Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Others

"Commandment Number One of any truly civilized society is this: Let people be different." - David Grayson

My husband, an artist and musician, is left-handed. When he was in school in the 1950s and '60s, some teachers tried to "make him" right-handed. It didn't work.

Throughout history, society has had varying degrees of tolerance for nonconformity. Suspected witches and heretics were executed by being burned at the stake, hung, pressed or drowned as recently as the late 18th century.

Beatniks and hippies, Goths and Punks have all suffered some form of ridicule or discrimination. Time magazine reported on "a wave of shocking attacks and threats against emo youth culture" in Mexico, having "less to do with music than with the country's violent intolerance."

Most U.S. school districts try to accommodate teen individuality in matters of hair, makeup and clothing, as long as the styles don't distract others from learning.

Individuality in terms of curriculum and assessment, however, is another matter entirely.

A previous posting here, Today, My Job Was to Listen, prompted Paul Bogush to comment, "I wonder what the ratio is of minutes of teacher talk vs. student talk in classrooms." When he asked this question on Plurk, estimates ranged from 4:1 to 10:1, teacher talking time to student talking time. This impromptu poll would seem to suggest that traditional delivery of standardized content is still the norm in many classrooms.

Not all who are differently-abled have an IEP. Do you believe that our educational culture could be/should be more inclusive?

Are we reaching the Others?

"All eyes see a different world. All minds live in a different world. Why do we feel the need to force someone to see and live our way? When we do this, we lose sight of our world."
- Bobby Lambert

"Black sheep. Do u also feel different?" by pasotraspaso


Paul Bogush said...

I bet if you filmed teachers and gave them the exact ratio they would not believe it. It would also be interesting to ask kids how many minutes Mr X talks per class, and then ask Mr X. I bet the numbers would be very different. Maybe teachers believe they are reaching all learners but they just never pause and look at school through their kids eyes so they don't realize they are not. I find that too often teachers say they are making modifications and then when the kid does poorly it is not because of the poor mods, but because of "laziness, not working up to their potential, etc."

diane said...


The things many of my students excel at - carpentry, engine repair, makeup and hair styling - are not skills rewarded in the traditional school setting.

They can't attend vocational classes at our local BOCES facility until 11th grade: by that time, we've "lost" many of them for good.

We talk and they're supposed to listen; do we listen when they talk? Do we really hear what they're trying to tell us?

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Diane

While it is true that teachers are not reaching all learners and all learners are not getting a 'fair share' (whatever that is), the practicality of it all is that teachers can't reach all learners. And of course all learners can't get their fair share.

The question is, how do we go about cutting the cake so that each learner gets their fair share?

I am a distance educator with some 200 or more students. The way the system operates, learners can phone me anytime they wish. I phone them sometimes too. But if a learner phones me and chats for 20 minutes, she's used 8 more minutes than I have allocated per week to spend with her.

The reality is that my weekly ration is less than 12 minutes per learner to do all I need to do with associated teaching and learning. That includes phoning up the learner if need be. That's about 150 seconds per day per learner.

Fair? I don't think so. But how do I, as teacher, make adjustments so that all learners get a fair crack of my time?

Do I say to a caller, "Sorry, your time is up for this week. Give me a call next week and I'll give you the rest of the help you need."

Or do I lay aside Jenny's assignment that's next in line for assessing because she spoke to me for 20 minutes on the phone?

Classroom contact is not much different from this. When I taught in a classroom, I used to give coaching sessions for maths after school. Effectively it gave kids an extra 20% more time with me. You can see the theoretical leverage that had on their achievement. Though in reality it was not quite as efficient as that, it still made a significant difference for those who participated.

A recent study has shown that the reason children from the so-called lower classes don't do so well at school is because, for them, the school IS the learning.

For more priviliged children, their learning continues at home and that includes during the holidays. Oh, it's not all maths, science and English for them in the holidays, but it's learning just the same. Their parents groom them in other useful skills in preparation for their place in society. How does a teacher redress that inequity?

Callous I may seem to be, but in the environments that I have taught in, including the present, I adopt the principle that each learner gets from me what they are prepared to give. That's to say, if a learner is prepared to spend time on the phone with me, I am prepared to spend the time with them.

Fair? I think so.

Catchya later
from Middle-earth