Bureaucracy, hierarchal bullying, leaders and lowly followers, and any other form of governing at the expense and exploitation of the governed… these are hurtful and criminal systems for the benefit of the few and the misery of the many. There are better ways of living and working together. I have proposed and exercised a much simpler, balanced, harmonious, and successful guideline for a good teacher and willing students to truly work and learn together.
Leadership and responsibility are shared equally, as long as all members of a group first understand how it works and second, are eager to enjoy its productivity and share joy of learning and working together.
Much of the old “system” must necessarily be dispensed with: the pressures of fear, punishment, totalitarian authority, ugly competition, and a resulting lack of learning, joy, and boudless lack of productivity. Replacing these “traditional” habits of non-learnig with fresh new attitudes of caring for one another’s qualities and abilities, sharing and helping, and developing a sense of confidence and trust in one’s own integrity and that of your fellows…and seeing and experiencing the infinite benefits…this is what we were all able to accomplish together.
Each individual is given the experience of planning and carrying out an agenda drawn up by each and every member of the group, with the teacher’s guidance and experience as a resource of good use. First, the agenda of varied skills is drawn up and agreed upon, each one contributing to and approving of our outline of what we want to learn. Thus…we have a plan, a syllabus, from which to draw our daily activities of curriculum and learning.
Next, we determine what kind of leadership or management qualities are necessary, in order to accomplish real learning skills together. The literal qualities: subject preparation; understanding group dynamics; and making the best possible use of our time together. Also…collecting our work material together, for daily use. The abstract qualities: variety of different ways; caring for the productivity of each member of the group; having a well-earned pride in the advancement of each individual; concern for individual and group behavior and harmony; enjoying the vast variety of skills and experience that can be achieved; transferring the learnig skills and subject content beyond the classroom, as life lessons.
What specific duties must each of us experience, in order to make this daily venture a success?To love who we are and what we are engaged in. Yes! This is the best of living, in and out of the classroom. Loving our work…and working to love our lives.
We rotate leadership and management duties, once our agenda is available from which to draw for our daily lessons. Two students at a time…work cooperatively as co-teachers; they must both prepare ahead of time so that they can be relied upon to keep things moving smoothly. At the same time, the students want this pair to succeed: if the student teachers do well, so will the rest of the class. They help each other to succeed…as a group effort.
We also rotate other classroom management duties, i.e… the passing and collecting of materials; posting the daily agenda on the board; welcoming one’s fellows upon arrival and contributing to immediately getting down to business; acting as host to any and all visitors, and taking care of interruptions quickly and efficiently; taking attendance (to be checked by the teacher); moving around and giving aid wherever necessary; keeping a simple journal/log of our day’s accomplishments, to be eventually used by the next pair of student teachers in making their plans, keeping transition as smooth as possible.
We must also encourage and prepared for flexibility and spontaneity in how we make valuable use of our time together. Issues come up…that require immediate attention. In addition, we want to periodically evaluate how we are all doing. What are our strengths? Where might we improve? This is necessarily an ongoing process. Be as genuinely upbeat and encouraging as possible. Once again…this learning experience transfers to each person’s own life situation. Think of how this can and does benefit future and current family and community life. It works! The best critics and supporters…are the students themselves.
It is a beautiful experience, also from my point of view as both a teacher and student. Much affection is openly encouraged. Students are eager to come to class. Boredom and the need to cheat fade from existence. Memorable moments are experienced. Students invited others to visit: parents, staff members, community mentors, siblings, and also visitor/participants from our “special class” which, in turn, invited our students to come to their room and share with them also. Their teacher was thrilled to participate. A not-so-foreign exchange.
Perhaps our only problem: just not enough time to do everything we were eager to accomplish. Hence…it became the individual’s option to continue to develop his/her own objectives beyond our limited class time. Many “projects” were done outside, and then the results were shared with the group. Fantastic variety! One senior lad had initiated his own business by purchasing one porta-potty to be rented for farmworkers in the field (having no other such facility); he earned enough, eventually, to invest in another one, continuing to maintain them very well. An accomplishment for himself…and others. A young woman in a junior class crocheted warm and attractive baby blankets to be first given and later sold as lovely and useful items; I still use mine, many years later.
Life skills were a constant, including curriculum lessons and developing a lifelong joy and appreciation for learning, and living as good a life as possible, plus having an immediate and extended positive impact on others. Horizontal management… a blessing to all… and a horizon without limit or boundaries.