Here's My Future (4)

Here's My Future (4)

In Here’s My Future I’m talking about my transfer from a traditional school after seven years to an integrated, more alternative school and all the changes that this change brings for my profession.

A student recently told me something that I found astounding, not because it was a revolutionary insight, but because a 7th grader expressed it, showing an emotional depth and openness that most adults couldn’t even imagine having. We talked about some exercise and then he said: “I’ve always thought if you’re bad at something, you’ll always be bad at it. But now I see that you can actually get better! You don’t have to stay bad.” Having a kid realize that change, especially personal change, is possible, is more gratifying than you can imagine. This is still representative for my experiences at this school.

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Here's My Future (3)

Here's My Future (3)

In Here’s My Future I’m talking about my transfer from a traditional school after seven years to an integrated, more alternative school and all the changes that this change brings for my profession.

I’m sitting at my new school now, at my desk, in my room. It’s the end of my third week and I feel both exhilarated and exhausted. It has been quite a ride, so much has happened, I’ve learned and saw a lot and even if I sometimes feel frustrated, my overall feelings definitely lean more to the positive side. Here’s why.

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Here's My Future (2)

Here's My Future (2)

In Here’s My Future I’m talking about my transfer from a traditional school after seven years to an integrated, more alternative school and all the changes that this change brings for my profession.

I’m sitting at my school right now, as the minutes tick down to my grandiose, silly goodbye ceremony that I agreed upon for some obscure need for closure. It’s the kind of thing I tend to hate (and used to skip in the past), in part done by people I’m happy to never see again. But this is the end, my friend, and for some reason I feel like going through with it until it’s over. But it’s also the beginning.

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Here's My Future (1)

Here's My Future (1)

In Here’s My Future I’m talking about my transfer from a traditional school after seven years to an integrated, more alternative school and all the changes that this change brings for my profession.

This is something I had wanted to do for a while and couldn’t because it wasn’t official, but now I don’t know how to start. I have been writing critically about school very often and made it clear that I have some issues with the school I am working at right now. So, after spending a lot of (too much) time considering my situation, I decided to leave my school and find something else. This will happen soon now and I thought this is a good opportunity to first talk about the whys and whats and to continually document the changes and challenges I will encounter in the coming weeks and months, if only to process myself what is happening now. But maybe this is interesting to others to, so join me in taking a leap of faith into new territory.

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The Problem

The Problem

What’s the problem? So, you tell us Kant said that we should neither be too lazy to use our own minds, nor too scared to question authority. And that Rousseau said that we shouldn’t teach children to try to be reasonable, that school teaches us useless knowledge and that teachers just think of themselves. We get it, really, but, you know, so what? Where’s the problem?

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10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 10: Teacher Focus

10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 10: Teacher Focus

Finally, after all those weeks (actually, it’s been almost 5 months!), we get to the last part of this series. And we finish with a major issue that dictates most conversations we have about school: teachers. Teachers seem to belong to schools as much as students and the way they act in school seems natural and inevitable. It is one of the biggest problems our school system because it puts the focus in the wrong place. The focus of course is on the teachers themselves. They are the node where everything comes together and where the fate of every student is decided. One of the most common expressions when talking about school is “Well, that depends on the teacher.” Let’s break down what exactly that means.

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10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 9: Subjects

10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 9: Subjects

We’re moving closer towards the finishing line and for the penultimate chapter we look at something that’s similar to the curriculum, the idea of dividing school in different subjects to be taught. Again, it’s something we consider to be natural and hard to imagine any other way, but if you break it down, it becomes somewhat problematic (as anything else, I guess).

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I Still Want to Hear What You Have Got to Say (Even If You Don't Like Me)

I Still Want to Hear What You Have Got to Say (Even If You Don't Like Me)

It’s that time of the year again, the end of the school year, the summer seems so close and school is dragging as bad as the worst internet connection. I wrote about that time about a year ago (or, hold your hats, 203 posts ago!) and I thought it’s interesting to go back to that topic again. The topic being feedback.

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10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 8: Age-Based Classes

10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 8: Age-Based Classes

Another aspect of school that seems so essential that you don’t even think about it, which is the fact that the different classes are based on age. What does that mean exactly? It means that normally kids in grade 7 are between 12 and 13, in grade 8 between 13 and 14 and so on. That is the natural order of things, it seems. When I see kids I don’t know, I’m pretty good at guessing which class there are in and then I can convert that into an age. Not the other way around. And it works because if you’re older or younger, you are an exception to the rule. Alright, you say, but where is the problem? Well, there is more than one.

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Once Upon a Time in the Projects (Yo)

Once Upon a Time in the Projects (Yo)

Back in part 2 of my ongoing Basic Principles series, I mentioned that I had some time for experiments in my two 8th grade classes. Today I want to talk about what those experiments became, how they worked and turned out, but also what battles I had to fight over them. It’s not quite Here’s Your Future but it’s not without its ups and downs.

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10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 7: Class Size

10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 7: Class Size

The amount of students in a class is a constant discussion topic for teachers. “I don’t mind 5th graders, but 30 of them in one room…!” (you can replace 5th with 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th by the way). “I don’t mind correcting exams, but 30 of them…!” “I can remember students’ names, but 30 of them…!” It always comes back to the same thing. A little amount of it would be fine, but multiplied by 20 or 30 is just too much. If a teacher gets lucky and gets a small class of 15 or even less, other teachers will look at her with jealous or dreamy eyes, fantasizing  about how awesome that would be. Maybe this is the only thing almost any teacher would agree on when it comes to problems in our school system.

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10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 6: 45/90-Minute Lessons

10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 6: 45/90-Minute Lessons

What happens in school when the bell rings to signal the beginning of the lesson? Some few teachers are ready to start teaching, some start walking to their classes, most start getting up from their seats, often moaning and sighing, some few don’t react at all for a few more minutes. It’s similar with students, except there is more sounds of distress and most of them only get up because they get into trouble if they don’t.

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10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 5: The Curriculum

10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 5: The Curriculum

Ugh, the curriculum. Of all the topics I dreaded this the most, so maybe it’s good not to put it off much longer. The curriculum is this weird thing that is something completely obscure for students, who nevertheless hate it because many teachers use it as an excuse for doing boring topics. “Why do we have to do this?” “Because it’s in the curriculum.” It’s a comfortable answer for teachers but basically a non-answer for students. To them it’s almost a myth, that mysterious guidelines which teachers follow all the time and which tells them exactly what to do. Does that sound like reality?

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10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 3: Grades

10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 3: Grades

 

This is a big one. Grades are both so essential and problematic in this system that it’s hard to know where to start. Everything I wrote already is based on grades in one way or another and some of the other aspects are too. Would we rate anything we watch, read and play, if we weren’t used to grades through school? Aren’t grades systemic for this culture that always defines who is best, who is on top, who is in the upper class, who has the highest number of anything? What better way to instill this thinking in children than through school?

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10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 2: Class Tests, Tests and Exams

10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 2: Class Tests, Tests and Exams

Teachers always have an ace up their sleeves, the ultimate threat to make students shut up and pay attention. “You know we write a class test soon, so maybe you should listen, if you don’t want to fail!” It often works, even the worst students at least pretend to listen now because they know they ought to. Sometimes “good” students remind others of the impending class tests, to get them to their senses, unable to understand how you can’t take it more seriously. The more effective tactic is to just threaten with a surprise test to keep everyone in check. If that makes teaching sound like training dogs not to bite, then that’s what some teachers make it sound like. And class tests and tests, written examinations in general, are the standard methods of authority in school, accepted and expected.

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10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 1: Homework

10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 1: Homework

I decided to start a meta-series about school. After discussing the principles of our school system with a class again (something I do on a regular basis), I thought that it would be interesting to look at everything that we consider basic aspects of this system and discuss what doesn’t work about it and why. “Wait,” you say, “does that mean you’re trying to dismantle the school system from the ground up?” Well, yes, in a way, but I also want to look at those aspects and see what could work or how you could change it. But still, I do believe our school system is one of the biggest problems in our society, shaping young people in a way that makes them accept many absurdities and lies that keeps our culture alive and destructive. So any suggested change is relative to my overall disregard of this system. Note also by the way, that when I say “our school system” I mainly talk about the German school system as I know it. I know there are other systems or simply other schools (which is one way I was inspired to write this), but I’m sure much of it also resonates elsewhere. So, here you go, the 10 basic principles of our school system as I see it (in no particular order):

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Opportunists Don't Knock

Opportunists Don't Knock

In my 8th grade I’m doing something I normally don’t do: I do what everyone does. Which, in this case, means reading Wilhelm Tell by Schiller, the standard drama 8th graders have to get through. I’m not a fan of Schiller (or Goethe) and had in fact never read the play at all, so in a way it was an experiment for me and I never shy away from an experiment. Also I thought, this being basically a play about a rebel fighting an oppressive government, there must be something in it for me and therefore also for the students. Up to now I would say it sort of works. The language is tough for everyone (including me), but there are interesting aspects to discuss, from resistance to superheroes.

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