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Age of Pedagogy
March 17, 2011 12:35 PM   Subscribe


 
That's why really good teachers aren't scared of getting in over their heads, letting accidents happen, letting their students get the jump on them, etc. You have to have confidence in yourself and your students and believe that, even if you don't know everything, that you will always know how to respond properly to any circumstance.

BTW, that's why being a first-year teacher is so terrifying.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:49 PM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


School shouldn't be like school.
posted by scrowdid at 12:51 PM on March 17, 2011 [31 favorites]


Apparently cognitive science is a woman's concern. Because there's babies.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:52 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Next article "Why school shouldn't be like work" ?
posted by Iktik at 12:53 PM on March 17, 2011


Or maybe like work was fifty years ago
posted by Iktik at 12:54 PM on March 17, 2011


Personally I think these concepts apply far beyond preschool, but it's a good place to start.

Also:

1. Kids should be allowed to be kids for as long as possible

2. We need to spend more time teaching critical thinking and research skills (and by teaching I really mean practicing and doing)

3. Throw away the TV, and the Internet if it's a probably (I realize the irony of this statement).*


*But be reasonable about it.
posted by jnrussell at 12:55 PM on March 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I find I learn better without direct instruction. Case in point: I was almost hired as a flash Actionsctipt programmer a few months ago having picked up the language just 2 months prior. Instead of rooting through flash game tutorials and buying books (or taking my one, really awful Actionscript class and forgetting everything I learned) I found the source code to one game, tore it apart, and put it back together to learn how it worked. (YMMV)

And, really, that's all there is to it, beyond some documentation. If I get the gumption to learn how a proper game engine is supposed to work, I'm probably going to download the Quake 3 source code instead of buying a book, because it's the same principal.

So if anything, there needs to be less direct instruction. Such a thing works best with specific techniques and methods.

Additionally, I remember school getting boring/tedious around the time when "direct instruction" became a big thing in the curriculum.
posted by hellojed at 1:08 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


jnrussell: " Throw away the TV, and the Internet if it's a probably (I realize the irony of this statement).*"

I have two three year olds who are not yet in preschool. Tailoring their tv viewing has been an ongoing project. But they actually have learned a great deal from the shows they do watch. Their vocabulary has increased, their recognition of shapes, colors and animals, and they've even picked up some basic math and social skills. They don't watch much television, but I think it can definitely serve its purpose as long as it's not being used as a substitute for parenting.
posted by zarq at 1:10 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apparently cognitive science is a woman's concern. Because there's babies.

Truer than you know.

1. Kids should be allowed to be kids for as long as possible

3. Throw away the TV, and the Internet


1 - How much longer? To wit - my kids (6-8 grade) don't do any homework because nobody's every expected them to do, AFAIK, anything materially important.

Teaching somebody to do something (anything) is messy and annoying during the time while they are learning the steps and screwing stuff up. Parents with orderly households want them to stay orderly, so they dress the kids, feed the kids, do the kids' laundry, room cleaning, homework, and then wonder why their well-dressed, well-nourished, apparently well-brought-up children don't do well in school.

They will be kids until the day they are eligible for the draft, and then suddenly they will be expected to work, earn money, pay rent and taxes, and get to places (and turn in stuff) on time.

I think every year from the time kids can walk, they should have some chore added to their account - something that helps the household run, that they can be proud of and responsible for.

3- That battle has been lost. You know that, right?
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:11 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


When looking at preschools for my kid, it seems we saw two types:

1) Big facility with rooms for every activity -- very structured environment. Kids line up and march from science class in the science room to reading class in the reading room, and so on. Very nicely staffed and resourced.

2) Montessori environment with one big room with shelves on all walls filled with different types of activity-things. Kids spend a good portion of the day picking stuff they are interested in. (Which they ironically (to me) call work and projects.)

We chose the latter. No regrets.
posted by bodega at 1:13 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Somewhere, Maria Montessori is smiling. Kids are best taught, IMO, by merely directing their inquisitive/exploratory nature towards their own goals. I fully agree that such a heavy enviroment would teach them more to explore how to manipulate the system, i.e., teacher and student at desk, rather than say, learn to manipulate a board full of different colored beads.
posted by cavalier at 1:14 PM on March 17, 2011


Additionally, I remember school getting boring/tedious around the time when "direct instruction" became a big thing in the curriculum.

yeah - you are not the target audience here. These kids - I want them to either ask me for a complicated assignment they can do on their own or develop with a friend, or at least just not blow my class up while you're chilling and reading comics/quantum mechanics textbooks/electrical schematics/whatev. Most people, especially those who are not picking up their educational nutrients in the air and drinking water, do need direct instruction in something or other, though not necessarily everything.
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:15 PM on March 17, 2011


Oh god, it's a combo education-and-parenting thread.

I've seen this piece all over the internets today, guess I should have guessed it end up here.

I really really don't think I can handle any more articles about Ways I Am Ruining/Will Ruin/Have Already Paid Someone to Ruin My Kid.

My kid's daycare is nice. They play with toys and run around outside and practice writing their names. They are reasonably priced and clean and the kids are treated with love and my kid has somewhere safe to be while I work and anything else I'm just not going to think about anymore, goddamit.
posted by emjaybee at 1:16 PM on March 17, 2011 [12 favorites]


You could be sentenced to an early damnation, and be this woman's kid.
posted by Xoebe at 1:22 PM on March 17, 2011


Toodleydoodley, I know quite a bit about babies and I also know that men also start out as babies, parent babies, care about their babies, and find cognitive science interesting. It's not like this is an article with super-specific breastfeeding tips or something. XX my ass.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:32 PM on March 17, 2011


You could be sentenced to an early damnation, and be this woman's kid.

Repeat to yourself over and over: Upper East Side Manhattan is not representative of anywhere except Upper East Side Manhattan.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:35 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


while you're chilling and reading comics/quantum mechanics textbooks/electrical schematics/whatev.

Heh, I actually learned to draw by doodling obsessively in class, so you're right there as well.
posted by hellojed at 1:36 PM on March 17, 2011


UES or not, I'd be pissed If my 3-year-old were put with 2-year-olds. It seems like a recipe for boredom and behavioral problems.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:41 PM on March 17, 2011


You could be sentenced to an early damnation, and be this woman's kid.

I volunteered at an "elite preschool" in NYC as a way to pad my college application. The kids had more educational books than I remember having and they didn't look like they were wearing hand me down clothes like I had as a kid but they were normal kids.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:41 PM on March 17, 2011


In the course of playing (both at home and at daycare) my son does learn his colours, shapes and some numbers. He really loves to paint and draw, so colours and shapes are his strong suit, but the numbers thing he actually picked up from counting out the number of mini-cookies he' allowed.
I'm constantly surprised by where his learning comes from - it is rarely structured, but rather a spontaneous self-initiated thing that comes from his personal interests in play. If there's a thing I want him to know, I find a way to relate it to those things he's found most interesting.
Our daycare/preschool does the same (in fact they just did away with the whole "we will be painting at 11am" thing and just made art and craft stations available anytime) but - and here maybe I show my naivety - I just thought this was the done thing. I'm not in a competitive school zone that requires an entrance exam for kindergarten though. I feel sorry for those parents because if that is just what is necessary it does sound like it removes the choice of just letting your kid be a kid.
posted by Raunchy 60s Humour at 1:56 PM on March 17, 2011


All schools should be less focused on teaching and more focused on learning.
posted by rocket88 at 1:57 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not like this is an article with super-specific breastfeeding tips or something. XX my ass.

hahaha! I was referring to the ongoing re-ghettoizing of the teaching profession, where in the race to the bottom, governments want to "make schools better" by paying teachers less, gutting their benefits, making them re-queue for their jobs *every effing year* (by eliminating tenure) and so forth. it is only a matter of time before explicit morals clauses are reinstated (not like they ever really went away) and teachers are once again required to be married churchgoing women (who naturally don't have to be paid well because they have a man to support them).

all education information is in the female domain, unless it is at a top research university. seriously - any school, k-6 or below, is staffed almost entirely by women. only in high school or above (and of course school, county, regional and national administration) do men get into school-marmin'.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:02 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


toodleydoodley, letting "kids be kids" doesn't mean not giving them chores. (I mean, my 21 month old "helps" clean up his spills and throws his own bibs in the laundry after dinner. We're working on him feeding the cats but mostly he tries to eat their food, so that chore appears a bit too advanced for him.) It means letting them PLAY, not regimenting them into 8 million directed activities, and that the directed activities they do participate in should allow for the free play methods of children.

It's not an either/or proposition; children SHOULD be given meaningful responsibilities in their families and, later, communities (schools, towns, whatever), but also meaningful freedom to discover and play and be. Rules but also choices. Etc. An entirely regimented child and an entirely unregimented child both have many problems.

(Side note, Maria Montessori probably WOULDN'T be smiling because she felt that imaginative play was a waste and wanted to direct children to self-discovered learning and "meaningful work" ... not undirected, purposeless play. But current child development researchers and neuroscientists and whatnot think undirected, imaginative play may be the most important element of all. I realize most modern Montessori methods do make space for undirected, imaginative play, but the woman herself was not such a fan.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:06 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Somewhere, Maria Montessori is smiling.

I read somewhere that Montessori teachers don't correct students, they provide self-correcting toys. This sounds great, except when you realize that it was the adults who decided which toys to buy put them in the classroom for them to be "discovered" by the kids. It's based on a very superficial idea of power and control, where it consists solely of another, bigger person barking orders at you. In my opinion, a much more insidious form of control is where it's built into the environment so those in authority can think of themselves as gentle, relational, peace-loving, etc.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:12 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Echoing Eyebrows McGee, we require our two-year-old to clean up his toys before coming to dinner, and he picks his clothes out of the dresser (with some guidance) and he puts his own laundry away and helps with making his own bed and brushes his own teeth and as he gets older he wants to do all this stuff on his own and absolutely doesn't want any help. Except when he does want help, of course.

We let him watch TV sometimes too. Or rather, since we don't technically have TV (no rabbit ears or cable), we put a DVD on the computer for him to watch, usually something like Fantasia or some Sesame Street or something, and then we keep it to about an hour at most (and no more then 2 hours in a week, and sometime we go for weeks without it). He did sit through an episode of Iron Chef America once but I suspect our two-year-old is a little odd in that he's apparently obsessed with cooking (probably his foodie-obsessed parents' fault there).

Unstructured play is good for everybody, not just kids. This is probably why Minecraft was such a runaway success, and why the LEGO sets we always got as kids never managed to stay in their original configurations for more than a week (and why, I, a grown man, continue to buy LEGO).

Our brains are awesome and seem to really thrive with open-ended scenarios. Doesn't mean that structured learning doesn't have a place, just that it's probably over-represented in most modern cultures.
posted by jnrussell at 2:21 PM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Our brains are awesome and seem to really thrive with open-ended scenarios. Doesn't mean that structured learning doesn't have a place, just that it's probably over-represented in most modern cultures.

Perfectly put.
posted by brain_drain at 2:23 PM on March 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's not an either/or proposition; children SHOULD be given meaningful responsibilities in their families and, later, communities (schools, towns, whatever), but also meaningful freedom to discover and play and be. Rules but also choices. Etc. An entirely regimented child and an entirely unregimented child both have many problems.

sorry - that's not my definition of what letting kids be kids should be (that is, giving them no responsibilities whatsoever). Nor is it my idea that kids should be put into regimented activities as soon as they can sit up unsupported.

It's that the parents of some of my students - indeed, some of my own relatives - have gone so far in overdefining "kidhood" that the children are proficient in - well, they're not even proficient in play, since they haven't been able to refine some of their critical fine motor skills. I'm talking about 6th graders who can hardly dress themselves or eat with a fork, because someone's *always* done that for them.

I guess to further pin it down, these are kids who A) haven't been left to explore (because it's messy and inconvenient) and B) also haven't been taught any critical responsibilities (because learning the steps is messy and inconvenient). Sort of an awful middle ground.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:24 PM on March 17, 2011


If I get the gumption to learn how a proper game engine is supposed to work, I'm probably going to download the Quake 3 source code instead of buying a book, because it's the same principal.

It's the same principle in the same way that building a model skyscraper with Lego is the same as building the real Burj Khalifa with concrete and contractors.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:34 PM on March 17, 2011


Repeat to yourself over and over: Upper East Side Manhattan is not representative of anywhere except Upper East Side Manhattan.

And also those towns like mine in NJ to which people from the UES have moved and brought their fucked up values. Seriously people, you need to go back to your crazytown UES and stop polluting our gene pool out here.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 2:35 PM on March 17, 2011


UES or not, I'd be pissed If my 3-year-old were put with 2-year-olds. It seems like a recipe for boredom and behavioral problems.

pretty sure it depends on both the 3yos and the 2yos. multilevel classrooms can do well at many developmental levels, or they can do just bloody awful.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:58 PM on March 17, 2011


the purpose of preschool is to build social relationships between children and children and between children and teachers. without trust and the ability to cooperate on both of these fronts it's impossible to learn at school.

this is doubly true if kids are coming to school with problems.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:23 PM on March 17, 2011


Yeah, maybe it's where I live (Berkeley), but this feels like old news to me (I know the research is new). I mean all the pre-schools here are pretty much Montessori, Waldorf, or Reggio Emilia.

Reggio Emilia's been around since WWII; Montessori was like 150 years ago.

I read Alison Gopnik's The Philosophical Baby and I was likewise underwhelmed.

Tailoring their tv viewing has been an ongoing project. But they actually have learned a great deal from the shows they do watch. Their vocabulary has increased, their recognition of shapes, colors and animals, and they've even picked up some basic math and social skills.

I am not doubting your personal experience, but I think that research has shown that young kids really don't learn much from TV and it can actively inhibit their linguistic development.

I can't find it, but there was a study recently demonstrating that kids don't learn new words when spoken on TV; they need to see and hear a person using the word in real life.

My thoughts are that TV isn't that bad in and of itself, but it is time that could be spent elsewhere. I can't vouch for this source, but I've seen this sentiment in many articles:

"TV is linked with slower language acquisition because TV time tends to displace conversation time between babies and adults"

It seems that television is only educational when it is watched and/or discussed with an adult.

Personally, I'm not going to let my kids watch any television or movies until they're 5 or so. It's not that hard. I'd rather have them color or play with blocks or hell, sit in their room alone and think.

Based on how I see some American adults live, I think learning how to occupy your free time without watching TV is an important life skill. So I am likely prejudiced here. /justmy2c.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:28 PM on March 17, 2011


UES or not, I'd be pissed If my 3-year-old were put with 2-year-olds. It seems like a recipe for boredom and behavioral problems.

You're assuming that the 3-year-old will be treated identically as the 2-year-olds, which isn't true. It isn't just Lord of the Files kids running amok. Even play-based learning has plenty of structure.

This article is dead-on timely for me and my 2 y.o. She turns 3 in late November, and my wife and I are deciding whether to keep her in (a wonderful home) daycare, or make the plunge into pre-school (which, a little surprisingly, is generally just as expensive as daycare ...).

All of her friends at daycare are in the school year ahead of her and leaving daycare this fall for pre-school. I like her daycare, and would just as soon she stayed there until Pre-K at age 4.

Up until recently, she actually had a little four-year-old boy in her daycare (which at the time, was all 2 year-olds and below.) However, the daycare leader would give the four-year-old lots of jobs and responsibilities up to his age.

We all know there is something to be learned for younger kids to play with older kids, but I think, vice versa, there are actually some great lessons for older kids to learn when playing with younger kids.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:40 PM on March 17, 2011


"TV is linked with slower language acquisition because TV time tends to displace conversation time between babies and adults"

Yep because conversation with adults is where you get pretty much your entire pre-school vocabulary. OTOH tv that is explicitly for kids, including cartoons, has way more vocabulary than adult sitcoms, so there's that.

Lots of lower income (effect, not cause) frequently nonwhite kids start school with less than half as many words as their upper middle income white classmates because a lot of (what in education is euphemistically referred to as ethnically, socially and economically diverse) cultures discourage adults from talking to children except to give commands. That is, family and social life is hierarchical in the extreme, so why would an adult ask a child anything, since the child is not in a position to know better?

But upper income (again, effect obv) people do ask children lots of things they don't know, either on the way to telling them the answer, or in a "Here's (this situation), what do you (rhetorically) think we should do? Well, what if we (tree of options the adult perceives as plausible)"?

That kind of problem-solving conversational modeling carries a world of vocabulary and metacognition that some kids get on time, and other kids don't.

sorry I am all up in this thread with the blah blah blah - I am doing online coursework right now to complete my reading endorsement and am up to my overall buttons in exactly this kind of data
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:12 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am specifically referencing the preschool in the NYT article where it seems that they have a curriculum that the 3yo has already completed, but they're putting her through it again as the only 3yo in a class of 2yo. It's not designed to be a multi-age classroom like Montessori. Same curriculum twice in a row would be boring for a toddler. And there is no reason for it if there is a 3-year-old classroom. It is not the solution for behavioral issues.

Sounds like they didn't like the kid/parent and were trying to force them out. I have heard the same complaint about private schools before, especially about Waldorf schools keeping kids (primarily boys) in Kindergarten for behavioral "issues".
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:54 PM on March 17, 2011


"TV is linked with slower language acquisition because TV time tends to displace conversation time between babies and adults"

This is one of those statements that is both obviously true and obviously false.

I mean, obviously it's true that kids will learn conversational skills more slowly if they're spending their time glazed over in front of the TV than if they're having conversations with people who know how to talk. Watching speech is nowhere near as educational as engaging in it.

And it's obviously false to conclude that therefore TV causes slower language acquisition, any more than naptime causes slower language acquisition, just because both occupy time that could have been more productively been used for conversation.

I think a better phrasing might be "Parents who utilize the TV as a substitute nanny are linked with slower language acquisition because, well, duh."
posted by ook at 5:35 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think even kindergarten should be play based.

I dunno if I'm really avant garde for thinking this, or really old school.
posted by Leta at 5:37 PM on March 17, 2011


@Leta -- both!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:28 PM on March 17, 2011


where it seems that they have a curriculum that the 3yo has already completed, but they're putting her through it again as the only 3yo in a class of 2yo.

Yeah, I read that, but I figured she maybe wasn't ready to move up, but her mother is not dealing with that well? I hadn't heard about (what you describe) basically retaining kids as a hostile or retaliatory move against parents. But if we promote kids socially, why wouldn't we consider socially retaining them if they're not ready to socialize with their age-group peers?
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:30 PM on March 17, 2011


If the difficulty is truly that severe then perhaps there is another issue that needs to be addressed, either developmental, medical, or perhaps even related to abuse in the home. Maybe the 3yo teacher needs an aide or some classroom management help to deal with children with different needs. Perhaps the child needs extra help from professionals outside of the classroom or a program with more opportunity for one-on-one attention. Boring a child to death and putting them with children who are less mature seems like it would make any kind of behavioral issue worse.

Plus, it puts a child who is having behavioral problems (possibly including biting, hitting, whatever) with children who are probably smaller and less able to defend themselves. I don't think that's a good idea.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:38 PM on March 17, 2011


Anyway, I don't even know this particular kid and this is a huge derail--point being that it's easy to point and laugh at someone who is trying to do the best for their kid, especially when it's couched in the weird NYC preschool culture, but I sympathize with the mother in that article.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:47 PM on March 17, 2011


I volunteer in a preschool class. Today, I had four kids asking me to pretend to be an allosaurus and try to eat them. Then they pretended to be ankylosauruses and they'd quickly turn around pretending to whack me with their club-like tails.

(Then I said I had grown tired because whenever I tried to eat them, they'd hit me with their tails. One of them said "We will go find you some meat, because you are a meat-eater" and they came back with some colored plastic balls they called meatballs, which I pretended to eat. But then they gave me oodles of them so I had to tell them that my allosaurus belly was all full and I couldn't eat any more.

Then later, one of them came back from playing and wanted to do the ankylosaurus thing again, but I said I was still full. So he said "But all the food came out your buttocks!" And I laughed and said "Well, I guess I'm hungry again then!".)
Kids are awesome.

posted by blueberry at 1:03 AM on March 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


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