, ,

What is A True Education?

What is A True Education?    Jeri & me Van Nuys

I’m available to provide academic assistance in the following areas: reading comprehension, literature, history, social studies, critical & analytical thinking, political science, philosophy, study skills, science, & basic math. I have over 15 years experience educating children & adults from varied cultures. I’ve successfully organized & managed a multitude of classrooms. I am self-motivated, creative, open-minded, & dependable. I’m adept at creating an atmosphere of acceptance and treat individuals as equals. I am composing a book on the interconnections between religious fundamentalism, anti-intellectuals, our public education system, the corporate media, & multi-national corporations. I am well-traveled & well-read. I’ve collected a library of several thousand books mostly in history, philosophy, political science, & classical literature and have made copious notes in many of them for future reference. I’m patient, sensitive of others’ feelings, & compassionate. I am committed to learning as a life-long pursuit.

In my career as an educator, I have been: a teaching assistant in a Reading Lab for students under Title 1, an Adult Education Teacher in ESL, a Substitute Teacher at the Secondary Level both short & long-term, a Lead Trainer in Vocational Education for Developmentally Disabled Adults, a Recreational Supervisor for a private, elementary school, an Instructional Assistant in Special Education, a Residential Counselor in a group home for clients released from the State Mental Hospital, and a Teacher at a Private School for students expelled from public schools.

Unfortunately, far too many of our public school teachers are deluged with paperwork & classes too large & varied in terms of academic levels of ability. And as a result, teachers often aren’t able to provide the necessary one-on-one time with your child that can make a significant difference in your child’s life. I sincerely believe that an enthusiasm or a passion for learning is the bedrock of future success in life, however you may define “success.” As Einstein said, “It’s a miracle if there’s any of that holy seed of curiosity left in a student by the time they graduate from public schooling.” My job is to re-ignite that natural curiosity in your child that all of us are born with.

The greatest compliment I have ever received was when I had to tell a class of high school age ESL students (mostly from Nicaragua & El Salvador) after being their substitute for six weeks, that I had to move on, several of the girls started crying. Tears began to well-up in my eyes too and I left the room. I have never had the time or the money to earn a teaching credential. And I firmly believe after all the years I have spent in the educational system both as a student & a paraprofessional, that a teaching credential does not make a true or a good teacher. A real teacher must be passionate about what they’re teaching & must have done in-depth study of the subject they’re teaching, not the mere 40 units that most universities require. If a teacher isn’t passionate, how can we expect students to be motivated to learn the material?

One of the most frequent complaints I’ve heard from students over the years is “I’m bored,” or “This is boring.” I got so sick of hearing this and then one day as a substitute teacher for L.A. Unified Public Schools, I came across this quote in a classroom I was subbing in; “The cure for boredom is curiosity, and there is no cure for curiosity.” I believe this is a brilliant insight in that it puts the responsibility back on the student i.e. there are countless new tastes (foods), new sounds (languages, music), new sights, etc. in this world. Therefore, if you’re bored, it’s your responsibility to explore/discover the plethora of new sensations, etc. out there awaiting you. And this is not to excuse educators or parents. Again, I believe a teacher’s core responsibility is to arouse a student’s curiosity. One of the chief ways of doing this is to always strive to make the abstract concrete and to show how the subject matter being taught is relevant to a student’s life. This is a very challenging task but the greater the challenge, the greater the satisfaction when one meets that challenge & is successful e.g. you see the light in their eyes when they’ve made a connection.

Most of our students are technologically very savvy but woefully ignorant when it comes to critical & analytical thinking. I remember something an instructor said many years ago in a class I took which was called “Computer Literacy,” he said “Always remember, G.I.G.O. (Garbage In, Garbage Out). I believe this sums up our situation nicely. The Internet is a fantastic tool but if we aren’t able to sort out the garbage from the factual or accurate, it’s just another tool used by advertisers, politicians, etc. who are trying to play us for fools. Moreover, I believe our educational system, as designed and organized, does our students a great disservice by artificially & arbitrarily dissecting learning or knowledge into various disciplines. All knowledge is interconnected and true learning takes place when a student makes a connection between something they learned in one class or subject, with another seemingly separate subject. That’s the eureka moment when a person feels excited and like they made an original discovery or connection. These moments are what have kept my intellectual curiosity alive.

Some of my intellectual heroes are Buckminster Fuller, Marva Collins, & Jonathan Kozol to name just a few. I admire these teachers because they were mavericks who had the courage to trust their own instincts and not follow the conventional educational philosophies. Many people mistakenly believe that if they send their child to an expensive, elite, private school, this guarantees academic success. This has clearly been disproven time and time again. Many professors at our top universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. have lamented that their incoming freshmen students don’t recognize, let alone, are able to discuss the giants of Western Civilization such as Socrates, Plato, & Aristotle. I won’t belabor the point but Americans, as a general rule, are pathetically ignorant in so many areas that it’s embarrassing. When I first went to Europe at the age of 23, I looked up a friend of a friend, who is a Swiss citizen two years younger than me. He knew more about American history, literature, philosophy, political science, etc. than I did. I started picking his brain and that was the beginning of my true education. And while I’m proud of having earned my B.A. in English literature after a long, hard struggle due mostly to finances, I am most proud of what I have learned on my own, or my self-education. I don’t like to brag because it often sounds egotistical but I guess it’s a necessary “evil” when placing an ad like this? When I was in the sixth grade, my reading comprehension was measured at the eleventh grade, sixth month level. I believe this is basically due to my love affair with learning all my life.

In the final analysis, I feel that the best teachers are those who are the most humble i.e. they don’t brag about their credentials, papers or books published, academic memberships, etc. And this is why Socrates is perhaps my greatest intellectual hero because he basically said that if we can’t see our ignorance, a wall blocks us from advancing in our pursuit of truth, knowledge, & wisdom. In a nutshell, the paradox of learning is that the more we learn, the less we know. In all my years in classrooms, I can count the truly inspiring teachers I had the great fortune to have met, on one hand. So, please excuse me if I sound a bit dismissive of the revered & required “teaching credential.”

As for the nuts & bolts of my services, I charge $20 per hour with a two hour minimum and strongly recommend two or three sessions per week. I realize that many families are financially strained in this economy so I am willing to be flexible to some extent. I request that our tutoring sessions either be in your home with at least one parent present, or perhaps a local library? I look forward to meeting with you & your child to discuss how I can be of assistance in their academic success. Let me leave you with a list of some of my goals when assisting your child:

1) to help your child develop a positive attitude toward learning & studying
2) to help them develop self-confidence & reduce their anxiety or fear of failure
3) to help your child develop a greater level of motivation in their studies
4) to assist them in achieving a better understanding of their subjects & in improving their academic capabilities
5) to guide your child in the development of the study skills necessary for academic success
6) to establish & maintain a rapport with your child
7) to serve as a role model for your child

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Your comments Make My Day!