Five Tips for Teachers (and Parents)

One day Iliana (age 6) seemed to want to strike up a conversation as she was leaving school with her Mom.

“Goodbye, Mr. Rick.”

“Goodbye, Iliana.”

“You’re the principal.”

“That’s right. I am the principal.”

“You are in charge of everything.”

“That’s right.”

”You can DO anything you want.”

At that point I realized I was in a different conversation—not the usual pleasantries in which mutual affection is communicated, but a conversation with substance. Continue reading

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Teacher as Learner

The direction that I would give to all teachers is: Watch the child, watch his attitude of attention. Is it spontaneous? Is the light of pleasure in his eyes? Is interest the motive which controls him?

–Colonel Francis W. Parker

Maggie Doyne’s story shows that self-actualization is not the end game (as I once thought when I studied Abraham Maslow years ago.) Self-actualization is a quality of experience that each of us can have, and we can have it at any age.

At the age of 18, Maggie launched herself off into the world with only what she could carry in her backpack. In the course of the next five years she discovered depths of human suffering and joy she didn’t know existed, built an orphanage and a school for 200 children, and “…got my passion back to live and to learn and to be human on this earth.” Continue reading

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“A Home and a Heaven for Children”

Hearing that I am on a mission to change how America thinks about education Dawn Morris wrote: “What does your ideal school look like? Is it hands-on? Is it project based? Is there art? Is there music? I know you think learning should be fun, but what does a fun learning environment mean to you? Is it student directed? What does that mean? What assessments are there? Are there still standards?”

She concluded with: “Having been one of those teachers who left the public schools in frustration Continue reading

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Start Talking Entitled

Exactly two weeks ago, I met Greg Lippman for a cup of coffee and a muffin at Peet’s at 1295 The Alameda in San Jose. Greg’s mission is to help low-achieving students become the first in their family to graduate from a four-year college. Having already helped to launch one charter school which is now achieving this mission, his latest project is to create and sustain five new charter schools in Santa Clara county, Continue reading

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What is the Business of School?

Because Sara was home sick for a week in October of her eighth grade year, her parents bought software so that she could learn algebra at home. When she got back to school she discovered that she was ahead of the class. When she told her parents, they said, “Well, good. That gives you more time to spend on other homework.” And she did. However, she also kept taking her online course in algebra.

In class, since she was so far ahead of what the teacher was teaching, Continue reading

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Imbued with the Divine

Ned Hallowell invites us to a weekend with him and Rob Himburg (Click here for more information on the ADHD Enrichment Weekend.) and promises we will: 1) have fun, 2) learn a ton!, and 3) connect and feel inspired! I am sure it’s true, not because I know the teachers that well, but because someone who promises that, will probably deliver.

What if all teachers sent out a note to their students every Sunday afternoon promising Continue reading

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High Responsibility; Low Control

Genius is the axis of the spinning top that we call school. To keep great teachers in the business and get the test scores up we must spin on this axis. Increased reliance on tutors and the demoralization of students are all manifestations of the top wobbling. Fear has caused us to lose our center as a democracy based on the decision making capacity of each human. When the top starts to wobble, bring the focus back to genius. The commitment to lead each character’s genius into the world teaches us the art of “High responsibility; Low control.”

Yesterday my beautiful, brilliant, corporate bigshot wife Continue reading

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A Silly Fight in the Sandbox

At dinner one evening, when my daughter, Lizzie, was in first grade, she said: “You know how some teachers just let you play? Well, I want to know stuff, and that’s why I like Ms. Lexton; she teaches us stuff.” [I hope you read this, Cheryl]

Cheryl was a brand new teacher out of Teacher’s College in NYC when she walked in the door of my school and asked the receptionist if there were any teaching jobs. The receptionist called me, and I invited her into my office. When Cheryl said she had gotten an A+ in her student teaching, I decided to hire her.

No mistakes here! Continue reading

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Teaching, Learning and Creating the Conditions

After reading “Daphne goes to School” (last week’s post) Daphne’s mother wrote me a long email which she concluded with: “I guess the question I am asking is: “How do we encourage exploration and confidence without leaving a child unprepared for the judgment and criticism they’ll have to deal with later on? And at what point does “education” end and “the real world” begin? Or is your idea that an environment of experimentation and exploration early on will create a confident, centered person who isn’t shaken by the competition that will come?” Continue reading

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Daphne Goes to School

It was a hot day on the upper west side of Manhattan. I had just dropped my freshman stepdaughter off in her dorm room at Columbia University and was experiencing a rare and marvelous moment of directionlessness. Daphne, age five, stood at Broadway and 114th at a table with her father and held a sign saying “Lemonade 50 cents.”

I said, “Wonderful. Lemonade. Perfect thing on this hot day. How much does it cost?”
“Fifty cents,” Daphne replied with a smile.
“Fifty cents. That’s cheep. Can I have a glass?”
“Certainly,” said Daphne.
I gave her a five-dollar bill, and she reached into the zippered purse around her neck, giving me back two quarters.
“But I gave you a five,” I said. Continue reading

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