Variations on a theme: feel free to jump in :)

http://http://ow.ly/i/6nmIa/original

And how I would change it, to read –

I will let them be young
Fill their hearts with laughter
Help them grow wings
Nurture their sense of wonder
Inspire them to believe
And love them like
Everything they dream about they may make possible-

If not today, then- tomorrow!

———-

I like my version better!

And dislike the concept of “belittling” anyone so separated those two words, in case a ‘quick read may have suggested other wise :)

Either way – children are a blessing –

HMMM- may make it into a poster for a classroom wall…

 My motto: “Change is Good” (and a better slogan than Greed)

 

Teaching for social justice- it matters

Teaching for social justice is different from teaching to prevent crimes. And perhaps this is part, only a part, yes, but still an integral part of the problem. I currently live in Toronto, and ten minutes from my home three young people were shot – one died. I learned of the event via twitter- before it was reported on the news. The person hardest hit was a teacher, a young man of promise – he died- the other two young people, a boy and a girl, late teens, early twenties, hospitalized. No one knows why the event took place; except it is summer, it was a hot evening, people often congregate outside.

I realize what a horrific event transpired in Ferguson. I know what a horrific event took place a stone’s throw from me. I worry about both my young adult children who go out at night, and come home using public transit. I worry about the random acts of violence- but yes I am lucky- for to date, I haven’t seen a reason to worry about the police. Whether in Manhattan, where I lived for a period, or here in Toronto, Canada, the men and women who make up the police force have always been, on the occasion I have had direct contact with them, thoughtful, courteous and direct. Knowing they now patrol the area actually provides a sense of well being. Because one of the victims was a teacher, many children in the area were affected as well. How to explain – to answer the “why?” when the criminals weren’t caught? How to remind that basically this is a safe community, that crime and criminal acts can take place anywhere, and that there are, for lack of a better term- “bad people” out there, but one doesn’t have to emulate them.

I know that each of us presented with young minds puzzle at how to teach towards understanding. How to encourage the growth of a caring society, one in which mutual respect exists. One without fear of the very people, our police, who are expected to protect us from just such unthinkable events as what befell the young teacher this summer. But just as we don’t want to turn into a police state, don’t want to need patrol cars on every corner, we must teach that violence is not cool. Because if we teach hatred towards members of a service profession- and the police like the fire department, are providing an essential service, we will not be encouraging people to believe that there might be a place for them within these professions.

When we teach children to care about their place in society we are teaching that they in fact have a place in society. That they belong. That they in time may be able to make a difference; and that is why yes, teaching the stories of others who have made a difference can help. For if indeed these stories may then become part of the backbone of courage that many of our young people will require as they go through life, then we must tell the stories through a whole school project- not in isolation, not as a race or gender issue but as a part of living history- an opportunity to encourage a literacy based, project based, arts integrated, science practiced, full STEAM ahead, school.

When we teach for something we have become proactive. We have become empowered, as teachers, concentrating on transformative curriculum, rather than focused on disciplinary lectures- but the learning has to start early! From preschool up children absorb what they see and hear going on around them- home and school, community and practice. Teaching to prevent crime? Reminiscent of Up the Down Staircase, or To Sir with Love; books and movies in which the teacher wins some and loses some, and everyone marvels at the teacher’s ability to fight the system itself. What if instead, the system and the educator work together? Returning to a whole school approach, and community interaction; when I was little both the Fire Department and the Police came for visits- and we went to the Firehouse and to the Police museum. People who are part of one’s community may lose a bit of mystique, but the community will gain in understanding that the goals of one section are in tandem with the goals of a peaceful society.

For it IS about peace. It is horribly sad to consider why youngsters would need to find surrogate families within gangs and there is as much wrong with our system today as there was in the time of Victor Hugo, but, if we justify looting and robbery, we are saying “might makes right” – in Hugo’s day a character is hounded and imprisoned for stealing food- the greater picture of a hungry society being presented through the eyes of a main character and his villainous tormentor- a member of the police – and readers can’t help but side with the Jean Val Jean character. I can’t imagine what the police in Ferguson were thinking when releasing the video showing Mike Brown behaving like a thug, and stealing from a store; except perhaps to try and de- saint the young person. But – we have been shown the video, and that brings up, why had the character in our modern times believed it was OK to torment the shop owner/employees? In short, why did that action take place at all? Missing in Ferguson appears to be any kind of peace, if looting is common place, if kids are racially profiled, if anger was so close to the surface that it boiled over into this past month of stand offs.

In the end then, regardless of subject we must teach Why something matters. We as teachers, matter. Our students and their hopes and dreams, matter. Each and every person, matters. Again, it begins in preschool, and it can’t be over taught. It must be reiterated each and every year. I didn’t invent the concept – and as a concept it is older than you or I. What matters today is that we remove it from a conceptual ideal and place it squarely into real discussions, real and safe communication, real and daily practice. We must make caring – matter.

information about the incident in Toronto may be found here: http://www.cp24.com/news/victims-of-lawrence-heights-shooting-not-targeted-by-gunmen-police-1.1903477

an American teacher’s set of suggestions for how to teach about Mike Brown may be found here: http://rethinkingschoolsblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/teach-about-mike-brown-but-dont-stop-there/

Changing of the Guard: new classes, new teachers

Changing of the guard-

Imagine how proud they each must have felt when earning the position of being a Buckingham palace guard! And how tiresome the job must become when someone’s unruly child, in an effort to get attention, stands in front of a guard and deliberately sticks out a tongue, or makes other “funny faces’ to try and dispel the outward “calm- and- in- control” image that the guards know they must maintain, and that, to their credit, the guards do.

Now imagine an employee in a work situation, and a set of senior “bosses” behaving just like those unruly children, and attempting, day after day, to break through the calm of the more junior worker. As parents we would or should reach out to our children and teach them that teasing is wrong, hurtful, and a form of bullying. And if in the position of the junior worker? Then life gets extremely complicated. To maintain that air of calm requires the internal discipline of the Buckingham guard, but to move forward in a healthful manner may require developing a distance that is impossible in what may turn into an intolerable post. First year teachers beginning at schools and eager to share their excitement need also to recognize that each school maintains a particular type of culture – all those wonderful ideas may not get displayed in one single term- breathe, adopt a bit of the stance of the palace guards to deflect the children’s and perhaps their parents’ and even long term staff members’ quizzical at best, nasty at worst, behaviours, and remember – like the Palace guards, YOU earned this posting; the children desire to learn, and your desire to share the learning will get all of you through the year.
Best wishes.

Privacy and Policy – Healthy Schools


Privacy and Policy


School is a public place
be it a private institution or a member of a public board- it is not “Las Vegas”, and this is a good thing. This means that parental involvement can be encouraged beginning with the principal who sets the tone, and continuing through the teachers and on to the students who ought to happily or disgruntledly, depending on a day’s adventure, share the news of the time spent in the institution. Imagine, spending 12, 13, or even 14 years depending on when a child began in a more formal learning environment and how that learning environment impacts on all the growth and development to come.

So when parents ask what do I look for in a learning space; openness is one of my main points on a checklist – was the principal prepared to take time to offer a tour of the space? Did the principal book an appointment and follow through with genuine interest in you and your child when as parent you asked questions about both the curriculum and the social aspects of the learning environment? Has the teacher allowed you to inquire directly about your expectations for the school academic program, and provided a relatively clear outline – do please allow for teaching moments, that teachers may indeed respond directly and appropriately when the students in the room surprise and please, with comments and active participation in the projects or other curriculum actions-an outline that will allow you as parent to also become curious about the learning that is expected to be covered in an academic year.

And if visiting a school when the programs are already in service, I listen. Total silence may mean exam/testing time, otherwise it is an odd thing to expect within a school. I like hearing the hum of student inquiry, the murmur that at times may mimic Katy Perry’s “Roar” and, laughter is always good. Children who are comfortable, communicate.

Middle School sets its own demands; notice the entrance to the building, and the amount of students in class, not the hallways, once a bell has rung. At some schools hallways are used as extra classroom space; this is fine when the school entrance way is monitored- unfortunately in today’s environment, schools do need to be aware of who is entering or exiting a premise, and in some institutions no loitering in the hallways is permitted due to safety precautions. At other institutions the hallway monitors have become not merely a fixture of the place, but a very welcome and responded to, resource. These adjunct staff are there as friendly reminders that the school is a safe space, and for the child who must return to a locker mid period, or use the washroom, knowing that hall monitors move up and down throughout the building may provide an additional sense of welcome and subliminal comfort.

High School creates new challenges! So many choices and a new type of pressure- which whether parent or child, we all seem to absorb. And even if logical thinking reminds one that the future is really not totally determined by the activities chosen in High School it is doubtful we will be able to totally convince a teen of this. Media does add to this pressure; high school becomes a microcosm of “life”. The kids though, do still need and benefit from all levels of parental awareness; ask questions of the academic type before your child begins- and don’t be afraid to question a school’s suggested template for your child. Applied versus academic- why? Full year courses versus a semester program, how will this possibly challenge (positively or negatively) your child- some students in semester programs go a full calendar year between undertaking classes- for example, a September to February class in English etc. in grade 9 followed by a February to June class in English during the grade 10 year has left a large, full calendar year, gap – imagine! One reads about the summer time slump- and that is only two months outside of full class programming! 14-18 year olds only appear independent; they still require a near magical dance on the part of the parents to weave together the combinatory goals of healthy mind and body which are rapidly developing during these High School years.

Home and School; a dynamic combination; sharing resources; growing = a healthy future.

This article first appeared on Together Academics, learning skills with Ali
To learn more- please email; mytutoringspace@live.ca
As always, best regards,
Alison (Ali)

Double-entendre

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/double%20entendre

Why Not?

Simple expression-usually suggesting no reason not to do something


Why Not?

Simple question- actually requiring a response; particularly valuable in a classroom

on a limb…

It is everywhere! The statement that ” the only way to do a good job is to love what you do”.  UM- not necessarily, and not really what we need to be proclaiming on classroom walls- as students rarely love drills- rarely love rewrites, rarely love the extra practice that must be undertaken to improve in any form of craft- or academic work.

How could we change it up then? This has been a constant desire of mine- to create a learning environment where all students receive the respect and opportunity to grow regardless of how much “hard work” both the educator and the student must apply before changes appear evident- and hard work isn’t always fun, nor is it always something one loves to do.

When we constantly toss about ideals that suggest “Passion” is all that is needed the craft behind the making may get lost in the dream that suggested “love is all you need”.  I love the Beatles and all that they stood for, but would hazard a guess that not one of them really meant the statement literally.  We need to get back to the core sense of practice, refining a skill and /or set of skills that will become, if not actually automatic, as close to automatic that an individual may muster and be able to call upon these skills as needed.

I cook, and when asked the secret ingredient have been known to answer “love” so indeed we all employ the suggestion that adding CARE will make a difference.  And I am for caring classrooms everywhere- but not to the detriment of students being giving only the promise of learning without the practical tools.  To truly empower students we need to offer guidelines; students whether in a regular or a flipped classroom, whether home-schooled or one of 50 in a classroom, benefit when the rules are clearly laid out, when the rubric is explained, and when the student is shown how to do something.

Practice may not make “perfect” but it will promote understanding; if the reasoning behind the practice is questioned, then dear teachers, do please have an explanation ready.  Or depending on the age group of your students, think about sharing something that will spark discussion regarding why some types of practical actions do not always appear to be on target but indeed get the results- a classic film comes to mind- the original Karate Kid- hard to forget “wash on, wash off” as a muscle builder…

Sports and the Arts both offer a form of apprenticeship during which time participants improve their practice under the guidance of “master coaches”.  The two words were juxtaposed on purpose, for mastery is what in the end produces that amazing result- the one that moves beyond rote and adapts or is applied to a specific situation, creating grace in action, be it a line on a page, a puck spinning towards a goal, or a new computer application.  We all improve through practice if and when the areas where improvement is suggested are clearly defined, and clearly demonstrated with /through examples where these practical changes made a difference to the finished product.

It is about product in addition to process, and if/when we forget this we short change a student.  Students are very self aware, and to be up lifted do not need simple pats on the back; they too want to recognize results and be proud of their own accomplishments.  When a student is able to say “I worked hard on this and believe it says what I wanted it to say” the student is taking ownership of his/her learning- isn’t that really what as teachers we wish to produce?

 

For home, school, in the car…

Preparing for September?  Now I teach year round, (private lessons are open at the student’s request) but still get a soft spot for the month of September.  And I love the combination of poetry and song to get me in the mood for fuller classes.  Super favorites with children of all ages include all the books by Shel Silverstein, but I have a special space for the poems he wrote, or shared, which have a musical component.

Did you know that The Unicorn“* began as a song first recorded by the Irish Rovers in 1962?  The beauty of folk songs was that they became “singable” for everyone (Bob Dylan didn’t create the genre) :)

And what folk songs offer is the initiation into the importance of rhythm and cadence to help move both a song and a story along. We sing lullabies to our children regardless of what language we are speaking in the home; we coo, and murmur, and if someone has a set of words to go with these coos- then so much the better.  With these interactions we are starting the process of literacy.  So please, coo, murmur and hum to your children, plus if you can find them, put on the music and let the children ( join in too; they won’t mind if you are off key!) belt it out.

Here is a sample: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EPsuOEH1fY

-  “those green alligators and long necked beasts” will have the kids jumping up and down- and you can be sure and find others that offer the same tongue challenges while giving everyone a chance to PLAY!

To add to the process grab some chalk and see if the children can draw the images -( one of the better uses of sidewalks- but be aware, children often enjoy hearing something again, and again, and again….

http://mytutoringspace.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/faa6a-wherethe.jpg?w=500  Shel Silverstein: collection of poetry for children – Full lyrics to the Unicorn may be found in his book