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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in spirit of teaching
Posted by on in What If?

mister rogers

Most of us watched Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood at one time or another- along with our children or as children ourselves. So, we felt his impact and influence, either directly or indirectly.

After watching the recent documentary about Fred Rogers, I was reminded of what genuinely matters and how the lessons he so sensitively taught children are just as meaningful for those who teach them.

adult learner blog

1. Always be a learner. Lifelong learning is our calling. We can never afford to get stale or static, because our work revolves around children who are neither. They are ever-changing, developing, growing… and learning.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

The topic for my last Art, Music and Movement for Young Children class was Emergent Curriculum. I showed a video from Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Early Childhood Education showcasing a project on balls. You can watch it here. Emergent Curriculum is a way of teaching through student interests. Suppose a group of toddlers becomes enthralled with the worms on the playground. Teachers will observe the children, take notes, and document which child is especially interested in which aspect of the topic. Pulling books from their library about worms, giving the children magnifiers to spread out and invade the privacy of the playground worms, teachers provide materials and experiences that enable a deep study that accommodates individual learners. In the video’s ball project, the children dissected, compared, and created art with balls. Destroying and creating balls, they learned about physical and dynamic properties of their favorite toy. This project was emergent, because it emerged from a genuine interest from the children.

We also discussed thematic units. These are based on broad subjects, usually about traditional preschool themes such as seasons, community helpers, space, and the ocean. Very young children are often interested in these topics, but with a lock-step approach, teachers pay less attention to individuals who might not be as enamored. When I do a professional development presentation on engaging curriculum, I tell teachers that behavior is better when everyone is engaged. With thematic units, some children are engaged and others aren’t. (Perhaps that is why behavior guidance is such a popular topic on the professional development circuit!) Suppose the theme is farms. Teachers might read about farm animals to the whole group (with the anti-farm contingent touching their neighbors and looking out the window—“behavior problems”). They sing Old MacDonald, color pictures of the traditional 19th and early 20th century farms, and, if they’re lucky, take a field trip to an authentic farm dedicated to school field trips.

What provoked this newest screed of mine is an anecdote from one of my students. She said that her thematic unit is the earth, and that they have to teach the names of the continents. Can you imagine a two and a half year old child who has no abstract thinking, being taught about continents? My class of savvy students turned to ask this young woman: “How do you assess these children? Do they ‘get’ it?” “No, she answered, “but we take a picture of each child pointing to a globe, and send the picture to parents to show that they are learning about continents.” There was a collective groan from the class.

All of this trickery (“Can you say Asia?”) convinces parents that their children are on a fast track to Harvard. Child care has evolved into “school”, as in “What did you do in school today?” Calling child care school is part of the scam. Play, and emergent learning, in these programs, are secondary to elementary school style teaching and learning. As I’ve written before, children play with materials as well as ideas. Play is creative and a part of a child’s authentic learning and thinking. It blows my mind that, against all known best practice, a center is quizzing twos on geography.

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Posted by on in General

I began teaching at age seven.

I gave my poor siblings handwritten worksheets with simple addition problems to solve and letters to trace. When they were done, I graded their work and planned the next day’s lesson.

A few years later, all of my friends were begging their parents for walkie-talkies so that they could play army games. I begged as well. But I had no intention of running around an imagined battlefield.

I wanted an intercom system for my little private school.

The minute my parents gave in and handed me my new handheld devices, I promoted myself to the position of principal and allowed my younger sister to take over the classroom. She set up instruction in her bedroom while I set up my office in my own room. Each of us had a walkie talkie. Oh, how I delighted in interrupting her classroom with multiple announcements.

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