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Letting Go Of School In Order To Think About Education
"On all of my social media profiles I self-identify as “Educator” among other titles and descriptors. I chose “educator” because it’s an umbrella term which encompasses both doing and being. To educate others may include teaching, coaching, facilitating, or guiding; providing space, opportunities, materials, structure, collaborators, audience, relevance, push-back and acceptance. As an educator I create possibilities to be speaker and listener, instructor and learner, producer and consumer, writer and reader, expert and novice, role model and seeker, professional and amateur.

When I teach at school, this is not necessarily the list going through my head. It is unlikely that my thinking is focused on the possibilities I am creating or opportunities I am affording myself or my students. No, I am thinking about brass tacks: doing the thing, getting it done in time, getting the class to do it my way (mostly). That is my teaching reality. In my planning I may find the chance to wax philosophical about what I want the real lesson to be (i.e., how to work equitably with people who are not your favorites vs. how to play 4 v 4 soccer). Or after the fact, when my colleague and I talk over what worked and didn’t work in an activity that we both tried, then I may discover an insight or two about what I am creating or perhaps sabotaging in the process. Reflection belongs to teaching. Doing and acting belong to teaching. Screwing up belongs to teaching.

Yet teaching as a set or series of actions does not add up to educating. Teaching is a piece of education, not the whole.

Often when conversations about education get hot, I find that we are actually talking about schools, teachers, policies, students, and families. What schools should do. What students should do. What families should do. What policies should do. We are talking about integral pieces of education but not about education as whole: what it is, what it can enable, how it serves us as a society. Of course this is a much more challenging task. How can we talk about what education is and what it should be when our schools are crumbling, our kids are not always safe (both inside and outside our classrooms), and the disparities between rich and poor are growing by the minute?

I don’t have the answer.

What I have come to understand, however, is that we will not achieve better education systems or outcomes without stepping back from the constraints of “school thinking.” I need to let go of what I know and think about school - its structures, history, and influence - in order to be able to think more openly about education and its possibilities. And in order to do that it feels necessary to break some rules, to upset some conventions, to seize authority rather than wait for it to be granted.

Free thinking is a political act. Even as I write this, my personal doomsday chorus is getting louder: “you can’t write that! Where’s your evidence? Where’s the data?” That’s the trenchant influence of the existing power structure. I have learned its lessons well. “There is no argument without a quote to back it up.” Authority, expertise, wisdom is always outside me. To ensure the validity of my own thoughts, I have been taught, I must ground my arguments in the theory and work of other scholars.

I’m going to place that rule aside for now and proceed with my free thinking on education. And my first instance is a selfish one: my own children. What is the education that they will need to serve them well in their lives?

• practice being kind.

• aim to be independent while recognizing that interdependence is also the way of the world and critical to our (I mean, everybody’s) survival.

• Learn to ask for and receive help. Practice offering help.

• There are lots of ways to learn things: by reading, observing, trying, asking, teaching, following, researching. Try out lots of different combinations and know that some methods will work better than others for different occasions and aims. Keep talking to people and asking questions. Practice. Get feedback. Practice more. Get more feedback.

• Get to know the culture and climate in which you live. Who seems to be at the top? Who’s on the bottom? Where do you seem to fit in? Where can you help someone? How do these systems work? Learn to ask: ‘What system is this?’

These are lessons I want my children to not only have but to internalize, practice, own in their very particular and individual ways. If I can also help my students travel on and take up these pathways, all the better.

But where do I go with these ideas then?

* * *

The Answer To How Is Yes. (This is a book title you should look up) [https://www.worldcat.org/title/answer-to-how-is-yes-acting-on-what-matters/oclc/830344811&referer=brief_results ]

I start with people. What do people need? People need other people; positive, supportive and caring connections to others. People need purpose - reasons for doing the things they do. We investigate things we want to know more about. We go in search of the things we need. We enlist the help of others to accomplish what we cannot manage on our own. People tend to do well with challenge as long as it does not overwhelm them. Productive challenge cannot be the things which threaten our existence. People require a degree of safety and security in which they can pursue challenge and purpose. Safety and security are what communities build into their webs of relationships through trust and reciprocity.

When I embark on this kind of wide ranging, human needs-centered thinking, I quickly run into mental roadblocks: not so little voices which say, “Be careful! Writing these words, in this way, is risky. It is counter-cultural. It is against the rules of expository writing. This is no way to win a debate.”

As a teacher and educator, I am aghast at the idea that I would dare to go against the rules in a semi-professional setting. From childhood to now, I have been a firm upholder of rules of almost every kind: institutional rules, overt & covert socio-cultural rules, sports rules, you name it. And yet, in this case, I see a need to step outside certain rules, if only briefly, to consider something differently; to see what happens when the ropes are untied and the tension released. Rather than hosting a debate, I invite you to join me on an exploration.

What if, instead of trying to produce good or even excellent students, we aimed more for empowering excellent people, outstanding citizens, valuable community members? What if we created learning centers where people of various ages could gather to pursue purpose, challenge and connection with each other in meaningful ways? What if learning remained part and parcel of living, every day, and we acknowledged and recognized that publicly and privately?

We are so desperate to find secrets, shortcuts and foolproof solutions which will suddenly change everything. Yet, if we have learned nothing else from our extensive schooling titled ‘education’, we certainly know that this is not the way the world works. There will be no miracles and we need to accept that.

When students and teachers and support staff and administrators leave the school building, the question I have is: where do they go? What do they leave school to go work on? What dilemmas are they trying to solve? What new learning will they engage in, in order to meet a particular goal?

No doubt some of those tasks and questions will be directly related to survival: How do I ensure that we have enough income to keep this roof over our heads? How can I help my mom not worry so much about me and my sister when we have to wait alone for her to come home from work? What do I need to do to save this relationship? How do I even know if this relationship is worth saving? These are not genius hour questions. But they are the kinds of questions which occupy and preoccupy our minds and instigate a kind of built-in learning which inevitably shapes the lives we are able to lead and create for ourselves.

These are not school questions but they are the ones we will chew on and make meaning with throughout our lives. These are the questions which become our education once we take our rigid notions of school out of the picture. If we want to think differently, even innovatively about education, we need to re-center human needs rather what the “economy” claims it requires. We need to stop feeding the capitalist monster we have so happily created through our highly trained and supremely wasteful consumer behaviors. We need to uncouple “education” from the neoliberal agenda of deepening social inequality. We need to reclaim education as a human-centered public good that belongs to all of us.

If that sounds ‘pie in the sky’ idealistic to you and me, that’s precisely the problem. To change what we have, there seem to be a lot of things we need to let go of. Idealism is not one of them, however."
sherrispelic  education  teaching  unschooling  deschooling  schools  learning  children  sfsh  doing  being  freedom  thinking  criticalthinking  evidence  pedagogy  authority  expertise  wisdom  interdependence  independence  help  self-advocacy  culture  society  needs  care  caring  childhood  empowerment  life  living  survival  humans  human  idealism  innovation  economics  capitalism  systemsthinking  neoliberalism  inequality  publicgood  engagement  canon  cv  openstudioproject  lcproject 
december 2017 by robertogreco
On Being Broken, and the Kindness of Others – The Tattooed Professor
"We’re not sending graduates “out into the real world”–they’ve been there for their entire lives, and most of them know at least implicitly how the deck is stacked against people regardless of how hard they’re bootstrapping. We have given our students a wide array of tools, and tried to prepare them to use those tools well for themselves and for their communities. We teach in the hopes of a better, more compassionate, and more just world. But then we tell a graduation-day story that assumes our graduates will go out into a broken world riven by hate, fear, and inequality but also that it’s their fault if that world beats them down. I don’t think we do this on purpose, but the myth is no less insidious for being unintentional. Consider this: as the college student population increases, so to has the incidence and significance of mental health concerns for our students. Substance abuse among college students exhibits several worrisome trends. The scale and scope of the sexual assault epidemic on our campuses is horrifying. The uncertainty of the post-2008 job market and the increasingly contingent and precarious nature of work in our neoliberal world present a post-graduation outlook that is bleaker for this generation than it was for any of their predecessors (to say nothing of the victim-blaming from those very forebears).

These are interrelated and telling concerns; they describe a significant portion of our students’ reality. Yet we’re telling them that effort and pluckiness will suffice to change the world, just like that effort and pluckiness got them to graduation. But it wasn’t just effort and pluckiness. For many of our students, the path to graduation was strewn with detours, interruptions, even crises like the ones detailed above–perhaps the way forward for them will be littered with similar obstacles. We celebrate the triumph over adversity, as well we should, but I wish we would give ourselves permission to recognize that adversity as something more than the thing we get over and never speak of again. If we don’t sit with the rough edges of our journey, we forget how we made it. Our students make it through like we did: sometimes through individual effort, but more often from the support, compassion, and vital companionship and affirmation of those around us. I don’t think we pay nearly enough attention to that fact. Nobody does it all by themselves, but I worry that we’re telling our students they have to do exactly that, rather than giving them permission to fail, to fall short, to admit they need help. Because those lessons are hard ones to learn, all the more so if there aren’t examples or encouragement for us to follow. Believe me, I know."



"I was afraid of other people, and afraid of what I’d learn from them. I believed asking for help was an admission of defeat. I’m in a career field that places a high value upon the appearance of professionalism; I’m expected to have it together, to know what I’m doing. To admit that wasn’t the case was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I can see now that I wouldn’t have done it were it not for the people around me who helped me feel safe and supported when I was at my most raw and wounded. I didn’t want to talk about my past, what I’d done, or what had been done to me, but those around me helped me realize that if I didn’t, I would continue to carry it with me. Doctors, nurses, counselors, clergy, spouse, parents, siblings, co-workers, others in recovery, random strangers, Vin Scully, my pets–it was their voice, their connection, and their freely-given kindness that sustained me.

It was not the smoothest or easiest road from there to here; don’t cue the happy closing music yet. I still struggle. I still need lots of help. I still act like a jerk to the people who are helping. But I have learned this truth: there are times when life will break me. The problem isn’t being broken, it’s in not letting others help put me back together. When I graduated, I went out into the world, and the world beat me up while I sat and watched. I thought fighting back was a solo project, so I failed. Only when I gave others the chance to help me, and accepted that support and affirmation honestly and without begrudging it, did I stop getting beaten up.

That’s my advice, then, to you graduates. You will go forth and hopefully forge many successes for you and your loved ones. But you will also fall short. There will be failures. There will be wounds inflicted by yourself and by others. You will find yourself in places you did not plan to be. You may even find yourself broken. And when that happens, remember that you are neither the first nor the last to end up there. Others have, too, and they can help. It is no defeat to ask for others to help you, and to depend upon that assistance. It’s a victory over fear and anger, that’s what it is. As a society, we tell ourselves that the individual reigns supreme. But it does serious damage when we take that ethos too seriously. Not every problem can be solved by an individual. Not every success is the product of an individual. There is no shame in recognizing those facts as they operate in our lives."
via:audreywatters  kevingannon  2017  resilience  pluckiness  grit  education  realworld  highered  highereducation  adversity  mentalhealth  well-being  uncertainty  expectations  kindness  compassion  companionship  substanceabuse  academia  colleges  universities  brokenness  professionalism  help  helplessness  success  individualism  support  assistance 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Fred Rogers: Look for the Helpers - YouTube
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

[See also: http://www.snopes.com/radiotv/tv/scarynews.asp
http://www.fredrogers.org/parents/special-challenges/tragic-events.php ]
helpers  help  hope  fredrogers  catastrophe  grace  humanism  tragedy  care  caring 
november 2015 by robertogreco
When you see someone and think they need help, you can press help into their hand. — Ford’s Sensorium — Medium
"Look, the few dollars my grandfather pressed into my hand didn’t change my situation. I probably used them to buy soda. Giving money to Aaron would not have made an observable dent in his legal fees or saved his life, just as the money we gave to my wife’s cousin won’t save his life.

This morning, as I was thinking about all of this, a woman asked me for a dollar as I walked up Coney Island Avenue, and I didn’t give her the dollar.

I try to be a generous person but often fail at it. I try to be a polite person, but I can also be a fearful person. I’ll do everything I can to avoid embarrassing others, but that isn’t the same as kindness.

When you see someone and think they need help, you can press help into their hand. They may refuse it, but you can, if you choose, press help into their hand."
charity  paulford  ftrain  generosity  money  help  kindness  2014  aaronswartz 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Tupperwolf - An History of the Cloudless Atlas
"I’m writing this in a single pass. If I went back I would think of people I’m obviously leaving out. Pretty much everyone I know had something kind or useful to say to me about this project. But I think you see my point here – this project worked out well not because of anything special I did, but because I was surrounded by supportive and brilliant people. I think that if more people were as lucky in their friends as I am, we would see a lot more cool work in the world.

So. I’ve seen people say some really flattering things about me in comments over the last week. They are kind, but they’re mostly based on misunderstandings of the facts. If you’re tempted to celebrate me personally for this highly collaborative work, may I ask that you direct your attention instead to noticing people around you who could use a hand on some little project."
charlieloyd  humility  collaboration  2013  mapbox  cloudlessatlas  ego  glvo  wdg  srg  noticing  support  help  friends  howwelearn  howwework  kindness 
may 2013 by robertogreco

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