Category Archives: students

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!

 

 

 

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Hope-not fear…

While “failure” might be expected over the course of an individual’s life, and the accepted attitude to failure is that “things happen” and that as educators we must show how the situation can be improved, and begin improving it = training in resilience, I do still think it necessary to remember that what actually builds confidence is success- and that success may mean different things to different people. A person recovering from an accident and learning to move without a crutch will consider being able to climb a flight of stairs “success”, a person frightened to express an idea in class who makes it haltingly through a presentation, has achieved “success”, the child in the applied or remedial group who actually completes a story, and enjoyed reading it – “success”! We all are faced with mini failures on a regular basis, forgot the eggs but remembered the flour? Misplaced the keys, the wallet, the tickets? Yes, these types of things do “happen”. However, knowing that as a culture schools are hierarchical in structure, educators must be on the lookout for the kinds of daily disappointment which some students encounter. Top dogs, in the class, in the playground, in the gym- students and teachers recognize them; and for the majority of the rest, it may not be resilience that they are learning but something much more quietly instilled- an inability to believe in their own self worth.

Humour- please let’s return it to the classroom; let’s show it as a real reaction at times to things that may be if not quite ridiculous, then at least sublime. Laughter is noisy, the real kind erupts from the belly, and like tears will cleanse. And kids know how to laugh- when we let them. Because any piece of writing may be misconstrued, going to state clearly that this is not the laughter at someone, which is a form of ridicule akin to bullying. No this is when the mistakes are capable of being viewed as “silly” a reminder that no one is perfect; that sense of “play” that we keep reminding ourselves to encourage, it can be within the classroom too, not restricted to “extra”; kids- even, or especially, of the young adult variety have pressures that some of us have long forgotten; some of us may never have had. We educators have been pushing to have healthy food choices within the school walls, healthy snacks for all, to eliminate the feeling of being different some on a food plan have experienced; let’s push together then to allow for somewhat noisy rooms; much better than texting a rueful “lol” let them hear the sound!

To take risks, to take any chances at all, a person needs either to feel safe or to feel they have taken and survived a similar type of risk before. When we ourselves have courage to act, our students will as well. What are achievements really? Not only the medal or the star, but also those tremendously powerful baby steps, inspired by hope- not fear.

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/

on a limb…

It is everywhere! The statement that ” the only way to do a good job is to love what you do”.  UM- not necessarily, and not really what we need to be proclaiming on classroom walls- as students rarely love drills- rarely love rewrites, rarely love the extra practice that must be undertaken to improve in any form of craft- or academic work.

How could we change it up then? This has been a constant desire of mine- to create a learning environment where all students receive the respect and opportunity to grow regardless of how much “hard work” both the educator and the student must apply before changes appear evident- and hard work isn’t always fun, nor is it always something one loves to do.

When we constantly toss about ideals that suggest “Passion” is all that is needed the craft behind the making may get lost in the dream that suggested “love is all you need”.  I love the Beatles and all that they stood for, but would hazard a guess that not one of them really meant the statement literally.  We need to get back to the core sense of practice, refining a skill and /or set of skills that will become, if not actually automatic, as close to automatic that an individual may muster and be able to call upon these skills as needed.

I cook, and when asked the secret ingredient have been known to answer “love” so indeed we all employ the suggestion that adding CARE will make a difference.  And I am for caring classrooms everywhere- but not to the detriment of students being giving only the promise of learning without the practical tools.  To truly empower students we need to offer guidelines; students whether in a regular or a flipped classroom, whether home-schooled or one of 50 in a classroom, benefit when the rules are clearly laid out, when the rubric is explained, and when the student is shown how to do something.

Practice may not make “perfect” but it will promote understanding; if the reasoning behind the practice is questioned, then dear teachers, do please have an explanation ready.  Or depending on the age group of your students, think about sharing something that will spark discussion regarding why some types of practical actions do not always appear to be on target but indeed get the results- a classic film comes to mind- the original Karate Kid– hard to forget “wash on, wash off” as a muscle builder…

Sports and the Arts both offer a form of apprenticeship during which time participants improve their practice under the guidance of “master coaches”.  The two words were juxtaposed on purpose, for mastery is what in the end produces that amazing result- the one that moves beyond rote and adapts or is applied to a specific situation, creating grace in action, be it a line on a page, a puck spinning towards a goal, or a new computer application.  We all improve through practice if and when the areas where improvement is suggested are clearly defined, and clearly demonstrated with /through examples where these practical changes made a difference to the finished product.

It is about product in addition to process, and if/when we forget this we short change a student.  Students are very self aware, and to be up lifted do not need simple pats on the back; they too want to recognize results and be proud of their own accomplishments.  When a student is able to say “I worked hard on this and believe it says what I wanted it to say” the student is taking ownership of his/her learning- isn’t that really what as teachers we wish to produce?

 

For home, school, in the car…

Preparing for September?  Now I teach year round, (private lessons are open at the student’s request) but still get a soft spot for the month of September.  And I love the combination of poetry and song to get me in the mood for fuller classes.  Super favorites with children of all ages include all the books by Shel Silverstein, but I have a special space for the poems he wrote, or shared, which have a musical component.

Did you know that The Unicorn“* began as a song first recorded by the Irish Rovers in 1962?  The beauty of folk songs was that they became “singable” for everyone (Bob Dylan didn’t create the genre) 🙂

And what folk songs offer is the initiation into the importance of rhythm and cadence to help move both a song and a story along. We sing lullabies to our children regardless of what language we are speaking in the home; we coo, and murmur, and if someone has a set of words to go with these coos- then so much the better.  With these interactions we are starting the process of literacy.  So please, coo, murmur and hum to your children, plus if you can find them, put on the music and let the children ( join in too; they won’t mind if you are off key!) belt it out.

Here is a sample: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EPsuOEH1fY

–  “those green alligators and long necked beasts” will have the kids jumping up and down- and you can be sure and find others that offer the same tongue challenges while giving everyone a chance to PLAY!

To add to the process grab some chalk and see if the children can draw the images -( one of the better uses of sidewalks- but be aware, children often enjoy hearing something again, and again, and again….

https://mytutoringspace.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/faa6a-wherethe.jpg  Shel Silverstein: collection of poetry for children – Full lyrics to the Unicorn may be found in his book