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"Maria Sapon-Shevin (1990, Schools as communities of love and caring,
Holistic Education Review), an exemplary teacher, argues that the central
organizing goal in our schools should be the creation of communities of care
and compassion. She has in mind building classrooms that honor learners as
whole people, and teachers as moral agents. The primary obligation of
educators, she insists, is to assist in therealization of each student's
full humanity---and this obligation may include direct instruction, but goes
way beyond conveying specific facts or body of information to children. It
includes creating environments that challenge and nurture the wide range of
learners who actually appearin our classrooms, and developing spaces that
embody what we take to be valuable and worthwhile. And it means structuring
opportunities for cooperation, active participation, decision-making, and
"Even though we long for community---for places of common vision, shared
purpose, cooperative effort, and personal fulfillment within collective
committment---we most often settle for institutions. That is, we generally
find ourselves in impersonal places characterized by interchangable parts,
heirarchal competition, and layers of supervision. Communities have problems
and possibilities; schools and universities have departments. We are reduced
to clerks or bureaycrats, and our sense of purpose and agency is diminished.
"While this is universal problem for modern life, it impacts teachers in
specificallyt harsh and brutal ways. Teaching, if it is to be done well,
must be built on vision and committment; learning, if it is to be
meaningful, depends on imagination, risk-taking, intention, and invention.
Stripped of these elements, teaching is mechanical and sterile and learning
is the stuff of pigeons pecking for food or mice running a maze.
"For Sapon-Shevin, the teacher is niether an autocrat nor a cipher, neither
lecturer nor do-nothing. The teacher establishes the boundries of safety,
trust, trutth-telling, and fidelity, She is focused on the persons before
her---whole persons with bodies, minds, feelings, and spirits---and she
resists thinking of teaching in terms of test scores or control. She invites
youngsters to enter as whole persons and to bring their skills, interests,
experiences. and dreams into this collective space, and then to shape and
reshape it in their own images. She will be fully present too: Her
passions---singing, quilting, hiking, dancing---will be well represented.
Now she is set---the next step is building bridges from the known to the
This conects a well, at least in spirit, with the previous thread on the
>In a message dated 7/18/99 8:35:26 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
><< one of the things that I see as a
> hang-up for kids in this generation is speed....art takes time...and
> unfortunately it's tough getting kids to slow down....to develop skills,
> really spend time looking, seeing and reflecting. >>
>No truer words were spoken. One reason being that in the other courses, no
>matter how much they mouth the words about changing their ways they are
>getting more concerned with seat time. churning out whole years in a
>of increased class time. Now we are forced to try to speed up art. Get it
>done in terms of time spent in class. Absorb, reflect, what?