Monday, February 2, 2009

Marva Collin's Way

I read another book on teaching by a teacher named Marva Collins. What an inspirational teacher and role model! She taught in the public schools for a couple years after becoming a teacher, but was discouraged by the lack of enthusiasm teachers had for their students. She saw students who were bright and full of potential slip through the cracks and never realize their potential or have an opportunity to succeed. So she started her own school, beginning in the basement of a university and moving to her own house and finally, to becoming an independent school. Simply amazing. Her students excelled and all improved, and the school just grew and grew.

I want to be that kind of teacher one day.


"Neighborhoods like Garfield Park are made up of mostly people from the South, like myself. I don't understand why my southern pride stuck when theirs didn't. Part of the problem is that people are looking for easy solutions. They've been led to believe that someone else is going to do things for them. Too many black people have fallen into the pattern of listening to the self-proclaimed leaders who find it in their own best interest to make people feel there are 'free rides' in this world. If so many foreign immigrants could come to America and make it, so can people like those in Garfield Park. But unfortunately, so many blacks are waiting for white America to be their Messiah... I am convinced that the real solution is education. We have to teach students self-reliance and self-respect. We have to teach them the importance of learning, of developing skills, of doing for themselves. I'm always reminding my students tnat if you give a man a fish, he will eat for only one day. If you teach him how to fish, he will feed himself for a lifetime. The legacy I want to leave behind is a generation of children who realize that you can't get something for nothing, who are proud and resourceful enough to take care of their own. In this messed up world, the only children who are going to make something of themselves are those who come from strong parents or those who have had a strong teacher. One or the other. Or both."

"The longer I taught in the public school system, the more I came to think that schools were concerned with everything BUT teaching. Teaching was the last priority, something you were supposed to do after you collected the milk money, put up the bulletin boards, straightened the shades and desks, punched all the computer cards with pre-test and post-test scores, and charted all the reading levels so they could be shipped downtown to the Board of Education. Everybody was test crazy. Nothing was important except a student's performance on standardized tests. Teachers were supposed to teach skills specifically for those tests. The strange thing is that if a child didn't learn, no one held the teacher responsible. If an eight-grader doesn't know how to read, no one went back to that child's first, second, or third grade teacher and ask what went wrong. It's always the child's fault."

"My approach was to teach the total child. A teacher should help develop a child's character, help build a positive self-image. I was concerned about everything - attitudes, manners, grooming. I made sure my students' faces were clean, their hair combed, their shirts tucked in, and their socks pulled up. I told them to walk with their heads up and their shoulders back, to have dignity and confidence. And I cautioned them that what a person thinks of himself will determine his destiny."

"The book you give a child to read will determine what the child reads later on. If we give children boring Dick-and-Jane type of stories, how can we spark curiosity in future reading? Fairy tales and faves whet a child's appetite for more reading, and they are a excellent means of teaching the rudiments of literary analysis."

"The one thing all the children finally wanted was the chance to be accepted for themselves, to feel some self-worth. Once they felt t, children became addicted to learning, and they had the desire to learn forever."

"A child who doesn't know how to read can't do anything. But a child does not learn how to read by osmosis. It requires work - hard boring work without any shortcuts."

"My approach is to address a fault without ever attacking a child's character. Who they were was always separate from what they did. A child could give up behavior without giving up any self-dignity or self-worth."

"Once children learn how to learn, nothing is going to narrow their minds. The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have one idea spark another."

"'Each teacher must prepare, prepare, prepare, and prepare some more,' Marva had told her. 'We never assign to children what we do not understand ourselves. Never assign children books you haven't read. Remember, written book reports are often copied. The child copies from the front of the book, the middle, and the end. Have the child describe the book orally, and be ready for the child to test you to see if you have read the book.'"

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