Are we teaching the “love of” the the, or just the “the”?

In my office, on a small desk covered with Star Wars minifigures, a rubics cube and some Hot Wheels cars you will also find my 4th grade class photo. I’m the smallish blonde boy in the middle row, fourth from the left. At the other end of the row is Mrs Paterson. She is the reason the photo sits on my desk thirty-six years later.

I don’t really remember much about what I learned in fourth grade. As an elementary teacher of many years myself I can guess what was covered, and while it might be interesting, it’s not important. What I can remember is the way Mrs Paterson made me feel about being in her class.

She had high standards. She challenged me. She believed that I could do it.

At a recent conference I sat and listened to Sir John Jones talk about the way schools should be. Amongst his humour were some truisms that all educators need to be thinking deeply about. One was, “Google can teach you history. Only teachers can teach you the LOVE of history!”

Like most other schools around the world, I urge my teachers to “address the standards” when they teach. “Follow UbD when you plan,” I say. “Start with the standards. Design the assessment. Build the plan.”


But in my fifteen years of co-planning with teachers, I have never come across a standard addressing teaching the “love” of something. I’ve never asked a teacher to add a row in a rubric to read,”demonstrates a love of calculus”, or writing, or painting or long division. And as I ponder this, I am wondering how to address this absence.

If the role of a teacher is to teach a “love of” something, be it physics or reading or history or simply (but not so simply) learning, where do we start? Where do we put all the effort in and how to we know if we’ve accomplished it? Can we use the final grade as a measure? Or is it less quantitative and more qualitative? Is it the number of students who choose to follow that subject as a career path? Is it the number of smiles on faces I see in classrooms as I walk through the building? Or is it the waiting list of students eager to get into a particular class with a particular teacher?

Mrs Paterson was my fourth-grade teacher and she is the one who taught me a “love of” something. She did it by challenging me, expecting I was able and caring for me as I made my attempts and failed.

Maybe it is that simple. Maybe it is that and a bit more. Maybe what was right for Mrs Paterson is different for you and I. Who knows?

As a school administrator, I don’t have the answer. I know when a teacher has it and I can see when a teacher doesn’t. I can give examples of it. I can attest to the importance of it. I can urge those without it to develop it.

If you are a teacher, how are you developing in students the “Love Of” your subject?



Looking beyond your fence

It is interesting that I am finally getting back to the blog after more than a year, in that I am now enjoying my Summer holiday in Australia (where it is actually Winter), and I have a some time to sit and ponder. It seems I need to build some pondering time into my regular schedule when this break concludes.

But on to the ponder of the moment…

It is very easy to sit within the boundaries of the world that you inhabit and lament your lamentable bits and pieces, regret your regrettable bits and moan about all those things that need moaning about. It is only when you find yourself in the company of someone who lives in a different world and listen to their laments, moans and regrets that you can begin to get some perspective. But it is dangerous to visualise those significantly different worlds as Australia and Somalia, or Saudi Arabia and Canada, or Laos and Minnessota and presume that this is what I am referring to.

I am not referring to these dramatically different worlds when I talk about gaining important perspectives.

Think more about the world that you inhabit – your family, your job, your house, your community – and compare it to the world that your brother or sister inhabits, the world that your colleague inhabits, or the world of your next door neighbour. This is where the interesting perspective exists.

And the perspective is interesting because it enables you to compare your laments and moans with the laments and moans of someone else, who, from the casual observer, is to all intents and purposes, someone just like you.

But they are not. Or maybe they are. And maybe your laments and moans are the same. Or maybe they're not.

I'm not now going to say that your laments and moans are not important. I don't accept the point of view that goes something like, “Stop your whinging! You've got nothing to worry about compared to those starving children in Africa.” We all have something to worry about. Admittedly, nothing that I have to worry about compares to the worry that a father of a starving child would have, but mine are still worries none-the-less.

When I am invited in to the world of others, and get a hint of their perspective, that perspective helps me regulate how much I worry about things, how much I moan and groan to others about things and what I do to make things better.

And it was recently that I had that opportunity to see things from the perspective of someone else just like me. And then they were not just like me. And then they were.

And now, as I think about my laments and moans and regrets there is a new ingredient in the mix that is influencing my thoughts, what I might do, what decisions I might make. Some decisions I make may be different. Some may be the same.

Whatever happens, having spent some time looking beyond my back fence has reminded me that while the grass is green, how green it is is a matter of perspective.




At present I am building a report card system for the secondary school for which I work, and not yet having committed to a particular SIS to run the whole thing, and without a server, and without any database software I am having to reinvent the wheel, the axle, the transmission, etc, etc, etc. My colleague at the desk beside me has been building the elementary reports in similar fashion. Together we have been making a lot of noise.

So there has been a lot of learning going on this week (and I predict into this weekend as well!) and I am able to describe, amongst other things, what that has been SOUNDING like!

With both of us toiling away with Excel spreadsheets, mail merges and Word templates there has been a lot of:
• talking, agreeing, disagreeing, questioning, proposing, groaning, swearing, laughing
• Mmmm-ing as the lets-try-this becomes we’ll-have-to-try-something-else
• “Boom”-ing as the maybe-this-will-work actually works
• “You won’t believe it”-ing as the latest phonecall adds yet another consideration that must be accommodated within the spreadsheet
• Singing along to whatever is playing on iTunes
• One asking the other, “Do you remember how to do X?”
• One asking the other, “Can you come and look at this and tell me what you think.”
• Silence, interrupted only by the clatter and clicking of keys and mice
• Vows to never, ever do this again.

So what have I learned today?

Two heads are better than one. If you are not talking you are missing great learning opportunities. Just because you don’t know what to do or how to do it is no reason not to begin. When you trust your ability to learn you can accomplish great things.

I wonder what I will learn tomorrow?


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