The Death of Traditional Teaching Part 1

by ChristinaPilkington on July 23, 2011 · 5 comments

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I went back to get my Masters in Education about ten years ago. I had been through a string of jobs since graduating with a degree in film: day camp counselor, bookkeeper, dental assistant, assistant manager at a bookstore and sales associate at a clothing store.

After unsuccessfully pitching a few screenplays during a trip to Hollywood, I figured I needed to make some real money and get out of my parent’s house soon. So, I decided to become a teacher. How hard could it be? I loved reading and writing as a kid. English & Creative Writing were the two high school classes I actually liked – about a third of the time anyways. It would be fun discussing books with kids and showing them how fun writing could be, right?

Well, after working in many different teaching situations, from a private all-girls school and kids in the upper 5% of an elite public school to 7th graders in a middle income neighborhood and 8th graders at a rough, urban school, I can say that, no it was not fun. Not fun at all.

See I LOVED reading. I’d read just about anything and love it. I also was very good at writing and loved it too. I didn’t stop to think about how much my classmates DIDN’T love it. In fact, most kids that I taught HATED reading and writing, even if they were “gifted” and were all A students.

I tried everything I could to make it fun. Games, awards, giving the kids choices how I’d evaluate them, incorporating read alouds and drawing – anything I could think of to make it more interesting. Some kids humored me. Some appreciated that I was trying to make their day more interesting. But when I followed the administrative rules and used the prescribed curriculum, my teaching life was hell.

It was only during my final year teaching, when I had done a lot of research on natural learning that I began to see something change. I still used games, books, and writing, but the difference now was that I gave the students a CHOICE to participate or not. Their lack of participation would not affect their grade (I wish I could have done away with grades altogether, but that’s a subject for a different post).

My challenge was to keep bringing different things in until I found something that each student found interesting and worth his or her time. I began to know the kids as individuals and find books THEY would be interested in. I found games and let the kids explore them on their own without me. I gave writing suggestions that some kids took but most completely ignored. And I first saw first faint glimmers of individual children who were expressing their own goals and passions. They were beginning to show me who they really were.

I left that job because I became pregnant with my twins, but I was told I wouldn’t have been asked back. I didn’t play by the rules. I didn’t follow the curriculum. I didn’t teach to the test.

But you know what? Little by little those traditional teachers both in public and private schools will find themselves looking for other work. They might leave because they begin to understand what a mind-controlling, dehumanizing system they are working for and want to break free, or the system itself will break down.

Enough people will break away and experience what true learning freedom looks like, feels like. They will no longer allow instutionalized schools and teachers to separate children from “the real world.”   They will see that to live a life of financial and personal freedom you must find your unique gifts to share with the world and rid yourself of the consumerism mindset so prevalent in schools – both public and private.

Traditional teachers must die out in order to make room for learning facilitators. Learning facilitators don’t seek to shape students into the same mold; they want to get rid of the mold altogether. They want to empower others instead of seeking control and power for themselves.

I was only able to help the students in my former class so much. They were only with me an hour; then they had to go back to learning on someone else’s agenda. I was forced to give them grades (thank goodness no one questioned that everyone received As or Bs). My students couldn’t go out and learn where people learn best – out in the community doing and experiencing real things and talking to real experts.

Next Wednesday I’ll share five reasons traditional teaching needs to end (and hopefully will!) and five ways we can help our children learn naturally and fully using their own interests and talents to guide them.

 

Photo Credit: Orange42

 

What do you think about traditional teaching? Can a teacher ever “make” a person learn? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please leave me a comment below or send me an e-mail at chris@christinapilkington.com. To receive free e-mails about future posts type your name and e-mail in the box at the right hand corner of this page. Thanks!

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  • Linda_Guitar

    Christina – I hope you’re right, that the teachers “begin to understand what a mind-controlling, dehumanizing system they are working for and want to break free, or the system itself will break down”. But, human nature being what it is, I don’t think the change will come from the teachers. The vast majority of them need their teaching income, and most of them are very authoritarian, never question anything about the system or the status quo in general, and don’t believe in freedom of learning or thought for children.
    You sound like you were, as a teacher, a lot like John Taylor Gatto says he was. Teachers like that are extremely rare.
    I am an unschooling mom who does NOT have a degree, by the way. After 2 years of college, I decided it was not the right place for me. I have always loved learning and reading (and playing music – I was going to major in jazz composition and arranging), but have always hated being told by someone else what to learn/read/write/study/play. My kids are now 20 (in college) and 18 – hoping to go to college next year.
    I am always happy to see moms with credentials and school-teaching experience, like you, choose homeschooling (and “unschooling”, or child-directed learning, all the more so), because former teachers’ criticisms of the school system are more likely to be taken seriously by the “establishment” than mere anti-establishment rebels like me.

    • Anonymous

      Linda,
      I think you are very right about the change not coming from the teachers who stay in the system. It would be nice if more teachers would step away from the system and make a stand. Not everyone can provide full time learning experiences for their kids at home, so I wish there were more Sudbury type school FREE options out there for parents to utilize.

      I actually think you’re going to have an easier time than those with a degree to unschool your kids. Undergrad and a lot of grad school is about playing games to get good grades and cramming as much information into your head as possible so you can graduate and get on with life already! I racked up a ton of student loan debt and I wish I could go back and do things over again. But then, if I hadn’t seen day in and day out the horrible things have to go through in school, both poor, urban schools and rich, private ones, I don’t think I would have the passion and drive to speak out against it as much as I do now.

      Thank you so much for your heartfelt comments. I really appreciate it!

    • Anonymous

      Linda,
      I think you are very right about the change not coming from the teachers who stay in the system. It would be nice if more teachers would step away from the system and make a stand. Not everyone can provide full time learning experiences for their kids at home, so I wish there were more Sudbury type school FREE options out there for parents to utilize.

      I actually think you’re going to have an easier time than those with a degree to unschool your kids. Undergrad and a lot of grad school is about playing games to get good grades and cramming as much information into your head as possible so you can graduate and get on with life already! I racked up a ton of student loan debt and I wish I could go back and do things over again. But then, if I hadn’t seen day in and day out the horrible things have to go through in school, both poor, urban schools and rich, private ones, I don’t think I would have the passion and drive to speak out against it as much as I do now.

      Thank you so much for your heartfelt comments. I really appreciate it!

  • Michelle

    I totally agree. I earned my Bachelors and Masters in Education. In Grad school, we spent so much time on theory and other nice stuff. Then, we became Student Teachers. The teachers we worked with scorned our theories and interest in facilitating learning. They wanted discipline and rote work to be our focus. I taught in public schools for three years, then had my first baby. There was no way I could send my kids through such a soul-destroying process as a modern school. My oldest is now going into 6th grade, without ever having set foot in a traditional classroom. #2 will be in third grade and #3 starts K this year!

    • Anonymous

      I find it interesting that so many homeschooling parents are ex-teachers. In some ways it makes it hard because other people automatically assume that it’s ok for me to learn with my kids at home because I have A DEGREE. In many ways it can hinder you, though, if you stay mired in the school mindset and don’t embrace the natural way kids learn. When people ask why I don’t send my kids to school, I say because they will never find as much freedom and opportunity anywhere else – not even at an $8,000 a year private school.

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