Very few living educators have earned their own anthology. Herb Kohl just did.
After more than 40 years of teaching and more than 40 published books, Herb Kohl’s remarkable canon was recently honored in “The Herb Kohl Reader: Awaking the Heart of Teaching.”
A recipient of the National Book Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, Herbert Kohl was a founder and the first director of the Teachers & Writers Collaborative in New York City
Mr. Kohl received a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Harvard University; a Master’s degree in special education from Teacher’s College, Columbia University; and was a Henry Fellow at Oxford in philosophy. He began his teaching career in Harlem in 1962. In his distinguished career, he has taught every grade from kindergarten through college.
Kohl served as the Eugene Lang Visiting Professor for Social Change at Swarthmore College during the 2005-06 academic year. Prior to that, Kohl was the director of the Institute for Social Justice and Education in the University of San Francisco’s School of Education. He has also worked as a Senior Fellow at the Open Society Institute
Kohl is the Editor for the important Classics in Progressive Education book series and his recent book, Painting Chinese: A Lifelong Teacher Gains the Wisdom of Youth, is the perfect complement to Constructing Modern Knowledge.
You should know my friend Brian Silverman! He is an unsung hero in educational computing and he’ll be at Constructing Modern Knowledge this July 13-16 in Manchester, NH.
If you or your students ever used Apple Logo, LogoWriter, MicroWorlds, programable LEGO, Scratch or dozens of other programming environments for children, there is a good chance Brian had a hand in their creation. After working with Seymour Papert while an undergraduate at MIT, Brian went on to be a founder of LCSI where he held most leadership positions, and for 20+ years led was responsible for research & development. His work resulted in countless learning environments used around the world. For more than a decade, Brian Silverman has been a consulting scientist at the prestigious MIT Media Lab.
Brian spoke at six of the seven New Jersey Educational Computing Conferences I chaired, plus a bunch of other conferences I organized in the US and Australia. Teachers looked forward to spending an hour or two with Brian each year because his presentations were so stimulating. There is no greater fun than making your brain go to places you never imagined before and Brian is a fantastic navigator. He is witty, profound and remarkably down-to-earth.
Brian Silverman’s love of math and science is infectious. He inspires me to think in new ways and explore problems on the frontiers of our imagination. Brian is remarkable in his ability to make complex concepts accessible to laypeople – most importantly, children. The universe is his playground and powerful ideas are his toys. Here are just a few examples:
The computer is Brian’s laboratory and canvas. His spirit, wisdom and talents are a most welcome addition to Constructing Modern Knowledge 2009.
I recently began teaching two new “methods” classes for preservice educators after a teacher-education hiatus of about a decade. While creating my syllabi, I decided to express some of the principles that I believe should guide excellent teaching. Here is that list of guiding principles.
Teaching is not just a job. We are not linoleum salespeople. Our actions affect the lives of children and ultimately the fate of society. It would be great to see some fire in your belly.
Teaching is an art and a science
Good teachers possess all of the following characteristics:
- · Content and skill expertise
- · Pedagogical technique
- · Imagination
- · Curiosity
- · Empathy
- · Historical perspective
- · Experience
- · Continuous growth
- · Honesty
- · Thoughtfulness
- · Collegiality
- · Flexibility
- · Humility
- · Humor
- · Joy
- · Reflective ability
- · Capacity for self-correction
Knowledge is the consequence of experience
We learn by doing. Active enthusiastic participation and a willingness to take risks are key. We read because it is pleasurable or informative, not because it is assigned. We seek access to expertise. We go to lectures, conferences, workshops, concerts, art exhibitions and read the news. We learn by sharing stories.
Learning is natural
Coercion, tricks and dishonesty are not required if you believe that humans want to learn, are capable of learning and learn constantly as a natural process.
Learning is social
We learn by talking, listening, mentoring, assisting and collaborating. We are each responsible for contributing to each other’s learning, for being candid and for sharing resources.
Great teachers make memories
Teachers are not remembered for their test-preparation or for requiring that students use all 37 vocabulary words in a sentence. Great teachers are remembered for the learning environments they create and for the projects they support.
Less us, more them
Schools are not for the benefit of adults. The more agency that can be shifted to the learner, the greater the potential exists for the construction of powerful ideas.
Less is more
It is possible to learn more by focusing on fewer topics and more connections.
School is not always the solution
Sometimes school is the problem. Teachers must be aware of the consequences of their actions.
Teaching is not about dominance and control
Master teachers treat students with respect and collegiality. They strive to reduce the level of antagonism between adults and children. They do not enact or enforce arbitrary rules. Their classrooms are models of democracy.
Things need not be as they seem
Your personal educational experience may not have been the ideal. We can do the right thing and create more productive contexts for learning. Conventional wisdom must be challenged. Miseducative educational practices must be avoided. Skepticism is prized.
Make decisions based on evidence
Your opinions or beliefs may be fascinating, but educational practices must be based on evidence or valid pre-existing theories.
The Nuremberg Defense is unacceptable
It is deeply immoral to base your actions on the excuse, “I am just following orders.”
This is 2009!
Modern educators check their email regularly, participate in online discussions, share resources and “Google” terms they do not understand. Modern educators embrace opportunities to use technology to enhance student-learning experiences.