; his excitement and joy at their collaboration is contagious here.

Allen responds to such an environment with a unique and creative scribe and Linger notes the joy of math.

Yes, a different type of teaching and learning and this:
Every morning we came to her carrying new truths, new facts,
New ideas cupped and sheltered in our hands like captured fireflies.

The question then is how, in this time of direct teaching and high stakes testing, can we help teachers, especially entry-year teachers to scaffold this kind of joy for and in learning?

I find that a real dilemna right now as I work to design and develop an online mentoring course for entry-year teachers in Ohio. Ohio requires that entry-year teachers participate in a year long program intended to help them become more accomplished teachers and experience success on their PRAXIS III performance assessment. The course is framed by the PRAXIS 4 Domains and I see that as a plus. Had I had such structure to guide my practice, oh how my students would have benefited and my path toward accomplished teaching much faster! That said, these new teachers have learned in a world in which joy and engagement have not often been the norm. I'm challenged and determined to add yet another framing to this course, that envelops the 4 Domains-- the Steinbeck poem captures the essence, yet I have miles to go to assure that these fledging educators consider the power which has been entrusted to them. How to best model this learning within a structured management system? How to blend the criteria of the Domains with such a sense that they seek to become that teacher who encourages curiousity, and learning with joy?

1 comment:

M Newlin said...

Hello there,
Your blog is wonderful and very inspiring!
I felt the same way about that Steinbeck passage when I read it, hence the name of my (fairly neglected) blog.
I will check back...This is great what you have going on here!