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Posted by on in Early Childhood

I am half way through Erika Christakis’ book, The Importance of Being Little. It is nice to read something written by someone who a) Understands early childhood, and b) isn’t overly academic, and c) isn't too gentle with the idiocies of the corporate early education model. My friend, Rae Pica, also writes with the courage of her convictions. I try to emulate these women.

The point I am at in my reading is the chapter she aptly names, “The Search for Intelligent Life.” She writes that the standards movement, which I do not condemn, by the way, has birthed a marketing volcanic eruption of pre-packaged materials for teaching to standards, everything from plastic leaves to fake logs. Fake food is rampant in preschools. In my preschool career, thank goodness, our policy was that if children wanted to play with fake food, they could engineer and create it themselves. For thinking about food, looking at foods, and deciding what characteristics are the most important to each individual child is certainly more thought provoking (problem solving; creativity, anyone?) than using the plastic foods created by the masterminds of Chinese manufacturing. Children play with their own “foods” with the same intensity. Within the “standards units” marketed by Lakeshore Learning, there are whole kits to teach math to kindergarteners. Adorable plastic cards give your average five year old a chance to “solve problems” written by the company that makes them. But as I have written before, spoon feeding artificial problems to children is antithetical to mentoring their natural inclination to question, and to actively explore solutions.

So, what is a teacher, underpaid and overworked, to do?

For math, throw out the  work sheets and plastic fakery. They are not “academic.” If a child needs or wants a worksheet to solve a problem, you can mentor them by asking what, exactly, they want to know? Do they want to count the birds on the playground? This is statistics and a math activity of their choosing. Ask them to draw a grid (you, know, lines that are parallel, going horizontally and vertically. Ask them which birds they want to count, and then ask them to draw birds going down, and numbers going across. If they ask for help, only give as much as they need (scaffolding). Then hand them clipboards and pencils, shooing them outdoors. We aren’t looking for accuracy. We are looking for a learning process. As Dr. Christakis writes, “The ingredients of good teaching and coaching are learning processes, not facts”.

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Posted by on in General

It's almost here!

As the days grow longer, the students in your classroom get more volatile, and the smell of Summer break is in the air, I want you to STOP. Right now, as you decide not to finish that lesson plan and just play Kahoot with your students tomorrow, I want you to consider the opportunity being wasted. The opportunity to end your school year stronger than ever and set yourself up for an amazing Summer. Here are 3 things you can start doing today to make that happen.

1. Plan Ahead / Make a List

The easiest thing you can do to make the end of your year better is to plan ahead for the end of year hustle and bustle ahead of time. You are probably making a mental list of all the things you need to do, whether it's cleaning up your classroom, putting in your final grades, filling out that paperwork that's been in your mailbox for a few days, or signing up for your Summer professional development training. Don't be that teacher running around on the last day of school trying to figure all of this out at once. Make a list of everything you need to get done, prioritize it, and knock out at least 1 task every day. Start with anything that can take less than 10 minutes.

There may even be a few things that you're thinking, "I'll do that over summer, or get to it at the end of the year." This is a dangerous game and I would bet just about anything that when the time comes and you are staring down that mess of lesson materials in the back of your classroom, or getting those books organized, or handing back the student work that's been on your wall since first quarter (yeah, it's ok we all do that sometimes), you won’t have the time or energy to do all the things you put on that "Summer" list. Make sure you get ahead of these things so you can divide up the workload over the last few weeks instead of the last few hours.

2. Don't Stop Teaching

Ok...so I know this sounds simple. It's so easy at the end of the year to start "filling up time" instead of focusing on student learning. In your head it's very easy to think: "just get through these last few days." I get it, and this is normal, but here's a secret: students know when you're phoning in your lesson. If students feel like your just getting through the day, or have given up on learning for the year, they will give up too.

I know it can be difficult, but stay focused, stay committed, and continue doing what you do best: teaching kids.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

kindergarten classroom

I've been thinking about mistakes in the classroom...mostly the ones I make. The first one that comes to mind happened when I was teaching first graders. I had put up a wonder wall and received lots of great questions and wonders. One day, when reading some of the wonders in our group, I read a great question about rainbows - and then I proceeded to answer it instead of leading the group in ways to discover the answer. I realized that mistake as I drove home. I'd missed a great opportunity to lead children in discovering their own answers to questions.

I've made spelling mistakes and factual mistakes in the classroom. I've tried things that just didn't work or that just didn't interest the children like I thought it would.

I think about how to take advantage of mistakes when I make them - showing the children that we all make mistakes and mistakes help us learn. I think about how plan to avoid general mistakes. I think about how to laugh when I make them and how to encourage when kids make them. Making mistakes is a great way to learn. So often, children are afraid to be wrong, to make mistakes. But I hope to create classrooms that welcome mistakes and use them for more learning.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

“Great organizations demand a high level of commitment by the people involved.”
– Bill Gates

Vision (eyesight) is one of our five senses, eyesight is how ‘sighted’ people get input from the world around us. Eyesight is something that I do NOT take for granted, especially due to personal circumstances over the past six months. In this blog post I am going to draw parallels to my personal experiences with my vision and the concept of Vision in terms of organizational growth and change.

For 35 years I wore eyeglasses to correct my vision – correct as in meaning to improve sight. Sight in terms of what I could see with focus, distance, depth, perception, etc. I could still “see” without glasses, but my “vision” was distorted. With a distorted vision, I was not able to fully “see” or take in the world. The change I needed to make in my life was the change to wear glasses to “correct” my vision.

Often our vision needs to be corrected so that change and new methods can be embraced for improvement

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