professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Everything Old Is New Again (especially to those outside of education)

A Facebook post took me to David Brooks column in the New York Times entitled "The Building Blocks of Learning." ( Curious, I read the opening paragraphs. Yes, I thought, YES!

"Education is one of those spheres where the heart is inseparable from the head. If students are going to succeed, they probably need to come from a home where they feel safe and secure, so they aren’t paralyzed by anxiety and fear. They probably need to have experienced strong attachments so they know how to bond with teachers and parents. They probably need to have been bathed in love so they have some sense of identity, some confidence about their own worth and some sense of agency about their own future."

It IS about love. We (educators) have always known that it is about the heart and not just the head, about affective as well as cognitive, about moral and social and cultural and not just intellectual. I cannot imagine a teacher who does not know this. And I know NOT ONE EDUCATOR who does not consider these aspects, parts, components, whatever we want to label them. Brooks refers to them as "building blocks." That works.

But there is a point in this piece that set my eyes rolling. After I finished, my eyes had their daily workout. Because Brooks says this: "Suddenly, teachers must teach students how to feel about their own feelings; how not to be swallowed up by moments of failure, anger and sadness, but to slow the moment and step outside the emotional spiral. Many teachers sense that students are more emotionally vulnerable today. Social policy has to find a hundred ways to nurture loving relationships. Today we have to fortify the heart if we’re going to educate the mind."

It is as if this affective piece, this nurturing, this love of students is somehow new, somehow born due to societal needs. I can assure you, Mr. Brooks, that loving our students, that paying attention to the affective as well as the cognitive, that being models of love and empathy and care and concern has ALWYS been a part of education. Maybe you never witnessed it. Maybe you had teachers who taught subjects and not kids. But I know many, many teachers, and I can assure you this: these building blocks precede Legos and Lincoln Logs and other toys. They are part and parcel of every classroom that truly cares about kids more than content.

Perhaps the thing that most unsettled me is that Brooks is writing after reading about how important GRIT and SELF-CONTROL. Instead of reading widely about what it is that teachers face and do every day, Brooks, like so many others, cherry picks a volume on education and rallies behind it. Add to this the fact that the book Brooks is cheering is written by someone outside the classroom as well. If only he had elected to read something by Kittle or Miller or Gallagher or Atwell or Beers and Probst or Rief or any number of educators who write about real experiences in real classrooms with actual kids. Imagine what insights he and others might reach.

I know I am expecting too much. I know not everyone cares as vehemently and passionately about education as we who are in the classrooms (even though mine is virtual, it is still a classroom). I am holding on to hope that future leaders will employ the services of those passionate, vehement, dedicated educators when it come to continuing the important work we all do. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Tags: education, outsiders
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