Saturday, May 17, 2008

"It is honesty, not rightness, that moves children." Herbert Kohl

During my three days trip to the French Atlantic coast I reread 36 children and Growing Minds, on Becoming a Teacher by Herbert Kohl.

H. Kohl is a great example of a reflecting teacher who is also a gifted writer. He is often qualified as "provocative" educator with "revolutionary" teaching ideas and methods. Considering that his beginning teaching experiences happened back in 1962, in a primary school class in Harlem, with 36 black children, they are indeed revolutionary.
But what stroke me most, is his honesty regarding his first steps in teaching, where he still stuck to the curriculum and tried to establish order and gain authority in his classroom while simultaneously trying to do innovative projects and bringing in his enthousiasm for teaching.
In my view, what he did is the same as most young teachers do (me included, when I started teaching), trying to merge or serve system expectations and a self-image of an innovative, skilled and respected educator.

What makes H. Kohl exceptional to me - as a teacher, not as a writer - is his self-criticisme, the conclusion he drew out of his daily experiences and his statements on the role of the teacher.

It's definitively a must read for every educator regardless if he/she is in his/her beginning or final years of teaching.

I don't want to spoil your pleasure of discovering the books by yourself so I won't quote to much from them, except for the title and the following :

"I've been involved with what has been called open or progressive education for over twenty years and found these concepts frequently misunderstood. One can teach Shakespeare, microbiology, computer math, as well as simple reading , writing and arithmetic, in open ways that leat do understanding, mastery, and occasionally love of the subject itself. To teach in an open way does not mean the loss of content, the indulgence of the whims of students, or the avoidance of complexity. On the contrary, it implies control of content, and the ability to deal with new and difficult ideas and concepts - in other words, the development of sophisticated thinking."

"In a boring classroom where learning is not much more than filling out forms and taking tests, ther's little reason to want to join back in once you've been separated from the group. (...)
Decent nonviolent discipline will only be effective in a learning environment where interesting things are happening. There is an essential relationship between the quality of content an the use of nonpunitive discipline strategies in any learning situation. Effective discipline is dependent upon building an attractive and comfortable world that children don't want to be excluded from, and not upon how you respond in any particular instance."

"Because they saw my researching they learned to do research. They wouldn't have learned had I merely told them to do it."

Some Reading Milestones

  • Towards reflexive method in archaeology : the example at Çatalhöyük (edited by Ian Hodder) 2000

  • The Book of Learning and Forgetting (Frank Smith) 1998

  • Points of Viewing Children's Thinking: A Digital Ethnographer's Journey (Ricki Goldman-Segall) 1997

  • Verstehen lehren (Martin Wagenschein) 1997

  • Computer im Schreibatelier (Gérard Gretsch) 1992

  • The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter. Uses of Storytelling in the Classroom (Vivian Gussin Paley) 1991

  • La cause des adolescents (Françoise Dolto) 1988

  • Scuola di Barbiana. Die Schülerschule. Brief an eine Lehrerin. (Edition of 1980) / read in German 1982
    Letter to Teacher by the Schoolboys of Barbiana (1970)
    Lettre à une maîtresse de'école, par les enfants de Barbiana (1968)
    Lettera à una professoressa (Original Edition) 1967

  • Vers une pédagogie institutionnelle (Aïda Vasquez, Fernand Oury) 1967

Documentary Films on Education

  • Eine Schule, die gelingt (by Reinhard Kahl) 2008

  • Les temps des enfants (Jacques Duez) 2007

  • Klassenleben (by Bernd Friedmann und Hubertus Siegert) 2006

  • Lernen - Die Entdeckung des Selbstverständlichen
    (Ein Vortrag von Manfred Spitzer) 2006

  • Die Entdeckung der frühen Jahre
    Die Initiative "McKinsey bildet" zur frühkindlichen Bildung (by Reinhard Kahl) 2006

  • Treibhäuser der Zukunft - Wie in Deutschland Schulen gelingen (by Reinhard Kahl) 2004

  • Treibhäuser der Zukunft / Incubators of the future / Les serres de l'avenir; International Edition (by Reinhard Kahl) 2004

  • Journal de classe, 1ères audaces (1), Les échappés (2), Sexe, amour et vidéo (3), L'enfant nomade (4), Remue-méninges (5) (by Wilbur Leguebe, Jacques Duez, Agnès Lejeune) 2004

  • Spitze - Schulen am Wendekreis der Pädagogik (by Reinhard Kahl) 2003

  • Journal de classe, (by Wilbur Leguebe and Agnès Lejeune; Jacques Duez) 2002

  • Etre et Avoir (by Nicolas Philibert) 2002

  • The Stolen Eye (by Jane Elliott) 2002

  • The Angry Eye (by Jane Elliott) 2001

  • A l'école de la providence (by Gérard Preszow) 2000

  • Blue-Eyed (by Jane Elliott) 1996

  • A Class Divided (by Jane Elliott) 1984

  • Eye of The Storm (with Jane Elliott) 1970

Past quotes of the day

For every problem, there is one solution which is simple, neat and wrong. Henry Louis Mencken

Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking.
Antonio Machado

The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Immanuel Kant

The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. Albert Einstein

To paraphrase a famous quotation, all that is necessary for the triumph of damaging educational policies is that good educators keep silent. Alfie Kohn

We used to have lots of questions to which there were no answers. Now, with the computer, there are lots of answers to which we haven't thought up the questions. Peter Ustinov

I had a terrible education. I attended a school for emotionally disturbed teachers. Woody Allen

A professor is someone who talks in someone else's sleep. W. H. Auden

When I was an inspector of schools I visited one classroom and looked at a boys book. He'd written, 'Yesterday, Yesterday, Yesterday, Sorrow, Sorrow, Sorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Love, Love, Love.' I said, 'That's a lovely poem.' He said, 'Those are my spelling corrections.' Gervase Phinn

Real thinking never starts until the learner fails. Roger Schank

If what is wanted is a reexamination of schooling in terms of purpose, structure and process, then testing programmes are the wrong vehicle (...) Caroline V. Gipps

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. Albert Einstein

Act always so as to increase the number of choices. Heinz von Foerster

Another way of avoiding teaching is by relying exclusively on a textbook, workbooks, and other commercially packaged learning materials. Teaching is reduced to administering a set curriculum without giving any thought to the substance of what the students area learning or to their particular needs. H. Kohl

The right to ignore anything that doesn't make sense is a crucial element of any child's learning - and the first right children are likely to lose when they get to the controlled learning environment of school. F. Smith

Learning is the human activity which least needs manipulation by others. Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful activity. - Ivan Illich

Too often we give our children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. - Roger Lewin

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain