A well-balanced meal can lead to good (reading) habits

Children need a variety of foods to be strong and healthy; but they also require a varied reading diet to stimulate lifelong reading. As such, why not combine the two by having them design their own reading menus with at least one serving of:

* Fruits & Vegetables – Poetry
* Soup – Current Events
* Fish – Science/Nature
* Meat – Biography/History
* Dessert – Fiction
* Milk – Sports/Hobbies
* After-dinner mint – Comics

Not all readers are created equal but like the saying by Maimonides in the 12th century said: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. By offering a banquet of reading they should find something delectable!

So, if you want to help someone make sense of the world, give the gift of reading. It’s delicious!

Esteemed thinkers: teachers

It’s a job which I held for over two decades… this thing we call teaching. It is a profession that requires the participant to hold a higher degree, take state exams, continue to update credentials, and hold a license; often more than one. You are fingerprinted, tested, observed, evaluated, and assigned. It is perhaps the most underpaid and the most under celebrated jobs, but frequently the most rewarding. It is difficult to convey to those in other fields commanding many more incentives and a higher salary why a person wishes and continues to be a teacher.

So for today’s post I present a parable that may speak for all of us educators and retired educators; here is the tale of just what it is like to be a teacher.

A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.

 “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” he asks.

“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”

“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”

The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

Death in the classroom

the pearl_2At least once during the English teacher’s career, we inflict the heinous crime of beating a perfectly good novel to death. I must confess that some time ago, during my maiden voyage as a new teacher, I perpetrated such an offense against The Pearl.

It all began one day in September as a perfectly legitimate assignment. I was to instruct the students on all the literary nuances that could be squeezed out of the novel. My class of eighth graders and I commenced with an author biography, a lively testament to John Steinbeck’s literary genius. It was from here that we embarked on our thoughtful migration into the book.

As we began to decipher each chapter, characters were delicately probed and analyzed. It was imperative that we assess traits and dispositions. We wanted to understand who and what each character stood for, their symbolic relationship to themselves as individuals and to mankind.
Discussions of the “settings” were tabled. Cooperative group activities were exercised. Students were given opportunity to examine both the historical significance of the novel’s setting, as well as the geographic clues that were relayed to us by the author. And, as if this wasn’t enough, we explored “themes”; the struggle for existence, free will vs. determination, social class, and oppression to a minority group.

September was creeping into October, and by this time of the dissection, these kids were screaming for mercy. But no, relentlessly we pushed on. After all, we had only touched the surface; we needed to consider, “STYLE”! Even though there are a mere six chapters, we sought after metaphors, similes, phrases, and descriptions!
With the patience of an archaeologist, we left no page untouched. Our mission was now to decipher the “point of view,” the third person narrative, our omnipotent action teller who guides us through the universal parable. Determined to seek out more, we struggled with “form and structure.” Was this important novel merely a simple legend or was it an allegory designed to teach us a moral lesson? This probing question lasted a good two classes. With pens in hands, we highlighted, scribbled notes in the margins, and to be sure, probably exhausted any pleasure that was intended by our notable American author, Steinbeck.

So, I confess, I killed The Pearl in a purely selfish attempt to teach the great American novel, to impose my love of literature and all its wonders.

Esteemed thinker: Paulo Freire

teacher and classThe world of business is thought to be ever so complex however it appears to revolve around two events, the passing of time and the passing of money. Both involve good planning and good luck; for without them both working hand-in-hand, one could stymie the other. For those readers that like examples, let us take the film industry. Production on a new movie does not occur without first deciding upon time involved in production and the finances to put the idea into action. However, how often do we hear that the making of the movie is “behind schedule” and “cost productions” are over budget.

Such an occurrence is not rare but rather common practice. The identical business scenario results ever- so- often in the construction industry. Plans are created however, for whatever reason, perhaps a building permit or poor weather, construction is placed “on hold’ and as the company sorts things out, one-thing-leads to another, costs increase, and extra time is needed for the project to be completed. One can delve into a multitude of examples yet the more we look the more we not that the business world appears not to really have a hold on keeping to a schedule, even when they plan so many planning meetings that one has to wonder how they have so much time to plan.

Yet, there is one set of workers that complete their job everyday on time, regardless of money or the lack of time….teachers. Go into any classroom and one will find a diversity of clients (students) under the management of one and regardless of the weather or the lack of materials, when the bell rings and their day begins, in spite of distractions, interruptions, or disgruntled kids, work goes on according to plans.

So, perhaps the next time a business cannot seem to get the job completed according to schedule, rather than pouring more money into it…why not call in the experts of time management… the teacher.

Paulo_Freire Today’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Paulo Freire (b. Recife, Brazil 1921-1997) Brazilian philosopher and teacher who developed educational theories that helped transform the field of education to better literacy to the poor. His studies centered around the relationship between teaching and learning where he endorsed that the teacher should help students in developing freedom of thought that would enable them to use their knowledge to take constructive action. In 1962 the first experiments in Freire’s method of education saw extreme success when 300 farmworkers were taught to read and write in just 45 days.

Freire was a child during the Great Depression where his experiences from this time later framed his life’s work; making changes in the development of education and literacy. His book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ is considered one of the foundational texts of critical pedagogy.

I now bring you a snippet from the great Paulo Freire’s work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Take time from your busy day and afterwards, if you could read this…thank a teacher.

“A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship at any level, inside or outside the school, reveals its fundamentally narrative character. This relationship involves a narrating Subject (the teacher) and patient listening objects (the students). The contents, whether values or empirical dimensions of reality, tend in the process of being narrated to become lifeless and petrified. Education is suffering from narration sickness…Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking’ concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other…”

First image early 1890s.