3 Ways Crisis Teaching Is Different and Just as (More?) Difficult as “Regular” Teaching (Whatever That Is)

This post could have been entitled “5 ways…” or “10 ways…” or maybe even “100 ways,” but the power of three is strong. It craves concision. It requires streamlined thought. It also makes it more difficult to write, but that’s a different post. Before diving into the big three, I have a message for anyone who reads this blog.

If you think teachers aren’t working, boy are you wrong.

There have been reports in the teaching community that parents and community members have questioned why teachers were getting paid during the shut down period, and they are even questioning why teachers are getting paid now that most of us have returned to the classroom, albeit the virtual one. It’s not just my community questioning it; communities nationwide have heard these questions and school boards nationwide have had to respond to them. It stymies the imagination, really, especially if you have any experience with working from home (more on that in a minute).

The facts are simple: Teachers who found themselves at home and not actively working with students did not take a vacation. Well, perhaps for a day so they could figure out how life was going to work with a full house every day. Shortly after that, however, teachers did what teachers do. They picked up their curriculum and started building an online classroom as they hoped that school would reopen. They called each other to discuss strategies and tools they could use to work with students in an entirely new way. They attended professional development webinars hastily created to help teachers transition. They joined Facebook groups of fellow teachers to share ideas, post “I miss my kids” posts, and get and give encouragement to each other. Personally, my AP Lit syllabus (a 40-plus page bear) is 90% complete now, and my summer reading materials (a 60-plus page bear) is complete. I created enrichment activities and a calendar that I shared with my students. I sent out ideas for keeping their skills sharp. I also wrote one of the most candid letters I have ever written to non-family members and sent that to my students. I would say that I was still working 50-hours a week while schools were shuttered, a *few* hours less than what I was working before. I wasn’t doing the stand-up aspect of teaching and I missed it, but I was still working as a teacher.

On top of that, of course, teachers needed to deal with family logistics, just like everyone else. In our house, we had to figure out which floor everyone was going to be on and we stressed about our Internet connection supporting a programmer, a teacher, and a college student at the same time. My friends have even more troubles, since they have more children to worry about, or they are suffering from job losses — or both. We are blessed, really, and I am thankful and grateful each day, as well as mindful of those who need help from our governments and each other.

So, how is crisis teaching different? Read on.

(1) Working from home is an acquired skill, and many of us have had to acquire it quickly.

After six years of working from home while my son was young, I have mixed emotions about finding myself working from home again. There was freedom one cannot enjoy while working in an office, to be sure, but working from home is also desperately, terribly lonely. By the time I went back to commuting to work (actually, it was to start student teaching), I was craving human-to-human contact beyond my own family. I wanted face-to-face colleagues again. I wanted face-to-face friends again. I was tired of being on video conference and dealing with Internet connectivity issues. Well, here I am again. And yes, I am desperately, terribly lonely. As much as I love technology and love to hate technology, I would go back to my classroom and remove all the tech there if only I could be with my kids and colleagues again.

(2) Crisis teaching is NOT Online Teaching, nor is it Brick-and-Mortar “put” online

Teaching online is COMPLETELY different from brick-and-mortar teaching. To my colleagues who teach in cyber charters and online campuses, I salute you. My distance/online learning experiences started in 2006 and while getting those degrees I can honestly say I worked harder as a learner than ever. My instructors worked hard to master the skills of asynchronous instruction and the “live lecture” that could go FUBAR at any moment. Most of them came from brick-and-mortar campuses and had mixed emotions about the change. I can’t blame them. It’s difficult and paradigm-shifting.

Teaching during a crisis is even more different. My friends talk about time limits on assignments, the focus on social and emotional learning, and the equity issues. Their hearts are broken for their kids, for their families, and for themselves. They can only imagine what is happening in the lives of these young people who are so important to them. Yes, these issues abound in brick-and-mortar teaching too. Being trauma-informed and culturally-responsive are so very important, no matter how you function as a teacher. In my previous teaching experiences, those issues always trumped learning opportunities, so perhaps I am more prepared than others; it was like flipping a switch.

(3) Our “Spidey Senses” are useless when teaching this way.

Observational skills are critical skills for every teacher to hone and develop. In September, you may not know your kids and be able to read their expressions or body language. By October 1, you can predict how most of them will react to something. Take the visual away and it is like September all over again. In essence, we have to develop those “Spidey Senses” required to read the room when the room is in the ether.

To connect with point number two, then, all the extra stuff that goes into explaining a simple assignment without being able to read the room makes the limitations and SEL considerations feel like tourniquets. Everything takes longer. That probably sounds counter-intuitive for some reason. Let me put it this way. Today, I woke up at 7:00 AM and worked until 2:00 PM. It’s Saturday. However, I had to do that to generate the documents I think will help my students to navigate the virtual learning room before our next conference. My classes no longer meet every day, so the students have to have instructions that can help them get started or continue assignments. I had several emails to respond to about assignments coming in late, too (What do I care about due dates? What’s more important now: your health or my due date? Please, if you do not know the answer to that by now, you haven’t been paying attention.) . Then, of course, there are the emails about professional development opportunities, AP® Exam updates (don’t get me started), and the emails from the education associations.

Tomorrow, I will probably work more, but darn it, I’m going for a bike ride. I will go to sleep tonight wondering if I explained something correctly and will have to resist the urge to rush to my computer. Issues that could have been resolved in a 30-second conversation during class now require multiple emails or LMS messages. Every time I get something wrong, I want to kick myself for wasting their time.

So, yeah, it’s different. It’s way different.

I’m going to do something completely out of character now and publish this without too much proofreading. Why? I have run out of time. Thank you for reading and leave a comment if you like.

Be well. Be safe. Be good to you.

Literature and the Human Condition

We study literature to study the human condition. We engage in conversation with a text, with its context, to understand where we were within our reality, or to understand where we may be going within our reality. Readers cannot escape their reality; indeed, they should not. Every time we open a text, we are engaging its now with our now.

We are engaging its now with our now. We are confronting its now with our now. We are embracing its now with our now. We are conjoining its now with our now. We are acknowledging its now with our now. We are debating with its characters. We are struggling with or connecting with its setting. We are processing its plot. We are appreciating its beauty with all its flaws. We are interrogating the narrator, even if the narrator is reliable. We are appreciating the figurative language through our personal “ah ha” moments.

Oh, those amazing “ah ha” moments. They don’t always come on immediately. For example, I had an “ah ha” moment a few years ago with a poem I read over 20 years before. We study literature to have those “ah ha” moments immediately, but also 20 years later. We study literature to pass on the lessons we have learned to others in whatever profession we pursue. I have a friend who teaches psychological wellness through movies and novels. When a client learns about Gaslight or Shirley Valentine, their lives are never the same. The more we read, the more we have to share, for we know more about…

…the human condition.

I really could not help myself there.

Live Blog: My First Week Teaching Virtually in K-12

Since I need to get back to writing regularly, I have to start somewhere. Perhaps keeping a live blog of my reflections on virtual teaching in K-12 during the COVID-19 pandemic will help foster that habit.

Today, we teachers are getting ready for the students to return to school. Personally, I am overwhelmed. Scenarios keep running through my head like those nightmares you have during which you make a complete fool of yourself and cannot stop it. What if I am off-base with an assignment? What if the assignment is too hard? What if the technology fails?

In my previous career, redundancy was so important. It’s instinctive now. So, I put lesson plans in one place and the same content in the LMS. Guess what happened? The lesson planner “ate” my lesson plans! Well, that was unexpected.

Earlier today I was on a conference call using a currently-very-popular app. Guess what? It messed up my computer. I’ve uninstalled it. I’ll join through the browser now, thank you, the browser I rarely use. For heavens sake.

Today’s been very stressful. I hope that my lesson plan problem can be fixed. I had everything set up and ready. Please, higher power, do not let this be a disaster. I know that the first time I do anything, it usually is, but I can’t deal with it right now.

HyperDocs and UbD

In the AP® Literature and Composition groups on Facebook, there has been a lot of talk about HyperDocs as we all transition to virtual learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During my investigation of the teaching strategy, I realized that I have been using many of the principles already since I rarely rely on textbooks and prefer to find up-to-date information on the Internet. However, I’m sure there are many ways I could improve upon what I have been doing on my own. To help me, I’m reading The HyperDoc Handbook: Digital Lesson Design Using Google Apps.

UbD, or Understanding by Design, is a pedagogy (or philosophy) that has been part of my curriculum building for years, since at least 2010. How can I incorporate that pedagogy with this? It’s simple: UbD is all about the result – which is the understanding of content and its relevance. As I develop curriculum, the question in the back of my mind is the favorite of students: “Why do I have to learn this?” UbD helps teachers to answer that question effectively.

After a Short Break

I started this post a couple of days ago and then took time to start planning and using hyper docs starting next week. I have to say that it’s pretty easy, and I am already starting to see it’s value. Perhaps I will write another post after I’ve been using them a while.

Stay safe.

I just felt like trying the new editor blocks.

COVID-19 and The Five Conflicts

The last time I wrote in this blog, I had no idea how much my life was going to change shortly after I published a post about Moodle. Since then, I have entered the life I have always wanted: I have become an English teacher. This is my first year in public education, and it has been cut short by COVID-19. I offer this blog post as a reflection on that reality.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

From Meditation 17 by John Donne

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

From “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman

Why Do We Have to Read Literature?

I’ve heard this question so many times. My answer, now that we are in the midst of a crisis, a pandemic: Because we need to prepare for moments like these. We need to prepare for frightening times, for joyful moments, for sad moments… for moments. We read literature to learn about the human condition, to absorb it within ourselves, to emerge from reading more a part of the human community than we were before. We read literature to learn more about our interdependence – not only with other humans but with the entire world, with all the beings, with all of it. We read literature to help ourselves admit our interdependence and to learn how to accept it. Eventually, we get it. It may be long after high school is over, but I hope that most do not have to wait that long.

What about the Five Conflicts?

We read literature for examples of the five conflicts (some might disagree on the number, but I learned of five, so I am sticking with that number) because we need to know how to cope with them. As a history major in 1993, I realized that humans can learn from the mistakes of the past. Our condition is such that we reflect on what has happened historically to make progress. As an English teacher, I have seen that we can use the five conflicts to categorize history within the context of literature (fiction and nonfiction) and make it more manageable.

The five conflicts are: person versus person; person versus society; person versus nature; person versus self; and person versus the supernatural. For each, we can find examples within literature to help us learn how to deal with these conflicts in our own lives.

Therefore, I leave you with this question (because English teachers aren’t supposed to spoon-feed the answers but rather help you to discover the answers within): What examples can you find within your literature treasure chest to address these conflicts? I bet you have read more than you might realize. While we have this time, think about it. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Be good to you, your family, and your loved ones.

4 Ways to Establish Relevance with Moodle

One of the first things you learn when studying adult learning is that adults need to know why they are learning something and how they can apply it to their lives.  In other words, they need to know how something is relevant to their condition and context.  It’s not only adults who need that.  Humans of all ages need to know, too, why they are learning something and how it is going to change their lives for the better once they know it.  It is the teacher’s job to help students establish relevance.

Please notice that I said “help students establish relevance.”  I say that because teachers can’t open up a student’s head and put the information into it.  Rather, they have to offer the tools by which the students deconstruct and reconstruct the knowledge for themselves.  Tools include activities that are transferable, lessons that are well-organized and include materials and activities that are on point, and resources that students can explore outside the classroom.  At times, we can all get lost in the details of a lesson or a unit while planning it.  We generate an assessment and align it to the standards of the lesson.   Then, we create these fun and engaging activities, or serious and challenging ones.   In short, we do all the other things that lesson and unit planners should do, except we forget the part about helping the students answer the question, “Why do I have to learn this?”

Here are four ways you can use Moodle to establish relevance.

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Take the mystery out of it by explaining the WIIFM of an assignment immediately.  WIIFM stands for “What’s in it for me?”   It’s an acronym trainers and adult educators use, but K-12 educators can also use it.  Essentially, you are telling them what you expect them to get from the lesson.  Then, it’s up to them to verify that is what they got.  In my classroom, I would expect my students to challenge me if my WIIFM statement doesn’t match their experience or understanding.  I would also work hard to rectify that problem.

Competencies and Learning Plans

Do you share your standards with the students?  Make it easier for the students to understand what’s happening in class!  Share with them the standards you have aligned to the lesson and unit.  Additionally, in Moodle, you can create learning plans based on competencies (Moodle’s term for standards) that administrators load into the software.  These learning plans will show the students all the standards aligned to a course and the activities aligned to each standard.  Be sure to explain all of this to the students when you share their learning plan with them.  Otherwise, they might think this is nothing more than a checklist, and learning plans can be so much more useful than that.  For more information on competencies and learning plans, please click this link.

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Discussion Forums

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Use discussion forums to address the “elephant in the room,” which is the usual question about relevance.  In this case, peers can help peers; we often find that peers can teach one another just as much as the teacher can, so give them this opportunity to help one another.

Journals

You can download the journal plugin from Moodle.org at this link.  Teachers use the journal activity to pose a question and review students’ answers to that question, which is a great way to do a little formative assessment!  Explicitly pose questions such as

  • “What do you think this unit is all about?”
  • “How can you apply what you’ve learned during this unit to your life?”
  • “In five years, what will you remember about this unit?  Why?”

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What Do You Think?

Do you think these four components of Moodle can help learners to establish relevance within their own minds?  Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section provided.

Adapt Authoring Tool and Moodle

I have been working with the Adapt Learning Framework and Adapt Authoring tool of and on for a while now.  (Follow the community @AdaptLearning to learn more about this “Ground breaking #opensource project and THE online community for #multidevice #elearning” (quote from their Twitter profile page).  This post features one of the projects I created using the framework that I included in a my demo course.  You can view the course at this URL: http://heatherssandbox.org/moodle331/course/view.php?id=2.  Sign in as guest.student with the password =uC7U8*j when prompted.

The project focus is “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” by Dr. Martin Luther King.  In my opinion, this would be a great opener to the school year for seniors in high school English, especially this year with the events that have occurred since the election and most recently in Charlottesville.   It is controversial still, more than 50 years after it was first written.  Students can also easily relate the letter to events either they or someone they know have experienced.  Unfortunately, racism is alive and well, not only in the United States but around the globe.

Installing the software is not easy, but the community provides directions that you can follow easily. Make sure that you read the directions carefully before trying to install it! There are multiple steps involved, including installing Node.js, Git, Mongo, as well as the tool itself.  You must install each program properly for the software to work.

The community provides YouTube videos that introduce the tool, so I will not “reinvent the wheel” by providing an introduction in this post.  Rather, here is the first video for your viewing pleasure.

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To see the “Letter” project, please click this link. I would love to hear your thoughts about it. Please leave a comment in the comments box below this post.

Regards,
Heather

3 Things to Think about When Developing Your Own Moodle Site


Recently, I started developing a demo course in a Moodle installation hosted on my site.  The latest version of Moodle is so powerful and useful.  It shows the dedication of the thousands of people who have contributed to its continued success.  Having been a fan for many years, I have enjoyed watching its progression from simple to cutting edge.  As I contemplate my future, I have decided to start using Moodle on my private site for more than just testing plugins and ideas.  Instead, I want to create an actual, usable site similar to that which I created for a corporation I used to work for.  Here are three things I have been thinking about since I started this process two days ago.

Know Your Moodle’s Purpose

In the past, my Moodle installations have been used for testing purposes. Now, I know that I want it to resemble what I would present were I teaching at the secondary level. The purpose of the site must be understood. Using it for K-12 will require slightly different approaches than post secondary and much different approaches from those used in corporate settings. Having already hacked a Moodle for a corporate LMS, I can speak to this confidently. Depending on the purpose, there are plugins to consider, appearance choices (especially theme!), and layouts to design to best accommodate each type of learner.

That brings me to an important point. This site isn’t about me; it’s for those who will view it and/or use it. So, while I might think something’s groovy, that may not align with others’ thinking. That makes knowing the site’s purpose all that more important.

Creating a site for grades 9-12 is more in line with Moodle’s tradition and history, but it is being used in corporate settings more in recent years. Still, putting this one together ought to be a lot easier than what I have done in the past – as long as I stay true to its purpose.

Plan Your Moodle

Deming and those who practice Total Quality Management (TQM) are not kidding when they stress the importance of planning. I typically spend over 40 hours preparing one one-hour presentation; imagine how long this project is going to take! Still, planning is important.

It’s also important to not get mired in details and plans, though. I will never finish that way. So, using the rest of Deming’s framework, I will Plan, Do, Check, and Act. Using an iterative process (oh no, agile!), I can get close to done without taking forever, as one would with the waterfall method of anything. Since learning of him in 2006, I have returned to Deming’s ideas many times. They continue to make the most sense. They are simple, and yet rich and deep.

With Deming and Sutherland (a founding father of Agile) in mind, perhaps I will even think in terms of sprints! I did not with the corporate Moodle; instead, I tended to respond to needs and satisfy my own whims. I don’t think that would be a good idea this time, and I must learn from my mistakes.

Rehearse Your Moodle

Today, I finished listening to Carmine Gallo’s The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, and the one practice that Steve Jobs never sacrificed before a big address was rehearsal.  He rehearsed for hours upon hours.  Many of us cannot say the same, myself included.  Although I prepare a presentation for many hours, I do not typically rehearse said presentation for more than a few.  Well, with a site that is supposed to show who I am as an educator, I think it probably best to beta test it, which is the software world’s version of rehearsal.  If you are interested in being a beta tester, please leave a message in the comments.  I’ll be sure to contact you.

I’ll leave you with some quotes about success I find valuable (DeMers, 2014).

“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”

— Steve Jobs

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”

— Bruce Lee

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

— Colin Powell

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

— Albert Schweitzer

“Fall seven times and stand up eight.”

— Japanese Proverb

 

Reference

DeMers, J. (2014, November 3). 51 Quotes to Inspire Success in Your Life and Business. Retrieved September 9, 2017, from https://www.inc.com/jayson-demers/51-quotes-to-inspire-success-in-your-life-and-business.html

WHY TEXT-DEPENDENT ANALYSIS IS MORE IMPORTANT NOW THAN EVER

The explosion of media and technology…has made it all the more important that students master the core skills of gathering and evaluating evidence. Reading and writing with independence and confidence will remain master arts in the Information Age. (Vicki Phillips in Schmoker, 2011, p.93)

Phillips’ quote resonates today because of the media explosion that occurs on a daily basis (indeed, sometimes multiple times a day).  As teachers, we may decide we are obliged to help students navigate the turbulent river of information that comes through so many channels – our smart phones, the television, the radio, social media, etc.  I submit that we need to help them, and we need to figure out exactly how to help them.  Text-dependent analysis is a skill that can help them – and us – to cut through the clutter and find the gems of truth therein.

Recently, I finished a professional development course offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education called “Text-Dependent Analysis,” otherwise known as TDA.  This course taught us how to teach close reading and critical thinking about what one reads.  The DOE deployed this course at an opportune time, since many teachers are going to struggle with how to teach students to read with an eye toward deep understanding and toward analyzing for credibility or veracity.  I, for one, was not taught this particular strategy, so I have relied on my training as a history major, not as a teacher.

Close Reading – an important part of TDA – is composed of the following steps.

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Something I think we don’t do enough of in today’s classrooms is multiple readings of a text.  TDA requires multiple readings, for one cannot possibly deeply understand a text after only one reading, and it is probably difficult to understand deeply after two readings as well.

Something I would change about TDA as it is now taught is to gradually replace teacher-generated text-dependent questions (TDQs) with student-generated TDQs.  Teacher-generated questions can often sway a student toward one side or the other, even though these questions are NOT supposed to do that; they are intended to get the students thinking about the text in increasingly complex ways.  Additionally, many of us recognize that the best way to learn something, to master it I should say, is to teach it.  Therefore, if students create their own questions to share with others, they are in essence teaching one another the art of TDA.  That’s my opinion; feel free to disagree with it in the comments.

TDA can help students to filter out the noise that media explosions constantly subject us to these days.  It can help them (and us) to discover truth in the midst of so much nonsense.  It can help all of us to support our democratic republic and to help it progress.  We have made so much progress in our short time as a country, and recently we are seeing citizens regress into publicly displaying worldviews that we as a country felt we had long ago abandoned.  It saddens many of us to see it, but there is something we can do about it!

Try TDA today.

References

Burke, B. (n.d.). A close look at close reading: Scaffolding students with complex texts. Anne Arundel County, MD: Anne Arundel County Reading Council.
Schmoker, M. (2011). Focus: Elevating the essentials to radically improve student learning.  Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

 

Waxing Philosophical: The Purpose of Education

There are so many articles, blog posts, and books about the purpose of education that it might seem odd to see yet another one. However, this might be a good exercise for any teacher to try, if only to determine his or her own views on the subject. Reading about it, or listening to someone speak of it, is one thing; forming an argument is quite another.

If you ask almost any teacher why he or she entered the teaching profession, you are likely to hear something like this: “I want to help people, especially the kids.” And if you were to ask those same teachers what they think the purpose of education is, you are likely to hear that it is to help students learn what they need to know to become effective, productive, and happy people as they mature into adulthood and beyond. That is true.

That is not the whole story, though, and we all know it. History tells us that many schools were established centuries ago in the colonies to teach children how to read the printed word. The Bible was a popular text, for example, as Protestantism indicated that reading the Bible for oneself was virtuous and recommended. Instead of relying on the minister to show one the way, it was important that a Protestant was somewhat self-reliant and able to speak to passages in the Bible that were relevant to the situation in which they found themselves.

History will also tell us that as the country industrialized, so too did the education system. School became the main venue for teaching students how to work hard in factories, pay attention to directions, and do basic things like reading, writing, and math (the 3Rs). When you read literature about this priority in education, you will often see a photo of students sitting in rows of desks with their hands folded in front of them, patiently listening to the teacher. This helps the reader connect schooling to aspects of industrialization such as the assembly line.

Finally (at least in this post), schooling was used as an assimilation vehicle, too. As immigration to the United States increased, schooling provided the children with the opportunity to learn about what it means to be an American, and to learn English. Schools’ practices related to this varied widely, of course, depending on the location. Assimilation continues to be a priority today.

Some controversies surrounding public schooling can be traced back to the inequitable quality of education that groups of students received based on their location and the funding available to the schools / school districts. In higher-income areas, students enjoy more advantages: better technology, more experienced teachers, pristine infrastructure, and more extracurricular activities with up-to-date facilities. My high school benefited from affluent alumni; we received donations all the time to keep our facilities thriving. We needed those donations, as the school district was always in a financial bind. But other high schools in the district were not so fortunate, and it showed – crumbling buildings, ineffective faculty, disengaged students, and few resources. I subbed in one school district that featured a bank branch in its high school as well as its own TV studio from which students would broadcast the news during homeroom, and in another school district where trash cans served to catch rain as it leaked through the roof, and teachers had to buy their own copy paper. The quality of education was strikingly different. The affluent school district allowed teachers more freedom to innovate, and encouraged its students to develop 21st Century Skills. The poorer district forced teachers to use a ‘standardized’ curriculum that was scripted and required teachers to be literally on the same page each day. The students and parents lined up once a week to receive donations from the Panera located in the town adjacent to theirs. The students learned hand signals and cues to keep the class on track. My ‘favorite’ was “Clap once if you can hear me,” to get the students to quiet down. If that didn’t work, the teacher asked, “Clap twice…” and then, “Clap three times…” – you get the idea. There was also a procedure that involved snapping one’s fingers, but I can’t remember exactly when that was used. Teachers in this school spent a lot more time on classroom management than they did on fostering collaboration and creativity. No, it was not the kids who were to blame; it was the adults’ view of the kids’ capabilities that was.

Therefore, it would seem (to me, at least) that the practice of education often runs counter to the expressed purpose of education. In my study of education over the years, I have found the following expressed purposes of education. Some we can all agree with, others are worthy of debate, and some just make us cringe.

• To prepare children for adult lives
• To help them become “God-fearing” people
• To prepare them to become effective and informed citizens
• To inspire students to be creative, innovative adults prepared for jobs that don’t exist yet
• To further humanity down the road of progress
• To “produce” adults who know how to follow directions
• To “provide” the knowledge they’ll need to succeed in their profession
• To lift children out of poverty
• To help the nation become a melting pot of cultures that all get along
• To help children learn how to learn so they can be lifelong, self-directed learners
• To encourage children to approach life as fierce competitors, prepared to win
• To develop critical thinking skills that will protect children from charismatic and overly ambitious people
• To demonstrate that geographical boundaries are no longer as relevant as they’d once been
• To convince children that all can learn once they understand their own processes, and can construct knowledge
• To push children beyond their perceived limits and barriers
• To instill in children a realistic confidence in themselves – and others
• To promote collaboration in the world of work and regular life
• To enculture children in the content areas they study, which they may someday enter as academics or professionals
• To explore “strange new worlds”
• To inspire children to become teachers too
• To further the cause of education’s continuous improvement
• To identify the special and support their development

Those who have been disappointed by the U.S. education system may add the following.
• To give kids something to do
• To turn them into “sheeple”
• To help them “ace” standardized tests and become “standardized people”
• To control children’s thought processes and mold them into those that best serve authority
• To show children what their “place” is in the world
• To keep children tied to their communities
• To regulate the knowledge that students have access to
• To teach kids irrelevant stuff they’ll never use again

I think that the purpose of education emerges school by school, and perhaps even classroom by classroom. A beautiful principle that makes up the American Idea is that divergent thought is supposed to be supported. Even in the age of standardized testing, teachers still expressed themselves through their practice, and this is wonderful. What would help these creative, compassionate, passionate teachers would be to provide them all with the same access to tools they need to educate 21st century kids to use 21st century skills. What would be wonderful is to see the schools in any neighborhood in terrific condition, radiating hope for, and confidence in, the students it serves. Its doors would be open to the community, allowing anyone who wanted to learn the chance to do just that. If we could agree on just these simple things, perhaps we could fulfill the purpose of education so many teachers go into the profession believing to be most important: to help children become happy, healthy, productive, passionate, compassionate, critically thinking, creative, and loving adults.