Sunday, March 30, 2014

Are you a "whole teacher"?

Principal ponderings...

I stumbled across a great article on TeachThought, The Two Minds of a Teacher, that I keep turning over and over in my mind.  I had an idea of what I was going to write about this week, and then this article made the picture in my mind more clear.  We talk a lot about teaching the whole child.  Well the author of this article was focusing on how we can become a "whole teacher by joining the two minds of educators."  The author had read an essay by Wendell Berry called "Two Minds" which discussed the idea of everyone having both a Rational Mind and a Sympathetic Mind.  Both of these minds are constantly struggling to control what we say and do.  So how do these two minds translate in the brain of a teacher?

As teachers, we are told to be data-driven.  We have standards that we are supposed to adhere to and figure out the best instructional strategy to utilize.  We have to develop assessments that will guide our instruction and help us understand what our students know and still need to know.  We design lesson plans and entire units and pacing guides that will make sure we have covered all of the standards that we need to cover.  All of these actions are the work of our Rational Minds.  Even though the task presented to all of us...educate every a seemingly daunting and by all views, rather impossible one, our Rational Mind says that if we respond with logic, if we analyze and strategize, we will accomplish this task.  Or we will at least have a plan of how to accomplish the slightly overwhelming, stress-inducing, wake you up in the middle of the night kind of of task that teachers are charged with completing.  Thanks to our Rational Mind, we plan, we teach, we assess, we reteach, re-evaluate, we change our plans, and then we start the process all over again.

But then, thank goodness, there is the Sympathetic Mind.  The part of our mind that allows for curiosity, love, affection and joy.  As teachers we have to find a balance between a mind ruled by logic and a mind ruled by affection.  While the teacher's Rational Mind tends to take over, as Terry Heick says:

     "You’re keenly aware, though, of the tearing that has taken place by acting with logic. You’ve        
     separated a learner from their very human circumstances—their interests, past experience, 
     insecurities, and affections.

     Academic content from their native schema.
     Proficiency from curiosity.
     Scientific concepts from the application of science.
     Reading level from love of reading."
For good or bad, we live in an education world that is driven by all things measurable, our career is guided by science and research, which means we have "ridded our profession of superstitions like 'patience', 'self-knowledge' and 'community'."  We certainly need the Rational Mind, but we also need to balance it with the Sympathetic Mind.  The challenge that has been presented to us is to awaken our whole mind; when we do that we will elevate our teaching to a whole new level.  And as Terry Heick so perfectly puts it: "Always insisting, no matter what, that we don't resort to Rationality or even Sympathy, but rather act as 'whole teachers' in every single one of our interactions with and analyses of students, and in doing so model for them the significant practice of being human."
What will you do this week to become a "whole teacher"?  How will you reconnect the learner to his human characteristics, striving for proficiency without compromising curiosity? 
And after I wrote this entry, I read this post which certainly ties into what I was talking about:

Currently reading:
Thanks to Ellen Potter for loaning me The Fault in Our Stars.  I could not put it down and read it Saturday morning.  Towards the end, tears were streaming down my face, so if you read it, I recommend a box of tissues!
And after a recommendation from Zoann Guernsey, I have selected from my 'to be read' pile The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  It is written in the form of letters, and takes place in the mid-1940s.  I will let you know my thoughts when I have finished it.

Events this week:
Monday - Can you believe it is the last day of March?!
Tuesday - Grade 3 Hands on History presentation in the afternoon
Wednesday - "Light it up Blue" Day for autism awareness, Grade 3 chorus practice @ 2:25 in the gym, Staff Meeting @ 3:30, Dr. Bent will be attending
Thursday - Community Reader Day!
Friday - Father/Daughter Dance @ 6:00 in the gym

Great things I noticed last week:

  • A student from Mr. Smith's class came to the office to share her non fiction project with me.  I learned some interesting facts about Helen Keller.  Be on the lookout for more projects hanging in the 3rd grade hallway!
  • Students in 2nd grade shared their heritage fair projects with each other.
  • Liam and Hayley did an awesome job leading the pledge at the School Committee meeting!  They shared some poems that they had written in Mrs. Guernsey's class.  And they asked the committee members some interesting questions, including "What do you do for work besides being on the committee?"
  • Mrs. Hoke's class invited me in to their class while they had a whole day celebrating penguins.  While wearing lots of black and favorite color combination...students tried to transfer penguin eggs using only their feet.
  • Kindergartners were trying out a few different rhythms on the xylophone with Mr. Wiesner.
Check it out:
  • April is National Poetry Month!  Did you know that one of my college degrees is a Poetry Concentration?  (Much to my father's dismay.)  I hope you will check out this post about creating Book Spine Poetry.  Try it out with your students and maybe their poems will get published in the 2014 gallery!  If anyone does this with their class, let me know; I'd love to post some pictures on our bulletin board in the lobby.
  • April is also National Autism Awareness Month.  April 2 is "Light it Up Blue" for autism awareness so wear your blue!  Here is a link that Patti Montague found that contains activities and resources for K to 12:
  • I discovered a great resource on  It's called PD2Go.  They have lots of video clips that are meant to provide professional development for literacy leaders.  Here is a clip that shows 3rd/4th grade boys having a book share that goes beyond Matt Christopher:
  • Here's another video showing students talking about books, tracing a theme between 2 books:
  • I forgot to put this picture in my post last week:

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