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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

WhyCuriosityFadesandHowtoGrowIt.png

I read a lot in my elementary years. Growing up in the 1980's communist Poland I spent a lot of time in the cowboys-and-Indians world of Winnetou and Old Shatterhand. I'd relive the main characters' stories with an older friend who introduced me to this world and lent me books I'd devour in spare time. I read other books too. I read like a maniac expanding my world and consciousness. They tickled my imagination.

 

I guess I was curious.

 

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

kids around a computer

Recently, among friends at dinner, we were discussing our childhoods and we all fondly recalled the hours spent playing outdoors, building indoor forts, and dressing up with grandma’s hand-me-downs from the previous decades. As our walk down memory lane progressed, it dawned on us that our own kids are missing out on these iconic rights of childhood. No longer do our boys and girls play outside with the neighbor kids or start pick up games of ball or hide-n-seek. No, our children spend a majority of their days glued in front of a screen of some kind.

Sure, it might vary from televisions, gaming systems, smartphones, tablets, computers, and more, but the results are all the same: inactivity. To put this into clearer perspective, everyday our children spend close to an average of 9 hours consuming media in some form or another! That number is mind boggling, especially when we consider that many of us adults spend less time at work in a day than our kids do scrolling and tapping the hours away. This statistic, while eye opening, clearly shows us that kids need a digital detox.  

Too Much of a Good Thing? The Case for a Digital Detox

If our children are over-dependent on technology and fixated on screens, they are missing out on very important face-to-face interactions with the adults and peers in their lives. This also reduces the amount of time spent playing and interacting with their surroundings. Limiting these interactions hinders the emotional, cognitive, and social development of a child. This impacts a child’s ability to learn, form relationships, and even learn how to read emotional cues. 

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

When I was first hired as an assistant principal back in 2010, my principal and I had a long lunch to break the ice.  I talked about my honeymoon, he talked about his history in the town, and then we started talking about bizarre things on the internet. We both were hysterical and just how much on the internet and both scratched our heads wondering what could possibly come next. We got into a strong debate at lunch one summer day about school discipline records and how they should or should not be sent to the next school (we were a sending district, so in this case, they would be sent to the high school). His stance was very strong - new school, new start.  My initial stance (2 weeks on the job) was all records go with the student. After all, I was the new assistant principal - and what do most middle school assistant principals do? Discipline.

Almost 8 years later as a write this post (and just using an app on my phone to have contractors on bid snow removal from my driveway and sidewalks - talk about things we would never imagine), I'm reading about a friend of mine who has a teenage son that made a bad choice.  He sent an inappropriate tweet to a fast food chain.  The fast-food chain responded back, a tad better in taste (forgive the pun) - but Mom was not happy.  Mom was trying to instill in her child that "congratulations - you will now forever have your name associated with this fast food chain and it will be archived on the internet for everyone to see in the future."

I don't know about all of you reading my blog, but I'll be the very first to admit that I was (and, well, currently) far from the perfect person, let alone star student in middle school and high school.  My grades weren't the best, I had a poor attitude on occasion towards certain teachers and academic subjects, and may or may not have been suspended a few times for doing what middle school boys have a strong knack for - drawing male anatomy on bathroom stalls and school signs and screaming new vocabulary words that you learn from your peers. I enjoyed a good prank call with a fake name to the local bar (Bart Simpson certainly set the standard) and might have even sent a dozen pizzas to my principal from the school payphone on the last day of middle school (sorry, Mr. Malles). Truth be told, I think being such a nudnick in middle and high school is what made me a great 8th-grade teacher and middle school assistant principal. I could easily relate to the knucklehead missteps and could easily differentiate a bonehead move and something that was serious (i.e. harm to yourself or others).

Were these middle school missteps my proudest moments? Certainly not. Was it there for the world to see and judge me? Well, now it is - but in 8th grade, it was not. For today's 8th grader, it's now etched in eternity. What are missteps are now mile-markers in one's life, all a click or google search away.

What's even more disturbing is that people that loathe you (for whatever reason it may be) can now hide behind a keyboard, go online, use their name or create several fictitious names, and say whatever they want. If you ticked someone off, look out.  You will be crucified online an entire group of people you don't know. Or maybe you do know them, but they won't say anything to your face.  Or maybe they like the attention of saying things to get people to raise comments. Whatever it may be, you can try to get out of it, try to defend yourself, or even own up to your mistakes, but it will do no good.  It will still forever be there, waiting for someone to see.

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

...writing poetry can feel like doing ballet in a phone booth.

Poetry. Boring? Government. Ordinary? Math. Lifeless?

We think not.

I had the pleasure this week of working with a diverse group of 42 secondary school teachers. They came from many different schools and taught a range of topics in Grades 8-12. The session was entitled Emotion At The Helm: Engaging Emotions and Imaginations in The Secondary Classroom. Part of the workshop involved two collaborative activities, one employing tools to tap into students’ Romantic imagination, the other to tap into their Philosophic imagination. (Learn more about different forms of imaginative engagement here.) This post shares some of the imaginative ideas the teachers* came up with that employ cognitive tools to evoke their students’ emotions and imaginations with “ordinary” topics like Poetry, Government, and Linear Relationships (Math).

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

As I continue working with more and more teachers I'm often surprised at how many I still see "page turning" to plan instruction. "Page turning" is a form of lesson planning that a teacher uses, that is simply opening a textbook and continuing where they left off during the last lesson. Now don't get me wrong, textbooks have their place in education (I guess), but when teachers rely on them too heavily instruction can suffer greatly, and more importantly, learning does too.

Here are a few reasons you should get textbooks out of your lesson planning and start forging your own instructional path, outside the edges of those pages.

Textbooks Fail To Engage Students

I don't care how many pictures or fun activities exist in the realm of the book you are using, I will almost guarantee that it is not engaging all your students. The simple reason is that the writers of that book don't know your students, YOU DO. I have never (and will never) heard a student mutter "Wow! Chapter 7 was surprisingly fun and exciting! I can't wait to continue working to Chapter 8!" I would bet that you haven't either. That's because textbooks are designed as a curriculum TOOL to be used in lesson planning, not a curriculum in themselves. Students must interact, play with, and experience concepts, not just read about them. (or hear about them during your lectures...which don't work either by the way.)

Textbooks Are NOT Universally Designed

Textbooks are generally written at or above the grade level you are teaching. The pictures, diagrams, and experiences presented in them are also created at that level. I don't know about you, but most of my students, or at least some of them, were below grade level or still achieving their current grade level. I would also like to suggest that the context, circumstances, and lens in which most textbooks view your curriculum are not going to engage or allow for much adjustment or modification if they are your primary lesson planning tool.

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