Friday, September 30, 2011

(Almost) All You Need Is Love

I know it's 2 in the morning. I know I have to go to work tomorrow. But I was so blown away by this article that I had to mention it.

When I say blown away, I don't mean that the ideas in it are so revolutionary. In fact, they're so basic, so down to earth, and so obvious that it's just fantastic to me that people don't understand it.

Read it here.

No really, read it. It's a little long, but definitely not boring.

There were a few specific points that I particularly liked.

In case you're far too lazy and boring to click on my link, here's a paragraph from it that contains the gist of the subject.

Although I’m a passionate advocate of whole language I believe it’s perfectly possible for whole language to fail in the hands of a rude, thoroughly nasty teacher who hates children. Similarly, although I feel that the teaching of phonics outside meaningful texts is the least efficient way to teach reading, I believe absolutely that a joyful, enthusiastic, experienced teacher who uses phonics and only phonics, will nevertheless have a large measure of success in teaching her students to read. That’s the influence of the affective.

People have done so much research on methods, and had so many arguments about which way is better, that they've forgotten a kind of important aspect of learning to read: Passion.

Another part I liked:

The passion I am asking for from teachers is a passion beyond the pay cheque. It’s a passion for children’s books, as well as for their own reading, for if teachers don’t love to read why on earth should children?

Why should I learn to do math if the person who is teaching me hates to do math? What possible reason could I have to learn to play the trumpet if music is so hateful to the person I am learning from?

And this:

Asked to describe the year in one word Marian said: ‘Blah.’

‘Blah?’ I said. ‘Describe blah.’

‘Blah means all on one level. It means we had a steady, predictable routine. There were no dramas. There were no highs, no lows. We did lots of worksheets about nouns and adjectives and verbs and stuff and I guess we learnt it but we didn’t use it. We wrote very rarely—less than ten stories the whole year and when we did the teacher never got excited. She’d write: “This is a good story, Marian,” and you’d wonder what kind of good it was but she never said so you didn’t get excited about the next story. We wrote a lot of reports but they went nowhere, just sort of into the desk and you thought why make the effort? When we had to write she sat there eating and reading the paper. I guess she wasn’t a bad teacher it’s just the whole year was sort of grey and forgettable, like mud not fireworks.’

Mud, not fireworks. I've yet to hear a metaphor that describes the difference between a bad school year and a good one better than this does.

She associated books with cuddles on the rocking chair on her mother’s lap, sweetly learning to read first words, then pages, then whole stories in the happy relaxed knowledge that she was the centre of her mother’s focus and pride. Her emerging literacy was greeted with so much encouragement and praise, with so many and hugs and kisses, that she learnt to read fast, without a moment of strain or tension, doing her best to please her mother because it was so obvious that her mother adored her and was excited by her progress.

Duh. And yet, no one seems to get it. Thinking that worksheets and drills and stress are the best ways to accomplish things. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy anything that was stressful to learn about. Part of the reason I still can't play the piano, probably. It was work, not fun.

And my favorite line of all:

Their inherent passions and the love that flows through them freshen up an often dry and meaningless education system, enabling it to become more affectively orientated and therefore also ultimately more effective, by capturing hearts so minds will follow; they make a school year like fireworks, not mud;

By capturing hearts, so minds will follow. I can't say it any better than that.

The Beatles were almost right. (Almost) All you need is Love.

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