Episode 8 tackles mental health of students in schools, and poses a challenge to our viewers!
Episode 8 tackles mental health of students in schools, and poses a challenge to our viewers!
I’m 3/8 Dutch, 3/8 English, 1/8 Prussian, 1/8 French Canadian.
Great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandpa Thomas emigrated from Southampton, Hampshire, England to Springfield, Massachusetts. His son Thomas II moves from Roxbury, Massachusetts to Southampton, New York, where he was the progenitor of the “Northern” line of the Reeves family in America. In terms of direct blood line, my family was here 150 years before America was America, so I think we get to at least weigh in on the subject of America and immigration. And yanno what? As the family genealogist, I’m gonna go ahead and claim a little seat at the table on the subject of this particular history trip!
Great-great-great-great-great grandpa Jacobus Rima, Sr. emigrated from Rheinland-Pfalz in Prussia (Germany) to Rome, New York at the end of the 18th century, right about the time America was becoming America. He stayed forever, as did his descendants, including me.
Great-great-great grandpa Abram A. Fisher came to Wayne County, New York from Holland right around the turn of the 20th century. Again, the United States opened its arms and doors, and helped found a family that thrives to this day in and around Red Creek and Lyons.
Great-Great-great grandpa Jacob C. Buckler emigrated around the turn of the century as well, also from Holland (or more accurately, Zeeland), settling in East Williamson in Wayne County.
Yet again… without immigration, my family doesn’t exist.
I have nine Revolutionary War compatriots in my direct bloodlines. My family has served in every branch of the armed forces, and in every sphere of public service: education, healthcare, fire fighting, police, sanitation, construction and transportation, and more. It’s true, I’m proud of my people, but the far more important point here is that we are America. From literally a century before there WAS an America, we’ve been a come-together troupe of everyday working-class people who have come from all parts of the greater globe, coming here to try to make a go of it and make things better for their progeny.
And they did. I’m proof of that. As are many of you.
I don’t show my papers.
I don’t prove my whereabouts.
I don’t go through checkpoints.
I don’t have to pledge my allegiance.
And I don’t, because this country doesn’t belong to me, and it sure as hell doesn’t belong to anyone else. It’s all of ours, an ongoing experiment in assembling common cause through a loose coalition of cooperation. It had never been done, a secular, godless constitutional representative democracy. It was kind of a cool idea: Come together, you do you, I’ll do me, and we can totally disagree about everything, but we’ll use reason and logic, dialectic and debate, legislation and jurisprudence, to make our laws together. No divine right of kings. No totalitarian edicts. No papers. No proof of allegiance. No fealty to the crown.
Just plain old freedom, bare and naked and unembellished. Working class liberty.
The next time you consider, even for a moment, saying “yeah, but those [insert a way of labeling people here] are [insert generalization here],” remember that you are that person. You’re them, to someone in power. You’re that group, to someone who doesn’t like your group.
Even leaving aside the staggering white privilege, ethnocentrism, and ignorance of structural violence it takes to say something stupid like “Muslims are more dangerous” or some variation of “brown people are scary,” even the non-ethnic logic of shutting the doors fails, when there are cities anxious for entry-level labor and an influx of stable roots-sinking families into their post-industrial economies. I mean, if you’re gonna make a stand, try holding up a couple of neurons in the process.
Please don’t tell me, “yeah, but this is different.” No, it’s not. Every generation has had to face the things they’ve had to face. Yes, technology has changed. Globalization and telecommunications and even ordinance has changed. Sure has. Yup. And? So what? Nobody is saying “let’s let everybody who wants have a bazooka,” except the NRA, which is an entirely different argument that we should probably frickin’ tackle, but this isn’t about bad people doing bad things. It’s about saying an entire sector of humankind is predisposed to doing bad things, despite the facts saying otherwise. (No matter what nonsense un-facty-non-facts certain pundits want you to gobble up because people seem chronically incapable of independently fact-checking the things they read. I mean, seriously, at least Google this stuff…)
Are there practical concerns? Sure. Am I saying “no order at the border?” No, I’m not. We have refugee, asylum, immigration, and naturalization processes, but those processes do not and should not include police state action to cleanse the incoming of undesirable-ness amid the bigoted fad of the month.
Reasonable security is reasonable to reasonable people.
But it says “give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” on the Colossus. It does’t say “the way is shut.”
I hate to rant, but… oh, who am I kidding. No, I don’t.
Racism is racism, ethnocentrism is ethnocentrism, and I’m getting pretty darned tired of some of these fizzled-out non-starters in the news and on social media.
I’m gearing up for the Virginia Society for Technology in Education Conference again this year, held this time around at The Hotel Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia.
I’m especially delighted to be participating in a joint book signing with fellow educational revolutionary (and all ’round stellar dude) Dr. Rob Furman, whose new book is Technology, Reading & Digital Literacy: Strategies to Engage the Reluctant Reader, winner of the 2015 PASCD Outstanding Research and Publication Award. As you might know by now – teehee – my book, Insurrection: A Teacher Revolution in Defense of Children, is available now from Information Age Publishing.
Rob and I will have copies of our book and will be available to sign them and discuss our work on Sunday, December 6, at 3:15 PM, following our 2:00 session entitled “Relevance in the Revolutionized School: What Really Matters?” (If you missed our first episode on this subject, click here to check it out on YouTube.)
This year, I’m not presenting nearly as much as I have in years past. (Last year in Virginia Beach I presented, spoke, or facilitated TWELVE TIMES in three days. Are you kidding me? I need a break!)
Here are my events if you want to catch up with me. Each event links to the corresponding Sched entry, so you can add it to your Sched!
It looks like I OWN the Wilson suite on Tuesday, LOL…
I’m hoping – fingers crossed! – that my colleague Dawn Moulen and I will have tied a bow on and pushed play on our first book together, and my second education book, “Paperless Research Writing: Effective Digital Scaffolding of Academic Writing using the Moulen-Reeves Model,” which we anticipate will be available by the time VSTE rolls around!
Shaping up to be an exciting few days in Roanoke. I look forward to seeing you all there!
Ideology and institutionalism are the common denominators that unify the suffering, tragedy, and violence that has been imposed upon free-thinking and free-living people throughout the world for as long as any of us can remember. The more adherent a person is to the ideas that they are commanded or coerced to adhere to, the less human that person becomes, and the easier mass violence is to perpetrate.
The surest anti-terrorism agents you have are a liberated, open, accepting, free-thinking mind and a connected, humane, empathetic heart.
Episode 7 tackles (no pun intended) the physical assault of a student in South Carolina after she refused to volunteer her cell phone and stand up. The brutalization of children at the hands of adults for noncompliance is nearing epidemic proportions.
Rob and Keith are really, really frustrated with the antiquated idea of “compliance” as a desirable and central idea in schools.
If you have not seen the video of Officer Ben Fields assaulting the student in South Carolina, the original student-filmed video is available on YouTube by clicking here. (Warning: the footage is violent and may be disturbing.) According to recent reports, the officer has been terminated for his conduct in this incident.
Rob referenced “CPI,” which is the Crisis Prevention Institute, and I referenced Helping Hands, which is actually “Handle With Care,” another training group. These are organizations that work with healthcare providers and educators to safely and non-physically intervene and de-escalate situations, but also include the safe and un-harming restraint of individuals in crisis. If a child has a serious mental health issue, for example, it may be part of being a good “Mama Bear” to put your hands on a child to prevent, for example, self-harm, but there are healthy, loving, non-violent but physically-restraining ways to do this.
As a bonus track, here’s KDR riffing on the stupidity of school rules that presume homogeneity despite the neurobiological reality of student individualism.
As an extra track, I wanted to be sure to address the racist element I cannot help but see every time I turn around.
KDR references the latest RadioLab episode on Musical Language, available online here.
Adult control of children is not a precept of education. Child freedom, however, is a fundamental precept of teaching and learning. Schools should not assimilate children into a culture of command and control, or demand children conform to traditional adult-imposed expectations of obedience. Instead, schools should consistently empower children and give them the same extraordinary latitude that we would allow any person (regardless of age), while providing age-appropriate scaffolding to protect them and help them make good decisions.
My litmus test for a “rule” is simple: Does it really matter?
“Take your hat off” is a stupid rule in 2015. It’s not a matter of expressing respect aligned to a value shared throughout our culture, and pretending that it is indicates that said pretender is out of touch. “Well, I think it matters,” I hear as a rejoinder. Awesome.
Your personal feelings don’t trump the rights of children or the need for the school to be minimalist in its imposition of behavioral mandates, lest the school culture descend into a system of coercion.
Take an extreme example in the recent assault of a student by a school resource officer in South Carolina. A child who refused to comply with verbal instructions to stand up was tackled to the ground while still in her desk and manhandled like a piece of luggage. Beyond the obvious egregious violation of her personal and physical right to be free from harm at the hands of a violent adult, this situation is troubling to me because of how it started.
She was using her cell phone.
I don’t know how many times I have to say this, but I’m going to keep saying it: stop trying to take these devices away from children. Mandating that a child fork over a personal electronic device is a stupid rule. It’s a stupid rule because it perpetuates teacher-centered, “pay attention to me” teaching methodology. It’s a stupid rule because it says “that device can’t help you learn.” It’s a stupid rule because it says “what I’m doing is so important there’s no possible reason for you not to pay attention to me.” It’s a stupid rule because it says “what I’m doing matters no matter if you don’t think so.”
This latter point is often a point of contention with colleagues. Students don’t learn things that aren’t relevant to them. If the material isn’t relevant, the problem is the design of the instruction, not the child. If we aren’t reaching a kid, engaging a kid, making the material interesting to and relevant to a kid, then I believe fervently and with all my heart that it is incumbent upon us, as educators, to address that with passion, seriousness, and thoughtfulness.
You cannot mandate a kid into learning.
You cannot demand a kid into caring.
You cannot order a kid into wanting.
The fundamental misperception of children as empty vessels who are too incapable, stupid, or ignorant to live their own lives is at the root of the vast majority of problems with the American public school, as I write extensively in “Insurrection: A Teacher Revolution in Defense of Children.” Mandating that a child “pay attention” presupposes a tremendous number of pedagogical, neurological, psychological, social, emotional, and individual things about that child and the situation at hand. The idea that every single kid will benefit and learn equally from a specific teacher-led task is absurd and runs contrary to what serious educators understand about children, and yet that is precisely the structure around which the majority of our classrooms are structured.
If a child “checks out” and wants to sit quietly and doodle on the phone, I must ask: Who cares?
I don’t presuppose, in the above scenario, that the child is ignorant or lazy. I want to ask more questions: Does the kid have skill mastery? Is the kid able to acquire skill mastery through another means? Is this typical behavior or a momentary outlier like we all have as people? What assessment vehicle is giving me meaningful information about understanding the child and the child’s learning situation? Has the child been afforded alternative opportunities and have those opportunities catered to the student’s individual learning modality?
The rejoinder that this is somehow “spoonfeeding” or “babying” is silly. Don’t you, as an adult, have certain things you do and don’t like? Certain ways you learn well and certain ways you don’t? Certain subjects that fascinate you and certain subjects that bore the crap out of you? Aren’t there certain skills that you developed in the context of other things that you do want to do, that you didn’t develop as a student when they were taught in a vacuum?
I was never a particularly adept mathematician and had no real passion for the subject, but when it comes to the analysis of student data relevant to a question I want answered or making sure my Star Trek Online starship is putting out maximum damage per second against the Romulans, you can rest assured I will invest extraordinary time and energy in developing my skills. This is a human universal: We only learn things that are relevant to us. We only care about things that matter to us. This may seem tautological but it’s an important truism about student socioemotional and learning behaviors. As the adults in the situation, our responsibility is not to command respect and demand compliance, but to meaningfully go to where the students are, and develop learning situations that deeply, relevantly, seriously meet the individual needs of each individual child.
Consequently, imposing rules like “put that away” and “take that off” and “sit up straight” and such punitive nonsense is just a waste of our time. Letting that young lady sit quietly and use her phone would have been preferable in every single way to violently assaulting her and causing a massive disruption.
That’s what’s disruptive here: The adult behavior, not the child’s behavior.
Of course, I accept that this fundamental shift from an ideology of coercing to a pedagogy of providing will mean a near-complete redesign of the American public school system.
Hence, the book, and the insurrection to overthrow the status quo and truly revolutionize teaching. Until then, however, we can and must do better, and stop imposing nonsensical and sometimes tyrannical micromanagement upon children in the name of protecting them.
Mama Bear, out.
Educator, administrator, and self-styled revolutionary Keith David Reeves has published “Insurrection: A Teacher Revolution in Defense of Children” with Information Age Publishing. Inspired by Sir Ken Robinson’s 2010 TED Talk calling for the revolutionizing of the public schools, the work tackles the etiology of America’s misunderstanding of children and the nature of learning and teaching, and the deep social and institutional errors innate to our current school system. Reeves was a music teacher in New York and Virginia prior to becoming an educational technology administrator. He recently keynoted the Connecticut Music Educators Association conference, and is a regular speaker and presenter on the east coast.
Technology is not a distraction or a hindrance to learning. It is a tool, like any other “thing,” and any given piece of educational technology can benefit or hinder an individual in any given situation depending on context and use. Sweeping statements about how technology is or isn’t or should or shouldn’t be used presupposes homogeneity among learners. We know this to be fallacious: Every individual learner is different, and every individual brain has unique needs and modalities. Consequently, best practices and good policy errs on the side of freedom and empowerment, not on the side of restriction and limitation. Teachers have different roles than parents, and parents must be active in understanding their children and their needs, but neither the school nor the parent should impose any given “belief” or “ideology” about educational technology upon other families in order to eliminate challenging conversations or mitigate a circumstance for one student by erecting high walls of restriction for all students.
Access to the World Wide Web in and of itself doesn’t mean that students will learn more or learn better. It does, however, mean a fundamental and titanic shift in the nature of life that we are foolish to ignore. Whereas in, say, the early 19th century, rote memorization of facts may well have been the only efficient way to ensure a knowledge base was available to any given individual employing a skill, that is no longer the case. Reference book series, encyclopedias, specialized archives that once were kept behind locked doors, are now available in a moment through a connected personal digital device. The breadth and depth of human knowledge is being made more and more available – from obscure resources curated and cultivated by idiosyncratic specialists to emergent research and intelligence that might never have seen the light of day otherwise – and there is no rational reason to imagine the world will be without this connected access to knowledge in the future.
In short, the nature of human civilization has changed. It happened during your lifetime. It is the nature of what Alvin Toffler called “The Third Wave,” an era of our development a species and globalizing human culture in which information is central in a post-industrialized world. Well, baby, we’re in it, and pretending it isn’t so is part of the reason extant and engrained institutions like schools have been so terribly, indefensibly slow to react and respond. Conservative longing for simpler pre-computer, pre-connected times is useless, in my view, and only serves to lessen our ability to understand and react wisely in rapid times.
Yesterday in conversing with a colleague who, as I did, had taught in significantly socioeconomically-compromised schools, I was reminded that some schools have always “lagged behind” in resources, and may not face the kind of immediate and emergent concerns I face in my work in my current school, which is admittedly affluent and resource-rich. However, from an educational philosophy perspective, I believe that meaningful and constant connectivity is here to say and is a valuable part of human life in 2015, and is universal across nearly all demographics. Denying students access to knowledge is, to me, unkind, unloving, and fool-hardy. Beyond the obvious fact that Kohlberg and other firmly-established theorists give us all the evidence we need to know that teenagers will want something you tell them they can’t have, it’s also unrealistic and I daresay delusional to think that students should be insulated from the world as it is when it comes to basic functions that are so universally available.
Schools have a legal and ethical responsibility to shield students from certain forms of content, as I’ve written about before. I believe it is also our ethical responsibility to restrict students as little as possible. Denying students freedom and access troubles me to no end, not just philosophically, but pedagogically.
I forget who shared this anecdote (if it was you, remind me!) but a Chemistry teacher once asked xyr students, “How many of these elements on the periodic table do you think you should memorize?” The students discussed, and came up with an answer, and the Chemistry teacher responded: “None. One simple mistake could kill a huge number of people. Never assume. Never memorize. Always, always, always use your reference materials to be sure.” To me, this marvelous and insightful rule of thumb applies to us all: While we may operationalize knowledge that is relevant, because we put it into action regularly, we also drop off knowledge that is irrelevant. This is not to say it may not become relevant again in the future, or that such cycles don’t eventually become second-nature so they can be easily reoperationalized in a very short time – “it’s like riding a bike” – but it is folly to think that humans in 2015 cannot or should not access accurate information digitally. That’s not how the world works anymore.
I can’t underscore this enough: We must stop pretending that the technology of 2015 isn’t here right now. It is here, right now.
I am frustrated by practitioners and caretakers alike who want to erect the highest possible walls to restrict students to explicit tasks without a compelling, child-specific, situation-specific reason. (I refer you back to my previous “Mama Bear” post about knowing full well we need to keep kids safe, so let’s skip that for now and assume that I’m not a nitwit about protecting children from genuine harm!) Technology is not a “distraction.” It’s a tool. If a student is engaging socially during a task, I don’t care. If a student is communicating with others during a project, I don’t care. If a student is accessing information with a personal device in class, I don’t care. None of these things is, in and of itself, problematic. Without context and child-specific information, it is in my view over-broad and over-restrictive to set policy or make sweeping decisions restricting access to connection and knowledge that any reasonable person living in the world should be able to access.
This also has implications for teacher monitoring. A few (thankfully just a few) teachers I’ve talked to have asked, as students come into classrooms with devices, “how can I monitor what they’re doing?” These adults want to know exactly what each kid is doing at any given time. Now, in some cases, this is pedagogically-sound: by being able to see, at a glance, what kids are doing, that practitioner can go to the kids that need individual assistance, and gather realtime formative observation data to assist in teaching. That is an entirely fair use. However, in most cases, I find the teacher says thing like “I want to be sure the kid isn’t screwing around” or “I want the kid to be on task” or “I want to be sure the kid doesn’t deviate from my instructions” or something. That, to me, is freaky as heck. Firstly, it presupposes homogeneity again and assumes that every kid learns the same way at the same time, an artifact of Industrial era factory model schooling, and is the very definition of scholiocentrism. But moreover, it refutes out of hand the idea that a student doesn’t need to do exactly what the teacher might think, with no consideration for (again) context. What if the kid already has skill mastery and wants to extend into something else? What if another kid (in that class, in the next class, or in Khazachstan; makes no difference) is having the same issue and they’re collaboratively investigating a resource? What if the kid’s brain has reached a saturation point and xe needs a mental break from whatever is going on? If the teacher’s response is “that’s not okay,” then I have a problem with that. If the adult’s response is “yeah, but you know they’re not doing that stuff, they’re talking to their friends or whatever,” then I have a problem with that.
If your pedagogy and assessment is such that the kid won’t succeed even if the kid DOES take a moment to straight up chat with friends in class, that, to me, is the real problem. I don’t believe it a healthy or successful orientation to think that adults must corral and coerce students into compliance, or else they’ll naturally run off to the hills and do nothing all day. That, to me, is an unloving and untrusting orientation toward kids. In my experience, if you provide the necessary omnimodal assessment vehicles by which students can readily and constantly understand their progress, and create the active and relevant learning conditions each individual child needs, kids can be given extraordinary latitude in decision-making, and will (with some patience and time and loving support) develop the executive function and operationalized knowledge base to employ their skill mastery. Micromanagement of minute-to-minute behaviors has never been an effective tool in my tool belt for cultivating deep understanding and rich skill mastery for my students, and so like any irrelevant or useless thing, I put it down and don’t use it anymore.
Watching what the kid is doing every minute of the day is never going to be a substitute for empowering the kid to make good choices independently. “Big Brother” mentality mistrusts the individual and says “I know how to be you better than you know how to be you.” That, to me, is irresponsible.
Yes, I understand there may be considerations based on development and age-appropriateness, but “socializing with friends” is not an age-inappropriate situation. Yes, there are legitimate concerns about the balance between privacy for children and the potential for problems, for example bullying or predation, and I take those concerns seriously as a person deeply invested in the welfare of every child. However, it has always been my position that teaching involves ensuring every individual child has learned (not can learn, but has learned), and the only way to do that in the context of connected technology is to teach with it and through it as well as about it, to ensure students – scaffolded for safety and positive development – are able to develop the skills to navigate these experiences healthfully.
In all situations of policy, I want to err on the side “open” versus “closed” (within the confines of the law, of course), and then actively seek to empower students to learn as they learn, make good choices for themselves as individuals, and ensure that the adults around them support those good decisions instead of presuming that their modalities, philosophies, and perspectives on technology are superior and subsequently imposing those ideas writ large. We serve our children better by cutting their bonds than forging them, but we must take care not to cut their connections to others or to the rich and incredible world of information available to them in the process.
There is a significant difference between keeping kids safe and supporting them in their healthy development, and putting them in an artificial, unrealistic petri dish.
P.S. – Stay tuned, as the book should be hitting the shelves any day! Sign up for the mailing list for immediate notification when the links go live!
Capriciously labeling, ranking, and categorizing people is a nightmare for adults and for children. The powerful negative feelings, thoughts, and psychosocial phenomena associated with being told who you are, being told what you are (or are not) worth, and being publicly branded can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicide. Doing such a thing once is bad enough, but doing it all the time is downright despicable. I am disgusted as both a person and as a professional educator by ideology that idolizes concrete judgment, self-centered importance without regard for others, regards inductive reasoning as supreme, and fervently believes in the worth of some people and the worthlessness of others. Broadly, this embodies Objectivism, a philosophy madly embraced by the far right and rejected by serious academics and scholars of philosophy, and in short, I find it unhealthy, inhumane, and dangerous, and wherever I detect situations in my work with children and with teachers that involves painting with broad brushes, corralling children into predefined pens, and otherwise treating human beings like statistics or objects, I fight it.
Consequently, you can imagine my wrath and scorn when my colleague Rachel forwarded me Caitlin Dewey’s article from the Post describing Peeple, a new app that lets anyone in the world rank you. As she describes it, it’s basically “Yelp for people”
This is, in short, one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard in my time in education and educational technology.
Firstly, let’s get the big one out of the way: It is not your place to judge me. You might in fact judge me, and you have a right to form private internal judgments me, but it is not your role in society, and certainly it is not your place to publicly proclaim your assessment of me as a person from a throne of authority, and Peeple seeks to coronate any idiot who registers.
Has Peeple learned nothing from Lulu (as Caitlin points out) or RateMyTeacher or other platforms that spike briefly for prurient Mean Girls social terrorism, and then fade to rant-fests and mud-slinging?
From the educator’s perspective, I’m alarmed and infuriated by the brazen ignorance of the founders. One of them as quoted in the article called herself “empathetic” and indicated she wanted to “spread love and positivity” and “operate with thoughtfulness.” There is nothing prosocial, empathetic, loving, or positive about providing a nearly-unfettered platform for shame.
Shaming is a neuropsychologically-destructive act, and Peeple creates a condition for slander and vengeance and meanness as well as unfounded aggrandizement and egoism, by allowing individuals to utilize an oversimplified integer-based evaluation method, rooted in nothing more than baseless evidence-free opinion, to judge others. And yes, I indict it for the same reasons I indict grading in schools that is rooted in similar garbage data.
An example: I know a person who says that person respects me tremendously as an educator. I also know that person loathes me as a person because of our deep disagreement on sociology and politics. In Peeple, that person can claim to know me professionally, and then excoriate me for something that 1. has nothing to do with my work as an educator insofar as my duties are concerned, 2. does in fact have everything to do with my work as an educator insofar as those who agree with me on matters of children, individualism, and pedagogy are concerned, and 3. is absolutely, positively none of anyone else’s business. The conversations I’ve had with that person were had with that person, not in a public forum. Public debate and chatting are different things, with different standards of decorum and format. Peeple does not make any effort to distinguish these phenomena, and rightly so: It’s not for anyone else to say who I am, what I do, or how I do it, based on anything but their own perspective, and that perspective is ONLY valid for that person.
Sycophants and egoists, predators and shamers, scapegoaters and sociopaths, you’ve found yet another pile of grist to grind in Peeple, but I’ll thank you all to leave my grainy goodness out of your mill. I will not be participating in such psychopathy.