Tag Archives: Education

Some Free Thinking

ImageWe are witness to the time when the  Einsteinism, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”, should be a guiding principle in education practice.  The time between what we can think of, and the physical manifestation of that thought, is reduced to the point that the limiting factor is truly only our imagination and how quickly we can think.

As we forge in the smithy of our soul the electronic conscience of our race, (to warp Joyce), it is the discipline of the structure of language that simultaneously limits and shapes our thoughts to what we can publish worldwide, rather than the previous limiting factors such as materials like paper and ink, or devices of distribution. 

And not just words, we have 3-D printers to make physical the objects of our imaginations.  I think of the dueling wizards in the old Disney cartoon- “The Sword in The Stone”, the winner being the quick thinker, Merlin.  Magicians we all shall be, if only we can think to do it.

We rush to a manufacturing economy and tout “made in America” as the next wave, when really the wave we should catch is “imagined in America”, “designed in America”, because it may be the machines that will be the country of manufacturing, and those skills may become increasingly unnecessary.  

Which is more to what I believe is the point of it all.  The big IT, (and not the Camazotz form), but the spark of us, the potential of us.  The freedom people have so long sought is not the freedom to be released into the servitude of manufacturing, of a daily grind, the struggle for sustenance and to pay a mortgage.  Imagine a freedom to truly do what you want to do, to create freely.  All of our inner poets, painters, sculptors, inventors, – breathing the pure air of …, well,… freedom.  If the image of God is as creator, then I think we would be, as Mazlow would have it, “actualized”.

We have not yet escaped the dimming of the spark of life in the eyes of children on assembly line education models.  We have moved backward to the idea of children as replacement parts for what falls out of the vast machinery of our society when a job needs to be filled, when we have them walk again and again the worn path.  The truth is our society is so changeable that there can no longer be “replacement parts”, this is the time of the individual, if the society is to survive at all.

The classroom should be a joyful place of explorations coming from the students.  If “play is the highest form of research”, another Einsteinism, then the classroom should be that laboratory, rather than a labor camp.  The skill to develop is what we have prided ourselves on: ingenuity.  We will get there with creative approaches to education. We can show them how to make a living, and the joy of being alive.


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Testimony to the House Committee on Education


This is what I said this morning in the House chambers.   There were at least 100 teachers there from all over the state!  Hooray for education!


My name is Jeff Tuttle, I’ve taught at Monte Vista in Albuquerque for 22 years, and last year was awarded the Golden Apple.  First of all, thank very much to the legislators who have made individual efforts to improve education in New Mexico, such as Representative Stewart and Senator Michael Padilla, and thanks to those who will support their efforts.
The implementation of the current evaluation system has been disastrous for four groups of people in New Mexico.  Students and parents have been affected negatively as we have sacrificed smaller classes to pay for the implementation of this system.  The current administration cites research that shows that effective teachers can teach to the test in larger classrooms, but the research is deaf to the sound of the gunshots going off around the country, and now in our state.  Teachers insist the conversations in smaller classrooms are how students get some human connection, rather than just feeling like cogs in a large, de-humanized machinery.  Students who have some connection, some care for themselves and others don’t bring guns to school ready to abandon their own lives and destroy the life of anyone in their way.  Class size is vitally important and is the most stated reason why people leave the publics schools, if they can.  The business of humanity is the first curriculum of our classrooms.
The third group of people are teachers, who are leaving education or want to leave.  In our district retirement is up 55% over this time last year, and there are currently 150 jobs that have vacancies.   The additional monetary enticement to come into the field that this administration is proposing, is not sustained after the first year, and will not keep people in education.
The last group for whom this plan is not good are the taxpayers in New Mexico, as millions of dollars pour out of our state to develop the expertise elsewhere. We could even be using this exact same evaluation system, Teachscape uses the Danielson Rubric, but we can use that same rubric for free, on existing internet infrastructure, that works better than Teachscape, such as Google Docs, or other freely available resources.  We could then also be building a professional library of lesson plans that could even become open source textbooks, rather than launching our plans and ideas into cyberspace for nobody to ever see again.
Thank you for listening, and thank your for your service to the public.


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From Enchantment Learning

This nice article from Maria Deblassie’s: Enchantment Learning Blog
April 12, 2013
It is no surprise that Jeff Tuttle, teacher at Monte Vista Elementary and speaker at this January’s TEDxABQED won the Golden Apple Award for teaching excellence. His recipe for success? Treating people as people.

His TED Talk focused on reforming the education system through valuing the professionals and students that make up its core. Many reform agendas focus on refining the system itself; Jeff suggests that while a system can be infinitely refined because it is not dynamic, it is the incredibly dynamic and powerful human element that has the potential to produce long lasting progressive changes.

One of the ways Jeff feels we can change the profession is by creating an open source textbook for teachers. The idea is to take all the money spent on textbooks and testing and give it to teachers who can then use their years of experience and expertise to develop an open source curriculum. In essence, the curriculum is developed by teachers for teachers (and their students!). If you want to see what an open source textbook looks like in action, check out Jeff’s Libros Libre, his own website that is currently looking to pool together a variety of lesson plans for teachers to utilize. By valuing the profession of education and those who choose to devote themselves to it, we can then have a system that celebrates and helps create innovative thinkers.

Jeff was kind enough to show me his classroom at Monte Vista—or what I call “the genius room”—and talk with me more about how valuing the professionals in turn helps produce more effective teaching methods and more creative, critical thinking students. When I entered the classroom, I felt the movement of the day—the pile of plants in one corner, the melted Salvador Dali-esque clock, the many posters and write-ups on the walls, the stack of learning knick-knacks and half-done projects on students’ tables. This, I could tell, was education in action.

I asked Jeff how he created this education reform on daily basis in his classroom. He said that his first focus is in building a community between himself, his fellow classroom teachers, and his students. The key is to allow students to understand the diversity of the classroom, including a range of learning needs, and to respect everyone’s role in that community. This helps students escape the “I can’t do this” mentality, Jeff explains; they simply work together and help each other master the learning concepts.

What I really love about this is that for these students, as Jeff puts it, there is “no pressure from outside labels, which frees students to be human.”

Daily classroom activities that move away from traditional textbook teaching also allow him to reform the system. Class activities include the Daily Pilot event in which one student gets to show the class about a place they have been or would like to go; the student has to research the history and geography of the location in order to give the class a tour via Google earth. Jeff also said that with the support of his principal he abandoned the traditional math textbook in favor of integrated math activities in the classroom. Every class member has a job where they can earn money for their services, like selling and tending to plants for example. The students get to use math to buy supplies, collect fees for their work, and borrow money to start their own businesses. They even have their own checking accounts that the balance every day!

Because of this inclusive environment and innovative learning strategies, Jeff has seen students outperforming expectations of what traditionally works in the classroom. And the students feel it too. One student wrote him a thank you note that simply said, “Thanks for giving me math.”

In short, education reform occurs in teacher’s daily actions, the unquantifiable classroom moments that help kids eventually learn how to tell a knock-knock joke correctly. It’s about letting people be people.

If you want to read more about Jeff’s insights and the power of classroom innovation (and really, who wouldn’t?), check out his blog Tomorrow Trees. In the meantime, stay innovative!

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