Monday, March 2, 2009

Oops! False Start Monday

Once a year I sleep through my alarm. Once every year. It happened once during my student teaching after a late late night, it happened once at the beginning of last year when the power went out, and today it happened. I fell asleep listening to "A Prairie Home Companion" well I have like 35 of them so it played all night and was still going this morning thus eliminating the "alarm" function of the iHome unit. Secondarily I set my back up alarm for 6:30 PM instead of AM. I woke up to a phone call 5 minutes before school started. Last year when this happened it was a knock at the door and I answered it shirtless with my wild long hair going "Oh shit oh shit! I'll be there in 5 min." This morning I casually woke up looked at the clock realized what was happening scratched my ass strolled over to the phone, answered it, "Yes...My alarm didn't go off, I'll be there in five minutes." I changed my clothes and walked straight to school into my room, the girls were checking our weather site like normal, my principal was contently watching the trained to be responsible girls take care of themselves, I immediately picked up my smartboard marker and began teaching about sound and light waves right away only 5 minutes late. I had a great day of teaching completely without the formality of all the preplanning that seems to "exemplify" the teaching profession.

I don't do this often, in fact once a year is a lot better than many of the educators out there that do it daily (I always plan my week out like a real responsible teacher). But the fact remains that planning is great, BUT knowing your own skills, your kids, and the endless expanse of interactive material on the internet, you really should be able to map out where you want to go for the unit/semester/year and let the journey of getting there be up to creativity and improvisation of your own mind and the collective mind of the kids. I think its so idiotic to spend all that time making "lesson plans" because they are shot by day 2 or 3 anyways. I mean in a small school that is. Seriously, on any one day half of my class is gone, not speaking to each other, or needing to go the clinic or something. Its ridiculous to think that because someone makes a "lesson plan" that life will continue on a magical path of normalcy despite all the realities of life. In fact even when all my kids are here physically, they might be so whacked out from staying up all night, smoking doobies, or whatever that I'm teaching to a bunch of zombies mentally. SO if I was a regular teacher who had it all "planned" out and I'm trying to do an awesome activity on zombie day I just wasted a perfectly good activity on a bunch sleepy brain eating monstors. On the other had if you had kept these amazing learning moments saved up in your brain ready to go and waited like a jungle panther to pounce on those semi rare moments where the kids actually want to learn then you can blast em when it counts and like a counter puncher in boxer win the war although seemingly appearing to lose the fight.

I really want to explore this idea of improvisational teaching. I mean its a pretty backwards idea. Like Hunter S. Thompson was to Journalism, going into a situation with no plans and purposefully covering everything but the sporting event, Kale Iverson could be to basic teaching practice "Gonzo Teaching." You just make sure that you are well trained in the practice of improvisational teaching, being ready and equipped for anything, as well as having an attitude where you don't feel guilted by common teaching practice into think you have to plan every detail of life out for you class. Instead you teach your kids about attitudes, conversation, exploring things they are interested in within a given topic, sharing experiences and stories, and letting the pace and attitude of the class dictate direction.

The problem is that everyone wants a program, everyone wants sameness, everyone wants a formula to produce the next great workers of america. "WE HAVE STANDARDS." Who's standards though? Who decides what is "important?" Our kids aren't literate!!! They say. Well smarty Mc Oldy-Stein, have you ever watched a kid use a computer? They are literate in ways that no test will ever ask them. To say they are as illiterate is the same as saying a 70 year old trying to design a webpage is illiterate. The skills don't match the task man.

Dig this, I have an idea for a type of school. Lets call this school "Radiate Warmth University." Basically really amazingly normal people would be the teachers based on their skills and abilities as well as their positive attitudes and willingness to share what the know. Instead of taking "English" you take a class from a certified expert who knows a ton about one thing that they are passionate about like a specific author or a period or a style they are knowledgeable in. Instead of taking "shop" you take "muffler repair" or "Tile Countertops." Instead of taking "Science" you take "Observing Human Evolution in Action" or "Intermediate Nature For Appreciation" or "Novice Dog Training" or "Advanced Beach Clean Up" or "Lessening Your Carbon Footprint for Beginners." You take classes from people who are knowledgeable on a specific topic and passionate to share. And you shuck off this prescribed bologna that the Government says you need to know how to do and say all these "Benchmarks" so that you can officially be part of the society that speaks Upper Middle Class English at a white suburban 10th grade level (which middle class white kids can't even speak). Instead you are knowledgeable in different things you learned how to do from real people who showed you how. I mean you could take a two week class on "Keeping your bank account Balanced" or "Doing Your Taxes" or "Your First Car Loan" instead of "Algebra" or "Calculus." Hell you could even have a class called "Beating High Stakes State Tests."
Regular high school is all just socialization anyway, we have to go through the same bullshit our parents went through so that we can experience the same reality that they did and that they won't feel so bad for living in a screwed up world.

But by offering all these short concentrated life skills and lessons you could give the kids the choices to pick what they want to know about and break the spell.

But wait Kale, they're teenagers, they don't know whats best for themselves, we are adults, we know better.

Screw that, seriously, when did YOU decide to take care of yourself? When did you start figuring things out for yourself. Probably around the same time I did after you graduated high school or college and realizing how messed up the world is and that I would have to take things into my own hands. Or some people don't start controlling their lives till after they had a kid or got kicked out of their home or had to go to rehab or dropped out of school. Some people still live at home at the age of 35. Some people never take care of themselves for one day, instead marrying someone to do it for them. Point is that just because you are old doesn't make you immediately qualified to say that teen agers don't know any better, they know, oh christ they know. You know how I know that? Because I know just as many adults that have complete wrecks for life and are gigantic hypocrites (especially myself and teachers in general).

The reason teenagers are so abrasive is because adults are freaking annoying. Period. You can call me immature but its true. You know what adults aren't annoying? The ones with young hearts that listen to kids still. A kid can tell a phony a mile away, and people are freaking phony man. Maybe if every adult that they come into contact with wasn't asking them to do some pointless activity then they wouldn't be so tuned out.

But old people are wise. They are trying to pass on their knowledge.

But how did they learn all that wiseness? Oh yeah, they were young too and they made a bunch of mistakes too and they screwed up their lives too and thats how they got so wise.

I didn't mean to turn this into a rant but I just lose so much faith in the institution of traditional education sometimes. Everything I learned that is near and dear to my heart came from regular people teaching me things I was interested in outside of school. If you could some how make a school that simulates that then you might actually teach kids helpful interesting things.

The problem is cyclical because young vibrant teachers come into the profession. Then the system and the kids reaction to it burn them out (faster and faster it seems), but hell now they're tenured and close to retirement (maybe) so why not just stick with it withering away their lives. If that ever happens to me I will just quit. We all had those teachers. The ones who burned out, gave up, or lost hope and became bitter. I'd rather dig a ditch. You know why? Because if I was digging a ditch I would probably work with young whipper snappers where I could actually teach them something.

I learned more about the fundementals of Crystal Meth (all you could know without ever doing it yuck!) the history of late 70's early 80's amphetamines Gang trade of Tri-Cities/Yakima from an old guy named Russ working a summer job listening to his experiences, than anyone will ever know. I couldn't have learned that in school. That man was a true teacher, but it wasn't about something important or socially acceptable...not important until, oh yeah, until everyone in america is doped up on the stuff, now that comes in pretty handy knowing the history of how it became so popular, how its made, and what it does from a first hand expert. Instead of it just being "meth," I know a whole bunch of back information and history on the stuff and I understand the global problem.

Its all perspective man. Perspective and People. But we say that specific "people" are teachers. In fact, some teachers are the opposite of teachers, they're so bad at what they do that discourage people from learning the rest of their lives. Yet we pay them and call them teachers, and when I say this I am specifically talking about ones I had, ones I saw in Washington, and all around the world (I'm not talking about anyone here).

Additionally, if you lost your will to learn, or maybe its been a while since you tried to open yourself up to new things and people, you gotta listen to everyone, like the beat poets did, you gotta dig cats man, I'm just trying to tell you, just listen to people, ordinary people, they have so much to give.

Consequently I started with a simple update of my day and now we are here. And now I've become happily distracted by an amazing conversation with a special person in my life and I'll have to continue this later some time.

But seriously, dig people, please.


John Pizzo said...


I've commented on occasion when an issue has struck a particular chord. This one striking big time. Again, I've worked with the spectrum of at-risk youth for the past 9 years. Talk about alternative education. Your insight into education is refreshing...and on point. Continue the amazing work you do, as you know, there's a ripple effect of the positivity you're sharing.

serialstar said...

i too work with at risk youth and absolutely believe that an educational outlook similar to this would be more stimulating to them and any child for that's so much easier to learn something if it is broken down to a specific and of course if it happens to be something that strikes the right be taught rather than spoke learn rather than forced memorization...

Mr. Kale Iverson said...

Then Let's Start a School.

All we need is a buttload of money and our own private forest...

brooke said...

I would like to teach "Why Victorian Novels Might Seem Boring But Are Actually Awesome." And a class on Banned Books. I think your Radiate Warmth school sounds fantastic.

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