Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring, 1970

   Just to let you know I am consistent I wrote the following in the Spring of 1970 while helping to teach an undergraduate class while I was in Graduate School.  deja vu, nothing changes, all the issues that bother me now bothered me then.  I was a History Major and the professor asked me to write a position statement on
why I was teaching his class!

Instructor's Position Statement

   If I said that I was here to help you, that would put me into the position of being a doctor -- that you have ills that I could cure.  I am neither sure that you have ills nor that I could cure them.  A teacher of any kind is not a doctor; he does not diagnose symptoms and prescribe medication.  But perhaps I can tell you where the pharmacy is.  One role of a teacher is as a provider of choices; he does not show a direction, but directions.  In this sense, education is the key to freedom, and freedom is a means to individual discovery.  This is what I am interested in and primarily why I am here.
   Freedom is not so much the absence of restriction as it is the presence of alternatives.  American society has put the first men on the moon and educators perhaps deserve to pat their backs for their helping hand.
But American society also has the highest mental illness rate in the world.  Where can educators pat themselves for this?  On the one hand, we demand freedom and even fight for it, yet we discard it at every possible instance.  We choose without knowing what our choices are.  There are as many different kinds of teachers as there are people teaching; each is a group of one.  The possibilities are endless and without limit. I would like you to explore the possibilities of you.  That is why I am here.
   You have been given a proposition in this course: write a contract.  This is an incredibly simple task:
a couple of tiny reports, a diagram or two, an observation feedback, hold a "conference," etc.  All this could be accomplished in a rainy weekend and you will have passed the course.  Sound like a Mickey?  It is, if that is all you do.
   But there is a catch!  What do you have to offer a child growing up?  Will you be just "another teacher" and look upon each student as just another student?  Why should you be teaching someone else's kid something?  What do you have to teach them anyway?
   You have tough competition ahead of you.  Not from the 130 students registered in Block I, they are not your problem; they might even be your aid.  Have you ever bashed ideas around with them or talked about a good book you've read?  Have you ever read a good book?  By the way, where is Biafra?
   Your competition is the machine --you might want to make sure that what you have to offer the machine cannot offer.  Machines could free us to do what they cannot do if we let them, yet do we even have the guts to turn the damned things off?
   Your competition will be a student coming to you with idealism, hatred, ignorance, prejudice, love.  What can you tell him?  his name is Sammy and he has a world to grow up in. How do you explain it to him? How do you help him come to know himself?
   Society is a conglomeration of Sammy's and Susan's.  One in ten is being treated for mental illness.  Many are killed in wars, many more by automobiles, and many are starving.  We have an extremely high rate of suicides; divorce rate in Oregon is 51%. A list of societal ills takes more paper than I have.  But these are not just society's illnesses; they belong to Sammy and Susan.  Can you teach them anything?
   This course is about teaching.  You will be given bits of technical methodology interspersed with philosophical ideas, commentaries, and practical achievements that we could put into a machine -- you we can't.
   There is no recipe for being a good teacher.  You are given two conditions and some ideas.  The conditions are you and your students, not necessarily in the position of giver and receiver, but toucher and touched, developer and developed, with teacher and student often switching roles.  We learn where we can.
Consider for a second a searcher lost at night.  You are not so much a guide as a spotlight, showing many paths; if you show them adequately, the searcher will know when he has found the right one.  You will be working with people in a state of transition so you must be able to find them and help them transcend.  Can you find a way to reach someone -- to get Sammy interested in listening to you?  Why should he?  What will you have to say?
   Hopefully, you will get three (maybe more) experiences from this class:
                   1.  You will get some practical suggestions concerning observations; a bit of methodology in
                        how to improve and create your teaching ability; how to communicate effectively.
                        Obviously, a term will not be enough time to complete the task; you must feel free to start
                        a task to be finished later.
                   2.  You will learn about Sammy and Susan: Hopefully, they will become a part of you, and
                         teaching won't become something to be "left at school" as you leave for home.  What do
                         Sammy and Susan need and how can you help them get it?
                    3.  Hopefully you will learn something about yourself. Why do you want to be a teacher?
                         What will you have to say?  How can you reach someone else?  How can you reach
                          into yourself?  What will you find?

   We hope you use your freedom wisely.  You have not been given an outline of responsibility that might restrain you.  You have been given a "carte blanche."  You must put your name on it and, periodically during the term, bits and pieces of your mind. (Don't wait until the last minute!).
   I am interested in the discovery of Sammy and Susan and you --that is why I am here.  In self discovery, one may discover nothing, but that is not to be feared -- nothing is a place from where to depart.

(Jerome Anthony Carlin was a senior history major at the University of Oregon when he wrote this statement.  He received credit for teaching the course outlined in this article. Published in SPATE Journal,
Spring 1970).

Well, that's my story and I am sticking with it. The times and dates have changed, that is all. Life is still about children and identity, what's it all about and who we are.  I haven't changed much, really I haven't.

My Art Site is HERE




Barbra Joan said...

OMG Jerome Anthony Carlin, you could have written that yesterday!!!...It is still YOU.
Almost as a style of painting you have a style of writing.. I love it. You haven't changed ... no wonder you are a rock! Oh to have had a teacher like you.. LOL ! BJ

stonepost said...

Thank you so much Barbra Joan, you would have been my favorite student! Dog with a bone, that's me,
Sisyphus, ever pushing that rock uphill.

freebird said...

Well I feel very glad PAMO posted about you so I would end up coming here to see who you are.

I enjoyed this post. If I'd been your student though, I'd have been lost. I need more direction than this gave for a semester of learning to teach! I love your definition of freedom though. " Freedom is not so much the absence of restriction as it is the presence of alternatives" sounds right to me. Freedom is my key; I even use it as my online moniker of freebird. I do think the best teachers I had were the ones who made you think about alternatives, the ones without the pat answer, the only way to go.

I remember when my daughter was going into fifth grade. The mothers around me were upset about one of the teachers saying he was an atheist and just what communist garbage was he going to teach anyhow and they took their kids out of the class. I left my daughter in as this was all gossip to me. He was the BEST teacher she had in all her school years including her two years of college. He played the guitar and taught them folk songs (1960's era kind), he put butcher paper on the walls and told them to paint what they were learning and then he explored many avenues with them about everything in their textbook making their minds grow and wonder and realize they actually had brains. Freedom the way you describe is what he taught. I enjoyed your post, lol.

stonepost said...

Freebird, well-named, I suspect, thank you, thank you, thank you!

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AutumnLeaves said...

Hmmm...I've been called a junkyard dog before. Same as a "dog with a bone?" LOL

Maundering mutterer said...

That is a very beautifully written and inspiring piece. What's more, it's bursting with sincerity. No, you haven't changed when it comes to that.