Category Archives: good wishes, new year, growth, teaching, change, learning, school

A Blog posting…

A Rant about “Labels”

“Fresh before” does help us grocery shop- we can buy with ease products that we believe will stay fresh on our shelves or in our cupboards until consumed.  And when we understand about such labels that products may still be both tasty and healthful even after the stamped date- we can buy the products often on discount and not only save money on the goods, but also contribute to the environment via causing less waste and with the current public awareness of “less than perfect” produce being equally tasty and good, awareness is changing the way we shop for food-

Labels, and awareness of how they may be positive and negative at the same time is essential for all connected to Education. For every sign that used to be posted on a clasroom and which read “Failure is not an option” the counter (or opposite) sign in a Science lab might show Edison and his maxim about trying to find the right formula at least a thousand times.  What then is the “ideal sign” for a classroom wall?  WELCOME! and in here there will be no labels.  

For children learn quickly what is considered their own ability and their own strength in relation to the others in the classroom.  Affixing additional labels may help administration in using computers to slot the children into various groups- it doesn’t however help the students themselves.  Most labels in Education have to do with funding- how a school, or a district, or class, or individual students may receive “extra,”- and when the entire school district receives funding, the neighbourhood benefits- however, when a student is mislabeled the student may be removed from one group of peers and placed instead within a community of “misfits” to then on struggle to not only make sense of “Schooling” which becomes a place where little learning is happening, but to, if actually graduating – to graduate with the label of “problem, trouble, slow, applied, special needs, remedial,” and then either reject what schooling offered, or challenge this same system anyhow by going for a future that those labels couldn’t have predicted! In particular the concept of “Special needs” ranges from highly gifted and talented to students with multiple exceptionalities- who may also be gifted-and students who are mis identified as hyper or attention deficit when their inquiry or their attitude or their foundational knowledge base or their background makes the particular class and teacher student interaction one of challenge versus “empty vessel to be filled.”

In so many ways though, that concept of children as “empty vessels” must be overturned in favour of children as learners- period.  And children must challenge, everything and nearly everyone in order to grow- new ideas will not come unless children and adults are both thinking, and both actively willing to be “imperfect,”  to make, create or build something that might not in the completed project match the original vision, but then to question how to improve upon the construction.  Classrooms where inquiry is respected have students who challenge themselves, and who bring extra information to the benefit of the group- like in the workforce where cultures aimed towards growth will find employees participating beyond clocked hours in contemplating how and where to focus energy on improving, and no one is saying or groaning “homework” because the problem solving is the challenge and the actions to be taken provide a stimulation for brain and body- healthy challenges that permit contradictions and design thinking.

We speak of “design” as if it were a simple process, when in fact design is a holistic attitude towards the combination of use (function) and form.  And then in schools we over crowd, underpay, and underfund the neediest of school districts, whose students may even later be sent as “overflow” to higher income neigbourhood schools and once again relabelled; how to “use” as in place these extra students? with the goal often of continuing to claim “setting standards” which may translate to keeping the formal test results up and proving on paper that learning took place.  Integration?  Diversity? Ministry tests as goals or as cumbersome to the whole concept of education?

Labels matter- we all are aware of this – and even the popular “you matter” becomes another slogan when much needed time per pupil, per person, per individual is shortened to mandated minutes, and a stopwatch always clicking off minutes prevents the actual interactions – creating encounters instead of communication.  Young, youngish, older, and seasoned Educators can agree that statistics do not capture commmunity, that labels, even the so called positive ones, may mask the personality of the person and that as human beings, each of us recognizes almost instinctively when in fact we do matter- and when we simply do not or have not “fit in.”

The produce table is now selling “less than perfect” vegetables; and in many elementary schools the notion of wearing “less than perfect” hats continues to catch on- almost like a movement spread from teacher to teacher, and community to community, this new ideal of accepting “not perfect” doesn’t mean “discard” but instead encourages taking a chance- try the produce – try the exercise- try and try again.

For 2017- do “try” until the right combination of people and place and actions allow for the almost unexpected exclamation “perfect!” till we begin- again.  Best wishes…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

consider…

 

dmd-1

dmd-2

Definition of normal

  1. 1: perpendicularespecially :  perpendicular to a tangent at a point of tangency
  2. 2 a:  according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle b :  conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern
  3. 3: occurring “naturally”          (Webster’s Dictionary)

Whatever you are celebrating and however you celebrate, Wishing  YOU pleasant experiences and a “positive” Holiday!  

( and if like me, you believe the Arts may teach us something, enjoy this movie too!)  

Why do we have special days? today is http://abclifeliteracy.ca/family-literacy-day

http://abclifeliteracy.ca/family-literacy-day

   Moved over winter break and put blogging on hold for a period.  Now settling into a lovely, light filled space and thinking about the objects that make my live/work environment “home”.   The majority of the objects are books- no surprise then that promoting literacy in all its aspects has been dear to my heart. 

  When my children were still toddlers I recall blithely reciting nursery rhymes as we climbed a series of stairs “one, two, buckle my shoe, three, four, shut the door..”  as automatically as pointing out neighbourhood symbols  (sense of place) and encouraging everyday math in the kitchen “Let’s halve this recipe”.  When one day a stranger interrupted with ” Don’t you ever stop teaching?!”  I laughed it off, and recalling this today know that if teaching truly involves the constant recognition of encouraging thinking, appreciating effort, and recognizing ways to connect real world experiences to in – school learning then, no, I never stop teaching.  In similar fashion I love the spontaneous communications of thoughtfulness my two children offer, and have been known to say, “everyday is Mother’s day”. 

I realise though that there is a feeling of belonging that is generated when Days become official.  Kudos to abc life literacy .ca, and the establishment of a family literacy day.    At their website, posted above, you will find many free downloadable activities to make today, and I hope many future days, one in which “Literacy”  and activities that encourage the higher level thinking skills, enter into regular communication.  And do remember, to all who are fortunate in having a second and third language, keep practicing.  All studies continue to show the benefits of being multilingual. 

 

Two weeks into this school year…

But who is counting? Well, I am…

That first week for many is so confusing and I always enjoy recognizing when a return to routine and a little  bit of order appears to have entered; students grow visibly calmer- and their parents- sometimes the relief is tangible.

Both a mom and an educator I am privy to the early morning hustle, the rush out the door with that wonderful mix of hope and determination that students can exude.   And thankfully, I am occasionally at home at just the right time to listen to what did transpire during their day.  Only occasionally though, for as a tutor, my time in the early evenings may be spoken for and occupied with students.  I have learned the real meaning of quality time, and how to stay put as one or the other child opens up and shares knowledge of who he or she is becoming.

Third Year University and Grade Twelve- amazing- and they look at me and ask me if I feel old…Older I say, and realize yet again, that the best part about being an educator is being curious to learn more about almost everything, and to have students who are willing to share ideas that may be very different from mine and therefore definitely worth discussing.

Today was my birthday- how exciting to look forward to the rest of the year.

Sound and light shows

Given the flooding that recently hit the east coast I now realize that the storm I was listening to and seeing flash across my otherwise calm skies managed to leave a great deal of damage in its wake.  This note was written on Saturday evening, August 27th, and upon wakening to news of the flood I hesitated to share it… see post script as well, thank you …

It’s raining, it’s pouring and the last thing I want to do is fall asleep and start snoring…I confess, I LIKE a good rain storm.  The sound and light show this past hour has been terrific, rock concert loud with electricity appearing to be bouncing off the lower than usual flying planes on route to landing.  And I am the only one on my street standing outside revelling in it! It could come from my enjoyment of movies, where rain is such an often used symbol for change, but I; I don’t know, but ever since I first learned about Thor and the others who might be wreaking havoc or simply playing a game of bowling in the sky I have enjoyed contemplating what (other than the scientific facts) might be going on up in the skies. Which brings me back to the Humanities, the wonderful fables, analogies, myths, legends, archetypal legends, and narratives that suggest how rain is both a fertility symbol (plants do need rain to grow) and a cleansing, quieting prelude to new beginnings.  The images are strong and can be found throughout cultures- My front door was wide open, and Nature’s Rain Stick was helping me plan for tomorrow-

The News of Hurricane Irene brought home the strong potent reminder that “Nature” can be a lot more than merely entertaining.  While I had enjoyed the power that the sky was sharing, and been distracted from personal worries by the local storm (Toronto was not affected by Hurricane Irene) many were experiencing horrific scenes:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/americas/irenes-death-toll-jumps-as-us-towns-battle-floods-millions-wait-for-power/article2145442/

“We were expecting heavy rains,” said Bobbi-Jean Jeun of Clarksville, a hamlet near Albany, N.Y. “We were expecting flooding. We weren’t expecting devastation. It looks like somebody set a bomb off.”

Irene killed at least five people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The first known casualty was a woman who died trying to cross a swollen river in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

The death toll for 11 eastern U.S. states had stood at 21 as of Sunday night, then rose sharply to at least 38 as bodies were pulled from floodwaters and people were struck by falling trees or electrocuted by downed power…”  (Globe and Mail see ink above)

Not exactly the simple poetry of idyllic walks or fantastic dreams- a harsh reminder to respect nature and our place within it. 

 

 

I do not like my computer right now-

I confess: I find some activities super energizing and others just plain tiresome.  I am constantly trying to “love” learning more about the inner workings of this machine, but know I am not going to become a “techie” any day soon.  In fact, I constantly amaze myself by how much more there is to learn before I will be able to claim to be treating this computer as much more than a glorified typewriter.

What then does keep me slogging away at the keyboard and attempting understanding of computer codes?  An irritating inability to quit and admit defeat.  I want to understand the computer with the same ease and fluency that many of my students exhibit.  Earlier today, my painstaking gathering of email addresses in alphabetical order so that I could issue a (new for me) marketing blurb was something that another, more skilled user, might have accomplished in under 1/2 an hour- and I didn’t feel that marvellous once the deed was done.  Yet creating the brochure had been a lot of fun, and the follow up of sending it forth ought to have elicited, if nothing else, a sense of relief. Done, and done…

The tedium then must be the result of my recognizing that little technique had been exhibited in the actual sending of the mail, just painstaking repetition, and as often happens when I think about learning, I began to wonder how to make the experience not only more enjoyable for myself, but also how to remember that feeling; how to best understand the efforts many students offer- efforts that suggest the students remain confused about where and how to improve their written submissions, just as I remain puzzled over what button I could have pressed to speed up this afternoon’s process.

This machine has “a lot of potential”.  We describe students the same way, and a report might suggest “Bobby is/is not working to ‘potential’”.  But what is potential?  And how annoying to offer that remark on a report without more clearly defining goals and steps that could be taken to achieve them.  As I prepare for the upcoming school year and excitedly look forward to reconnecting with students and their families and hearing from others who are in new situations, I have decided to challenge the whole notion of “potential” and replace the term with others I find more satisfactory: acquiring, achieving, absorbing, demonstrating, focusing on, and uh hmmm, and learning.  And should I see that “Bobby” is finding something tiresome, I will remember what it feels like to struggle with an unknowable task – and change direction.  Learning through doing? Certainly.  But also learning with understanding. Nike may have a point with their “just do it” slogan, but it is also about doing it right.

On the need to clarify –

On the need to clarify-

I keep this page amongst other pages in a simple file folder for students and parents of students to read.

I do not know who to attribute the original work to- any ideas? thank you as always, best regards,

Please right-click on the reading to enlarge – can you relate?

What’s important?

What’s important? Students (regardless of age) ask this question all the time. Along with, “why do we have to read this?” and “what difference does it make?” And I really want to answer – YOU- You are what’s important. And somehow I have to make you see this, and believe that learning involves relating to the material from a personal perspective, not merely what I or others might say about the work.

We spend so much time in formal classroom situations reminding students to take notes, prepare for tests and quizzes, and to accept marks as the basis for evaluating learning. I wonder though if enough time is actually spent on questioning why some students tune out and choose NOT to demonstrate knowledge. Teaching privately has given me the opportunity to listen when a student “simply doesn’t relate” to a reading that is on their school’s curriculum, Often this is because the reading has been offered as a stand- alone, and not integrated into a whole with other parts of the program. Yet many of the texts do require context to be fully understood. I think often of an experience I had when interning at the New -York Historical Society.

A teacher brought her inner city class to the museum and upon meeting me (then a docent ready to conduct a program) declared loudly ” I hope you can do something with these dullards!” and promptly disappeared for coffee. Fortunately this teacher was an extreme case- most teachers appreciated the out of classroom experience and the chance to broaden not only the students’ but also their own perspective. That teacher though, had made it clear to all in the vicinity that she placed little value on the field trip and even less value on her students’ feelings. Yet the arts, and the study of the humanities, deal precisely with feelings and the opportunity to encourage empathy. The affective stance is important not only for creative growth, but also to build bridges between communities and encourage understanding of different view points. That particular teacher chose not to be involved- ok- but labelling her students “dullards” had been the real shocker. For the record, they were a pleasure to work with. I was able to have them make connections for me and suggest why the exhibit might be relevant to ANYTHING they had been learning in class to that date. And by getting the students involved they taught me about their school and I came to realize that the teacher hadn’t wanted the field trip- a parent had donated the excursion as a “gift” to the class. It may have been that enforced action that had irritated that teacher so strongly; in similar fashion students can reject being told that a text has value.

A caveat: not everyone will find books relaxing or a way to indulge in a mini-escape. Not everyone will become “a reader”. But everyone can be encouraged to question an author’s purpose, to actively listen to the author’s point of view and to present an opinion in a clear, informed manner. This is what academic writing insists upon.

fingerprints

Almost every article that I have read lately states we are supposed to be “authentic” and these readings have left me confused…are the writers suggesting that “authentic ” is a NEW concept? I tell students that as they find their voice their writing will become like a fingerprint, suggestive of who they are and what they are comfortable speaking up for.  But until they find that voice they must try on many styles, and have fun playing devil’s advocate- debating a concept on the side they might disagree with, challenging themselves to think through the opposite set of arguments and come up with support, practice writing from different perspectives, and try reading aloud, hearing the sounds of the words and listening for patterns as they speak – one of the best forms of proof reading.  Mostly though, I want each and every student to know their opinion is valued- but please, go back to the source and find the support in the reading, the research, the notes, and use the sources to back up the opinion- practice- and the writing is bound to improve.

SHARING OPPORTUNITY!

OPPORTUNITY

by: Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

THIS I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:–

There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;

And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged

A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords

Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince’s banner

Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.

A craven hung along the battle’s edge,

And thought, “Had I a sword of keener steel–

That blue blade that the king’s son bears, — but this

Blunt thing–!” he snapped and flung it from his hand,

And lowering crept away and left the field.

Then came the king’s son, wounded, sore bestead,

And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,

Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,

And ran and snatched it, and with battle shout

Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,

And saved a great cause that heroic day.

“Opportunity” is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.