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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For Teachers, Everywhere

April might be the official Poetry month, but this poem written by Naomi Shihab Nye seems “just right” for back to work/back to school after any type of holiday: 

Famous

 

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.


Teaching tends to feel like this – from one Educator to another..best wishes for 2017! …to learning, and not forgetting this is what we do…  #teaching

 

“For everyone”

Something that is very necessary

Winter, Summer, Spring or Fall- New Year’s Day and Everyday-

LET LOVE GROW: TREAT YOURSELF AND ALL AROUND YOU TO A LITTLE KINDNESS AND CARING – Beginning NOW….

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!)  

“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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

make room for “Discussion”

Two months into the Academic year of 2016-2017 and so much to celebrate! Actually little of this celebrating involves “academics.” In fact it is the culture of schooling that is constantly in question and the many ways home and school connections develop community, solidarity and openness for a neighbourhood.  And the celebrating may seem surprising when this winter for the first time in approximately forty years since my first venture as a student  peer teacher in a classroom, I haven’t been teaching anywhere- not “retired” nor “consulting” but instead reviewing and posting and volunteering in online forums; I discovered not merely how many teachers genuinely do appreciate online informal ways to chat about their classes, but the very important many ways online chats actually encourage professional development.

 

Educators get to actually brag! To share accomplishments and to state how happy they were when students not merely grasped new(ish) ideas but also began their own exploring. When in grad school I heard so many teachers constantly worrying about the lack of motivated students, the lack of resources, and the lack of actual professional development time- that is time when teachers really mingled instead of rapidly taking notes and then retreating to what was left of their weekend.  Now due to online conferencing teachers arrange meetings with virtual colleagues, have professional mini-breaks, and connect to share not merely to compete. 

 

In my years of direct interactions with many in the gifted and talented groups, laughter was always the key to reminding each of us, educators, administrators and students and their families that learning is a never-ending activity- and that each student requires that oh so necessary “private” time to consider… to reflect… and to make new plans- whether in the same linear fashion or in a new direction. But while in the flow moments- insisting on reflection may actually be detrimental- not only is the distance to really consider effects missing, but also the very curtailing of the flow situation limits the further continuing of a pursued endeavor.

 

In this way I may be in favor of daily reading in the elementary and middle school curriculum while also aware that for many such a staged part of the day is more filler than learning experience.  Reading is an action, involving the student in the material takes more than merely setting aside time. Far too many students continue to grasp at the phonemic sounds and then read the words on the page with limited comprehension, close their texts when the “drop everything and read” time is completed and couldn’t discuss anything they had just “consumed’ with any real ability to make sense of the reading. And when book reports follow a set format the students dutifully tick off the spaces on the handouts and the teachers have “proof” their students are reading.  Suddenly, formal curriculum testing occurs and the students are shown to be behind in their levels of comprehension.  What was missing- one essential ingredient- discussion.  

 

Discussion – be it in small groups sharing the same text or private one-one with the teacher allows a student to express opinions– essential in higher grades for the essay writing and learning of more than the “English” – for geography, history, civics, economics, all the arts, all the sciences, and even the physical courses – for when physical education is where the instructions regarding “health” occur then reading and writing and reviewing and commenting take place in the gym too!

 

A “noisy” school culture is one where students become active in vocalizing opinions and caring about their dreams.  Glad to have been able to participate in some noisy online discussions these recent months- and to hear the passion, anger, joy, and encouragement that strangers and now virtual teammates offer one another, reminding each other that with each independent student who moves beyond the limited and limiting expectations of a “Formal schooling” into deeper learning perhaps the general future adult population will be able to discuss ideas and debate concepts based on both practical knowledge and the textbook information.  When from a young age students begin learning through accepting that differences in opinions are the result of different knowledge bases, and create that sense of shared global goals based on respect instead of ignorance– for ignorance breeds fear, and then “diversity” is something that must be shouted, while knowledge ought to lead to respect and then noisy merely represents participatory, with the understanding that only by uniting together- men and women, boys and girls, children and adults, and international communities that genuinely have respect for one another and may discuss ideals- towards action, this could indeed produce that Global development that reading- writing and arithmetic is meant to be the foundation for.