Antique Lamp Shop with Pieces Missing, Fremont, CA
This summer, I have really been reflecting on what it is like to learn new skills and learn the social skills of a particular domain. I am a school teacher and have starting taking my art passion more seriously. There is a local community of artists that was founded in 1927 that I am trying to become a part of. I am seeking apprenticeship. I am seeking a new tribe so that I can grow. I also hope to contribute to the tribe from my experiences in the pedagogical tribe. This is especially so from my understandings of working with children with autism and how art therapy techniques really make a difference.
It has been somewhat challenging to find someone who can mentor me with regard to art. I truly miss my grandfather who was an engineer and artist. Therefore, I have been seeking out a sort of virtual apprenticeship by reading and watching videos online about art. However, there isn't much out there on the social skills and norms of navigating in the art world for emerging artists. I am still operating on my K-12 teacher norms and etiquette. Isn't it interesting to learn social norms of various domains? Yes, we fumble and faux pas, but we learn. Hopefully, we pass on what we learn to the next generation.
With that, let's consider Common Core (CC for short) and our state of K-12 education today. I've been reflecting on it a lot lately as I read all the articles about it. In short, I have mixed feelings about CC. I am still learning. Therefore, I am trying not to be judgemental. However, I can say that I am optimistically skeptical. Indeed, I want to hope for the best, but wonder what are the unintended consequences. For example, with all the gear up for standardized testing, it is my contention that two very important elements are missing and/or very rare to find in many educational institutions. Those being: Apprenticeship and Mindfulness. For this post, I will reflect on apprenticeship.
Today many K-12 schools do not have vocational programs for students who chose to learn a trade. Sadly, much of Voc Ed has been cut. Fortunately, the high school that I used to work at did have a centralized Voc Ed program for the district that some of my students used to leave halfway through the day to attend. However, my students with special needs were still required to take college prep course work. Many of my students were frustrated by this. When I taught high school in Georgia and worked at the orphanage after school program, many of our students had children themselves. They wanted to learn a skill and be able to provide for their families.
Reflecting back to when I was in high school, I was in the DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) program. It was an excellent program that taught many life skills. Further, I left at half day and went to work at a local jewelry store called Lurias. My teacher and my job supervisor collaborated together. I learned as an apprentice. At the time, I wasn't sure if it was realistic for me to attend college. Indeed, I am still paying back my college loans today. However, that is another story. Back in high school, I was focused more on the day-to-day. At the time, my mom was a single mom and I wanted to have money to buy school clothes and pay for my braces. I wanted to help out as much I could. I learned many things while working in the co-op program in high school. As a teacher, my experiences in high school have taught me to recognize the practical needs of students. Sometimes daily practicalities outweigh long-term dreams. Yes, I still encourage my students to dream. However, I want my students to know practical steps of gradual independence to help them achieve their goals. We need to teach our students gradual independent living skills and Voc Ed is still an esential component that needs to be considered in educational reform. Indeed, it is my contention that K-12 leaders and CC standards writers would benefit from including an apprenticeship model of education.