My Vision Statement

Ironically, I wrote this out of the blue on my Facebook page on July 10th, but it so clearly fits what I believe and how I have handled my classroom for 22 years:

I want the students I am charged with instructing to learn how to critically think, to learn how to argue appropriately, to learn how to write, to learn how to create, to learn how to appreciate, to learn how to stand for their beliefs, to learn how others stand for their beliefs, to learn what education can do for the world, and not to learn how to use it as a weapon against the weak, the poor, or those who do not agree with us.

I teach at a Christian school, but I also spent 19 years in a public school and one of the key issues people have had from any faith or “ism” is the problem of critical thinking.

James Sire, writer of the book The Universe Next Door, and also the book, Habits of the Mind, said this about the intellect: “The intellectual… has an almost religious dedication to ideas as such, which, when it is not balanced by playfulness, can quickly turn to ideological fanaticism. True intellectuals, however, have fun with ideas; they move them around, back and forth, turn them on their heads, submit them to ironic reflection, test them with their imagination and don’t get so enamored of their own brilliance that they become nothing more than sophisticated, arrogant prigs “.

Students should have fun with their ideas, they need to be able to move ideas around (something that current standardized test approaches fail to do), and students need to have imagination.

It is from this and my recent studies on problem based learning that show that students have not had fun with their ideas. Sir Ken Robinson has been quite articulate on this matter:  “We know three things about intelligence: One, it’s diverse, we think about the world in all the ways we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement. Secondly, intelligence is dynamic…And the third thing about intelligence is, it’s distinct (“Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity | Video on TED.com,” n.d.).

To think this way means my classroom cannot be one-dimensional. If it is not diverse, not dynamic, or distinct, than it can be a weapon. I read on Twitter the other day that in 1963, poor kids fell behind children in the upper class by a year or so, but now that gap is closer to four years. I did not have time to research this deeper, but in the last twenty years of teaching I can quantify it from experience when I see Advanced Placement students way ahead of their peers in the same high school yet wearing the same cap and gown at graduation, kids who are in no means close to the academic achievement of their AP or IB peers, and they are not even labeled as special education. That’s a weapon in action, one more lethal than any gun-control commentary even if the results are significantly delayed.

This also means what these kids are learning is not diverse, dynamic, or distinct. That is not (and can not be) allowed to happen in my classroom. All my students get the same concepts as found in an AP or IB class, but differentiated to help them find success and grow.

If I am no longer able to do what this vision statement calls for, then it is time to move on to something else…and also think about what kind of person I may be becoming.

 

Dead-Logic: Habits of the Mind by James W. Sire. (n.d.). Retrieved September 06, 2013, from   http://dead-logic.blogspot.com/2010/01/habits-of-mind-by-james-w-sire.html

Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity | Video on TED.com. (n.d.). Retrieved September 06, 2013, from http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

Sire, J. W. (2000). Habits of the mind: Intellectual life as a Christian calling. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press.

 

-Cary L. Tyler

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3 thoughts on “My Vision Statement

  1. Very interesting commentary, Cary. The best part about teachers in graduate classes like this is that they can bring their own experience to the discussions and give others an indication of what might work and what doesn’t. This dialogue will only serve to increase the integration of technology into the classroom because we hear success stories.

    Your analogy that lack of the same education being a weapon is an important one. While economically higher students are able to afford the skills training and equipment, schools need to be prepared to assist economically challenged students to keep them at the same level. As you said, the AP and IB students are getting a better education than those students not in the advanced classes. This is something that should be looked at a school level and even brought up to the administration. There is probably a really interesting research project looking at standard and AP classes lessons. It would also be interesting to see what would happen if AP students were given standard class lessons instead of lessons that were already geared for AP students.

    Christopher Denny.

  2. That’s so neat that you ironically wrote that statement on your Facebook a couple of months ago. It is a great vision for educators to have. I like how you addressed how technology can help play a part in that vision. You mentioned that you wanted your students to be able to move ideas around, and that you wanted to make sure that your classroom isn’t one-dimensional. I think using technology in a variety of ways definitely addresses that issue.

    I teach in a Title I school with approximately 90% of students qualified at economically disadvantaged. I find it very interesting that you pointed out the gap between socioeconomic groups. It breaks my heart that the children at teach are at an automatic disadvantage. Several of them probably don’t have access to computers and other technology at home, and the ones who do probably do not use it for educational purposes. This inspires me to find more meaningful ways to help them get involved in the classroom and to help them learn the technological skills they will need for the future. Technology is important today!

  3. You make some valid points and I tend to agree with you. Sir Ken Robinson has certainly changed the conversation about education. He opened up dialogue and got people thinking. I am an advocate for students taking responsibility for their learning…this requires me to think differently than any way I was taught. It makes me question how I think and how I attack a problem and then guide my students down that path. Teachers are strapped with an enormous responsibility, to not only get kids to learn the content, but also to have them think about it and question it. I don’t think this is any different than what teachers did fifty years ago, but how it is done certainly is. The resources teachers have now is incredible and somewhat overwhelming. Could you imagine doing all of this without technology? I can’t!

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