So we began the last class session with this clip of a Japanese classroom...
There's so much here, about everything from creating a classroom environment which allows dissent and values every child to the way that project-based learning re-orients the learning process, and the students were struck by how different that class - and the student-to-student attitudes therein - were from what they see every day in their "pre-internship" placements. That difference became even more obvious when we watched the next video...
"I've spent a lot of time focusing on autism," one woman said, "on giving them voice, but after watching this I realized how many kids need to be given their voice." We talked about a lot of things after that, and then, just before the end, I showed the beginning of Mickybo and Me. Before I started this I asked the class to focus on the boy they'd "meet," to assess his strengths, to consider what issues he might have in school, to think about how a school might make these strengths work to help him overcome some of the socio-economic issues he might struggle with.
Because I'm very sure that this isn't "rocket science." This isn't about "common cores" or standardized tests or more time in the school day or private school operators or any superman. Helping kids find their path to learning lies in knowing the kids, and in getting the learning environment to meet their needs.
In the end we want these future teachers to know that we really do not want them producing any "product." Humans are not raw materials ready to have "value added." They are individuals who deserve to be treated as such. Individuals who will learn differently, have different interests, and who will grow up to lead different lives.
If we got any of that across this semester, it was a good semester indeed.
- Ira Socol