Vision for public education in Georgia: A conversation
To the editor:
Recently, the Vision for Public Education in Georgia (VPEG) folks held the latest of their "Community Conversations" at Henry County High School.
After a nice introduction by Dr. Bill Barr, we divided into groups; my group included seven adults and a facilitator. Our mission was to have a conversation, "What our dream classroom would look like ten years from now." The facilitator was to write our suggestions on a butcher pad. I have used this type of scenario before, and it worked quite well, maybe too well. Four of the members in my group quickly began having their own group conversation, excluding the other three.
Maybe our facilitator should have brought a talking-stick. For those of you who are unaware, a talking-stick is a stick, or object, you pass around, and the person holding the stick talks.
After awhile, I became a bit agitated. We were all there to talk about public education. Out of desperation, I finally blurted out, "In my dream classroom, my students have mastered their Academic Discipline Skills." My interruption garnered looks from the Fabulous-Four as chilling as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Then, came the inevitable inquisition; what is Academic Discipline? Foolishly, I answered the question. "One example of an Academic Discipline Skill is when a student is Prepared to Participate in class." The Fabulous-Four looked at me for a moment as one views vomit, and promptly went back to their private-community conversation. There was a bright moment, the facilitator did write in small letters, "Academic Discipline Skills."
My favorite Academic Discipline Skill list is: Prompt, Polite, Positive, Patient, Prepared, Productive, Participate, Silence, Respect, and not saying or doing the first thing that comes to mind.
After that, I just sat and listened. Next, they started on teaching in ladders. Simple me, I thought that you first built a solid foundation by teaching kids to read. Then, you built their education upon that foundation, brick-of-knowledge, by brick-of-knowledge, until done. This talk of ladders left me begging to ask a question. If we teach in ladders, what do we lean the ladder against for support, so that students can climb up the ladder?
Then, they started talking about teaching in spirals. This must have been about math. I have been trying to help my son with eighth-grade math all year. This spiraling business finally explains why I have been so dizzy and confused.
When I got home, I casually mentioned to my oldest, living child, "They seemed put off to my one suggestion."
"Have you considered the difference in how you were dressed?" she asked.
"You know that I know better than to judge someone only by how they are dressed."
"Yes" she said, "but, do they?"
Maybe, that was the problem; my clothes put them off.
You just have to love someone who wears sandals, shorts, and a bright green Hawaiian floral print shirt. If I had known there was a dress code requirement for respect, I would have worn my Winnie the Pooh and Tigger tie.
Otherwise, it was a great meeting, and I wish the VPEG folks lots of luck. Next time, I will wear the tie.