Jul 15, 2016

Greig's Educational Philosophy

Every once and awhile an employer or person will ask me about my educational philosophy. As they say -- there's many ways to skin a cat -- but here is one version of what teaching means to me:

The word “education” derives from the Latin meaning “to lead out.” Teaching is just that. To teach is to lead out. But where is out? And to where are we leading those entrusted to our care? I believe we lead our students out so eventually they will no longer need us. Of course, all young people graduate. But if they graduate and are still dependent on us -- then what have we accomplished? We don’t call graduation “commencement” for nothing. To commence means to begin the journey. Once those in our care depart they will have to guide themselves. We guide our students not so that they will be perpetually guided, but so that they too will become like us -- those who lead others out. That is the purpose of education.
I disagree with the educational philosophy that says children have an innate understanding of knowledge and it is our job as teachers to show them what they already know. However, I do agree with Aristotle when he said, “all people desire to know.” What I teach in the classroom is what to do with knowledge. What do we do with our knowledge of history, the arts, of writing and reading? Mere curiosity is not enough. The role of the teacher is to help students dive into the vast ocean with a canteen of fresh water by their side. The merely curious will end up like the curious cat -- and we know what happened to the curious cat! In sum, teaching is providing our cohorts with the tools to understand what they desire to know.
I love teaching because I was not as a child someone who was primed to learn. I liked to read but I had no guidance in choosing what I read. It was not until a teacher told me, “Greig, I notice you read books in the library. But you seem to have no rhyme or reason to what or why you read the books you do.” She gave me some books she thought were thought provoking and better than the drivel that I had chosen for myself. She gave me books to read that lead me out to other worlds, concepts, and different ways of thinking. I must say that even today I love the pleasure of the Choose Your Own Adventure series and Goosegumps, but I am forever grateful that I was lead out by Alice in Wonderland and the Odyssey.
Master teachers ask the right questions. Students in a classroom do not respect the know-it-all teacher. I agree with Paulo Freire who said that you cannot pour information into the brain of a child and just expect them to conform. Education is not a mechanical activity of depositing raw information into empty heads. We have to put fire under the belly! For example -- I do not expect to give a one-hour lecture on Shakespeare. I do not want Shakespeare’s plays to be empty information poured into an unloving mind. I have to set up the conditions to enable the spark to ignite. I know that young people are fascinated by love and death -- and I will be sure to lead them into a discussion of Romeo and Juilet with this in mind. Whatever I teach must matter.
My teaching creed stems from my own education. I am excited about the history of philosophy. I love telling stories of the great myths and recounting historical events. I am usually enthralled by the intricacies of a good novel, an excellent coming-of-age story, or funny poem. I thrive in schools where students are in love with a certain passion they see in their instructors. Master teachers must be lovers of their field of knowledge.
To teach means learning new ways to teach. I love working with technology because what better way to think about literature than to comb through the archive of Google Books to look for evidence, or to examine an ancient artifact from Ancient Mesopotamia on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website? Getting kids to form good habits of discussion is awesome. When young people begin to lead others out I know that I have done my job.
I do not teach in a vacuum. I do not believe in going rogue. I think teachers thrive best in a school where the values espoused by the teacher is equal to the school’s own values. For me: it is love of learning equals desire for the divine. By love of learning I mean the thirst for knowledge that whets the appetite of novice learners. We love learning because we seek more that what we are.
To put it squarely: I believe in becoming. In this way, I think teaching is an intimate occupation. We must not only be lovers of knowledge, but we must be lovers of others. We must help the kids in the room become better versions of themselves. And in this way we too are changed.

May 30, 2016

Icarus, the Sun, and Why June is a Nostalgic Time

I love teaching. Although I came at the job in a peculiar way. My first stint at teaching was to ninth and eleventh graders in New Orleans. I love sharing stories. Myths, in particular, have a universal appeal -- it's impossible not to be drawn into the allure of bad-ass myth-making. I have a memory of a lesson I taught to a ninth grade honors class about the story of Icarus falling from the sky because he did not listen to his Father to veer AWAY from the sun. One student who did not show interest in myth confided in me after class that, "the story was cool."

The story has allure because it's easy to relate to Icarus's lust for risk. It's why teenagers hang onto the bars on the back car of subway trains. The flip side to Icarus's disdain for limits is of course his father Daedalus's forceful, "No. Don't fly too close to the sun, son." It makes for engaging classroom discussion. If you are a teacher, try it out.

There are many versions of the tale. The internet is legion for various versions of out-of-copyright stories. I suggest J.F. Bierlein's translation in his compilation Parallel Myths. It's lean and to the point without eliminating the essential thrust of the story.

By the way -- I suggest reading Theseus and the Minotaur as a companion piece to Icarus and Daedalus. Remember -- it's Daedalus who was forced to build the labyrinth to conceal Minos's monstrous son from the public.

Et. al: The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a drawing by Hendrick Goltzius that depicts the horror of Icarus's recklessness.

Icarus, from the Four Disgracers, Hendrick Goltzius, 1588

Apr 26, 2016

Mug Shot Book at the Philadelphia History Museum

#6774 Daniel Mason, Larceny
At the Philadelphia History Museum, you can view objects that reflect the city's history. Of all the objects on display, I found the "mug shot book" interesting. Dated from the 1900s, the book is an orderly visual compendium of criminals arrested in the city of brotherly love.

Dec 23, 2015

Aug 15, 2015

It is Nice to Love a Bug

Bug #1 — Staten Island, 2015

Bug #2 — Staten Island, 2015

Bug #3 — Staten Island, 2015

Love a little. Love a bug. Love a green bug. Isn't love nice?

Image Source: Greig Roselli

Jul 20, 2015

Lying Prone on the Floor at Manhattan Mini Storage

Looking like a bible salesman who lost the key to his storage locker
Lisa told me to the ferret the key out with a flat ruler. It didn't work! And we needed to get in! Can you tell I'm opening this post like the beginning of a badly written situation comedy?

Feeling like a cartoon character, I got prone on the floor vainly fishing out the key to our storage locker. Am I a bible salesman trying to get my Gideon bibles? Or maybe I'm a bootlegger and this maximum-security storage locker holds my gin. Or maybe it's a year's worth of three-hundred-paged-glossy-covered coupon books —those artless tomes filled with fifty percent discounts for edible arrangements and vacation cruises. Mostly sold by high schoolers raising money for track and field. Or some other kind of extra-curricular activity.

Americans like to fill in their own stories. So I won't explain in detail why I'm prone on the floor fishing vainly for a key (that was never to be found).

Lesson learned: The tummy likes a cold dry concrete floor to lay its head.

Image Source: Lisa Helfrich

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