From Student to Teacher and Back Again

Part One: Student  I remember being in first grade and loving to finger paint with the soft paint like cool pudding on my hands, making designs, the colors, the colors mixing together and then everything turning to a chocolate brown—much like chocolate pudding.  I can still remember the teacher telling me not to add to many colors, but I was trying to understand why suddenly all was brown.  I tried over and over again hoping that my passion for color would find a way around it.  I wondered in a nonverbal way why she was right, but I never asked, and she never told us.  What would have been different in my life and in my learning, if she would have taught us how it was that the colors together turned to brown, or that each color had its own vibration or energy like the notes on a musical scale, or at least shown us a mixing chart and taught us how to mix colors?  How fascinating that would have been to a young mind.  Yet, it was good to explore and though frustrating, I loved to paint.

I also remember my first math book and how I loved it.  It really energized me going through those pages, even though they were in black and white with about four problems to a page across the rectangular soft backed book.  I remember counting the pears, the apples and the oranges.  I think now how easy it would have been in that same book to teach algebra, and maybe I would not have the problem I do now (two oranges and three oranges and two apples equal five oranges and two apples and then substituting the nouns for letters).  It could to a curious young mind, even have been fun.

But, in second grade, I had my first educational tragedy, which was to amplify with the successive problematic learning situations, which I encountered along my educational journey.  My family had moved and not under the most pleasant circumstances.  My mother was been seriously ill and in and out of the hospital.  We moved to the two family house where my grandparents lived.  My mother no longer baked cookies or read or sang to me.  Everyone was working six days a week, and I was alone a lot.  Most of my toys were gone or locked up in the basement.  There was no room for the ping pong table or my set of Lionel trains.  My four favorite toys were my gyroscope, my donkey that glowed blue in the dark, the record I had that depending on which point you started it you heard a different story and the doll as large at myself with elastic bands that I could dance with (if you flipped her over there was another doll underneath) by attaching the bands to my feet.  I wanted to know how things worked, but there was no one to tell me, and I was too shy to ask.  Everyone seemed distracted and silent most of the time.  I did not know the things they were thinking, because they did not speak about what they were thinking.  I was bored a good deal of the time.  What if there would have been someone who I felt I could ask questions—a teacher who wanted to know what I had questions about and not just tell me I did not pay attention enough?  Who would have asked about our day and what we saw and wondered about?  This was not the worst part.

In second grade class, in front of children who were all strangers to me (from our moving), we had to stand on line in class and recite the answers to multiplication flash cards.  If we did them all right, we could paint.  I was so nervous that I never got to paint very often, but when I did my paintings were always put on the board, because they were so realistic, while other children were still making trees that looked like lollipops, and I was happy to have paints that dried and did not all turn to brown. My painting on the board, I wanted to paint all the more, but I kept making flash card mistakes and getting disappointed.  Obviously, I was a very visual person and memorization of numbers was not my thing, and yet the whole class that was still painting trees like lollipops seemed to be able to do it.  Up until then, I had loved to learn and loved my math book.  Now, I was literally the worst in the class, and to this day, I do not have confidence about doing the multiplication tables and have to double check things all the time.  I wonder what would have happened if the teacher would have switched things around and let us paint first and then do the multiplication tables at least sometimes.  Instead, I would end up with more homework.  Knowing how I learned best, I think that there was some gap in my being able to see the multiplication tables and how it worked.  What if I had learned geometry at the same times and had stories to go with the numbers with pictures and colors?

We moved several times and every time we moved the class I was in was studying a different part of math.  No one helped me, and I became more and more silent and introverted.  I was in a different school in 5th, 7th, 8th and 10th grade.  The junior high school I went to had a 9th grade class, so I was starting at the high school a year later than most of the kids.  My teachers seeing that I had gotten bad marks in Math put me in the slow classes—no higher math and no language.  In English, when I went to write my book reports, I got bad marks; I would read the first and last chapter and the beginning and ending paragraph of each chapter, after which I got good marks on all of my book reports. I felt the details were not important’ and  it was boring as heck writing that way, but my teacher could not be talked to. I could not frame sentences into the grammatical diagram we were supposed to create, but I loved language and to read though I was a slow reader who visualized what I was reading.  At one point in class, we had to write some poems and the teacher was amazed (along with others in the class) at the poems that I wrote.  I was already using metaphors.  Poems were visual, reading was visual and structuring sentences was like memorizing flash cards.  Obviously, I was never going to be writing engineering manuscripts, but on the other hand I had an interesting experience, but one that again had me floundering in mathematics.

Since I was not good at Math I was put in a business program, where I had to learn now outdated shorthand.  I was terrible at it.  I had trouble building up speed and could not memorize all the symbols to quickly spit them out as I was writing or I did not remember the meaning of what I wrote afterwards.  My typing proved to be lacking any right/left coordination and learning to square dance or to do anything else in gymnastics from elementary school on was similar.  I could not even learn to swim straight.  The strange thing about all of this is that I could remember conversations almost word for word, which continued to increase as I became older and led to my liking to be in discussions, as long as I felt I was in a situation where I was allowed to talk and not feeling bullied into just submitting.

But, the summer of my eleventh year I decided that I wanted to try to learn algebra.  I went to a few classes and was doing alright, when I decided to talk to my teacher after class about how we know that there isn’t another mathematical system that would works.  It was already annoying me that negative times a negative could equal a positive with no visualization that could carry me.  Maybe, he thought I was trying to be a pain in the neck or some such.  I told him that if I look at red and you look at red, we don’t really know that we are seeing the same color. He looked at me and said to me, “If you don’t know that I feel sorry for you.”  There was no mention of the Greeks having a number system with no zero, and for me zero always seemed like it should be everything and not nothing.  Now we have new math and there are postulates of using zero as everything instead of nothing, and who around me knew that the idea of not knowing if red was seen the same by everyone just because we all learned to label it red was a matter of deep philosophical discussion.  Furthermore, in science when we learned about atoms, molecules and particles, it became clear to me that one needed to find out about the space between things if we were going to really understand what was happening.  This too became reality in the world of physics.  No one I knew was thinking about those things.

I often wonder what would have happened back then when I first learned Math if not only had I started learning algebra, but geometry with blocks and geometry with multiplication, after all back when engines were not computerized I liked working on cars with my boyfriend and was good at it—visually I could put things together.

My other problem with numbers had been with memorizing dates. History seemed like more memorization.  There was no humanitarian or cultural or moral discussion.  It was all this happened then and here’s the date.  It didn’t work for me.  I could not connect with it, but then we had a Dean teach us when our teacher was out for two weeks.  He had this really strict rep, but when he taught history it came alive and you could feel and see the culture.  It was as brilliant as the pictures in my uncle’s National Geographic magazine.

I ended up with a general diploma from High School, but had developed an interest in psychology and in art neither of which my family wanted me to study for a variety of reasons summed up as there not wanting me to be around sick people, and I would never make money as an artist.  My art teacher thought that I should become a textile designer, and I had been reading way beyond what we read in school (at twelve going on 13, I had already read ‘The Razor’s Edge’, Animal Farm and 1984).  I was accepted into the best art school in New York.  There was money in an inheritance for me, but I was not allowed to go to art school.  We had standardized intelligence tests while I was in high school.  My I.Q. was 118, which is above average and still all of this had been happening.

I decided to go to college starting as a non-matriculated student at night.  My contemporary history teacher made things really interesting, and I did well in the beginning, but at a certain point I got overwhelmed with dates and started to have a problem again where in psychology I had no problem at all.  In order to major in psychology, I would have to get past a statistics course.  I could not see myself doing it, and from previous experiences, I had no idea to try and get the help I needed.  I just gave up.

At my father’s prompting, knowing clear well what happened in high school, I went to Secretarial School to learn Speedwriting and typing.  It was a disaster.  I got good enough to get a job, but I never graduated.  Homework doing many sentences of five repetitions of the same sentence pattern of assorted unconnected words in a row with no mistakes was my version of hell.  I was better at speedwriting then I was at shorthand, since it used the alphabet, but I could never get quick enough.  I was supposed to learn to type sixty words a minute, but could only get to 50wpm.  My teacher realized that I was having some kind of problem, but did not know what to do to help me.  I left and went to work at a time when learning on the job was possible and you did not need a college degree.  Around this time, I was really feeling what on earth is wrong with me.  I had individualized testing done by a trained psychiatrist, which included I.Q. testing.  I was told I had a 132 I.Q., and it would go up as I started to like myself more.  I started to cry when I heard this, and was asked why I was crying to which I said, “I thought I was stupid.”  I did not mention my problems in school.  I did not know about dyslexia or other types of learning problems, and he never asked or tested for them either.

In time, I moved to Massachusetts.  While working, I started to study ceramics at night and on the weekends.  I found that there were many areas in which I excelled, but I also found that where I had to coordinate brush strokes, which curved right and left, I had a problem.  But I picked up many techniques and could find unusual ways to put things together.  This opened the doorway to my first teaching experience, which I will go into later.

What putting my skills to use as a teacher did for me was to have me become interested in Adult Training and Development.    A friend told me about the independent study program at UMass.  I applied, and I got in.  I started studying the differences between how adults learn and how children learn.  I began to see that many people who were doing research in education, adult training and educational psychology had the same type of ideas as I did, which I was able to apply to an internship. I went to Japan, as part of my independent study program, but, “I forgot to come back for ten years,” I tell people laughingly.  During that time I taught English.

One of the things that impressed me most was my experience learning the sound system of and basics of Japanese through the ‘Silent Way Method’.  It is an amazing system of learning a language directly with much insight into how a child learns language.  In this process, one learns experientially and one is always working out the relationships of things on their own within a group with the teacher as a guide to the different areas of learning rather than using a memorization process.

I also learned and was certified in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)and hypnosis.  From these things, I learned how important the messages a teacher gives his students are, how they influence their learning ability and that people have very different learning styles or prominences of learning styles.  This rang totally true with my own learning experiences.

Presently, I am at Metro State University.  My life finishing a degree at age over sixty is met right and left with aspects of discrimination and prejudice.  Furthermore, I have both a hearing loss and some sort of learning disability, which still has not been determined as to the origins.  People think the hearing loss as well is age related.  The situation is that no one understands (me more than anyone) why it was not detected sooner from the type of loss it is.  Add to this, I have some kind of processing problem for certain types of memorization of details such as one finds oneself doing in algebra, right left spatial relationships and the memorization some types of information such as dates.  I have dealt with this my whole life.  It has become more amplified from a car accident which I had in September.  Yet, I am an A student in subjects which do not require in-depth usage of the above types of faculties.  I have to force myself to learn mathematics, even if it is only on a pass fail level, and, if I want to go on for a Masters I have to take statistics.  If I cannot accomplish this I will not graduate.

People are always surprised that I have returned to school to actually get a degree, but there are many things if someone is in decent health that one can do on their own to earn income, if younger people undermine your chances of getting into an organization.  I have a good chance of living in fairly decent health for another twenty to thirty.  Skills get outdated so quickly in recent years.  Job security is not there for most people.  What is the purpose of extending lives, if they are to have little use after sixty-five?  Education and changing directions can be an avenue, even for older people, and so here I am.

Part Two: How We Teach  Pablo Freire, though I admit I have not read as much of his work as I would like, talks very much about how oppression takes many shapes and forms.  He even speaks up about the fact that the wealthy can feel this to, because it locks them into a certain milieu and alienates them from their authenticity just as much as lack of education does to those of the so-called lower classes.

Because he talks about revolution and education for the masses, people often want to tape him semantically into a box labeled communist.  But, I do not think Freire was a Marxist.  I believe Freire’s thinking was way beyond Marxism, and Marxism was only one step on a ladder going very high up into the clouds beyond where most people can see or dream because of the limits of their own education.  This may make me sound very vain, since it implies that I can see what he saw.  In a sense, I can, but I think it is just the tip of the iceburg called Freire, and I see that tip of his understanding, because of the very difficulties that beset me while I was becoming educated.

Freire talks continually about his genuine belief that education should never be a mechanized process, but a process for a person to seek out the truth of himself and explore life, instead of a mechanized process of memorization towards an already known and fixed end.

My personal thinking gears towards needs driven education.  It is close to his idea as I will explain more about later, but is very different from the idea of vocational education, which one might try, through the metaphorical semantics within educational theory of the present, to read into what I am saying.  It is not my intent or where I am moving towards in this paper.  It will also come out that I am not an advocate of many of the standard types of learning theory that imply that one stage of development has to follow another and that if a stage is not met the person cannot go on to the next stage.  I am more inclined to believe that given the spirit of adventure we humans, if not hindered, want to learn and explore and know, and as things become creatively relevant is the best way to learn.

That being said, I would like to look at how some particular types of learning are applicable to Freire’s thinking.  The first being Neuro Linguistic programming (NLP) and very much applies to my problems learning mathematics.  In NLP one often hears the expression ‘The Map Is Not the Territory’.  The meaning of this is that if you create a map of what someone knows of a subject, thing, environment, etc. one does not necessarily see or know the whole thing.  It is like the six blind men all touching a different part of the elephant, but we have to start from somewhere.

Presently, the way Math and many other things are taught is very dissected and territorial, setting a lot of constraints, limitations and memorization to the learning process, and was the deficit in how I learned Math.  My teacher was not my guide (as is explained later in talking about the Montessori Method).  For me, How I learned Math had lost the element of surprise, exploration and creativity—all the things which foster a child’s curiousity.

Teachers of ‘The Silent Way’, which I will go into later in relationship to how I taught English in Japan, talk about the fact that when one learns to read one starts with what one knows of the world and goes on from there.  If one knows nothing of the world, it is not possible to learn to read.  The word dog or cat would have no meaning.  For the majority of us who are sighted, this is very visual (and to an extent auditory and kinesthetic).  This is why children’s books have so many pictures which allow a child to match the pictures with the word, (until the pictures are no longer needed) and things a child can touch or plays songs and the like.  This is a large factor in NLP in relationship to learning styles.  NLP stresses that people have tendencies to have certain senses more developed than others with the primary, at the beginning stages of learning, being visual, auditory and kinesthetic with analytical/thinking processes developing as one begins to move with their senses in the world.  If I think about the problems that distressed me while I was learning math in elementary school, I can unequivocally say that my method of absorbing information was more visual and that sheer memorization, especially with something visual I wanted to participate in as a reward (painting), as referred to in Part One, was frustrating and distracting.  It is also true that as seen in the example of when I tried to learn algebra in high school, I really wanted to learn and understand what I was learning.  How easy it seems to me now for things to have been very different back then.

I mentioned ‘The Silent Way’.  This is a teaching method discovered and developed by Caleb Gattegno.  Gattegno like Freire (and Montessori) believed in the power of the intrinsic nature of humans to learn.  He set up learning environments and used these learning environments to teach language and mathematics, since I came across his method when I was first learning Japanese while teaching English in Japan, I will focus on the use of his methods for learning language.

There were four main components to his method, plus the teacher who only spoke in the language they were teaching.  The first chart was a color chart representing all of the sounds of a language, so instead of memorizing the letters one memorized the sounds of the language.  The chart was approached as a game where the teacher through the language and sign language would get a person to say their name and then show them the sounds of their name on the chart, and go around the room till everyone could find the sounds of their name on the chart.  The teacher would then point to things and show them the sounds of what she pointed to in the language taught by using the chart, so the first thing the students mastered were the sounds of the language.

Then a chart would be used with the actual letters of the language. The letters (and sometimes groupings of letters such as ‘th’ or ‘thr’) would be coded with the same colors as the sound was on the sound only chart, so in a sense there was much similarity to how children learn from sounds to pictures to words.

The next step would be the use of a box of rods (narrow blocks of different colors with each color being a different length but the same width).  It was absolutely amazing the amount of language structures which could be taught with those blocks that were also used to teach math.  Just to give some basic examples: color, relationship of size and position, numbers, time and on and on to more complicated arenas of thought with the group practicing with each other what was learned.  At some point, with some help or prompting from the teacher the students would practice new concepts with each other of which give, take, put and make are some good examples.  The students were constantly encouraged to fight for exploring what they were interested in next, but it had to be communicated in such a way that one only used signals with or without the tools or already learned language.

At some point, when the teacher felt the students were ready, the teacher would start using a set of pictures from a very simple one with few objects in the picture to more and more complicated scenes.  The students would take turns talking, with the language they already learned, about what they see in the pictures.

I only studied this to learn basic Japanese, and I can honestly say that in two weekend seminars I learned more Japanese than in several years of classes near where I lived.  I never studied the method in order to teach English, but once you learn a language with the method you know a lot about using the method, and as I will explain later, I implemented much of what I learned into my style of teaching English which allowed me to do some things never done by English conversation teachers before in the area where I lived.

I believe the Montessori system is very close in its methodology to the ideas in all three of the above educational theories.  Montessori also sets up a learning environment where the teacher is more of a guide, but where, even more so, learning can follow a lot of different directions.  Children are encouraged to explore their environment, but the environment is set up in a particular way as to not inhibit their progress and guide the child to use materials in a specific way with the help of their teacher, observation and peer support.  The learning experiences are also geared to open the child up to the world they live in from a very young age using activities that a child can enjoy, but which awakens their curiosity to explore things further. The student explores what they wish to explore (within a framed environment)—sometimes alone with their teacher’s watchful eye and sometimes in groups.  In this way, a child wondering off to explore something on their own is not a serious threat to a teacher’s authority.  In fact, the teacher to a certain extent takes a back seat.  Depending on the Montessori school, these guidelines are more or less strictly followed.

What is happening is that the child is learning to trust their interest, developing motor skills and trust their ability to do so, exploring and learning problem resolution skills, learn from others, but to be able to be with themselves, and to see adults not as a form of authority, but as a trusted guide.  For me this is the type of scenario, which not only Freire would love, but also Bandler and Grindler (who founded NLP) and Gattegno). It also gives the children an environment which they can move in and participate with all their senses. I believe they are learning something which will go with them forever in their lives, which is learning how to learn and not just how to memorize and do well on tests.  I also believe it is a less self-conscious environment, because the children are not constantly looking to see who did best on a test and are in a trustful environment where they can share what they have learned.  Furthermore, discipline is not based on breaking a child’s spirit and having them do exactly what the teacher wants when they want it (though there are rules), but moves with a flow which works with the child’s developing capabilities and curiousities.

When I think of the problems I had and who I am, I believe I would have thrived growing up in the Montessori system.  I ask myself over and over why we are sticking to old methods of education which are so lacking in being able to give students the skills they need for this fast paced multi-faceted and highly technological global world and the setting which would best suit that, but it is beyond the scope of this paper.

Part Three:  From Student To Teacher (with my weaknesses and strengths)

To be frank, my first teaching experience was a disaster.  I was hired to teach a modified version of speed writing in a neighborhood youth program.  I could not have been more than 21 years old and these were black high school students who I had no idea of how to create a rapport with.  Two classes in and I was out—freaked out.  I did not go back nor was I contacted when I did not return.

My next teaching experience happened unexpectedly.  I was studying ceramics which was turning into a strident passion.  It really engaged my senses, but even there I experienced things which I did not have good technique with (like left to right decorating brush strokes).  My teacher suggested that I do workshops and become a teacher.  It was not long before my house was filled with molds and two kilns, etc.  It became apparent to me that some students were terrified of breaking the raw, unfired clay pieces they were cleaning and painting.

One day I tested out a theory with a really nervous student.  I took her work away from her, put down some extra sheets of newspaper on the table in front of her and brought over to her a smallish piece that had not been worked on.  She thought I wanted her to clean it, and I told her, to her shock, to smash it against the table.  She thought I was joking, but there were others around the room who got it right away.  I had to push her quite a few times to hit the piece on the table, and it did not break the first time.  I then had her break it a part further in her hands and told her to break it in as small pieces as she could and keep feeling what the clay was like.

My spontaneous idea worked like a charm.  She was never afraid of breaking a piece again, and all the class members who saw this relaxed as well.  Within a year, she was working on some of the largest projects I had on my shelves.  The ceramics would have taken an investment higher than what I could afford to make a real profit left me deciding to go back to university.

Because I had studied both Pedagogy and Androgogy at UMass, when I went to Japan it was good preparation for my teaching English to a wide variety of age groups, but I had not been trained in teaching English.  I had been taught in such a way that what I had learned could be applied to training people in many things, as well as English. During an internship, I had taught prescholars through books and toys (actually we were teaching the parents).  We would use the same toy three or four different ways according to the child’s skill and coordination.  I remembered this when I got to Japan.

Once in Japan, I looked at many many books on teaching English, and instead of taking one book of English lessons I incorporated many things from many different methods to respond to the various language skills of my students.

I learned very quickly that the Japanese were very much like my ceramic students who were nervous about breaking something.  Only in their case, they were so stuffed with grammar they could not speak and were afraid to try to talk.  Most of them could not hear the difference between How are you and How old are you, though they had studied English for years and years.  One of the first things I did with my adult women’s class I inherited was to have them put away their dictionaries.  I put a bank on the desk and they had to put about the equivalent of fifty cents in the bank, if they used a dictionary (party money).  I started to teach them what they did not know through sign language and explaining a word through words they knew or having them hear the whole context of something and asking them questions or asking each other questions.  I found that in reality they were not so different from how children learned.  If they could imagine, they learned easier.

This being the case, I taught them grammar visually.  One of the things I used was the image of a boat in the water coming towards someone or going away from them and talking about the boat from various perspectives.  I did the same things with many things.  What ended up happening was that now they had workable tenses of English which they could handle and use as a foundation instead of trying to figure out the correct memorized format to put their sentence in while struggling in silence for so long that it was no longer useable, because conversations had moved on.

With children, I immediately started to play with them.  I used crafts to teach them before I started to use the silent way.  We made clocks.  We planted seeds. We named things in the room and their colors.  We played with my pets.  We ate things and so on, and they were learning, but not so much as after I learned basic Japanese with the silent way.  I honestly have to say that in the case of both the adults and the children I taught, the difficulties I had learning became a plus for my students, because I could empathize with what had not worked for them and intrinsically felt my way into a different path of teaching.

After learning basic Japanese with ‘The Silent Way Method’, I asked the parents of my young students if they would let me teach them twice a week for one hour.  I told people I wanted to teach them the beginning of how to read and to speak basic English in a new way.

I started out without even teaching them the meaning of the words, just having them learn the sound of the letters and letter combinations.  This is very different from Japanese where the letter and sound of the letter are the same, so we played with the sounds and then I started pointing to things around us which started with a certain sound.

I then started putting letters on the board to make sure they had gotten the sound.  I would ask them a question, “What sound is this?  This was leading the way to their learning the words ‘what’ and ‘this’.

The next thing I did was to put sounds in color, which was a watered down version of the ‘Silent Way’ chart and I just kept switching the first letter.  For example, at, cat, hat, bat, rat, mat, etc.  I would then pull out from the flash cards the words that were there and draw pictures for the ones that were not.

Again, following what I had learned in ‘The Silent Way’, I started using the rods with both adults and with the children.  The children loved it because it was like a game and was great for teaching numbers, colors, time and much much more.  With adults, using the rods seemed to break the thinking patterns going on in their head and gave them something visual to focus on and stimulated what I had already been doing with them.  The adults had a lot of resistance in the beginning, but it grew on them.

Somewhere along this time I also studied Neuro Linguistic Programming, and I began focusing on who of my adult students were more visual or auditory, etc.  With children I realized that I had really been on to something and using what I had learning at UMass well, since I had been letting them use all their senses as they learned.

With grownups, I started bringing pictures to class and having them talk about the pictures and ask each other questions from the pictures.  This also helped instead of straight lessons from a textbook.

With the children, I modified this to using the flashcards in ways that I had not seen them used before (I will be demonstrating this.).  Instead of just memorizing the words or even making groups such as food, animals, etc., I taught them the details such as leg or nose and then had them find all the things which had them.  This went into learning some basic some basic questions like, What has a nose? This continued to learning which, how and who; she, he and it.  This was reinforced with activities with the rods, and got the group to start asking each other questions as well.

I want to close with a story about a first grader who came to study individually with me.  I did not know at the time how worried his mother was about him.  He may have had some ADHD type problem, but he was also as it turned out very smart.

The only way that I could get him to concentrate on anything was to make it like a game and when he did not know something or started to get restless he would start babbling a lot of noises.  I did not know it then, but his teachers thought that he was stupid.  After weeks of this, I decided suddenly that I was going to get his attention and when he started babbling, I slapped my hand down to the table.  He was in utter shock, and I think he must have wondered if he was going to be next, but he stopped babbling and paid attention to me.  I found that I had to make everything a game with him where he had to discover something.  Several more times I had to slap my hand down on the table over the next month, but by the next time he knew it meant he had to give me his attention and stop the babbling.  I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to teach him to say I don’t know, and I understand in English.  He found that he could tell me when He did not understand, and he did not have to avoid the wrong answer.  After four months, I had his mother come to a lesson.  She was amazed and literally started crying.  I wanted to know what she was feeling (she spoke little English).  I had her come to the house when my husband at the time would be home on the weekend.  It was then that I found out his teachers had thought that he was stupid, and I found out that not only was he good at learning English, but he was now doing well in school also.  He was my little miracle man, and I will never forget him.  I think, perhaps, I was the first person who was teaching him something who really authentically acknowledged who he was.

Conclusion:  In Japan I taught young people to people in their eighties.  I made many mistakes, but some of the things I started were used later by others.  Many educators in Japan now have realized the importance of young people hearing a language and trying to speak.  This has become the standard now in Japan, but when I taught, it was not.  Many people now use flash cards in a more flexible manner, and using color coding to teach phonetics is more usual as well, but none as comprehensive as Gattegno’s methods.

I don’t know what made me slap my hand down on the table any more than I know what got me to have the ceramic student break the piece of ‘greenware’.  I know it is not the traditional way of teaching, but traditional ways of teaching often do not let teachers be in the moment with their students.  I wonder if something fired off inside my young student that, if I was to have the self-control to hit the table and not him, perhaps he should show me some self-control as well and he realized my feelings as well as his own.  But, it was so quick, instantaneous, and in the moment, that he did not have time to think this through nor at his age would he have been able to. Would this work the same way in another moment with another student, probably not.  But, I believe educators need to look for those moments and what they need to be filled with.  Teachers like Freire, Gattegno and Montessori look for those moments and creating the environments for them to occur more frequently.

I do know this.  People do not learn one way, and what works for one person may not work for another.  If a teacher is limited to set rules, which lasso students into a world of things to memorize, with no chance to make them curious or guiding them to explore their world more fully, we and future generations are all the losers.

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