“No other job in the world could possibly dispossess one so completely as this job of teaching. You could stand all day in a laundry, for instance, still in possession of your mind. But this teaching utterly obliterates you. It cuts right into your being…”-Sylvia Ashton-Warner
When I was a teenager, before I knew I was an aspiring teacher, I read Sylvia Ashton-Warner’s iconic book, “Teacher” about her experience teaching Maori children in the rural landscape of New Zealand. Mom gave me the book after she read it since she was going to night school to become a teacher. The book never left me. We, as educators, have so much to thank Ashton-Warner for and all of her great teaching evolved from the heart. The high stakes assessment culture, the “new” Core Curriculum and other educational mandates and the people that are in charge of education in this country should reread teacher and get back to basics. Sylvia Ashton-Warner lived and then wrote about “organic” teaching and learning…relevancy in subject matter…her version of balanced literacy and more…but she did it with heart, with love, with respect for her students and their families. Good teaching is a calling…it’s not something that is learned in a preparatory program nor it is learned by parroting the educational standards of the day.
Sylvia Ashton-Warner was born today in 1908.
Also born today in 1929, William Safire, who wrote the “On Language” column for many, many years for the NY Times. I think Ms Ashton-Warner would agree with Mr. Safire’s: “I could get a better education interviewing John Steinbeck than talking to an English professor about novels.” That would definitely be organic learning, authentic learning, relevant learning!