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Rigor, Relevance, Relationships

Friday, May 14, 2010

The new buzz phrase in our Dept of Ed is Rigor, Relevance, Relationships - basic concept is that you can teach students more rigorous information if you make it relevant to their lives, something they can relate other learning with this new info, and have a good and trusting relationship with the students.

Gee, why didn't I come up with a catchy title and market strategy for this?

Our school was evaluated by a crew of RRR professionals, and most teachers are working in what they call Quadrant A - meaning teacher-driven information, student absorption via notes and listening and reading - the usual chalk and talk.

But our building - the visual art, technical and career ed (business and computers, voc ed, home ec of yesterday), and even Spanish teachers - all use RRR. We don't know how to teach WITHOUT giving students information, then having the students use the info in hands-on, real-world situations. Can you imagine teaching sewing without having the students actually SEW something? Or cooking without having students read a recipe and MAKE something? Or business, without writing/typing letters and reports? Or industrial design and drafting, without actually designing and drawing objects????? Or Spanish without having students make arts and crafts projects from various Hispanic cultures, in addition to vocabulary and speaking and writing and labelling objects???

So our wing of the school is working in Quadrant D - meaning real-life problem-solving projects that use critical thinking skills and incorporate other subject areas (i.e. math, science, social studies, language arts). Like my murals.

And we're baffled that the rest of the teachers - the "core" subject area teachers - can't seem to incorporate lessons in the same way. I mean, look at math - give students catalogues and a "budget" and let them "shop" - they'll learn basic math - tell them today only they have a 15% discount on certain items, 20% on others, etc. - they'll learn how to work with percentages very quickly. I could go on and on - but we talked among ourselves, and we'd like to see the "core" teachers come and observe our classes, they could learn a thing or two about RRR. (And yes, I nicely suggested this to our principal, but he didn't buy into the idea.)
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    Arrrgh: you've neatly nutshelled what I loved about teaching and hated as teacher AND as student about the institutions where the teaching happened (and the learning often didn't). I'm not persuaded that teachers can be taught: they either "get it" (and you do) or they don't, never will, and don't confuse them with anyone who cares either!!
    2867 days ago
    2867 days ago
    You are so right. My son was just telling me about a field trip to a baseball game that his class took. He thought the 'lessons' provided were pretty lame so he added on a few of his own. For example, before they could order at the snack bar, each student had to tell him what their order was going to cost. Simple arithmetic, and these are fifth graders, but at least a real life lesson.
    2868 days ago
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