Tag Archives: students

5 things I’d like my teacher to know about me – meme and retrospective

The talented (and Pottermore expert) Judith Way tagged me in this meme – 5 things I’d like my teacher to know about me. You can read Judith’s post here. Why not? It’s short, it’s useful in preparation for school as a zoom-in on the student-teacher relationship. Okay, so here goes: –

1. Just because I get good marks doesn’t mean I don’t need encouragment. This happened to my older son too. Teachers often focus on boosting the confidence of struggling students, leaving the bright ones without any encouragement. All kids need to feel encouraged and appreciated.

2. I might present as a happy student because I’m well behaved, but inside I’m bored to death. Of course in my day (in primary school) you sat patiently for ages while everyone took their turn to read, particularly, the struggling readers who needed more practice. Bad luck if you’d already read the whole reader (yes, one reader for the whole year) before school started.

3. Just because I get good marks doesn’t mean I am confident. In fact I am far from confident and suffer over little things, beating myself up about my imperfections. (Just realised there’s a bit of a theme here, and also I should probably go to a counsellor! so many things stirred up here…)

4. I love the way you decorate the classroom (primary school obviously). I may not say anything but all the differently coloured papers, craft activities, displayed work makes a happy environment for me and I remember it all decades later. Visual, tactile, olfactory experiences are powerful and affect the learning experience. Okay, so  obviously all my answers focus on primary school.

5. I need more context. So many activities, simple as they were, left me feeling confused. I didn’t see the point of the exercise. Then I started wondering if I was the only one feeling confused, especially when everyone else seemed to accept the activities without any problems. Even as far back as prep grade, I remember wondering what the point of Tic Tac Toe was. Maybe I was missing the point. Do you think that perhaps I may have been a little paranoid? Still, kids are not stupid, a little context goes a long way. Remember, kids are learning so much every day, there’s a lot of information processing going on. Lots of discussion and question time will help with this.

So now I need to tag other people to write a similar post. Bearing in mind these people may not choose to participate given their busy lives. In hope, but with understanding in case you can’t do it, I tag you, @jennyluca @angelquilter @kimyeo @sujokat @Larrydlibrarian  Thanks and don’t worry if you can’t do it – busy time of year!

PS Yes, I know, I need therapy.

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Filed under Interesting

Are schooling and learning synonymous?

I’m adding a post about a post added by Will Richardson who added a post after he read a tweet by Alec Couros.

Yeah.

Will starts out like this:

Yesterday, Alec Couros went “Back to School” to “Meet the Teacher” of his first grade daughter. Here is what he saw:

Photo by Alec Couros (from Weblogg-ed)

Both Will and Alec have children in school or about to start and feel pretty much the same way about schools which seem so traditional that they have been left behind in the Industrial Age (my interpretation).

Will’s post nails the problem for some parents (are most of these teachers themselves?) when school isn’t the ideal place to educate their kids. What do you do then?

Will has captured the Twitter responses to Alec’s initial tweets and they are definitely an interesting read.

I agree with you, Will – this tweet expresses my own view of my sons’ schooling:

“We’ve always considered public school ed our kids receive as supplemental to the ed we provide at home so we don’t go crazy about it.”

I’m writing from the perspective of a parent who has been though a few hells and come back to review school education many times. My boys are now in second year uni and year 10. I’ve never expected school to be responsible for all the learning or to contain the most important learning for my boys. Or did I understand that gradually? Did I expect more and come to accept less? Yes, I think so.

I am not about to criticise all schools, all teachers. I’m a teacher and far from perfect. I would not like to be a principal. So when I say that schools have been less than what they could have been, I just think that the talent and dedication which many educators display every day could be better directed with an informed view of the kind of learning which truly prepares our kids for living and working in their world. We are not preparing our kids adequately for their future because we are not projecting our goals into their future – we are clinging to our old perception of what we need to teach them.

A few things that spring to mind throughout the years my boys were at school:

  • My older (tested as highly gifted at the age of 5 – not because I wanted to bask in this, but because I wanted to cater for his needs and understand him) came into mainstream Grade 2 from Montessori. When he was given a list of spelling words to learn which he’d known since the age of 3, and I discussed this with his teacher, his teacher said, ‘We can’t have Sasha doing his own work and the rest of the class doing their work…’  My question at the time: Why not? which I didn’t voice because I still respected that the teacher knew best and the parent should comply.
  • When I asked subsequent teachers for support in keeping my son interested at school, they either

1) gave him extra work which he didn’t want to do, and then told me he wasn’t cooperating

2) devoted all further discussions to pointing out that he wasn’t like other children, and that he should concentrate on fitting in

3) placed all importance on social skills (his apparent failure to be like everyone else) and ignored the academic aspect. (Let me say that pointing out to a child that he is different and that this difference is somehow a handicap, is not going to help his social skills. Telling him to dumb down, as the school psychologist did, is also not going to help)

I just want to say that I also have many excellent memories balancing out these not so positive ones, and these centre on wonderful teachers. I’m not painting an entirely black picture but still, if I had to estimate how much of school I thought was truly valuable, I would have to say that there is so much I would have done without, so much I would have done differently, so much wasted time. But it’s worse than wasted time, it’s the turning away from a natural love of learning. Sometimes I think that my children, my students, are successful despite their schooling, not because of it.

My younger son absolutely lives for music and wants to be a comp0ser. He is happy this year in his new school, The Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, in year 10, where he follows the same academic curriculum as in other schools but also benefits from expert tuition and performance experience in music.

How do I remember most of his schooling before this? Apart from his two final years in primary school when he had fantastic teachers who did wonders for his love of learning and self esteem, the first 3 years of secondary school were times where he had to put away his burning desire to compose and play music because he spent almost every waking moment completing homework tasks. Granted, some students would have either done the same more quickly or not been as conscientious, but the hardest part was seeing him develop an aversion to learning and a low opinion of himself as a learner. That’s difficult for a parent.

In retrospect, I would perhaps do some things differently. I like the way Will and his wife communicate with the teachers:

We write an e-mail (or a letter) to each teacher introducing our kids and ourselves, letting them know what our hopes are, what we’d love to see our kids doing, and what we’ll do to support the classroom. We also introduce ourselves, and talk a little bit about what our worldview of education looks like. Finally, we offer to continue that conversation and help make it a reality in the classroom in whatever way we can. And we cc the principal and headmaster (since Tess is in private school.)

I think you have to work hard to develop a positive relationship with teachers and principals. I gave up too easily in situations when a teacher responded in a defensive manner, particularly when it meant resenting my child. In this case I withdrew, fearing the repercussions for my child, but now I might hold my ground a little longer and try not to take the whole thing personally. The parent/teacher relationship can be delicate.

Certainly I have always taken a very active role in my children’s education, and I’m not referring to basic literacy and numeracy skills, but to opening up their minds to bigger picture questions, providing them with resources and activities within their interest areas.

I wonder how differently teachers would teach without the sometimes crippling restrictions of curriculum, if there was time to discuss what they thought was most important and without the looming university entrance scores.

Despite all this, I think that, if I had the chance to do this again, I would still not choose homeschooling – which is not to say that I think it doesn’t work. My husband and I always felt that being part of a school community was important for our sons, and finding your place was also important.

Katie Hellerman was also inspired to write a post after reading Will Richardson’s, and it’s a good read.

I would love to hear from you about the topic of schooling and learning. Do you think schooling prepares young people adequately, well? If not, how would you reconfigure schooling?

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Filed under Education

Students speak about success of global project

As part of the evaluation of this project, I interviewed a few students to get their feedback. You have no idea how long it took me to convert the interviews to film and embed them in this blog. Sorry about background noise. We will also ask all students in the global cohort to give feedback in a survey. Stay tuned!

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Filed under network literacy, networking, Social learning, Web 2.0, writing

Should teachers be more like conductors? TED tells

Orchestra conductor Itay Talgam has discovered that the secrets of good conducting shed light on leadership in general. I found the messages in this TED talk to be very relevant to teaching.

Itay Talgam’s TED biography observes that Talgam

finds metaphors for organizational behavior  — and models for inspired leadership — within the workings of the symphony orchestra. Imagining music as a model for all spheres of human creativity, from the classroom to the boardroom, Talgam created the Maestro Program of seminars and workshops.

Talgam’s workshops aim to help everyday people develop a musician’s sense of collaboration, and a conductor’s sense of leadership: that inner sense of being intuitively, even subconsciously connected to your fellow players, giving what they need and getting what you need. It’s this art of listening and reacting in the moment that makes for a swinging jazz combo, a sublime string quartet, a brilliant orchestra — and great teams at work.

Talgam talks about the conductor’s ability to use a small gesture to suddenly create order out of the chaos. When he asks who we should thank for the success of the performance, he is asking what the role of the conductor really is. In the same way as the teacher, the conductor is the single leader responsible for the success of his people. The question is – how does he create music out of the chaos?

According to Talgam, it’s not all about complete control of the orchestra. It’s about the joy of enabling other people’s stories to be heard at the same time – the story of the orchestra, that of the audience, unseen stories of people who made the concert hall and even those who made the instruments.

Talgam shows examples of different styles of conducting. There is the example of the conductor who is so clear about what he wants that he becomes overclear. Talgam describes this type of conductor as having a strong sense of responsibility. This type of conductor insists that there’s only one story to be told, only one interpretation of the music, and that’s his interpretation. In this case, the musicians feel they are not allowed to develop, but are only used as instruments. 

Talgam insists that leadership of the orchestra can be achieved with less control, or with a different kind of control.

One of the conductors is shown conducting with his eyes shut, confusing the onlooker with his apparent withdrawal from control. Talgam explains that, in this case, the musicians get their cues by looking  at the conductor’s face and gestures, and then looking at each other, with the first players of each section leading. This conductor claims that the worst damage he could do to  his orchestra would be to give them an overly clear instruction which would prevent them from listening to each other.

In another example, the conductor explains that by not telling the musicians exactly what to do, he’s opening a space for them to put in another layer of interpretation, another story. Talgam explains that this method without clear instructions works because it’s as if the musicians are on a rollercoaster, whereby the forces of that process put the action into place. You know what to do and you become a partner. This experience is exciting for the players. 

And what happens when there’s a mistake? The conductor’s body language is enough. When it’s needed, the authority is there  but authority is not enough to make people partners. This kind of conductor is there 100 percent but not commanding, not telling them what to do, instead enjoying the whole experience with them. In this case the conductor creates process but he also creates the conditions in the world in which this process takes place. The soloist is allowed to be autonomous and is consequently proud of his work. Developing a partnership brings about the best music.

I think we can take a fair bit out of this talk and apply it to teaching. Teaching is like conducting or leading. What resounds with me is the fact that overly explicit instructions and tight control can be at best limiting, and quite possibly suffocating. Setting up the process and allowing room to move seems like a good way to teach. Realising that your interpretation is not necessarily that of everyone else opens up rich possibilities for learners. Understanding that members of the orchestra or class learn from each other. Getting to the point where you know the students so well that they can read your every nuance, and standing back and smiling, just enjoying the process unfolding before you, is possibly every teacher’s dream.

When, as a teacher or leader, you create the environment, give support, and then step back – you get to the wonderful point of ‘doing without doing’. As Itay Talgam says,

if you love something give it away.

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Filed under 21st century learning, learning, music, teachers, teaching

And remember, it’s about the kids

A little while ago I included a post with a video of a heart-warming song sung by 5th graders in New York.

Here’s another one you’ll enjoy

This choir is testament to one man’s relationship with a regular class of 5th graders in New York, it’s not a music school or selective school:

The PS22 Chorus was formed in the year 2000. We are an ever-changing group of 5th graders from a public elementary school in New York City, NOT a school for the arts or a magnet program.

Read about this teacher/musician and view more videos on his YouTube page.

The PS22 Chorus has a blog documenting their activities with lots more videos to watch.

Watching this video reminded me that it’s really all about the kids. At a time when teachers have been swamped with corrections and report writing, labouring over sentence structure and punctuation, categorising students into cleanly definable spaces, it’s good to remember that it’s really just about the kids themselves. When I look at what this teacher has brought out in these kids, I do a double-take and step back to reflect. How can I keep that important focus without getting side-tracked by the structures. I’d like to remember that the structures are there to support the kids, and not the kids to support the structures.

PS22choir

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Filed under creativity, Education, music, teachers

Teach the child

Today I read Steve Shann’s recent blog post which I won’t try and fail to summarise.  I welcomed the introspective, quiet depth of his post. After my recent focus on the promotion of technology – always as a way to enhance learning and teaching – Steve’s anecdotal reflection led me back to the business of teaching young people, which is always about relating to them, and understanding them, awakening their understanding and wonderment. Sometimes we might get lost in perfecting rubrics, we might get stuck on assessment, ticking off technology skills – and then I always feel like something isn’t right, until I come back to what is essential – the kids.

In his post, Steve mentions how he feels about

some of what goes on in our classrooms, with children being made to perform unchildlike tasks, often to please a teacher, parroting back information for which they can see no use and to which they feel no connection.

Then he shows this video

I don’t know about you, but this was one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in a while.  Steve wrote:

I found it deeply moving. As I watched those little faces live the song, I was catapulted back in time over 55 years ago when, as a very young child, the world was a place of heart-quickening wonder.

It’s good to see something like that and be reminded that we are teaching young people, not curriculum, not to the test or the marks. I’d like to believe that if we hold onto that, and when we inspire learning in our students, that they’ll follow through with the rest.

Steve’s post was about much more than this, and I recommend you read the whole thing.

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Filed under Education, learning, teaching

What is School? Look again

As educators, we all want to engage our students in learning. We also know that this can be challenging, and some of us wonder what we can do about it.

Sometimes I think we need an artist to show us what school is really like. Why do I say that? An artist often presents the familiar in a new way, allowing us to see something for the first time, as it were.

 

 

This is not a pipe – Magritte

When I think about traditional education, the type of education our children are still receiving, it seems to be artificial, contrived, divorced from life. Perhaps this is the reason young people are bored and disengaged at school, why their potential is not always realised. Am I being too negative?

Have a look at a short presentation with segments from the book  The underground history of American education by John Taylor Gatto where he talks about  education creating empty children without independent thought or individual identity. This would obviously apply to education outside of America. He suggests that we have lost the value found in earlier educational practices where people worked in the context of family work or apprenticeship.

Gatto lists the recipe for creating ’empty children’, for example, you should remove children from the business of work, grade according to age, keep them under surveillance all the time with no private space or time, fill time with collective experiences, grade children and make sure they know their rank, forbid useful knowledge, eg. how to repair a car , build a house, etc.

We could never go back to the time where practical education around family businesses prepared all young people for the world of work, but are we actually thinking about how our teaching is preparing students for the world, or even living and functioning in the world, or are we not thinking about that at all?

I would really appreciate some feedback and opinions here. Please comment.

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Filed under 21st century learning, Education, learning, teaching, Web 2.0