Re: DSM: An alternative teacher at a traditional school

Leonard (
Tue, 19 Dec 2000 04:28:58 +0000

I suggest you catch Robert's Journal ... he has thirty something entries by now ...I have sent the first .... but here's the intro to his latest as well - Leonard

Here is my latest entry. If you missed any of the previous ones
(#1-#31).....I am able to send you individual entries or the whole batch. Any
and all feedback would be greatly appreciated. I know that you are all very
busy, but some of my greatest discoveries have come from your responses. You
can reach me at ( I am a teacher at a public school in
Portland, Oregon, USA. I teach in the 4th grade.

First entry:

Hello all,
I will try to keep a diary of my experience this year on this list-serve. I
am working in a public school in Oregon, teaching 9-10 year olds and believe
strongly in creating democratic learning environments, especially within the
walls of our public schools. I know that I face a very resilient status quo,
but I can't do it any other way. This is the only way I can teach with
conviction and joy. I have started the year with a bare room. All the
tables, book shelves and boxes of supplies are sitting in a corner. I sent a
letter home, and spoke personally with most kids, about coming to school on
the first day with a map that showed what their "ideal" learning environment
would be. I told them that as a class we would be designing the classroom
together (and later on, the curriculum. Although you can't really separate the
two. This is the curriculum.)
September 5th, 2000

As usual, the first day of school flew by with little going as expected or
planned. I did little more than sketch out the direction I would like to go
because I can do little without knowing the kids and their interests,
experiences and attitudes. We spent much of the morning getting to know each
other through various activities like name hunts and collaborative games.
Much of the first few weeks is about building trust and I can't understand how
so many teachers can fly into the "required curriculum" without at least a
sense of community. Several students speak no English, but fortunately there
were classmates that could assist them and give them support. The kids really
came alive after lunch when be broke into small groups to brainstorm lists of
things that we would need and want for learning to take place. While they
started with a typical list of supplies (pencils, paint brushes, paper, etc)
they began to throw in things like patience, kindness, respect, trust, and
sharing. We also had a lively discussion about fun and learning. While many
either said learning had to be fun, or the opposite, that learning wasn't fun.
The example of one of the classmates struggle to become a strong
skate-boarded seemed to convince many of them that learning is a path with
many paths, bumps and bruises, as well as many joys.
The kids are all very excited about getting animals into the classroom, which
I am all for. Last year our class had a rabbit that hung around all day with
the kids, and was trained to go to the bathroom in the cage. Although she
smelled and sometimes ate the wires in the class, she was such a member of the
class and the kids really looked out for her. I think that kids long for a
connection with the natural world and most classes don't do enough to give
them access. I think that we will have a very animal friendly classroom this
Tomorrow we will continue making decisions about what we want in the class and
how it will be laid out, and how the design of the classroom can best support
our learning.

Hello everybody!
I'm a teacher from Moscow (Russia). I'm working for a traditional school with strict rules, curriculum, authoritative mistress etc. But at my lessons I try to create warm atmosphere and democratic rules. I don't make tests, students may miss our "English time" as I call it instead of "English lesson", students may do whatever they want when they come, I just offer them activities, discussion topics and consultations.
But I have problems with administration. I always hear things like "How can you afford their sitting on the floor? They don't respect you!" etc But I feel that students need these English hours and some even enjoy this time. I also do.
So here comes my questions. How should an alternative teacher behave at a traditional school? Or may be you find it a useless work?

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