Page 1

Teachers Are Made

Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.

Caleb Gattegno

Newsletter

vol. V no. 2-3

December 1975/February 1976


First published in 1975. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright Š 1975-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-282-4 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555 www.EducationalSolutions.com


The eleven contributors to this issue have looked at a question which has been widely debated everywhere and is today more pressing than ever: “Are teachers born or made?” There is a big difference in what is to be done in colleges of education according to which answer is accepted. All the writers come to the same conclusion: teachers are made and more precisely make themselves. This newsletter could make a lasting contribution to teacher education as it raises pinpointedly issues that cannot be ignored without unpleasant consequences to the teacher. When taken into account they can change the lives of both students and teachers since school work becomes then vital and joyful. Perhaps some of our readers will let us know their thoughts after studying the content of this newsletter and help us prepare a sequel under the title: “How to make all teachers into better teachers.” A review of a new book of ours follows these articles. The restricted edition of that book has been moving fast, through word of mouth. The news items include important announcements: our video project for the teaching of foreign languages; our extended Mini Tests for reading; the reopening of the production of animated geometry films. These are vital contributions that excite us and continue to show us how much more there is to do.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 .............................................................................. 1 Chapter 2 .............................................................................. 7 Chapter 3 ............................................................................ 13 Chapter 4.............................................................................17 Chapter 5 ............................................................................ 21 Chapter 6............................................................................ 27 Chapter 7 ............................................................................ 31 Chapter 8............................................................................ 35 Chapter 9............................................................................ 39 Chapter 10 .......................................................................... 45 Chapter 11............................................................................51 Book Review ....................................................................... 55 News Items ......................................................................... 59 1 First Steps Towards The Silent Way On Television ..................... 59 2 Notes On The Supplementary Kit Of Our Mini-Tests .................62 3 A Short Seminar At Fipse In Washington D. C............................63 4 A New Animated Geometry Film .................................................64


Chapter 1

In just seven years, good luck has brought me a wide variety of teaching experiences — working with students who range in age from 4 to 70; conducting workshops in five countries; having assignments which include teaching reading, math, writing, science, social studies, art, physical education; and being a teacher-of-teachers in six schools. I can say with certainty, however, that what remains with me is not so much the content of the experiences, but rather, the lessons I’ve learned from them which have made me into a better teacher. I considered all of my preparation to be a teacher useless, with the exception of a week long seminar on Words in Color at Educational Solutions (rather at Schools for the Future). That week alerted me to many prejudices I held about children: that I thought of them mostly as “needing” this or that; that I thought I had to “reward” them and “love” them a lot or they wouldn’t learn, etc. After that workshop, however, I believed that if I could tell my students only what they could not invent, if I could use certain powers that they had and not only their memory, if I could manage to let them find criteria, then they would learn. My first class was a group of third graders in a school in Virginia, but it was also arranged that year for me to work one and a half hours each day with a group of sixteen non-readers in the school. If I had only known then that teachers were made, not born, I would have had a more peaceful year. I remember being impatient, wishing I could do a better job, being upset when lessons went poorly, and being irritated when students didn’t “get it.” I remember feeling somewhat schizophrenic:

1


Teachers Are Made

when I taught reading with Words in Color, I had the materials and techniques I needed to let the students learn; but when I worked with other subjects, I mostly taught as I had been taught. Because of my work with those sixteen children who had failed for 3-4 years before they met me and Words in Color, I was encouraged. I knew myself to be a clumsy, inflexible teacher that year, but, in spite of me, the students had become literate. I realized at that time that children would learn on their own if the challenge was clear to them and if their sense of truth was not violated. The next two years I taught five and six year olds at Horace Mann Elementary School in New York City. At the beginning of that experience, I was still more occupied by “wanting” to teach than by “learning” to teach. I was also working with Educational Solutions at that time, though, and being helped in a number of ways by my colleagues there. One day after school I said to one of them: “I don’t know why the children would want to come back to school tomorrow; I was so boring and unimaginative today.” She replied: “Just wait for them tomorrow at the door of the classroom. Their faces will show you that they are ready to start afresh.” When I saw these children the next morning, I knew that my colleague’s remark was helpful. Learning to teach, I knew, meant being more in contact with the reality of the students in my class. Another colleague suggested that I watch the students as they played and learned spontaneously on the playground. Indeed, this taught me as much about how children learn as all that happened inside the classroom. The workshops and seminars at Educational Solutions also helped put me in contact with the reality of my students by alerting me to terms which were not included in the psychology texts I had studied: the powers of the mind, the will, the sense of truth, temporal hierarchies, the stages of awareness and facility in learning a skill, and others. Each time that I found one of these realities in my self and/or in my students, the classroom was a different place. I was making progress and so were my students. But just as I began to feel “pleased” by how much or how quickly the students in my class were learning, Dr. Gattegno would visit

2


Chapter 1

us. From what I saw my students do while working with him, I knew that in order to really know who the learners were, I had to be more daring. I was beginning to be concerned with learning to teach. While the children were showing me what capable learners they were, I was also more aware of my self learning the various functionings which “good” teaching required. My investigation of what made me tired while teaching stands out as an example of one such learning. The hours I spent in the classroom were be ginning to be more enjoyable because I watched my tension and reduced it, because I observed how much energy I wasted being “disappointed” and could often stop “appointing” that certain outcomes should follow from my efforts. I spent the next three years as a teacher-of-teachers at the Twin Parks School in the Bronx. It was a turning point in my evolution as a teacher to become clear on what it meant to be part of an “experimental” school as opposed to a “model” school. It was our concern there to do away with preconceptions and to let problems dictate their solutions at the time they presented themselves. I learned the common sense of this “scientific” approach while working with sixty of the most demanding children in that school. I found again and again that each child had to teach me how to work with him. Indeed, my thorough acquaintance with the Words in Color techniques and materials was not sufficient to tell me how to work with Juliet, who had not spoken in her six months at the school, or with William who said: “Look, man, I ain’t here to look. Just teach me!” I learned that year that one improves one’s teaching by working with the most demanding students. Giving hundreds of demonstration lessons in that school, I also found that there was more to learn from lessons which did not work than from ones that went smoothly. I had an entirely different relationship to teaching when I realized that understanding my mistakes made it possible for me to move ahead. A difference between myself as a teacher now and several years ago is that now I am conscious of making myself into a teacher. This awareness, of my self learning what a given situation requires of me, is as much a part of each lesson I teach as the other events. I could say in 3


Teachers Are Made

fact that my “teaching” and my “learning to teach” are one. This state is lived, for instance, when I catch myself being carried away with the subject matter and switch at that very moment to taking the learning or the learners more into account. From my last three months of teaching, a number of “lessons I’ve learned” are vividly in my mind. On one occasion, Dr. Gattegno pointed out that most of the comments I made about the students in my English class were concerned with their being “students” as opposed to “persons.” At another time I had the opportunity of teaching about forty lessons while three teachers carefully wrote down their observations on each lesson. In the feedback sessions which followed each class, all of us realized that no matter how much we may take in during a lesson, there is still a lot that escapes us. It seems to me, now that I am aware of my self learning to teach, the proper time to make notes on a lesson is after the class rather than before it takes place. It was only after I worked with some students in Gadsden, Alabama that I understood it was the exercises of the lesson, not the content, that had made a difference to these students. After my work at a school in Jacksonville, Florida, I could write in my report: “Now these children are better learners; that is, they are more in touch with and in control of their functionings.” And at the end of a recent presentation of Words in Color to a group of teachers, I knew that they considered it valuable to be able to sense the whole of the challenge of teaching reading after only working on it an hour. I was sure that I had worked with them in a way that respected the whole. Having just read our September Newsletter on “intuition and Complexity,” I did not attempt to be clear by fragmenting. When people inquire about my work as a teacher-of-teachers, they often ask: “But don’t you find it difficult to get teachers to change?” I can reply to them that the teachers I meet are not different from me. When they see something that makes sense to them, that will make their work easier and infinitely more rewarding, they take steps to make it a part of themselves. Katherine Mitchell 4


Chapter 2

It was back in 1949 in New Delhi that I took my first teaching job and found that it was very enjoyable and rewarding for me to be a teacher. I had as my students a group of twenty 13 and 14 year old girls who had very little or an inadequate knowledge of English. One of my jobs was to bring them, within two school years — with about six hours a week given to the teaching of English — up to the high school level in their competence to speak, understand, read, and write English as a second language. My strength as a teacher did not consist of my knowing how to prepare these students to prove themselves as knowledgeable in English, but rather of my interest in them as persons and in finding out how effectively they could manage to do things that needed to be done. For this reason I watched them at work instead of pushing them to do things to please me. My efficiency as a teacher did not lie in my awareness as to how my students learned or in what ways I needed to teach them so that they would learn better, but in an unspoken understanding between them and me which had to do with our effort together to get in touch with our potential to accomplish the task set before us. In this they were my equal. In the course of time as I would notice the rapid progress these young ladies were making in their grasp of the English language, somewhat amazed, I would ask myself: “What makes it work?”

5


Teachers Are Made

I was informal and friendly in my way of relating to my students and was not in the least looked up to as an authority figure. The congeniality and equality in our relationship might somehow have made it work. I could let my students feel at ease with their mistakes and not mind their being confused or making obvious errors because I viewed those as opportunities to work further towards eliminating them. I discussed these with them as I respected the originality of their attempts at selfexpression. This too must have helped. In retrospect I can say that I was not equipped to know precisely what needed to be done to help them overcome the hurdles met. I did ray best to bring things to their notice and, on the whole, left them to their own resourcefulness. The main resource at their disposal of which I was aware was their keenness to learn English and their willingness to learn it with me. Their determination and good will certainly helped. During the second year when we would study together, say, Wordsworth’s poetry or the life story of Hellen Keller or of Gandhi as part of the curriculum, I recall having access to their subtle, complex and heightened (by their adolescence) life of affectivity. Somehow it seemed that the difficulties of language were lightened if the language was linked with and carried by the wealth of experience and imagination at their disposal. Since we did not work through translation and had agreed to ban the use of the vernacular in English classes, I remember presenting to them or discussing with them in simpler English the contents of a poem by Keats or Shelley, and counting heavily on their delicate aesthetic sense and on other gifts like their sensitivity for living life by proxy. My ability to stir these powers allowed them to relate to English with a sense of little foreignness about it, as the glow on their faces would indicate and their additional ease in their use of English would prove. Sometimes while sitting with my friends, I would talk of myself and my students, and would wonder aloud: “What makes it work?” One of my friends once came up with the explanation: “Do you know, you are a born teacher?” For want of a clearer sense of it in me, I would think: 6


Chapter 2

“What I know is that there is ‘love’ at work between me and my students.” I must add here that this feeling had nothing to do with a selfcongratulatory ego-trip. There was in me a vague, humble recognition that something larger than myself, which I did not fully understand, was operative and to some extent was taking care of my ignorance and inexperience as a teacher. I felt it as a force that permeated and kept us together meaningfully since we knew how not to ask anything of each other for ourselves. Then, a few years later, when I was no longer teaching, I happened to come by an approach to teaching languages called The Silent Way. Because of my interest in education, I took time to reflect upon the awarenesses offered and observations made on human learning by the author of this approach. I looked into his suggestions regarding ways of teaching languages which serve and enhance the learning processes and make learners autonomous in their functioning in the language being learned by them. By exposing myself to understanding this approach further, I began to see that the quality of being “a born teacher” (whatever it may mean) may be necessary but was not by any measure sufficient to make me into an effective and adequate language teacher. My encounter with The Silent Way made me keenly aware that it was essential for me to become concerned with understanding what teaching languages was all about. It asked of me that I equip myself with techniques of teaching which would enable me to help the learning processes systematically and consciously. A series of very personal questions emerged and I put them to myself: •

what does it mean to be a language teacher?

what does it ask of me?

in what ways can I respond adequately to what is asked?

So far, what is it to be a good teacher had been an academic question. The answer to it could be found in books and in my own or in other

7


Teachers Are Made

people’s definitions of a good teacher. But now it was a personal and, therefore, a human question. The understanding of it was to be met in my own awareness and in my ways of working as a teacher. To understand it I willed to widen and educate my awareness and bring about changes in my ways of teaching, if so required. With this conscious act of my will the process of making myself into a teacher got initiated. Four years ago when I took upon myself to teach Hindi as a foreign language using The Silent Way, and to share my understanding of The Silent Way with ESL teachers, this process was accelerated, and it continues to be at work in me. In trying to understand what it is to be a language teacher, I face the question — is language knowledge? — and I know that my understanding of this question affects my way of working as a teacher. I feel the need to make my teaching consciously and willfully different when I perceive language not as knowledge to be imparted bit by bit to the students by me, but as an activity of the mind which manifests itself in the form of adequate utterances (or designs on paper) in a certain order, with a certain rhythm. These are linked with meanings which are either perceived in the situations outside or are felt within needing to be articulated and understood. In the light of this perception, working with a group of people who are there to learn a new language, my sensitivity demands of me that I do not teach language as such but, instead, create the climate in which this mental activity of the learners becomes active, and thus various aspects of the language are retained through ample practice, and used by the learners spontaneously. As their teacher, this means to me that I make myself capable of being in touch with this activity of my students’ minds and act in accordance with it through the vehicle of the language being learned. Since as their teacher I am instrumental in the learners’ learning the language, I feel the need to make my teaching into a highly sensitive and precise instrument: an instrument that responds with accuracy 8


Chapter 2

and restraint to the learning taking place; an instrument that puts into circulation those parts of the language which the learners cannot invent, and leaves to them the initiative of generating those aspects which they can generate on their own through transfer of learning. The challenge of making my teaching instrumental in serving the learning process is endlessly present. It requires that I make myself vulnerable to receiving the unpredictable and unknown impacts of the actual learning going on in each individual. It requires that I be guided in my acts of teaching not by preconceived notions but by that which is taking place here and now. As a Silent Way teacher I feel the need to learn to acknowledge, in deed, the fact that people are endowed with the power to correct themselves. Also, to see mistakes as an integral part of the process of learning. These awarenesses ask of me that I make my teaching such that it gives the learners all the time they need to work on the various aspects of the language, be they utterances, order of words, melody or meanings. Giving the time necessary to work on the language, without hasty judgments or frequent help coming from me, is actually equivalent to making it possible for the learners to reach a voluntary command of their functioning in the language on the basis of their inner criteria, intelligence and perceptive powers. For this to happen, I need to exercise deliberate restraint on myself, another way in which I keep on making myself a different teacher. Sometimes for me the activity of teaching is shaped by my awareness of what needs to be done. At other times it is performed in ignorance of what I need to do, but in the actuality of my teaching I remain alert to learn how I need to teach. In the first case my awareness gives form to my actions. In the second case my actions educate my awareness. A keenness exists in me to go on learning how to make changes in my ways of teaching through this interaction between my actions and my awareness. This is so because I am given to my responsibility of making my teaching available to my students as a tool which will help them find themselves functioning autonomously in the universe of temporal and 9


Teachers Are Made

spatial relationships, of actions, feelings and emotions, of abstractions and imagination — the universe they are so used to, only now they will find themselves functioning in it in a new language. Shakti Gattegno

10


Chapter 3

Thinking of the coming to birth and the making of a teacher brings me back to my days as a student. At that time I remember making more than once the solemn vow that I would never become a teacher. How odd it is that this resolution, uttered with such an air of finality, should come from one who fared well in school and who derived much inspiration from her teachers; how much stranger still that this person should embark upon that very path! Perhaps it is a sense of irony about life’s twists and turns that prompts me to choose this rather unpromising starting point. Yet, however ironic it may be, I find in it some foreshadowings and insights into my experiences of the past eleven years. The first insight is that, in spite of my interest in learning, I did not find myself coming to this life already equipped to teach; I did not in anyway perceive myself to be a “born teacher.” Secondly, I did not seek to equip myself by following courses of education or acquiring a knowledge of pedagogy; I was more interested in what the various fields of learning had to teach me. Thirdly, the very strength of my rejection of the vocation of teacher implied an underlying attraction; I did not have to repeat to myself over and over again, “I will never become a deep-sea diver” or “I will never become a used car salesman.” Insofar as the attraction took this ambivalent form, it was the attraction of challenge (although other elements have exerted their pull), and the challenge has been as much a challenge to temperament as to ignorance. Could someone whose temperament inclined towards

11


Teachers Are Made

a rather solitary life of the imagination, a life of ideas and reflection, meet the practical demands of the act of teaching? How does one transform a vision or a concept into a process? Is it communicated by inspiration or generated anew in each person? How does one actualize and make visible anything at all? These were some of the underlying questions that beset me from my first day as a teacher in the classroom. Indeed it is so obvious in my case that the classroom has been the forge and crucible for the making of a teacher. As I possessed very little of the teacherly instinct for order and discipline and none of the procedures taught about classroom management, the classroom has been a place of constantly hammering out and refining techniques which enable students to make better use of their time, a place of learning to sublimate a tendency to amorphous expansion and endless elaboration (and therefore confusion) into a more finely honed instrument for charging but not overloading students with glimpses of the infinite richness that exists in every worthwhile area of investigation, and a place of transformation of myself from someone who held beliefs that education is more than conditioning and adaptation to one more able to put these views into practice. Fortunately, my first teaching position was in a secondary school where most of the students were cooperative, many were even enthusiastic, so that my weaknesses as a teacher did not swamp me. Of course, even with this rather gentle introduction into the world of teaching, there were great gaps that couldn’t escape my notice — between devotion and delivery, between energy expended and results obtained. I can remember spending ridiculous amounts of time preparing materials and lessons, only to find the former worth but a few moments of the students’ time and the latter often totally unrelated to the students’ needs. But in the four years at that school I did learn some important things, especially from the slower students, who taught me that my imagination was not equivalent to everyone else’s. I also began to differentiate more between awareness and facility, although I don’t think I used those precise terms, and I realized that I was often stronger in creating awarenesses than in developing facility in students.

12


Chapter 3

When I left this position, I was considered to be a good teacher, though it was my very sense that I did not really know much about how learning takes place and, consequently, about teaching that propelled into working with younger students. I was in for a rude awakening when I decided to cast my lot with a group of teachers starting an experimental center-oriented school. There I certainly found the excitement I was looking for, but my own inner chaos was made very visible in my room full of stuff and children. For instance, once a paper airplane project evolved which got so out of hand that every little boy tore madly around the school hurling his creations at teachers and other objects willy-nilly; another time students who had discovered the principle of siphoning at the water table decided to flood the nursery school on the floor below by dropping rubber tubes down through the outside windows. Needless to say, I was bewildered and overwhelmed by my capacity to inflame such enthusiasms and my incapacity to generate sustained directed activities. For the first time I took refuge in pedagogy, reading about learning from Piaget, Bruner, et al, but very little of the lofty notions I gleaned helped me in my predicament. Only the hard lessons of experience brought me down to earth a little, but I was held back by feeling defeated instead of accepting things as they were and carrying on from there. Learning to live with chaos has been my teacher on subsequent occasions as well, because chaos has been the normal state of affairs in most of the schools where I have been a consultant. In these situations I learned more to stop wanting only to be successful and to begin the discipline of where and how I could contribute to reducing the chaos, step by step, usually little by little, if at all. I could not have begun to make the progress I have made if I had not been shown that the science of education actually exists. Investigation of questions of the economics of learning, the powers of children, awareness and facility, and so on, have revolutionized the way I engage in the act of teaching. Most valuable of all to me has been the process of continuous feedback, and learning to use this instrument has been the 13


Teachers Are Made

most integrative factor in helping to bridge the gap between intention and action, vision and realization, energy expended and results achieved. An important indication to me of my growth as a teacher consists of the changed attitude I have toward the feeling of starting from scratch whenever I begin to teach again. This feeling used to throw me into a panic, which I would try to alleviate by spending hours and hours in intense and compulsive study. Now I welcome this feeling as the one which will make me more vulnerable to the demands of each situation, and the energy I used to spend grinding my mental wheels is now more available for carrying out these demands. So the making of a teacher in my case has entailed the acquisition of certain disciplines and techniques which, however, only have life in the context of a right understanding of the state of having to start afresh. I would have had to learn this in any undertaking that is a creative endeavor, but that I happened to choose the one I vowed never to undertake is a lesson I particularly have valued and a choice I do not regret. Zulette Catir

14


Chapter 4

When the question, “Are you a born teacher?” was put to me, my initial response, which came without much examination of the facts, was to say, “To a certain degree.” At the time, although I realized that the exposure to the spirit of The Silent Way had certainly shaped me into a better teacher, I was also of the opinion that I was born with all the good qualities to be a good teacher. It was not until I seriously reflected upon my past teaching experiences that I realized how ignorant I was in the field of teaching. A quick survey of all my past “teaching” experiences (which consisted of being a “little teacher” to slower classmates in grade and high schools, tutoring some high school girls and, in the capacity of a teaching assistant, teaching Chinese at a university) revealed that I was engaged in teaching only as an artist who happened to have some knowledge about the subject matter and was willing to be, depending on luck, successful or not. Since my function in this type of teaching was primarily to do what I had seen previously done, I’d take the credit when good results occurred, but when the results were not satisfactory, I thought the “real” teachers had to take the blame. I did not make much of an attempt to examine my performances with a scientific bias. I remember clearly how discouraged I was when teaching Chinese to Americans in St. Louis; I could not get them to talk as part of a “conversation” course! To avoid silence, I would talk instead with the belief that conversation was taking place. Although, even then, I was quite aware of the fact that the only way they would be able to speak the language was by speaking it and not by listening to me, I was utterly helpless. Hours of preparation at home took me nowhere; 15


Teachers Are Made

slides, pictures, recordings, etc., which were brought in with the hope of arousing their interest, did not seem to serve any purpose either. Two semesters thus went by, leaving the students practically at the level where they started and me frustrated, thinking, “I would only teach again if I have good and cooperative students. I wouldn’t waste my time on those who are not motivated enough to learn.” In 1972, The Silent Way of teaching came my way, and since then it has been playing a significant part in my understanding of what teaching is. Being exposed to this unique way of working, I have gone through many phases in the process of being sensitized to recognize many essential factors of good teaching. At the first encounters, again and again I felt overwhelmed and lost at the same time: overwhelmed because I was introduced to a totally different set of teaching techniques and materials which, in spite of all the strange features, seemed to be able to make students participate actively and learn in a joyful way; lost because I could not truly understand the underlying philosophy for all these differences and peculiarities. At that time, oral or written explanations given as answers to my questions looked to me as being only intellectual justifications. “Do all these contrived techniques and materials indeed have the powers to generate learning? how? why?” With this puzzlement and many of my preconceptions, I entered the second phase where I tried, fumbled, got frustrated, cried and finally saw some light. Using many of the points I then knew only superficially, I taught some Chinese courses. Unfamiliar with the new materials and raw at the new techniques, I would try very hard to repeat what I saw done in other classrooms, disregarding the fact that the subject matter and the students were entirely different. Much anxiety was built-up; I often felt completely baffled. In spite of all the difficult moments, I was amazed at the end of each course to witness rather satisfactory results on the part of the students. The outcome and the occasional success at this stage were exciting and encouraging enough for me to want to continue improving. All the tears shed, impatience and tenseness shown, rages felt were no longer seen as embarrassing expressions but rather as milestones in the process of my knowing better that a teacher ought

16


Chapter 4

not to expect more then she gets and make unreasonable demands of the students but instead ought to work patiently with what the students have and at their own pace. It has been difficult for me to be sure that I am with the learners and not so much concerned with the subject matter. Would I know the difference when it happens? In the summer of 1974, I had the opportunity to teach an intensive Chinese course in Switzerland. Most of the participants were already familiar with The Silent Way and were of such temperaments that the atmosphere was very relaxed throughout the entire two weeks. For the first time, I was able to truly ride the waves, to be light and at ease, learning to take into account all the learners’ individual learning styles, instead of worrying about the curriculum and trying to impose my own expectations on the students. The impact from dealing with the students on a person-to-person level created a peaceful situation, where Chinese was the medium of active communication. Ten days passed swiftly; besides the fact that much Chinese was learned, no one felt tired. All said that had there been more time in this course they would have been able to continue with the same, if not greater, enthusiasm and lightness. This encounter remains for me an eye-opener that gave me awareness of a teacher’s place and role. Through much trial and error in the classroom and reflection afterwards, I have gained much insight into the world of teaching. “Do things that free the students” has changed, in my case, from being a slogan to a practical working guideline. Upon examining my performance as a teacher, I question myself, “Are the things done in the classroom, movements that make students more independent, or do I just do them for the sake of passing on knowledge?” Frequently, before entering a situation, I ask myself that question in order to make a decision whether or not to engage in a particular exercise; after the session, with the actual happening as reference, I ask myself the same question again to determine whether or not the right things were done, and learn from the conclusion. For example, in my Chinese classes, the exercise on tones and sounds have always come first. However, there is a difference; in my first classes, it came because it had been traditionally done in that way, now it comes because of a deliberate

17


Teachers Are Made

choice, because I know from experience and investigation, that it is indeed the place for such an exercise, particularly because it yields a lot of language for later, and also leads the students immediately into a field which is special to this language. Thus, in turn they gain a “feel� for the language that is a first step in their becoming independent. Many other follow-up exercises are chosen simply because they give a chance to students of entering the language in a way that is not to be limited to the structures that are similar to the one of their own language and could thus be misleading. By educating myself in the use of The Silent Way of teaching, I have found that good teaching does not have to depend on luck, but rather is the outcome of making a sequence of right decisions. The joy of being made into a sensitive and reasonable teacher gives a constant boost that provides still more room for making a better teacher of myself. Shiow-Ley Kuo

18


Chapter 5

The last thing in the world I would have imagined myself being at the age of 22 was a typing teacher. And yet, during the academic year, 1969-1970, I found myself, day after day, barking out sequences of keys — “A, semi, S, L, D, K, F, J, G, H!” — to groups of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at an intermediate school in Ocean-Hill Brownsville. Three factors in particular led to this state of affairs: first, the New York State Department of Education required potential guidance counselors to have two years teaching experience; second, my initial year of duty as the teacher of the lowest achieving fourth grade class in a school in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn was so disastrous to my charges (who spent most of their time either running around or copying off the chalkboard) and to myself (who resorted to threats like, “Anyone who gets out of his seat gets slapped on the backside!” and to “helpful” explanations like, “To read, all you have to do is make a different sound for each letter!”) that anything promised to be an improvement; and third, the principal of this intermediate school had hoped that, even though I was probably lying when I claimed to type more than 20 words per minute, a male figure might be able to hinder any further destruction of the typewriters. In a foggy, detached way, I muddled through most of the year, thankful that little was expected of me or the students. Then, in the late spring, I happened upon a scene which struck me as remarkable. I glanced into a classroom while on hall patrol and saw about a dozen of the school’s biggest headaches sitting up in their chairs, intensely involved in a reading lesson, and as well behaved as anyone could expect. Before them was an old man, standing with a pointer in front of a set of charts 19


Teachers Are Made

covered with words printed in color. As he pointed from word to word, creating a sentence for them to utter, their eyes followed in quiet unison. Then, when the pointer was dropped, a chorus of voices tried to produce the correct sequence of words. Though there was hesitation and mistakes, the students didn’t give up until one long sequence after another (some including words like physics and diaphragm) was managed. The single most striking aspect of what I saw was the eagerness from children — almost everyone had given up on — to do what was being asked of them by a complete stranger, without threats or cajoling or entertaining or praising. When this stranger (who turned out to be Dr. Caleb Gattegno) stayed and talked with the few other teachers who had observed the lesson, I sat aside and listened. I didn’t know how he did what I had witnessed or even what he was doing in the school — only that I had seen something vital, that I wanted to be able to work in that way, and that since he had done it, I knew I could do it too. All thoughts of being a guidance counselor vanished, and I spent the next two years in the same school as a remedial reading teacher. During those two years especially, but also during the ones that followed, I have been making myself into a teacher. I didn’t begin by consciously trying to change my attitudes or my philosophy; I only wanted to see how I could hold my students’ interest and keep them busy on things which would help them to read better. I adopted the use of some activities and techniques that I became acquainted with during a workshop at Educational Solutions. There was an open-endedness about the Words in Color approach which seemed right to me. It clearly asked the teacher to be involved with the learners in a creative way and invited me to develop a genuine expertise in a well-defined area — making students into readers. These very aspects that attracted me also made things not too easy. There was a lot of floundering about for a number of months, when I operated mainly in a hit-or-miss fashion. I was insecure, indecisive, and inaccurate much of the time. Occasionally, I thought my vision of the future, where I saw myself as someone who really knew what he was doing, was just a mirage. What sustained me during these times

20


Chapter 5

were my students’ good will, the contribution to their understanding of their task in learning to read that comes from the Words in Color materials and techniques in themselves, an occasional workshop or visit from an Educational Solutions’ consultant, and the intuition I had from the first moments I saw Dr. Gattegno working — that school didn’t have to be a chore for anybody. I’m sure that I was helped by my having been such a poor teacher to begin with. I had little investment in some ideology or in myself as someone who knew what he was doing. When lessons didn’t go well, it didn’t occur to me to attribute this to a lack of intelligence in my pupils, to poor motivation, to social problems, etc.; rather, I knew that I was clumsy and that until I wasn’t it made sense to attribute the failures to this fact. I was lucky to have found before long that I could learn about teaching by trying to cater my actions to the students’ responses and that I could always modify a technique even as I was employing it. This learning from the students — letting them show me what I needed to do to help — was very exciting and made every day loaded with new possibilities. Two insights which were sensed from the start but only made explicit through the education I have since received from my students, have contributed in particular to making me into a teacher. The first, which jolted me deeply when it leaped into my mind is that learning in school can be as much a self-motivated activity as games played outside of school, and that the knowledge and know-hows that teachers want their students to acquire can be a by product of such activity. This awareness came when I was thinking about the activity with the one sign, “a”, in which the sound for it (as in at) is repeated according to certain rules. I suddenly realized that asking a child to make the right noises for a string like “a aaa aa” is asking him to play a game, not to learn how to read. Surely, as the content of the game is extended to include more and more of the sounds of English, the students will find themselves “reading” ; but the impetus to join in the game is not some distant aim of “being able to learn from or enjoy books” (though it is not excluded that this idea may be present for some). Rather, I could count on learners entering into such activities with joy and concentration because they recognize these games to be, like those they

21


Teachers Are Made

play on their own — such as hopscotch, jacks, hangman, or countless others — opportunities for knowing expanded uses of their mental and physical resources. It became clear to me also that these games were very different from the many in circulation which try to cloak drill and memorization in a format of competition to reach the finish line or to win the most points. Instead, the competition is with oneself to see how much better one can manage on the next try. The second insight, which emerged more gradually and is still taking shape, is that people must be allowed to do their own learning, which can only take place through the exercise of their will. This, for me, has been a subtle, elusive, but pervasive awareness. It is quite removed from the stimulus-response orientation which had predominated my way of trying to understand human psychology. I know now that what matter most in the education of anyone are his inner movements. The workings of the mind as it focuses on a small matter, then on a larger whole, then back to a narrow concern, or as it gets ready to give up or take a leap ahead are only visible to the extent that I’ve made myself sensitive to the tone of someone’s voice, his posture, the look in his eye, etc. I’m not quite sure why this has been especially difficult for me; perhaps it’s due in part to having to give up the notion that I’m a slave to habits or impacts from the environment. As it becomes clearer to me that I am in charge of what I do and learn, I know that my role as a teacher is not to modify behavior but to make accessible to the learners what would not ordinarily be available and to be watchful that they take charge of their learning. Old criteria for materials, techniques, and activities like: •

will they be interesting to the students?

will they be easy?

do they provide for a lot of reinforcement?

will I know exactly what to do beforehand?

have all been replaced for me by such questions as: •

do they make perceptible to the learner what can be made Perceptible?

22


Chapter 5

do they provide the learner with what is arbitrary, and therefore cannot be invented by him?

are they free of elements which may be distracting?

do they require of the learner active mental involvement, rather than simple yielding to conditioning?

do they allow for immediate and continuous feedback to the teacher concerning the student’s progress?

are they flexible enough to allow for focusing on the most elementary matters while containing opportunities for immediate and perhaps unlimited expansion?

In the six years that have passed since I first found Dr. Gattegno’s demonstration class with twelve “problem-children” so remarkable, lessons in which students of all kinds are learning a great deal and are doing it gladly have become commonplace for me. This shift in my expectations of what schools can provide is a good measure of the extent to which I have made myself into a teacher. What’s more important, though, is knowing that every classroom I enter is a laboratory for learning about learning so that the teacher that I have become is still in the making and always will be. Ted Swartz

23


Chapter 6

Making a teacher means acquiring, coordinating, and making automatic a cluster of functionings which enable one, while teaching, to operate smoothly enough to give oneself to meeting one’s students here and now. This meeting, if it is to stay alive, is perpetual, and it seems mysterious as well, more like an underlying communion than any action. If I have the opportunity to observe teachers working, and it happens that this communion is such that even an observer can share in it, I may gain awareness of an invisible component to guide my own work. Still, to make a teacher of myself I must come to know myself in the act of teaching, and for this I take up several disciplines, one of which is proper preparation. Preparing a lesson is hardly adequate; instead I prepare myself to meet the unknown by setting aside my preoccupations and entering each lesson calmly, alertly, and perhaps in good humor. Without a planned lesson I am compelled to respond to the people who are my students, and the spontaneous joy of children at play has a chance to infect me. If I am in a relaxed state I may also think of an exercise or tactic used in the past at the right moment and try it again. One of the functionings I need is the sifting of these memories critically so that I use only those which really fit and am not blinded by the ease of repeating the past. In addition I sometimes teach or re-teach imaginary lessons in a kind of “inner theater.� This exercise allows me at leisure to weigh alternate possibilities, to examine closely my mistakes, and to sense the implications of my perceptions of real students. Preparation for teaching seems, more than any thing, to be the concentrated immersion in the activity itself. 25


Teachers Are Made

I think one source of the peace which lets me enjoy this situation is becoming freer from some illusions like: “the teacher carries the students on his back,” or “the teacher is the source of the learning.” Instead of acting out these bad dreams I can stand in the shade by requiring students to turn their lights onto the subject matter and take responsibility for their own progress. From this position I can observe them closely enough to effect in them a more efficient use of themselves by designing exercises for their unique needs and stepping in only when needed. Another discipline is that of not identifying with my teaching; that is, remaining in contact with myself and monitoring my teaching in such a way that I can instantly drop anything I am doing if I see that it passes the bounds of the situation. These bounds are set by the love I have for the student, by the common sense of letting the situation itself dictate ways of working, or by my aesthetic sense of the teaching as a creation which might be improved in any of its particulars. This technique of dropping my movements when they no longer seem appropriate is my richest resource and is no less important for the students since it again and again brings me back to the starting point and gives them the opportunity to express their initiative. With students working on a subject my job is twofold; first, to put in their hands the tools and techniques of working best suited to the subject (readers of this newsletter won’t find it strange to hear that I find more than a small advantage in Words in Color, The Silent Way, and Gattegno Mathematics where they apply); second, to free them from whatever inhibits their entertaining the whole challenge with intelligence, precision, speed, and certainty. To be free from what interferes with their learning students must first see that this is possible and necessary for progress, then become aware of exactly what is stopping them. If I am to be on their side I must directly address the students, who, like everyone else, carry their past within them, including some automatic reactions triggered by loaded associations and the power to act in new ways. This calls for letting my actions be always directed by the reality of the other. How else could I be of any help if they are to

26


Chapter 6

attempt to find in themselves what they need to do to progress?. To bring to students’ awareness dysfunctional features of themselves I must become less a personality and more a kind of mirror, as still as the waters that reflect truly and as quick as the reflection. This feels like surrender: being wholly in a state of concentration on the learning so that it doesn’t happen that I express, consciously or unconsciously, in my voice, words, looks, face, or gestures anything having to do with the personalities involved (i.e. jealousy, impatience, disapproval, flattery, pride, etc.). Since teaching is a human relationship, it is clear that before and after class I have nothing to do and can give myself to other pursuits which may aid me in making a teacher when I am engaged in that activity. One of these pursuits is an apprenticeship in an area where I have never worked before and do not know whether I have special gifts. It is by entering a new field that I can best study myself in the act of learning because there, if I am to get anywhere, I must face the things which so easily hide themselves from me as my automatic functions. Insight into my own learning becomes a guide in granting students what they need to work successfully. That I can work for months and months, even years, and make progress which is just barely perceptible to anyone in an area I am sure is not beyond my ability forces me to wrestle with myself here and now and return again and again to the simple fact that it is only by doing a thing that one does it. I cannot deny that I find in myself, in embarrassing persistance and profusion, traits which it would be so much more comfortable to think myself above. Traits like foolishness; desire for approval of others (concomitant with fear of them); stubbornness and laziness; desire to trick or bribe the other to do for me what only I can do; refuge from relationship in sentiment or hostility; refuge from the present in the past or the future; refuge from myself in my images: and so on and on. I cannot say why, instead of the discouragement warranted by these discoveries, I often feel elation. I think it has something to do with the fact that when I become aware of them as impeding me in a particular instance, they are no longer in control there and drop away so that I am

27


Teachers Are Made

free to do what I am attempting. This shows me, when I manage to do it, that if I can find them I can drop them wherever they operate. It occurs to me as I write this to wonder why I make myself a teacher. I can’t say it’s because I think I should serve mankind or better myself. Self-interest might be closer to the truth since being a teacher puts me in a position to pursue those studies in which I am interested, but then why be interested in these things? To say it is satisfying or fulfilling may not mean much. To say that the demands of the task inspire me or the vistas of a vision motivate me may be no better. Perhaps all I can say is that I like it in the shade. Steve de Guilio

28


Chapter 7

As I look back at my twenty years of teaching, I can see a definite turning point in this activity which occurred about five years ago when I stumbled upon an organization called Educational Solutions. The change from what I was doing to what I now understand to be the task of a teacher is most dramatic. If I use the same word “teaching” for both activities, it is only because I cannot find a better word for one of these two activities resembling each other like fire and water. A new universe opened up for me when I became aware that teaching could be considered a number of skills involving definite sensitivities and specific techniques. Perhaps, if I describe my understanding of teaching before and after the opening of this door, the reason why I wish I had two words will be clarified. First of all, when I look back at my first fifteen years of teaching, I’m struck by two major points: 1

How little progress there was between the beginning and the end of a lesson or of a semester of lessons. The only visible changes in me were a greater boldness in the class, a greater ease at handling difficult situations (discipline) and a more polished way of presenting the subject matter.

2 How passive and uncritical I was in front of the “set” ways of doing things. Day in and day out I knew that students were not responding, that they were not learning, that they were bored, etc. But not once did it 29


Teachers Are Made

occur to me that things could be looked at from a different point of view, that I could learn from the reality I had in front of me. Because I didn’t use the concept of a “model” (in the sense of a globe for the earth), I didn’t know that one could change one’s position and adopt a very different one. What I mean by this is that I did not know that my model of a human being was that of a social being, and therefore in my teaching I never considered my students as being anything but social beings. Education was equated for me with acquiring the “cultural” values of this civilization at this particular time; therefore, information was of primary importance. And, of course, the information that counted was the one that was valued by this society. A good teacher was for me one who knew his subject matter thoroughly and who could persuade his/her students to get interested in the same body of knowledge. This second characteristic was essential in a teacher and, since it comprised charm, wit, eloquence, vivaciousness, I felt that the only improvement possible in a teacher lay in the amount of “knowledge” he or she had. I saw that knowledge alone would not make a good teacher, and I remember long discussions with colleagues in which this very issue was raised and the distinction made between a “scholar” and a “teacher.” Everybody could agree on what a “scholar” was; it was much harder to define what a good “teacher” was. At the end for lack of better understanding of the problem, commonplaces were tossed about: “Teaching is an art”, “it is intuitive”, “a born teacher”, etc. I am still amazed at the lack of rigor in the way we went about these discussions which, judging from their frequency, must have concerned us quite deeply. Why did we never examine a statement like “Teaching is an art” for example? Did we know what we meant by “art”? Can anyone imagine an artist without sensitivities or skills? A more accurate statement might have been that “knowing how to teach was like ‘grace’, ‘Godsend’, because that was the level of our understanding of the whole matter.

30


Chapter 7

Then someone came along and started asking probing questions like “Why do all babies learn the language of their environment?” “What are the processes involved in learning one’s native language?” “How do we know what we know?” All of a sudden the realization that learning has very little to do with cultural values, that human beings are learning systems, that learning occurs through awareness, that storage of knowledge has very little to do with learning, etc., became the center of my thinking. A totally new and different concept of teaching opened up, where actual tools could be found because one addressed oneself to the questions of how human beings learn; the content in a lesson could be replaced by making students “aware” of the dynamics of their functionings. In a foreign language class, for instance, the teacher is no longer the knower. He or she is the one who, in silence, helps students become aware that they have all the equipment necessary to conquer the new language. They can hear and utter, will their utterances, distinguish sounds, transform non-verbal realities into verbal sequences, distinguish various functions in verbal sequences, etc. Any person who has learned his or her native language has shown the capacity of using his/her functionings in that way, and therefore learning a new language is only a matter of acquiring a new set of arbitrary conventions that operate as coherently as the ones already mastered. A teacher who becomes aware that awareness is the key to learning will soon discover that if students’ awareness is mobilized there will never be a problem of boredom because indeed learning is taking place and human beings are learning systems. The same teacher will use awareness to watch himself/herself while teaching in class and, through the students’ mistakes, will know where more work is needed. Materials and specific techniques have been developed to help a teacher in this difficult task of being alert and capable of taking the action needed in a unique situation, and they are so powerful that they often work in spite of the clumsiness of a beginner. Personally I find this constant presence of mind the most challenging aspect of my new task as a teacher. I know that a process of freeing oneself is required — freeing oneself from wanting success, from wanting students to get something, freeing oneself from seeing reality

31


Teachers Are Made

only from one’s point of view, freeing oneself from escaping the reality of the present situation. On the other hand the possibility of having tools which help one to learn what one is doing (teaching) and knowing that it is possible to act knowingly at every moment of a teaching situation is tremendously exciting. Teaching becomes a learning process which takes place concurrently with some other learning done by the students. Change, development and growth will be inherent consequences of teaching when teaching is understood as an activity which offers students opportunities to expand their awareness and not simply as a passing of a body of knowledge valued in a determined culture. I cannot believe that there are many people born capable of doing this work, required by the function of teaching, and therefore I know that teachers are made. In my case everyday new and more precise challenges show up, and I am glad to take them up to make myself into a better teacher. Cecilia Bertoli Perrault

32


Chapter 8

I can survey my almost half century as a teacher and see how slowly or how quickly I managed to become aware of the real challenges involved. In fact for fully eleven years I am sure I was a very poor teacher, solely interested in the subject matter and totally oblivious of my students. If ever I succeeded with some of my students, it must have been because of my genuine enthusiasm for the sciences I taught (chemistry, physics and mathematics), mostly to students in the senior years of high school or at a level equivalent to college. Occasionally I had a class of 12 year olds. Of course, I taught more or less as I had been taught and, like all teachers, accepted as my merit the progress of some of my students and left to the others the blame for their failure. Since I had been self-taught, from the age of 15, I was vaguely aware that one teaches oneself. But when I was in the classroom near the chalkboard and filling it with chemical reactions, or diagrams of experiments or calculations, I only asked of my students that they follow me. I had to make things “clear”, and that would be sufficient to illumine them and to make the topic at hand part of their knowledge. I know that my interests were not taken by the challenges of teaching — that what mattered was not the curriculum I was teaching, although some problems in it were capable of defeating me — but by the structure of molecules, general relativity theory and quantum physics. My students who were not following me (in spite of all my efforts) were

33


Teachers Are Made

rather nuisances, and their departure for one reason or another was always welcome. Suddenly in late 1937 I was woken up by a kindergarten teacher who wanted to know whether I knew the difference between teaching older students and very young ones. I did not and might have lectured to three year olds if I had been permitted to become their teacher. Fortunately for me this new awareness soon appeared to me as a blessing. I threw myself wholeheartedly into the, until that time, completely closed field of education that was beyond the covering of the syllabus of the grades I was teaching. And I found it fascinating. Almost cut out for me. I read as much as I could put my hands on in the local libraries and from the bookstores. At once I took to my classes what celebrated writers in the field were suggesting. My horizon burst, and I contemplated a new world even more exciting than the cosmos and the nucleus of the atom. I cannot say that this made me into a “better” teacher. It was impossible to measure what my hopping from “school cooperatives” to “group teaching” to “centers of interests” to “environmental studies” to “individualized work” (Dalton plan, Winnetka plan . . .) to “current events”, etc., could bring to my students already propelled on a trajectory of only gaining official academic diplomas. My supervisors, my colleagues and a number of my students were dismayed, and I had to find a new job three times in the following three years. But I certainly was a different kind of teacher. With the imagination fired by the possibilities that opened up to me in the human sphere, I began to enquire about what would make education work for all students, particularly those I had been unable to move during almost fifteen years of teaching. The theoretical aspect of education was, of course, the easiest to get involved in, and I took that road. I believed myself to be a reformer, not a scientist. An organizer of “better” courses, a priori appealing to me. One day in 1940 I saw that I had to start all over again and that I had to learn to work on learning. It paid off. I studied small children entering 34


Chapter 8

the world of drawing; I looked at games — many of them — at how they served the players and what the players did. My questions at the time were: “Why do we play?”, “Why do children draw?” By finding answers to these questions I found new fields of study as well as literatures which excited and instructed me but also made me feel there was much more to find out before I could be satisfied with what I was told. When I was offered the job of teaching teachers in 1946, everything gelled and I began a vast investigation into the components of public education that is still going on. In 1959 I knew that what newly born babies do was the key to my enlightenment. In 1960 I had clearly understood that it was possible to subordinate all teaching to learning, and I embarked upon sharing my findings with as many teachers in the world as would welcome me. I knew then that I had become a good teacher and tested myself in all sorts of circumstances to show others that there was a meaning to, “I can make you into a good teacher.” The number of those I have met has been increasing every since, via the acquaintance with the science of education that I foresaw as possible in 1940 but now needed to be spelled out as in the case of other sciences. My work of the last thirty years can be summed up as being the formulation in detail of what needs to be put into teachers’ hands to affect them so that each lesson they give serves their pupils’ growth in a manner similar to that found in their spontaneous play. The instruments I propose are always capable of offering genuine games, self-motivating, leading to mastery and its use in further conquests. And this in the areas of the skills that go to form mathematics, reading, writing, spelling, nature study, etc. I can confidently say that teachers are made, because I made myself into an effective teacher and have assisted many men and women in doing what they need to do to be able to state confidently: “I have made myself into a competent teacher who can subordinate teaching to learning in every one of my lessons.” Caleb Gattegno

35


Chapter 9

When I was a sophomore in college, I took a course called “Principles of Education;” I’m not sure why. When I started the course, I was thinking of be coming a teacher. When I finished, I knew that, the price of becoming a teacher being more principles of education (and perhaps worse), I would rather be a physicist. For the rest of my college career, I never took another education course, and I was actually well along the way to becoming a physicist when my involvement in the anti-war movement brought me into contact with a group of high school students. I was moved by the intensity with which they gave themselves to the challenges at hand, and their capacity for inspiration and growth. I felt myself in contact with something vital in them and myself that attracted me, and made me once again want to be a teacher. It was easy for the students and for me to contrast our work together with their experiences in high school. We saw the issue as one of freedom vs. repression — both politically and educationally. Politically, the repression of the high school was clearly evident in regimented schedules, dress codes, censored student newspapers. Educationally, we only knew that the vitality we felt in our work together was missing from school. We talked of freedom, relevance, and real learning (as opposed to school learning) in mystical terms, influenced by the writings of John Holt, A.S.Neill, James Hearndon, and Ivan Illich. We felt that freeing students from the repression of high schools would be

37


Teachers Are Made

sufficient to transform education prima facie into the kind of energizing experience we had had together. Following college, I enrolled in a Master of Arts in Teaching program, which placed me as an intern math teacher at an Upward Bound summer pro gram for high school students. As I prepared myself to teach a class for the first time, I began to realize that I had no idea how to provide for a non-directive, relevant course in algebra or geometry. With much guilt, I began teaching math the only way I knew how — the way I was taught. I thought that the job of teaching mathematics was to provide a clear, logical explanation of the topic at hand. I was shocked to find that students could in perfectly good faith not understand my explanations, and I gradually began to see that my own ease in learning mathematics was now my handicap in trying to understand the problems of my students. I often felt in probing students’ misunderstandings that I was peeling away the layers of an onion. Difficulty with factoring prevented students from following my presentation on quadratic equations. So I worked on factoring, only to discover that students did not understand the distributive property. Distributivity uncovered problems with the use of parentheses, which led to priority of operations, which led to computations of products. I felt like Mr. Kurtz contemplating the Heart of Darkness. Even when I managed to begin with what they knew, carefully building step upon step, students often failed to grasp the whole in a way which allowed them to apply what I was teaching to a related but different problem. As one teacher told me recently, “I taught them but they didn’t learn.” It became increasingly clear to me that basing a mathematics curriculum on assumed students’ previous knowledge was a mistake. I began to watch myself doing mathematics problems, and asked myself, “What are you doing with yourself to solve that problem?” I began to sense that my understanding of mathematics had more to do with 38


Chapter 9

looking at the problems in the right way than remembering a set of procedures. I began to look for ways of making the right way to look at particular problems accessible to students. The next year provided me with the opportunity to tutor high school students in mathematics, and I was able to make some progress in finding ways of working on topics in algebra and geometry which did not depend on previous knowledge. I also took courses in the MAT program. At first, I was attracted to courses in which there seemed to be a serious attempt to know what learning was, but I was disappointed at how little practical guidance to my teaching was provided by theoretical formulations such as Piaget’s stages of development. I also took methods of teaching courses, which encouraged teachers to explore many types of curriculum materials and adopt an eclectic approach, since the method that is best for one student may not be best for another. But how teachers were to match students to methods was never made clear. There seemed to be a gap between educational theory and educational practice based largely on trial and error. Somehow “good” teachers know how to teach, and the implicit assumption underlying our course work was that giving teachers lots of alternative methods was teachable, but the “art” of doing the right things at the right time with the students was not. To sound intelligent in educational circles, I learned, one says: “I favor an eclectic approach”, and hopes no one asks any questions. To be a good teacher, however, it seemed to me that I needed criteria to know what to do with students who had difficulty. I spent less and less time at graduate school, and more and more time educating myself by tutoring high school students. A colleague who shared my interest in finding a better basis for a mathematics curriculum introduced me to the rods, and the following summer we taught an algebra course together. When we started, we knew very little about the rods as a tool for teaching math so we had to learn the relationships between physical and algebraic structures for ourselves. Working out these relationships forced us to ask ourselves questions such as: “What do we really mean when we say we are multiplying fractions?” “What is the basis for our under standing of

39


Teachers Are Made

this operation?” “How can it be demonstrated with the rods?” Of necessity, we learned a lot about mathematics and our understanding of mathematics. In our teaching, we found that explaining our understanding of an algebraic structure almost always produced confusion or rote learning which disappeared with time. We came to see that we had to say only a little; we had to create situations with the rods which would enable the students to come to their own understanding, and then shut up. The students did the rest. For the first time, I began to feel in my teaching the same vitality I had experienced with the high school group in college. I was beginning to be clearer on my responsibilities as a teacher — to provide what the students could not invent for themselves, and to help them discover the relationships which would allow them to generate the rest for themselves. Freeing the students thus became an educational as well as political possibility for me. The following winter, I attended a workshop given by Dr. Caleb Gattegno, whom I had known only as a proponent of the use of rods in the teaching of mathematics. In contrast to my graduate school work, we did not theorize or catalogue alternative methods of teaching. Instead, we tried to use ourselves and our experience as learners to illuminate the process of learning and to establish criteria to guide our teaching. It seemed to me that Dr. Gattegno had formulated a way of working which offered an alternative to the approach of the schools of education and could allow me to accelerate my work on improving my teaching. There is an old (but hopefully obscure) joke which describes a researcher as someone who gradually learns more and more about less and less until he knows practically everything about almost nothing. To the extent that research is fragmented and specialized, it loses contact with reality, especially in human learning, which is characterized by the integration of complexity. More fundamentally, any theory is a schematization, an abstraction from the reality on which the theory is based. 40


Chapter 9

Gattegno described himself as a specialist of the whole. He argued that we can remain in contact with reality by developing ways of working which preserve complexity: •

by using ourselves and our experiences as the basis for our investigations,

by guarding against abstraction, as in talking of children rather than of “the child”,

by asking questions which are open-ended, which yield whole studies by leading to further questions,

by not being satisfied with facile explanations which serve only to get rid of the problem,

by developing tools which are as complex as the challenge at hand.

For example, that consciousness is present from the moment of conception is a tool for the investigation of babies and young children, because it yields a way of looking at babies as purposeful human beings, and leads to the questions (such as: “Why do babies take a year or two or three to learn to speak their native language?”) which in turn lead to further questions that can develop into a study of language acquisition in babies. The ultimate criterion for a tool is its explanatory power — to what extent does using this tool illuminate more than not using it? Thus, it is the dynamics of the investigation which characterizes the use of tools and enables complexity to be pre served. Since we are not interested in proving that consciousness is present from the moment of conception, we do not have a theory, nor do we want one, because the process rather than the static formulation insures the contact with reality which can provide sensitivity to the topic at hand. I began to see that, when I asked myself what I was doing in solving mathematics problems, I was developing a tool to know myself as a mathematician; that when I looked for a basis for mathematics that would not unpeel the layers of the onion, I was looking for a tool that would yield a way of understanding mathematics. During the seminar, and during subsequent work, Dr. Gattegno suggested more powerful

41


Teachers Are Made

tools for working on mathematics, which have enabled me to continue to improve my contact with the reality of mathematics and mathematics teaching. Other tools helped me to work on other curricular areas, on human learning, and on psychology. One important consequence of my work with Dr. Gattegno has been increased clarity on my responsibilities as a teacher. I know that I have to pro vide what the students cannot invent for themselves, and an awareness of the dynamics which will enable the students to transform what I give them into a whole universe of possibilities. I know that if I do my work well, I can make my students independent, autonomous, and responsible in whatever field we are working. Here, at last, is a precise formulation of the job of freeing the students, which has been my overriding concern all along. I know that many teachers, like myself, started teaching with the naive view that our good will and dedication would be enough to make us good teachers. The educational critics did us a disservice by implying that the job of freeing students is wholly political. The schools of education did us a disservice by implying that mastering the “art� of teaching was a matter of luck or genes. And so, when they failed, many teachers gave up — by quitting, by becoming apathetic, or, worse, by blaming the students. I consider myself lucky to have found a way of working on my teaching in the sense that I happened upon people who were able to help me find ways of working on myself. Yet, I know now that what I have done is open to anyone. Starting to work on ourselves is the beginning of changing our schools, the only beginning possible. Before we can free the students, we have to free the teachers. Steve Shuller

42


Chapter 10

My interest in what it means to be a teacher began when I was myself a student. All of my early years I was acutely aware when my teachers (including my parents) were doing the right things so far as my integrity and independence were concerned  and when they were doing the wrong things that robbed me of these aspects of my self. Of course at that time I could not put these labels on what they were doing. Luckily for me in my early years I had for a variety of reasons an abundance of teachers who by chance and by good will did a number of the right things, and I had parents who by force of circumstances were over busy and found themselves having to depend on my resourcefulness and independence when they were not around, although they did many of the wrong things when they were present and ignored the significance of much I had done on my own. After this relative freedom during my early years, in high school and university I met very conventional teachers and very conventional school demands. I found the only way a student could survive if he did not decide to become a “dropout” (which I did for a short period) is to go “underground” as a person. I had to suspend my true life until I got over the conventional hurdles of society so that I would be allowed to take responsibility for my own life — my own learning and earning. It was during the end of my university period that I came into contact with leadership whose point of view was that “the growth and learning of human beings is guided by natural laws” in the same way as the growth of plants and animals, and that it is the function of the teacher

43


Teachers Are Made

(or parent) “to discover and provide the conditions for this growth.” So far as the curriculum goes, this posited that rather than it being imposed by history and convention it be “progressively discovered” as dictated by the laws of growth. This way of thinking offered a safe beginning for me as a teacher be cause the authority of the teacher was in proper relation to the activity of learning — it perceived the teacher as a co-participant and learner in life with the students and with other teachers, not as a god-in-authority who has the right to directly compel or trick students (however pleasantly) into doing what he decides they should do just because he is the teacher or just because society demands it. But it was not sufficient to provide me as a teacher with 1) the precise understanding of the powers of my students and 2) the specific techniques based upon this understanding which I needed in order to allow my students to pursue their intellectual growth as rapidly as they were capable of doing. It was children of two to five years of age who were my first real teachers about teaching. I soon noticed them bored by what was offered by the conventional nursery school “cotton-batting” environment. Yet they were enthusiastic about anything in biological science or social science which I could learn to involve them in, in such a way that they could link with it. And often this led to quite long verbal interchanges between them and between them and me — using what I now recognize as being a highly intellectual tool, the speech that they had already mastered and brought with them. Sometimes our projects lasted for a week or even a month. They and their parents — who often participated at school and observed feedback at home — felt their time spent each day at school to be eminently worthwhile. To outsiders what they were able to do seemed remarkable because no one in the educational field at this time had yet revealed (or even believed in) the tremendous things these children were actually capable of doing intellectually if they extended their speech into reading and writing and if they worked on mathematics. With what I have now learned I know that I seriously shortchanged them because my understanding of who they were as intellectual persons was insufficient, even though I did have some real sense of their capacity as social and compassionate beings.

44


Chapter 10

Later as I worked with elementary school age children I found them eager to respond at much more sustained and complex levels to the kind of scientific enquiry that the preschool children loved. But each time we tackled the “expected” work of the elementary school — reading, writing, and arithmetic – their motivation and initiative in these fields, already dampened and strangled by the drill and autocracy of the conventional curriculum, showed itself and they only wanted to leave these tasks and go on with what was really interesting to them. I found myself unable to know how to make these conventional fields open up for them easily, and yet unwilling to offer them more of what they had received which was gradually killing their spontaneity-aslearners in these crucial fields. It was at this crossroad in my life that I came into contact with the work of Caleb Gattegno which both 1) opened up such a new understanding of the powers of our students and 2) proposed techniques and materials for actualizing this understanding in a way of working — especially for language and mathematics learning. With this came the promise of my being able to begin to translate 1) all my sense of what was wrong with teaching in schools into knowing what was right to do instead, and 2) all my good will and respect for the school learners into actual experiences which they felt were worthwhile for them. From this time on I knew that my being able to become a teacher whom I could respect as doing what was needed for students depended upon my working on myself until I understood more the basis of the techniques for implementing at every moment what is called “the subordination of teaching to learning.” I began working with that approach to reading and writing wherever people were interested in seeing it demonstrated. And as I worked on the problems of literacy with many and varied groups of learners from five to sixty years of age in all parts of this country — often those considered retarded or as having learning disabilities — I learned with them and with the observers to recognize the existence in each of mental powers and to know how to provide learning situations in which the inner criteria of the learners could begin to develop and to lead them toward independence.

45


Teachers Are Made

In many cases I would have liked to have taken my students further than a temporary stay with them allowed. But even so I knew from these short-term experiences that I was in contact with what made teaching a scientific profession rather than an ideal for which I could offer a small amount of substance. A second type of experience did allow me to work over a continuing period of time with the same students (and teachers). Over a three-year period I worked as a reading specialist in an inner-city school in Harlem where each year only one-quarter or less of the children had tested “on grade level.” On the whole no one in the country expected that it would be possible for most of the children here to learn — whether they attributed this failure to an inner lack in the children or a mortgage imposed by social and economic hardships. But their exceptional principal had an intuitive sense that what Dr. Gattegno said about their powers and ability to use these was true in spite of their living conditions. In this school the children immediately showed their willingness to enter into any learning activity which made sense to them — and the minute they did so they took academic steps ahead that had previously and without basis been considered impossible. They were also highly resistant to nonsense, and when I at moments — in my ineptness at knowing precisely what needed to be done — offered them some of this, they let me know! This direct feedback was most refreshing. As we all worked together even teachers of fourteen years experience in this school were moved by what they saw taking place and became willing to reconsider how they went about their teaching. Here it was possible to help about 2/3 of the students by introducing activities into the classroom that put them in contact with the written form of their spoken language in such a way that they began to feel sure about how to attack words when reading and how to write them down without trying to re member or without guessing. There were about 1/3 of the students who did not respond immediately. About half of these showed us that if we worked with them separately for a short period where there was no pressure or distraction from others who happened at this moment to work more rapidly, they could meet all of the same challenges as the others and feel their confidence in themselves growing. Once they had been accorded this special care they could

46


Chapter 10

return to work side by side with the students who at first had seemed to be moving faster. The other 1/6 of these children demanded more on my part in the way of sensitivity to what it meant to work with their uniqueness in the right way. It was truly these students that forced me to grow the most as a teacher since I frequently found that nothing seemed to take them “over the hump� until I could work on my self in such a way that my awareness shifted from where it had been blocked or stuck to where it could look at their difficulty in a new lighting. Then new entries into their learning became quickly possible and they moved ahead because I became unstuck. It was in working with these students that my precision as a teacher of reading developed. Since then it has become chiseled by the wide variety of demands of a somewhat different kind made by students of all ages coming to our reading clinic. Dorothea E. Hinman

47


Chapter 11

Cuando ingresé al Pedagógico estaba convencida de ser una de las pocas chicas que entraban a la universidad por vocacóin. Además, sabía exactamente lo que quería llegar a ser. Es verdad que durante los años de formación, me absorbieron mucho más la literatura y las materias humanísticas que las relacionadas a la pedagogía misma, pero aun así, me sentía “destinada” a ser la mejor, o por lo menos, una de las mejores profesoras del mundo. Por varios años enseñe deleitándome en las materias enseñadas. Si a míe me gustaba tanto la epica o tal o cual autor u obra de tal o cual período, naturalmente, debía gustarle a todos mis estudiantes. Si yo encontraba tan entretenido tomar una palabra del latín y aplicarle las transformaciones cronológicas hasta llegar a la actual palabra en dos o tres lenguas romances, ¿ por qué no habrían de encontralo entretenido también mis alumnos? Si para mí era tan fácil analizar estructuras gramaticales, para los estudiantes también teniá que serlo. Pequeños detalles me indicaban, de vez en cuando, que no era todo tan perfecto ni tan ideal, pero no daba cabida a la posibilidad, siquiera, de revisar mi enseñar. La falla no estaba en mí. Si los alumnos se quejaban de lo aburrida que era tal obra, yo, rpidamente, lo atribuía a lo “saturados” que estaban de la “chabacaneria” de la televisión. Si con franqueza me decián que a ellos les daba lo mismo que una palabra fuera un complemento directo o uno indirecto, o que la palabra “verguüenza” viniera de “verecundiam” o de “verequeque”, yo ponía

49


Teachers Are Made

todo mi empeño en convencerlos y hacerlos comprender algo que para ellos no tenía sentido y que a mí me producía un tremendo placer intelectual. Por último, los alumnos debían pasar cada año un examen final, y, quieras o no, tenían que rendir cuentas de las materias enseñadas. Mirándome retrospectivamente, concluyo que me consideraba como nacida para enseñar. Hoy, varios años después, puedo afirmar que estaba equivocada, que los profesores no nacen con el don de la pedagogía sino que es necesario formarse en cada instante del contacto con la vida de los alumnos. Esta es una experiencia preciosa que atesoro desde el momento que comprendí y me reeduqué en el principio de “Subordinar el ensenar al aprender.” El alumno es quien permite mi existir, mi realizarme como maestra, cada uno de los alumnos me aporta elementos de enriquecimiento, permitiéndoles aprender, sin invadir sus fueros, aprendo a enseñar. Al dejarlos tomar la iniciativa de su aprender, aprehendo la noción de cada uno como individuo y hago espacio en mí para cada uno; porque he aprendido a “respetar al que aprende” ahora cada nombre tiene un rostro y tras cada rostro hay un cúmulo de vida a la que estoy ligada. Ya no importa la materia enseñada por sí misma, la relación humana es mucho más rica, la obligación ha dado paso a la buena voluntad. Las tensiones desaparecen pues ya no hay la presión del desequilibrio maestro-alumno sino una reciprocidad auténtica: porque el alumno crece en “su aprender” yo crezco en mi enseñar. Lograr esta subordinacón del enseñar al aprender es, a mi juicio, una tarea que requiere un alto nivel de concienciación por parte del maestro. Para obtenerlo, debí, ante todo, observar, mejor dicho, aprendí a observar conscientemente a los alumnos en sus reacciones, en sus opiniones, en sus relaciones hacia las materias enseñadas, quité importancia al tema mismo y me interesé en el quehacer interior, observé, por ejemplo, que héroes como Aquiles, Héctor, el Cid o Caupolican pueden dejar de ser personajes de epopeya para la disección y pasar a ser pretextos para el desborde de la creación. Esta misma observacion atenta me mostró lo absurdo de esperar de todos 50


Chapter 11

los alumnos “un conocimiento parejo”; aprendí, gracias a sus diversas reacciones, que debiá aceptar lo que eran capaces de dar, por su autenticidad, no por su extensión o su excelencia. También debí aprender a callar y confieso que no es fácil pasar de la clase tipo conferencia a esta otra en que limitando mi hablar doy oportunidad a la expressión consciente de los alumnos. El aprender a callar implica el aprender a escuchar, de esta manera pude ver asomar, en la expresión pujante de los alumnos, toda una gama de diferentes intereses que, a mi vez, usé como indicadores del trabajo que era preciso hacer con cada uno para ayudarlo a avanzar en su aprender. Gracias a la observación consciente del alumno, aprendí a esperar que aparecieran los puntos de maduración en el proceso de su búsqueda, a seguirlo en sus descubrimientos, a apuntalar su voluntad cuando decaía y a compartir el gozo de sus triunfos en su aprender. Patricia Peréz

51


Book Review

ON BEING FREER by Dr. Caleb Gattegno, available through Educational Solutions Inc. NYC $10.00 In mid-November, 1975, a new book by Dr. Gattegno appeared in a restricted printing. In his introductory remarks the author tells his readers that at the age of 16 he wished he were a free man. He adds that while he found over the years that he might never be a free man, he could be freer here and now. This state he contrasts to that of “being lived”, a condition in which we cannot make genuine choices. The frequent use of the personal pronoun “I” in these introductory remarks and in the subsequent chapters creates a more intimate tone than we may have found previously in Dr. Gattegno’s books. The author states, however, that his purpose is not to write an autobiography because, as he says, “I know that it is not the events of my own life that matter in a study of freedom but what readers learn for themselves to be able to say also:” ‘I am freer today than I was yesterday.’ ” This book has a variety of appeals. To someone who has not been introduced to Dr. Gattegno’s work (and even those of us who have), the table of contents can be intriguing. Is it possible that one would want to free oneself from one’s gifts, from ambition, from one’s loved ones? One can also be entertained by the variety of manners in which the various chapters are treated. ON BEING FREER was easier for me to read than many of Dr. Gattegno’s books, and finding myself described on so many pages made me want to read on. And for others who, like myself, are given

53


Teachers Are Made

to living, it may be delightful to observe, on so many different examples in so slim a volume, the work of a person (the author) who is given to study. It is also true that ON BEING FREER has already made profound contributions to my life. It was valuable to read descriptions in which I recognized my inner dynamics being examined without judgment, without simplification, without any suggestion that I should change. The distinctions made between closely associated functions of the self (for instance, jealousy, greed, possessiveness) made me aware that I have access to the wealth of my inner life if I am interested in studying it. A few of the chapters had immediate repercussions in my living. Reading the chapter, “On Becoming Freer From Jealousy”, for instance, transformed me immediately in pinpointed ways. On the other hand, becoming engaged in the conscious handling of my affectivity and my psyche has added a new dimension to my life, which has only barely begun to manifest itself. In the introductory chapter, Dr. Gattegno presents to the reader the terms he has developed more fully in six books written since 1950 namely: self, objectivation, soma, will, individual, person, temporal hierarchies, intuition, awareness, energy (locked up, residual, free), temperament, intelligence, and ego. Affectivity is defined as the mobilization of residual energy to cope with the demands of the immediate future; psyche as the mobilized energy called upon to meet the demands of the past. With this treatment of the self as energy the theme of the book is stated as “how to engage more consciously in handling affectivity as the changer of and the psyche as the ruler of the realm of the automatic.” Like the chapter on jealousy, some of the other chapters spoke to me at once. “On Becoming Freer From Greed”, for instance, I was most struck by the recognition that types of greed have one component in common: that, as soon as what is coveted is received, the contribution is annihilated because the mind is concerned with when the thing which is valued might be given again. While I had had a vague notion of greed as anything done in excess, I now had a criterion to recognize it in its various manifestations. The chapter on lust was helpful in understanding how what begins as a study of our sexuality and requires our affectivity can become a psychic function. The dynamics in the workings of affectivity

54


Book Review

and psyche were further clarified in the chapter, “On Becoming Freer From One’s Loved Ones.” Here the author describes the state of longing as affective since it aims at an encounter not actualized. But we also see how longing can come in contact with other dynamics of the self and merge with the psyche to make one long for past states and situations. And the chapter, “On Making Others Become Freer From Not Knowing One’s Place” was soothing in its listing of some principles that mobilized my sense of truth and common sense in an effort to under stand this difficult challenge. Other chapters had more of an impact on the second reading. In the chapters on one’s cultural conditionings and resistances, the psyche ceased to be the “bad guy”, and I was helped to think of it as an aspect of the self that makes some functionings automatic so that we are free to meet the unknown. Or in the chapter, “On Becoming Freer From One’s Gifts”, it was disturbing to see that gifts can be a distraction if they make it harder to concentrate on what we could do if we could see what life truly offers each of us. There was value also, it seems, in considering a secular approach to duties. ON BEING FREER has also left a lasting impression on me because of the questions it raised: What does it mean that lust can be absorbed by love? Do we really know what our gifts are? Do we know which gifts should be pursued in order to live our lives as human beings? In the chapter “On Becoming Freer From Ambition”, ambition is described as “the spring motivating everyone to succeed socially.” But what might happen if one’s inner life directed what one acknowledged as being the expression of one’s integrity and destiny? In the chapter, “On Becoming Freer From Asking For Any thing”, the author says that surrender to life, which is a move away, is required in order to produce a human life. But what does it mean that the self knows the will to the utmost by surrendering it? There are many other such questions raised for the reader to consider. It seems that it is possible to read ON BEING FREER in one way by picking those chapters which speak to one’s self and letting them have their impact. If, however, one feels the consequence of some of the instruments introduced in the book, this might mean a reorganization of our efforts to know ourselves. K. M.

55


News Items

1 First Steps Towards The Silent Way On Television Five years ago we started work on this project. A seminar at 821 Broadway attended by our staff and some of our friends served to indicate that the most difficult challenge in that field was the inability of the programmers to get feedback from the viewers and therefore to know how students were faring when presented with the lessons put on the screen. The method of asking viewers to send their comments would be entirely dependent on their good will first and also on whether the writers had much to say that could affect the course to meet their needs. Most TV language classes have led to disappointments and skeptics were more numerous than enthusiasts. At that early 1971 meeting it became clear that unless somehow the pedagogical problem could be solved, all technological progress in video taping, transmission, playback, computerized service to a vast population of numerous languages would not serve much. This was therefore the problem we concentrated on. We acquired our video equipment soon after and studied those aspects of filming that it permitted. We found that it was possible to abandon tracks that served no purpose and to let the slightest hopeful sign illumine the minds engaged in the solution. The greatest find was the way of relating to students’ errors and their exploitation as the bridge between the learners appearing on the screen and the viewers at home. Everything changed from that moment on and the task looked feasible provided all

57


Teachers Are Made

TV technicians involved in the project could be sensitized to what was happening in front of them in a Silent Way sequence of lessons. Our research went on for four years; our thinking and planning too. At the same time a solution to another problem, this time financial and organizational, had to be found. A number of proposals were made first to filmmakers to produce at least a pilot. This did not succeed although the efforts were extensive. Friends appreciating our pedagogical contribution in other fields were ready to film professionally but needed either financial support themselves or some firmer basis that the films would be marketable and profitable. These seemed to us to be considerations to enter upon after the pilot was made. Second we approached TV networks. The interest of some middle echelon people could not be effectively taken to their superiors in the hierarchy. The recession made things worse. The project could only be worked on within our own organization, with our own means (also reduced by the recession). Our conviction that we had a workable project grew all the time and reflection and experimentation had made possible our immediate movement towards implementation when and if an opportunity would present itself. Two years ago, on a visit to Europe, a casual contact provided a stimulus that led to what took place in December 1975. A number of teachers of ESL in Paris had been intrigued with The Silent Way and spontaneously attempted to become more adept at it. People in the English Language Program at IBM-France were among them. An hour or two with Allen Rozelle and Jennifer Mason at the offices in Paris started us on the path that perhaps IBM-France would find it attractive to consider a video language instruction using The Silent Way. A year and a half later, the English Language Program agreed to test an initial proposal involving us and a token financial participation by Educational Solutions, a small financial commitment by IBM-France, and a gradual expansion if each step were considered as truly successful. We are reporting here today that the first step has been taken and that we are satisfied that we can deliver our share with total confidence that

58


News Items

it meets the most stringent pedagogical requirement that can be set today. We now have 17 hours of video tapes which contain most probably 10 hours of material effective for teaching English as a second language to viewers of closed circuit TV. Soon an edited version will be tested on audiences who can decide on the extent to which we have solved the problem we set ourselves five years ago. The lessons learned were numerous and they will make the future of the project so much easier than it appeared before the experiment. There is a team of technicians trained and ready to do an even better job now because of the conclusions reached during the 36 hours of cooperation, filming, planning, discussing. They now know 1) that people can learn English without hearing a word of it uttered by anyone but themselves, 2) that TV is an adequate instrument because it reaches the viewers through their eyes and ears, 3) that the Fidel charts are a powerful tool in the hands of a skilled Silent Way teacher who knows how long to make the students practice to reach a satisfactory pronunciation in English although they start with the sounds of their own language, 4) that practice on sounding long numerals — constructed economically, carefully and dynamically from sounds triggered by sequences produced on the Fidel — form a very helpful field to gain independence and autonomy without any reference to one’s language, 5) that the rods and the Word Charts at once insert meaning to the flow of words that are now second nature to the students while extending the acquired knowledge to perceptible situations. What has been achieved by the students (10 in all) and appears on the tapes, in so few hours, we know goes far beyond improved pronunciation and managing the examples filmed. These students have known how one becomes confident in the use of a language because one has found how to transfer one’s acquisitions, how to expand by linking together what was learned separately, how not to be nervous, not to waste energy, not to ask for repetition, etc. The visiting teachers were also surprised and delighted.

59


Teachers Are Made

Needing to correct errors made in the beginning of the filming, when everybody has to learn everything, we suggested that a new group of students be brought to form a new class. This gave us the opportunity to place the students that had worked for 12 hours to watch on CCTV their new colleagues at work and to inform us on what they could learn through their looking at the set. They helped because they were privileged in noticing differences between their two positions as students. Though their involvement was not as great, it was considerable. This of course was very gratifying at this stage of the project. In later reports we shall keep our readers abreast of our progress on this project.

2 Notes On The Supplementary Kit Of Our MiniTests Last year we introduced the first edition of a way of working with students so that the official once a year test in reading shows as much as possible the true state of affairs in reading and less the inability of students to take the test. Schools in the New York City area welcomed us, some enthusiastically, because we found a pedagogical answer to a problem that has become political in a number of places. Indeed we found that we could use some of the time of the students engaged in reading so as to make them aware of what the items in the tests intended to find from them about what they had done with themselves in the field of reading. Once students understood how test makers look at items to make them into challenges they became alerted to the various possible traps. This by itself said that they read better, at least on the tests, since they could see through them the meanings intended and respond to the questions more securely.

60


News Items

This year we are offering a greater variety of questions but we kept the format so that what is required of teachers is to engage students in studies of English that may be asked for in some tests but not in others, covering more or less all the possibilities considered by test makers as measures of skills for reading. We kept the packages separate so that the purchasers — knowing the various standardized achievement tests — only acquire what is needed to prepare their students for the one used in their district. We are again offering courses to district personnel if they feel the need of one to become proficient in the use of the items in the kits.

3 A Short Seminar At Fipse In Washington D. C. On November 13th last, the staff of the postsecondary education project we wrote about in the previous issue, met in a room at H. E. W. in Washington D.C., with most of the staff of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), some people working at the National Institute of Education, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Education and one or two from other associations or agencies. The purpose was to examine in a series of seminars, of which this was the first, whether it is possible to extract from successful projects some principles of work that may go to form a “theory” which transcends the examples. Since we could look at segments of video tapes made during the project, the participants had direct access to the ways we use to involve students in their own education. A fruitful discussion followed that proved that encounters like this one, however short, can provide national civil servants with opportunities to share in the actual work of those supported by federal funding and find out how to cross-fertilize those workers in the field via the center and the people working in it.

61


Teachers Are Made

4 A New Animated Geometry Film J. L. Nicolet died before he could see a film he had created on the right strophoid the generation of which we already knew in the old film known to some as “The Greek Vase.” This time we have four generations in one film. But the significance of this project is that it was made with the help of a computer at the University of Montreal by André Fourrier from Nicolet’s notes as presented to him by David Wheeler. Friends of Nicolet in Switzerland and his son, who are dedicated to his memory, assisted us and will continue to assist us in either adding new films to his series or re-issuing some of the old ones edited and expanded by Dr. Gattegno. This new film is in color and is available from our film department, as future ones will be.                  

62


About Caleb Gattegno Caleb Gattegno is the teacher every student dreams of; he doesn’t require his students to memorize anything, he doesn’t shout or at times even say a word, and his students learn at an accelerated rate because they are truly interested. In a world where memorization, recitation, and standardized tests are still the norm, Gattegno was truly ahead of his time. Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1911, Gattegno was a scholar of many fields. He held a doctorate of mathematics, a doctorate of arts in psychology, a master of arts in education, and a bachelor of science in physics and chemistry. He held a scientific view of education, and believed illiteracy was a problem that could be solved. He questioned the role of time and algebra in the process of learning to read, and, most importantly, questioned the role of the teacher. The focus in all subjects, he insisted, should always be placed on learning, not on teaching. He called this principle the Subordination of Teaching to Learning. Gattegno travelled around the world 10 times conducting seminars on his teaching methods, and had himself learned about 40 languages. He wrote more than 120 books during his career, and from 1971 until his death in 1988 he published the Educational Solutions newsletter five times a year. He was survived by his second wife Shakti Gattegno and his four children.

www.EducationalSolutions.com

Teachers Are Made  
Teachers Are Made  

Newsletter, Vol. V No. 2-3, December 1975/February 1976

Advertisement