Posts Tagged ‘pedagogy’

All of us are teachers in some way or another.  Some of us teach as parents, some teach as grandparents, some teach the very young in Head Start and Montessori, others may teach K-12, and still others may teach in higher education arenas such as vocational/technical schools, community colleges, state colleges, and universities.  Some teachers are called coaches and they work in the community in all the sports from baseball, to football, to basketball, and soccer, and even cheer leading.  Some are teachers at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, or with the scouting organizations, or at Sunday school, the temple, or the Mosque, but teach we do in a thousand different ways.

More importantly we all teach by our example whether we are at work, at play, on vacation, in the store, or walking the dog.  We teach good habits and bad ones.  Remember the old saying that a child learns more from what you do than what you say.  I watched my father smoke cigarettes as I grew up and so in high school I took up smoking.  Fortunately for me, I quit early on when they went to 50 cents a pack. I told my girlfriend that the price was way too high and did she know what I could do with that 50 cents!

One of my favorite books on teaching and learning is by Robert Leamnson titled Thinking about Teaching and Learning Developing Habits of Learning with First Year College and University Students. In his introduction he says that philosophy influences our pedagogy or how we teach.  So he ends the introduction chapter with his “own personal minimal list of elements that should go into a philosophy of teaching and they are as follows:

1.  Develop a clear and explicit concept of what learning is.

2.  Language is at the heart of the matter.

3.  Beware the “preposterism.”

4.  Know the clientele.

5.  Believe that what you do makes a difference.

6.  If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

7.  Helping implies loving (pages 7-8).

To discover what some of these mean you’ll have to get the book, but for now I want to share my thoughts on three of them:  4, 5, and 7.

For me number four “Know the clientele” is imperative.  He says “Students must be known as they come to us and not as we would like them to be.  Knowing includes their culture, their level of preparedness, and their intellectual and emotional needs (page 7).”  In South Florida we have students enter our colleges from all around the world.   From every nation and culture and religion and they are all welcome.  So knowing each of their cultures, traditions, and religious beliefs is not an easy task, but it is an important one.  That is if you want to be able to help your students learn and grow and develop as thinking, caring, human beings who have mastered your subject matter, while at the same time be someone who will be able to move our country and the world to a better place in which to live.

For number 5 “Believe that what you do makes a difference.”  Leamnson writes, “What we do is different from what we know.  How we present our discipline to students is as important as what we present (page 7).” So how are we presenting the material?  Are we just boring them to death with our words, lectures, and Cliff Notes?   Or are we getting them involved in real life experiences to help them learn the subject.  Are we immersing them in the issues, rules, theories, and principles in such a way that they can see them in living breathing examples within their world?  Or are they just learning and remembering enough to pass your final exam and get on to their next class?

Lastly, number seven “Helping implies loving.”  Here Leamnson writes, “We work hard and go that extra mile for those we love.  We will go about our teaching more seriously and energetically if we love our students (page 8).”  I love my students and I am so honored to be able to stand in front of the classroom whether I am teaching developmental English at Broward College, or medical transcription at Kaplan University, or business writing, mindfulness, or ethics for a corporate client.  I know that if I can just share with them one tip, idea, theory, or principle that will help them communicate more carefully, fully, and correctly it may help them get a great job, gain that promotion, impress their boss, teacher, or family member.  And maybe—just maybe—it will help them to love and appreciate themselves more.  And when they do that it will help them get better grades, get that promotion, and move up their level of self-esteem, pride, and self-worth.

If each of us does that it will allow us to watch this world grow and become a better more compassionate and loving place to live.  Teaching is not just a philosophy—it is a way of life.  I challenge you to teach those positive attributes that you have learned throughout your life.  Teach them to everyone you meet by your example and together we can watch the planet transform.

Teach your philosophy by living  your philosophy!



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I quoted last time from Dr. Rendon’s wonderful book Sentipensante (Sensing/Thinking) Pedagogy and as I read further into the book I was excited to see how she blends spiritual elements into her pedagogy to help her students learn not only the content but the ability to be good citizens in their communities.

She goes on to say ”The spiritual elements in Sentipensante Pedagogy include the use of diverse forms of contemplative practice, which may do two things: (a) quiet the mind to allow for the cultivation of deep insights and personal awareness, and (b) activate the senses as learners engage in social activism and self-transformation (page 141).”

Let’s not forget that regardless of our age, education, or time spent in school we are all learners!  We are learning something each and every day.  Maybe you read a newspaper, magazine, or book and discovered something that you did not know before.  It could be as simple as a new way to cook all the squash you’ve got growing in your backyard garden to a more beautiful route that you can take to the grocery store.  But learning you are!

Most of us would love to be able to quiet our minds, as Dr. Rendon says, to be able to go deep within ourselves to discover who we “really” are, to find out what our potential is, to discover how we can make our schools, towns, states and our country a better place for everyone to grow and blossom in.  For some it may be through social activism and for others it may come through self-transformation or maybe it is through both.

Even my 92-year-old mother has said to me many times, “I need a job.  I’ve got to be doing something.” It is not that easy to explain to her that no one is going to hire a 92-year-old woman with dementia so I try to find some thing that she is doing daily that is kind of like a job and is helping others.  It can be as simple as being kind and helpful at the Alzheimer’s Daycare Center with the other people who attend there, or when she tells a story to the staff that makes them laugh and lightens up their day.  When that sinks in she is excited to get on the bus to what she calls “school or work” the next morning.

Dr. Rendon goes on to write, “Consequently, contemplative practice is two-dimensional.  Contemplation may involve stillness and quieting the mind.  Yet it may also involve stirring the soul, shaking up the learner’s belief system, fostering a social justice consciousness, developing wisdom, and in the end transforming the self (page 141).”

I sat this morning at Zen contemplating a Koan that I am working on and came upon an interesting thought that when things are “broken” they are not always fixable for whatever reason.  Sometimes the problems are too large and maybe I just need to look at them from a different vantage point.  Maybe I need to give them more time, or be more creative in my thinking about the situation.  Maybe I just need to leave it alone until such time as the answer appears on its own.  Maybe I need to not force an answer, solution, or idea.

Imagine what a great tool it would be for our students if we taught them how to use contemplation and meditation tools to help them engage with problem solving, decision making, and more.  To use these tools to help them quiet down the “monkey mind” that rages in their heads all day and sometimes all night long.

The school of life is daunting, beautiful, fantastic, challenging, and unpredictable.  Spending time in quiet meditation and contemplation can help us and our students get our lives together and find a simple and peaceful way of living.  We can get off the playground where all the “kids” are running and jumping, and yelling and fighting and kicking, and go to the playground where the people are laughing and smiling and sharing and enjoying each others company in peaceful conversations and discussions.

Which playground are you on today?




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What Laura Rendon, author of Sentipensante (Sensing/Thinking) Pedagogy: Educating for Wholeness, Social Justice and Liberation, talks about in her book is so relevant to the situations occurring in our world today.  The actions by the militants in Libya and Egypt, the creation of a totally inaccurate and prejudice video about Islam from a nut case in California, and the threat to burn the Koran by the crazy minister in Florida, plus the “shoot from the lip” response from Romney about the crisis in Egypt and Libya are a direct result of their education being at odds with Rendon’s research and philosophy on teaching.  She writes:

               ” What does it mean to be truly educated in the world today? We are being challenged to educate students for a complex future with ever-ending, ever more difficult social, political, and cultural challenges that test our ability to make sound, ethical, and moral decisions, as well as to make the world peaceful, equitable, and survivable.  The entrenched belief system privileges separation, monodisciplinarity, competition, intellectualism, and passivity at the expense of collaboration, transdisciplinarity, intuition, and active learning, especially that focused on social change (p.135).”

Modern religious education in America and around the world frequently teaches our children to be separate, different, better “than,” and always right.  It does not teach them to be independent free thinkers but automatons, unquestioning, and rigid.  It creates death, destruction, wars, hatred, and misogyny.  It separates rather than joins, it hates rather than loves.  It fears rather than shares. It kills rather than heals.

And yet right now we see this going on here and abroad and we do nothing about it in our school systems.  We have the teachers on strike in Chicago because the politicians want to run the schools and they have had absolutely no education in teaching, pedagogy, administration, counseling, social work, or psychology.  All of which are imperative to run a classroom, a student counseling office, or a principal’s office.

We’ve even allowed them to re-write our curriculum and take “science” out of our classrooms and textbooks and teach “creationism” and “abstinence only” instead!  The nuts have taken over the nut house now they have taken over the school house as well! In Texas they have even taken Thomas Jefferson out of the history books because he fathered a child with a slave!  Yikes… What next?  Do we take Einstein out of the theory of relativity because he was a Jew?  Or how about taking Maria Curie out of our science books because she was a woman?  Even though her work included pioneering research on radioactivity, and she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences.  That will be next if these types of people are given additional power in our school systems here and around the world.

Rendon goes on to say:

                “In our quest to transform the entrenched belief system, we must be willing to address questions such as: Why have I not broken out of a belief system that is oppressive in nature for many students and faculty?  How is my behavior upholding power structures in the academy? What do I believe about who can and cannot learn? How am I choosing my curriculum—what assumptions do I follow, and is the curriculum truly inclusive and multicultural in nature?  If not, what prevents me from doing this and why am I going along with this limiting view of knowledge (p. 135-6)?”

If these questions are not answered by us and by all countries and their leaders I hate to see what kind of world our children will grow up in.  What will happen with this lack of knowledge, love, and compassion for all beings, all religions, and our slowly dying planet Earth?  Sometimes I am glad that I am old enough that I will not live to see these potentially devastating outcomes.

Today is the day for each of us to BE the change that we want to see in the world….what will you do to make that happen?

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