Monthly Archives: December 2014

Not In the Lesson Plans

Day by Day--A Classroom Here, A Classroom There

This is a re-post of something I feel very strongly about, as a continuing guest teacher in urban public schools……

If I can impart anything to the unsuspecting  middle- and high school students that  I see, it would be that life is NOT like school. It’s not laid out neatly, with scheduled class blocks, gym time, etc. and progress reports. It’s often messy [at least on the surface], but that’s where the real lessons are learned—hopefully permanently.  Plus, out of that “mess” is the beauty of living out one’s true self. Every classroom should have this image posted in a prominent spot:


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Are Manners Dead?

These six points shown above  are what I’d love to see more of in the classes that I encounter. I’ve noticed a growing, serious lack of these “little things” in contributing to a pleasant learning environment. It’s more than just doing the classwork; it’s also learning to be a humane, kindness-centered individual.  These are the people skills that can lead to greater success in life.

Politeness and respect OPEN more doors to experiences that can enhance student life. Why can’t we take a few minutes every day to reinforce this?

Which Model Works Better?

education -two paradigms

The above image shows two very different approaches to education. Of course, the one on the left is more idealistic, and centered less on matters like standardized  testing. The one on the right is what I’ve seen much more of in the public-school system that I work as a guest teacher.

This Factory Model” usually fuels the day-to-day operations, and the students work on the rewards and punishment [actually, bribery] system, with competition being the #1 motivator.

I’ve had only a sprinkling of “Mastery Model” assignments over the years, and the time flew by, with students being willing, independent learners.

Loving That Old Feel……

school-K12-DeSoto_landing1school-typical chiaco

The images above show the typical school buildings that I work at most of the time. They usually are more than 70  years old,  90% wood-centric, with hardly any elevators [and three steep levelsof stairs to navigate is the norm.]

True, they don’t have the ultramodern trappings and fittings; those things are mostly hodge-podged in as needed. Sure, there are computer labs and other up-to-date amenities present, but there’s that overriding presence of the thousands of children’s minds that have walked through there.

When I enter an older classroom, I get a feeling for the ornate architectural details, the spaciousness of the closets and “cloakrooms”, and heating systems that could warm the planet. As I finger the well-worn varnished wood, my mind drifts back to when students have clearly defined ideas of what “going to school” was about. It was an opportunity, a privilege, and one can sense the great care that was given to the rooms. Unlike today, too many  students that I work with have little or no regard for their learning surroundings, and take a throwaway attitude.

Architects of old designed these sites as temples to learning, as a school was often the first official structure in a child’s life. Places of worship were the other official buildings, but schools were attended more than churches.

Yes, it’s nostalgia, but also an appreciation for the architectural details, and commitment to making a visual difference in a community’s daily landscape.

Don’t just tear down the old—repurpose them as needed. Monies can be saved in many cases, and the overall structure can be a plus for historic preservation. New doesn’t necessarily mean better…..