Category Archives: games, thinking, writing, students, knowledge,learning

Dressing Up, Acting Out, Enjoying being a Student!

 

Junior High and the first foray into – wait for it- Makeup!

and in schools today there are still students who exit their homes, faces scrubbed, to make it to the school washrooms fifteen minutes early- in time to apply the newest in eye shadows or lipsticks etc. to apply a slightly different persona for the duration of the school day- a little flirty maybe, a little tough?

Not only the girls – many a young man adjusts his cap, the walk, the talk, the total “attitude” to either appear cool or to be what he considers necessary to “fit in” and there is the unspoken recognition that some of it is also to be different from the adult expectations of the day. And Schools furiously dictate notes and send home written mandates for what is expected dress, and style, as if this surface view ever truly reflected the students posturing, or the student’s understanding of where they fit into the hierarchy of a campus, the code of “behaviour” that operates beyond principal, teacher or family and is centered in “teenager” – the wonderful growing space between twelve and twenty!

Shouldn’t we be celebrating these changes instead of being afraid of them? Fashion after all is a clear example of not only how ephemeral “the right outfit” may be, but of politics, the arts, technology, power structures, group versus individual behavior, male versus female dominance, cliques, teams, belonging and experimenting. And while our children may not actually wish for our votes of approval regarding their specific ways to not necessarily rebel but indeed to grow, we needn’t be the ones constantly worrying about societal approval when instead the people truly deserving if unable to ask for our approval are our kids! And kids do find it hard to ask for that so very basic statement of “I trust you!” that some parents forget is central to allowing children to take chances- for that trust doesn’t and mustn’t mean that if a child wishes to share his/her being upset regarding anything, that guilt (the result of disappointing trust) be laid on top of anyone – or any other type of discomfort.

Guilt is not a cleansing nor a helpful emotion- and the discretions kids make rarely deserve such a depth of negative control; instead children require the openness to discuss what did or not appeal- what did or did not in their opinion “work.” And to be given the time to communicate without pressure to conform. 

We worry- that is part of our role as adults, but we mustn’t worry so much that we forget to indulge and enjoy the wonderful uniqueness that our own children display- thankfully not clones– young, growing, learning, and displaying their own personalities enroute to being what society will later label, “adults.”   In the interim, let’s note their individuality with respect, let’s smile at what they find amusing, let’s recognize who they feel are hurtful, and do what we can to understand how they must, to grow, experiment on their own- not living vicariously through an older generation but making their own mark and establishing and dismissing their own set of goals and dreams while they gradually and sometimes fearlessly break away from the staid and the safe to attempt to understand what skills they possess, how these skills can be further developed, and whom they might inquire of for opportunity to learn more.

Principals, teachers, administrative staff and parents will continue to appear to be communicating about the kids in the exchange of letters home or phone calls or in person “meet the teacher,” nights, but the reality is after and for a number of years all of the above will be talking about and around the children, while the children make plans themselves to challenge one another, to encourage one another, and to spread the very basic attitude of “growing up” by either supporting one another or in the worst of situations, ostracizing one another.  The best we as the recognized adults may do is be there, to listen without preaching, and to love without scolding.  We owe this to each new generation. They depend on us for it.

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For an interesting overview of clothing and the concept of vulgarity- tops too short, hair too spiked, pants worn too low, anything “different,” an excerpt on the “idea of vulgarity” (remember people make these rules up and they change constantly over time!) –  is shared in the recent Harpers Bazaar magazine Sept. 2016 – Vulgarity-The Basic Instinct-As Joan Juliet Buck writes- “in your face is never out of style!”

School uniforms may be the rule- but kids- they just wanna be cool! Remember the old mantra- “Don’t sweat the small stuff” – and focus on encouraging instead of confining. Ms Buck also mentioned “Decibels” and tiny children enjoying a “shrill shriek” – enter a Junior or senior High School and listen for a brief moment! “piercing shrieks for the sheer fun of rendering the air” and laughter, and …yup- Learning!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer blogging…

Yeah, it is hard to resist forms of puns even in the summer time; and Grease is a movie that reminds me of what many students do experience during the summer- a total change of pace! And this is why it becomes extra important for us as educators to view the returning/incoming students with “Fresh Eyes” and not with expectations from which ever report some school official may have filed the previous year; it is also why as Educators we must view parents in the same light- a light that opens the classroom to the parent’s view, and allows for the “newness” of the new academic year.

P for personal

R for real

I  for each of us

V for value

A for action

C for care

Y for yes- the thing that each of us expects-

At one point my classroom walls had an acronym for RESPECT, then I spoke with various students over the years and uncovered that for many Respect is demonstrated when Privacy is permitted; kids do have, especially from middle school on, a desire to discover their own personalities via “trial and error” and all the potential each finds, we, as Educators, have a responsibility to encourage! In 2016 when “Grease” the movie or the musical, and the 1950s and “Summer Loving” may seem to be taking a step backward in favor of “Star Trek Beyond” or “Ghostbusters (2016)” students are still having experiences that are neither academic nor necessarily quantifiable, during their “vacations” which for more and more students are amounting to less and less “free time” and instead do involve part-time or full-time jobs, travelling, or even academic work when students feel pressure to use every moment to gain a credit or pick up a dropped course … In sum, Summer Vacations may never have actually been “carefree”  (1950s movie depiction) but they might continue to provide people with a chance to – for a little while- step out of the prescribed roles their regular academic social circle defines and allow both teachers and students to be just a little more daring, just a little more “themselves”; for teachers too tend to get typecast within the culture of a school, and today with global connections and online “PLNs” many of us as Educators are constantly happy to explore new aspects of teaching the “same curriculum even if newly labelled” via hearing how our contemporaries are sharing the knowledge and encouraging growth at their respective centers.

It is fun to – have a new positive experience, meet new people, work on a personal challenge, or even simply daydream for a lengthy while, minus the interruptions of the bell; and of course some of the summer experiences could be mis-educative, and instead of encouraging, point a person in the direction away from growth via instilling a little too much grit- sand paper wears something down if improperly applied!

So instead of the intro letter about “how I spent my summer” which used to be expected as the new litmus test to determine if students could remember how to write a paragraph or two, why not give the students a few weeks to jump right into the new classroom environment and to sign up for which ever extra curriculars the school is making possible, letting the students and the teachers reflect themselves on who they are meeting anew- that almost grown up “stranger” may actually be oneself, entering the classroom with a newer perspective as a more “open” educator- less ready to accept what the last set of teachers declared about a student and more curious to participate in the developing and refining of “this year” and who is before one- “Sandra Dee” or “John Travolta” or a variation of any character from Comic Con- real people still, and allow the students to share their feelings over the material you select for the “diverse” classrooms you will be teaching in; privacy also means that educators “Not Assume” so that when students are learning to show both empathy and understanding no one erroneously jumps in to suggest they must only have the personal at stake- more than likely they are actually showing that the learning is affecting them, allowing them to care about people beyond themselves and their narrow circle; we as Educators must remember to let kids change- isn’t this what real learning and evolving is meant to demonstrate?

In advance of 2016-2017-  or if your place has already begun or is beginning the new Academic year- GOOD LUCK! Educators could always benefit from a dose of luck and a well stocked library!

 

 

 

“Don’t split those”

The Pit boss overheard me and smiled, because the table was always busy and after my first day he, the Pit Boss, had learned that it added to customer’s satisfaction to understand the rules of the game instead of their sitting down and playing blind. Not only did my table see returning players, but also they were suggesting the table was “hot” even when they lost a hand! I even ventured to ask some of the “card sharks” why they returned if they lost what to me as a young dealer seemed like a great deal of money!

Yes I heard the standard, “your smile,” comments, but also I learned how many people appreciated the feeling of chance that seemed to enter the picture when they genuinely understood the rules and appreciated how luck entered – that added element of surprise which blesses one and which may accompany effort.

Now as an Educator when preparing workshops for Children and Adults, the rules are what I spend time clarifying- then it is “hands -off” to allow participants to fully engage in whichever action they are drawn to.  And recently I came across a wonderful book that reminded me how much the rules of Life vary and depend on chance; “you pays yer money and you take your chances,” when it comes to the ordinary stuff like falling in love, and growing a family, and changing direction a multitude of times. I am referring to a book which I reluctantly returned to the Library and now must purchase to add to my own Library- and it is not yet a classic having been published only recently: Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Unfinished Business; a story which chronicles her own decision to put children first and take a hiatus from a powerful political position, to focus on her family..  However her story is extra unique for single mothers, in that it suggests how even with a loving husband, and full bank account, making the decision was difficult  (for Ms. Slaughter) knowing that time away from professional endeavors can become no further opportunity for professional endeavors.  For Ms. Slaughter it was a choice; for many it is simply the only option.

Sometimes we stumble across an idea at just the right time.  That is serendipity, and recognizing the ways in which everything appears to be coming together we select a course that promises to provide the options we crave to continue moving forward; very soon, so many students will be donning cap and gown, or opting to not attend their own ceremonies, or simply breathing sighs of relief that a number of years of grind is being fulfilled and in a few weeks making their “commencement” a reality.  Were I to be giving a speech I would insert the hope that even if non-gamblers, they set sight on a few tables where they feel they could earn clear opportunity to proceed, to learn the basics, and then to take the newly acquired skills and understanding and -share them. 

  For we learn when we apply knowledge and when we see the results.  And we extend that learning when we apply reflection, and consider how to continuously improve.

Currently the image of Donald Trump, front runner in American politics and initially presumed unlikely as a politician, is proving again that it is not only money that allows one to take chances, it is also knowing the rules, and when it may be possible to not only gamble for fun, but to also invite others along and suggest they too take a chance and play for a while.

Mr. Trump and Ms. Slaughter are on different “teams,” and reading one and listening to the other gives insight into what a Democracy enables, not merely free speech but also the possibility of change. To an Educator that possibility is essential for it allows us to continue clarifying, continue sharing and continue to enjoy when those at “our table” take home some winnings. 

 

 

 

Using Visuals to Enhance Writing Skills

 

Eggroll

Sometimes it is the simplicity and the symmetry that draws the eye. When students are asked to create a story, offering a picture prompt plus open brainstorming together will allow students to recognize what is meant when asking for a written “thick” description and students may create a background or plot for?

Who might be coming to dinner? Is it an ordinary occasion? Where is the setting? At home or elsewhere? Could they add a mystery/suspense to their short vignette?

Image, plot, character study, setting, use of adjectives, vocabulary enhancer- all ages/levels, writing skills

Image from La vie et Belle hollymdunning.blogspot.ca spring eggrolls, Vietnam

“He Didn’t Knock”

The lines in the title for this post come from a 1995 movie Dangerous Minds. “He didn’t knock” repeats the character of LouAnne Johnson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNLZjVmcHh8 – wondering at the amazing disconnect between the principal at the school, and the students the teacher had come to know and care for. As mentioned, the movie came out in 1995- I wish I could write that things have changed, that such a scene in varying degrees couldn’t possibly continue to be played out in real schools today.

I know of a school where many of the teachers actually do “teach from the heart” and so can see their students as individuals – looking beyond type to real character. Such teachers are not unique, however they are at times hobbled by a system that would neglect the child in favour of a “rule” – I have said it before and I will say it again- people make mistakes- and children are people. And each child’s transgression ought to be viewed independently and in light of the whole environment in which an action took place. When I hear or see an administrator who is so bound up in punishment and whose attitude has demoralized staff I know that politics has taken over and the kids individually and collectively will suffer. When students attending a school function spontaneously chant the name of a former principal they are sending a strong message – when that same principal- who cannot punish everyone – decides to make a scapegoat out of one child in reaction, a child who wasn’t even involved in the chanting but who happened to be aware of the event- that principal oversteps the bounds of the job.

Teachers are continuously encouraged to be “life long learners”; to continue to learn and grow, and to take seriously their responsibility to the students in their charge. Do we really not expect as least this much from the administrator? To be able to demonstrate flexibility in relation to situations may stave anarchy; to be rigid and cruel is to practice behaviour associated with the term demagogue. Sadly, the “He didn’t knock” syndrome isn’t restricted to characters in film. LouAnne Johnson, whose text School is Not a Four Letter Word notes “too many rules can impede a child’s progress”; the wrong restrictions do damage. Principals needn’t demonstrate the overwhelming ignorance of “He didn’t knock” – such characters are modeling only one thing- power.

I have been on a soapbox today having recently met a “He didn’t knock” style principal. Have readers any advice how to awaken such a closed mind- the truly most dangerous kind?

March Break Ideas

http://cookit.e2bn.org/recipes/

When I find a great site I like to share it! Are you at home this week and thinking of activities to do with your children over March Break? In addition to the many great institutions that have hands-on activities for the week, cooking together at home is an opportunity to share creativity- boys and girls can enjoy selecting the food products, planning the meals and helping with the clean up.  Reading a recipe IS reading and incorporates math and science too!  Plus when you go to a website such as the one offered above, you may compare food choices from earlier times with popular foods today. 

Hope people are getting outside too and enjoying the mild Toronto weather. 

as always, best regards, from Ali the English Tutor-

ps I am here over the break and open for students daytime as well as after school and weekends.  Also now offering lessons over SKYPE  at mytutoringspace1 . 

Other activities:

http://ebw.evergreen.ca/        Evergreen Brick Works-    you can cook here too!

http://www.rom.on.ca/marchbreak/     The Rom has a sale on!

http://www.ago.net/grange-historic-kitchen-tours    Have you been to the AGO but missed the Grange?

http://www.ago.net/teenager-hamlet-screening-and-qa-with-artist-margaux-williamson     have a student in high school working on HAMLET?

http://www.ago.net/march-break-2012     Specials for the week at the Art Gallery of Ontario

http://maplesyrupfest.com/        The Maple Syrup Festival is really sweet!

http://www.hhof.com/htmlNewsPromo/newsMarchBreak.shtml      Hockey Hall of Fame- then lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory

http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/calendar/marchbreak/     March Break means SUPER DOGS at the Science Centre

What might really help?

I remember when the concept of distance education was being discussed in graduate school only from the potential to aid students in rural areas or students who might not otherwise have had access to teachers.  Many an hour was spent debating the merits of this “future form of teaching and learning” and this was only a little over a decade ago.  Today we take for granted the relative simplicity and beauty of communicating over distances thanks to personal technology. But with this growth in on-line learning has developed a new breed of student- the student who will buy a credit without doing the work. Of course, not all students who sign up for distance education plan on cheating, in fact, I think many do not even realize that this is what they are doing in asking a tutor to “just sit beside me and answer the questions when I take the test”.  Or am I still being willfully naive?

     A recent rash of requests to do just that – to either write the paper for a student, or to take the test for a student has made me wonder.  Though not yet an epidemic, is this the future of education?  And I know that there are “tutors” willing to do the full work for the student which says something else about the education system- too many underemployed.   

  Yes competition can be fierce. Today’s student is growing up tech savvy and a student’s discovering ways around a system is not something new.  What to me is new is that adults are often behind the student and encouraging the practice.  When we as tutors share knowledge in such a way that students, regardless of age or background, can feel empowered and able to use the skills and move beyond the basics to create their own set of “personal, practical knowledge”  then as tutors we will have achieved a basic goal of education: to encourage curiosity in others, to facilitate growth.  “Character education”, “problem solving skills” “lessons in empathy”, are the new buzz words and hardly a curriculum can be found that isn’t touting these phrases.  What might really help? Reading skills everyone, comprehension practice, readings from the literature of other countries/ other cultures/ other time periods.  Learning by doing happens when the words on the page have an effect on the reader and affect change.  Change is good – it is a part of growing.  I challenge you to find a classic, modern or traditional, or one of today’s “best sellers”, that doesn’t, in one way or another, through the story, further the development of all three.  Active reading is a wonderful key.