This is my space to rant and rave, vent and vex about education, my passion. I am calling it "Mining for Hidden Gems" because of the above quote and because as a teacher, my job is to look for those gems. The real valuable ones are not usually on the surface. You have to dig deep to find them.

I am also borrowing from Katherine Bomer's wonderful book Hidden Gems: Naming and Teaching From the Brilliance in Every Student's Writing. It has changed the way I look at not just student work but students themselves and all people around me.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Goose Liver Pedagogy

I heard the most amazing story the other day.  It turns out that to make foie gras – goose liver – they hold down the poor bird, stick a tube down its throat and force-feed it so that its liver grows to several times its normal size.  Apparently, goose liver is quite a delicacy, not that I have ever tried it.  And now that I know how it is made, I probably never will.  But the story was really about a Spanish farmer who has found a completely humane way to make foie gras.  He has come to learn that geese are programmed by their DNA to gorge themselves in preparation for the cold, winter months.  So he surrounds his geese with delicious varieties of grass and other scrumptious food such as nuts, olives and figs and lets them roam free and feed themselves to their heart’s desire.  The catch is that the geese must truly believe that they are free.  So there are no fences, no loud humans threatening to catch them; just pure freedom, while surrounded by an environment conducive to the geese fulfilling their natural inclinations.

This made me think of children and learning.  Humans are born to learn and anyone who has had a child that they have paid sufficient attention to will attest to the fact that you cannot stop a baby from exploring or a preschooler from asking questions.  (Actually, you can.  If you deprive them of one-on-one attention given to them by an adult who is emotionally invested in their well-being, you can stifle their natural tendency to poke and prod and learn.) Children that are surrounded by adults that talk to them, read to them, answer their questions and ask them questions, learn and beg for more.  In goose terminology, if allowed to roam free, they will gorge themselves on knowledge and learning.  But just like the geese, they must feel that they are truly free to pursue what they wish to learn.  So here is the answer to that difficult question:  How do we keep kids excited about learning in high school, as they were when they entered kindergarten?  Set them free!  Surround them with a rich environment of resources and caring adults and let them do what they are naturally programmed to do:  Learn.

1 comment:

  1. love it Susan - the challenge is putting this into practice in a system that is obsessed with assessment grades and testing!!!