Teachers Think About Teaching

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          With our son starting school yesterday, we just had to take a look at this whole schooling thing. Who knew that people took education so seriously? 

          Paul says: I am a layperson. I may spout great wisdoms based on my experiences in my own therapy and my happy coexistence with a wife who is a therapist but when it comes right down to it, I am still just some guy that has learned a lot over his life. So this means that I still get surprised by stuff occasionally.

          It happened recently when Lee and I were discussing educational approaches with our friend, Nadine, and she had both knowledge and opinion on the subject. She is a kindergarten teacher and what impressed me was the fact that she had studied this stuff and really found it important.

          I know that it sounds silly and a bit arrogant but I knew that Nadine had a master in education but I really had no idea what she learned getting this degree. Now that I have confessed my lack of knowledge, I will impart to you what I learned about educational approaches as a result. (Since I was obviously pretty stupid and at least mildly offensive, I got quite the lesson. I will try to boil it down to a few lines since you are smarter and less obnoxious then me.

          Even I have heard of the Montessori approach to learning. If you go to the official Montessori site, one of the first things that they tell you is that the word Montessori in not copyrighted and anyone can call themselves a Montessori teacher. So watch out. As far as the actual approach, they believe in work, which I think is brilliant. Let’s face it, it is work. Coloring in the lines in no less difficult to a kindergartener than adding a column of numbers is to an accountant. Montessori is child driven education with the kids learning at their pace and with the help of other kids. From reading the parent bulletin boards , the impression  is that Montessori really works well for bright kids that are neither shy nor outgoing. Since Montessori values quite self-driven motivation, shy kids tend to be overshadowed and outgoing kids tend to be troublemakers. Child to teacher ratio tends to be high since the children are encouraged to handle their own learning.

          The teaching approach that got me all lectured at was the Reggio Emilia model because the school that our youngest started at yesterday follows that approach. Rick has the learning style of Bacchus, loud and overindulgent, so Montessori is definitely out for him. Apparently, the Reggio Emilia approach is the nanobot technology of education in that it is all kinds of cutting edge. For example, Google has a complex for their bazillion employees that they call the Googleplex. Of course, the Googleplex has a day care/school and, you guessed it, they follow the Reggio Emilia approach.  For the Reggio Emilia people, kids learn because they like learning stuff. Every parent knows that children are all infected with some level of OCD. When they decide that they like something, nothing in heaven or earth will dissuade them. So what they do is build whole lessons around these likes. Ricky like trains so he will learn letters by spelling train, colors from coloring trains, science from locomotion… you get the idea. Ricky is going to become a little train specialist. Also, the other big deal is the level of communication. They communicate the ’experiences’ of the child every day plus project documentation and scrapbooks and anything else that they can think of. 

          I can keep going because there are a billion different approaches, from some that are Quaker-like with faceless dolls and wood toys to super progressive hippies, but I’m not going to go through every one (mainly because I am typing this at a party and I want to go get my drink on).

          Bottom line is to know your child and know yourself. From there you can research schools and match one to your family’s needs.

          Lee says: Teaching and learning is as varied as wines. Stop and take a minute to educate yourself. No, we are not big supporters of home-schooling but we do believe in advocating for your kids and being supportive. I like that kids are being taught in different styles and encouraged to explore. Ricky can do that for 6 hours a day and be exhausted when he comes home.

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