28 April 2011

Puerto Rico: Teaching/Learning

On the heels of My last post (just below this one, for you blog noobs or Fools) (Parenthetical interjection here: In Jenius-speak, "Fools" are so-called government, business, corporate """leaders""" that almost invariably couldn't find their rectums with a mobile app/GPS combo shoved into it. Yes, that's graphic. They are that revolting. And the excessive quotation marks are My version of rampant sarcasm. Maybe I should write a glossary...) I'm continuing My line of "exploring Puerto Rico."

Here's an example, right from My Life: I have a dear friend, Jenius Supporter Extraordinaire, who just won a 2-year Education Master's Degree scholarship at the University of Helsinki. He's one of 20 students from around the world who made the cut. And why is he doing this? Because Finland has one of the great success stories in public education over the past 25 years.

And My friend, Alfredo, lives to change Our education system.

Worth exploring? Damn straight.

Now I happen to know Alfredo since 1998. He's the first person I made friends with when I moved to Cabo Rojo. He even introduced Me to My Wife, Mrs. Jenius, so if Alfredo ever needs two kidneys, he can have both of Mine. Alfredo and I have discussed education and 1,492 other topics at great length, which means I'm as proud as hell he's going to Finland to learn new ideas and teach them about Us.

Because that's the other part of this deal: Alfredo will teach the Finns about Puerto Rico. Now the general reaction of My Brethren to this statement is 23.6% "But they already know about Us!" and 74.8% "Why would they want to learn about Us?" Brethren, you know in your hearts that I'm right about this, down to the ratio. 

(You math whizzes can now get the missing portion: 1.6% will think "They won't care at all." You know I'm right about that as well.)

First of all, just because We're practically blind to the larger world outside of Disney/Orlando, Miami and the Bronx doesn't mean the rest of the world is like that. Second, Alfredo was selected--I believe--because he was as well-qualified as the other candidates, but also because he's from Puerto Rico. How many other Puerto Ricans do you think have ever applied to the University of Helsinki? Third, the Finns travel the world sharing their education success story; I even blogged about it. Twice. As smart educators, they know that learning is enhanced by diversity, and adding Puerto Rico to their mix, for what has to be the first time, increases learning for everybody. And fourth, it is an education axiom that "One learns best when teaching." For Alfredo to reach his maximum potential as an educator, he has to be an active teacher/learner...and the best teachers are invariably active learners.

It's human nature to project one's own feelings and perceptions on others. To think that Finland, or any other country, would not be interested in Puerto Rico is to project Our insecurity and lack of strong national identity. (Alfredo has lots to say about that. We need to hear it.) We swing wildly from "¡Yo Soy Boricua!" jingoism to "What We have is peanuts compared to the U.S. of part of A.," often substituting "crap" where peanuts should be. And again, you know I'm right about this. The proof: Any visit to a local zoo, park or entertainment center invariably gets compared to some mega-facility up north. The clear sub-text: What We have ain't good enough. The sub-text should be: What We have is as unique as what they have.

And that's the key: What We have is as unique as what they have. It doesn't demean what We have or disparage what they have. It simply accepts that each is valuable for each is unique. That way lies learning. And that's why Alfredo will be a great teacher in Finland.

We can all be great teachers, as well.

The Jenius Has Spoken.


Prometeo said...

The problem with this colony is that it's eyes are only to the northwest and only sees US educational policy as a model. As long as we stay looking there we will remain stuck on the muck. I've been teaching for a few years and see Finland's educational model and try to apply most of what I can into my classroom.

Gil C. Schmidt said...

Prometeo, do Me a favor: Tell Us what you've been able to apply. We need more rational and informed voices to make fundamental changes in what passes for Our educational system. Thanks!

Prometeo said...

Looking sporadically at Finland and other countries with successful educational system Some of the things I tried to incorporate in my classroom are:

First thing is that I don't idolize technology and don't pretend to use it as a cure-all for the problems in the classroom. Technology is a tool. Finnish schools use technology but they don't over rely on it. In this island people tend to think that computers are like magical things that will make their kids smarter. A study done in Hardvard proves otherwise. Good 'ol chalkboard and writing really puts the brains to work.

I focus more on pedagogical strategies and try to find the most suitable one to use on a class. I try not to get enclosed in the Department of Education's pedagogical mold based on the USA's tried and failed but still applied theories. Finland let's it's teachers try to experiment new strategies and encourages it. ON this island it's otherwise and not fitting into the mold can get you in trouble.

Another thing is that I try to get parents involved. But that has really proved difficult. In this island people don't really care about education. So that's an uphill battle for me. The parent that do respond and work with their kids see better results. But those are a minority. Reality is that in Puerto Rico most parent don't really care about their kids education, they just want to have the school take care of them form 8-3 and when they arrive home sit them in front of the TV until bedtime. That's the sad truth.

Gil C. Schmidt said...

Thank you. I'll follow up with this in My next post.

Prometeo said...

Thanks that's an honor.

I forgot another thing. Finland's educational system is decentralized. It let's teachers use their creativity and implement pedagogical strategies in their classrooms. It fosters the teachers' pedagogical autonomy. Here the Department of Education focuses more on bureaucratic paper-filling planning that leaves teacher with little time to develop creative strategies. If you cut teachers creativity, what will students get? A pedagogical program dictated from central offices by people who have spent little to no time in a real classroom.

Fran and Steve said...

Your friend Alfredo is a remarkable human being. I've seen his comments before. Soldier, teacher, lifelong learner. Like my gifted Ed.D. hubby. So glad you're back -- kinder, gentler (thank you, Mrs. Jenius). I just happened to check today. Your insight resonates more now that we're on the island. Thank you. -- Fran

Gil C. Schmidt said...

Yes, Fran, Mrs. Jenius deserves most of the credit and (almost) none of the blame for what The Jenius is now. As for Alfredo, he will be successful in Finland, I have no doubt. He is passionate about education and about making it a more powerful positive change agent in Puerto Rico.

Thanks for coming back and stay in touch!