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Posted by on in General


How do you decide which sessions to attend when you go to a conference? Especially one that has amazing session at every time slot. It’s not easy and until last week, I had no plan. It’s not as if this is tragedy, but I can tell you that I left the most recent conference I attended, National Principal’s Conference 2019, feeling as if I had gotten everything I wanted out of the 3-day experience. To be honest, I have attended many wonderful conferences in the past, and I had never felt the way I feel today and it’s not any fault of the conferences. It was because I did not have a plan.

I do now.

Pick Great Presenters

I know some of you may be thinking, “Jon, I enjoy attending conferences, but I don’t have any desire to ever present at one of these things.” Okay, I hear you. But, don’t forget that you present all the time. Whether you are a teacher presenting to your students, a principal presenting to your staff or a supervisor presenting to your department; you are a presenter.

Therefore, it only makes sense to choose a session or two in which you know you will be observing a master presenter. Maybe you are interested in what they are talking about. Maybe you’re not.

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Posted by on in General


Sometimes it doesn’t take much.

Hours of heavy lifting can be negated by a letter (eval rating), a look or an unmet expectation.

A sculptor sees hourly progress. A writer, daily. But a teacher?

Weeks may pass without even the hint of a step forward.

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Posted by on in General

One afternoon, a week before the end of the past school year, I was washing my hands at the classroom sink.  When I was finished, I turned to walk to my desk.  Instead, I slipped on a pile of student backpacks left sprawled about on the floor and soon found myself sprawled out next to them.  

I tried to play off the pain that was shooting from my right hand to my elbow and all the way up to my shoulder.  It was bad enough that my ego was bruised and on display for thirty seventh graders to see.  I really didn’t want to admit any other bruising that may be emerging as well. 

Workman’s compensation papers completed, I headed to the assigned clinic where I was quickly examined and then prescribed several sessions of physical therapy.

A few days later, I arrived for my first session.  The therapist walked into the lobby and called my name.  He asked, “Do you remember me?”

I am embarrassed to admit: I remembered his face, but my brain could not quickly supply his name.  It turns out that my physical therapist, Dr. Brandon Olson, was once a student in my fifth-grade class – twenty-four years ago!  Ten-year-olds grow up!  They change!

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Posted by on in General


Summer Learning Slide! What's Up? or Down?

What Do You Think? Is summer learning loss real? Yes, no, maybe so, depending. 

Is summer learning loss like walking up the slide?     

For a couple of years now, always the same. I'm on the preschool play area and I spot one or two kiddos walking up the slide. I gently remind to slide down the slide, not walk up. Also, not to slide down backwards or push another kid down. Other weird things seem to pop up, like licking the slide, going up and down the stairs, then not sliding, watching a toy go down the slide, etc. Even though we are in summer, our preschool still serves kids. The slide gets a lot of action. So there is no summer learning loss, or slide for these lucky littles.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Adults interrupt young children in a fraught struggle over a toy, by ordering “share”. The child drops the toy in tears and frustration, having learned that if you have something, you have to “share”? (AKA give up) Jacky Howell had an example in one of her trainings: Walking up to a woman, she looked into the other woman’s purse, saw her wallet, and said, “Share!”. It brought forth paroxysms of laughter among early childhood educators, not to mention parents. Point taken! When a very young child is absorbed in play, constructing with blocks, or racing a car along the carpet, an abrupt interruption of that child’s play, I believe, communicates disrespect for a child’s focused attention.

One of the key objectives of education is teaching children to be intentional in their learning process. If a child is playing with something, focusing on making it do something to the point of tuning out everyone else, imagine how startled and frustrated that child is if, out of the blue, another child grabs the toy, and adults order, “Share!”. What an adult has taught is that a child has no right to use his or her nascent negotiation skills for a few more minutes with the toys: No making some kind of trade, or coming up with any other solution to the problem. The child is learning nothing but anger, guilt, and a desire for revenge. You will see the revenge eventually, if you observe what happens later!

It doesn’t have to be this way.

You could be teaching negotiating skills, and respect for another’s desires. The Virginia Foundation Blocks for Early Learning give a thorough set of developmental objectives for fours, which can be modified for younger children. Standards such as “Initiate and sustain interactions with other children”, “demonstrate respectful and polite vocabulary”, and “begin to recognize and respond to the needs, rights, and emotions of others” are excellent objectives for both teachers and parents.

During my time in the ECE field, it has been my great pleasure to observe children working (the work of children is play, remember) on developing skills through their use of toys, especially what we call manipulatives. These are any toys that can be used in different ways to create a larger whole. Manipulatives include such objects as blocks, or found objects integrated with toys and blocks. This process develops over time, if adults allow lots of play time for these skills to develop. Children need negotiating skills to “share” these toys, because it is the nature of human life to need to learn to work together.

Teaching these negotiating skills is part and parcel of both teaching and parenting. As preschoolers grow, they need adults to have respect for their developing maturity.  Commanding “share” ignores the truth of a child’s  willingness to resolve a conflict in another way. They don't want to fight. They'd prefer another approach.  Amid the flurry of feelings that erupt in an argument, a child needs a way into verbal negotiation. Saying, “use your words” is not enough. If they had the words, wouldn’t they be using them? You can give them words they can use, tools for life! Using such sentences as, “When will you be finished with that toy?” “Can I trade you this toy for that toy”?” What are you doing? Can I help?", are some sentences you can teach. I’ve found this last one to be have an amazing effect. Most children will easily open up to another child, sharing their toys as they explain to the other child the ideas that they are pursuing. Helping children to verbalize their meanings, intentions and expectations nurtures budding language skills.

There are many kindergarten readiness checklists where “sharing” and “taking turns” are among the skills listed. How about changing these to, “negotiating solutions to conflict in play”? This would be more useful as a tool in school, and in life, then ordering adult-mandated solutions.

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