30 August, 2012

Writing Quote I Agree with

"The first thing I want to say to you, who are students, is that you cannot afford to think of being here to receive an education: you will do much better to think of being here to claim one. One of the dictionary definitions of the verb "to claim" is: to take as the rightful owner; to assert in the face of possible contradiction. "To receive" is to come into possession of: to act as receptacle or container for; to accept as authoritative or true. The difference is that between acting and being acted-upon…" –Adrienne Rich

I have to concur with Rich on this quote.  Regrettably, our public education system has created a sense of “being acted upon.”  If there is a doubt, simply ask the students who are "products" of public education: they complain of the reading they HAVE to do; they complain of the writing they HAVE to do; they complain of HAVING to be in school and “march to the beat of ‘someone else’s” drum instead of their own.   

Partly, I believe this is true simply due to teenage rebelliousness and angst: there are always thousands of things more engaging for me than reading, writing, and being in school.  However, I was talking with my high school senior just this week who had seen “Shift Happens” for the first time in her high school.  I have been showing this same YouTube video to the 8th graders who come to campus since around 2008. . . .Yet she acted as this was “new stuff” to her.  That is because she was engaged by the instructor who was “talking” her language: digital delivery. Her video experience in fall 2012--along with the experiences of her three, older sisters--confirm for me that public school is really geared for students to "receive" not to "claim."

Secondly, I have to confess the Sir Ken Robinson has also had an impact on my thinking.  His little video, "Changing Education Paradigms" certainly validated for me my own thinking about public schools: the schools in North Carolina are still in the early to mid 20th century factory mindset. Schools look like factories (unless they have been built in the last 15 years or so).  Schools move students around by the ringing of bells.  Schools batch students like "products" in terms of their ages, even tho' any self-respecting educator realizes students learn at their own pace and in their own way.

Lastly, I have to agree with Rich's assertion that students must "claim," e.g. "take as the rightful owner," their education.  The idea that adult students are "tabula rasa" has been refuted over and over again. Students come to post-secondary, and even secondary education, with a plethora of experiences and knowledge upon which they can stake the claim to THEIR education.  Certainly, with our digital natives, we have to acknowledge that students believe they no longer need us for information.

However, as I keep reminding my faculty, our students DO need us to place this information into a useful context and we offer a safe place for them to explore wide ranging information they may not pursue in their homes or their "home community."  Faculty still have a critical role in students' lives and their success! And I believe that is the heart of Rich's quote: students take claim and faculty facilitate that process for them.

My Eyes on the Prize

Friday, August 17, 2012

[Since you are writing on this prompt, I believe I should, too. I am sorry that I was late in getting started; however, I was looking for my blog and I have started several.  This one is the first I found.  So here is my response:]

Whenever I hear the phrase "Eyes on the Prize," my mind rushes back about 20+ years ago to the summer term here at Davidson County Community College.  I was teaching ENG 113, a research/library course and I had chosen for the focus of this course the 1960s.  A significant part of my course was to show the PBS series, "Eyes on the Prize" which was exploring the American civil rights struggle from post WWII forward.

However, this prompt is asking me about my "prize": what is it that is my motivation.  For me, the answer is simple: I am motivated to get up every day so I can learn something new.

I know what you are thinking: "You are saying this for us students; you want us to think about this issue." And you are dead wrong.  I do not expect you to have the same motivations I have.  I have reflected on my motivation to learn.  When did it start?  How did it evolve?

The first event that I can recall is a time when my brother and I were in Cub Scouts.  I was in fifth grade and my brother is about 16 months younger than I am.  We were at the "hut" where the scouts meet once a month for the "big" meeting. And my brother came out of the bathroom laughing.  I asked him what was so funny and he reported something that I thought would explode my brain: he was laughing because of a phrase he had seen on the bathroom wall: "F*** a Duck."

Why do I return to this event for the genesis of my motivation being learning?  I believe it is because this is the first time I believe I was conscious of my own thinking.  I vividly recall how incensed I was that my brother was using THAT word and was laughing about it!  I was fearful about the implications if my parents heard him saying it: I would be blamed for teaching him this word.  And this was "THE" word; it was imbued with an unbelievable amount of power.  It was one of the words that could not be said on radio or TV.  And my brother was making a joke of it!

For the rest of my life--after that event--I have been consumed with learning stuff.  Whether it is what I learned formally in school--I have been in school since 1971 except for two years when I sold shoes for Thom McCan--or learned informally--through conversations with others or through reading or through accessing the world wide web.  Learning is my heart and soul.  I did not make me rich in my pocket book, but it certainly has enriched my life.