How May I Serve You, A Revelation in Education

Is there a career, social scenario, skill, or relationship that education does not impact? Education touches all our lives. When we ignore the implications schools affect in our daily existence, we narrow the possibilities, ignore the limitations, the creative and sometimes negative thoughts and feelings we subconsciously contribute inside our students’ and children’s lives.

Who was your favorite teacher? What did he say to you? What look on her face do you remember?  These remembrances are how we begin to revert back to the basics in education. It is not reading, writing, and math skills drilled into our heads. We remember the emotional connections, the relationships or lack thereof from those individuals who served us well or those who did not acknowledge who we really were and are. When did we begin to take the soul, our inner voice, out of education, our businesses and relationships? Isn’t education the hub of all professions, skilled labors, global businesses, economics, mental, emotional, political and medicinal health relationships and practices?

This book is about five words that can create a tsunami of positive emotion, and therefore genuinely affect the relationships between educators, parents, colleagues and students. How may I serve you, can be stated in a variety of ways, igniting an open response from the one who is struggling.  What do you need? How can I help you? What would be best for you?  Dialogues begin, hearts open, and deep listening starts to unravel misunderstandings of angry, bored, and frustrated individuals trying to cope in schools and in life!  This book is an experiment, an expansion of perspective because when we genuinely ask what another needs, we are showered with understanding, a novel view of tenuous situation and abundance in relationship and self-esteem we never realized we needed and desired.

Our schools are crying out for ways to soulfully and successfully meet the needs of all those who walk through their doors. President Obama and former President George Bush have promoted and declared education to be a priority, but when will we as a society begin to explore the root causes of so much dissension, perceived student failure and teacher frustration inside the arena of education?! “How May I Serve You” is a book that will ignite excitement, cause a stir, and  positively begin to change the course of education evolution as many of my graduate students are implementing the concepts, and seeing the positive results in their classrooms as I write these words!

Schools have the great privilege of teaching and sharing a life curriculum where a cognitive skill is just the the icing on the cake.  Education has the potential to lay the groundwork for empathetic and relational learning driving mastery and retention of academics to new heights, but how are we going about this art of teaching? How May I Serve You, A Revelation in Education will assist the reader in bringing back honor to education, by teaching where life and learning begins- in the heart.

The largest group of stress disorders in our country falls within the student population affecting 18-20% of children and adolescents. Declining test scores and student drop-out rates plague this environment on a daily basis.  “How May I Serve You” initiates a soul driven education that transcends the classroom, addressing the heart of learning and teaching.

The strength of this book is in its simplicity to understand and implement, acknowledging the holistic and fertile intelligence of teacher, parent, colleague and student.  In the arena of education, we have forgotten that relationship and the healing powers of serving another forge greater self-confidence, critical problem solving and an inner wisdom that responds to the questions of life purpose and desire.

As test scores drop, achievement gaps widen and students continually report feelings of boredom and frustration – building relationships with our students is an experience that we cannot afford to overlook. “How May I Serve You” is a story of connection; the powerful life force that carries the keys to a new kingdom inside education and inside our communities. “How May I Serve You” is unique in its desire to transcend methods, strategies and tools for higher achievement and manufactured test scores. When students, educators and parents feel frustrated and ineffective, perspectives narrow, while negative emotion closes off doorways to possibility and creative envisioning.

Education cannot forge ahead in a direction that mandates change without going inward and exploring the root cause of our academic and emotional gaps. This story discusses  the age of educational accountability, change and leadership, moving to the “heart” of authentically  exploring and responding to the needs of all those who walk through the doors of our homes, schools, businesses and our lives. This is a book for educators, parents, business professionals and students embracing relationships and the innate well being inside all persons -waiting to be awakened and renewed.

How May I Serve You, A Revelation in Education is unique in its content and style. It is written in three specific parts with a mixture of creative non-fiction and educational mythology. I once read that “what is real is not always true and what is true is not always real,” and I feel this is an important facet of thought in this book and story. Part one asks questions. It engages the reader into a discussion of education evolution. Part two takes the reader into archetypal educational mythology where the children of the world discover the treasures of the most important relationship they will ever develop…one with themselves.  Part three is the story of how I envision education in our future through a creative and novel, but possible setting.  What does it look like as new teachers from transition to teaching programs imagining the best in their students and especially themselves?

My teaching and research of 25 years in elementary, secondary and higher education has provided great contrast and wisdom for what I envision in our homes, classrooms and in our world. It becomes increasingly apparent how heart intelligence jump starts relational learning in every classroom. How may I serve you? What do you need? How can I help? What can I do? These questions form the foundation for positive changes inside the arena of education and the world.

Lori L Desautels, Ph.D.

Excerpts from Two Extraordianry Teachers from the Indianapolis Teaching Fellow found in my new book hopefully to be published in the next six months!

Projects

 

Last Saturday in our concluding graduate class of the semester, I asked the teachers/students to present their final projects sharing their blueprints of an inclusive classroom, a classroom that was the ultimate in emotional, physical, and collaborative effect promoting heightened interest, passionate learning and a heart for life skills.   They were informed that the project could be presented in the format and style that best suited their learning style and personal strengths. Jeff Truelock, a first year secondary math teacher and graduate student with the Indianapolis Teaching Fellows wrote an outstanding proposal to the President of the United States. What follows is an excerpt of Jeff’s letter and brilliantly written proposal emphasizing the importance of relationship and brain based education inside our classrooms. 

  Abstract

            This proposal to the United States Federal Government is a brief request to initiate a nationwide assault on education.  The author believes that the deconstructing of methods of old and the rebuilding of a timely and more globally relevant education system is overdue and imperative to the success and security of the United States.  The author makes claims which are supported by extensive research and practicality of brain-based inclusion teaching methods and techniques

Final Blueprint Project

Federally Funded Brain-Based Inclusive Classroom Proposal

            In sharp contrast to old-school lectures and pop quizzes to scare students into learning; this project seeks to encourage the involvement of students in their own learning from the beginning to the end; from creating the test to grading it and analyzing mistakes.  Students who are cognizant of what is expected of them and have the opportunity to illustrate their mastery of the standards in the style in which they feel most comfortable, instead of being cornered into one high-stakes multiple choice test, research shows that these students are more likely to succeed (Stiggins, 2008).  Moreover, it is in our nature as humans to do perform up to standards when we know exactly what is expected of us.  Why would we deny our students the same courtesy and not include them in their own learning?  The days of fear reigning in the classroom are long since passed.  The days of progressive education are upon us, and as educators, if we fail to seize the methods and include our students from the very beginning, we are working in vain and our fruits will spoil over one short summer break. 

As one of my heroes, educator and author Rafe Esquith, would say, “We can do better.”  I am a middle school math teacher; not working for the government (maximizing my degree in Russian language), because I know we can do better.  Volunteering in the Campaign for Change as a block captain in Southern Indiana and seeing what can happen when we all work together continues to give me the confidence to take on the challenge of teaching in a high needs urban school; and I am reminded that we can do better.  I love my students and am serving my country in a way that I never thought possible.  I have dispensed with the idea of government work or attending law school, and plan to remain in the classroom for as long as my superiors allow.  So, after my first year teaching, I feel bold enough, and somehow connected to the Administration, to ask for your consideration of a Federally Funded Brain-Based Inclusive Classroom Program (FBICP) to be piloted in six states in three different regions of the country for two years.  The number of schools with brain-based inclusive curricula doubles every two year term given at least a 90% increase in achievement until all public school systems in the United States thusly operate.  Funds for this program can be made available by implementing hefty fines for cell phone usage on federal highways, taxing big oil, and using funds already existing in the federal education budget allocated for technology.  Unions would also be encouraged to contribute to the new FBICP, as would private donors and philanthropic organizations and individuals.  

 As a first year teacher, I have realized that teaching to a high-stakes test is really all a teacher has time to do.  Between the redundant “professional development” sessions that are required by the school district in which I work, and the mediocre classes that I am required to take in order to earn a Master’s in Teaching and become certified as a middle school math teacher in Indiana, there are few days to actually teach the material that my students have to master before high-stakes assessments that are given at a rate of five tests every 18 weeks.  The work is not the issue.  It can be done and it is being done every day in a middle school math classroom in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The key to making this happen is 100% engagement, 100% of the time.  Engaging the students in conversation is the first step to building a safe, fun classroom environment underpinned by respect, empowerment, and inclusion.  Simply being mindful of the students’ techno-speak and abilities bridges most gaps to creating such an environment.

            Most students at any level in their education know or remember the feeling: getting onto the bus on a cold December morning, the freezing vinyl seat creeping through hand-me-down corduroys, stomach in knots—partly because of the test you are getting ready to fail, and partly because you were afraid to/unable to eat this morning, palms sweating, clammy cheeks, and then the bell rings.  If only you knew exactly what was going to be on this test.  Instead, your instructor assigned a list of readings and tons of homework problems for you to do, sometimes returning your work in time for you to use as a study guide, sometimes not.  No one deserves to be treated that way.  No one should be tormented or put under this much stress.  There are multiple ways to assess whether or not we know what we know.  Echoing educator Rick Stiggins, if we know how to find the answer, that is just as good as knowing the answer.  Yet, there are many who hesitate to use or allow students to use calculators or claim that using calculators on a math test is cheating.  I sincerely beg to differ.  Expanding on this, I offer an analogy of the carpenter driving a nail into a wall.  I ask students if they have ever seen a carpenter drive a nail with her fist.  Of course they haven’t.  She uses her tool—her hammer.  So if students use a graphing calculator to help them properly calculate the total of an obscene list of integers, so what!  They know how to use the technology that everyone else is using in the real world to come up with answers.  Moreover, technology helps improve my students’ understanding vis-à-vis significant increases in their self-efficacy, respective self images, and confidence.  Undeniably, too many students are using technology everywhere but in the classroom; as they walk down the street, in the halls and bathrooms of the very schools that forbid cell phones, at home on the X-Box or Wii.  There is no reason that our children should not be just as engaged in the classroom as they are when texting one another in the bathroom during fourth period.

            In order to properly establish and maintain a brain-based inclusive classroom worthy of line-items in the federal education budget providing the necessary technologies to keep students engaged, three components must be implemented at the classroom level.

            1. The classroom culture must be based in morality, from which we derive expectations, procedures and classroom guidelines, NOT “rules.”  It is imperative to step out of the box of traditional “rules” as this creates more power struggles between teacher and student.  I taught with a “veteran” teacher last summer and he had two separate sets of rules for his classroom: one set for the students and another for the teachers.  The time I spent teaching with him during summer school was a crash course in how NOT to set up my classroom.  In the FBICP classroom, guidelines are rooted in morality, as explained in Kohleberg’s Theory of Moral Development, from which stems expectations of behavior.  In order for the students to understand why there are procedures for classroom activities, they must see what underlines those procedures in order to comprehend their existence.  Too many of my colleagues, first through third year teachers, experience their greatest challenges in the arena of classroom management.  My colleagues’ failure to relate to the students on a human level, through morality, expectations, and procedures, is a significant hurdle in their ability to close the achievement gap, and I cannot help but to think that this same plaguing educator-mentality is preventing many, many more kids from seeing their full academic and social potential realized.  The physical space of the classroom must reflect the population of the student body.  That is, diversity is paramount in students’ ability to reach their highest goals.  Having posters representing examples of masters in the subject area who reign from all countries of the earth, builds and can strengthen the students’ self image and overall academic achievement.  As Jaime Escalante said to motivate his students, “Math is in your blood.”  When the kids realize that they are innately able to do anything, we give them technology and watch them fly.

            2.  Classroom management styles must be non-confrontational and respectful of

            students’ differing and STILL DEVELOPING personality traits and temperaments.  Guidelines, not rules, should be constructed as a class, teacher and students, and posted in the classroom as a reminder.  If the issue of management starts with a discussion on morality with the students, the students respond positively and are engaged because they    feel respected and that they are being treated as equals.  Ask the students what they do face with a moral dilemma and talk it out.  From this discussion comes a discussion about expectations of behavior since we are all human and will learn from one another.   After expectations are discussed, the class as a whole constructs the guidelines for the classroom.  The guidelines do NOT state “Students will…”  Rather, the guidelines are to be inclusive of students, teachers, and anyone else who enters the classroom.  The following is the set of guidelines is recommended:

                        1.  We will RESPECT one another; property, spaces, and ideas.

                        2.  We will EMPOWER one another to learn from one another.

                        3.  We will INCLUDE one another in our reciprocal learning experiences.

                        4.  We will ACCOUNT for one another; in and out of the classroom.

            3.  Powerful and meaningful experiences follow naturally when classroom management structures are in place that allow for all to feel welcome, safe, and capable of having fun.   Respecting and trusting the students FIRST is imperative.  For some students, this is a big           first and the door is open for the manifestation of the dreams of those children.  There will be those who test the system, for whom we have consequences which are fair and administered in a timely and non-embarrassing manner.  Powerful and meaningful experiences can be the result of a showdown between a student and teacher; the result of properly administered consequences.  Consistency and limitations are elements that all children crave; understandably so, as they are signs of love and respect.  Furthermore, when students see that they have an impact, not unlike what I saw in November of 2008, their self-efficacy can be increased and motivation is a likely result.  For example, in order to teach data analysis to students, my students and I are completing a project on teen homelessness in Indianapolis.  In other classes, we have learned Geometry by taking the classroom outside to pick up trash and litter on campus, identifying shapes and using formulas to make calculations.  When the students are able to unleash a little energy and a lot of imagination, teaching automatically becomes facilitation instead of monotonous, old-school lectures, memorization, and direct instruction.

            Mr. President, I beseech you to begin true progressive education reform by initializing the FBICP.  The outline of classroom level elements to be implemented has been provided in order to ensure the students’ and teachers’ respective abilities to be in an environment where technology and developing relationships can be continuously explored and used.  All students in the pilot schools will need the following items:

                        TI-84+ Texas Instruments Graphing Calculator

                        iPad or PC laptop

All schools will need to be updated with the latest wireless technology and classroom technologies, such as LCD projectors and screens, document cameras, laptops/PCs/iPads, and media towers consisting of audio/visual technologies (Blue Ray/DVD player, local cable).  A specific invoice will be issued upon your approval and funding of the program.

            WE can make a difference.  With the proper technology and educational environments, yes we can.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jeffrey A. Truelock

Harshman Middle School

Indianapolis, Indiana

 

Fall 2009

Magnificent Teaching

Walter E.  Nordstrom

Indianapolis Teaching Fellows

I received a phone call Friday from a student with an EH I had in my Speech and Journalism classes for four months. I teach in a residential facility, so my students come and go frequently. She was successfully discharged and now attends a public high school nearby. At one point in her residency, she had written a story she didn’t intend for me to see. It encompassed the details of my demise at her hand. I found it and confronted her. It was a call for help and I recognized it as such. Instead of reacting with anger, I critiqued it and encouraged her to rewrite it and make it more effective. She didn’t rewrite that story, but she did begin to put more effort into her writing in both of my classes. I continued to encourage her and point out the strengths in her writing. I was also able to get her to revise more willingly by approaching it from the standpoint of making something good into something great. She called me last Friday to let me know that she is on the newspaper and the yearbook at her new school. She also took second place in a news writing contest recently. This being the first call of this sort that I have ever received; I wasn’t sure exactly how to react. So I was just honest with her and told her that I knew she could do whatever she put her mind to. I couldn’t be more proud.

 

There are the teachers that teach of life journeys, reflection and compassion as an innate intelligence, an inherent part of their curriculum.  They embrace a natural understanding in the face of adversity, seeing through the veils of unpleasant behaviors and hate-filled words. They remember the children, seeing their own successes and struggles in their students’ eyes. 

Fall 2009

Magnificent Teaching

Walter E.  Nordstrom

Indianapolis Teaching Fellows

 

I received a phone call Friday from a student with an EH I had in my Speech and Journalism classes for four months. I teach in a residential facility, so my students come and go frequently. She was successfully discharged and now attends a public high school nearby. At one point in her residency, she had written a story she didn’t intend for me to see. It encompassed the details of my demise at her hand. I found it and confronted her. It was a call for help and I recognized it as such. Instead of reacting with anger, I critiqued it and encouraged her to rewrite it and make it more effective. She didn’t rewrite that story, but she did begin to put more effort into her writing in both of my classes. I continued to encourage her and point out the strengths in her writing. I was also able to get her to revise more willingly by approaching it from the standpoint of making something good into something great. She called me last Friday to let me know that she is on the newspaper and the yearbook at her new school. She also took second place in a news writing contest recently. This being the first call of this sort that I have ever received; I wasn’t sure exactly how to react. So I was just honest with her and told her that I knew she could do whatever she put her mind to. I couldn’t be more proud.

 

There are the teachers that teach of life journeys, reflection and compassion as an innate intelligence, an inherent part of their curriculum.  They embrace a natural understanding in the face of adversity, seeing through the veils of unpleasant behaviors and hate-filled words. They remember the children, seeing their own successes and struggles in their students’ eyes.