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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

Books like the Guinness Book of World Records or Ripley’s Believe it Or Not never stay on the shelf for long.  

Young people tend to be fascinated (even obsessed) with the limits of experience and the extremes of reality--these kinds of books reveal all the record-breaking aspects of the world. I recall leafing through our own home copy of the Guinness Book Of World Records at about age 9 or 10, just consumed by the images of the curling, caramel-colored finger nails of that record-holder or the unsettling size of the world’s largest human, pig, or pumpkin pie. 

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We don’t completely lose that interest in the extreme features of reality—think about the headlines that most engage you now. Often they reveal something that falls outside the normal—far outside. We love the “superlative” tense in life—the fastest, slowest, most and least of all kinds. The most expensive houses. The smallest technologies etc. We are curious about things that are foreign to us, that seem odd, exotic, bizarre and—for many young people—just plain gross.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

“Variety’s the very spice of life

That gives it all its flavour.”  

(Source: The Task (1785), Book II, “The Timepiece” William Cowper 1731-1800)

Most people like variety; it keeps life interesting. Unfortunately, few people associate typical schools or classrooms with variety. Indeed, it is the routinization of patterns and behaviors that makes most classrooms run like well-oiled machines. In addition, no matter how artfully decorated, the classroom space many students experience on a daily basis at school is the same from day to day. The unvarying nature of the classroom–and worse yet, a sterile learning context–is an obstacle to imaginative and emotional engagement. Simply put: taken-for-granted, routinized contexts extinguish the imagination.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Engage Their Inner Rebel.

Adolescence contains the makings of a perfect storm. At a time when young people are establishing a sense of self and getting a grasp on how the world works, they also have limited freedom. There are rules. Everywhere. They have “written” and “unwritten” rules to follow at school, at home, in society at large. Navigating these rules is a large part of growing up—and many young people rebel as part of a healthy development process.

The storm clouds are building at my place. My eldest daughter will soon be a teenager. While I’m very eager to see where these years will take her, I’m also slightly apprehensive about what’s coming.

Should I run for the hills? Install deadbolts on the doors? Sign up for some extra therapy sessions? 

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Every learner is unique. Effective teachers know this and they work constantly and creatively to meet the needs of all the students in their classrooms. Effective teachers also know that amidst the great diversity within their classrooms, there is something that all learners share: emotional responses.

Every topic you teach connects to an emotional human experience. 

Shared human emotions create the plane upon which knowledge becomes most meaningful and memorable. 

Every topic you teach has attached to it the real emotional account of the person who discovered it, named it, battled to make sense of it etc. You can make the knowledge you teach more memorable by allowing students to experience that emotion too. By connecting human emotions with the content of the curriculum you can maximize learning and student engagement.

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Posted by on in School Culture

empathy

Empathy. Inclusion. Acceptance. Kindness. Respect. 

These are qualities we want our communities to exemplify. These are qualities we often seek to directly cultivate in our schools. Anti-bullying programs, multi-cultural clubs, and policies supporting LGTBQ students, are positive initiatives that move us away from ignorance and towards greater understanding.

My fear is that these kinds of explicit programs/policies, on their own, can not nurture the culture of care we desire. The qualities we seek require ongoing attention to bloom. They must be cultivated across grade levels and subject areas each and every day. I believe all teachers can play a role by educating the imaginative capacities of their students.

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