This post is from guest contributor Anthony Westcott.
In the last few years, a good deal of dialogue has been generated in the media about the idea of introverts navigating a society that values extroversion. A best selling book by Susan Cain from 2012 called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking spotlighted the issue, and it was followed by a popular “TED Talk” of hers, as well as a raft of other books in its wake such as Laurie Helgoe’s Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength, and Jennifer Kahnweiler and Douglas Conant’s The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength; just in the last month, there was a New York Times op-ed piece written by Vanessa Barbara about living as an introvert in the highly extroverted culture of Brazil. And this has been good news for introverts such as yours truly. While I think my passions for reading and writing led me to a career teaching English, it may seem ironic to others that an introvert should choose to spend each day interacting with classes of high school students. However, as these books will tell you, many introverts learn how to develop a form of extroverted behavior to fit into a role that demands it. Just think of famous actors like Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood who light up movie screens but are soft-spoken, even reticent individuals offstage. Indeed, many of my students would characterize my teaching personality in a classroom as dynamic but it’s the work of a performer, not the true self on display. The tradeoff for my psyche is daily lunch periods spent away from both colleagues and students solitarily plowing through books, recharging for an afternoon of more face time with kids.
Educators and school administrators appear to be split over the use of cell phones in the class room and in fact many schools currently have a difficult fight on their hands to enforce a ban they have in place on students carrying their personal phones to classes. Despite school policies requiring students leave their phones at home or leave them in school lockers, many students still insist on carrying them in their pockets. Asking teens to go without their phone is like asking them to go without a limb. If I had been asked my opinion of students carrying phones to class a couple of years ago, my answer would have been a resounding ‘no’, however I am now an avid supporter of embracing the technology that my students embrace. The new cell phones are convenient, user friendly and can do most things that a computer can do. They also have the advantage of being highly portable. At this time with the growing number of cell phone providers offering unlimited data plans for relatively little money, the average teen is connected where-ever he/she goes. I am not advocating that students should be entitled to run around with their phones all day doing as they wish, however it seems to me that they are a tool that can be used for the benefit of our students if we are willing to learn their capabilities and educate our students in the proper use of the technology for educational purposes.
The age of criticism is upon us and skepticism rules the day. Michael S. Roth in this recent NYT op-ed laments the over-emphasis on critiquing and debunking. This is a most unfortunate circumstance in academia. The best and brightest minds are dedicated to deconstructing, debunking, and in essence scorning the work of others. Rather than remaining open to new ideas, today’s students have been encouraged, enticed, and trained to take issue even with (or perhaps especially with) the great scholars and respected authorities of renown. Perhaps it goes back to the western tendency toward individualism and analytic thinking (which strangely enough may be linked to wheat farming).
This penchant for the critical is not in itself a detriment; in this electronic age of dubious claims or intentionally misleading information, (think the media campaign on both sides of the crisis in Ukraine), not being easily misled is a good characteristic to have. But is it a virtue in itself? I am reminded of the students in my introductory course in epistemology. Whenever pressed, there is a clear tendency to repeatedly revert to radical skepticism despite reminders that this is the problematic default position from which we are attempting to find a way out.
It would be nice for a change if we had a rule that every criticism must be coupled with a generative act of positive, creative thinking. Don’t just tell me what’s wrong with what an author said; give me something worth pondering in its place.
Perhaps it’s time to foster creativity, synthesis, and openness rather than just critical deconstruction. After all, real progress was never made simply by fault-finding but more often by embracing the best we could come up with.
Successful, ambitious young people armed with a 5-week summer training course drop into America’s less desirable schools. But who is it really helping? Critics claim that TFA recruits inexperienced people who are more interested in padding their CVs than making a real difference. There are also claims that school districts prefer hiring TFA teachers because they come in at the bottom of the pay scale and leave before climbing much higher. And if that weren’t bad enough, it appears that veteran teachers have been laid off to make way for the swelling ranks of “corps members” deployed on their two-year stints. Faced with such criticism, Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp defended the organization saying that it is a leadership development organization, not a teaching organization.
Take a look at one teacher’s sardonic take on “The Green Berets of Excellence.”
One of the many goals of any educational institution is to help shape students into educated, well-rounded, independent thinkers who will eventually become productive members of society. As such, it is the job of schools to educate students about various concerns related to social justice and diversity in the world surrounding them, since many adolescents often require some guidance in educating themselves in this area. This is especially true of boarding schools, which by nature incorporate students from a variety of geographic locations and backgrounds. However, educators often encounter difficulty with engaging students in discussions about social justice without falling victim to the adolescent perception that such issues are simply the focus of adults aiming to lecture about topics unrelated to the average teen. Literary critical theories can be an effective method of practicing critical thinking skills while also evaluating a variety of social justice issues within the secondary education classroom. Read More
Here’s an article on an apposite topic for our times by colleague and guest contributor Jane Alwis. Educators and school administrators appear to be split over the…
By Kim Bonica, high school English teacher One of the many goals of any educational institution is to help shape students into educated, well-rounded, independent thinkers who will…
On March 5th, Khan Academy—the free, online learning platform comprised of video lectures—declared that they would be partnering with the College Board to give free testing software to the public. Fantastic, no? The strange partnership is touted as ushering in “a future determined by merit not money.” Yet if it is true what some recent studies have been claiming about the intractable snail’s pace of social mobility and the hereditary link to wealth, it might not have as much of an impact as hoped. Access is only one part of the complex problem of closing the achievement gap among disparate income groups. Moreover, what are we to make of this strange pairing?
By Matthew Aaron Kim Patricia Dunn (1995; 2001), implores teachers to introduce unconventional modes of representation to experienced and novice student writers in hopes that these writers can…