Saturday, June 15, 2013

HONORING PICASSO AND PROGRAMMING


What is the future of STEM education in this country? Today, while listening to This American Life on NPR, I became fearful that soon, perhaps, very little will be happening. We know that STEM education is crucial to our future, and we know that countries which focus on science, technology, engineering and math education will lead the way. Nevertheless, sometimes the finest teachers in a school system are eliminated because of budget cuts, and sometimes science classes are among the first to be slashed. What a shocking revelation.

Jason Pittman teaches pre-school through sixth grade science at an elementary school in Fairfax County, Virginia, and has been recognized by the National Science Teacher's Association as their Early Educator of the Year. His lesson plans are unique and encourage exploration and hands-on education. Unfortunately, his job was eliminated a few years ago and his district has to raise the funds privately every year to retain his position.  So, after ten years of teaching and winning several major awards, he’s quitting. He used to run his own technology business, and maybe he'll return to that, without the stress of wondering where his paycheck will come from. But what about the students who adore him? What about the four-year-old who said to him this week, "Mr. Pittman, this is the best day of my life. I love science!"?

At Big Mind Learning, we believe that in the intersection of art and science lies greatness. We recently honored Sal Elder Jr. as the first-prize winner in our Scholarship Essay Contest for his essay entitled "Programming and Picasso". We noted his natural story-telling ability, wit, and sophisticated use of language and personification. However, what is really at stake in his essay is his identification with Picasso who said, "“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Sal Elder loves to program, and through his lively description of his trial and error process, his love for experimentation is obvious and inspiring. He says, "I’ll be honest—I don’t fully know what I’m doing, or even who my target audience is. But it’s fun, and I suppose its main purpose is for me to learn about writing and coding. Furthermore, I get to enjoy the satisfaction, as Picasso must have, of having instructed myself through experimentation and self-motivation."

Let's get rid of our reliance on standardized tests and get kids into the labs and gardens, where true-life inspiration can reside. Many educators say that we will need more engineers and scientists in the future than ever before, so why are we eliminating some of our best science teachers? 


8 comments:

  1. That is what they say, because they will be out of a job, need more scientists and engineers that is their opinion.

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  2. Interesting post. I got pleasure reading it.

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  3. Well, this week is the first week of classes in my former classroom without me. I checked in on them, I suppose I worried about what will happen to those kids too. BUT they have a great new teacher who's going to do great new things with them. It's that idea that we, as teachers, MUST serve our students at all costs, emptying our pockets for classroom supplies, that allows the school system to continue to abuse our vocation to serve.

    I've considered gong back to technology and even did a few freelance programming jobs over the summer, but I'm not really seeking more money. I took a contract job on a shipwreck expedition for National Geographic, told my story in theaters around the east coast, and I'm focused on bringing attention to how poorly teachers are valued.

    And I don't think it's a matter of raising taxes to do so. Most school systems simply put very little value on their teachers. For example, through another contract with NatGeo, I'm now a trainer-consultant to the same school system I used to work for, and they pay what I used to make in a month for a three day session - doing the EXACT same curriculum training I used to do for them for free. No recognition, no reward when I worked for them, and now that I'm a consultant, I make ten times as much for the same work.

    Feel free to contact me, TAL linked to me, so I'm pretty easy to find. I'm continuously surprised to read articles about me on the internet from authors who didn't want to find out more by asking me a few questions...

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. This is great informative but long post i have read half

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