What Are The Wounds of Schooling?


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Presentation at Teachers College, May 2009.

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  • -Story of watching first graders at Foxborough Regional Charter School last Monday
  • -Interested in the cognitive, spiritual, emotional experiences of profoundly engaged learners, who found learning intensely pleasurable -Professor at a research university, a graduate student, a national marketing executive, a hedge fund manager, a writer -”I felt rejected in school. My interests were never allowed to come forward. I hid what I really cared about.”
  • -As a consultant, my eye was drawn to “reluctant learners,” students who weren’t thriving -Looking at school from a student’s perspective
  • -Listening to students…Reluctant learners--why were they reluctant? Disengaged? Rebellious, bored? -High ses kids, low, middle all expressed a great deal of disengagement, disillusionment with learning process, particularly by high school
  • -Autobiographical interviews framed around salient metaphors, histories and individual settings (Lawrence-Lightfoot and Hoffman Davis, 1997) --N-Vivo software according to a grounded theory approach, in which thematic coding categories emerge from the data -”Snowball sampling,” D.D. Heckathorn (1997). "Respondent-Driven Sampling: A New Approach to the Study of Hidden Populations". Social Problems 44 : 174 � 199. doi : 10.1525/sp.1997.44.2.03x0221m - Grounded theory (GT) is a systematic qualitative research methodology in the social sciences emphasizing generation of theory from data in the process of conducting research. It is a research method that operates almost in a reverse fashion to traditional research and at first may appear to be in contradiction of the scientific method. Rather than beginning by researching & developing a hypothesis, a variety of data collection methods are the first step. From the data collected from this first step, the key points are marked with a series of codes, which are extracted from the text. The codes are grouped into similar concepts, in order to make them more workable. From these concepts categories are formed, which are the basis for the creation of a theory, or a reverse engineered hypothesis. This contradicts the traditional model of research, where the researcher chooses a theoretical framework, and only then applies this model to the studied phenomenon[1] .
  • -Wound of creativity: Rigid use of writing rubrics in 3rd grade made student not want to write anymore -Wound of rebelliousness: Student who had been critiqued for a learning differnce who becomes chronically rebellious as a way of preserving self, “not learning” Wound of perfectionism:Students who are extraordinarily concerned with doing everything right--things must be “perfect” and anything less is unacceptable
  • -Personal sense of helplessness -Identities formed around failure
  • -Anger, despair, shame -retribution against the institution
  • -Sense of being misunderstood, “unseen”
  • -Bernard Gassaway, award winning superintendent of Channel Beach High School, received the distinguished educator award from New York State and Became Directgor of Alternative Schools in NYC.
  • -So what are school wounds?
  • -Jungian, Kohutian point of view at the developing child, child develops narcissitic wounds. -School essentially acts as a narcissitic parent, using child for own purposes, not positively mirroring
  • -Interviewees reported hearing statements that were all encompassing, global, and undifferentiated
  • -Ironically, Instead of motivating students, produced…
  • -What I found globally was that the lifelong impact on self concept for adults of the institution was absolutely understudied, nowhere in the discourse for describing these experiences, making them explicable
  • -So it became clear that for many, in ways that were not clearly understood -But based on high school engagement surveys, and international comparison data, school is not a congenial or enlivening place for many--perhaps 80% -Kirstan Accles Morrison, Free School Teaching: A Journey into Radical Progressive Education, 2007, p. 1) As the author of this passage points out, many of these individuals who experience school in this positive way often go on to become teachers or work in schools.
  • -Teachers little comments matter tremendously, and this is misunderstood -The shaping effects of the institution is underestimated
  • I found that interviewees struggled terribly with understanding what had happened to them, and their sense of shame and failure was deeply personalized and private
  • -In the face of abundant social, cultural and economic data that educational privilege tends to reinforce advantage for the already privileged, we continue to hold these myths. -Makes recogition of wounds much, much more difficult -Deeply private, personalized sense of shame about lack of success
  • -Yet for many, a vast number of learners…
  • -Now a bestselling author, Jonathan Mooney (Learning Outside the Lines) dropped out of high school twice, became an alchoholic, abused drugs. He eventually was accepted to Brown University…” -lived constantly with the refrain, “Stupid, Crazy, Lazy.”
  • -transition to healing 1 minute Share with someone next to you
  • -like recovering from any significant trauma, path of healing was long and tortuous -the road was unpaved
  • -if you have been a highly successful student, in terms of critical theory literature, you may be less sympathetically engaged/attune to students who are not thriving
  • -Old fashioned, industrial model developed in the early 20th century that no longer serves us well -Was a system that was never designed to produce high achievement for everyone -Inherent design flaw
  • -I am not opposed to accountability, and I actually do see many benefits to NCLB, but my interviewees tell me experiences of intense learning often have nothing to do with orderly, assembly line learning -”Real” learning involves intuition, ambiguity, messiness, and lots of mistakes. -New global economy, the most important skills will be creativity, self-discipline, capacity to synthesize new information and ideas, ability to work in teams (National Center on Education and the Economy, 2007)
  • -But schools are generally not designed to deal with students in this way -”Determine” ability very early on, in ways that become self-confirming -Poor understanding of diagnostic tests, ways to use tests -Dweck: Become an effort theorist (Mindset) -Stephen Murdoch: IQ: A Smart History of a Failed Idea
  • -60% drop out rate in Boston public schools among minorities -Low rankings in PISA studies, international comparisons, TIMMS, NAEP -HSSSE survey (High school survey of school engagement) Indiana University: 1 in 5 feels deeply engaged in school work; 1 in 3 feels deeply known, seen by adult in the building -
  • -Last 4 years talking with very broad range of people Institution we know is so critically important to individual and social mobility and a democractic society -So many wounding practices for students, teachers, parents
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