Mary Mascaraque

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How can we transmit new Paradigms to students attending compusory education in our public traditional schools?

The Studio school is a challenging and right way of coping with changes in learning today. Kids feel more free and self confident.
On the contrary, in most of our traditional schools students think they are wasting their time, get bored and lazy. Could NLP strategies help to develop responsability in them and an outcome of success?

  • Oct 3 2011: The politics of education are complicated, and designed to ensure that the bottom 50% (or dare I say 75%?) stay exactly the bottom. Reform is no easy task, we've been talking about moving away from widget education for decades...but no real, large scale change happens. In fact, those places where it should really change most have become even more firmly entrenched in the "make me" model of education (inner-city, poverty schools).
    The students resist, the teachers force, nobody learns, and repeat.
    We are creating generations of increasingly dependent, poorly prepared people without any real skills (or knowledge for that matter).
    I teach in California, and have taken refuge in one of the few, small outposts of rebels. I teach in a charter school, independently run within a district and funded by district funds. This isn't exactly license to do exactly as we please, but it's an opportunity to work with more progressive teaching strategies on a larger scale. Our school follows the Big Picture Learning model, and our students gain experience and knowledge about the standards (because they never really go away) as well as real-life skills and passions through internships and project-based learning.
    So there are ways to circumvent the widget/make me educational plan...but the bureaucracy has to be set up in such a way that the rules can be stretched a little bit under carefully controlled conditions.
    Then suddenly, you see something beautiful. Engaged students, following their passions, thinking creatively and critically, growing as individuals, and learning on a worldly scale that makes traditional public school blush.
    • Oct 3 2011: Good for you Christa,

      it is so great that you found a way, both for yourself and the kids. As for me, I found refuge in facilitating the learning of Aboriginal children and adults on-Reserve. Going through "teachers college" was one of the most peculier forms of hell I've ever been in.... and I went through as an adult. This was after having spent years working with kids in a learning environment outside the "sacred halls" of education. I was told point blank by my Faculty Associate that my past experience working with children did not count. And let us not forget the great observation and pearl of wisdom she shared with me ... that I "refuse to learn, and that [she] is the expert ".

      I've seen many excellent, innovative, and enthusiastic teachers ground down and crushed to the point of either quitting, or being shadows of what they were. It's enough to make you cry. Talk about lateral oppression. If the nursing profession openly talks about how their nursing professionals "eat their young", they ought to take a look at education; ... they wrote the book.

      But you hit the nail on the head. In order to survive, keep hope, and live with ourselves, we as true facilitators have to find work outside the system.

      One of the most hilarious (not really funny) examples of where the public system's cognition is, (at least where I live in Canada), in terms of how to deal with those learners that don't conform and comply, is they put them into Learning Centres, aka Store Front schools aka Alternate schools ... (sounds like Studio schools doesn't it ... oh surprise!!). And guess what ... they are unwittingly using the principles of andragogy or theory of adult learning .... and they call it intervention! Imagine that, treat people with respect, give them an opportunity to take ownership and participate in their learning and it's considered a form of intervention.

      Enough said. Keep the faith.
  • Sep 29 2011: Mary, I may be having a senior moment, please remind me what you mean by NLP. Never-the-less, you raise a couple of points I would like to address.

    First, I don't believe the issue is a change in how humans learn, that pretty much remains the same. The issue, I believe, is how do we get our traditional education systems to adopt a method of curriculum delivery, assessment and reporting that is made for humans, not production line widgets.

    The second point you raise, is that of responsibility. Responsibility is not taught, it is given. When a learner is given back the freedom to make meaning for themselves and not forced to accept often incomprehensible meanings set by the teacher, wonderful things happen.

    The state education system has adopted the industrial revolution model in the out-dated and mistaken belief that humans can be treated as mindless widgets that are supposedly given more added value while captive, or in the production line for some 12-15 yrs. If what is attached to them doesn't stick, then they are considered defective and sent to "special class" to remedy a learning or behaviour disorder, or some other so-called deficit.

    What lies at the crux of this is that people forget that state education systems allow for so many years for a learner to get through .... it is a production line that uses the bell curve to determine the rate at which the most amount of fact or information sticks. Anyone who can't learn at the pace set in this race loses. By the same token, those who are bored because they are able to process the information, and make it stick faster, lose as well. Maybe what needs to be asked is, "Who allows this dysfunctional system to perpetuate?"

    I am continually amazed that educators, despite all they are supposed to have learned in terms of learning theory, still buy into this nonsense ... so here we are, in the same old rut still wringing our hands and crying "What to do ... what to do"?

    The answer to me is crystal clear.
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      Sep 30 2011: Politicians are to blame. They like everything condensed to a pie-chart, including students. It makes their job easier.

      Best thing to do is shelve idiotic ideas handed down by bureaucrats and put your students first. The bureaucrats never set foot in a classroom anyway.

      In NZ, our government has enforced National Standards to the point that they are sending ministry goons into schools that refuse to comply with their bureaucratic nonsense. This is in an age when the rest of the world is desperately seeking alternatives to standardised assessment.

      We have a great curriculum here - flexible and learner-centred. Unfortunately, the National Government came to power and they view education as a political tool only.

      Politicians are another concept from the industrial age that needs replacing for a new century.
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    Oct 4 2011: Thanks Christa for your accurate answer. You are completely right. I teach in a traditional public school and what I would like most is to get a sort of Manual in where I could find a study of the circunstances, conditions and rules that seem to be at the origin of this transformation of students which favor their jumping from apathy to engagement. Project learning by itself is not the answer ( I know), nor teaching methods alone to get all sort of students passionate in learning. There must be something else. Those real-life skills that encourage creativity and their growing as individuals. It is needed a model in which the complete itinerary is shown step by step to make students and teachers feel the world is at their fingerprints!
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    Oct 3 2011: Hello Scott. Thanks for your comment. Experience, certainly, has shown us that Politicians are not interested in developping an Education system in which people could learn to grow in all fields. Actually, it seems everything is organised according to the old Roman saying of "Pane and circensis" that guarantees them votes and job in power. Fear, criticism and a voluminous burocracy have been used to favor a lack of self-confidence in teachers. Of course, I agree with you that the solution, at least to boost personal confidence, is to put students first. They are the hope of tomorrow. However, I strongly believe, that teachers must ascertain their authority by changing their passive attitude, starting a universal union till they are recognized as the engine in transforming the Educational System.They are the experts.
    As for assessment, how can the burocratic system standarise something that doesn´t exist? Evaluation in certain countries only means passing to the following course. How? Well, nothing standardrised of course. Some students pass because they are good at science, others because they copy and paste, others because come to clase everyday and other because never come... Probably we need to find another word for assessment no-assessment.
    And yes, the crisis today has mainly to do with the way people rule the countries.
  • Oct 3 2011: Hello Mary,

    I agree with you on much of what you said ... especially the value of having worked in industry prior to becoming involved in education. If I had my way, no one would be allowed in the classroom as a teacher until they spent some time in industry, that goes for kindergarten as well as the primary and elementary grades. I know that could open a bag of snakes, but there is a good argument to support that concept.

    In terms of the social state taking incentive away from students who want to learn, the same can be said in more capitalistic countries but for different reasons ... the bottom line is that we all experience the same results. Regardless of the cause, (and there are many), people who want reform need to get organised, sit down with paper and pencil and list the obstacles that are getting in the way. Make a list of solutions to each obstacle, or at least a work-around (which could be dangerous).

    There are many places that don't want a particularly well educated populous ... in spite of the rhetoric. All one has to do is look at the way Paulo Freire's book "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" was forced underground, and Myles Horton's struggle to maintain his Highlander school.

    Education is always a form of revolution; we must always remember that, regardles of where we live. How far we can go in terms of providing the ordinary learner a reasonable opportunity to succeed, and the tools with which their success may be achieved is always a function of local and state "permission". That, unfortunately is the way it is.

    No one can live on and eat principle, especially if we have families. Every individual who teaches has to come to terms with how much of their principles they are willing to compromise. Nothing is free .... everything has a cost. It's a tough go if you are on the path of social justice ... which by the way, needs to start right in the classroom. If you want to see how far you can go, try creating a democratic, learner centred classroom.
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    Oct 2 2011: Thanks Ted for your words and encouragement. I think we are living a crucial moment. Traditional education is making evident its unusufulness as a global model. There are many logic reasons (Ken Robinson) but some emotional ones, as the feeling that has been hit ethically on both teachers and students and on the absent minded administration by the bubble of a gold rush. The weekness of the Education System cannot be hidden anymore.Actally,the Social System has sucked off our vital energy with its Policy of "take it easy boy" by putting aside effort and responsability. I have been teaching in different periods with a ten years parenthesis in contact with business and personal finance and this might have helped me to see the practical side of life. However, I am not a person that thinks that school should be ruled like a Firm - goals are different -but I believe that we teachers must start afresh with a new attitude towards our job. We are the ones who must sail the ship by giving value to our sailors, by sharing with them proposals, decisons and focus. Their motivation cannot sprout only from the teacher's resources and skills but also from their contribution, their own vision focussed on their own future outcomes with school as a catalyst. Education is the basis of sociaty. Success in life begins at school. Here, it is is a "must" to increase potential by transmitting optimism, persuasion, motivation,self- discipline, self- confidence and learning habits to make rapid learning simple. Our responsability is huge and we must train in strategies to persuade our students, all of them, to change attitude. We will all make profit out of it. Scott is quite right.
    As for assessment, a very difficult issue; a lot could be said. What is the real value of a specific assesment? Assessment- what for? Give us people eager to start a new day and then we can start filling it in with projects and action. How can an INNER assessment be taken WITH and FOR success?
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    Sep 30 2011: Good afternoon Wayne and thanks a lot for your comments and remarks. As for the answer is not "so crystal clear" for me, at least in the practice. I agree with you about the point that a learning process based on doing things is very rewarding for both students and teachers and it is true that our Educational System(The Spanish one) does not favor it.( It might have other goals in mind). However, I, as a teacher, am interested in solutions that can provide profit and happiness for both my students and myself. I mentioned NLP-Neuro Linguistic Programming-because it is considered the science of achievement as it focusses on reprogramming our minds for success. It takes into account people multiple intelligences( Gardner) in order to make them aware of their personal talents and become more self-confident to adopt a different attitude. It is true that responsability must be given back to the students, actually to the individuals of the whole Western Civilization( if we consider the confusion existing in all fields).However, we all have to contribute in putting into words our thoughts to make them become real ( George Steiner: The creative value of the Word)- If we change our way of thinking we can change reality, if teachers change approach and help students to view the world differently, a new reality will appear.
    The Education System created after the Industrial Revolution has become obsolete. We cannot send people to a special class anymore when sociaty needs flexibility to survive. In the era of high-tech, everything transforms fast. We cannot pretend changing things in order to leave everything remaining just the the same as The Prince of Salinas in "El Gatopardo",perhaps Politicians migt.
    If teachers are still in the old rut of "what do" it means that many are in the need of inner guidance to believe in themselves and in their mission.
    • Sep 30 2011: Thank you for your thoughtful response and what NLP means. I did not mean to be cryptic in when I said, the answer to me is crystal clear … I just ran out of words.

      As I alluded to in my comment’s re TED’s talk, and in my response to you, we run an uphill battle against the dominant discourse in terms of the average citizen’s perception of what good education is, and how it is to be achieved. In democratic countries (and by that, I do not mean capitalistic … two very different animals that do not mix very well), it is supposed to be the populous that has the power to change. If that is true, one might ask why is it that so many citizens of the world accept, and in many places demand what has become known as “formal” or traditional education, even though it didn’t work for them, and it's not working for their children either. In fact, I would go so far as to say, that we as a species are getting stupider and stupider because of it.

      Scott had one suggestion; to do what you as a teacher know deep in your heart to be right. Unfortunately that may only apply to curriculum delivery. The tough part comes when you must conform to a system of assessment and reporting that generally is standardized. I got around that by giving the students and parents a second assessment based on what the students actually accomplished, not what they were supposed to have accomplished in the time given (usually a semester or term).

      HOWEVER, and it is a big however, all of this is a function of the power and control school administrators have over their teachers. And by the way, don’t think for a moment teacher unions can help you. Their hands are usually tied as well. You need to have a courageous and strong chain of command that can support your efforts, and most importantly, defend your classroom practices. but this doesn't always work. In one school district in which I worked the superintendent was fired because he didn't fire me.

      To be continued, I am curious about your thoughts.