Students Need the Life Skill of Caring and Speaking Up

I did something a week ago I am not particularly proud of, but if I’m completely honest about it, I don’t regret it either. Well, maybe one partial regret; I could have been more tactful and less forceful and direct, and still get my message across.

I gave a speech while I was angry at my audience.

After writing about The Lost Generation and our Sense of Workplace issue over the past month my emotions got the best of me I guess, for I very bluntly (as in very bluntly) told my audience of 15 to 17 year-old students how hugely disappointed I was in them for not asking questions —and not caring. Not questions of me (for we hadn’t even gotten that far) but of teachers and adults in general, and in particular of our Mea Ho‘okipa (hosts) for the day who had laid out the welcome mat for them.

Parents and teachers, I blame you

Parents: Are you really upset about Hawai‘i’s Friday furloughs because your children are not learning, or because you’ve lost 17 days of babysitting?

I ask because I just don’t see that the learning which counts is happening anyway, where both you and your children’s teachers have this partnership in shaping our youth, growing them to be life-skilled adults.

Teachers: Let’s say you get your instructional days back. If you keep using them the way you’ve used them up to this point, it doesn’t matter. I know that you rant about parents expecting you to babysit too; I’ve heard you. Yet you still put up with it, and you still do it because your expectations of our students in your schools are way too low.

The full story

I was asked to speak to a group of students over their lunch, talking to them about Managing with Aloha, and in particular my personal story of “local girl done good.” They attend a private school and were on a field trip, and I was scheduled to be their end-of-the-day motivational speaker.

Whenever I speak, particularly to a new audience, I will be sure I arrive early so I can mingle and meet people much as the opportunity presents itself, for the more we connect ahead of time, the better my presentation ends up. This time their teacher invited me to join the rest of the field trip, and having the day free I eagerly accepted, then watched with increasing dismay as these highly fortunate students barely paid much attention to what was presented to them.

It was one of those situations where the workplace host really made the best of it; the students were given 8 other presentations before mine, all only 10- 20 minutes each, while we took a fabulous walking tour of their business. The presentations were made by managers who normally do not speak, and working with middle managers every day as I do, I could tell how much careful preparation they had put into what they did; they went “all in.” The students barely pretended to care, showing very little interest and asking no questions unless pressed to do so.

The other adults there, their teachers and chaperones, and the other embarrassed host reps, jumped in often to fill the awkward silences and give the presenters whatever acknowledgment and interesting questions they could. It didn’t help: The students still were not interested, and still didn’t care. They only became a bit more talkative when they started whining about being hungry, asking where we’d have lunch.

So we fed them. Then I had them circle their chairs around me in a tight circle for my presentation, I forbid the adults in the room to talk, I threw out my prepared presentation, and I gave them a much more forceful one about respect, Ho‘ohanohano and the strength and demeanor of Alaka‘i initiative they will need to make it in our world. Then, I told them I really didn’t care what time their school bus was scheduled to leave and take them back to their campus; I wasn’t going to dismiss them until they asked me or the other adults still in the room (with their jaws on the floor) some intelligent questions. And guess what? They did. They struggled with it, but they did.

They have the smarts. We don’t demand they use them

Parents and teachers, you are doing a miserable job at preparing our youth for the workplace. Heck, you’re doing a miserable job at preparing them for life. It was rough, but honestly, at their age (two thirds of them expect to graduate this year) I think I was easy on them.

I wish I could say this was a one-time experience, but it wasn’t —though it was the first time I let my emotions get the best of me. Normally I take it on the chin and politely plow through my presentation the civilized adult way, and therefore, it has gotten to the point where I usually stick to teaching adults in the workplace and refuse these speaking ‘opportunities’ knowing how high the chances are I will be disappointed.

I mentioned this was a private school, and yes, knowing of the privilege I feel these particular students have was likely another accelerant of my anger that day, but I have had this same experience in public schools, and worse, in colleges where students are supposed to care a bit more (at least about the encroaching certainty they will soon be on their own).

Do you know why desperation does not kick in during college either? We have been spoon-feeding our youth, and they just expect it will keep happening in the workplace too. That is what they expect, no, they know us adults to do. It’s our m.o.

Uh, wrong.

I used to tell myself it was me —I’m better with speaking to, teaching and coaching adults who already have some workplace experience as the context they draw from ”“ and I think that is still true; the workplace is my playground and laboratory. However I am done with letting the rest of you off the hook —you parents, teachers, coaches and counselors who get the first shot at the people we in business eventually hire.

We in business accept our Kuleana too: As a manager and now as a coach, I have always taught managers about their profound responsibility with taking over for you, and treating the workplace as the ‘next classroom’ wherein we are willing and able to do our part with shaping a good citizenry, mentoring people who can Ho‘ohana and be Alaka‘i in our Sense of Workplace —ensuring that business is now a healthy environment where they will continue to cultivate their life skills, and they will care.

But hear me on this: We want to continue your good work. We’ve been starting it, and doing it for you. You have been doing a horrible job at getting our youth ready for the challenge called life, and you better dig deep, uncovering the reasons why and fixing them once and for all.

Not giving up, and I fully intend to continue championing this Call to Action I’ve added on the blog’s sidebar: Share Your Sense of Workplace. But you’ve got to know that it is really hard for employers to welcome the youth you ‘graduate’ into the workplace right now, because they simply aren’t ready.

If you are new to Say “Alaka‘i” this post may help with some context with our Hawaiian values of Alaka‘i and Ho‘ohana, and our Language of Intention here: Labor Day Aloha

sayalakai_rosasay My mana‘o [The Backstory of this posting]
Each Thursday I write a management posting for Say “Alaka‘i” at Hawai‘i’s newspaper The Honolulu Advertiser. Today is less management and more a timely commentary on our current issues. Here is the link to the original article there: Students Need the Life Skill of Caring and Speaking Up. The edition here on Talking Story is revised with internally directed links, and I can take a few more editorial liberties.

Photo Credit: Waiting for Time to Pass by Orange42 on Flickr


Related articles on Teaching with Aloha:


  1. says

    Wonderful post, Rosa. As a young man, I recall a few times when someone cut to the chase and told me how it was with my conduct or behavior. Some of those times the challenging voice was dead wrong, but sometimes it was also totally alive and right. In the moment, it might have been painful to hear that “alive and right” voice, but over the years I have remembered the lessons and they have helped me immeasurably. The general tone of what you say here scares me because it suggests a whole lot of people who are learning to be dependent, intimidated, and disengaged followers. Good for you for modeling something different, for provoking something different, for the righteous anger that carries an important truth, and above all for being your best leadership self — which is not always perfect, but always is real. I think you completed your assignment exceptionally well by showing people, not just telling them, how “local girl done good” actually happens.

    • Rosa Say says

      This scares me too Dan. As a mother I wonder how prepared my own children are; I think they are fiercely independent and ready, but I know I could have done much better preparing them as well, versus pampering them.

      This is a huge issue to get our arms around. I empathize with parents who barely keep up with their own “business of life” and are too exhausted for their children, and I empathize with teachers who feel stuck in the middle without more leverage. I do realize they are expected to cover curriculum whether it is interesting to students or not: The bureaucracy of academic ‘instruction’ needs serious reexamination. However something has to change: We have a victim mentality that serves no purpose and we have to work together to change things. Our children have this entitlement mentality in a time the well has run quite dry.

      You are kind in your comment Dan; I know you empathize with the struggle this was for me, for I did not enjoy this at all, and afterwards I felt very torn up inside, all eaten up and spit out. Before I drove home I had to take a long walk, then I sat in my car and cried. While I feel they needed the message, I felt horrible about being the one to deliver it, and it has taken this last week for me to process this in some intelligible form for the blog. “Righteous anger” is not a concept I am comfortable with. ‘Pono action’ has to be my soothing balm.

      • says

        “Righteous anger” was probably a poor choice of words, Rosa. I used these terms only because I often find that at the bottom of a person’s anger there is a personal truth that needs full expression, even an uncomfortable one; or maybe, especially an uncomfortable one. It takes something, like anger sometimes, to get to the point where that truth gets into the open. Maybe like yours it is required as an act of integrity — but that doesn’t mean that you will not be attended by other emotions as well, such as sadness, regret, disappointment or guilt. I think of leaders as people who sometimes choose to endure these emotions personally and professionally precisely because ‘pono action’ (if I am using these words correctly) is required. Yes, even guilt. As you know, in my lexicon leaders are people who step into uncomfortable or awkward space in order to create positive change. I want to highlight this, Rosa, because that was precisely the space you stepped into. As we go there, it is natural that we would feel our whole selves including the older parts that would rather play it safe, still pretending to live in a pristine, naive, anger free/guilt free, conflict free world where no one ever feels the side of learning that incorporates some pain. Yet we go ahead making the outer decisions we must in order to truly live in alignment with a higher cause. You say you feel “horrible” about being the one to deliver the message. I say, what lucky, lucky people they are that you were the one. In addition to the balm of pono action, perhaps there is also the feeling of that most profound love moving through you from which all genuinely pono action is born. That love — and your friends — can also hold you and wrap you in soothing arms.
        .-= Dan ´s last blog ..The Water Gourd =-.

        • Rosa Say says

          Okay, I have a confession to make Dan; I hoped that my mentioning “righteous anger” would get you back here, for the insightful coaching I was positively sure you would offer us on it, thank you :-) You are that friend now wrapping me in soothing arms.

          As uncomfortable as this posting was for me, I guess I did suspect there was some emotional intelligence I had to tap into, and so I had to go there.

          Dear readers, I will also point you back to this conversation that Dan refers to: First Looking, and then, Changing

  2. says

    Rosa, I completely understand your frustration. Although I generally work with homeschooled students, your message is one that I emphasize to parents in the workshops I present. Adolescence is a time to prepare for adulthood, and instead, our teens are being coddled, and force-fed information that is meaningless to them, because they are lacking in real-world experience that will provide that meaning.

    A few years ago, PBS had a number of historical reality shows, such as “Frontier House” and “1940’s House” and while watching those programs, I came to the realization that in those time periods, children and teens were vital to the survival of the family. They did meaningful work that helped the family survive in difficult times. When the filming of “Frontier House” ended, producers interviewed two teens who had participated. They were back home in their modern California home, lounging in the pool, and although they had complained about the hard work during the series, both indicated they missed it, because even though it was hard work, they felt needed.

    I teach enrichment classes for homeschooled students. These teens are from families that spend time together, have meaningful conversations with each other, and who do things together. Their parents have not pushed education on them, but rather exposed them to a wide variety of real life learning experiences. Few of these learning experiences were expensive. Most were free.

    One of the key things these families did was to never stop answering their children’s questions, and when the children became teens, they were still curious. Their questions were encouraged and the parents helped their children find resources that could provide the answers, but did not “spoon feed” the information to them. Finding an answer to one question, often leads to two or three more questions, and it continues expanding exponentially, if the questions are not discouraged.

    The teens participate in their families by planning and cooking meals, shopping for groceries, and managing their own bank accounts. Nearly all of these teens have spent time at their parents’ employment. Some parents are self-employed, and some work for companies, but nearly every one of them takes their child/teen to work with them, at least occasionally.

    As a single parent, my daughters have gone to my workshops, the classes I’ve taught, and the art gallery where I work on weekends. They have been my cheering section, my business managers and my secretaries. They are filled with ideas of businesses they want to start, and they know what’s involved in running one. Their lives haven’t been easy, but they’ve been filled with rich and varied learning experiences. It may not seem like it at the time, but those day to day challenges that adults face, enrich our lives and our learning, and they are just as valuable and necessary for those who are soon-to-be-adults.

    • Rosa Say says

      Thank you so much for coming by and sharing your thoughts Ruth. I knew of your work, and I have wondered about the lessons that the “old-school educational system” can learn from the homeschooling movement if they can shed their tendency to protect the status quo.

      I admit being one who initially was concerned about homeschooling from two standpoints: Parents ill-equipped for the teaching, and children missing out on the social interaction within schools, but my opinions have dramatically shifted the other way in recent years. I have no idea what the official statistics on this might be, but I’m in my third decade as a consumer (in business) of the educational product (if you’ll please excuse the term for graduates for the moment), and far as I can see, and as put forth by those PBS shows you mention, home-schooling delivers a superior result in work ethic, with young adults far less traumatized by peer pressure and social dysfunction to boot.

      This post also appears at Say “Alaka‘i” today, and here is what Michael commented there:

      “I have always asked questions and still do. I have not given up on learning just now in different subjects.

      I used to ask a lot of questions and was told by other students to keep quiet. The more questions I asked they say the longer we have to stay in class. After awhile I stopped asking questions and played stupid. I became stupid in a sense where education, I didn’t care anymore.

      I look at things in a different way. My mind wondering. If a teacher tells me this, I would question what if done another way? There is no other way I was told. Found out there is. I sit on the fence and try to see both sides of things. I like to write my thoughts as well.”

      Ruth, your comment gives much better suggestions to parents than I could offer, still too close to this at the moment to shed enough emotion and say “let’s do this”.” so I am exceptionally grateful for your perspective and your help. Mahalo nui loa.

      • says

        To be very fair, Rosa, homeschooling in and of itself is not the answer for everyone. As with schools, there are some families that do it well, some who do not do well at all, and others that are just average. I have been extremely fortunate to spend so much time with an outstanding group, and to see that group mentor newcomers in the importance of nurturing and encouraging questions, being involved parents and at the same time, fostering independence in their children. This group has enabled me to see what education and learning can be.

        Having grown up in a family of public school educators, I know that there are many teachers who care. It’s much easier for a child to ask questions in the environment of a loving and supportive family, or in the smaller numbers of a homeschool enrichment class, than it is when they are one student among 30. If all 30 students have questions, there would be no time for the teacher to present material. Allowing all the questions would make a better environment for nurturing learning, but would probably not enable the school to meet state standards.

        I appreciate the opportunities for learning that homeschooling has brought into my life. It has caused me to question many areas of education that I accepted unconditionally in the past. It has also helped me to clarify what I believe is true learning as opposed to rote memorization. The most important factor I see needed for real learning to take place is for the material to be meaningful, and that doesn’t mean that math problems should be about pizza and skateboarding.

        What is meaningful to one person is not necessarily meaningful to someone else. My ex-husband is an amateur radio operator, and he thought I should be one, too. As I saw it, I didn’t want to talk about anything personal on the radio, since it would be broadcast for others to hear. Laws prohibit using amateur radio for business, and most ham radio operators that I knew spent a lot of time talking about their antennas. I didn’t really care about antennas, so I didn’t see the point of studying all the technical information just to pass the test and obtain a license. It had no meaning for me.

        In the large schools and classes we have today in our public and private schools, and the push for meeting standards, there is little opportunity for providing learning experiences that are meaningful. The positive side of this is that the utter frustration many of us feel may make real change possible. Smaller classes, project-based learning and teachers who incorporate real life learning experiences can make a difference.

        Also, encouraging independent study centers for young adults has worked in many areas. Many people think that teens need constant guidance to know what to study and how to study, but most have been guided along “the right path” for so long, they have no idea what their own interests are. They only know what the Occupational Outlook Handbook and their guidance counselor tells them are promising career fields. Unstructured time to explore is almost non-existent for most schooled teens today.

        I told my high school guidance counselor that I was interested in computers (early 1970’s) and he told me to forget it, because “computers are just a passing fad.” (sigh…)

        • Rosa Say says

          Ruth, I do get that homeschooling is not for everyone, however I think it is proving the same point we make in business, especially in this current economy: Smaller tends to be more adaptive and nimble ”“ and those advantages can get us closer toward that important question you bring up of getting learning to be more meaningful. As you point out, the current classroom environment is not responsive enough to student need, and so many who want to learn languish under the teacher’s radar.

          I think there is a long bridge of different possibilities in between the two things (traditional, systemic schooling and homeschooling) and we need to optimize the best of both offerings in order to expose more answers ”“ more venues. I just wonder how much the system itself is open to the very thing it is supposed to be teaching ”“ learning!

          I understood the danger I’d get into with this posting, inferring that ALL parents and ALL teachers are doing a sub-par job, and of course that is not true. We need to celebrate the stars who are doing good work, and spread what is working ”“ as it is for you.

          However I do think we ALL need to work harder at this, and not succumb to feeling helpless and victimized. I also love what you addressed in your first comment ”“ work ethic as the comeback kid we need to instill as our value (Ho‘ohana!)

          Again Ruth, I love the ideas and suggestions you are offering: Yours is a wonderful voice of encouragement that there are solutions we can grab onto.

  3. Rosa Say says

    Very timely interview with Dave Pollard at Another Step Forward, the Ruzuku blog… he says:

    “I am really appalled at our school system. Not only does it not help you discover your purpose or help you learn the basics of business, but they are not even interested in doing that. They don’t think that’s their purpose.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have the chance to talk to graduating students, both in Canada and the United States, and I hear the same message. When I ask them what they want to do with their lives they tell me they’ve never really thought about it. Their objective in attending university has not been to broaden their thinking; it’s been to land themselves at a comfortable and secure job. In many cases, they approach that with fear that is almost gut wrenching.”

    • says

      Reading Dave Pollard’s remarks reminded me of former New York State Teacher of the Year, John Gatto. He is very clear, in his acceptance speech for the Teacher of the Year award, in his opinion of the public school “system” and he offers thoughts for improvement. The text of his speech is here:

      He has written a number of books about the problems with the school system, including “Dumbing Us Down” and “The Underground History of American Education.”

      One of his basic ideas is to include real community service as part of the curriculum, and to not only discuss problems that face our communities, but to turn to the students to become part of the solution. We expect very little of students these days. People of all ages have a tendency to rise to the occasion when they are seen as capable of doing so. People, also, lower their own views of their abilities, if others see them as incapable. We are not making our students part of the solution, so they are becoming part of the problem.

      • Rosa Say says

        I will read Mr. Gatto’s transcript Ruth, thank you for providing us with the link. I so agree with the strategy you share which promotes student/community involvement and the raising of expectations. So much has to happen there, with expectations rising in several camps. You bring back the well-known Marianne Williamson quote to mind for me;

        “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
        Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

        And this one by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe which I chose as the epigraph for Managing with Aloha:

        “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”

        Ruzuku has posted Part 2 of the Dan Pollard interview today, and he shares a compelling personal story of his own high school experience, with this conclusion steadily reinforced all these years later:

        “I have become an enormous advocate of unschooling.”

        • says

          The quotes you cited are two of my favorites, and they are very apropos to the situation we have been discussing.

          The Dave Pollard interview is a testament to the benefits of unschooling. He saw how all the things that happened in his life led him to where he is today. They were building blocks in his learning experience, and the time he spent unschooling helped him to realize that he knew how to learn, and that he was capable of making good choices and doing good work, without being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Yes!

          In homeschooling circles, I am known to be an advocate of unschooling, because that is where I have seen the most impressive results. It is, also, where I have seen absolutely no learning taking place whatsoever. The problem arises when some parents decide unschooling is a great idea, and make no effort whatsoever to provide interesting and varied experiences. Good books, trips to museums, parks, libraries, historic sites, meeting and talking with inspiring and interesting people, these are all important tools that unschoolers utilize, as Dave and his unschooling cohorts did. Learning needs to be nourished, and unfortunately some families equate unschooling with unparenting.

          In the workshops I present, I explain that one of the duties of an unschooling parent is to observe their child when they are at the library or the zoo or an art museum, or when their child is playing. What intrigues them? What do they mention repeatedly? What questions do they ask? The parents job is to discover what is most interesting to their child and feed that interest. Some interests are long-term and some are very short, but by providing experiences and information that nourish their child’s interests, they ensure that curiosity and passion for learning will continue.

          These children soon become adept at discovering their passions, and they are skilled at finding resources to answer their questions. They find knowledgeable people who will share information, and perhaps allow the child to work with them on projects.

          By following their passions from a young age, they almost automatically cover a wide ranging curriculum. Subjects they would have found difficult to understand in a school setting, they master easily because it has meaning to them, as it relates to their passion. If it is still challenging, they don’t give up, because they know they need that information to do that which they feel passionate about.

          One other important criteria for successful and inspired learning, that we haven’t mentioned here, is the willingness to make mistakes. Mistakes are not seen as a good thing in traditional school, but to really learn and understand and grow, mistakes are necessary. Students need to be free from fear of mistakes. They are one of our greatest learning tools.

          • Rosa Say says

            I must say this entire conversation —which started as my plea for help I suppose, for I knew I could’ve handled this better —has switched to an increasing fascination with the possibilities before us if only we grab onto them. The timing of the Dave Pollard interview is fortuitous, for I never heard of ‘unschooling’ before this.

            Your objectivity (subjectivity? I always get them confused) about something you are so deeply immersed in is so admirable Ruth; you are a goldmine of information! I also know commenting like this takes time, and I am deeply grateful.

          • Rosa Say says

            My thoughts are also coming back to the workplace and when ready or not, like it or not, manager now replaces teacher. Much of the advice shared in these comments are highly adaptable to helping managers be better coaches and facilitators in the workplace too. And this Ruth, causes me to think about the D5M Ruzuku alpha challenge I have happening right now: You said…

            “The problem arises when some parents decide unschooling is a great idea, and make no effort whatsoever to provide interesting and varied experiences””

            30 people signed up, convinced it was a great idea, but did they all follow-up and make good on their commitment ”“ or even make basic, passable effort on their commitment? No.

            The workplace can be a pretty boring, uneventful place which is not conducive to continual tertiary learning either” thus we of MWA fight the good fight!

            We’ve got to” Challenge Your Most Brilliant Self: Burn Your Boats
            (sorry… the blogger in me could not resist making the connection :-)

  4. says

    Hi Rosa, I’m so glad you shared this post with me, called it out to me, because it is very interesting and nuanced. I have a couple of responses, basically, some of which echo Ruth’s and some my own. In a nutshell, I think when you got really angry at the students, you were blaming the wrong folks. (And kids are always easiest to blame, and adults seem to jump to this almost reflexively…) The passive, unappreciative, unengaged kids are a product of an environment in which they have been rewarded for being passive, uninquisitive in some important ways, not given sufficient choice about how to own and manage their own lives, and not lovingly been made aware of their own privilege in the world. (This is a special teaching burden of parents and teachers of the well-to-do, lovingly reminding children and young adults that very few in the world have what they have, and how are they going to give back?)

    My intuition says you might have been more effective if you had engaged these students with humor, or helped them see how much preparation the folks they were visiting had put into their presentations–to call on their empathy and ask them to sit in someone else’s shoes–to evoke imagination and compassion rather than judgment and blame.

    Okay, now maybe you were very effective and they will never forget the tongue lashing that Ms. Say gave them? I really can’t judge that. But in terms of the school system, it has never really been about producing very inquisitive, very inquiring children (factory models of processing students), and so it is the rare school or the exceptionally feisty student that really is able to hold onto a speaking truth to power orientation. They sometimes get a lot of *(&^ from other students. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t demand those kinds of characteristics, but just understand how flattening and dulling most educational environments are. NOt just intellectually, but spiritually too, as your post indicates that the chief interest of the day was lunch.

    We are products of the environments in which we are placed. How can we help students see “where” they are in the world? How can we help engage them in the project of making themselves and the world better? The projects of social justice and compassion bring great honor and great pleasure to human life Humor, compassion, not judging–I think these are powerful tools for evoking that in young adults.

    • Rosa Say says

      You are absolutely right Kirsten, I was blaming the wrong folks in the emotions of the day itself, and I was hoping my blog postings would shift that to where my attentions should have been (and are now).

      I will not deny there was an element of thinly disguised scolding in the presentation I gave them for their rudeness to our hosts, but what I did manage to concentrate on that day, was explaining to them that learning from people (i.e. other adults willing to teach them) versus from school as classroom study required a more personal initiative and involvement that will help them at work and in their adult lives to come. I did give them my personal story as I was asked to, but framed it differently, for I have also learned (from previous speeches to younger audiences) that they have difficulty relating to “the old days” and will get that “here come the violins” look on their faces if I go there. In the question and dialogue part of it, we talked about college, and they wanted to know if I really thought that helped me at all, or if today I thought they should go straight to work instead: They are feeling the need to help their parents financially in this economy, and are facing tough choices. One girl pulled me aside about it afterward, saying,

      “The school counselor says I need to talk to my parents about it. My parents say that I should talk to the school counselor about it, because they don’t know about all my choices, and that’s the counselor’s job. I say they both are no help to me whatsoever.”

      Back to your comment, you give great advice for how to deal with students who are now where they are Kirsten, when people like me cross paths with them and need some advice on how to better relate to them. I am very quick to admit that speaking to audiences younger than ready-to-work fulltime and make the transition is out of my area of expertise ”“ and my comfort zone. We can’t start over, and we are with them in such short windows of opportunity. We all hurt from the damage done, and that hurt and emotion keeps us from finding chinks in the armor. The practices I now teach in the workplace get back to the solving of the problem on our own turf: For instance, the Daily 5 Minutes creates the relationship comfort zone we need to get to work.

      However I have to wonder just how many teachers have the “reaching them skills” you speak of, or even know of their resources for learning them? Parents are at a loss too”

  5. Rosa Say says

    Dear readers,
    I wrote to Kirsten and asked her for her thoughts on this, because of her area of expertise. She is the author of Wounded by School, and she has a lot to teach us…

    “This controversial new book says that the way we educate millions of American children alienates students from a fundamental pleasure in learning, and that pleasure in learning is essential to real engagement, creativity, intellectual entrepreneurship, and a well lived life.”

    Read more at her website. here is what John Gatto has to say, the former Teacher of the Year Ruth referred to:

    “Kirsten Olson’s book is refreshingly unlike the general run of sludge I associate with writing about pedagogy. It seems to be entirely free of the familiar platitudes which replace thought when we read about school matters, is scrubbed clean of pretentious jargon, and offers up the twists and turns of Olson’s analysis and citations with beautiful clarity. I can’t imagine anyone not being better for reading this book – Twice!”
    – John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down, The Underground History of American Education, and Weapons of Mass Instruction

    Here is a parent’s perspective, from Dave Rothacker

    “If we are parents of school age children, the process of eliciting dialog and opening up communications to address the what, why and how of the previous sentence, can be a daunting task. (Why you gotta buy Kirsten’s book). But as learners ourselves, doesn’t it make that much more sense to not let the teacher or boss play ping pong with herself?

    Isn’t picking up that ping pong paddle and returning the serve just like engaging in dialog to facilitate our own education? You bet it is! And, who else do you suppose is learning here? Hmmm, do you think it might be the teacher or boss? And if they are, and they process and apply what they’ve learned, do you think the whole educational spectrum might get jacked and improve? Perhaps even a revolution?”

    • says

      I have read Kirsten’s helpful and honest book, and visited her website on more than one occasion. It is a book that I recommend to many.

      Kristen often cites quotes by another education pioneer, John Holt, who really helped me see school and learning in a totally different way. John Holt debunked many myths about learning and education. I remember reading his book, “How Children Learn” with ever-widening eyes as I recognized things I had been told and had believed, that did not hold up under scrutiny. Even simple things, such as the “correct” way to hold a pencil. Holt pointed out that not everyone is the same, and that one method of holding the pencil is not right for everyone. What? Well, of course, that makes sense. Why did I ever think that there was only one proper method? Because the powers-that-be told me there was.

      When choice is taken away, on something as unimportant as how to hold a pencil, there is an effect on the individual. Holt saw that so many things that are deemed vital in mainstream education are really insignificant in real learning.

  6. says

    My thoughts on this issue could easily devolve into a spluttering epic, so I’ll just throw out this quickie: where, really, are children rewarded for asking genuine questions? Too often it’s treated as stopping the (adult-determined) presentation, slowing down the activity, interrupting, back talk. . . . Even in school, many question-and-answer sessions are practically call-and-response exercises, with the teacher’s question being very narrowly defined and expecting a narrow range of “acceptable” answers. By high school, students have learned the lesson very well: their input is not required.
    .-= Ann Marie ´s last blog ..Sending the Inner Editor on Vacation =-.

  7. says

    Far too often in life we are resigned to accept the status quo, which inevitably means that we do not achieve what we want to, nor are we able to extend ourselves as we should. It sounds like your speech hit home!

    Amanda Alexander PCC (ICF) Professional coaching for working mothers

    • Rosa Say says

      Aloha Amanda, welcome to Talking Story!

      It did not hit home with everyone, and the learning from this entire situation (and the still-happening aftermath of it) has probably been biggest for me, yet I believe that is a good thing too. I have never been one to accept the status quo without a LOT of questioning, and trying to understand it, and over the years my pure stubbornness or contrariness has become a more open-minded learning process, and a resolve for better personal actions taken – thank goodness!


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