Changing it up!

A blog worth sharing- and spaces that may in reality be in class rooms- with a caveat: chairs, desks, tables, technology, indoor /outdoor- what really must be in the room? IDEAS, and an energy for sharing ideas, learning ideas (from and with the students) and the sense of safety and respect that doesn’t come from tables, chairs, or technology, but is absorbed and passed on person to person, when learners, regardless of age and background feel that they too, can be a part of the inquiry process.

Having said that, this set of downloadable and free cards offered through the The Third Teacher website* makes a great reminder to us how we may play within the learning environment, changing it up a bit depending on varying student needs, and also encourage students to enjoy moving around their (our) learning stations.

The saying that “Change is as good as a rest” (variously attributed, but Churchill seems most popular) is easily debated – regardless- students quickly tend to flock to the same seating patterns, same spaces even when unassigned- a quick way to add a bit of extra challenge then would be to have them redesign the classroom every quarter- not merely empty and clean desks but make their own democratic suggestions about what could be a productive way of grouping (or ungrouping) desks etc. I know that movement around and through a space is essential not merely for fire drills, but also for the sense of belonging and ownership that results when one is able to touch and explore.
What do you think?

http://www.thethirdteacher.com/

Academics for all subjects

A reading is thinking poster

With science / math write-ups we also READ

Begin with prediction: = hypothesis

Visualize: what object are needed for (this)experiment? What amounts?

Connect: get all objects ready in one place / choose one set for the controlled object, the other objects will act upon – with experiments, the idea is to challenge yourself- (safely) and see what happens if…you are asking questions while trying the experiment

Summarize-
the write up tells others what happened
Instead of “clues from the text” the “evidence” is the section in a science write-up known as results- here you have a chance to decide what may not have worked. For example; if you were trying to change a liquid to a solid and doing a simple experiment with water- changing liquid water to solid ice, and the ice didn’t freeze- why not? Was the cold space not cold enough? Perhaps in class you created a mini refrigerator (tin foil and packaging and cardboard box…) and this did not stay cold- what could be done differently next time- where could something be changed?

Science constantly builds upon earlier experiments. When we try something at home or in class, we are practicing to see if a method “works”.

Take cooking for example: you are given a brand new toaster- you like toast nicely browned- first time you plug it in at set the number to 8 out of 10- Oh oh- too crisp- try again, 6? Just right. But wait, now put a bagel instead of another piece from that original loaf of bread. The texture is different and so might be the toasting time.

When scientists speak of the control object, they are saying one object stays the same, while another object changes. In the above case, the toaster stayed the same, while the bread products were changed.

New slice of bread- a piece of Challah- Oh oh- turning temperature down to 4- why? Why might it burn faster? What ingredients were in the Challah slice that are different from the regular piece of white bread, and different from the bagel? We do science experiments all the time, without realizing and labeling them as experiments or science!

In academics, we are asked to share what we are thinking in a write-up. This write-up may be answering questions on a teacher prepared worksheet- it may be drawing a picture of what we just did, it may be going online, and sharing over the internet by using a blog, a wiki, or a tweet  The write-up means one thing, regardless of how and where it is placed- communicating so another may understand; much of the time in school, students often ask- “will this be on the test?” – their point- shall I memorize the “fact” to be able to retell it? In less formal, ongoing assessments, the test begins with the student, and is a part of the student’s inquiry to understand more. A student encouraged from the start to share his/her understanding of what took place, is a student being encouraged to “do” academics- it need not be an either or situation wherein a student is labeled non-academic if we remember that academics simply refers to recognizing bits of theory behind a form of practice. And it is “easy” to share nowadays how recognizing both theory and practice may improve performance. Take Usain Bolt- who isn’t impressed by the lightening speed of this man? And if students are shown how there became a science to his athletic training, science is removed from an esoteric activity and placed smack in the centre of life skills; like being able to tie one’s shoes even if wearing slip-ons with Velcro, it is good to know how to do something, good to be able to feel a purpose behind a set of skills, good to take part in learning. We teachers, parents, adults, want and NEED the next generation curious, active, communicative, and participatory. For not only “science” but humanity will then continue to move forward.

Stepping off my soap-box to wish all a productive and learning filled year!

Joint ventures and classroom projects

Cutesy or clear? rows or seats in teacher prescribed groups? lecture format, flipped classrooms…either or/- or a little bit of “everything” to not merely allow for each “type” (are we still discussing “types”) but to put personality back into a teaching “formula” and to allow each instructor, parent, educator, to share key concepts, and to remember that be it in a one room school house ( these still do exist ) or a couple thousand strong – formal learning environment, we ARE after a similar set of goals- how to share a concept so that learners of all ages want to make it their “own”.

Working with a variety of learners has “proven” one thing to me; thinking in action, changing direction, and being able to make time for student led questions, student led “experiments” does not mean “hands-off” in terms of teaching but the opposite- clear directions for open-ended results, open ended directions for further inquiry, and the expectation of change occurring when a student begins to believe that there is a purpose to an action.  Having said that, my next comment might surprise people- for indeed sometimes the purpose is to prepare for a quiz; sometimes we practice something to make it a “habit”.

If independence of action remains a goal suggested by the “some day” to be earned diploma, then testing continues to hold value as a means of demonstrating some form of learning- we are encouraged to “test drive” a car before selecting, shouldn’t students be allowed to test themselves at higher levels of challenges?  The problem I have seen from some test results is the subsequent labellings of a student, labels that often do not take into consideration the growth that is taking place within our young, daily.  While I favour ongoing assessments, formal and informal, I have seen students respond with excitement to the idea of an examination- formal term applied.  And to the cheering that is also part of an educator’s role, when we recognize even “basic” accomplishments; learners of all ages do want to know what a test is examining, how to tackle it, and in what areas could one improve.

Classes for many resume next week :) – teachers are rarely blase about the prospect knowing that introductions can set a tone; I think of how many good stories I may have not completed reading if I hadn’t encouraged myself to move past the first two chapters, and get into the true focus of the story. Realistically, characters grow on readers as we join them in their adventures- It is ok to be a bit of a character to the students as long as we remember to stay curious ourselves; then learning is not merely an adventure, but a joint venture.

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)