Some people come alive in social environments with high levels of peer interactions, whereas other people seek quiet alone time to re-energize, contemplate ideas and reflect. In society, we tend to propagate the idea that being gregarious is better, and an outgoing, extroverted personality gains more approval in schools, workplaces and general society. Introverts are seen as being defective or abnormal in some way, and they are encouraged to become more outgoing and social. In this TED talk, the speaker Susan Cain, shares her personal experiences with the societal bias against introverts and she provides an insightful discussion on how society loses out on the potential of introverts by expecting them to adhere to an extroverted sense of normalcy. As I was listening to her talk, I began to wonder how this bias applies to our classroom practices, our focus on collaborative work, and providing instruction that integrates all of Gardner’s multiple intelligences. If society values interpersonal intelligence more than intrapersonal, and as classroom teachers, we propagate this bias, perhaps we need to adjust our classroom practices to find a balance between collaborative and individual learning. All students are capable of developing their different intelligences, so as educators, we need to ensure that we are supporting learning and development in both intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences. Students with interpersonal intelligences need to develop their abilities to engage in quiet introspection and reflection, while interpersonal students need support enhancing their comfort with social and group based activities. However, for both of these intelligences, students’ strengths should be valued and validated; they should be provided with opportunities to be successful and ‘shine’ by applying their own strengths to learning. In past teaching, I have had students who advocated for working on their own, instead of being part of a group. As their teacher, I was conflicted between allowing them to working individually because I was aware of their intrapersonal strengths, or telling them they must be part of the group because in education, we promote and value collaborative learning. Ultimately, I decided that there has to be a balance between all intelligences, and educators must be cognizant of both the societal biases and their own biases towards certain intelligences in order to provide students with the opportunities to develop in all areas.
I recently had the opportunity to observe 4 male students of varied primary grades playing the same game on their individual iPads. What was amazing for me was the high level of collaboration, discussion and strategizing taking place among the 4 boys. Their game playing evoked a flurry of higher level thinking questions on how to reach their mutually-shared, ultimate goal: the next level. Together, these boys were building a common knowledge base of strategies to help one another move forward in the game. They each brought forth their individual skills and knowledge and shared these with one another. The level of engagement and collaboration I witnessed in this moment is teacher’s dream for the classroom. These students were highly engaged in learning, cooperating, and having fun.
A short time later, a teacher came over and asked the boys if they were playing an “educational game.” They showed their game to the teacher and it was suggested that the students choose a different game, an “educational” game. After this interaction with the teacher, here is what I noticed. The level of engagement, collaboration and fun immediately fizzled away. An adult has taken over the direction and ownership of their learning. The sense of unity gained from working towards a common goal had disappeared. Two students were sneakily playing the ‘forbidden’ game, while the other students complied with the teacher’s instruction. One student was threatening to tattletale on the two students who had chosen to keep playing forbidden game. Granted, the game they had been playing was not explicitly teaching math, sight words or other specific curriculum related content, but there was a great deal of learning taking place. As educators, I strongly believe we need to re-examine the meaning of “educational” when we are teaching students to be 21st century learners. Shouldn’t “educational” be defined by the outcome that we, as teachers, are hoping our students can achieve and shouldn’t this outcome reflect the complex thinking and collaborative skills that students need to be successful learners? I would also like to suggest that the outcome be determined by the students who are trying to achieve in their own learning goal.
I do think there is a place for those apps that explicitly re-enforce concepts in math or science, but don’t we want more from technology for learning? Shouldn’t technology be a medium that transcends the mundane review of basic content related learning and promote thinking and social skills applicable for the 21st century? In order for this to happen, teachers have to re-think the old meaning of “educational” to incorporate a newer meaning that acknowledges the skills and learning needed to prepare students for a future that they will help to define.
If using technology for learning is just practicing math, reading and writing skills with a fancy interface, are we doing any better than if we just handed students a worksheet?
This is a truly inspiring talk by an amazing young woman.
Adora Svitak advocates that positive change in the world will come about when adults learn to embrace the thinking of children, as children see IDEAS, not limitations. When adults think, they are restricted by mental barriers because their thinking is laden with perceived boundaries of what is possible and what is not. Children pursue ideas, creativity, and problem-solving. They are willing to investigate and experiment through the perspective of limitless possibilities. Our goal as adults and teachers should be to make the world better than it is today and listen to the ideas of children because they will help us relearn how to think outside the box.
“Although there has been some progress made in diminishing the educational barriers of race, gender, geography, and religion, poverty is the one barrier that has not been even partially overcome.”
“Overcoming_the_Silence_of_Generational_Poverty,” by Donna Beegle, offers poignant insight into the relationship between children’s learning and poverty. Based on her study of individuals who grew up in generational poverty, but were able to change their life situations, Beegle provides a thoughtful discussion of how these respondents felt about themselves, their education, and their teacher’s lack of awareness of their learning needs. Examples of this can be seen in Beegle’s explanation of the differences between “non-standard English” and “middle-class language” and “oral culture” and “print-culture” communication. After reading this article and examining on my own teaching experiences with students of low socio-economic status, I have come to realize that the gaps of understanding between students of generational poverty and teachers is still significantly large. This is an area where educators need to reflect on their teaching practice, curriculum, and assumptions in order to reach those students of need.
Educators have to be willing to invest themselves emotionally into their students and put the energy forth to build those relationships. I often feel like I am more than just a teacher to my students; I’m a mentor and a guide for students. Teaching is so much more than just ensuring that students know the subject area content; it is also helping to educate and develop a whole person. Although Lickona (1991) says, “parents are their children’s first moral teachers,” educators often take over or supplement that role; however, how can we truly teach character building and social skills when we must rush through the curriculum with little time for student reflection, contemplation or discussions? When curriculum only allows teachers and students to cover ideas on a surface level, students are deprived of the opportunity to make connections, think deeply, and determine and internalize their own beliefs about how to be a good, caring person in society. I believe that there must be a shift in priorities. Instead of primarily focusing on just teaching the subject areas and checking off standards and benchmarks, education needs to merge curriculum with teaching the “fundamental value of respect for self, others, and the environment” (Lickona, 1991). There must be time for learning how to be kind and caring individuals in society, and this needs to take place through both implicit and explicit teaching. As educators, we must meet the emotional needs of our students before they can learn and be successful. I hope that schools can transform into a place where children’s emotional, intellectual, and physical health are placed at equal importance to covering curriculum content and gathering assessment data.
Lickona, T. (1991). Educating for character. New York, NY: Bantam.
How can we collaborate effectively with parents to create a safe environment for our children?
In order to create a safe school through parent collaboration, I think it is important to establish a school where parents are part of school and classroom activities. By inviting parents to become active members of the school community, schools can transition from being stand-alone educational institutions towards becoming community and family based places that support whole child development. As a community of parents and educators, we need to come together to clearly define and describe what a ‘safe’ school looks like, feels like, and sounds like and after we have developed a common understanding, we can begin to create that culture at the school, not just through discussions, but through adults modeling and sharing their own experiences with learning and practicing values. As well, across the school and at home, commonly understood vocabulary and ideas are being reinforced and taught, so that parents and educators can use situations, such as a conflict between two children as teachable moments, for those children and the vocabulary and values are consistent. As a school community, we want to be modeling, teaching and reinforcing character education daily, so that students can see what values such as respect, trustworthiness, generosity look like in real life situations, not just in discussions based on stories or hypothetical situations.