Category Archives: lesson sharing

“Art” and giving Thanks

Smiling when I think of certain art pieces and children’s reactions when they first encounter the “Art” ; with the approaching American Thanksgiving weekend my thoughts have been on a space across the Ocean- Barcelona Spain where Museums feature two children’s favorites – Picasso and Miro!

Critics may enjoy declaring “a child could do that,”- and then ought to remember Picasso was known for suggesting that everyone needs to hold onto that early child each of us grows up from, and to honour the excitement that provides entertainment when we as adults encounter something new.  But it is Miro and the work of Miro which personally holds strong appeal: bright colours, fun shapes, stories within stories…

This weekend as many families either shop or watch a Football game, and wonder if they are allowing the children too much screen time, head on over to a museum with that very computer on line or simply google the artist and have the children self select which picture amuses; then look up the image and try to draw or colour a picture in similar fashion.  Many of the artists also look at “Nature” from a personal perspective, and with the weather on the cusp of a new season,  a brisk neighborhood walk after the Thanksgiving meal can find “treasures” – leaves and whatever else depending on which part of the States one is located in.  Paper, children’s glue, tape, crayons, even the boxes that may have accumulated from the extra groceries purchased in preparation of a gathering all may become “art supplies” and when children see Art that has moved beyond representation, to encompass the imaginary, (Miro admired Calder- with parent’s help a clothes hangar is suddenly transformed into a hanging mobile..) the spirit of play and creativity may emerge.  And just think- as parents you will be encouraging a life long love of this “maker concept” that you may be hearing about from teachers… it begins with first taking a Look. Artists do see our world differently, able to question and suggest where some areas could be improved ( consider the cast of “Hamilton” (the Broadway play)  and their fervent appeal to future leaders to respect Humanity and to honour the Freedoms those very Founders depicted in the play were fighting for.

images which continue to make me smile: 

  1. my children
  2. their art work
  3. places and experiences we have together…

and often the “unexpected!”  

Happy Thanksgiving! When people come together to simply celebrate “being together.”  A unique non-denominational day that allows each of us to take stock and consider the extraordinary; that a country could be filled with so many with different roots, and that over-all the simple celebration of harvest time could grow to be the event which for a brief weekend may remind everyone that there is a common ground.  

P.S. remember to have the children sign and date their creations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clear Example of STEAM in Action

Rio Olympics 2016! Absolutely lovely-

How can anyone still be questioning the value of either the Arts in Education or Sports on the curriculum?

Technology brought us the action and thanks to Time Zones and solid internet connections we were able to enjoy the blend of cultures and courage that strutting one’s talent in front of millions demands- and in “real time” watching as spectators from home while the action in Rio splashed or danced or cycled or ran or jumped…across our screens.

So Science and Technology and Engineering developed and improved the internet allowing the Olympic events to reach Global audiences – unlike those earlier Olympics which took place even before radio announcers- Imagine! when only those in the stadiums really were able to participate as spectators – the rest of the world believing that such events were for the economically wealthy who could afford to be there in person – today we rejoice alongside those in attendance or empathise when an athlete sheds a tear…

But the ARTS improved on the entire set of performances- from the opening ceremonies which greeted athletes and spectators alike, through to the closing speeches and the recognition for Tokyo to carry the torch.  In between we watched, cheered, groaned, and admired the marvelous differences in HUMAN BEINGS- from the gymnasts to the wrestlers; seeing the marathon runners feet firmly on the ground and the pole vaulters defying gravity to surprise themselves at times with their own wins; and quietly cheering the people working behind the scenes – yes the coaches who actually appeared front and centre but also all the designers and artists who helped build the stages and platforms, e.g. the landscape for events like the final Olympic mountain biking- blending with natural structures and terrain but finished by landscape artists who enhanced a “natural” area; and Kudos to the designers and artists who used fashion sense and modern technolgy to create the costumes the athletes wore- combining the best of known materials with the cultural symbols expected at a multi country event;  -ARTS< SPORTS<TECHNOLOGY, Global reach- all exemplified in that amazingly constructed new space for holding the Olympic torch-

Four years of participatory planning and practicing and communicating and learning and growing- for everyone co-ordinating the events whether as particpant or volunteer would have experienced the sense of competition that goes into every milestone each of us accomplishes. Ultimately, like each of the athletes, we are competing with ourselves.  And from the youngest in preschool through post -secondary education, every formal or informal student of life knows this.  And as Humans we need that encouragement from one another to become the front runners, to have the ability to “pick ourselves up and try again” or even to keep believing in our abilites and desires to do more- to learn more- to achieve more…

As countries look at expenditure for the Sports, the Arts and for Technology – let’s look at EDUCATION- and recognize that there is a place for each type of learning and learner- for only through working together could any event produce such positive results- the Olympics celebrate the HUMAN SPIRIT; our schools should be celebrating this too!

 

 

 

 

For 2016: Schooling and Positively Purposeful

One activity a day please –that is to FOCUS on;

YOGA

Yes

Open

Gesture stretch move repose

Actions to allow learning to settle

As an actual person from the 70s (1970s) I do recall the wave of books and fringe groups discussing TMR and meditation along with green tea and incense burning- but I was more into other things. Today in looking at Curriculum and asking why and where school wide learning balances The Arts and Phys Ed with core Academic subjects, and questions about exam preparation, student worries ( anxiety is too much a buzzword to truly apply to all students ) and what simple additions could have lasting effect on a schools atmosphere, two things continuously surface. Basic nutrition for all, and peaceful meditative practice.

 

Settle isn’t a bad word, in fact it is a word with multiple meanings- we despairingly suggest one shouldn’t settle for something that doesn’t automatically appear to be the perfect fit, yet we applaud those people who appear to be “settled” as in having found some stability from which to grow. And now that winter storms may soon engulf a city in snow, little is more pleasant than to look outside and see a streetscape where after the wind and blowing pellets, the snow has actually settled. Consider then how we discuss the feeling of ideas swirling around and refer to this as a “brainstorm.” And how one field of thought exhorts: create mind maps, another, put it in a list, and ever others, just begin and let the writing flow. But still there will be the students who can’t begin, some who can’t sit still, others who appear glued to their seats but whose pencils rarely make a mark on a page, and between these extremes are the students who simply need to understand what the term calm actually means. Enter “YOGA.”

 

In 2016 YOGA is not “fringe” but decidedly mainstream. And the beauty of it is that it is portable; certainly trained professional teachers will manage classes and here a person may learn exact techniques and increase, level by level, until able to move the body into near magical poses; however back to basics when it comes to a school wide system, and the goal of simply encouraging students to “be.” And doesn’t each of us benefit from having the ability to allow for inner calm even when under stressful situations? So let’s start with the youngest students and increase the practice throughout the grades and remove any discomfort in allowing students to “zone out” for a brief period – active daydreaming if you will, instead of just pushing the call for “makers,” let’s recall that thinking requires quiet time, too.

 

And as we as Educators continue to push for “Healthy Schools” let’s nourish the body too! If full time lunch programs are not doable in a district could healthful snack breaks fit into the budget? Having participated where schools offered something as simple as a ½ orange or ½ banana to students twice a day and recognized that the break also allowed for light conversation, then valued the renewed vigor when students tackled coursework, can vouch that sometimes even the simplest of gestures have lasting benefits. Makers and doers, thinkers and tinkerers, schools owe it to their staff and students to create and encourage learning awareness; one of the better ways is to help increase school wide non-analytical action. The reflections can occur during the relaxed periods; instead of being imposed upon students may begin to find reflection a natural occurrence. And then, when asked to consider various options, recognize that in addition to brainstorming, allowing ideas to settle is worthwhile too.

Margins

 

What do you do if your nature and training says “leader” but your personality says “don’t control?” You become an Educator. You lead, encourage, exemplify, and demonstrate how to bring out the best in others, without controlling them.

Teachers don’t just make things happen, they allow people to change and grow!  Format, question, draft and resolution, names for activities, but what is going on inside, the curiousity, ambition, challenges and achievements are personal; students own them and proceed forward with each iteration, constantly refining themselves and reminding us as Educators how very essential it is to make room for the surprise responses, the non-conventional answers, the real thinking to progress.

 

 

 

 

 

Differentiated Instruction

A request came to elaborate on my last blog post, and clarify how a similar lesson was offered in different fashion to different students.  The Topic was the “Chinese New Year”  and I had mentioned in the last blog post how a couple of  students questioned the widely used title for the holiday- feeling the title had ignored their place of birth and own celebrations.

Together we discussed how families celebrate holidays, and looked at the skeleton of a human body.  The lesson moved on to talk about how skeletons may appear basically similar but the skin and outer garments of a person suggest both our similarities and our differences.  Then, we created an outline for the holiday itself- the Lunar Calendar, and using a combination of graphic charts, Venn diagrams, and reference material, on and off line, were able to highlight how and where the material – reference material- differed from the student’s personal practical knowledge.  His way of celebrating within his family- the specific traditions- became the focus of a written piece, the general traditions which appeared in common to the people of China and the other South Asian communities which we had looked up became affixed to a poster, and diagrams were extended to highlight how and where traditions may have changed, with reference to a timeline.

A simple question formed the basis of a full project, leading to a number of sessions while one aspect of inquiry encouraged deeper research and the review of geography plus history texts.  Given that literacy involves more than the deciphering of words on a page, the project enhanced literacy and began to involve math as well.  Statistics present in population charts, and cultural change over time brought us back to the present day, and the ways in which a topic may be extended.   Another student not of South Asian background had grown curious and was given the task of sharing one of his family customs- provided similar effort at understanding background and connecting the personal to the global would be shared.

The students were of different ages and at different grade levels- the expectation then was for the project work to demonstrate their different understanding of “how much is enough” – by not setting a page limit or restricting the amount they could share, the students “created”  work to share and were influenced by peer comments- questions and responses which I encouraged them to write down.  This was not a full class project – other students were working on other activities.  And it is only one example of how educators must become more open to what students may be asking, and when their students are craving some outside- of- routine work.

Much as I have put aside the assigned test prep packages and instead suggested articles in the Economist and other magazines to higher level students prepping for standardized  tests, and saw the test scores of said students jump – it was a pleasure to see the interest in the younger  students mentioned above, and to note that  when the standardized tests were offered, these students scored high as well.

Students had been encouraged to look for patterns, and to develop a personal set of inquiry based responses to their readings.  They were also encouraged to aim for accuracy over speed.

My personal pet wish: that the learning which goes into programming for students deemed “special ed”, be they remedial or gifted, would be training encouraged and expected for all new incoming teachers, so that differentiated instruction could become a part of programming across the board, and in large sized classes the movement among groups of students become more fluid.  Students themselves quickly absorb attempts to stream, and note which tables they are seated at, which work they are given, and which level they are expected to participate at.  Mind set and flow-two ideas that are meant to work together.