Sunday, June 28, 2009

Attention is the beginning of devotion

Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin-flowers. And the frisky ones–inkberry, lamb’s-quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones–rosemary, oregano. Give the peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.

Attention is the beginning of devotion.

-Mary Oliver

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Making Room for Hope: Howard Zinn

I don't believe it's possible to be neutral. The world is already moving in certain directions. And to be neutral, to be passive, in a situation like that, is to collaborate with what is going on. And I, as a teacher, don't want to be a collaborator.
Have you watched Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train? If not, you must. Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, reminds us that to be neutral is to collaborate with the status quo. Many people, particularly teachers, argue that teachers must remain neutral. No one is neutral. Neutrality, lack of questioning, and lack of action equate to agreement and endorsement of the current state of affairs.

Zinn's People's History reinforces the fact that, as teachers, it is not only how we teach (and the inclusive and inquiry-based practices that guide us), but also what we teach. It is in what we teach that we are able to offer truth or lies of omission and de-emphasis. In the film, Zinn spoke of viewing history as creative--history can either help us to imagine a new future if it allows us to see glimpses of the ability to achieve this future in the past, or history can paralyze us--make us hopeless. History can uncover hidden resistances to power and awaken consciousness within us. Equally important, multiple histories can allow us to see situations from the viewpoints of others'. Zinn inspires me to remember how important it is, no matter how risky, to live in defiance to that which we believe is unloving, unjust, and wrong.

Teaching Resources:
Definitely check out The Zinn Education Project above!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Spiraling into Arts Ed

Project AIM (Arts Integration Mentorship) provides a great framework for looking at arts integration (via ATA Blog). The program's brochure contains an awesome list of AIM Speak (vocabulary). Eric Booth, of the Teaching Artists Journal, writes the forward:
“As the arts continue the endless argument for a better place at the school curriculum table – more hours, more resources, more opportunity to transform lives, classroom communities, and school culture – the great experiment has begun. That great experiment is Arts Integration. There is something new under the arts learning sun. The gamble is that by bringing learning in the arts (through the arts) together with other subject matters, students can go further in both areas, and students’ lives and classroom culture can be transformed in the process.”

We Make the Road By Walking

“Even when teachers develop new conceptions of what it means to learn mathematics, they are, in general, working within a culture in which good teaching is assumed to mean ensuring that students get right answers.”

Somehow, this way of teaching (math) has become the dominant paradigm for most, if not all disciplines. How do we change course?

Budding Conversations

NEW PARADIGM: Walks up to Old Paradigm. Hey, I’ve got some new information for you. I think we can work together. I know that you like precision and finding answers. I think we can get there, but with a little bit of a different route.

OLD PARADIGM: What do you mean we can get there using a different route? I’ve been taking the same path to and from the problem to the solution, and I’m just fine. This is the best way.

NEW: Well, have you ever tried another way?

OLD: Sure. I tried the road that goes over the little hill over there. It was rocky, there were other travelers, signs, and lots of distractions. It was too difficult, so I turned around and came back. This good old path does me just fine.

NEW: I see, I see. Well, what if we tried again? If we know that the road is rocky and that there are hills, many signs, and lots of distractions, we can come prepared. I’ll go with you. We’ll wear the right shoes, plan our route, and bring the appropriate supplies. I bet that we can even ask questions of other travelers along the way.

OLD: Eh, I’m pretty sure that the arrangement I’ve got here on the Old Road is pretty good. Anyways, it doesn’t matter how I get we get to the solution, it just matters that I get there. To the right place. Every time.

NEW: But Old, honestly, that must get a little boring.

OLD: Boring? Yes, a bit. But safe. Definitely safe.

NEW: Okay old, let’s try another path, just once. If it doesn’t work, you are free to turn around.

OLD: Okay, fine, fine, fine.

Old and New begin down an alternate path. Things look very different. They run into other travelers along the way, some walking, some skipping, some hopping, some dancing at different speeds down the path. Occasionally, they skip, hop, and dance together---sometimes in a funky combination. Sometimes there are barriers in the road—a fallen tree, a rocky path—but the travelers help one another along. At first, Old seems a bit uncomfortable and anxious. He keeps glancing back towards the Old Path, but it continues to get smaller and smaller in the distance.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer Reading

Adventures in Peacemaking
Adventures in Peacemaking includes hundreds of hands-on, engaging activities designed to meet the unique needs of after-school programs, camps and recreation centers. The activities teach the skills of creative conflict resolution to school-age children through games, cooperative team challenges, drama, crafts, music and even cooking. The guide includes easy-to-implement strategies and tips for providers to both reduce conflict in their programs and to intervene effectively when conflict does occur. Parent Connection Handouts are also available for purchase through Educators for Social Responsibility.
Creative Conflict Resolution
This classic conflict resolution guide offers more than 20 proven conflict-resolution techniques. Examples and more than 200 classroom-tested activities and games provide constructive responses to your students' problem behaviors.
Becoming Educated and Habits of Mind by Deborah Meier
1. Evidence: How do we know what's true and false? What evidence counts? How sure can we be? What makes it credible to us?
2. Viewpoint: How else might this look if we stepped into other shoes? If we were looking at it from a different direction? If we had a different history or expectations?
3. Connections/Cause and Effect: Is there a pattern? Have we seen something like this before? What are the possible consequences?
4. Conjecture: Could it have been otherwise? Supposing that? What if?
5. Relevance: Does it matter? Who cares?
Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison has collected a treasure chest of archival photographs that depict the historical events surrounding school desegregation. These unforgettable images serve as the inspiration for Ms. Morrison"s text--a fictional account of the dialogue and emotions of the children who lived during the era of "separate but equal" schooling. Remember is a unique pictorial and narrative journey that introduces children to a watershed period in American history and its relevance to us today. Remember will be published on the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision ending legal school segregation, handed down on May 17, 1954.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Commentary on NAEP Arts Assessment

"Name That Instrument! The State of Arts Education" on The Takeaway.

Creating and Exploring Peace with Art

I have always believed that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.

The opposite of life is not death, but indifference.

The opposite of peace is not war, but indifference
to peace and indifference to war.

The opposite of culture, the opposite of beauty, the opposite of generosity is indifference.

Elie Wiesel,
Nobel Peace Laureate

Resources for building peace:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Journal!

Eastern Michigan University's first issue of PowerPlay: A Journal of Educational Justice. It's online and free!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

NAEP Arts 2008 Assessment

It's out: The Nation's Report Card: Arts 2008 Music & Visual Arts

Theatre and dance were not even surveyed due to budget restrictions...

Racial/ethnic and gender gaps evident in both music and visual arts

Although the results for music and visual arts are reported separately and cannot be compared, some general patterns in differences between student groups were similar in the two disciplines.

  • Average responding scores in both music and visual arts were 22 to 32 points higher for White and Asian/Pacific Islander students than for Black and Hispanic students. The creating task scores in visual arts were also higher for White and Asian/Pacific Islander students than for their Black and Hispanic peers.
  • Average responding scores for female students were 10 points higher than for male students in music and 11 points higher in visual arts. Female students also outperformed male students in creating visual art.

View Duncan's response.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Liz Lerman's Critical Response Process

Choreographer Liz Lerman's Critical Response Process is a widely used method for responding to artists' work and a great tool to introduce to students.

The Process engages participants in three roles:

The artist offers a work-in-progress for review and feels prepared to question that work in a dialogue with other people;

Responders, committed to the artist’s intent to make excellent work, offer reactions to the work in a dialogue with the artist; and

The facilitator initiates each step, keeps the process on track, and works to help the artist and responders use the Process to frame useful questions and responses.

The Critical Response Process takes place after a presentation of artistic work. Work can be short or long, large or small, and at any stage in its development. The facilitator then leads the artist and responders through four steps:

  1. Statements of Meaning: Responders state what was meaningful, evocative, interesting, exciting, striking in the work they have just witnessed.
  2. Artist as Questioner: The artist asks questions about the work. After each question, the responders answer. Responders may express opinions if they are in direct response to the question asked and do not contain suggestions for changes.
  3. Neutral Questions: Responders ask neutral questions about the work. The artist responds. Questions are neutral when they do not have an opinion couched in them. For example, if you are discussing the lighting of a scene, “Why was it so dark?” is not a neutral question. “What ideas guided your choices about lighting?” is.
  4. Opinion Time: Responders state opinions, subject to permission from the artist. The usual form is “I have an opinion about ______, would you like to hear it?” The artist has the option to decline opinions for any reason.

Learning from Experiences in Arts Ed

On issuelab, a special collection of case studies on arts in education:
This special collection of Arts Education case studies and evaluations reveals the lessons, benefits, and pitfalls of existing and past projects, providing vital information for program staff at organizations running their own Arts Education projects.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Economy & Education

On Bridging Differences, Deborah Meier comments concisely on what I agree with as the connection between education and the economy:
The connection between schooling and the economy interests me—but for different reasons than the usual PR-linkage (you’ll make more money). As long as there are jobs that pay poorly there will be “the poor,” but a well-educated underclass will have a better shot at defending their social and economic interests—as citizens. And a well-educated citizenry in general will give us a better shot at a healthy economy. Maybe. It depends on what we mean by being “well-educated.” And the latest headlines about 46 states joining together to decide year by year school curriculum (and tests) is not the way to decide this.
Will a better educated population alone change our economy? No, not if we still have low-paying jobs that pay salaries that can't make ends meet. If we neglect to teach about social issues, social justice, and social change in in our curricula, we run the risk of allowing underclasses to stay where they are. But perhaps this is in the best interest of many who make the policies and run our schools...

She continues:

The leaders of business and industry (of which there are not many left) may have messed up our economy, but they still have enough money left over to bring the same mindset to schooling. The masters of manipulating symbolic goods—money in all its varied forms—are now designing our schools with the same manipulative mindset.

But “if they work, Debby,” say a few of my critical friends, "why not?" But what do we mean by “it works?” Oddly enough, even on the measures they have chosen, the answer is, “they don’t.” But it wouldn’t convince me either way. How kids do on school tests that measure (at best) school learning is petty compared with…. It’s not a good stand-in for achievement. I want to see how those kids “produce”—the books they write, the movies they make, the cars they invent, the families they raise, the gardens they plant, the medicine they practice, the songs they sing, the fast train system they put into place, the better ways they show us to grow food, to produce energy, and on and on and on. I want to see graduates coming back to see us who are good cops, teachers, nurses, architects, furniture-makers, inventors of new products and new ideas. (And powerful, noisy, feisty citizens.)

Recommended Reading: Keeping the Promise?: The Debate Over Charter Schools

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Plays for Young People

When I was younger, I acted in I Never Saw Another Butterfly - a play by Celeste Rapsanti based on the poetry of Jewish children from Terezin. I can still remember the words of the title poem:
I never saw another butterfly . . .
The last, the very last,
so richly, brightly, dazzling yellow.
Perhaps if the sun's tears sing
against a white stone . . .
Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly `way up high.
It went away I'm sure because it
wished to kiss the world goodbye.
For seven weeks I've lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto,
but I have found my people here.
The dandelions call to me,
And the white chestnut candles in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don't live here in the ghetto.
I often think of the play and how it was simultaneously beautiful and horrific--wishing that I could see it again as an adult. The book, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, highlights the art work and poetry of children in Terezin.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Teachers Can Lead Too

City Limits shares an interesting piece on the lack of teachers in leadership roles under Bloomberg and Klein.

Rothko Was a Kindergarten Teacher

Did you know?

Rothko was a K-8 teacher for a time. In the "Scribble Book," which was never published in a complete form (and is more of a collection of scribbles), Rothko shares his thoughts on art in education. He comments,
the "creative act is a social action and that intrinsically it justifies its own existence."

Rothko describes art as "of the spirit," and argues that the art teachers task is not to produce artists, but seems to advocate for the encouragement of experiementation.

Rothko quotes Fritz Kunkel, a German psychologist (1889-1956): "We must never break the courage of children."

Finally, he comments that "Progressive education is the expression of liberalism."

What is our education today an expression of? Positivism? Conservativism? Anti-intellectualism?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

School for Designing a Society & Patch Adams

I'm currently researching Paulo Freire's concept of radical love in relation to teaching the arts, specifically in relation to facilitating applied theatre. Patch Adams, doctor, health care activist and clown, conducts a workshop called "What is your love strategy?"

His organization also pairs with The School for Designing a Society. Every school (for little kids and big kids) should have something like this. Amazing--I want to go!

The School for Designing a Society, established in 1991, is a project of teachers, performers, artists, and activists. It is an ongoing experiment in making temporary living environments where the question "What would I consider a desirable society?" is given serious playful thought, and taken as an input to creative projects.

Why a desirable society?

We want to address people: our neighbors and our distant neighbors who, living in the current social system, find that this system maintains itself at the expense of its members so that misery, poverty, hopelessness, violence, and human degradation are daily occurrences. Our social system tells us that human beings are the problem, and that it, the current system, is the solution. We have taken long looks at this system, and we do not want it. As any social system is humanly created, not natural, and is maintained daily by human action, we wish to create new social systems, and to change our daily patterns of action.

Why design?

Criticisms of the problems of the present society are often met with justifications. Once these justifications fail, many a conversation of hopeful intention is stopped with the (final) statement: "The present organization of society is the best we have", or the question: "Do you have a better idea?"

This is a moment of possibility and not one to be left speechless. Indeed, many a time, the respondent finds herself sputtering, filled with a spirit of rebellion which unfortunately gets watered down to the mere language of complaint.

Having had the time and opportunity to create--in conjunction with others of diverse experiences--detailed maps, dreams, plans, scripts, scores, videos, and blueprints of her desirable society, we imagine the situation could go differently.

Imagine an atmosphere of audacity: She's asked the question: "Do you have a better idea?" Everyone taking a coffeebreak looks at her or their shoes. She looks the interlocutor in the eye and reaches into her purse? knapsack? briefcase? kitchen drawer? for a booklet of proposals, slaps it on the table scattering cigarette butts, and answers: "Here, read this--this will give you an idea of what I want."

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Student Nation

Just discovered The Student Nation (from The Nation). Check it out. Also: resources for the classroom.

$chool Reform

The Nation's Dana Goldstein comments on Obama's visit with Sharpton, Bloomberg, and Gingrich in the Oval Office. If the education conversation right now has two main sides: the Education Equality Project and The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, it appears as though Obama has chosen his.

What will this mean for the future of public education? Or should I say privatized education?

Little Ones Do Green Art

Via NY Times: At Beginnings Nursery School in Manhattan, students and teachers use discarded items from their Materials Center to create art projects. Every school should have one!
“Every school has its own version of a supply closet, but I don’t think this is the same thing,” said Robin Koo, a studio art teacher at Beginnings.

With thousands of loose objects on display, the Materials Center is organized as precisely as a research lab. Metals, plastics, wood and fabrics each have a designated section. Natural materials overflow from bookcases, including seashells, snakeskin coils and an unidentified animal skull that mysteriously showed up last week in a Pampers wipes box.

Beginnings Nursery spent less than $3,000 to create the center last year after buying the brownstone where it has occupied the two bottom floors since 1984. The bright, airy attic — once an office for the Union Square Greenmarket — was spruced up with leftover classroom furniture and sky-blue paint.

Jane Racoosin, director of Beginnings, said the found objects were used to encourage children to represent their ideas through exploration, part of the Reggio Emilia educational approach that has been adopted by a growing number of American preschools. Teachers stop by the Materials Center every day, with no limit on what they can take back to their classrooms. The preschool has 210 students, ranging in age from 18 months to 5 years.