Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Holistic Learning

Miller and Holistic Teaching and Me
Speaking of crystallizing vision, I was invited to a talk by Dr. Jack Miller from OISE. He spoke about holistic teaching. I found it interesting how many of the ideas I stated at the Ethic of Care class turned up in Dr. Miller's session as well.  (Okay, okay, I am NOT comparing myself to this brilliant man with a PhD, but it did help to legitimize a lot of my ideas.)  Probably the biggest idea he talked about was how we must educate each child's head, heart and body.  In the same way, I talked about teaching hands-on, minds-on, and hearts-on learning.  (Man, I thought I coined those terms, but probably not.  More subconscious plagiarism.)

Some other ideas that Dr. Miller had that really struck a chord with me were to try to develop kids' awe and wonder, and to keep the joy that they have inherently.  We try to keep that sense of relevance as well by emphasizing the sense of purpose in our learning.  He talked about Montessori's "Cosmic Curriculum," in that our learning should benefit ourselves, but also the world.  Also, in the same way we are learning about emergent curriculum, Miller advocated the balance between planning and spontaneity.  It is good to have an idea of where you are going, but be open to the teachable moments.  Miller keyed in on Parker Palmer's idea of you are what you teach, and told us to "use our own truth."

The Structure
One of the really interesting things about the session was how M structured it.  Miller talked for about 45 minutes, and then we used the rest of the time to debrief with the people at our tables.  I thought it was a really valuable use of our time.  I go to so many workshops where I am bombarded with ideas, and no matter how great they are, I have trouble digesting them or even remembering them because I did not have time to bash the ideas about or even reflect on them.   

It is akin to going to a big buffet and stuffing yourself with all sorts of good food.  None of the dishes become very memorable.  But if you savour each one and have time to really enjoy each dish as you discuss it with others, the sensation is heightened and the experience is more memorable.  That's what this talk was like.  "Just enough" learning.  It was a great connection between the message and the method. 

Hmmm.  Now how do I apply that to my own class?  Less teacher talk.  More student thinking.  More pauses and discussion.  More napkins?

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