Getting ready to learn

Chapter 1, paragraph 1, page 3 (PDF version):

“When one travels around the world, one notices to what an extraordinary degree human nature is the same, whether in India or America, in Europe or Australia. This is especially true in colleges and universities. We are turning out, as if through a mould, a type of human being whose chief interest is to find security, to become somebody important, or to have a good time with as little thought as possible.” — J.Krishnamurti, Education and the Significance of Life

School hasn’t officially started and I since don’t teach students in the summer months this post will be less about my classroom and more about my work as an ELL (English Language Learner) Specialist.  As a Specialist I spend June and July researching everything from federal and state policy on education, to what it means to be “college and career ready.” I spend hours deciphering the language of the Common Core State Standards, exploring developments in pedagogy and andragogy, familiarizing myself with changes in standardized assessments, attending conferences where I can collaborate, pose questions, and only hope to spark an interest in new ways of bringing equity to academic education. (K is likely turning over in his grave at the thought that anyone this interested in his book is as heavily imbedded in “the system” as I am!) Any and all of these topics eventually get blended into an infinite number of professional development sessions, workshops, and trainings. Many of which I create, all of which I deliver for educators and administrators. You might also find me coaching and mentoring teachers and colleagues throughout the year. So when does the teaching come in? My classroom work with students will resume in mid-August and runs through the end of May, but a Specialists (and a teacher’s) work is never done!

The most fulfilling aspect of my role as an ELL Specialist is being an advocate. I’ll take any opportunity I can find to discuss the classroom conditions and learning needs of students who are also learning English while learning academic content. (That’s a lot of learning in one sentence.) Although it’s unlikely that K had multilingual students in mind when he wrote “Education…”, in previous readings of his book I discovered many, many connections to his ideas, my students, their learning, my teaching, and our classroom. I promise those connections will surface in future posts.

There are days when education does seem to be all about “…turning out, as if through a mould, a [certain] type of human being…”. The current emphasis in the U.S. is that every student will graduate “College and Career Ready”, but if K were still alive I imagine he would be asking, ready for what? Larger amounts of funding are being allocated to programs that focus on the objective of College and Career Readiness at a younger and younger age. In and of itself, I support the idea that everyone have a choice about college and/or career.  But is there something more fundamental to human development that should be a focus of education?

K’s concern in this opening paragraph appears to be that students will leave school prepared (or conditioned) to only seek security and reputation, and by means of the easiest route to either one. There are days when I wish for more security – maybe a newer car, more retirement savings, the daily presence of a partner. Other days I want to feel important – shouldn’t we recognize each other for something well done? I like to be right because being right gets a different sort of attention than being wrong. And of course I do occassionally imagine myself in a job that requires little effort but provides substantial monetary reward! The days I’m describing are the days when I’ve forgotten that I have the privilege of making a choice about being a teacher.  Neither security or importance comes with the territory of being a teacher in adult ESL education.  However, I do have a good great time in the classroom despite it often requiring a good deal of work.

I love being a teacher because being with my students illuminates the learning I need to do in the classroom within myself.

Thanks for reading!

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Diane Mora

I am a writer (poetry, memoir, creative nonfiction, blogging) and teacher currently living in the Kansas CIty metropolitan area. A National Writer’s Project Writing Teacher Consultant, my method developing writing skills through the lens of personal narrative with low literate students has been highly effective with adults and secondary students who are migrants or refugees to the U.S. I have given many workshops about my methods to educators across Missouri and will be presenting my techniques to educators in Spain in September 2016. In addition to pencil-paper writing, I have also successfully integrated the use of digital writing tools such as digital storyboards into my practice. “I believe it’s not enough to simply tell our life stories. It’s important to also share a nugget of wisdom in our writing that might inspire or empower the reader as well as the writer. The concluding paragraph in every writer’s essay contains a “wisdom statement” that is based on something the writer has gleaned from his or her experience of living and now wants to share with others. When students are encouraged to think of their life experience as a learning experience, sharing this wisdom provides a sense of purpose that is highly motivating.” -- Diane Mora I can be reached at: Linked In: Diane Mora Twitter: @classroomwithin Blog: www.classroomwithin.org Full resume and references available upon request.

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