Once again, my friend and follow blogger, Vera of Verawrites.com recommended a very interesting blog post. This time, it was by Beth Byrnes titled “Cherchez la Faim.” Like some of my blog posts in the past, this article focuses on education and discusses the absurdity of placing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education above the humanities.
I particularly enjoyed this article because it’s such a wonderful feeling to know that I am not the only person who sees the many flaws in the education system. Beth actually states that “We cannot put the humanities, i.e. art and literature especially, on a back-burner.” No, we CANNOT. Some of you may remember previous blog posts of mine in which I discuss the difficulties that students have in writing a simple 5-paragrah essay or how grammar is a significant issue even amongst adults.
Beth talks about an example from historian Adam Gopnik in which he credits Apple’s success to not just great engineering but awesome creativity. Now think about that and then think about the significance of language and words as it relates to business and beyond. For example, did you notice how “Global Warming” suddenly became “Climate Change” or how people take notice to the word “Free” in sales ads? Where would businesses and technological corporations be without the power of language and creativity?
It is unacceptable to believe that society can thrive on STEM education alone. The humanities need math and science, and math and science need the humanities. And Beth’s article provided another excellent example when she told us about how her niece’s love of signing, acting, painting, and knitting prepared her for a career as a scientist.
Although Sooryan is a fictional kingdom, much of its design pertains to a reality that I wish to have in education. My book’s concept of multidimensional learning takes subjects like math and history and “combines” them with other subjects to make educational more meaningful and exciting. The purpose of this teaching strategy is to not only show that every course is significant but that each subject can relate to the other in some way. Multidimensional learning is seen when a teacher incorporates math and art or when an in-depth study in English class discusses a novel’s historical significance as much as its literary.
Towards the end of this wonderful post, Beth discusses the argument by Gopnik that “We are impelled to study the humanities because we are human” due to our desire for understanding of ourselves, our history, and the world around us. The example that she provides pertains to the significance of studying 19th century literature and how it relates to our current issues.
For me, I see Gopnik’s concept a little differently. I believe that we need to study the humanities because of how we live as humans:
We Think: The humanities teaches us to analyze
We Speak: The humanities teaches us how to articulate our words properly. Am I the only person who cringes when someone says “omg”?
We Write: We cannot downplay the importance of writing and grammar. Most adults may not have to write essays or reports on a daily basis, but knowing how to properly write an email is certainty not that common.
We Read: We must never take literacy of the English language for granted.
We move and we are moved: Words and art give us the power to impact, influence, and touch the lives of people we may have never seen or spoken to.
Education of the humanities impacts how we see ourselves and the world, and how we interact overall. So tell me, isn’t this just as important as learning the basics of math and science?
Peace and Love,
For educators to teach and students to learn and all to be heard for
Fires of greatness will rage and burn
For they will no longer be quelled and
Flying and soaring will be their minds and hearts when you are
Finally and truly
Two blog posts ago I discussed the words that came to mind when I saw two men giving free education to impoverished, homeless, and orphaned children in India. As promised, I would like to continue the discussion.
Take a look at the first picture and the ones below. Then ask yourself this: “What is the true meaning of education?” “What is a ‘good’ education?”
Before I answer these questions myself, I will say that some of the greatest discussions and lessons have been in group circles with nothing but chairs. I actually remember being in my college poetry class and how my colleagues and I were so excited whenever we were able to have our session outside the classroom with nothing but the grass as our seats and our laps for our desks. Now I say, “whenever we were able” because we were not the only class with the same desire.
When I was a volunteer ESL teacher last year, I had nothing but flashcards, a 4 x 2 whiteboard on a pedestal and barley working markers. My classroom was in a small cafeteria with 15-20 students who I shared one bathroom with. And you know what? I couldn’t have been happier. And most importantly, they couldn’t have been happier and they couldn’t have learned any more than other students who were more “fortunate.” We were satisfied because the job got done.
So this brings me to what many may argue but what I believe in my heart and soul:
Education does not need technology
Education does not need desks
Education does not need rigorous and pointless testing
Education needs teaching from teachers, not computers
Education needs passion and compassion
Education needs care
Education needs teachers to be judged by the difference they make, not by test scores
Education needs love
Education needs individuality
You know, I sometimes feel that if we come from less, things that others take for granted will be worth so much more.
So, if you’re wondering about what makes a “good” education, just take a look at the faces of those young children and you’ll know.
Peace and Love,
When I first saw this photo of volunteers Rajesh Kumar Sharma and Laxmi Chandra giving free education to homeless, orphaned, and impoverished children in India, I didn’t have any words. Acutally, I couldn’t even find the words to express the emotion I felt. Two weeks later, I found them. And although they may not be a thousand words, and although this photo is worth so much more, these are the words I have. I invite you to add more.
I shall follow up with another post on this photo.
Peace and Love,
Four posts ago, I wrote something called The Superman Effect in Education. It discussed how teachers and students should be treated like they are super heros, meaning they should all be valued and appreciated. I received a lot of great responses on this post, and one in particular stood out:
“I always shied away from the whole “superman” analogy for teachers, because I think we shoot ourselves in the foot, when we don’t make it clear that we are only human (thus, the public’s unreasonable expectations of us).”–Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca
This is such a great comment because it reminded of something I talked about in another post called the Detachment of Education, in which I discuss the absolutely unrealistic expectations and burdens that are placed on teachers. Bethany’s comment was a reminder of that discussion and the dilemma that comes with treating teachers like super heros. Yes, I believe that teachers are indeed super heros. However, I also believe this:
1) Teachers = Humans
NOT Teachers = Robots or Teachers = Superhumans
As I said in my “Detachment of Education” post: “I truly feel that it is a common belief that teachers are supposed to be magical robots with no feelings or emotions, and that they are placed on Earth to only teach strictly from the text to magically and easily instill knowledge on their students who all magically receive it in the same way.”
Oh, and unless they are truly robots, they cannot honestly and efficiently grade 100+ term papers in one school night.
2) Teacher ≠ Parents/Guardians
Teachers are not responsible for educating students on manners and common sense, you know, all the things that parents/guardians should do. And yet…
So, here’s a trick question: Can teachers be treated as super heros without the expectation that they literally should be?
Here’s my answer: I believe that the basis to all of this is the need for all teachers to be treated with respect and understanding. Respect what they do, understand what they do. And for the parents and students, respect and understand that you are a vital part of a successful education as well.
Peace and Love,
I read an article last week about something called the Superman Effect. The term was used by a man named Aral Balkan to discuss the influence that designers have and how they are able to craft experiences. What I liked most about this post was how its author related it to education in saying that “As teachers we have to recognise that every interaction we have with young people is an opportunity to have a positive impact upon them. Teachers are artists and lessons are our art. Being passionate about our subjects mixed with a continued desire to improve and develop our pedagogy is key to providing the ‘Superman effect’ for our students.” The author then discusses the significance of making students feel like super heros and how educators should take such into consideration. The entire blog post can be found here.
This article spoke to me on many different levels. First, I absolutely believe in making students, all students, feel valued, respected, and intelligent. This is shown by how they light up when they truly understand something and when they are commended/praised. I enjoyed seeing that when I taught ESL. However, I was in a situation where as a student, I felt worthless. Math was never an easy subject for me, and of course it didn’t come any easier in college. Unfortunately for me, the professor that I had made it worse. One of his favorite lines was “C’mon guys, this is fifth grade stuff” or “You should know this material already.” It was awful. And so, of course, my colleagues and I were afraid of asking questions because the material was “fifth grade stuff” and even when a question was asked, we were sometimes told that we “should know this already.” It was so bad that when he asked,“Does anyone have any questions?” more than once, I would raise my hand and say, “Yes, can we please stop for today?” And although my colleagues all nodded in agreement, this was, of course, to no avail. As a result of all this, I got a D in that class, hated math more than ever, thought I was dumb for not knowing more math than I did, detested this professor, and spent most of that class fantasizing about chopping off his ponytail.
Students are not the only ones that should be treated like super heros. Yes, I’m talking about teachers as well. Teachers are the super heros that are hardly recognized or appreciated for being such. It’s like they live their entire careers as Clark Kents. Some teachers are literally the super heros to many of their students. I get so frustrated because many do not realize or appreciate how different society would be if teachers and educators were not available to inspire and educate. And so, I will say it again: Where would we be if teachers and educators were not available to inspire and educate?
Education is about super heros teaching super heros. And this needs to recognized more than ever.
In 2009 the Yankees won the world series against the Philadelphia Phillies…mostly because of Hideki Matsui. Now, this is just personal opinion, but I am not the only one that feels this way. That night, Matsui became the first Japanese-born player and full-time designated hitter in the history of MLB to win the world series MVP award. Matsui was my favorite athlete even before this happened, so I was of course extremely upset when the Yankees did not sign him the next season. And although Matsui played for other teams, he remained my favorite player, never forgotten by Yankees fans and non-Yankees fans. And it was yesterday afternoon that Matsui signed a minor league contract with the Yankees, officially retiring as one.
I sat teary-eyed through the entire ceremony not because Matsui is my favorite athlete but because of what he stands for. The best way to describe Matsui is quiet, humble strength. You see, Matsui is the only Yankee to hit a grand slam at his first, I mean first, at bat. He went 4-4 and 3-4 on his first two days back after returning from wrist surgery that had him out for several months. And through it all, Matsui remained humble and a true definition of a team player. He actually apologized for getting injured, and shies away from talking about himself. He has stated that he felt like he didn’t deserve the MVP award, and although most players would name this as their shining moment in their career, Matsui named a victory against the Boston Red Sox as his favorite moment because the Yankees won the game in a total team effort.
The way I feel about it is that one can be a great baseball player and have awesome numbers, but if your attitude sucks and you’re all about yourself then, to me, those numbers mean absolutely nothing. Besides his quiet strength and humility, what I like most about Matsui is that the man has a sense of humor. He is known for playing jokes on his teammates and every once in a while you could catch him making faces at the camera. Oh, how I miss watching him play!
So, how does this relate to education? Well, say there was this great teacher, and you asked him or her what their best/favorite moment was in their profession. What would you think if the teacher said, “Winning educator of the year” as opposed to “Watching my students evolve” or “Seeing my students light up when they understand something” or “One of my students telling me that I’m their role model”? Matsui represents greatness by being great through others. One is a great player and a great teacher through the action, influence, and aid of those outside themselves. With education being more and more about testing and numbers and treating students like they’re all the same, I know that it can be quite difficult to truly teach and help a student.
Matsui represents how a community should be. A community should be, well…a community. This simply means placing others above yourself and being there for them and actually caring. Matsui reminds me of who I am, who I want to be, and who I have to be in order to consider myself truly successful. I am only as great as the impact that my words and life has on others.
Thank you, Hideki Matsui. I hope and pray that one day I can share these words with you in person.
Peace and Love,
“Detachment” has been one of my favorite movies for a long time. If you question the difficulty of teaching and the passion of teachers, or wonder about the issues with the education system, I suggest you watch this movie. It is truthful, honest, and very realistic, and what I like most about this film is the multi-levels of detachment shown in displaying what the word truly means.
1) The Difficulty of Detachment
Have you ever tried helping someone that needed help, but didn’t take it? Have you ever given your all to making someone’s life better and had to watch them day-by-day throw that hard work and effort back in your face, therefore making your life feel worthless?
That is probably what it’s like for several educators out there who have to deal with students that not only show no respect or care for the educators, but for themselves as well. To watch a person literally destroy their life when your job is to help them get it together is truly a painful experience. When your job is to help make a life better, how is detaching from caring about that person’s well-being easy?
2) The Detachment of Parents from Education
I have said this before in a previous post, and I will say it again: Education Starts at Home. Education Starts at Home. Education is a three-way partnership: teacher, student, and parent. Everyone has to be involved, or it simply doesn’t work. Oh, and there’s that thing that not all students are taught at home: respect.
3) The Forcing of Detachment
I truly feel that it is a common belief that teachers are supposed to be magical robots with no feelings or emotions, and that they are placed on Earth to only teach strictly from the text to magically and easily instill knowledge on their students who all magically receive it in the same way.
And it is because they are supposed to be like robots that teachers are not allowed to feel or show emotion. One of the best scenes in “Detachment” is when Adrian Brody’s character is approached by one of his bullied and outcasted students. She felt like he was the only one that could understand and relate to her, and there was one point where she starts crying and proceeds to hug Brody. Though Brody was hesitant about the girl’s approach, he was still extremely concerned about her even after another female teacher walked in the classroom just as it happened, causing the girl to run out of the room even more upset that she wasn’t able to talk to Brody alone. What I liked most about this scene was the point that the director was trying to make. There was no attraction because the young girl was a lesbian, and even though the female teacher was probing Brody as to why he was “touching her,” and why he was alone in the room with her, he continued calling the girl’s name and actually attempted to chase after her until he realized what the other teacher was getting at. And after justifiably shouting her an explanation, the teacher asked him what he expected her to think and he so wonderfully replied “stop being so f-ing judgmental.” There is no doubt that this scene hit home with many viewers.
I understand that there are and should be certain boundaries between teachers and students, but how are troubled students to be helped and comforted when they are expected to be robots when in fact many teachers mean so much more to their students. Robots cannot connect or relate.
4) The Detachment from Learning
When I say “learning,” I’m talking about learning. Education today is more about test scores and placement standings, rather than teaching students what they want and what matters in ways that they can retain and actually learn from. It seems to be more about the glory of the schools rather than the glory of the students themselves.
One of my favorite lines from Kingdom of the Sun is when my character Helena states that “there is something seriously wrong with this system.” This system, many systems, there is definitely something wrong with them, don’t you think?
Peace and Love,