Leave Some Energy For Yourself

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Why I collapsed on the job

A good story by a tenured professor about our limited stores of energy. So many committees, students, curricula, and of course let’s not forget research. Good warning to the wise. May I never be so exhausted, myself.

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Leave Some Energy For Yourself

A Remarkable Strategy to Stop Bullying

Relevant today, and every day.

“Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed 
by their peers. And she’s pinning down—right away—who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.”

A Strategy to Stop Bullying

A Remarkable Strategy to Stop Bullying

Farewell to a beloved teacher

This video moved me very much because I remember spending 13 years in a small private school, and I remember how small and tight our community used to be.

But nothing prepared me for the emotion that I would feel, when watching the emotion and love as an entire school of young men said goodbye to a beloved teacher.

May we all be so loved and respected and celebrated at least once in our lives.

At assembly this morning we bid farewell to Mr. John Adams, the school Guidance Counsellor, who is retiring from teaching. Mr. Adams is moving to Nelson to be closer to his family so that he can dedicate more of his time to them. Mr. Adams has provided thirty years of dedicated service to Palmerston North Boys’ High School in New Zealand. (April 2016)
Farewell to a beloved teacher

What are Ethics? [video]

Although we might not realize it, we all face ethical issues on a regular basis. But how do we know how to respond well to these issues, to make better (as opposed to worse) ethical decisions? In this TEDx talk Dr. Michael D. Burroughs discusses the numerous kinds of ethical issues we face, possibilities for increasing our ethical awareness as “everyday ethicists,” and the importance of introducing ethics and philosophical education in our schools. Dr. Burroughs also discusses the role of ethics in the lives of children and ways in which adults can attempt to understand and learn from children in ethical discussions.

Why are we avoiding issues of ethics, and why are we avoiding engaging in respectful and civil dialogue about ethics? Many people simply do not have the tools to address issues of ethics.

Dr. Burroughs works with small children (ages 3, 4 or 5 years old) and observes the sense of ethics that already exists in people of such a young age. The respect, humility and eagerness to recognize issues of fairness and ethics is already displayed in young children.

When children already have such an ingrained sense of ethics, at what point of our lives do we begin to doubt this sense, or even lose it? This video inspired me, and made me think about my own ethical journey. I hope that you will enjoy this video as well.

What are Ethics? [video]

Ethical Coercion, Alternate Points of View

In the Skillful Teacher, Brookfield (2015) takes on a topic that I found arresting at first: ethical coercion. In this intriguing section of his book, he first discusses the work of Ian Baptiste who states that “teachers can’t help but be directive in their actions, despite avowals of neutrality or noninterference” (p. 247). This means that instructors must, at times, impose their preferences and agendas on their learners.

Sometimes, Brookfield continues, instructors should “refuse to do what [students] ask, thereby risking accusations that we are ignoring their requests”. An example that he provides concerns critical thinking – refusing “to comply with their request for the right answer, appearing to contradict the notion of responsiveness” (p. 249).

The intriguing thinker behind this view is Herbert Marcuse: “Marcuse argues that it is educationally crucial that learners be exposed to alternative, often dissenting, ideologies and perspectives, even though they do not see the necessity for this. For [Marcuse] this is the practice of liberating rather than repressive tolerance. Marcuse argues that without knowing the full range of options, viewpoints, or ideologies surrounding an issue, students cannot make a truly informed judgment as to which directions they wish to explore more deeply.” (p. 249). Brookfield then continues: “…this is the only way that teachers can ensure students will be availed of the full range of knowledge, facts and interpretations that exist on any issue.”

Learners need exposure to all available information and perspectives so that they can make informed choices about what to learn. Some of these choices might be unusual, uncomfortable, illogical at first, or completely foreign. Offering these ideas, at times contrarian approaches, and opening the discussion in class to examine these points of view offers a rich educational experience.

I was impressed by these few pages in Brookfield’s book, as I often assign case studies to my B Tech students. They work in groups on complex case studies and present their issues, assumptions, alternatives and recommendations to the class, every two weeks. A set of alternatives is evaluated, broken into components and quickly dismissed by one team; whereas one of these alternatives may be explored to its logical end by another team. I relish the moments when class presentations become heated discussions about the rights and wrongs of a particular point of view (about doing business in China, for example) and everyone in the class joins in, passionately describing why their alternative is the correct one and why their proposed recommendations form the best approach for the case study.

In my introductory courses, however, my students shy away from critical thinking, and like to return to their safe place of rote learning. By providing small examples in class of situations where they have to think beyond what they know, and make guesses (egads!) which we then can re-frame as assumptions, I hope to turn my young learners into future case study enthusiasts. That road is long – and it will take a few years – but already I sense that a few of my young students are keen to explore, to draw a line in the sand, and make a guess about a marketing direction, a business decision, and a path to new products and new successes.

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Classroom (1939) – Image by Jack Delano. Library of Congress. No Copyright.

Reference

Brookfield, S. D. (2015) The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass.

Ethical Coercion, Alternate Points of View