Tag Archives: education

Shine a light

The flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a beacon. It can be from a lighthouse or other source. Use the word literally or figuratively and go where the prompt leads you.

Charli writes about our fear of change, fear of the unknown, and of the need for guides “to bring us in to a new harbor, a light to show us the rocky shoals.” She suggests that “Perhaps blogging, writing, are mediums of light that shine a path to bridge cultural differences.” but also acknowledges that, “Instead of looking for a way, some people have backed out of the water and barricaded themselves on the beach.

I see education as the way that will bring us to a “new harbour”, the light that will “shine a path to bridge cultural differences”. Sadly, as I say in my poem about education, there is far too much emphasis on schooling and not enough on education, too much desire to keep the masses down by the insistence on conformity and ignorance rather than the encouragement of creativity.

© Norah Colvin

I was well-schooled as a child, but have spent my adulthood exploring what it means to be educated and promoting the benefits of a learner-centred education as opposed to other-directed schooling. I read of a book about “teaching backward”, beginning with what the student needs to know and working backwards. (Needs as determined by others, not the student.) I’d rather teach forwards, beginning with what the student wants to know and going from there.

When my earliest teaching experiences fell short of my expectations, I searched for the beacons to guide my way out of the murkiness in which I found myself. I devoured books by John Holt, A. S. Neill, Ivan Illich, Paolo Freire, and others, with ideas about education and schooling that were as challenging as they were exciting. I read of innovative educators such as John Dewey, Maria Montessori, and Rudolf Steiner.

The ideas challenged what I’d been taught but blended comfortably what I had learned through observation of children, including my own young child, and relating it to my own experiences. The pieces began to fit.

At about the same time, I undertook further studies in literacy learning and was fortunate to work with a team of inspired educators led by Brian Cambourne, whose work and guidance placed the piece that helped the puzzle take shape, and guided my learning journey.

Beacons, or shining lights, that guide and inspire us, are as essential to our growth as sunlight is for plants. Educators such as those mentioned, and more recently, Ken Robinson, Rita Pierson, and many others, are such beacons. We are constantly told of the success of the Finnish school system and I wonder why it is that those holding the power in other school systems fail to see their light. We need at least one to rise above the fog of number crunching and data collecting to see the bright lights shining on the hill.

Is it fear, as Charli suggests, that keeps them out of the water? I watched the movie Monsters Inc on the weekend. It seems to deal with the issue of controlling the masses with falsehoods and fear quite well. It is also a great laugh – one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen for a while. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend it.

I’ve attempted a similar situation with my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope it works.

Let there be light

Eyes squinted in the dim light under low ceilings. Immobilised by never-ending paperwork, the menials dared not look up. Flickering numbers on data scoreboards mesmerised supervisors. Inconsistencies meant remonstrations, even punishment, from above. Heads down, keep working, don’t ask questions. The system worked fine, until … Maxwell nodded off. His pencil fell, tapped first, then rolled away. Startled, Maxwell went after it. The room stilled. Sliding too fast, he slammed into the wall, activating a button that illuminated a set of stairs leading up. Everyone gasped. Maxwell hesitated, took one step, then another. Nothing happened. He continued. Everyone followed.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Is contentment compatible with a growth mindset?

I am quite a fan of the growth ‘not yet’ mindset which focuses on a belief in the ability to do and achieve more through persistence and hard work. I have previously written about this mindset in What do you have in mind? and in The power of not yet.

I wonder how compatible a growth mindset is with a complacency or acceptance of the way things are; a “This is it. I can’t do anything about it.” attitude.

When I think of contentment, I think of serenity, tranquillity, a feeling of peace and acceptance. I think of it as a positive state of mind. The dictionary defines it as:

Does this imply that there is no wish for things to be different?

I often talk about the importance of imagination and creativity to inspiring innovation and invention. But do they also require a certain degree of disequilibrium or discontent with the way things are? Is it necessary to find fault with something in order to improve upon it? How many gadgets do you use regularly, accepting their imperfections without a thought of how they might be improved? It is not necessary to have the ability to improve them in order to imagine how they might be improved.

A fun thing to do with children is to get them to think of an easier or more enjoyable way of conducting a routine activity. How about an alternative to the traditional, in Australia anyway, emu parade which has children criss-crossing the school grounds, bobbing up and down to pick up rubbish? How about something to carry their heavy back-packs home? Or something to do their homework? (Oh, that’s right, they’ve already invented parents for that!)  I’m sure children, and you, can imagine far more exciting improvements.

Imagination is the driver of innovation and change. But it also requires action. It is the action that gets us into the growth mindset; perseverance, hard work and repeated attempts. As Edison is oft quoted,

 “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

He also said,

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

I wonder how my friend Pauline King The Contented Crafter would respond to my title question. While I know she has reached a certain stage of contentment in her life, I also know that she strives to better her craft, and does what she can to make the world a better place. How much need for change or improvement can contentment tolerate?

Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch and her flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about feeling content  got me wondering about this. Charli talked about moments of contentment sprinkled among frustrating events and dreams of change.

It helped me realise that, while they appear to be in contradiction, we need a little of both. We need to be happy with who we are, what we have, and what we have achieved; while at the same time, we need to be aware of what can and should be improved, and some strategies for action. Questioning is important to stimulate imagination, and when paired with creative thinking, innovation can occur. We need the inspiration of just one forward-thinker to lead us into the future.

The same balance between contentment and growth can be seen in children’s play. I have used it as my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

Purpose in play

They worked furiously as if with one mind; digging, piling, shaping, smoothing the sand.  As if on cue, two began to tunnel through from opposite sides, meeting in the middle. Others carved into the surface, forming window-like shapes. Sticks, leaves, and other found objects adorned the structure. Then, simultaneously, the work stopped. They glowed with collective admiration. But Than was not yet content. Something was missing. He swooped on a long twig and stuck it into the top, antenna-like. “For communicating with the mother ship,” he declared. Soon they were all feverishly adding other improvements to their alien craft.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

Are you ready to learn? A shout out for readilearn – Readilearn

About six months ago, not long after the launch of readilearn, I was invited by Dr Gulara Vincent to talk a little about it on her wonderful blog through which she provides support for writers as they find their inner voice. I thought you might be interested in finding out a little more about how readilearn came to be. Although I share the interview here, please click through to meet Gulara and read the interview on her blog.

Hi Norah, Welcome to my blog.

Thank you for inviting me. I am delighted to be here.

Norah, congratulations on the recent launch of your website. Tell us a little about readilearn.

Thank you. I am very excited about my new website. readilearn is a collection of early childhood teaching resources that I have written. Many of the resources I used, trialled if you like, in my own classroom. I had always thought about sharing them with others but, when I was teaching full time, didn’t have the time to present them professionally or even think about marketing them.

Norah, what makes your resources different? Why would people choose readilearn resources?

Continue reading at: Are you ready to learn? A shout out for readilearn – Readilearn

I love poems – Readilearn

I love poems. Children do too. Poetry is a great way of introducing children to the joy of language, as well as to features such as rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, similes and metaphors. What is taught through poetry can be as simple or as complex as required by the ages of the children or your teaching purpose.

One of the great benefits of teaching young children through poetry is the fun aspect. It’s enjoyable for teachers and students alike and, when children innovate on poems to create poems of their own, very motivating.

With St Valentine’s Day not far away it is timely to read and write love poems. One of my favourite poems for writing with young children is based on the traditional camping song I love the mountains. I was taught the poem by the amazing literacy educator Bill Martin Jr at a reading conference in the 1980s, and used it with every group of children I taught thereafter. I have previously written about that on my other blog here.

The repetitive structure and easy melody invites children to join in and is easy for children to use in writing poems of their own, whether they are emergent, beginning, or advanced writers.  The poems can be completed using pictures or words.

This is one of my favourite versions of the song.

Continue reading: I love poems – Readilearn

Reading across the curriculum – Readilearn

The importance of reading cannot be overstated. It is an essential skill, integral to almost everything we do. Teaching children to read is one of the most important, and most rewarding, aspects of our role as early childhood educators.

Some children come to school already reading. Others come not yet reading, but with a love of books and an expectation that they will learn to read. They understand that reading involves making sense of the squiggles on the page. These children usually learn to read effortlessly regardless of what we do.

Other children come to school with little experience of books and reading. For them, learning to read is a mystery and a greater challenge. For these children especially, it is important that we provide an environment rich in language and book experiences. We need to excite them about books and reading, interest them in words and language, and show them that books can be both a source of enjoyment and information.

I often hear teachers lament that there’s just not enough time in the crowded curriculum to read to children any more. But reading aloud to children, especially early childhood children, should be non-negotiable and a priority every day. How can we excite them about books, and interest them in reading, if we don’t read to them?

It is impossible to turn children onto books in one isolated reading lesson each day. In fact, reading lessons as such probably don’t turn children onto reading at all. That is not their purpose. Their purpose is to teach skills. But those skills should always be taught in context, and never in isolation. Nor should they be confined to lessons timetabled for English. Reading must occur across the curriculum and for a multitude of purposes throughout the day, from noting who is at school, interpreting the job roster and group allocations, to understanding connected text in various subject areas.

Many readilearn resources are designed to provide children with opportunities for reading across the curriculum. Even those designed specifically to develop reading skills have application in other subject areas.

Continue reading at: Reading across the curriculum – Readilearn

Counting one hundred days of school – Readilearn

With the commencement of the Australian school year still two weeks away, it might seem a bit early to be thinking about the 100th day. Let me assure you it’s not. It’s great to be ready to start counting from day one. However, if you miss the start, you can always go back and count the days on a calendar. For those of you in the US and UK, the one hundredth day will be coming up soon in February.

In Australia there are 200 school days in a year. So, once you have counted up to 100 days, you are half way through and can then count down the number of days remaining. The US and UK have fewer school days: 180 in the US and 190 in the UK; so they are more than half-way through by the time they reach their 100th days.

Whatever their year level, children are always excited to count the days to this milestone, and it provides wonderful opportunities for learning about number.

Several readilearn resources support you and your students as you count up to and celebrate one hundred days, including:

The interactive digital resource Busy Bees 100 chart is great for all your usual number board activities, and can be used to keep a count of how many days you’ve been at school. Simply display the resource at the beginning of each day and move the bee to the next number.

Just this week, I have uploaded a short video explaining how to use the resource. I am also including it here. I’d love to know what you think.

Click to continue reading: Counting one hundred days of school – Readilearn

Happy New Year! – Readilearn

Wishing all my readers a very happy New Year with best wishes for peace and joy in 2017.

Thank you for your ongoing support. I’m looking forward to further conversations in 2017.

Click to read the original: Happy New Year! – Readilearn and view the video of inspirational teacher Chen Miller. Once a special needs student herself, Chen is now making a difference to the lives of children she teaches.