Saturday, June 13, 2009

Learn Something Forever

OK this morning on I was able to hear David McCullough address a group of teachers.

If you are unaware of who he is or what he has written start with 1776, or John Adams. Admittedly, I have only read the latter. But it hooked me on John Adams. And led me into Thomas Jefferson and eventually history altogether. He is an amazing read. Then to hear him this morning... the first thing he said after Ms. Miller introduced him was: "welcome class" or something to that effect. I felt privileged to be in a "class" of his.

This site is looking to be a gem and contains what M himself refers to as: "American Scripture."

The Pulitzer Prize winning author talked about teachers. My dad had him playing on every speaker phone in the house and as I readied myself to head out to walk the river with Jaden, his voice spoke to me. I had been doubting my desire to teach. The students and the hard road of it all was discouraging me. Making me think it wasn't worth it.

His voice reached me when he mentione John Adams, someone who has come to mean something to me. Why? Becuase he wrote. He never stopped writing. His 1k letters to his wife and to him were 'real'. Today M told the audience that John had been an "indifferent student" in grade school and 'unpromising'. He had an unkind teacher. It made him want to be a farmer like his father. Then his Dad switched teachers. Joseph Marsh was a kind man. Inspired him to apple to Harvard. Where Prof John Winthrop took him on the roof where his telescope was and showed him the Satellites of Jupiter. WOW! All because of kindness. At Harvard Adams "discovered" books and 'read forever'.

He spoke of Lous Agass the 19t century professor who famously had his students interviewed first, accepted girls in his class, and then had them sit with one of his many fish that had been pickled. That was your second task. He left the students with a fish. So M has the quote: Look at Your Fish over his computer. To remind him to not just look at a thing, but to really study it. Compile it. Think about it.

"Anyone can cram for an exam. How do we learn what we know FOREVER in life? Make discoveries that last a life time?

The last phrase caught me because on our jaunt this afternoon, I was a bit impatient as Jaden just tinkered around after we checked out the Farmer's Market. We had his bike and he was mauling the rocks by the river and the bridge. I felt I couldn't just leave the bike and go down with him, but he kept at me and said that he was: "discovering". I hadn't used the word with him lately so I wondered where he got that into his head. Even before hearing my favorite author talk about this way of teaching... I was compelled to leave the bike and go down there with him and just check things out. We talked about things that were obvious and then questioned the "why". And even though I don't have the answers I am glad that he is asking the questions. Becuase that is the start of learning. And makes me want to KNOW--to help him. Or anyone.

D.M brought up the Child Pshychologist who said that what matters most in learning is the ATTITUDE of the teacher. "Attitudes aren't taught, they are caught." I love that phrase. M cont'd: "show them what you love. You can't love something unless you love it."

He spoke of a HS art and English teacher who said there was: "no division between painters and wrtiers." I can not recall this teachers name.
But Maynard Mack, another HS teacher taught him Shakespeare. "He loved it. Wanted you to be in on it.
The reach and influence of these kind of teachers is incalcuable. M spoke of Theodor Roosevelt and his struggle with health as a child. He had asthma. This struck a personal chord. TR was afraid very early in his life but eventually came to be the epitomoy of strength and perserverance. This line is making me want to head to the library and check out some books on TR's early life and share it with my son. Who by the way knew who TR was because of the movie: 'Night At the Museum'. (Can anyone say: Slumdog Millionair? Great show and you can even rent it from the Clean Flicks.) In one of TR's classes he had a professor tell him: "See here Roosevelt. Let me talk. I am running this course!" (Prof. Nathaniel Schaler- Science)
Thomas Jefferson love a professor William Small who taught Science and Mathematics. And the "happy talent of communication".
Ultimately these teachers taught and directed children and then forged history.
I am half way through his address and had to quit writing on the backs of the pharmacy paper work I get from Wal Mart and start putting this good stuff out to you all.
I paused McCullough as he stated that Teaching is a Gift. An Art. I will return back to it now and make a copy of this for my myself. Check out this site. Apparently they need some volunteer work to help proof read the 2

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