Teacher-Learner Leonard Bernstein

Many educators believe that teaching and learning are the same—two sides of the same coin. It’s because when we teach, we learn and when we learn, we teach.

For example, when you teach a math topic you know well, and then have students pick it up in different ways, we learn more about how we teach and add to our knowledge of how students learn math. It may sound obvious or simple, but it’s not.

To be a teacher-learner or a learner-teacher means to remain open to possibilities, to other ways of thinking, to other kinds of knowledge, even to be ready to grow in a way not yet known. You have to take risks, be creative and embrace problem solving.

Leonard Bernstein draws a good picture of this. While he studied piano as an advanced student, he also gave lessons to students who were beginners. As his career unfolded, his learning and teaching evolved into collaborations with some of the world’s greatest conductors and musicians. He famously mentored many younger musicians, and his close collaborations blurred the lines of teacher-learner even more.

Enjoy the great Bernstein discussing teaching and learning at :50 to 1:30. For a second treat, watch a teacher-learner in action from 41:35 to 43:30.

Are You a Feminist?

For some people the word “feminist” is a loaded one, filled with images of bra burners, shrill voices, strident slogans, and the phrase “women’s lib.”

Woman_holding_Equal_Rights_Amendment_sign_in_Los_Angeles,_California,_with_two_men,_one_of_them_yawningBra burning myth aside, a feminist is simply a person who believes in equality between men and women. It’s taken over two hundred thirty years for the 51% majority to gain the right to own property, vote, and access birth control. We’re still not done and here’s one reason why.

Barriers exist to girls’ school achievement in math & science, industries that lead to some of the highest-paying jobs. I’ve seen what three of these barriers look math girllike during my visits to elementary and middle school classrooms:

  1. Girls called on 66% less often than boys during math and science.
  2. Boys receiving as much as 4 times more one-on-one help than girls in math and science.
  3. Boys encouraged to use counting materials twice as often than girls.

Each time I showed my data to teachers, they were horrified and assured me they had no idea what they were doing. I believe them. It’s the little things we don’t notice that add up to the big things, like a culture of low expectations, low confidence, and little support for girls.

The same holds true at home. Have you heard mothers (and fathers) say to their daughters, “I can’t do math, either.” Yikes! Although probably meant to reassure a daughter, it does the opposite. It lowers confidence and relieves them of high expectations.female_symbol

As our society continues to evolve, remind yourself that adding support for girls doesn’t negate support for boys. It simply makes the world a better place for everyone.

A more equal society, thanks to a feminist point of view.

Gifts to Self

Are you a teacher or parentIMG_3246 scrambling to make the most of every second before the holiday break? Have you had enough of malls and stores?  Sounds like you need an Education Spring-style restorative gift.
Two kindred blogs, Musing off the Mat and Jenny’s Lark, inspired me to adapt their idea.

Relax comfortably. Allow your mind to wander over the array of happy experiences you’ve had this year. Write them down and number as you go.

Widen your spectrum to include peaceful decisions and happy coincidences. Keep going as long as you want. It didn’t take me long to reach 76 .

Add richness by including moments of all sizes. While writing my list, I found small moments that were IMG_3249easily overlooked. It was simple to add a visit to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Inside that large moment, though, was a smaller one in the inner courtyard.

When we list the gifts we’ve given to ourselves, several things happen. We see our blessings in black and white. We recognize what we have cultivated in our world.IMG_3250

And we realize that by noticing our gifts to self that we’ve been good enough teachers and good enough parents.