Graduate project

The kid in the canoe: finding attachment in a test-taking world

I came into education in a time when accountability systems went from minimal
 standardized testing, to a culture dominated by standardized testing and the sanctions of
 Program Improvement. My first “standards,” literally, were a hand-written list of topics to
 cover in math provided by a veteran math teacher, taped to the inside cover of my teacher’s
 edition math book. As test scores grew in importance, being the good employee, trusting that
 leadership does the right things for the right reasons, I put all my energy into improving
 student learning to raise test scores. Asked to “think outside the box,” in the name of raising
 test scores, I started a program to take academically challenged students canoeing and
 camping, drawing on my experience from other youth oriented programs.
 At some point a teacher’s sense of right and wrong becomes conflicted,
 recognizing that as educators we are not doing what is morally right for each individual student in the culture of testing. This happens when what one witnesses firsthand with his
 students and reads in the literature, is not consistent with the educational decisions made
 at the local level in the name of improving student learning.
 As I took students canoe camping “to make students better at math,” I began
 to wonder why my students actually did do better in math as a result of an outdoor
 adventure. On a canoe campout, in that place where all humans evolved, a teacher student
 relationship takes seed and is the natural foundation for all learning, and optimal
 child development. The richness of a human relationship replaces a test score and the
 teacher’s moral code is restored.
 This project is the writing of a book that describes the transformation in a
 teacher, as he connected the dots of biophelia and PLAY emotions as the neural bases for
 attachment and the teacher-student relationship. Attention paid to these emotions
 promotes optimal development and growth of executive function in each child.

I came into education in a time when accountability systems went from minimal standardized testing, to a culture dominated by standardized testing and the sanctions of Program Improvement. My first “standards,” literally, were a hand-written list of topics to cover in math provided by a veteran math teacher, taped to the inside cover of my teacher’s edition math book. As test scores grew in importance, being the good employee, trusting that leadership does the right things for the right reasons, I put all my energy into improving student learning to raise test scores. Asked to “think outside the box,” in the name of raising test scores, I started a program to take academically challenged students canoeing and camping, drawing on my experience from other youth oriented programs. At some point a teacher’s sense of right and wrong becomes conflicted, recognizing that as educators we are not doing what is morally right for each individual student in the culture of testing. This happens when what one witnesses firsthand with his students and reads in the literature, is not consistent with the educational decisions made at the local level in the name of improving student learning. As I took students canoe camping “to make students better at math,” I began to wonder why my students actually did do better in math as a result of an outdoor adventure. On a canoe campout, in that place where all humans evolved, a teacher student relationship takes seed and is the natural foundation for all learning, and optimal child development. The richness of a human relationship replaces a test score and the teacher’s moral code is restored. This project is the writing of a book that describes the transformation in a teacher, as he connected the dots of biophelia and PLAY emotions as the neural bases for attachment and the teacher-student relationship. Attention paid to these emotions promotes optimal development and growth of executive function in each child.

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