Up to this point, we have been working on developing a depth and breadth of understanding as it relates to education and schooling. We are now very familiar with a number of the foundations that speak to education (and thus a depth and breadth of understanding).
Now, for the remainder of the course, let us put our understanding of the educational foundations to work. If we have been truly developing a depth and breadth of understanding, we will begin to see classroom environments and student-teacher interactions with a greater understanding than we would have noticed in the past. Furthermore, we will be able to articulate some of those things we are noticing now.
Foundation: Understanding: All education begins with understanding.
Education means developing a depth and breadth of understanding. Anything we do or talk about has to refer back to understanding. Learning environments that do not develop understanding are referred to as training environments, socializing environments, entertaining environments, or indoctrinating environments. By saying this we are not saying that training, socializing and entertaining are not important. There is clearly a place for each. However, our focus is on understanding.
Just as a note. we should also be clear that there is a difference between ‘being socialized’ and ‘understanding socialization’ as you can probably tell by now. And, of course, there is a difference between ‘being trained’ and ‘understanding training’. What is that difference? Well, simply think back to our causal modality frames. If one is trained to do something without any understanding (or limited understanding) of the purpose, materials, form, etc. we would question how well the person understandings that which brings meaning to the training. I can be trained to do a task, or to repeat the definitions of the three branches of government, having little understanding of what I am actually doing or saying.
In this next documentary, I will be asking you to evaluate the classroom environments for students’ achievement of ‘understanding.’ In the question for today, you will be asked to play the part of an administrative evaluator, evaluating what you are seeing in terms of ‘understanding.’
Before you watch the documentary, let me share a few passages from the documentary.
First Few Minutes
Notice in the first few minutes just how often you hear children talking about understanding.
I love Shakespeare because my father read it to me as my bedtime story when I was a little boy.
It’s what I was raised on.
So while of course, I do all the school’s standards, we do Shakespeare because I personally love it, and my passion is passed on to the students.
I’ve used Shakespeare as kind of a microcosm to teach the children all of the things that I want them to learn because it’s not really about Shakespeare.
These kids are not Shakespearean actors.
They’re not going to be Shakespearean actors.
By learning Shakespeare, these children are learning enormous amounts of vocabulary, enormous amounts of discipline, teamwork, the respect for one another, so that when one child is on stage, the others are learning maybe it’s my time to be quiet and let him have this moment.
You know what Hamlet is really about in one word?
But in one word that starts with a D. It’s the big issue.
It’s about death. I mean, think about it, what’s the first thing that happens in the play? The very first thing that happens?
It starts with a death. I mean, the whole play is set in motion with the death of the king. Right?
So many people die in this play that at the end of the play, there are bodies all over the stage.
Towards the end of the play in the great scene in the graveyard— Right?
They got the scene in the graveyard, and they’re throwing skulls out of the graves.
No, I mean, to the point where Hamlet actually picks up this skull and goes let me think about the meaning of this.
I think you’ve got to say this play is about death.
And let’s face it, it’s something we all think about.
Let’s see if, now, we all hear this speech a little bit differently than we once heard it before.
The reading scores in this class are very high, and if you hear the kids ooh and ah and beg for more, that what reading is supposed to be, a thrilling adventure.
These kids read very well, and more importantly, they keep reading.
Many of the great books that we read in this classroom have to do with the struggles of being young and growing up, and the kids really relate to them because they’re young, and they’re facing the struggle of growing up.
So we read Huck Finn, we reach Catcher in the Rye, we read A Separate Peace, we read Lord of the Flies, and we always read To Kill a Mockingbird.
We read the biography of Malcolm X. We always read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
I had a lot of favorite books in Rafe’s class, but one of my favorites was Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because Mark Twain– he puts us in Huck’s spot, and he makes us choose if we should always follow the society or be ourselves.
In chapter 31, in just a few minutes, it will be time for Huck, finally, to do the right thing and turn Jim in and make him a slave. And that is the right thing, isn’t it boys and girls?
It is the right thing.
Don’t you think?
That’s what society’s telling him.
“And then I happened to look around and see that paper. It was a close place, and I held in my hand.
And I was a-trembling because I’ve got to decide forever betwixt two things, and I know’d it.
I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself all right, then, I’ll go to Hell, and tore it up.” Danielle, will you read, Danielle?
“And I started thinking over how to get at it, and turned over considerable many ways that I might, and at last fixed up a plan that suited me.” [SOBS QUIETLY]
I told you, it’s powerful stuff.
It’s real powerful stuff.
So what decision did Huck make?
The climax is over. He’s going to be?
He’ll be a bad boy.
He’ll be a bad boy.
At least according to this world, he will, but what he’s really going to be is he’s going to be himself.
He’s not going to let society tell them what to do.
And isn’t that a decision that all of you have to make? Society’s going to tell you how to dress, what to play, what pop group to listen to, how to cut your hair. Isn’tthat ridiculous?
Each of you is so individually special.
I hope you guys make these kinds of decisions in your life.
In my fourth grade class, I would raise my hand and say I got a question.
I don’t understand this.
And my teacher would say we’ve been over this.
You should have been listening.
And I was listening since I just didn’t get it, and then I would be lost in something.
But in Rafe’s class, I would say I got a question, Rafe, and he’d say what’s your question.
And he’ll go over it 500 times if he has to, but he’ll make me understand it.
He will help me to understand it.
All the children have to pay rent to sit at their desks.
They all have ledgers that they keep.
If, however, you sit closer to the front of the room, you have to pay more rent because it’s a more expensive seat.
And the kids love the money system because it’s absolutely fair.
If you don’t do your homework, it’s a $50 fine.
There may be a very good reason why you didn’t do your homework.
From these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we hear, highly resolved– What is highly resolved?
We make sure we promise, or that we hear highly resolved, what?
That these dead shall not die in vain, and that this nation, under God, shall have what the words– What are those important words?
What does he mean by a new birth of freedom?
The country that would be at the end of the Civil War, would it be the country from 87 years ago?
It would be a totally new country, a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people– Shall not perish from the Earth.
If you’d like to take pictures here, it’s a really special place.
. . . .
This is the way people find out how we were doing as a country.
And over here, you have the very sad and famous bread lines.
If you listen to these wonderful words of FDR, the test of our progress.
It’s not whether we give more to people who already have a lot.
It’s if whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
He was worried about the poor, like these people. I feel a great responsibility to take the children to places like the Vietnam Wall.
It’s not easy for them to look at all those names, but I think it’s essential that they understand there were veterans who made enormous sacrifices so that they would have good lives.
And I want the children to feel lucky that they live in the United States.
The best thing about the Hobart Shakespeareans is that they know what they’re saying.
We work very hard– I know you work hard, and you understand every single word.
And that couldn’t be said of all actors who do Shakespeare.
I don’t know why it is that I simply want to cry when I’m in this room.
I think it’s because I’m so moved by the fact that you love things that I love, too.
And, Paul, you go like this. Going to college is hard.
Can you do it?
Absolutely, you can.
But you better listen when you’re young, and you better make some good decisions when you’re young, or else you’re going to be like a lot of 18-year-old kids going, gee, I should’ve done this, I should have done that.
And if you think, hey, I’m smart, I’ll get there, it takes so much more than being smart.
Here’s a classic thing about college.
Here’s one group that wants people to join the Navy, and then here we have another group that’s demanding that we stop war.
So you get two different kinds of people all in a cause.
That’s what a university’s all about, every idea works here.
This is what college is.
It’s a lot of work.
Make no mistake about it, there are no shortcuts.
You want to be a top student at anything, you got to work, unless you’re a genius.
Any of you geniuses?
It’s quiet here.
It’s not like Hobart school.
Nobody bothers people.
People show respect for each other.
This is the life you’re working for.
How many would like to be a part of a place like this?
You can do this.
Now, let me give you the question first before you begin watching the documentary.
Questions (Third Set Continued)
11. You are an educational evaluator. You have been asked to evaluate a class on the basis of the students’ development or achievement of ‘understanding.’ In no more than half a page, please speak to the way students’ are developing their understanding in Rafe Esquith’s class. Please provide specific examples.
Questions (Third Set Continued)
12: What are five things you could do as a future teacher to help create a classroom environment that is kind, just, and would help students develop a depth and breadth of understanding in school?
That’s it for today. I hope you feel as though you are seeing aspects of ‘understanding’ in ways that you may have missed in the past.
Have a great day!