What do you do to relax?

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Screen Shot 2018-06-28 at 7.54.33 PM.pngSummer is upon us. As quickly as it has arrived, it will be gone. In the meantime, most of us spend a part of our summer relaxing or enjoying time away from our daily routines. I have contemplated “what I do to relax.” When most of us think about relaxing or hobbies, we automatically go to things that demand less of us – no longer working non-stop to deliver a project or product, but instead kicking back and doing less. Lying on the beach or at the pool, reading, or strolling about in a new place are often included in the “relaxation recipe.”

During the past couple of years, I realized that one thing that actually relaxes me is thinking – not worrying or planning new projects or considering what has gone wrong or right, but simply spending time in thought. I used to think this was a negative. After all, when one relaxes, isn’t one supposed to clear their mind and keep it empty of thought? Isn’t that the beauty of a break from the daily grind? Perhaps it is for most. Not so for me. As I thought of this, I was reminded of the last few years of my father’s life. As he aged, his vision was not what it had been. He spent a lot of time “in his head” composing poems for his family. We would receive birthday, anniversary, graduation and other cards with poems, specific to our lives and the occasion. It was a delight. To relax, he wrote poetry in his head because he couldn’t necessarily do the reading and revision that was needed to do it on paper. The wonder of this is that he was not a writer nor a poet prior to these years. It relaxed and entertained him, and it delighted each person who was the recipient of his efforts.

So, as you do whatever it is you do to relax this summer, honor who you are and what you find to be relaxing. Only you know the recipe needed for you to unwind and enjoy some lazy days this summer.

“Every student can learn, just not on the same day or in the same way.”

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Every Student Can Learn.pngComing across this quote the other day reminded me of so many times in life when learning just happened and just as many others when it kept slipping through my fingers. There are countless times that I have tried to do something and kept making mistakes or missing the mark, only to return to the task the next day or week and accomplish the goal in record time. Learning isn’t neat and tidy; in fact, it can be rather messy.

Years in school – as a student, teacher and administrator – have taught me that everyone can learn… on his/her time frame. This runs up against the need for schools to teach certain concepts at specified times of the year as mandated by the chosen curriculum. I ask, once again, are we teaching curriculum or children? Every teacher I know would opt for the second choice; we are teaching children. If that is the goal, how do we make sure that we are addressing the needs of those children? How do we meet them where they are each day when they may be in very different places? How do we measure their progress and set the next goals? This is the very difficult work of schools.

Teaching and learning are often not aligned. Children may be ready to learn in ways or on days that we are not ready to teach them. However, if learning is the priority and children are at the center of all we do, isn’t it time that we slow down, stop and look at the individuals who make up our classrooms? Isn’t it time to guide them in their learning no matter the day or the way?

Who wouldn’t want to teach?

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Lynda and GakThere was a time, and maybe it’s even still true in some cases, that people envied teachers. They wanted their schedules… The holiday and summer breaks, the sweet hours – school’s over at 3! And, how hard is it to teach a bunch of little (or big) kids? If you are aware of current events in the news, you know that time may have passed.

Teachers know what most don’t. It is a tough job. To be fair, some teachers have a harder job than others. Some of us teach in schools where children come to school ready to learn and are supported by families in every possible way. Others teach in under-served areas where they are not only trying to teach, but also helping to meet children’s most basic needs. No matter where we teach, the job is one that requires great dedication, tremendous effort and hours well beyond those idealized by the general population. Continue reading

What do you know?

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DOK Levels
As another school year ends, thoughts naturally turn to student progress. What have the students learned this year? What should be practiced over the summer? Are they prepared for the next grade level?

The answer to many such questions depends on the goal. Grades don’t really tell a story, nor does standardized testing. Is the goal memorization, acquisition of a skill, critical thinking, or extending thinking and applying learning to new situations? Learning begins with recall or memorization. Whether learning to ride a bike or read a book, you begin by memorizing the parts of the desired action or outcome. However, most learning has to go deeper in order to be meaningful. Learning has to have an application. Deep learning is applied to other situations and allows for creative and extended thinking.

Tests are given to assess knowledge. What they typically measure is memorization. Think back to a test you took in school, maybe in a subject that you didn’t like or was hard for you. Do you recall much about that subject? Did that information stay with you? Probably not. If you are lucky, you had a good enough memory to pass the test and move on… and you wanted to move on!

Now think about something you really wanted to learn. When were you finished learning? When did you decide you had enough? My guess is that you still aren’t done and are continually learning about a subject that interests you. Not only are you still learning – you are well beyond the memorization or summarization phase of learning. You are probably applying the knowledge you’ve gained to other situations, asking questions to further consider the ideas and in new contexts.

Progress is measured by an individual’s learning. What has your child learned this year?

Change

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butterfly change.png

I have done quite a bit of traveling over the past few months – nothing exotic, but each trip was a visit to a different part of the country. Some places I have seen before and others were new to me. I did some of the traveling alone and others with a co-worker or family member. Each place I visited held different experiences. When traveling, most of us expect a “different” experience or a change from our everyday routines and experiences.

As we return from a trip, we settle back into our homes and expect a return to our typical routine; it is comfortable. We are not seeking change or looking for new experiences. We do not look forward to something different happening each day; we mostly follow the same routine. This is often true of our work lives as well. We want the predictability of each work day and do not necessarily want anything to change.

However, we all know that sometimes change is necessary. Our world is changing faster than ever before. We need to adapt and change with it. It is often more comfortable to maintain the systems and routines that we have followed than to seek new ones. This is the time of year in the life of schools when things change. Students move up to the next grade or graduate to attend their next school. As the school year ends, there is the anticipation of all that summer brings. There are also questions about the future and what the next year may bring.

Change. It happens whether we are ready or not. How do you respond to change?

All Are Welcome

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“What is social life if not the solving of social problems, behaving properly and pursuing aims acceptable to all?  [It is not] sitting side by side and hearing someone else talk…”
– Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

20170517_WMS_082.jpgOne of the things that mattered most to my mother was welcoming others to her home. She set the stage for people to enter, relax and enjoy their time there, whether the visit was for a few minutes, hours or days. Hospitality was the order of the day. The same could be said of Maria Montessori. The cornerstones of her method are a prepared and inviting environment with grace and courtesy extended to all who enter.

I have had many occasions throughout my life to consider hospitality or preparing a welcoming environment and treating others with grace and courtesy. Sounds simple, and it can be if it is taught and expected. Most people can rise to expectations if they are clearly established and followed by all. It is a tall order, to be sure, but one that we each need to give and want to receive. Continue reading

Poem in Your Pocket Day Inspires Joyful Learning

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IMG_7629Last year at around this time, National Poetry Month led to an impromptu celebration of Poem in Your Pocket Day. Students throughout the school were encouraged to share a poem, listen to poems and revel in the delight that is poetry. Many adults consider poems inaccessible and may have some less than favorable memories from their own school experiences related to poetry. However, when the purpose is to delight in a poem, the words carefully chosen and arranged in poetic fashion, smiles and joy prevail.

This year, for this particular day, one student woke at 2 a.m. to write poems in celebration of the day ahead. Now, that may not necessary be a desired outcome in your house, but sleeplessness aside, isn’t that unbridled enthusiasm something every school wants to inspire? As she delivered her poems and read them to the delighted recipients, it was clear that this day, a day that isn’t noted on our school calendar and doesn’t require anything from anyone other than to share a poem, meant a great deal to this child. And, as we embark on one of the busiest times of year in the school year cycle, I hope you find inspiration in the joy that is learning.

 

Connected Learning

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“Self-education is the only kind of education there is.” – Mark Twain

Photo - Zoe - Big Numbers.JPGToday, as I was going through the process I use to recall the amount I spend on gas each time I visit the pump, I took a moment to consider why it just about always works.


I don’t set out to memorize the cost but rather to find a mathematical way to recall it later. For example, today I spent $31.26 on gas. I could try to memorize that amount, which would be relatively simple for a short while, but instead I considered this: “3-1=2; 3×2=6; I spent $31.26.” I only have to remember the 3 and the 1 to pull the number from my memory. If I recall it as 31 instead of two individual numbers, my chances of
recalling the full number later are reduced.
Continue reading

How to Raise an Adult

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practical life - web68538.pngWhen most of us embark on the journey of parenthood, we don’t typically consider the end game, adulthood. We imagine a precious baby, a wobbly toddler and perhaps even a cute elementary student learning to read and write. Rarely do parents envision the adult their child will become, yet everything parents do ultimately prepares children for life as adults.

This brief video shares information from Julie Lythcott-Haims’ work with undergraduate students at Stanford University and in her book How To Raise an Adult. You may be put off by the title of her video or the subtitle of her book, but don’t let it dissuade you from the importance of her message. It is one almost every parent will agree with; parents work to put themselves out of a job. We want to raise healthy educated productive adults.

She states her message quickly and succinctly. She breaks parenting into four steps:

  1. We do things for children.
  2. We do things with children.
  3. We watch them do it.
  4. They do it independently.

Lythcott-Haims’ analysis aligns with Maria Montessori’s philosophy of education. Teachers show them by presenting a lesson, observe them using the materials, and finally, they do the work independently. They are building the skills needed to recover from mistakes and have the confidence that they can pick themselves up, learn from the mistake and keep going.

Raising children is difficult work and one of the hardest things about it is watching our children make mistakes that might be avoided. We need to let them attempt to do things for themselves, letting them know we are there for them and have confidence in their ability to manage without our interference. Allowing independence in childhood creates adults who can make mistakes and be accountable for the outcomes of their actions. Dr. Montessori has shared this in her proven method of educating children and Lythcott-Haims restates it to help parents incorporate it in their everyday lives with their children. How have you promoted independence in your children?

Mythbuster: Theories of Learning Styles

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learning modalities (1)Are you an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learner? Do you prefer to listen, see or move to gain the most from a learning experience? Most of us will say we think we know how we learn best. However, in the past few years research has debunked the idea of preferential learning styles.

Research has shown that we actually learn and retain information equally well through any of these paths. Evidence suggests that we may prefer one type of learning over another but that, in practice, that preference doesn’t improve our performance. Once study strategies are taught, we have the ability to do as well through any of the modes of learning. Reading this information made me question my own preference for visual learning. I prefer to see and take notes to learn rather than to attend a lecture where listening is the main pathway to attain information. Maybe I placed too much emphasis on my note taking as a kinesthetic way to learn? Or perhaps I overrated my need to see the information that is being discussed along with hearing it?

We don’t learn in isolation, nor do we retain isolated facts for any length of time. Taking notes in a lecture may help you focus. Moving might support attention and interest for some people. Now that research has proven we can learn in various ways, does that mean that we don’t have a preference? Probably not. But it does mean that we don’t need to rely solely on that preference. We can learn in new ways and need to open our minds to the possibilities.