Friday, March 16, 2007

Animal School Allegory

I just caught the five-minute video Animal School from Raising Small Souls. Combined with beautiful nature photography and music is a simple but meaningful allegory on the vast variety of students that teachers like myself encounter on a daily basis, and how our curriculum, federal and state mandates, and testing fail to acknowledge and nurture the unique contribution and talents (and challenges) inherent to each student.

When I reflect on my teaching, I try to reflect on my learning--how it looks and what if feels like to me as a student. In the story, the curriculum is made up of a four-discipline curriculum: flying, running, climbing and swimming. Of course, not every animal can do all of these with A+ quality. The curriculum is cookie-cutter, factory, standardized. We see that some students are forced to repeat what they are not good at to the detriment of where their talents lie. For me, in high school my talents definitely did not lie in mathematics despite my love for the subject. By my sophomore year, my love of doing geometry proofs belied my ability to do them correctly. I was thankful for consumer math the next year, could not advance to Chemistry II nor physics as an upperclassman, but instead discovered talents in graphic arts and theater that continue to be valuable to me today. Each student has his own journey. Had I been forced to take math and sciences I would not only have failed them and lowered my QPA but also would not have had the time in my schedule to discover my artistic and theatrical talents and create art that I still enjoy in my home today, that led to a successful career path in advertising, public relations, teaching, and publishing, and that continues to enrich me in recreation.

I could have be kangaroo if I were a student today. Fortunately, I grew up with the reforms of the 1960s not the 2000s. As I try to equip my students for their futures, I borrow on my past.

If you cannot view a video on your computer, click here for the text.

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