How much of a meliorist are you?

Recently I was sent a link to an article titled Cheer up, it’s not all doom and gloom published by the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s The Drum.

This article mentioned a book by Steven Pinker called Better Angels of Our Nature which had been recommended to me by Geoff Le Pard in a comment on my post about childhood illness. The premise of this book is that humanity, over the ages, has become less violent. After to listening to Pinker’s history of violence, I’m pleased that I live these relatively peaceful times.

 

The article also introduced me to a new term ‘meliorism’ which means having a belief that the world can be improved by the actions of humans. While the term may have been unfamiliar to me, the attitude is not and I attest that I am a meliorist.

I have a very strong belief in the power of education to improve the world. Education empowers individuals, and educated individuals empower societies to build improved futures. It becomes very difficult to sustain negative practices in the face of overwhelming evidence and information.

What better place is there for education to begin than in the home?

In a recent post I referred to a new book by Michael Rosen called Good Ideas: How to Be Your Child’s (And Your Own) Best Teacher. At the time I had not read the book but now I can say, with great delight, that I have listened to most of it. With messages such as those contained in Michael’s book, it is easy to be a meliorist.

I think Rosen’s book should be available to, perhaps compulsory reading for, every parent; I consider its message to be that important. In fact, I am off to the shops today to purchase copies to give to parents of young children I know.  It will become part of my gift to new parents that also includes Reading Magic by Mem Fox and a selection of picture books. I have previously blogged about that here and here.

The “Good Ideas” contained in Rosen’s book, if implemented, will keep alive the natural curiosity of one’s children and oneself. They will encourage the development of thought, creativity and responsiveness.

In the next few weeks I will post a more detailed review of the book and some of Michael’s ideas for stimulating curiosity, whoever and wherever you are.

What about you? Are you a meliorist?

I welcome your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

Thank you

Put a Nose on It

Norah:

This is a great little post from ‘teach to educate’ about flexibility in thinking. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Thanks for reading. :)

Originally posted on Teach to Educate:

A two-year old had been working on drawing circles, so his grandma decided to amp it up a bit.  She said, “Can you put a nose on it?”  And he did.

nose on it picture

With a smudge on his nose, he lifted his head with pride and accomplishment!

So, this is a cute, cute story.  It’s easy to appreciate this young child exploring the world and functioning without learned behaviors or expected outcomes.  In the same mind that plays these thoughts, other hypocritical thoughts contradict these beliefs.  Are we even aware?  Do we see possibilities in the “wrong” answers from our students and consider it to be neat?

If I were the grandma, I would have followed this “answer” with…”Can you show me another way to add a nose?”  This approach helps the child develop flexible thinking without destroying his own thinking mind or confidence.  He added a nose.  It just wasn’t the…

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Who’s the best teacher?

Two recurring themes, amongst others on my blog, are ways of encouraging a love of literacy and of questioning in young children.

If you read my post Going on a treasure hunt! you will know that I greatly admire the work of Michael Rosen and its contribution to literacy development. You may have followed the links and checked out the riches in store on his website.

My post Child’s play – the science of asking questions introduces my thoughts about ensuring that children’s inborn curiosity is maintained through the encouragement of their questions.

You can imagine my delight, then, when I read a review of new book by Michael Rosen. (Thank you, Anne Goodwin, for alerting me to it.) The review, posted by Sabine Durrant in The Guardian on 6 September 2014, discusses Rosen’s new book How to be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher. I confess that I have not read the book but I am very excited to see that it is now available as an audiobook, so it is next on my listening list. So much about the book appeals to me.

Rather than review the review I will simply leave with you the links to the review:

Michael Rosen: Why curiosity is the key to life

and Michael’s website.

I’m sure you will find much to enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

Thank you

Education in five minutes

And now for something a little lighter, I share with you Father Guido’s proposal for a five minute university.

I hope you enjoy it. There is a little bit of truth hiding there in the fun!

Thank you

Thank you for visiting my blog.

I appreciate your feedback. Please share you thoughts about any aspect of this post, or education in general.

The Third Annual Celebration of Teacher Thinking

Norah:

Every so often I read a post that has me nodding in agreement and leaves me smiling and full of hope for education. This post, by Vicki Vinton of “To Make a Prairie”, is one of those. I hope you enjoy it!

Originally posted on To Make a Prairie:


I know many teachers and students around the country are already back in their classrooms, but for the third year I’d like to mark what here in New York City is the start of the school year by sharing some of the incredibly inspiring and thoughtful comments that educators have left on this blog over the last twelve months. Those months have been marked with ongoing conflict about the Common Core Standards, the corporatization of public education, standardized testing and certain literacy practices. Yet, if the comments below are any indication, it’s also been a year in which teachers have increasingly found their voices and are using them to speak out with passion, knowledge, and the conviction that comes from experience about what students—and they, themselves—need in order to be successful. And if I see a trend in this year’s comments, one of the things teachers are speaking out about…

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Who tests the testers?

A recurring theme on this blog has been the inappropriateness of, and the difficulty faced by children sitting, large-scale external exams which require an immediate response to a stimulus that may have little relevance or interest to them. I have written about it here and here.

Making a judgment about student progress or achievement from one piece of writing, particularly one completed under conditions not necessarily conducive to encouraging one’s best work, is problematic.

It would be unrealistic of me to expect that everyone would agree with me, (though who wouldn’t want everyone to agree with them?) but it is always affirming to find that others share similar views. Maybe if enough people voice their concerns, change may occur.

Recently I read an article in our local newspaper that had me nodding in agreement. The article NAPLAN writers have trouble writing a writing test by Mary-Rose MacColl explained that a good part of the reason students didn’t do well on the NAPLAN writing task this year, is that the task itself wasn’t well written!

MacColl said that the task was wordy and the standards themselves (the criteria against which the writing is marked) poorly written. She pointed out how ludicrous it was for the ACARA CEO to write a letter explaining to parents that students should not view the test as ‘pass or fail’ when many children were experiencing extreme anxiety in the lead up to the test and parents were withdrawing their children from the tests in increasing numbers.

In addition to writing newspaper columns, MacColl is also a writer of fiction. She is pleased that the focus of NAPLAN is on persuasive rather than narrative writing, and goes on to describe some wonderful writing that is going on her son’s class.

Many teachers are doing wonderful things helping students develop a love of writing. Unfortunately, those setting external assessment tasks aren’t listening to the professionals.

I have given only a brief indication of what Mary-Rose MacColl had to say. Please read her article to fully understand her views.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I value your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

It’s written in the stars

An interest in star signs is worldwide. A google search of ‘star signs’ brought up 126 000 000 results in 0.15 seconds. You can find out what your star sign is, famous people who share your sign, get a description of your personality, find out who you are or are not compatible with, and what the future holds for you.

But how accurate do you think your star sign is, and how accurate are the predictions?

Are they any more accurate than a teacher’s predictions of a child’s future?

Think back to your school days and the comments written by your teachers on your report cards. Have you lived up, or down, to their expectations?

Comments sometimes described me as conscientious and said that I worked hard. At other times I needed to work harder, and was told that I could do better, that I needed to concentrate more on … (insert subject name – any will do). Comments in opposition, like the two sides of a coin or the twins of my star sign Gemini.

However teachers do not always know, and cannot always predict future life journeys of their students.  Consider how inaccurate were teachers’ predictions for people as diverse as Einstein, Edison, Churchill, Darwin and Pasteur who showed little promise while at school. Disney was accused of lacking imagination, and Salvador Dali of daydreaming. John Lennon’s teachers were not impressed when he answered “happy” in response to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The list of successful people with unforeseen potential is long. I’m sure you know stories of many others from all walks of life. Maybe yours is one!

Over at the Carrot Ranch this week, the flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills is to: In 99 words (no more, no less) focus on the personality traits of a character informed by the zodiac.

Mine is not exactly about the zodiac, but about another form of prediction equally as accurate.

As expected

A lawyer, a doctor and a journalist walked into a bar, ‘Class of ’99’ emblazoned on their backs.  

Talk flowed freely.

When someone mentioned old ‘four-eyes’ Proffet, laughter erupted.

“Thought he was a prophet,” they chorused.

“Mark my stars,” the lawyer mimicked, wagging his finger. “You need to learn to be less argumentative.”

The doctor peered over her glasses and giggled, “And you miss, will never amount to anything!”

“Remember Prophet’s favourite, ‘most likely to succeed’?” said the journalist. “Saw Daniel last week, handing out horrorscopes, on corner of Main and Black. Hardly recognised him. Poor sod.”

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post, including my flash fiction

I’ll leave you with a song about a star someone was born under. Not my star, and not the zodiac either, but a popular song when I was growing up.

I was born under a wandering star  sung by Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon