Monday, May 24, 2010

Joy and Kindness at School

I recently read a blog post that I came across through my online Personal Learning Network (PLN), entitled “Three,” by Kirsten Olson. In her post, Ms. Olson proposes three answers to the question, “What must we do to transform schools into places of authentic, democratic learning?” Kirsten’s answers are:
  1. Adults in school should experience joy in learning every day.
  2. Teaching should be organized around learning, not controlling children, testing students, managing institutions, providing employment for adults.
  3. Schools should be kinder places.
After each of her answers Kirsten explains a bit and then writes, “Think of how that might change things for kids.”

Kirsten’s first and third points really hit home for me. When I think about schools and teachers, I often focus on their attitude and tone. I look to hire teachers who talk about liking children and being enthusiastic in class. While evaluating teachers, I often use this phrase from the Professional Standards for Teachers in the Boxford Public Schools, “Conveys knowledge of and enthusiasm for his/her academic discipline(s) to students.“ In other words, the teacher acts like she likes being at school.

I also often write in evaluations that a teacher, “Builds positive relationships with students and parents to enhance students' abilities to learn effectively.“ As important as skills and knowledge are to being a good teacher, a teacher’s attitude towards learning and towards the children is just as important and maybe even more so.

During the last three years, we have talked about the Fish philosophy. To sum it up, we should all do the following to make our jobs and our lives

I am lucky that so many teachers that I’ve worked with embody this attitude. Now, if the rest could as well.

Think of how that might change things for kids.