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Jeffrey Pflaum @jeffrey_pflaum

Jeffrey Pflaum @jeffrey_pflaum

Jeffrey Pflaum has been an inner-city elementary school teacher in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, for thirty-four years (NYCDOE, retired in 2002). He worked as a creative writing, whole language, social studies, gifted/talented, physical education, and mentor teacher in grades K – 6 and special education. Pflaum coached middle school boys and girls basketball teams and one of his players became coach of the Pace University team. Tennis was also taught on the elementary school level to lower grade kids as part of the NY Junior Tennis League Program founded by Arthur Ashe.

Pflaum considers himself a teacher-developer-researcher experimentalist who created successful education projects in emotional intelligence, social and emotional learning, reading, writing, poetry, thinking, creativity, vocabulary expansion, concentration, and intra- and interpersonal communication skills. He has written articles for professional newspapers and publications about his curricula. Various programs appeared on web sites such as ERIC and CASEL/Collaborative for Academic and Social and Emotional Learning (“Experiences, Reflections, and Insights”).

One program was featured at the International National Council of Teachers of English at NYU as one of the best examples of English Language Arts in the NYC Public Schools, K – 12. His students’ poetry and prose have been published in college, writers’, gifted secondary, and children’s literary journals, magazines, newspapers, and by major commercial book publishers; read on public radio (Poetry-In-The-Morning, WNYE-FM, sponsored by the Teachers & Writers Collaborative/NYC); and, won honors and awards from PBS, Channel Thirteen/NYC. One student, Noel “Speedy” Mercado, became a top NYC disc jockey on WKTU-FM.

Pflaum published an inspirational book about adolescent reading lives titled MOTIVATING TEEN AND PRETEEN READERS: HOW TEACHERS AND PARENTS CAN LEAD THE WAY (Rowman & Littlefield Education). For book reviews, go to http://www.examiner.com/review/motivating-your-kids-to-read to see Kecia Burcham's response to the book, and also, The Teachers College Record for Karen Polk's insightful article. For Karen Polk's review (8/24/12), from the Teachers College Record, google "MOTIVATING TEEN AND PRETEEN READERS - Teachers College Record."

Go to www.JeffreyPflaum.com for more articles on "Contemplation Writing," Meditative Writing Ideas, Internet radio interviews, published student poetry, and newspaper articles about his book on motivating adolescent readers and Inner Cities Arts Project. His recent interviews on Contemplation Writing can be found at these "Pure Imagination" links: http://prn.fm/2012/07/14/pure-imagination-071312 and Pure Imagination - 07/13/12 | Progressive Radio Network. A second interview on "Connect With Julianna" (Toginet Radio Network) about "Contemplation" or "Music" Writing can be found at these links: http://bit.ly/iTFbk7 and http://bit.ly/t5FA0W; or, Connect with Creative Educator and Author, Jeffrey Pflaum.

Pflaum is currently a regular blogger on The BAM Radio Network's blog, ED Words, where posts about a plethora of his projects can be found at: www.bamradionetwork.com/edwords-blog/blogger/listings/jeffpaul. Also, he is a contributing writer for EDUCATION VIEWS at: www.educatnviews.org/author/jeffreypflaum/

Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

The best observation—let’s not call it an evaluation, please—came from a colleague as he walked by my room while the class was reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull and said in his own self-amazement: “It looks like they’re praying in a synagogue,” which cracked me up for unknown reasons, at least, until I thought about it for a second, and said to myself, “Yes, this is what the solitude, concentration, reflection, feeling, thinking, visualizing, creating, re-creating, contemplating, and motivation do to the reader who reads deeply, passionately, only to become lost inside the book and herself—reading almost seems like a religious experience, ha, ha…

So let me now apply an approach to the process of reading and reading life experiences.  How deep can a reader go when reading novels, short stories, poetry, essays, memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, plays, myths, fables, fairy tales, history, science, and math books, and even tweets? 

I believe pretty deep, serious, and focused, but at the same time of this involvement and evolvement, readers can have fun alone in solitude taking a “see cruise” along the landscape of mind, body, and imagination, the latter I sometimes call a “self-amusement park.”

Read the following thoughts, ideas, reflections, and experiences in the mythology, magic, and mystery of my inner reading world and contemplate them for a moment.  When you stop ruminating on these concepts about mindful reading, try adding them up in your head: What have they triggered?  What do they leave you thinking, feeling, recollecting, and experiencing?


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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

Play music, think about things, and write about whatever happened inside while listening.  This simple technique helps release and exchange inner worlds peacefully.  Music creates, connects, and heals communication lines between people. 

“Contemplation Music Writing” introduces a novel approach for using music as a way to lead kids on journeys of self-discovery about their lives.  Parents, homeschooling parent-teachers, and educators can use my innovative, challenging, and rewarding approach to develop better relationships with their children, along with improved focus, self- and other-awareness, and academic skills in writing, reading, thinking, and creativity.

This is an original method for using music, so you’ll need an open mind.  Music listening and contemplating inner experiences create a whole new world inside kids (grade 3 and beyond), where they become avatars in landscapes of mind, imagination, body, heart, and spirit.  It worked in my classrooms with over 35 students, from the 70s until 2002 when I retired. 

I believe my music technique can be scaled down to 1-to-1 and small group situations.  One of the biggest differences would be the greater intensity fostered with fewer people involved.  Also, if you’re a parent bent on creating openness with your children, you’ll become an important link to make the potential connection work.  In other words, you would do contemplation music writing with the child, or else, how would you understand what he or she is going through while listening to music?

How a typical contemplation music-writing lesson works:

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

head on deskIt’s 12:35 p.m.  I’m picking up my 6th grade class from the cafeteria.  You can cut the heat with a knife.  The kids are sizzling.  We walk upstairs.  I’m waiting for something to happen.  Two boys start shoving each other and refuse to “stay hit.”  Two girls curse out their respective mothers, fathers, and grandfathers.  We stop on the fourth floor.  We’re out of emotional breath.  Thoughts of getting back to work again are repugnant to everyone—including the teacher.

            We finally get to the room.  We’re still boiling.  In desperation I reach into my desk drawer and take out a cassette tape of an old Billy Joel album, then put it into the “juke box.”

            “Get your heads down on the desk and listen!” I bellow.  Lights are shut.  Shades drawn.  “Sit back and relax,” I tell them in a calmer voice.  “Don’t think about work or anything.  Forget the world for a little while.”

            The tape ran for 15 minutes.  We came out of our dreams and I asked the class: “How did you feel while listening to the music?  What happened inside yourself?”  The children spoke freely:

            “I thought I was flying.”

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

photodune-1867786-children-listening-to-music-xsSo much is said today about “music playing” as a gateway to improving academic skills and expanding emotional intelligence.  The scientific and empirical research validates these findings.  But what about music listening: how does it fit into the equation and affect children’s  lives?  And when you think about it, just about every kid listens to music.

My “Contemplation Music Writing Project” which began in the 70s shows how listening to music takes students beyond the educational benefits connected to music playing.  The studies, in regard to music listening, support the results I found empirically about the effects/affects of music, contemplating, writing, and discussing their inner experiences.  

One area the research misses is how music listening increases children’s awareness of the present moment, and that is significant for teachers working in today’s classrooms.  By listening to their favorite or “preferred music,” my students released emotions and thoughts hindering them from concentrating on learning, particularly in the afternoons between 1 and 3 p.m. when energy levels and attention spans declined rapidly.  The combined musical and contemplative experience revived spirits so they could continue to think clearly and learn at an optimal level.

“The Music Technique” stemmed from my own experiences with music listening: After a difficult day in the classroom, I played music while relaxing on a sofa mainly to drown out the psychological chaos stirring in my head.  But a funny thing happened on the road to sanity.  All the pictures mentally recorded from that day came back and flooded my mind with feelings and thoughts I’d rather forget.  Once I realized that I needed to stop fighting my self and let things be, I calmed down and felt moments of inner peace.  This change took time to develop, to re-view carefully or contemplate the mind-pictures from the day’s events, to release any negativity by getting into it, and getting it out, and to move on to the present-moment with greater lucidity, openness, and self-awareness.

From these experiences came an original, creative, and challenging “self-help activity,” an “internal education,” that included music, contemplating experiences while listening to music, and following up by writing, describing, and talking about whatever happened inside.  

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Posted by on in Professional Development

mentoring2All teachers need mentors. This relationship and process starts with student teaching and the neophyte’s professor, but in most cases, sadly ends there.  My positive experiences with mentors in my life come from a diverse group of teachers, coaches, and oddly enough, two parakeets. 

I play tennis and practice against the wall of a racquetball court.  I hit for thirty minutes, starting out slow to find my concentration.  At sixty-six I take my time to warm up until I start hitting harder over an imaginary net while keeping my focus and tension level as if it were a real match.  Playing inside a cube gets intense, sweaty, and noisy for lone tennis players. 

My cube of intensity was broken one day when Al asked if he could come in and play a game of racquetball, a sport I never played.  We practiced for ten minutes as I hit the ball using my tennis strokes and loved the freedom the sport offers that tennis does not.  I could whack the ball almost recklessly and not worry about clearing a net or keeping it inside the baseline. 

Al gave me “pointers” about hitting the ball and where, positioning myself on the court, serving, how to and where to, and the rules of the game, all this in an hour of play and instruction.  I became an instant fan of the game and a novice racquetball player. 

In a direct, non-judgmental manner, Al became a mentor, teacher, guide, counselor, tutor, and coach.  When I think about past mentors, I did not completely appreciate what mentoring really is and how meaningful and expansive it can be in people’s lives, and how empty one’s existence is without having them. 

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