29 September 2007

Q&A Requirements to be a good teacher?

from Yahoo! Answers:
What are the requirements to be a good teacher?

posted by Kika

Best Answer - Chosen by Asker (written by Don Berg, Attitutor)

1. Passion for teaching and
2. a school or other teaching environment that supports you to express your passion for teaching.

The passion for teaching can take two forms, a passion for helping students OR a passion for living from the perspective of your subject. If you have both, then you are twice blessed.

If your passion is for the students, then you should play to that strength and structure your teaching as a process of following their interests as much as possible. That way you maximize their connection to learning process and their investment in success.

If your passion is centered on your subject, then you should play to that strength and structure your teaching as a process of discovering what the world looks like from the perspective. Every subject or field of study is a way of viewing the world, not just a bunch of information. As a view of the world there are things worth paying attention to and other things that are a waste of attention. If you were teaching biology, for instance, you would pay attention to which experimental animals are mating with other animals in the experiment, but you would ignore which experimenters were mating with other experimenters in the department. (Unless, of course, you applied the same experimental method and collected data to make a useful comparison of mating behaviors.)

The school or other teaching environment (in case you are home schooling or a "trainer" in a non-school setting) will be a very large factor in your experience of teaching. If you are passionate about the students and expect to be a warm fuzzy nurturing kind of teacher, but your school is all about strict adherence to government standards and teaching to get arbitrary test scores, then you will get severely disillusioned and burn-out.

Make sure that you get real solid information about any place you are expecting to teach. Figure out what your values are and then devise strategies for finding out what the real values of the school are, too. You would do well to make personal connections with current staff to make sure you can see through their marketing rhetoric to find out what really goes on.

There are, of course, exceptionally good teachers who bucked the system. John Taylor Gatto and Jaime Escalante are just two notable examples. But John Taylor Gatto did not even set out to be a teacher, let alone a maverick teacher who skirted the domination of the powers that be in the New York City Public Schools. According to what I have heard him say and have read he sort of backed into teaching and then stuck with it. In the process he became disillusioned, but had very strong values and some lucky breaks that allowed him to succeed.

Do yourself a favor and make your choices more deliberately than that so you can spend the next 20-30 years doing it right the first time, instead of figuring it out from scratch.

John Taylor Gatto's web site

Wikipedia on Jaime Escalante

17 September 2007

Q&A Disciplining A 5-year Old Biter

from Yahoo! Answers:
Disciplining 5 year old for biting?

I just got a call from my 5 year old's kindergarten principal telling me that he is misbehaving and biting kids on the bus. He is giving all the teachers attitude and doesn't listen. I can take his playstation away but how do I keep him busy as a punishment? Obviously, he can't read books yet. Any suggestions?
Posted by Cus

Best Answer - Chosen by Asker (written by Don Berg, Attitutor)

I have over 15 years experience leading kids of all ages and I have to say in response to other answers-

Doing violence to your child in response to his violence teaches that violence is O.K. but only for people who are bigger and stronger. I certainly hope that you are not trying to teach that lesson (if you are don't bother reading the rest of this.)

Do not bite him, he is not capable of understanding the connection between his biting other kids and your biting him. If you bite him it is simply a violation of his inherent trust in you as his parent. The same goes for spanking, you only teach him that you can get away with doing violence and he can't.

In regards to actually doing something useful-

You need to find out what disciplinary procedures the kindergarten is using in response to this behavior. If they aren't doing anything and relying on you to solve the problem then they are not helping the situation.

The most important thing to do is make sure that he is clear about the connection between whatever actions you take and the actions he took (biting) that made those consequences necessary.

Make sure that you help him to remember exactly what happened when he bit the other kids and then help him imagine how he would feel if he was in the other kid's position. You do not need to actually demonstrate the violence, he is perfectly capable of imagining it, though he may need some help putting the story together.

Try to help him imagine a realistic scene to answer each of the following questions:
1. What would it feel like to be bitten by another kid?
2. Is hurting people a bad thing or a good thing?
3. How do you think your friend felt when you bit them?
4. Sometimes people lose control of themselves and do things that hurt their friends even if they didn't really mean to hurt them, what should be the consequence of hurting someone else?

I recommend that if you can help him imagine answers to each of the question then you ask him what he thinks an appropriate consequence should be for him when he bites other kids.

Ask him about his opinion of what they do as a consequence at kindergarten. Does he think they treat him fairly? If not, what would he prefer they do?

Think carefully about whatever he suggests as his punishment. Discuss what you think is reasonable and fair, then make a decision about what the consequences will be from then on.

Write down exactly what you decide is the appropriate consequences and have him "sign" that he agrees to it (even though he doesn't read or write this will make an impression that this is really important.) I do not recommend you invoke it for the offense that prompted the discussion unless he thinks that is fair. Making this big a deal out of it should have gotten his attention.

If he bites again then the consequences should occur as soon as possible and with only enough discussion to establish that he understands that he bit someone and therefore the consequences are exactly what you both discussed and wrote down. If he doesn't think it's fair anymore then AFTER the consequences have been completed you can re-negotiate the consequences.

The most important things are to make it clear that
1. he is not allowed to bite people,
2. your job as a parent is
a. to be compassionate for his struggle to master self-control, and
b. to enforce the consequences that you both think will encourage him to find a different way to express himself rather than biting.

If you find that you are still dealing with biting behaviors after administering a couple of consequences then focus on helping him discover how he is feeling just before he bites people and work on imagining different ways to express those feelings.

Good luck, below are resources that follow along the general lines that I have outlined. Don't be surprised if you have to take these steps over several days. Preventing this behavior is worth the investment of time at his age.

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish- Parenting Experts

Parenting with Love and Logic Site

Q&A Education or Attitude

I have discovered the joy of Yahoo! Answers:

In your own opinion What is your key to success Education or Attitude?

Our class just had a debate regarding this topic.... and wheww... that was an interesting argument......
(posted by lizaray)

Best Answer - Chosen by Asker (written by Don Berg, Attitutor)

In order for the question to make sense you have to assume that education and attitude are distinct and separate aspects of success, which I do not believe to be true. To me education is fundamentally more about the development of attitudes than it is about the delivery of units of knowledge, skills and information. Therefore my answer to the question as it was asked is both, but a more interesting question is which is more important knowledge, skills and information or attitude.

I put attitude before the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and information because with the appropriate attitude you can always acquire more knowledge, skills, and information. On the other hand just having knowledge, skills, and information does absolutely no good if your attitude is one that prevents you from dealing effectively with reality.

For example take the dogmatic approaches to religion and science that are on opposite extremes of the creationism versus the big bang debate over the origins of the universe. Both sides are mired in attitudes that prevent them from acting with respect for the other people's point of view. The reality is that no one alive today can ever have any direct proof of anything that occurred that long ago, therefore it is ridiculous to destroy your own reputation and possibly the reputations of your opponents through nasty debates over something that no one can answer definitively one way or another.

For me, it's attitude first, always. Once you get your attitude straight then you can always get whatever you need to succeed after that.

My website: www.teach-kids-attitude-1st.com

05 September 2007

Fun with the English Language

The following is not my creation, it is an anonymous e-mail meme that infected me.

These are why English is hard to learn:

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France .

Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

Quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

Writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham.

If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices?

Isn't odd that you can make amends but not one amend?

If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

Your house can burn up as it burns down.

You fill in a form by filling it out.

An alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are not visible.

Why doesn't "Buick" rhyme with "quick?"

on UP

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is "UP."

It's easy to understand UP , meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP?

Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report ?

We call UP our friends.

And we can brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.

We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.

At other times the little word has real special meaning.

People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special .

A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.

We open UP a store in the morning and we close it UP at night.

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP.

When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP .

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.

When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP , for now my time is UP , so.......... it is time to shut UP ....!

03 September 2007

Political Thinking Illustrated

In response to this post suggesting a graphic explanation of how people actually think about politics based on George Lakoff's work, I created the following:

We are wired as humans to use our direct experiences to understand more complex things in the world and complex ideas about the world. The mechanism of that leap from experiences to concepts is made possible by metaphors.

Every complex idea about the world, including religion, science and mathematics, is based on metaphoric conceptions of the world. In politics, which is certainly complex, we all understand the metaphor of the nation as a family, which implies that the proper role of the government is to act as a parental figure for it's citizens.

The question of where you stand on a particular political issue is likely to be determined by whether you think that the government should act like a strict parent or a nurturant parent in how it acts on that issue.

In political discussion we all use metaphoric language to explain our opinions and whichever metaphors are spoken activate those metaphors in the listener. This is the basis for understanding each others ideas. Even if we disagree, those metaphors must activate in order for understanding to occur.

What some people, the political purists amongst us, do is to reject one set of metaphors as bad policy. Because there are only two parenting philosophies that have any broad respect this gives the illusion of a linear spectrum of views stretching from one pole of strict parenting metaphors (politically conservative thought)to another pole of nurturant parent metaphors (politically progressive thought). At the end I will show why the bi-polar concept of politics is an illusion.

If you are already speaking to purists who agree with you then you will, at best, simply reinforce their already existing sense of what counts as a good idea.

On the other hand, if you are speaking to purists who disagree with you, then you are probably wasting your time.

The people that make the difference in elections and who are the most valuable to convince are called bi-conceptuals by George Lakoff. These are people who understand the arguments of both sides but do not have a pre-disposition to reject one or the other based on the implied philosophy of the metaphors they use. What research discovered about how people actually choose presidential candidates is that identification with the candidate is more important than agreeing with them. From Thinking Points Chapter 1
"Richard Wirthlin, chief strategist for former president Ronald
Reagan, made a discovery in 1980 that profoundly changed
American politics. As a pollster, he was taught that people vote
for candidates on the basis of the candidates’ positions on issues.
But his initial polls for Reagan revealed something fascinating:
Voters who didn’t agree with Reagan on the issues still wanted to
vote for him. Mystified, Wirthlin studied the matter further. He
discovered just what made people want to vote for Reagan.

"Reagan talked about values rather than issues. Communicating
values mattered more than specific policy positions. Reagan
connected with people; he communicated well. Reagan also appeared
authentic—he seemed to believe what he said. And because
he talked about his values, connected with people, and
appeared authentic, they felt they could trust him.

"For these four reasons—values, connection, authenticity, and
trust—voters identified with Reagan; they felt he was one of
them. It was not because all of his values matched theirs exactly.
It was not because he was from their socioeconomic class or
subculture. It was because they believed in the integrity of his
connection with them as well as the connection between his
worldview and his actions."

The bi-polar linear political spectrum that is commonly understood through the terms Left, Right and Center assume that people are either conservative, liberal, or standing neatly on a line in between those two extremes. The truth is that while there are effectively only two political philosophies they can be mixed and matched at random in an individual mind, depending on how that person thinks about each issue or situation at different times and under different influences. This inherent complexity of individual political thought makes the linear scale between only two extremes untenable.

Mapping the political landscape is probably more like mapping the population of an area that contains two large cities. While population is concentrated around each of the city centers and along the direct connections between them, there are also a variety of small towns and rural burgs throughout the area. The same is true of the political landscape. There are people who concentrate themselves around the purists and along the direct routes between them, but there are also people scattered widely around the entire area. The political parties are concentrations of population and the organizations who focus on specific issues are arrayed around them like small towns. Some people are well settled into their neighborhood and others move around regularly.

I hope this is a helpful and reasonably accurate portrayal. I am not an artist, so I am hoping that someone with some more artistic talent could create a better visual presentation. I have the graphics in a single page .pdf file if someone is interested.

Below is a one-page sized version of the graphics (click on it to see it full sized):