From the Aspen Ideas Festival (via NPR)

Posted: August 12, 2010 in Theory
Tags: ,

Lately I have had a number of experiences that have reaffirmed much of my educational philosophy. I will be documenting some of the other recent philosophical inspirations as the next few days go by, but I wanted to share this one while it’s still going on. I want to remember, as the school year begins, what my expectations for myself are, and to continue working on cultivating these abilities.

Today on the Midday program on NPR, they are playing a panel discussion that happened at the Aspen Ideas Festival. There was so much glory that I sat in the car to listen and then had my daughter run in to turn it on in the house so that I wouldn’t have to miss anything.

“There is a moral, and ethical and almost spiritual element of becoming a great teacher for all kids.” -Linda Darling-Hammond

The panel started by talking about remembering fantastic teachers they had (once upon a time) and what was special about those teachers. I really appreciated their conversations about the teachers that were/are fantastic. A few that I remember right off hand that made me a little verklempt and I totally want to remember.

John Deasy was talking about how his first swim instructor was really fantastic. She let everyone know that no one is going to drown, and “no one in this room is going to learn how to swim without first getting wet”.  In other words, first and foremost, you are safe. Next, there are high expectations and you will meet them, and finally, in order to learn it, you get to immerse yourself in it… or you won’t learn it.

Another was a quote from the Talmud that apparently begins the book, Push (the book upon which the movie Precious was based):

“Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow, grow.” – The Talmud

They said that beyond just saying, “Grow, grow.”, a great teacher also whispers, “You can. You can.” They stick with you, almost “imprinting on the inside of my forehead” that story of you being the successful protagonist who can do it.

The panel also spoke about being a “Great Teacher” means being good for all kids. This is a tough calling, but also a worthy one. It means we must be able to reach all students in the classroom, not just being “right” for some (specifically the “easy”) kids, and disastrous for others. It is important to learn to love every child you teach. The panel does a great job of putting this into more realistic terms. “Loving” every kid just means being able to say “I understand you; I see you; I find a way to appreciate you as a human being and to connect to you to teach you.”

There is so much more, but these are just some of the highlights. The podcast is available! Listen to it! It is a fantastic reminder of the things we do well and need to continue to cultivate within ourselves.

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