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“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them…”
—Charles Dickens, Hard Times
In “Joy: A Subject Schools Lack” (The Atlantic; Jan 2015), Susan Engel – a mother, teacher, and developmental psychologist – points out the troubling truth that, for many schools, the last thing they’re concerned with nowadays is “what it feels like to be a child, or what makes childhood an important and valuable stage of life in its own right.” Thus, we now see many elementary and high schools (and even some colleges) focusing on the needs and wants of parents rather than students, pitching buzzwords and slogans about getting kids prepped for college and high-stakes careers rather than for adulthood, lifelong learning, and – I don’t know – their upcoming grade level. Or, as Engel puts it, “This may explain why so many schools that I visit seem more like something out of a Dickens novel than anything else.”
As a kid, my husband attended a private elementary school in Ft. Worth for his K-8 – a school that’s principal was often fond of telling parents, Third grade is the best preparation for fourth grade, fourth grade is the best preparation for fifth grade, and so on. In other words, a child’s education should really be just that: an education for children that takes one step at a time, not an education for future college students or CEOs that constantly leaps forward without regard to the here-and-now. What’s more, it seems to me that instilling and focusing on the joys of learning for students would be a tremendous means of also increasing and enhancing the joys of teaching.
As feminist philosopher and writer Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote in Women Who Run With the Wolves, people’s
“psyches and souls…have their own cycles and seasons of doing and solitude, running and staying, being involved and being removed, questing and resting, creating and incubating, being of the world and returning to the soul-place. When we are children … the instinctive nature notices all these phases and cycles. … Children are the wildish nature, and without being told to, they prepare for the coming of these times, greeting them, living with them, and keeping from those times recuerdos, mementos, for remembering ….” (pg 276-277)
What joys might we all better experience and live with now – not simply remember – if we’d allowed ourselves to learn and grow with these instinctive, wildish, soul-fulfilling cycles, rather than elbowing our way out of them in some abstract desire to one day be “successful”? How much more successful and joyful might we all be if we’d let ourselves continue to love and enjoy learning, if we’d been encouraged to experience and embrace feelings of awe and wonderment rather than to push constantly ahead, constantly faster, and to act “cool” and unimpressed with the world, ourselves, and each other?
Engel inspired and started us off in this post, so I’ll let her end it as well:
“Before you brush this argument aside as sentimental fluff, or think of joy as an unaffordable luxury in a nation where there is dire poverty, low academic achievement, and high dropout rates, think again. The more dire the school circumstances, the more important pleasure is to achieving any educational success. … The more difficult a child’s life circumstances, the more important it is for that child to find joy in his or her classroom.”
Further Readings & Videos:
- Susan Engel, “Joy: A Subject Schools Lack,” The Atlantic
- Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves, A Ballantine Book, 1995
- Check out this clip of Oprah’s interview with Stephen Colbert wherein they discuss the value of “joy” over the fantasy of “happiness”
Considering the arguments of Kids Growth’s “Why Won’t My Child Talk To Me?”, the answer becomes deceptively simple: They’ll be thrilled talk and share with you, so long as you’re prepared to listen and share in return.
The difficult key here is being able to remain patient and respectful even when your child seems to be acting unreasonably, disrespectfully, or irrationally. As Kids Growth explains, “You can accept and respect your children’s feelings even when you don’t see things the same way. You also can accept their feelings without necessarily accepting how they handle them (for example, it’s okay to be angry, but not to hit).”
Kids Growth lists a number of useful suggestions on how to steer you and your family onto a path of clear and effective communication, but we’ve got a few more to add to their collection:
- Set aside time to talk — sometimes creating time for…
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First, thank you, Math Universe, for posting on this important topic of peer tutoring. Peer tutoring is an intensely interactive and often immensely effective means of learning and mastering new materials. I love especially that this post is coming from Math Universe, since many articles and posts often focus on writing-related opportunities for peer tutoring (not that these opportunities aren’t very important as well; my own tutoring experience is grounded primarily in the world of writing). Peer tutoring and classroom-organized study groups are terrific tools for helping students discover ways of both understanding the materials for themselves and from the perspectives of others.
It’s this diversity that I find especially appealing about in-class study group systems. Friends often study together or forge their own study groups outside of class. However, while this is great, it can also be beneficial to work with people you wouldn’t normally otherwise consult. In colleges, such systems are alive and well. Take Southwestern University (Georgetown, TX) for example. They’ve long been experimenting with the Paideia Program, where accepted applicants are grouped into diverse cohorts that will stick together, serve together, and learn together from their sophomore year to their senior year. This enables students from all departments and backgrounds to come together and benefit from each other’s unique perspectives. Of course, the program has changed dramatically since I was a student there (it’s now a requirement of all Southwestern students rather than a program for students to apply into), but the core purposes and goals remain the same: interdisciplinary collaboration, civic engagement, intercultural experience, and learning to apply one’s education beyond the classroom. (For more information on the Paideia Program specifically, visit: http://www.southwestern.edu/paideia/)
All of this is to say that peer tutoring and formalized study groups can be as diverse, challenging, and beneficial as you want to make them. Studying and mastering new skills is always difficult, but taking the time to work through these challenges with others not only fosters greater opportunities to learn, but greater opportunities to form lifelong friendships, leadership qualities, and collaboration skills.
Something that I really like about science classes is that during lab you get the opportunity to interact with classmates. In lecture only classes, it seems as though people just show up to class and then leave, but when you have lecture and then lab after a short break – or viseversa – there is that additional time to get to know each other.
The reason I bring this up is because sometimes it’s helpful to study with another person. Some more introverted students (such as myself) may have difficulty meeting friends in class. But when you are sitting in tables that seat four people and told to work with a partner, it’s like a built-in study buddy. Or it could be a horrible nightmare if your partner is completely incompetent, but even then that can have its positive side, as I will discuss later.
My Trigonometry teacher would always…
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“If you have ever been called defiant, incorrigible, forward, cunning, insurgent, unruly, rebellious, you’re on the right track. Wild Woman is close by. If you have never been called these things, there is yet time.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves
Thank you for this post, Central Oregon Coast NOW — this is a tremendous and succinct comment on the continued and pervasive problem of women and girls being culturally and socially discouraged from pursuing their interests in math and science.
As German artist, Käthe Kollwitz, once said, “I am in the world to change the world.” Women and girls need to know this in their bones. And women and girls need to remember that anyone who would suggest otherwise or suggest that women are somehow less valuable because of their gender is someone afraid of losing power, is someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and is someone attempting to break down and smother out the multitudinous nature of others.
Don’t ever let yourself be broken down, and don’t forget these wise words from Albert Einstein to a young female scientist:
“I do not mind that you are a girl, but the main thing is that you yourself do not mind.”
By Smriti Sinha July 1, 2014
“I hope you will not think any the less of me for being a girl!”
This plea was sent to Albert Einstein by a young South African in the 1940s, and was recently unearthed as part of Alice Caprice’s Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein’s Letters to and from Children. Although brief, Tyfanny’s words capture the self-consciousness and self-doubt that have for so long plagued women who aspire to careers in science and technology.
In the letter, dated Sept. 19, 1946, a seemingly agonized Tyfanny admits to Einstein that she has left out a potentially damaging detail about herself. “I forgot to tell you, in my last letter, that I was a girl. I mean I am a girl,” the young scientist writes. “I have always regretted this a great deal, but by now I have become more or less resigned to the…
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The time is approaching! Summer tutoring begins NEXT WEEK!
410 N. Greenville Ave. #110
—Ellen Goldberger, “Everyone Should Teach Writing,” Inside Higher Ed, 2014
More and more, colleges are beginning to move the Teaching of Writing from strictly the English Department’s territory to school-wide efforts—efforts that necessitate contributions and collaboration with professors from every department and every level. Writing skills have always been of the utmost importance, and yet only now and only begrudgingly are some of our brightest teachers dedicating any significant time to ensuring that their students are able to well communicate thoughts and ideas through writing.
According to Goldberger’s “Everyone Should Teach Writing,” “Conventional wisdom and practical experience tell us that students’ ability to secure jobs and advance in their careers depends, to a great extent, on their communication skills, including polished, professional writing,” and what’s more, “writing is not separate from content in our courses, but can be used as a practical tool to apply and reinforce learning.” These are things we can all agree on whether we’re parents, students, employers, grade school teachers, high school teachers, or college professors. The stickiness comes in, however, with the notion that the teachers and professors themselves should have to make the time and extra effort necessary to better embed this most foundational and complex of skill sets within their own syllabi as opposed to someone else’s.
And while I stand behind this concept of better spreading and reinforcing the teaching and learning of writing across all disciplines, I must say that the most compelling component of Goldberger’s argument for me was her concerns regarding student responsibility and reading habits. As she argues, “students do read, but what they spend their time reading is not helpful”—if not outright detrimental—“in learning how to write” and learning how to communicate in a variety of subtle, professional, personal, and academic styles.
As Goldberger explains,
The key, as always, is to not simply stand around hoping that you land the best teacher or boss every time you enter a new class with new demands or a new job with new coworkers. The key is to take things into your own hands and expose yourself to as many different types of writing and writers as you possibly can. But more than simple exposure, more than simply enjoying your beach reads, you must be willing to take things a step further; you must be willing to spend time analyzing even the breeziest of novels all the way up to the most obscure and difficult. You must be willing to think critically about works you’d never given much thought to before, voice opinions and ideas to others regarding new works and interpretations, start book clubs, engage in book-related forums, and experiment with new styles of writing and new kinds of reading materials.
We must be willing to invest time in ourselves to reap the benefits of reading and writing. We must be willing to sit still a while apart from distractions and allow ourselves to become absorbed into another’s world before we can reap the benefits of improved communication skills, artistic expression, professionalism, progress, empathy, and socialization.
Whether you’re preparing for the SATs, a job interview, fiction writing, improved vocabulary, or any other number of possibilities, there’s one clear-cut road to take: Reading.
Read diversely. Read often. Read.
- Frank Bruni’s “Read, Kids, Read,” The New York Times
- Tutoring 101’s “Student Voices: Reading, Writing, and the Digital World“
- John Coleman’s “For Those Who Want to Lead, Read,” Harvard Business Review
- Neil Gaiman, “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming,” The Guardian