Monday, November 24, 2014

Let's look at the real reason why a 4.0 has come to equal a smart person but a 2.0 has come to equal a not-so-smart person.

I haven't felt moved to write anything on this blog in some time but a few days ago, I saw this in my newsfeed and it got me thinking.

I totally agree with the first part of this statement.  As an adult who has completely re-evaluated all I was told growing up, I know that test grades are not the sum total of intelligence.  While being able to retain information and produce it when necessary (as written exams require) are certainly marks of a type of intelligence, there are different ways to measure the countless other types of intelligence.  This is the biggest failing of many of our current schools:  they fail to acknowledge that there are various types of intelligences and learning styles.  As such, there should be various teaching approaches that capitalize on the various intelligences, honor the different learning styles and there should be multiple ways to assess learning.

Interestingly enough, in graduate school we spent lots of time talking about the different intelligences and different learnings styles.  We investigated ways to teach to these differences.  And yet, in actual practice, only a few kinds of intelligences are valued in schools (mainly linguistic intelligence, i.e. being able to read and write combined with mathematical intelligence, i.e., being able do math quickly and accurately).  If your intelligence as a student is not dominantly linguistic or mathematical, you will struggle in a typical school.  And unfortunately, especially in recent years with all the high-stakes testing, education or what passes for education has been reduced to a measure of how much information a student has retained and then can later regurgitate.  Students are not asked, generally to employ higher level thinking (even though another big deal in graduate school was Bloom's Taxonomy).

And that's my main problem with this meme.  It seeks to point fingers at students who maintain 4.0 GPAs, basically dismissing their hard work and effort and saying that the *only* reason they have a 4.0 GPA is obedience.   It's a false argument.  I know many kids who followed the rules and didn't make trouble (my husband included) but were not A+ students.  Indeed, your average 4.0 student won't be a rabble rouser but most 4.0 students will have worked hard for it.   They studied.  They went the extra mile.  They put in the extra effort.  Personally, I spent my prom night studying for the AP Biology exam and went on to get  a 5 on it.  I think if we take a moment to think about, we can easily acknowledge that obedience alone doesn't yield a 4.0 GPA.  It takes determination, grit and discipline.  But it is crucial to note that these characteristics only lead to a 4.0 GPA if the student's style of learning is the same as the style of teaching and the modality of testing.    If other styles of learning and other intelligences were given equal regard in a school setting, if there were various forms of assessment, I think we'd have many more 4.0 students and many more students with a positive feeling about school.

For that reason, this meme is kind of petty.  It comes off as a 2.0 student mad that he doesn't have a 4.0.  And maybe he should be mad but not at the 4.0 student.  He should be mad at the school system who refuses to acknowledge his intelligence, refuses to teach to his strengths and refuses to test his learning in ways that are perhaps more appropriate for who he is.   But the 4.0 student is an easy target.  It's just as bad to assume things about a 4.0 student as it is to assume things about a 2.0 student.  A 2.0 student may absolutely be a brilliant, hardworking, determined and disciplined individual.  A 2.0 student is not automatically unintelligent or lazy.  Just as a 4.0 student is not automatically docile, obedient and unquestioning.  It's my belief that you can never build someone or something up by tearing someone or something else down. As such, I feel this meme is really misguided. Let's look at the real reasons why a 4.0 has come to equal a smart person but a 2.0 has come to equal a not-so-smart person.

So no, grades don't determine intelligence.  We have come to rely on them too heavily as a marker of all sorts of things.  We use them to assume too much about students without critically examining the environment in which these students are supposedly learning everyday and the system that claims to have the goal of educating them.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

From Locks to a Mohawk

My second son, Z2, decided to cut his locks and get a Mohawk.  

Z2 had been growing his hair since birth.  Unlike Z1, he'd never had it cut and had grown a beautiful
crown of free-formed locks.  Like my own hair, it grew outwards instead of downwards and so it was kind of fascinating to pull each lock to it's full length, two to three times longer than when not stretched.

He had been asking to have his hair cut for some time and while we were considering it, we weren't quick to act.  We wanted the decision to be his, of course, but I for one wasn't sure that it was.  Other children made comments, strangers mistook him for a girl a lot (which I think had more to do with his very soft, pretty face), and I'm sure he picked up some negativity from family and other adults.  And I think these things really bothered him and were a driver for the desire to have his hair cut.  

But after having cut it and really having time to contemplate, I realize that the decision may have been more his own than anyone else's.  At least I hope so.  He's always been very particular about what he wears and sensitive to how he looks.  It very well could be that he was ready for a change for himself and that the other possible reasons for wanting to cut it were secondary or even tertiary.  That they didn't factor in as much as I fear they did.  He's enjoying his Mohawk tremendously and is very pleased with his decision to cut his hair.  Especially since it's summer.  He's happy to feel the air on his scalp and to not have to tie his hair back to keep it out of his face and out of his way when he's doing things.  He gets a real kick out of people's reaction to the dramatic change and doesn't regret it for one minute.  

Of course, I was emotionally attached to his hair in some way.  It was a beautiful set of locks, so thick and bouncy, and it definitely represented a mindset that I had and a spiritual/emotional place where I was.  The locks, his name, all of it.  Also, because of my own struggles with hair growth . . . I suppose I felt a sense of relief that his hair does grow and also a sense of vicariousness.   

The hubby was sad about it too but rightfully pointed out that if he does choose to grow locks again at some point in his life, it will be for his own reasons.  Reasons he will have pondered.  Genuine reasons.  And it will be his own choice.  

I am doing my best to raise my children with a voice to articulate how they want to live their lives. It's funny.  As soon as people saw that Z2 had cut his hair, they assumed and even expected that Z1 had done the same.  But no, Z1 has never expressed a real interest in cutting his hair although he likes to sit in his father's barber chair and pretend to have it cut.   My children don't have to do or like the exact same things or be the same way.  If nothing else, homeschooling them has emphatically taught me that lesson.  

At least in this small area of Z2's life, I'm happy to report, I did not feel like I needed to control what he did, even if I wasn't totally convinced the motives were correct. (And who am I really to say which motives/feelings are valid and which ones are not?) I want my children to grow knowing that their bodies are their own.   That they should treat their bodies with respect and love but that after that, they are free to adorn and dress their bodies the way they want.  Of course, folks will make judgments based on what they see but as long as they are cognizant of that, they can make conscious decisions about how they style themselves.  I want them to know that at the end of the day, they run their own show.  I'm trying to prepare them to do just that.  

And I'm always one to say that, after all, it's just hair.  But we infuse hair with all sort of meaning about who we are politically and spiritually.  I'm not here to debate if that's right or wrong but for now, I'm happy that for my 6 year old, it is really and totally just hair.   I'm glad he felt free to cut them.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Facebook Lite

I felt like I needed a break from Facebook so I decided to take one.  From my birthday, December 21 till my wedding anniversary January 13, I did Facebook Lite.  Which meant that while I did occasionally check pictures in which I was tagged and check my Facebook messages via my Yahoo account, I didn't post on my page, look through my news feed or visit any of my groups.  It was a good thing to do and I'm glad I followed my instinct to do it.  

Why did I feel l needed a break?  Checking Facebook had become a compulsive behavior.  I would end up on Facebook sometimes and say to myself, "Hey, this is not where I wanted to go!"  And then while on it, I would find myself rolling my eyes at some of the things folks were posting that frankly I found trite and annoying.  Things like, "Here is me using my hot glue gun to make a house out of popsicle sticks."  For like the 15th time that month?  Really? I'm just not interested.  I would hear myself thinking, "Being on here is such a waste of time! There's no need for it!"  Yet I would still scroll down.  Still check.  Every 30 minutes.  

Taking a break helped me to really understand why I was doing it.  And the answer is kind of brutal but honest: it's often lonely for me being a stay-at-home/homeschooling mom.  It can be very isolating.  Especially during the cold winter months when I tend to stay very close to home.  We don't go to the playground.  We don't go to the library and just hang out as often.  We don't go on walks or do nearly as many play dates.  (Winter is extremely hard on me.  I just kind of put my head down and try to power through December through March as best I can.)  Facebook, then, served to fill the gap.  Not completely, of course, but it is indeed a way to interact with other folks in some way.  To see what other adults are doing and thinking.   

I would say what made me start feeling like I really needed a break from it was that I recognized maybe not altogether consciously that I needed some real connection and interaction.  I wanted someone to come over and hang out, have some tea, and chat.  And so Facebook was actually becoming frustrating because it just wasn't a suitable substitute for the real thing.  

Lately I have been thinking again about my decision to be a stay-at-home mom and admitting to myself that even though I am more of an introvert, I do need almost daily some kind of physical, stimulating interaction with the world.  My old Saturday teaching job (which got so intensely boring and stressful after a while) would have me back but I don't really want to go back.  Do I go in search of another type of job? Where?  Will getting a job do the trick?  How can I get what I need while continuing to do the kind of hands-on mothering I want to do?  Maybe I should just hold off on any big decisions until the weather improves . . . 

I wish I could say that during my Facebook Lite period, I got tons of stuff done.  Lots of crochet and knitting, lots of reading, lots of writing.  Started to meditate again.  Something.  It was good to see that at least it wasn't Facebook keeping me from doing those things.  (It's mainly my 16 month old, my 6 year old and my 8 year old.)

So I am back on Facebook but the compulsive need to check it has vanished.  I go on once a day and that's that. The break helped me understand on a visceral level that Facebook cannot adequately fulfill my need.  There's no need to get mad at folks for posting their breakfast, lunch and dinner--that's kind of what Facebook is about.  You can see the meal but you don't actually share it even if you click the share button.

I did realize that Facebook is beneficial in some ways.  I do get a lot of my news there (like the news that one of my favorite poets Amiri Baraka passed--no one in my real life would have mentioned that or really cared).  And I find interesting articles and tips that I would never come across without Facebook.  So no, I won't be canceling my account anytime soon.  
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