Archive for March, 2010

Signs of Redemption on LOST (3/9/10)

March 10, 2010

Signs of redemption on LOST this week…

I admit it.  I’m a LOST fan.  After a year of holding myself aloof, I finally succumbed, and now I’m thoroughly engrossed as we gallop toward the finale.

The moment that grabbed me last night was one simple line, spoken to Ben near the end:  “I’ll have you”. A line almost thrown away, that summed up what every human in the world wants to hear.

I’ll have you.  That moment of being seen, in all your shabby, tattered, despicable, abysmal failure and despair… and accepted anyway.  It’s as good as when you were a kid, waiting to be chosen in volleyball, every other misfit and geek taken ahead of you.  Then, finally, as you’re wishing you could sink into the floorboards of the gym, someone says, finally, I’ll have you.

Last week the kicker moment was that look of Sayid’s, calm, tranquil, oddly peaceful, as he, too, found his “side”.  The need to belong is strong in all humans, and that basic need plays out everyday.  Unfortunately in this world, too often, the most definable, clear “side”, the one with a hint of glamour, drama, blood-stirring possibility, decisive black and white answers, is the downward side.  That’s the side that says:  Join us! No ambiguity here, by golly, no questions!  You can tear things down!  You can fight against something!

Things that can be fought against tend to be clear.  The field of things that can be expanded, built up, nurtured, developed – these areas are fuzzy precisely because they are boundless.

But isn’t that the ultimate thrill?  Not the certain endgame of doom, but the limitless possibilities of positive expansion?

We all teeter on that knife-edge all the time.  The tension is always there.  Will we fall over on the side of positive, or negative?  Slip just a little either direction, or fall so far that even getting back to the edge seems beyond our reach?

As the characters fall off, to one side or another, during the final days of LOST, the questions – and answers – the writers pose really cut to the heart of life itself,  the biggest unsolved mystery of all.  And, as Art imitates Life, we stay tuned for the next episode.

Can Good Teaching be Learned?

March 9, 2010

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Bravo to Doug Lemov (“Can Good Teaching be Learned?”, New York Times Magazine, March 7, 2010).   After 30 years in the “ed biz”, starting out teaching kindergarten, and ending up – yep – training teachers, I gave it up, in part because there were so many questions not being asked. The first and most obvious:  if we fire the incompetent teachers, where will we find those ideal replacements?  In the light of our economic woes these days, there may actually be good news, as there may be more competition for teaching jobs.  That is, if school districts keep afloat themselves.

Other questions addressed in the article also warm my heart.  For too long, too many opinion makers have successfully argued that any well-educated adult can walk into a classroom and be an effective teacher.  I propose here what I’ve proposed for 40 years:  Every lawmaker (ideally every pundit, too) should be required to substitute teach one day each year.  The complexities, the “real-time” multi-tasking, the unceasing responsibility not just for academic advancement, but basic physical safety and emotional caretaking, make classroom teaching as challenging a job, on a day-to-day, minute-to-minute level, as any.  Merit pay?  Has anyone heard of Systems Theory?  Teaching is a complex system, with many interactive components.  Pulling one factor (teachers) apart from the rest of the system and assessing “success” according to that one factor is, and I’m watching my language here, absurdly flawed logic.

Having taught teacher training classes, and listened to my students and their vocally expressed needs, I commend Mr. Lemov for addressing, rather than loftily dismissing, the nuts and bolts of classroom management.  There are so many little techniques, any one of which can avert disaster, or at the least, keep valuable time from being wasted.  Why have we thought that this knowledge was either innate or trivial?

Finally, too many prospective teachers come into the field picturing themselves like Mr. Chips (a reference young people would not get!), at a podium, wise, authoritative, respected, adored.  One of the first things I hammered into my teacher-trainees was a sequence for self-analysis:  1)  Understand your own mental, emotional, and cultural processes;   2)  Understand that others do not think as you do;  3)  Find out how those others think;   4)  Figure out how to bridge that gap.  This is the true work of a teacher, and, for me, was always the most challenging and the most rewarding.