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Posted by on in Project-Based Learning

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First, we kill our students creativity. Next, we ask them to be creative and wonder why they have such a hard time.

We always aspire for our students to move away from fact regurgitation and move toward higher level thinking and deeper understanding. When we ask students to brainstorm and generate ideas, provide solutions to problems, or to think and reason critically, we are really asking them to be creative. The sad truth is that by standardizing education we often kill creativity. The hope lies in the fact that creativity is an acquired skill that can be improved.

If we make a conscious decision to change things up in our classrooms, to change the way we educate our students, we can increase their creativity. With increased creativity they can innovate and be more successful.

The human brain is composed of gray matter and white matter. Gray matter stores knowledge and is used when we think. White matter is tissue through which the brain transfers and connects information. Scientific studies show that extraordinarily creative individuals have more white matter than others. This is good, because it proves creativity is something we can get better at.

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Posted by on in General

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Monday

This was going to be the day that studying paid off. Up until now Calculus had been a big ball of Stink. She paid attention in class. She studied for hours the night before the tests. She even made flash cards for the tricky stuff. An idea that her dad gave her. And yes, they did get her some funny looks. But she thought maybe, just maybe, they might work one of these times. But they hadn’t yet and her faith in her dad’s study techniques was waning quickly.

Today’s test was multiple choice and she would know how she did by the end of the day. Finishing a few minutes early, she decided to take out her journal. To work on her poems. Or as her friends, not really, called them, her feelings journal. Always making sure to put feelings and journal in between air quotes. She never reacted. But, if she was being honest. It did hurt sometimes.

Making sure to check her test score online before going home was something she debated with herself. But, in the end she told herself that this time was going to be different. She had written the url right inside her notebook. Just like her teacher had told them. She always did what she was told. Figured it might one day be worth it.

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Posted by on in General

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Sometimes the thought of right now can be overwhelming! We have so much going on in our lives that we feel we cannot add one more thing to our already full plates.

I did not write this post to convince you otherwise. I wrote this post to suggest a different way of thinking about things that pushes tothe side the right now mindset.

Because let’s be honest.

Right now is scary! And when we put right now demands on our brain it usually reacts in one of two ways. And I am not fond of either one.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

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The list of consequences for kids forced to sit too long is a lengthy one. Among other things, sitting is now considered as detrimental to health as is smoking (the human body was built to move!). Research also has shown us that sitting increases fatigue and reduces concentration, neither of which is an optimal condition for learning. And we all know that young children need to physically experience concepts to best understand them. So, when I tell you that too much sitting in classrooms also leads to an inability to master body and spatial awareness, you might think that it’s no big deal, considering the other consequences.

But let’s ponder it. As adults we use our body and spatial awareness to navigate through the world. We can (usually) walk down a crowded sidewalk without bumping into a lamppost, or maneuver our way around trees on a crowded ski slope. We find our way to work and through large shopping malls. We fit our cars into narrow parking spaces or garages and, more importantly, keep our cars from coming into contact with other cars, people, or objects. We understand the social customs that dictate we not be like the “close talker” depicted on an episode of Seinfeld. We understand that some people do not want to be touched. And when a hug or a handshake is appropriate, we’ve learned how strong and how long it should be.

These are lessons that cannot be learned by sitting at a desk. Like so much else in early childhood, body and spatial awareness must be experienced and practiced if they’re to develop fully. When a baby is born, we realize she doesn’t come equipped with a perfectly functioning proprioceptive sense (awareness of her body in space). That’s why we play “I’ve got your nose,” “This Little Piggy,” and knee-bouncing, lifting, and spinning games with her. But when she starts navigating her way through the world via crawling and walking, the only consideration we give to her spatial sense is whether or not she’s going to bang into the coffee table. And if she doesn’t – or doesn’t continually – we take for granted that she’ll be able to successfully navigate her way through the world.

And maybe she will. But we’ve all had children in our classes who line up too closely to one another, and who bump into everyone and everything. We’ve all had children whose desire to “crash and go boom” overrides any respect for personal space. Who hug or tag or poke too hard. Who view themselves as clumsy or uncoordinated and therefore lack confidence in their physical abilities. And many a child has shown up in second or third grade not knowing his elbow from his shoulder, or unable to distinguish the difference between a lowercase “b” and a lowercase “d.”

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Statistics and family studies provide us with some answers to why some dads will never see the inside of their child’s classroom. One in three children don’t have a father present in the home. That’s a little over 24 million and the number is growing.

Some dads, for various reasons, have learned to mistrust schools. They may have had a rough school experience themselves with teacher or administrators who were less than supportive. Other dads could feel wary of stepping into an active dad role due to present or past issues with the law or substance abuse. These dads may even get to a point where their self-esteem bottoms out and they feel they have nothing left to give their children.

If a dad is working all day, he may not have the opportunity to spend time in the classroom. Teachers will see him briefly at the beginning or end of the day, as he drops off or picks up his child. But, if a carpool line is in place, he may only be a face in the car window.

There is also still a stigma attached to dads who are actively involved in their young children’s education, especially for those dads whose own father was not an active participant. I think this is diminishing, but there is still the lingering belief that a mom holds the primary role of involvement in a child’s early education. It is important that we, as teachers, ensure this next generation of children understands that the early childhood environment is for everybody.

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