EDU 6120 – Week 8 “I can teach”

As important as all the readings were this week, probably the most pertinent to me as a Special Education teaching student was Arthur Ellis’ section on the Public Law 94-142 in 1975, which has been updated several times maybe most importantly in 1990 when it was also renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  These advancements in the way we teach children with disabilities were a long overdue implementation to the treatment and perception of all people with disabilities. There is some debate over what constitutes the “least restrictive environment,” whether it is full inclusion or not, but the general consensus is that we must try harder to integrate children with disabilities into the mainstream environment as early as possible. This will benefit their academic and social skills, but will also promote more understanding for the children without disabilities. The kids I volunteer with in a ILC classroom are in a constant need of overcoming their day to day challenges, and in the long run my goal is that they will be able to transition to self determination. A part of independence is choosing, even on a fundamental level, so they can decide whether they want to have juice or milk. With general education this can be a simple situation, concerning kids with special needs the ability to communicate is sometimes the toughest barrier. Of all my goals as a teacher creating “good citizens” will take working with the short and long term goals and interests of our students, and I feel that is something I must teach.

When reading Tolstoy’s monthly school review “Yasnaya Polyana” I’m reminded of some classes where I’ve been a student, and how they mixed groups of people, subjects, and material to for a learning experience that crossed boundaries. Whereas when I was younger and history class was only about history, and writing class was only about writing, and it wasn’t until I attended Evergreen (TESC) and SPU that I started to experience mixed subjects and seminar learning.  Tolstoy even mentions a no grading, which I thought was a modern method at Evergreen, but to find out it has been around for over a century. I was especially fond of his statement “We know that our fundamental convictions that the only method of education is experiment, and its only criterion freedom, will sound to some like trite commonplace, to some like an indistinct abstraction, to others again like a visionary dream” (Tolstoy, 1860), which, like non-grading, isn’t for every teacher or student, but for some it could be the spark needed for another great thinker.

John Dewey had similar statements that were revelatory to me, such as “Education, therefore, must begin with a psychological insight into the child’s capacities, interests, and habits” (Dewey, 1897, article 1), which is something we as teachers (especially as a Special Education teachers) hear every week in class. We should strive to find ways to keep the curriculum relevant to the students. He also mentions the immediate impact we have on children, “I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. I believe that the school must represent present life–life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the playground” (Dewey, 1897, article 3), and while education lays a foundation for the future I agree that students shouldn’t have to wait to start their lives or implement their knowledge learned until some distant future. We as adult students and our future classroom children are living their lives every day.  In a way it the opposite of the old adage “they can’t see the forest through the trees,” in which we mustn’t let the big picture down the road blind us to the little things that not only make students interested, but may help them in the immediate future. I end this thought with another quote from Dewey, “I believe that every teacher should realize the dignity of his calling; that he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of proper social order and the securing of the right social growth” (1897, article 5).



Tolstoy, L. (1860). Session 8: Progressivism and Intellectual Development “On Popular Education”. Retrieved 11 18, 2010, from mountain light school:

Dewy, J. (1897). Session 8: Progressivism and Intellectual Development “My Pedagogic Creed”. Retrieved 11 18, 2010, from mountain light school:

This entry was posted in L1: Learner centered, L2: Classroom/school centered, L4: Contextual community centered, P1: Informed by professional responsibilities and policies, P2: Enhanced by reflective, collaborative, professional growth-centered practice, P3: Informed by legal and ethical responsibilities, S2 - Aligned with curriculum standards and outcomes, S3: Integrated across content areas, T3: Influenced by multiple instructional strategies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to EDU 6120 – Week 8 “I can teach”

  1. What I have been wondering is that if all these great minds seem to suggest similar methods, why don’t we use them more? Is it the push for standardization? Maybe this is not a sustainable system without very talented teachers? Honestly, I’m not sure that, for instance, Tolstoy’s theory is sustainable. I think it is a great approach, but how many kids would attend without some type of compulsion? My optimism likes the idea, the pragmatist is still skeptical.

    • beckerjames says:

      You bring up some good questions. You know what they say about great minds and thinking alike. Well, obviously that’s not always the case, but these excerpts are usually picked out of larger entries, so maybe I’m picking out context that are similar.

      Addressing the greater concern about our approach to education is large and tricky question. Maybe it’s not standardization the people in charge are looking for, but rather accountability and the ability to ascertain progress/ lack thereof. The individual educator’s approach isn’t totally malleable, but I think maybe combining some of Tolstoy’s freedoms with a provided curriculum to attain a teaching style is something to shoot for. Like you said no one approach is applicable for every student and I think it’s up to the individual teacher to find their best style while still be flexible enough to address different students. Of course all of this is easier said than done, and the real work is being done by teachers and students everyday in the classroom.

  2. thejoesmith says:

    Your well referenced and erudite blog puts my, somewhat, rambling efforts to shame.
    A particular talent of both Ellis and Dewy is that they lay out ideas that once heard are often dismissed as obvious. They elicit in the listener a small degree of embarrassment for not having thought of it themselves.
    But of course overcoming embarrassment is key to accepting new wisdom.
    As to the school representing wider society in microcosm, yes the goal is righteous and yet I do feel that schools are often a little over protective and a little too caught up in celebrating successes rather than building on failures. Surely praise should be reserved for effort rather than handed out as rote? (not a direct response to any part of your article, just something that’s been on my bind lately, this being parent/teacher conference week.)

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