Monthly Archives: May 2012

Honour your kids

A friend sent me an email with a link to an older article published in The Chronicle for Higher Education in 2010- two years ago when I was starting this Tutoring venture.  The link opens to a story on a tutor who happily is a ghost writer for students- the friend had been worried that I might grow disillusioned quickly as this trend to hire tutors specifically to cheat on behalf of students appeared to be growing.  Fortunately I continue to connect with parents who wish to have their children grow and develop their own skills in Academics and Socially- not to merely purchase a paper or have me “just sit beside the student throughout his/her online exam” – as one parent did (not- so- subtly) request.   

Have you listened to your children lately? Have you heard them when they say things like “so and so is in the smart group”  and aren’t referring to themselves? If yes, please find an activity that you know the child excels at- or if not excels, then actually enjoys- for it is far more important to continue to help your child grow in his/her best fashion than to be grade focused.  I have heard students excitedly share insights about topics that they have become curious about but which weren’t directly on the school curriculum, and definitely weren’t going to be featured on a standardized test.  And I wished I could bottle that excitement and display it so the child would receive credit.

All of us are constantly picking up subtle clues about where we fit within different systems.  K-12, is a lengthy expanse of time and thankfully one in which students will be exposed to a variety of situations, teachers, classmates, and I hope, challenged by ideas.  With the “new” buzzword being “innovation” and the suggestion that perhaps emphasis on standardized tests doesn’t in fact encourage lateral thinking because, to do well on these tests students must respond to the tests in a particular fashion, problem solving is being seen only from one perspective.  Problem solving is not just the ability to combine ideas and “create” new methodologies- problem solving is also the ability to work through a problem – as basic as this sounds.  There is an irony in this situation for the student who is outspoken, who is generating personal connections, who may try to challenge a teacher or, without trying, be seen as challenging to the teacher, can find the confines of the classroom, stifling.  If your child does complain about the above, respect the complaint.  Recognize the grade for a score on activities presented within a classroom and not as a mark that a student (like the Scarlet Letter!) must bear. 

If your child’s “problem” is getting through the school year, some questions to ask the teacher(s) as this term comes to close:

1) Could you tell me something positive about my child?

2) What have you noticed my child enjoying in your class? Which activities did He/She seem most engaged with?

3) Have you any suggestions for what gaps you are noticing in his/her learning?

and finally 4) What could we do to organize differently for the coming September?

Thank you for honouring me with the opportunity to work with your children: I love tutoring and feel lucky being able to share this excitement for learning, together with students and their families.

 

 

 

Have your ever…?

It is such fun to present students with a topic often used as a journal writing entry and instead, open it up to discussion.  Have you ever…can become a form of “truth or dare” when students turn the question back to the teacher; whether parent or educator, “Have you Ever…?”  WILL generate story-telling.  You have been warned.  And the lovely weather means, if you are able get the students outside for this activity then do so.  

What comes next? Exams, quizzes, final Independent Study Projects, Year End wrap ups, and for some – those make-up projects to balance a less than stellar performance earlier in the term.  Much has been written and spoken about the ways in which schooling allows some to “slack off” and miss deadlines – it would be more productive of educators to note how many students each term do require the option of earning course credit through the end of year submissions- portfolios often more accurately portray a student’s ability than a single mark on a test.  It always seems contradictory for educators to rail against any form of standardized testing yet not build in the option for students to compile work that might indeed allow for personal expression.  The classroom and the curriculum is one of the last bastions of independent yet collaborative work; join with the students, try a Have You Ever…?”  in the staff room with fellow teachers, and surprise yourself – Listen, truly listen…and Enjoy!

 

Weekend wishes and summer dreams

Oh my goodness, the day has slipped away and I understand how a student can be surprised when deadlines loom and a project is not near done.  “Busywork”- that is what it is called; when one is truly hustling yet has little for others to take note of – despite the energy expended.  

Must be seasonal.  Confession: I enjoy summer school and have for years, participating as a student, teaching as an adult.  Now that it is May, I have the same sense many experience during the last weeks of  August, an expectation of classes and a renewal of sorts. 

With the beautiful weather expected to hold over the weekend and all sorts of local events happening I wish everyone a super pleasant Mother’s Day – if you are celebrating and, if not- a great weekend regardless.

Unusual ways to celebrate Mother’s day-home and school + freebies

https://secure1.heifer.org/gift-catalog?msource=SOMDD12TW12   This site offers ways to help others in need; purchase a cow and feed a community!

http://www.ploughshares.org/mothers-day?gclid=CMiK5Yun868CFbMEQAodrCALVg

Mother’s Day is May 13, 2012 ( for a list of other dates around the world see below) . It’s easy to send a thoughtful and personalized gift, letting the mother in your life know that you share her wish for a more peaceful, nuclear-free world.

http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/mothersday/mothers_day  Ok these recipes look so amazing; they are almost non-traditional!

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/04/mothers-day-giving-back_n_1478942.html  find 10 suggestions for giving back-http://www.womenforwomen.org/campaigns-for-women/mothers-day.php?src=MD2012PS&gclid=CKTxsauu868CFY0BQAodbVZsZA – helping to build lives post war…

http://www.helpothers.org/cards.php  smile cards have been going around since 2003

speaking of going around- Mother’s day around the world alphabetically organized: http://www.whsv.com/seasonal/misc/42915822.html

More on the history plus some trivia listed under fun facts; http://www.chiff.com/home_life/holiday/mothers-day-history.htm

and for school kids everywhere: for elementary grades

freebies from: http://mrsrubinsclass.blogspot.ca/2012/05/wow.html 

slightly older children may like to help pick out the flowers in addition to creating their own arts and crafts;   http://www.artistshelpingchildren.org/mothersdaygiftsartscrafstideaskidskidsprojects.html

 I have seen the beautiful creations made by a local florist –

  ask for Yien at  http://www.ellisflowers.ca/about-us/our-team    remember to place an order in advance so they can be delivered fresh and on time http://www.ellisflowers.ca/products

Enjoy the day, whether celebrating this week or on one of the other dates globally; Mother’s Day is officially declared:  http://projectbritain.com/mothers/index.html

And if you are like me – the more homemade the gift the better!

 

How to destroy a student’s interest in School:

Take one student

Make sure the student you choose has an active,engaged, outgoing, participatory character

Instead of making note of all the above, instead of praising the student for his/her positive contributions to the school latch onto to a minor indiscretion and then, blow that indiscretion sky high

It is easy- it is happening at a school near you..,

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CHANGE

The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”
–Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.,
U.S. Supreme Court justice

 To me the quote suggests that wisdom sees the individual in a situation and is able to listen and put reason and context into a judgement.  

I joined Mothers against Drunk Driving before I became a mom.  I am the last person to be in a position to defend a student for being slightly under the influence- but I also know kids- and know that schools inadvertently encourage drinking when they set up rules and arbitrarily decide who will be punished.  I also know that kids have their own code of honour and expecting one student to call out fifty more is a ridiculous notion.   

“Zero Tolerance”- imagine if that really were put into place beyond the school system- no need for a legal profession then/ after all, no need to weigh the crime of a stealing of a loaf of bread ( Victor Hugo – yes- Les Miserables) against the crime of cold blooded murder- no need to weigh anything at all- no need for perspective, understanding-balance- just… punishment.    And no worries if the punishment fit the crime- OH – but that’s a dystopia-  can’t possibly be what one wants from or for an education system.  

Teach Literature to students really offering them an understanding of the issues at hand and sit back and listen to how much kids do care- and stop sending mixed messages.  As a mom, I know the difference between a small infraction and a major one, and silently or vocally as the occasion demands praise the positive and give thanks that the testing the waters of adolescents is, in the grand scheme of things, about generally safe exposure to new ideas and sometimes, new tastes.

Change-  Kids change – when adults let them; over punishment doesn’t allow for change and may in fact push the student in the opposite direction.  People -and kids are people too- need to feel a sense of control over their lives.  Remove that sense and all that is encouraged is rebellion.  I know of a beautiful young student whose participation at her High School has been exemplary, whose one indiscretion is being held up without being weighed or even set beside the four years of non-stop team school participatory action.  Zero-tolerance? As adults, as educators, as parents, we ought to be fighting tooth and nail against such an empty slogan; a zero-tolerance society is not going to create future leaders who are capable of recognizing exceptions.