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Monday, June 29, 2015

Dear Hannah: Marva Collins' Way


Dear Hannah,

My heroes have always been teachers.

Marva Collins (August 31, 1936 – June 24, 2015) has had a mighty impact on the way I teach and learn.

I had the chance to interview her many years ago, and her answers have stuck with me.

Here are some of the more memorable ones from my notes ...

Her Approach ...

  1. She teaches students, not subjects.
  2. One gift a teacher gives students is to help them understand who they are (self-identity), and what they are called to (their purpose).
  3. Another gift a teacher gives students is to help them master language. She used her school's required subjects to teach language.
  4. Every student is special, and must be loved and affirmed into their "tomorrow".
  5. Her students learn poems and proverbs that affirm their self-identity and purpose.
  6. She likes to give one-hour lessons on single words like truth, honor, and justice.
  7. She meets her students "where they are". She then brings them to her level, or ascends to theirs.
  8. The teacher-student relationship requires reciprocal respect.
  9. She has written over 30 journals that she will leave to her children.
  10. She is frustrated by teaching advice from non-teachers.

Starting (& Funding) Her School ...

  1. She started her school in her own home with her own money.
  2. She had no textbooks or typewriters, so she handwrote textbooks and memorized them.
  3. Her children attended her school, and were ridiculed by their former classmates.
  4. In 1918, a first-grade reading book introduced 870 new words. Current books introduce about 60.
  5. She accepts no federal funds or corporate grants.
  6. In 1981, CBS aired The Marva Collins Story (starring Cicely Tyson and Morgan Freeman). She used the proceeds from the movie to move her school into a new building.
  7. She obtained additional financing for her school by writing books (much like Booker T. Washington used the proceeds from his autobiography Up From Slavery to fund Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University)), and by giving lectures.
  8. Prince (yes, Purple Rain Prince) was a good friend of hers who believed in her teaching methods. He played a benefit concert to raise $10,000 to train teachers in The Marva Collins Way.



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