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Posted by on in What If?

shy student

I hate to admit that, in 36 years as an educational consultant and nine as a radio host responsible for finding topics to explore, I hadn’t given shy children any thought – until I came across a book called Quiet at School: An Educator’s Guide to Shy Children. That’s when it occurred to me that not only do shy children have unique challenges in classrooms; also, those challenges are mostly known only to the children themselves.

And that, of course, is the crux of the matter. If the squeaky wheel gets the grease, the kids with “louder,” more disruptive issues are going to get the teacher’s attention. In the meantime, shy children sit silently struggling.

With that in mind, I invited Quiet at School co-author Robert Coplan to talk with me on Studentcentricity. Educator Melanie Taylor joined us.

We talked about the most common indicators of shyness in children, and how they might look different from early childhood to adolescence. And I asked Rob about the teacher’s natural inclination to encourage children to speak up more and raise their hands to answer questions. Is that actually the way to help shy children succeed in school?

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Posted by on in What If?

If you couldn't tell, I am pretty passionate about my job and educating kids for today's society. I've made numerous controversial comments about how people should retire if they hate their teaching job because it effects kids. Why is this such a thing for me? A couple reasons:

Back when my grandfather was a police officer, he worked in the traffic bureau before he retired. I asked him one day what he does; he said he hangs out on "retirement row". Clueless as to what that meant, I found out that the traffic bureau was the most coveted gig for those that awaited retirement; 9 to 5, five days a week, not on the road. Sounds awful to me, but for cops who don't work like everyone else, it was a dream. I eventually got to see it once I became affiliated with UPD; retirement row was definitely retirement row. 

About twelve years ago as a history teacher in EastBrunswick, I met a teacher who was absolutely miserable. Words can't even describe how miserable she was. She wouldn't talk to anyone; she just gave the number of years and the number of days she had left. She eventually got down to 30 days, and holy cow, what a different person. I could have told her the acopolypse was here, and her smile wouldn't go away. The epitome of bliss.

Thankfully I have not worked with anyone like that since then. I have worked with educators that just keep going; not because they have to; not because they want to; because they don't know what else to do. Those folks end up almost PAYING to work. Think about that - you paying to work! It makes me ill. You worked so hard your whole life - and now you're paying to work?! Awful. It's not fair to that person. If you love your job, by all means, have at it. But paying someone to work?! Not cool.

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Posted by on in What If?

outdoor learning 1024x683

When we think about young children and the outdoors, we tend to associate the two with playing, or perhaps with the opportunity for kids to get the wiggles out. Maybe we even think of it in terms of break time for the teacher. But in a discussion for Studentcentricity, guests Heidi Veal and Ruth Wilson, author of Learning Is in Bloom: Cultivating Outdoor Explorations, talked with me about why and how teachers should take learning outdoors.

Following our talk, Heidi contributed these additional thoughts:

Both young and old often find inspiration when outdoors. Learning literally comes ALIVE in nature! Outdoor learning experiences spark wonder & communication, inspire students to create novel learning connections, and give children opportunities to extend their learning beyond the traditional four walls of a classroom. Multi-sensory learning experiences, understanding and respect of nature, and broadened perspectives are additional benefits of outdoor learning. I urge all educators to treat the outdoors as an extension of their classrooms if only for the single reason that learning outside provides numerous learning opportunities that simply cannot be provided inside. My advice to educators is this, don’t wait! Go outside and learn with your students today! Take a nature walk, identify sounds outside, observe the sky, grow something, hunt for natural patterns, discover organic treasures. Give your students opportunities to explore, ask, and make connections with their amazing world beyond your school’s doorsteps. Your students will thank you! If you are inspired to discover more about outdoor learning experiences in early childhood education, check out the 4/19/16 archive of #ECEchat on this exact topic.  

And Ruth offered these reasons why it’s important for children to experience nature!:

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Posted by on in What If?

preschool behavior

You plan your activities and lessons to be as exciting, fun, and meaningful as possible. And when most of the children engage in them, you feel a sense of pride and success! But what about those kids who simply don’t want to participate? Have you failed, or is there something going on with the kids themselves? Should you force them to participate? Allow them to sit on the sidelines?

Those are among the questions I asked of Heather Shumaker, author of It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, which includes an entire chapter on this topic, and early childhood expert Amanda Morgan in an episode of Studentcentricity.

Following taping, Heather had this to add:

If a child doesn't want to participate in what the group is doing, don't panic. All behavior has meaning. Respect the child, but respect the group, too. That means the child has the right not to join in, as long as her actions don't disrupt the group's activity. Protect the rights of both. Young children do a lot of learning through observation, or they may be dealing with fears or other social learning.

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Posted by on in What If?

This blog post was written by our wonderful postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Rebecca Dore.

“It’s a twain,” almost 3-year-old Amanda said when I asked her to name the picture. But Amanda thought that trains were magical and only existed in Thomas the Tank Engine videos. How was she supposed to know? She’d never been on a train or seen a train in real life, so it makes perfect sense for her to assume these smiling, talking, autonomous creatures had no analogue outside of the fictional island of Sodor.

But sometimes we do want children to expect new information from their media to also be true in the outside world. Take Dora the Explorer for example: Dora is a wealth of information! She teaches kids about problem solving, friendship, and even how to speak Spanish!

But wait, Dora also has a backpack that can talk and a monkey friend who wears bright red boots. She has to solve a riddle for a troll in order to cross a bridge and in another episode saves a trapped mermaid. So how are kids supposed to know that they should expect Dora’s problem solving skills to apply to real life, but not expect a troll to come out to play a game every time you drive over the interstate?

This question of what information children take from fictional worlds to the real world is one that child development researchers have been grappling with for years. A 2014 study highlights the issue. The researchers showed preschoolers an episode of Dora and then asked them whether they thought the new information in the show was real or “just pretend.” More than 75% of 3-year-olds said that the Spanish words in the show weren’t real, or that they weren’t sure if they were real. Not surprisingly, children who said the Spanish words weren’t real were less likely to learn them! A quote in the article’s title reflects the problem: “Vámonos means go, but that’s made up for the show.” Fortunately, older preschoolers were better able to recognize that the educational content in the show would apply to the real world and learned the Spanish words better, but even 5-year-olds sometimes doubted the reality of the information, obstructing their learning.

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