Freedom Essay, Research Paper
FREEDOM The definition of freedom is “the power to act, speak, or think without externally imposedrestraints.” Living in the land of the free gives opportunity to the people to exercise free choice. Interms of education, it means allowing students to learn by intrinsic motivation. I believe that HerbertKohl, the teacher in 36 Children, gave his students the opportunity to learn through this thing called”freedom” by allowing them to explore their curiosities, exploit their strengths and weaknesses, and findthe confidence that had been buried inside themselves. Kohl’s efforts in giving the students thisfreedom will also better prepare the students for the real world. Herbert Kohl made it clear early in his book that the only way he could be a successful teacherwas to have a philosophy up front, even if it meant being criticized, involuntarily being transferred or,the worst yet, fired. His philosophy was simple and up front. Kohl’s classrooms was one of freedom. IfAmerica is supposed to be the land of the free, why shouldn’t the class room be? He states that allstudents are strong in their own ways and that preconceived notions should be tossed. He also believesthat students who fail, whose lives have been miserable, are made that way in and out of school becauseof some sort of injustice. Students should never be stereotyped, destined to fail, because somewhere intheir soul, there is something they are excellent at. They should be given the opportunity to discoverthings they are good at. However, there are steps that must be completed as a teacher to reach thisgoal of freedom. Kohl realized learning from the students would become his biggest asset. To teach you must havean idea of who you are teaching. Kohl continued to learn up to his last class with the students. Itseems simple yet it is often times over looked. “Kohl discovered that the students wanted to face thetasks with him rather than against him” (Kohl 31). By revealing this element in the students, herealized heavy structure was not needed; in fact, it was deliberately avoided. To get the students’attention, he needed to discover what was important to them. On the first day he asks the class whatthey want to learn this year. This question really took the students by suprise because usually they are”contained” to basic structure. Containment in the “land of the free” should never happen yet schoolsare run in this fashion. The students responded to the option and the process of learning, throughfreedom, began for Kohl and his thirty-six children. Kohl had many moments exemplifying freedom in the classroom but I will only highlight a few. Kohl first attempted to catch the interests of the students through a ten-minute break period. In thisperiod, he brought in games, magazines, books, and music. The class took time each day to work with theitems. Soon after the exploration period, students began mastering certain things. For instance, a boynamed Robert was very interested in drawing. He found a book on architecture and his nose never wantedto leave it. Other students experienced this same phenomena. He and the other students were excited andcurious to learn more. Later in the year, students began writing their own books out of their own freewill. They wanted to express what was important to them and Kohl provided them with someone to listento. It seems as though Kohl just sat back and watched but that wasn’t the case at all. He began thisprocess by introducing things. The idea snowballed and he! began to help students guide themselves in the direction they wanted to go. He taught them to learnthrough intrinsic motivation. It is easy to teach a student 2+2 by constant drill but learning 2+2 for areason gives a student insight. The summary of Kohl’s classroom, as he puts it, is as follows. “At the beginning of the semester I had tried to use blocks of time in a predetermined,preplanned way– first reading, then social studies, arithmetic, and so forth. Then I brokethe blocks by allowing free periods. This became confining and so I allowed the length ofperiods to vary according to the children’s interest and concentration. Finally we reached apoint where the class could pursue things without the burden of a required work amount that had to be
passed through every day… The children learned to explore and invent, to become obsessedby things that interested them and follow (these ideas) through libraries and books backinto life; they believed in their curiosity and value of intellectual and literary, perhapseven in a small way the human, quest without being overly burdened with a premature concern forresults” (Kohl 62). This summary of Kohl describes in detail this idea of intrinsic motivation. I can not stress enough howimportant this ideology is in today’s classrooms.Another highlight of Kohl’s teaching approach was his idea of letting the students choose theirgoals. He often tells the students of the multiple possibilities he/she could choose. (This recurringtheme of choice is obvious in Kohl’s approach.) This is where the fuse of the idea is created, fusemeaning the staring point of the idea. It becomes lit when the student has a goal. The fuse keeps onburning as long as he/she keeps moving toward the goal. Goal setting is very important but it can’t bemisused. Some teachers or parents want to force children to make goals for themselves. The studentsmust choose what they want to do. It is the only way they will be happy in the future. As Benjamin E. Mays puts it, “The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in havingno goal to reach.”The ability to compromise is also an aspect of Kohl’s freedom in the classroom. Compromisingwith the students develops respect between the teacher and the student. If compromising is a dead issuethen so is the relationship. An atmosphere of turmoil can not exist in the classroom. If it does,nothing is getting accomplished. If compromising takes place intrinsic motivation is invited. However,if the teacher is perceived as being weak, compromising in the classroom can become one-sided. Theatmosphere of in which the children are in control can be very dangerous in the classroom and can lead tocomplete chaos. I believe that Kohl is preparing people to perform in today’s society. In our E-Mail discussionduring the week many students had valid points that students wouldn’t be able to exercise the freedom inthe workplace. This may be true. However, most of the students discovered what was important to themwhile in school. I believe the students would also be willing to make sacrifices as they did in the pastthrough compromising. People can be flexible and when the time comes that someone isn’t, then maybe itis time to move on and pursue a different job or field of interest. This may sound a little on theradical side but I believe that if a person is not enjoying his/her job and is not doing it because thatis what he/she wants to do, then he/she will never be happy or satisfied. The ideology of intrinsic motivation will also be a key guide in the student’s future. Compare astudent that is from a structured class with one from Kohl’s class. The “structured” student would beused to the teacher drilling the subject matter and forcing the student to learn things that might notpertain to the student’s interest; thus turning the student off. On the other hand, Kohl’s student willbe driven to discover what he/she wants to find out. The student will ask questions, conduct research,and evaluate the situation. Again, when intrinsic motivation develops so does a strong drive towardsgoals. I believe in freedom in the classroom so strongly that it is the philosophy I want to incorporatein my teaching philosophy as well. I think my childhood days were not as full because I never reallylearned through intrinsic motivation until I attended college. I was deprived of something very special. I could have wanted to learn on my own but I was turned off by the teachers of the past just as most ofthe students today. Nitin Rao, a student in our education class, stated that if he did not have toattend school he would not be there. I believe he speaks for the majority of students out there. I donot want other students to share these feelings and later on in life have regrets as others and myself donow. I want them to have the opportunity to want to learn and want to discover more. My final thoughton Kohl is summed up in this last particular quote by Eugene S. Wilson. “Only the curious will learn andonly the resolute overcome the obstacles of learning. The !quest quotient has always excited me more that the intelligence quotient.”
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