Dreams and teaching

For a few years now, I have been trying to combine the two worlds of dreaming and teaching. Each are great teachers of who I am and how the world works. These topics are what my psychology degree is about. However, I never really imagined them coming together there way they did while I slept the other night.

About fifteen years ago, my wife was really concerned about my explosive and destructive anger. Through a series of events, I taught myself meditation and it was a game-changer; my anger and its episodes were greatly reduced and my wife could tell immediately on days that I did not meditate. But there was another bonus to meditation; when I meditated, I made the greatest discoveries and had the greatest ideas when I was meditating. Over the years since then, I turned to many other versions that gave me more awareness about what goes inside my psyche. In 2009, Jungian dream work found me. It has been the most powerful thing that has ever happened to me. It has led down roads I would have never gone down. It has made me learn things about me that I would have never otherwise learned. And, guess what? It has given me the greatest ideas about how to lead my life as a human and to become the best teacher I can be. I had one of those ideas on Saturday morning.

Allow me to back up a bit. I am a high school mathematics teacher with about a dozen years of experience. I am always looking for ways to become a better teacher. When I first became a teacher in 2000, I was instructed by an administrator that my classes should be designed with a four-part plan in mind. During my teaching career, I have been resistant to many educational ideas. This is not one of those times; the part lesson plan is a great template for designing a daily class. What are the four parts? The first 15% is a warm up exercise, the next 35% is teaching, the following 35% is practice and the last 15% of the time is closing exercise that gives everyone feedback about how much they learned. I have used this template for 12 years of teaching. However, I use this varies from other teachers. In my research and teaching, I have changed the opening, tested its effectiveness in a research project. I am convinced it is an improvement. I am now writing a proposal to correct the flaws with a closing exercise. my experience with this idea tells me that my idea is an improvement but it is also a work in progress. I believe it has great potential.

But what about the middle parts? Are they fine they way they are? Well, yes and no. The teaching portion of classes has plenty of research and support. In my experience, education journals and classrooms are full of great ideas on how to present any mathematical concepts. Therefore, it is my belief that these ideas can work for people that want to learn these concepts. What I am saying is that these do not need to change this portion of teaching.

However, the practice part, and its transition from the teaching, is ineffective. In my opinion, that is the reason that many schools educate the upper echelon of students are well-educated in mathematics and the rest are not. Not only that but bright students believe that they are poor students and “cannot do math.” In this part of a math lesson, the is when teachers give classwork/homework. It makes me think of Finland education. They eliminated homework and they went from having mediocre achievement to having the highest achievement in the world. There are studies that say homework is ineffective in high school. Teachers see it as practice at refining skills and students see it as busy work. Who is right in this debate?

Back to my dream. Maybe it presented me with a possible answer. Here is description of what I reported in my dream journal; “As I wake up, I have thoughts about the pattern of Sunday School and Church; Sunday School is about gaining knowledge and Church is about gaining inspiration. Why can’t this be a pattern for teaching and learning? Deliver the information and then feel the knowledge!” As I thought about this idea, I thought about where teaching was effective and why was it such a surprise. For example, the idea of the “dumb jock.” These are guys who are absolutely the worst example of a student. A bad example because they are uncomfortable in the classroom but geniuses in their playing venue. Math is logic and they suck in class. However, they play basketball or football or soccer and they can read a complex defense in a flash. How can this be? In my view, because they feel every success and every failure. When they succeed, they are Superman. When they are wrong, these athletes are embarrassed and beaten.

So how can we translate this to the classroom? Or the board room? Or the workplace? We can translate this by discovering that we need to find the student a way to FEEL what we are teaching them. We need to find ways to replace classwork and homework with something we can feel. What does this look like? I don’t know yet. I need to investigate ways that inspire and helps the student to feel what I am teaching. I need to know that we all have different feelings. I need to know that it is hard for some people to feel anything at all. The learning has to become emotional, for me and them. Can we sing the concept? Can we dance the concept? Can we rhyme the concept? Can we emotionally express the concept? Can we see they concept as someone who will not talk to us? How do we get them to speak or communicate? When we can answer these questions, we then know a way to feel the concepts we are teaching. That is now my goal. It won’t be easy but at least I have an idea of where I need to go.

Dreams and teaching

Does American Education Have a Soul?

I am a high school mathematics teacher in the state of Georgia. I have taught in Virginia, California and, now, Georgia. I have taught since 2000 and have a total of 13 years teaching in the classroom. During this time, and during my student teaching, I sometimes wonder if administrators and licensing agencies really know what they are doing or, at least, know the implications of there policies and actions. Some of my experiences of the past few weeks have settled that question for me. However, I feel it is better to give you the facts, and let you decide for yourself, rather than preach my views.

It all started in early September. This is when I defended my essays for my dissertation. If you don’t know, this is when I defend what I have learned as a graduate student and my committee decides whether I am ready to do research for my PhD. The results of this were very good for me. All the professors agreed that I had passed this portion of my education. Not only that but they strongly suggest that I write a book on teaching when I was done with the dissertation. This experience made very excited about what I had accomplished. When it was over, I realized that the time had come to upgrade my teaching license.

In Georgia, teaching licenses are at seven levels, according to the teacher’s level of education. I am currently at level 5 for earning a masters’ degree. As a result of the essay defense, I was termed ABD (All But Dissertation). ABD is a level 6 certification. At my school district, this meant the teacher’s annual salary increases by $6000. So I applied to the state of Georgia for this certification. When they received electronically, their website said that I would have to wait awhile because they were backed up with applications. I thought, “That’s cool; they apply the certification to the raise retroactively so I’ll be patient and wait.”

So I waited, checking my status every few days. Finally, after about five weeks, I received a letter from their office. I thought it was a letter telling me that my license was upgraded. How wrong I was!! (Silly me!!) It was a letter stating that I was ineligible for a raise because my university was rated as “Carnegie High or Very High Research University.” I was very upset. I wanted to…well, I am not sure what I wanted to do with them but I knew my thoughts were not pretty. I ended up writing an email to their representatives that basically told them that their decision was not good for education and was very short-sighted. I then told them it was no wonder good teachers leave the profession every year.

I was upset so I decided to move forward. So I asked this representative whether this applied to earning a PhD. He said that it did. (A PhD is worth another $6000 of annual salary.)  I was at a loss about what to do. Graduate school is very expensive and what’s the point if I don’t get my raises? How can I justify attending and earning PhD? Then my Jungian mind kicked in; What if this meant that my life’s purpose was not to teach high school mathematics? Maybe I should be doing research. Maybe I should work on getting my papers published. Maybe I should work on teaching college psychology. But how do I make that decision?

With some prodding from a mentor, I decided to ask professors at my university. My university is Saybrook University in California. I chose this school because it has the reputation as one of the best universities in the world to study Jungian psychology. During my time at this university, I have interacted with the best professors I have ever met. Several of them have told me that I am doing “important work” and that I need to take it to its end. So, in this situation, I felt that these people were the best place to get advice for my dilemma. So I emailed them.

The consensus of these professors was that I should transfer to a Georgia university that would be recognized by the state licensing board. They suggested another humanistic university, West Georgia University. The y even gave me a couple contact persons in their psychology department. With this information in hand, I responded with the state licensing board and asked them, “If I get a degree from West Georgia University, will my license be upgraded to a level 7?” They responded by saying that yes, on the condition I pass the state test to teach “Behavioral Science.” Therefore, this is what they said to me, if you read between the lines,; “Your psychology is only valuable to teaching if and only if you are teaching psychology.” To me, that proves to me that they really don’t understand what happens in a high school classroom. They believe the one or two psychology courses that student teacher takes is enough to handle what happens in a high school classroom. (Have they ever heard of teen suicide? Or how about the number of fistfights in a high school?  I could go on but I’ll save my breath.)

So what to do? I considered the transfer. I contacted the head of psychology at West Georgia. I asked if it could happen. Meanwhile, I talked with my mentor of seven years. He told me how this could delay my graduation by about a year and a half. He also asked me the most important question; “Are you doing this for the money?” I answered with an immediate “No!” At this point, my decision was clear; I would finish my degree at Saybrook and just see where it takes me. If it was all about the money, I would go to a more lucrative job that pays me for my math degree from a major university. It’s not about the money; it’s about having a job I love very much, teaching kids that I love very much.

So then I turned back to my professors. I emailed them, directing them back to my original question; “Am I in the right position to lead my crusade to better American education?” Their answer was beautiful and perfect; “I am praying and meditating on your issue. “My thoughts and prayers are with you as you go through this process.  I encourage you to do as you describe: consider all the ways you can do your work and do your own inner work and wait for the answer to emerge.    I am sure that the universe’s life force has a way for you to make the contribution you so desire.  The important thing is to be patient and open so that you see and follow your path.  In this changing world there are many ways to make a difference!” How can you argue with that! Therefore, on with Saybrook, whether Georgia recognizes or not!

 

Thanks for all support and guidance; Peter Burmeister, Bob Schmitt, Ruth Richards and Stanley Krippner….and my wife, Donna Hayes. You all have my life so much better through guidance.

Does American Education Have a Soul?

I’m Back!!

Yes, it has been several months since my last post. Just when I was started gaining some momentum, I stopped writing. That is just part of my self-destructive tendencies. It is something that I need to be always aware of. Anyway, enough of these excuses.It is time to move on.

In the past couple of weeks I had a “wake up call.” In early September, I passed my essays defense in pursuit of my PhD in psychology. As a public high school mathematics teacher, I am entitled to raise due to higher license level earned. However, I learned recently that, in order to get these increased credentials, I had to earn my degree from a list of universities and pass a test to qualify to teach “Behavioral Sciences.” (I could rant on about messed up this is but I’ll save that passion for a blog in the near future.) Anyway…This forced me to go deeper into my dream work, reconsider my choice of universities and reconnect with the professors who have been my biggest cheerleaders in my quest to improving the way we teach American public high school students. It is time to move forward with this and spread the educational gospel as I see it.

When I was doing my oral defense of my essays, it was suggested that I write a book about my views and ideas about teaching. One professor said, “This is not a dissertation that you just put on your shelf when you are done. You need to follow up with a book on how to teach.” The other professors then gave me words of encouragement towards this end. Since I have never written a book, this scared and excited me all at once. Therefore, I did some brainstorming last night and came up with the following topics for blogs and/or book chapters;

* State licensing
* Self paced modules
* Tardies
* Promoting my ideas
* Openings
* Closings
* Psychology class ideas
* Discipline vs. understanding
* Too many zeros from 9th graders
* Teen depression from academics
* SAT anxiety
* Opening videos
* Story day
* Dream groups in schools, kids and adults
* Ideas from John Wooden
* History of teaching
* Dealing with English learners
* Building relationships with students and parents
* What is really our goal?
* Testing ideas
* Application of psychology

I would love any feedback from anyone on which ones to cover and/or any advice. In any case, talk to you soon.

I’m Back!!