Saturday, September 07, 2002

In the real world ...

I was attending a birthday party for my father in-law, a family dominated
by women. I do not mean this as a bad thing - but invariably the night's
topic ended up with the viewing of a three hour special showing of the "real
life" drama of the Sorority Sisters. I was not engaged in this activity as
I disengage from most activities which require sitting about a television
watching real life events. I found it more engaging to sit out by the fire
and watch my nieces and nephews play. But that is just me. I like to find
my real life viewing in real life.

But Americans are bewildered by "real life" scenarios. We have seen a
proliferation of them in the past few years. I am not taking this moment
to fire off the good or evil of real life watching - but I am intrigued by
this concept of real life as opposed to the life that I live and work in.

Let me be clearer: I work as an educator in the American educational system.
At times I can refine my definition as a special educator at other times
I am redefined as some of my students have labeled me: 'the computer teacher',
'the guitar teacher', 'that guy in Ms. Webb's class' and so forth.

What I am is an educator who came to education because I did not like what
I saw happening in the system. As a child (and curiously despite my education
also as an adult) I love to learn new things. I am a voracious information
junkie often with 7 or 8 books open at the same time. (No not in front of
me but strategically laid out about the house to my wife's consternation.)
I was a "life long learner" as a child and still continue to this day. (I
am that guy that thought we were supposed to read those book lists, all of
the books, by the time we entered a class.) I am one of those rare weird
birds who eats, breathes and sleeps education. I am not better than you,
far from it, in many ways this is a manifestation of some disorder culled
over from my school boy days. (My wife agrees on this as she thinks it is
indeed strange behavior that I have taken up the habit of only using wooden
hangers in my closet. Oh, and the fact that I hang up my shirts in accordance
with the light spectrum.)

This does not mean I do not watch television. By no means am I that altruistic.
Oh yes I watch. Being somewhat an insomniac I end up watching a lot of television
late at night or early in the morning depending on your point of view. I
am enamored with the Discovery Channel, A&E, the History Channel, "Red
Dwarf" and "Monk". We all must have vices to fulfill our desires. I am
disillusioned by those people who must have what they consider the "best"
at all times you know the ones, those people who say they only watch Public
Television - if this is true how come they can dish the dirt about Friends
with the rest of the lot? I probably would watch more primetime television
shows but I also teach at evening college and this really cuts into the prime
time viewing slot.

But enough digression and back to my point: why is it that children lose
their love for learning and end up hating school?

This question has plagued my entire education career. One which ironically
began in the arena of Special Education even though I was not at the time
a licensed special educator. And this is what this treatise is all about.
I came to special education as a 6-12 English teacher and somehow ended up
as a PK-12 special educator reformist. I add the reformist tag for a reason.
I came to education to change something: what it was I was not sure of, but
I knew I did not like what I saw and well, frankly I am tired of people saying:
"Someone should do something." OK, I am someone, so let's get to work.

What I am leading up to is this, whenever I mention what we do, or need to
do, or should try to think of; about; through etc I am told "well, that works
for you in your special situation… but in the real world…" Yes,
this "real world" that I am always being told about. About how ideas as old
as Komensky and Aristotle are "fads" and do not work in "the real world".

My problem as a professional is that I have always worked in places that
could be mis-aligned as not being in the "real world" of education. I have
worked in juvenile detention centers, (really a maximum security prison for
youths), in residential schools, but not according to many wonderful, open,
and caring teachers in the "real world".

And yes they are right. This discourse then kicks off my change into the
"real world" of public education. Because I want to be able to prove that
it can happen here, that the real world is what we live day to day and not
what has been edited for television.