Despite having a supervising teacher, and might I add two master teachers, who really didn’t like children, the rest of my time as an education major at SUNY-Geneseo was rich; and many of the lessons I learned there served me well and are coming back into fashion. If there is one thing we can say about education, it’s the poster child for the French phrase: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change; the more they remain the same.
For example, independent study then is now self-directed learning. Individualized learning has become differentiated instruction. And phonics has returned (thank goodness!) although it has to apparently be called Fundations so students and teachers don’t see it as work. The words phonics and grammar somehow strike fear in the hearts of many. My own kids learned their phonics at home.
My Geneseo professors also didn’t just talk-the-talk; the modeled what they taught us. I had a psychology professor, Don DeMott, who lectured less and had us out applying our knowledge. He took us to Attica prison. We did community service projects–I did mine in the Livingston County jail. We had an open invitation to his farm where he taught us to stick apples at the side of the barn. When I had to have knee surgery one semester, Dr. DeMott and two of my education professors helped me design independent study courses. I had papers to write; observations to do; I even spent time working in a special education class with the same teacher I had worked with in high school. And my assignments were MAILED to campus!
I also had an amazing ed psych professor, Margaret Maitlin, who still teaches at Geneseo. From Piaget, to learning how to interpret a Draw-a-Man picture (I now call it Draw-a-Person), Dr. Maitlin’s lessons continue to give me insight to the world of kids.
But alas, after graduating during a teacher glut (1976) and doing lots of interesting jobs for a couple years without landing permanently in a classroom (Why hire a sub? Subs were harder to find!) I went to UNC-Chapel Hill to study communications with the hope of doing educational television. That didn’t happen, but writing journey began there, always with teaching and kids in my rear-view mirror.