What is progressive?

Learning from One of Progressive Thought …

I had the most amazing experience of seeing Alfie Kohn himself last Thursday!  It was an amazing and rare experience to listen to someone who is charged with such passion and dedication to the field of education – from a progressive stance.  It is also refreshing to hear someone admit that becoming progressive is a process – once a traditional teacher of English Alfie has evolved into one of the most powerful promoters of alternative education pathways.

Seeing him made me want to share two things.  One, a document that Alfie outlines key factors of progressive education and Two, a piece of writing I have been saving with the debate of using it for blog purposes or publishing or what have you…

Tonight, I have decided that it was worth sharing.  So without further chattering:

One (The article from Alfie Kohn: “Progressive Education – Why It’s Hard to Beat, But Also Hard to Find”)

A must read!!!  Located at Alfie’s site:

http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/progressive-education/?print=pdf

Do not scroll further until you visit that link and read that article!!!!  You should read his link!  If you get anything out of this blog post, go there!  But, if you have an additional extra minute read this: 

Two (My piece of writing that I was reminded of when seeing Alfie, as I referenced him at the end of it):

The other day, I was reading Their Name is Today:  Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World.

I know, reading leisurely books is maybe not my strong point.  I was recently informed I should read Gone Girl or take another stab at the George R.R. Martin series, Game of Thrones.  But, instead I am reading Their Name is Today (Ok, and Always Looking Up but at a rate of about one chapter a week, so that may not count as a fun non-Early Childhood related book) and I am thinking I will read a book by Janet Lansbury next.  C’est la vie.  I am a little wrapped up in my field.  Anyways while deeply engrossed in a chapter on “taking back childhood” it occurred to me that my dad has given me one of the best gifts of childhood, the lack of expectations.  Don’t get me wrong it is not that he did not have a standard for us to live by but not in the same ways that children are held to expectations today (and when I was a child).  And because of this I feel I was given the freedom as an adult to pursue what I was passionate about and set my own expectations for greatness.  So what do I mean by this?  I was held to the standard of being kind, compassionate, hard working, and respectful but I was never pressured to be the captain of the team, the honor student, the math-lete, the lead role in the musical, or prom queen.  It wasn’t something that was ever encouraged or forced upon me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I played a few school sports.  I muddled my way through a few years of soccer, my best goal being one I accidentally scored on my own team.  I hung out with the brainy people as a quiz bowl team member or envirothon member, somehow having a knack for questions about the Jewish religion and soil.  Don’t ask me why or how, I just did.  I was involved in things… this group and that, etc. etc. etc.  I wasn’t as privileged as some but I did have many blessings that some children may have not.  I participated in life events of the typical public school child.  And it is not to say I wasn’t rewarded for things or encouraged.  Once my dad thought the idea of promoting good math grades could be motivated by a shrimp cocktail (it did work for a moment and it wasn’t the cocktail’s fault, I was really horrendous at math).  And I had family attend my sport games on occasion or the banquets at season’s end.  But, the reality was while I was at home or at school being a normal teenager some of my friends were being forced down paths they did not want or understand:  the next prettiest, funniest, smartest girl ever.  I dealt very little with that pressure and now I can look back and see how that has benefited me, even today.  It is not to say don’t ever enroll your child into a class or sport.  It is to say honor them in not creating every experience into a pressure zone or competition.  I see so many children today being pushed to go above and beyond for reasons that are far from intrinsic.  My greatest accomplishments were ones I desired to achieve on my own.  It turns out that they were things that my family could be proud of too but that wasn’t the main motivation for them.  I did not work hard so that I could obtain praise, trophies, ribbons, awards, etc.  But, I also did not crumble to the point of no return when I failed.  Today we teach children that failure is life ending.  We teach them to feel pressure from the very early years of life.  How many letters can you name?  What accelerated reading level are you at?  What color belt did you earn?  How many goals did you score?  Did you make it to the finals?  Are you scholarship material?  It never ends! The pressure for excellence is intense and it is taking a toll on humanity.  Children are programmed from the very beginning to not be comfortable with failure and live up to expectations at all times.  But, as adults I think we are missing out on how this impacts children emotionally and mentally.  Give children the gift of finding joy in their own accomplishments, step back from creating a child that needs a trophy to feel whole.

 

Fuel for your fire:

  • Alfie Kohn deserves mounds of credit for helping educators stray away from empty extrinsic praise.  Take a moment to explore “5 Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job”: http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/gj.htm

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So all in all – props to the great parents, educators, and great change-makers of the world!

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The How To Dos, What is progressive?

Back to Basics: Blitz2

Was handed this gem at a conference once, love it!  I wish I could credit the presenter!  But they did credit their source below – so cheers to that!  Enjoy the second tidbit for my back to basics blitz of resources.  🙂 photo (8)

Childhood Joy and Preservation, The How To Dos, What is progressive?

Not because I said so…

classroom 148Standards, checkpoints, milestones, learning objectives, etc…  Our education system is framed around goals and expectations that children are pushed to meet at certain age/grade levels.  As educators we are told to scaffold development and differentiate instruction to meet children’s needs.  However, there is also a push to ensure a child meets a set of standards by the end of a school year – despite the fact that meeting a learner on his or her level is important.  When asking No Pro followers what is challenging in the teaching arena – the response is clear “fighting the urge to do xyz because kids who are six are supposed to do xyz”.  But, who defines XYZ?  As educators we need to find resources that guide us to accurately define what XYZ should be.  This is difficult because our surrounding teaching peers, traditional teaching arenas, and state/federal recommendations may send the message that a child should be able to perform at a certain level along a certain timeline.  The first step to feeling comfortable about allowing children to grow at their own pace (no matter what XYZ states) is to back yourself up with research.  Research allows educators to feel confident about the decisions they already know are the right ones – and back these decisions up with powerful evidence.  Decisions made based on Developmentally Appropriate Practice and educator based research is more solid than following XYZ because the standards and cookie cutter assessment tools said so.

What research is out there that supports children growing at their own pace?

Developmentally Appropriate Practice

In the 3rd Edition of “Developmentally Appropriate Practice” Carol Copple and Sue Bredekamp define excellent teachers as educators whom recognize that “learning goals are usually identified for groups of children within a given age span.  But, teachers must determine where each child is in relation to a goal and
adjust their teaching accordingly” (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009).  As educators, we know our children best.  We can gauge what experiences a child is ready for, asking for, and interested in.  A manual or checklist of standards can not tell us what capabilities each individual child is ready to achieve or not.  Cookie cutter checklist leave out critical contextual factors such as environment, culture, and emotional development.  Developmentally appropriate practice is having a knowledge of how typical whole child development progresses and combining it with the ability of individualizing it to each child and classroom.

Language of the Wolves

Lisa Murphy the Ooey Gooey Lady provides educators with a document “What to Say When the Wolves Come Knocking” (http://www.ooeygooey.com/handouts/generalwolf.pdf) that empowers teachers with vocabulary that helps defend play practices.  This document will provide a tool box for sharing how play is learning.  Sometimes meeting a child where they are is about taking what they choose to work on – documenting it and translating that documentation into what benefits, developmental stages, and standards are being met during their explorations.

Children Know What they Need

Alfie Kohn shares the importance of considering what children know and want to know:

Taking kids seriously: In traditional schooling, as John Dewey once remarked, “the center of gravity is outside the child”:  he or she is expected to adjust to the school’s rules and curriculum. Progressive educators take their cue from the children — and are particularly attentive to differences among them. (Each student is unique, so a single set of policies, expectations, or assignments would be as counterproductive as it was disrespectful.) The curriculum isn’t just based on interest, but on these children’s interests. Naturally, teachers will have broadly conceived themes and objectives in mind, but they don’t just design a course of study for their students; they design it with them, and they welcome unexpected detours. One fourth-grade teacher’s curriculum, therefore, won’t be the same as that of the teacher next door, nor will her curriculum be the same this year as it was for the children she taught last year. It’s not enough to offer elaborate thematic units prefabricated by the adults. And progressive educators realize that the students must help to formulate not only the course of study but also the outcomes or standards that inform those lessons -(Kohn, 2008).

The following link provides more information from Kohn about how progressive education caters to learning with children and not pushing them to be a part of a system that does not fit them individually: http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/progressive.htm.

When the Time is Right

Take a page from Waldorf.  Waldorf education waits until about third grade to introduce academics in a structured format.  It is not to say that the children are not intellectually challenged but their childhood is preserved in their younger years.  Concepts are introduced through rich play, story telling, and artistically expressive experiences.  Whether you adopt the entire Waldorf premise it is important to consider that Waldorf has a large following and history.  If Waldorf’s school of thought supports children being children and allowing children to be introduced to concepts “when the time is right” and these children have grown successfully as a whole child ( including academically) in society then why are public schools removing play from the early years?  Why is the focus of elementary education (and now pushing into early childhood) on XYZ by a certain age?

What are you trading?

Finally consider – If you are pushing your child or student to achieve XYZ what ABC are you sacrificing.  In other words consider that some children are great readers at 4.  A rare find.  But, most fluent readers at this age are lacking something else.  Often they are not internalizing the story and lack comprehension skills.  But, even more prominent in young prodigy readers we see a need for social skills to be more developed (cooperation, empathy, socialization).  So these young readers can translate the text into speech but they fail to be able to work in a reading group.  This is only one example.  But, stop and think if XYZ is pushed before its time what ABC is being sacrificed – what part of childhood are we asking children to give up so that they can be academic superstars.

What is progressive?, What is progressive?

What is Progressive? …and why there are no pros in progressive education!

Progressive Education: attending to the whole child, community, collaboration, social justice, intrinsic motivation, deep understanding, active learning, and taking kids seriously – Alfie Kohn, “Why it is Hard to Beat, But also Hard to Find”.

These elements are the pieces to the progressive education puzzle. These pieces are easy to pick up, place down, and interlock together; but keeping these pieces together and thriving is much more difficult. The fact is that there is no Pro in progressive education and there shouldn’t be. As educators, we should always be striving for best practices and changing with needs of the children, environment, and circumstances. Embracing these pieces and adopting other developmentally appropriate practices ensures that we give our best to the children and the arena of education. Pro implies perfection – Education is never perfected – It is ever evolving and transforming. Join the journey: share and learn about how progressive education ignites children and teachers with the joy of lifelong learning.

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There is No Pro in Progressive, What is progressive?

There is No Pro in Progressive

There is no Pro in progressive education.

 There are professionals.

 There is progress.

There is proactive thought and actions.

 There is product and most importantly process.

There is provocation.

But, there is no pro in progressive education.

There is not one person, not one teacher, not one advocate that can say they have mastered the implementation of progressive education.

Pro implies that one has perfected the task at hand.  Perfecting progressive education is impossible;  it is ever-changing and based on the moment of each child and classroom community.  There will be moments as educators that we just get it wrong.

This blog is dedicated to the journey of finding ways of getting it right.  I am not a pro.  I am in the process- I have the privilege of being an educator for a(n amazing) progressive nature based preschool program (just a hint of bias, but a heap of sincerity).  I believe we learn through experience and sharing our experiences.  Here you will find the things I have come to know about early childhood and the world of progressive education.

– Jeanne, Teacher at ALPOE

play2learnandgrow@gmail.com

project pic slide 001  Jeanne is an early childhood educator for a progressive nature preschool in California.  She is a Western NY native.  She believes PLAY is a child’s work and learning platform.  When she is not submerged in her passion of teaching she is connecting with family and loved ones (including her adorable chocolate lab).

Credentials:  Educational Leadership Masters Extension Certificate from Pacific Oaks College, Masters in Reading and Literacy from Walden University, B.S. in Early Childhood Education from SUNY Fredonia

Teaching Experience:  Toddlers, Preschool/Pre-K, Head Start, K, 2nd, and Youth Soccer Coach.

Advocacy Work:  CCAEYC (affiliate of NYSAEYC & NAEYC), Learning through Play, Nature and Outdoor Play