Tag Archives: teaching

Shake it up!

Once upon a time, in an enchanted__________(forest, pond, stream, house, castle,garden…) lived a little______________(prince, princess, horse, pony, goat, duck…?) and this little_______________decided to join everyone around the _____________?  campfire!  Because campfires are good places to share stories and hot chocolate.  And stories and cold juice.  And stories and popcorn.

The night was clear.  The moon was bright.  Everyone was pleased to take part in the ? making of a brand new KITE! And so the ________________ joined in and discovered______________________________????

Reading involves a full body practice- peek into a kindergarten room and observe the need for movement; some of us continue to need that opportunity to use our bodies in motion while the learning process grows- yet – we have a strong image impacted of reading and writing practice being a solitary studious pursuit.  If you have the time, and inclination, rummage through a children’s section at the library or the bookstore or within your own home collection.  And see if you can really sit still or if at times the words on the page conjure up images that make you not only truly laugh out loud, but also seem to get you swaying to the rhythm – words on the page leaping and colliding and having fun.

Learning- of anything- is a time consuming series of repetitions and practices until a learner feels a smidgen of control, slowly leading to mastery.  And which some remain determined may have less to do with “grit” or “mindset” and more to do with circumstances and options.  If however, we, as educators wish to open up a few doors or at least a window into what various aspects of learning may offer, then we will be needing to demonstrate how and why skills are building blocks for movement forward.  Direct communication – making time for this – becomes essential, so instead of lamenting the fast pace and disconnect of modern times, or extolling the virtues of technology and flipped classrooms, let’s remember that if we present testing or reviews in a positive frame, then the likelihood of students responding in a positive manner improves.

Personalities- we each have one- and we no more wish to be lumped into a “type” then do the students in a learning environment.  That is “mindset” in a nutshell; the suggestion that people may be allowed to think outside the box requires people not to be boxed in or restricted by academic labels-  a label may allow for clearer organization within an institution, but at times denies the learner the very thing education is meant to encourage- growth and change.  Movement: across disciplines, within communities, throughout a learning system, demands numerous skill sets including the ability to fill in the blanks, to extend the story, to make it one’s own, to develop, to grow and to become.

And so they lived…which always struck me as suggestive of more to come…

Standing desks, musical chairs, reading buddies, writing conferences, on and off line; shake it up, and find the mix that works best in your student’s frame.

Famous words: always a question-

A Dream Deferred

by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.Or does it explode?

Many people around the Globe will be recognizing what is known as Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year.  Unlike December 31st, it is less a time of resolutions, more a time of recognizing, recalling past years, recalling the recent past year, and offering thanks for the simple gift of “Life”.  Traditional celebrations include dipping a piece of fruit – often an apple- into honey, attending services, hearing the blowing of the Shofar (a ram’s horn) meeting with loved ones, and sharing a meal.  It is a time defined as a Holy Day, rather than a holiday, though the holiday spirit suffuses all the activities, and this coupled with a strong sense of “tradition” connects people celebrating with a sense of purpose.  To wish each other well, to offer a blessing for the coming year, to wish one another a year filled with sweetness and light – and prosperity.  The latter wish used to surprise me; as an adult the latter is now seen as the opportunity to provide for others, some of that “sweetness and light”- so to all celebrating-         Le Shana Tova Tikatevu; wishing you a year filled with                                              Sweetness, Light & Prosperity;                                                                                                  May you be inscribed for a good year!

Privacy and Policy – Healthy Schools

Privacy and Policy

School is a public place
be it a private institution or a member of a public board- it is not “Las Vegas”, and this is a good thing. This means that parental involvement can be encouraged beginning with the principal who sets the tone, and continuing through the teachers and on to the students who ought to happily or disgruntledly, depending on a day’s adventure, share the news of the time spent in the institution. Imagine, spending 12, 13, or even 14 years depending on when a child began in a more formal learning environment and how that learning environment impacts on all the growth and development to come.

So when parents ask what do I look for in a learning space; openness is one of my main points on a checklist – was the principal prepared to take time to offer a tour of the space? Did the principal book an appointment and follow through with genuine interest in you and your child when as parent you asked questions about both the curriculum and the social aspects of the learning environment? Has the teacher allowed you to inquire directly about your expectations for the school academic program, and provided a relatively clear outline – do please allow for teaching moments, that teachers may indeed respond directly and appropriately when the students in the room surprise and please, with comments and active participation in the projects or other curriculum actions-an outline that will allow you as parent to also become curious about the learning that is expected to be covered in an academic year.

And if visiting a school when the programs are already in service, I listen. Total silence may mean exam/testing time, otherwise it is an odd thing to expect within a school. I like hearing the hum of student inquiry, the murmur that at times may mimic Katy Perry’s “Roar” and, laughter is always good. Children who are comfortable, communicate.

Middle School sets its own demands; notice the entrance to the building, and the amount of students in class, not the hallways, once a bell has rung. At some schools hallways are used as extra classroom space; this is fine when the school entrance way is monitored- unfortunately in today’s environment, schools do need to be aware of who is entering or exiting a premise, and in some institutions no loitering in the hallways is permitted due to safety precautions. At other institutions the hallway monitors have become not merely a fixture of the place, but a very welcome and responded to, resource. These adjunct staff are there as friendly reminders that the school is a safe space, and for the child who must return to a locker mid period, or use the washroom, knowing that hall monitors move up and down throughout the building may provide an additional sense of welcome and subliminal comfort.

High School creates new challenges! So many choices and a new type of pressure- which whether parent or child, we all seem to absorb. And even if logical thinking reminds one that the future is really not totally determined by the activities chosen in High School it is doubtful we will be able to totally convince a teen of this. Media does add to this pressure; high school becomes a microcosm of “life”. The kids though, do still need and benefit from all levels of parental awareness; ask questions of the academic type before your child begins- and don’t be afraid to question a school’s suggested template for your child. Applied versus academic- why? Full year courses versus a semester program, how will this possibly challenge (positively or negatively) your child- some students in semester programs go a full calendar year between undertaking classes- for example, a September to February class in English etc. in grade 9 followed by a February to June class in English during the grade 10 year has left a large, full calendar year, gap – imagine! One reads about the summer time slump- and that is only two months outside of full class programming! 14-18 year olds only appear independent; they still require a near magical dance on the part of the parents to weave together the combinatory goals of healthy mind and body which are rapidly developing during these High School years.

Home and School; a dynamic combination; sharing resources; growing = a healthy future.

This article first appeared on Together Academics, learning skills with Ali
To learn more- please email; mytutoringspace@live.ca
As always, best regards,
Alison (Ali)

Honour your kids

A friend sent me an email with a link to an older article published in The Chronicle for Higher Education in 2010- two years ago when I was starting this Tutoring venture.  The link opens to a story on a tutor who happily is a ghost writer for students- the friend had been worried that I might grow disillusioned quickly as this trend to hire tutors specifically to cheat on behalf of students appeared to be growing.  Fortunately I continue to connect with parents who wish to have their children grow and develop their own skills in Academics and Socially- not to merely purchase a paper or have me “just sit beside the student throughout his/her online exam” – as one parent did (not- so- subtly) request.   

Have you listened to your children lately? Have you heard them when they say things like “so and so is in the smart group”  and aren’t referring to themselves? If yes, please find an activity that you know the child excels at- or if not excels, then actually enjoys- for it is far more important to continue to help your child grow in his/her best fashion than to be grade focused.  I have heard students excitedly share insights about topics that they have become curious about but which weren’t directly on the school curriculum, and definitely weren’t going to be featured on a standardized test.  And I wished I could bottle that excitement and display it so the child would receive credit.

All of us are constantly picking up subtle clues about where we fit within different systems.  K-12, is a lengthy expanse of time and thankfully one in which students will be exposed to a variety of situations, teachers, classmates, and I hope, challenged by ideas.  With the “new” buzzword being “innovation” and the suggestion that perhaps emphasis on standardized tests doesn’t in fact encourage lateral thinking because, to do well on these tests students must respond to the tests in a particular fashion, problem solving is being seen only from one perspective.  Problem solving is not just the ability to combine ideas and “create” new methodologies- problem solving is also the ability to work through a problem – as basic as this sounds.  There is an irony in this situation for the student who is outspoken, who is generating personal connections, who may try to challenge a teacher or, without trying, be seen as challenging to the teacher, can find the confines of the classroom, stifling.  If your child does complain about the above, respect the complaint.  Recognize the grade for a score on activities presented within a classroom and not as a mark that a student (like the Scarlet Letter!) must bear. 

If your child’s “problem” is getting through the school year, some questions to ask the teacher(s) as this term comes to close:

1) Could you tell me something positive about my child?

2) What have you noticed my child enjoying in your class? Which activities did He/She seem most engaged with?

3) Have you any suggestions for what gaps you are noticing in his/her learning?

and finally 4) What could we do to organize differently for the coming September?

Thank you for honouring me with the opportunity to work with your children: I love tutoring and feel lucky being able to share this excitement for learning, together with students and their families.