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Voices From The Field

MSPnet Blog: “Adding to the blogroll”

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posted February 2, 2016 – by Brian Drayton

I have to confess that I get tired of school policy debates, standards, New Government Initiatives, and the rest. It’s all important, of course, and I’ll return to it next week,  but:

I got into this line of work because I was enchanted by science, and by the wonderful, precious mystery of the teaching-learning thing.So I have been on the hunt for teacher blogs, or teaching blogs, longing for more reports from the field. Indeed, one of the best things about this blog so far has been the times when it stimulates readers to tell stories from their world and work.
I am starting to find some interesting voices/minds out there, and will report on discoveries from time to time. Please send in your favorites, or blogs you wish someone else would check out for you — I am yr humble srvnt in this respect.
Here’s a first one: “Science teacher: Breaking out of the classroom into the world.” The blogger is Doyle (can’t find more details, and don’t want to pry), a high school teacher in Bloomfield, N.J.

This is not a blog that focuses on tips and techniques, though Doyle does talk about the craft.  His posts reflect his declared interests:”Ponds, stars, mud, quahogs, horseshoe crabs, beer, basil,” but also ethics, mystery, children, life and death, and all the other things that can occur to, or impinge upon, a person who also happens to be a science teacher.  Here is an excerpt of a post from last year:

The world, the one outside anyway, is incomprehensible. We nibble on models as we nibble on green beans, mindlessly consuming them as useful without grasping the wholeness they represent. In school we reward students for “mastering” the abstract without a thought to whether they grasp the real.  The students who cling to the earth learn their roles quickly. There is little place for dirt and dreams in the school to college to career pipeline. Middle school launders the few who still stare at puddles.

The same green beans we nibble on for dinner leave us like ghosts as we sleep, zing their way through our veins, our lungs, escaping as tiny particles, breath by breath, as we dream our limited human dreams. That’s not a model. That’s the reality.

The essence of animal life requires breaking things down back to the ghost of carbon dioxide, releasing tiny particles back outside where dandelions and such knit stuff back together, using the energy of sunlight to push particles together that would otherwise stay as they are….You can get a degree in biology without ever having slaughtered an animal, without ever having grown a flower, without ever even caring to ponder your place in this living world.

You don’t need to ponder any of that to be useful in most fields that require a biology degree–degrees today are used as certificates of successful completion of the abstract, so that more abstract can be done, usually in the service of abstracting money.

I teach biology in high school. I also helped start our school garden, which has fed me a couple of times already this summer. In a couple of weeks, I’ll munch on a green bean or two as our students tour our garden, and get, once again, “you can eat something that comes from the ground?” And I’ll smile and say of course not, I eat things that mostly come out of thin air..