Tag Archives: teachers

sketchy perceptions

Sketchy Perceptions

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction prompt sketches

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. It can be “A Sketch of a Romance” or “The Sketch of Aunt Tillie.” Go where the prompt leads you to scribble.

My thoughts were a bit sketchy. This is what I came up with. I’d be interested to know your perception.

Sketchy Perceptions

He sketched the outline with chalk then filled in the details, outside-in. Curious passers-by gathered as the image emerged. Was the artist a paid entertainer or busker earning a buck? Some pushed coins into children’s hands to add to the chalk-drawn cap. When satisfied with his work, the artist stood in its centre and tossed the cap and contents high. As they fell, he spread his arms and disappeared into the painting. Perplexed on-lookers reported different perceptions. Many said he plummeted into darkness. Some said he flew on gold-tipped wings. Others described him simply as absorbed by his art.

It is easy to make snap judgements about others and situations from sketchy information, even at first sight. We do it all the time as we try to make sense of what we perceive, evaluating it against our existing knowledge and beliefs.

I have strong beliefs about education and how children learn so can quickly judge whether I will agree with the content of articles or not. However, I don’t confine my reading to articles that I know will support my beliefs. I read articles from a variety of viewpoints to gain some understanding of others’ positions. If I don’t know what they think, how can I interrogate those thoughts and evaluate them against my own, perhaps even reassess my beliefs? I would rather be informed than base my ideas upon sketchy information.

This week, I had the pleasure of reading two articles in popular media which reiterate things I have written about a number of times previously.

The title of an article by Angela Mollard in my local Courier-Mail intrigued me: We should be ashamed of how we treat teachers. The media is often quick to criticise teachers, blaming them for almost all of society’s ills, it sometimes seems. I wondered at the intent of this article. Mollard wrote that, although she is the daughter of a teacher, sister-in-law of a teacher, and friends with many teachers, she had no idea of a teacher’s life until she read the book Teacher by Gabbie Stroud. I am yet to read this memoir, but it is now high on my TBR list.

Mollard says, “She (Stroud) writes of the sacred bond between teacher and pupil, of advocating exhaustively for their needs, of loving them even when they were abusive and damaged and victims of the most heartbreaking of family circumstances.”

Mollard follows this by telling us that “Ultimately, Stroud gives up being a teacher. She’s broken by the profession but she maintains that she didn’t leave teaching, it left her”, and describes her book as “a clarion call to educators to change a system that values standardisation over creativity, curiosity, progress, self-belief and autonomy.”

Oh, yes! I applaud. I know many teachers who feel the same way.

Mollard then goes on to say that if parents want inspirational teachers for their children, they must be inspirational too, that they must stand beside and support teachers and do what they can to lighten their workload so more help can be given where it is truly needed. If you are a parent, please read the article for her suggestions. I have sketched out just a few of her ideas here.

If you can do only one thing for your children, it should be shared reading is the title of an article by Ameneh Shahaeian and Cen Wang in The Conversation. To any regular readers of my blog, the idea behind the title will be very familiar. It gladdens me when I see others promoting such good advice for parents.

However, in the article Shahaeian and Wang surprised me with the question, “is it really book reading that’s beneficial or is it because parents who read more to their children also provide a lot of other resources, and engage in a range of other activities with their children?

Does the question intrigue you as much as it did me? Shahaeian and Wang share the results of a longitudinal study they carried out to find an answer. Please read the article for their conclusions and suggestions for parents.

I’ve provided you with just the sketchy outlines of both these articles. If you are interested enough to read them, I’d love to know what you think.

Thank you blog post

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

 

Thankful and inspired: schools and education

I have just watched the movie “He named me Malala”. The message has not lost its importance or impact. Sadly the need for her message to be heard and responded to has only grown over time. I share this post again as a reminder of Malala’s courage, strength, and determination. She says, “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.”

Norah Colvin

In recent posts there was some discussion about the importance of education, the value of schools and the role of teachers. I thought it timely to re-share this post, first published in July 2015.

Earlier this week I read a post by Kimmie of Stuck In Scared about Ten Things of Thankful. I have also read many other posts about things to be thankful for. These posts prompted me to share something for which I am thankful: schools and education.

I know that I often write about what I consider the shortcomings of traditional schooling and make suggestions of how schools could be improved. However I live in a country that values education and in which every child has a right to a free education. For that I am thankful. Those of us who have access to schools and education are the lucky ones.

This week I have been…

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Starting with one

© Charli Mills

© Charli Mills

There’s an event worth celebrating at the Carrot Ranch this week. Two years after posting her first prompt encouraging writers to hone their writing skills by joining the 99-word flash fiction posse, Charli Mills has posted her 99th.

I’m proud to say that I’ve been there since the first, riding the range of story prompts with others who have gathered around the campfire to share stories, wise words and writing tips in response to the nurturing offered by Charli’s warm, honest and generous spirit. It is she who is the hub around which has formed a community that is welcoming, supportive and encouraging. She is the one who keeps the wheels turning, the imaginations stirring and the words flowing.

rough-writers-web-comp

© Charli Mills

It is fitting, therefore, that her 99th challenge is to in 99 words (no more, no less) write about the idea of “just one.” If all it takes is just one, what is the story? Explore what comes to mind and go where the prompt takes you. Bonus challenge: eat cake while you write, or include cake in your flash. She is the “just one” who, week after week, writes an inspiring post, sets a thought-provoking challenge, ropes in the writers and compiles the stories into a collection as diverse as the readers. It would be interesting to know how many writers have answered every prompt. I don’t think the number would be large as even I didn’t manage to ride every muster.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Charli on her initiative. In this recent post she restates that “the original intent of Carrot Ranch as of March 5, 2014 was to create a bully-free zone where writers could learn to access creativity through problem solving (the constraint); write from a unique perspective (diversity); read and discuss the process or prompt (engagement).”  There is no question that she has achieved that and more. I have met many wonderful writers, bloggers and friends through my visits to the Carrot Ranch. If you are not yet a visitor, I suggest you pop on over. You’ll be warmly welcomed.

one

Recently I received as a gift a book called “One: How many people does it take to make a difference?” The book is filled with many wonderful quotes, stories and suggestions; too many to share, in one post anyway. I decided to open the book to a random page and share what I found. This is it:

“If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a kind word of encouragement, or attempts to understand, extraordinary things begin to happen.” Loretta Gizartis

Loretta Gizartis

That’s a pretty powerful quote. The effects of Charli’s “just one” contributions are easy to see. The quote is equally applicable to teachers and the effects that they may have upon the lives of others.

Readilearn bookmark

It is lovely when teachers are publicly (or privately) acknowledged for the positive influence they have had upon a life. Charli did this recently when she acknowledged a high school teacher who had encouraged her to achieve more than she thought she could.

stephen hawking - teacher

Last month when announcing the Top Ten Finalists for the Global Teacher Prize Stephen Hawking acknowledged one who had had a powerful effect upon his life. He said,

“Thanks to Mr Tahta, I became a professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, in a position once held by Issac Newton. I have spent my life attempting to unlock the mysteries of the universe. When each of us thinks about what we can do in life, chances are we can do it because of a teacher.”

Even teachers need mentors and many can name one who has made a difference to their lives.  As if in response to Charli’s challenge, this week Vicki Davis, the Cool Cat Teacher, nominated “just one” personal mentor who had taught her the most about teaching. Of Maryfriend Carter, Vicki says,

“I’m grateful for her mentorship and encouragement in my life. She changed my thinking about teaching as she taught me about teaching. She single-handedly convinced me that testing doesn’t work and what does.”

But not all who teach the most important lessons in life are “professional” teachers. There is a great saying that goes something like, “When the student is ready the teacher appears.” I often say that my own children have been my best teachers. But I have also been inspired by other wonderful teachers too. I have mentioned many of them in previous posts including here, here and here.

However, my response to Charli’s flash fiction challenge aims to demonstrate that even the smallest, seemingly inconsequential, action can have a powerful effect upon the life of another. Sometimes we learn of the effects, sometimes we don’t; but when we do, the effect can be magnified. I hope it works.

The Power of One

Only much later, through a chance meeting with mutual friends, did she discover her power of one.

“I know you,” said the other, pointing her cake fork. “You’re the one.”

The old fear gripped, twisting tight. Her cake lost its appeal.

Which one?” another asked.

“In the foyer. On the first day. You spoke to me.”

“Oh,” she reddened, shrinking to nothingness inside.

“I was so nervous. You made me feel welcome, at ease. I’ve been wanting to thank you.”

“Oh,” she lifted her fork, smiling. “You’re welcome.”

“If only you knew,” she thought. “I did it for me.”

Thank you

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

 

 

Thankful and inspired: schools and education

In recent posts there was some discussion about the importance of education, the value of schools and the role of teachers. I thought it timely to re-share this post, first published in July 2015.

Earlier this week I read a post by Kimmie of Stuck In Scared about Ten Things of Thankful. I have also read many other posts about things to be thankful for. These posts prompted me to share something for which I am thankful: schools and education.

I know that I often write about what I consider the shortcomings of traditional schooling and make suggestions of how schools could be improved. However I live in a country that values education and in which every child has a right to a free education. For that I am thankful. Those of us who have access to schools and education are the lucky ones.

This week I have been listening to Malala The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzia with Patricia McCormick (Indigo).

Malala-The-Girl-Who-Stood-Up

Malala’s is an inspirational story of courage, and how one person can change the world. In this trailer for the movie of her story to be released later this year, she says,

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

(Note: I haven’t seen the movie yet. I’d love to know if any readers have.)

In her speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, Malala says,

“I am just a committed and even stubborn person who wants to see every child getting quality education, who wants to see women having equal rights and who wants peace in every corner of the world.”

The Malala Fund, of which she and her father are co-founders and to which she donated her prize, “empowers girls through quality secondary education to achieve their potential and inspire positive change in their communities.”

She calls world leaders and people everywhere to take action and make education their top priority, for all the children of the world, not just their own children.

This is one of my favourite quotes from the book:

Malala - teachers

I think one of her most influential teachers must be her father.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I’m sure you have found Malala’s story just as inspirational as I have.

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

School’s out for another year!

Teaching is forever in my heart

It is almost the end of another school year in Australia. I can’t believe that it is now four years since I left the classroom, both sadly and probably, to never return. I often hear advice given to never say “never”, but although a large part of my heart remains in the classroom, I’m fairly certain that I’ll not physically return; not full-time anyway.

It is also the end of the first year of formal education for Gorgeous 1 (first-born grandchild). I’m pleased to say that he has had a wonderful year and very much enjoyed attending school. His parents are happy too and relate many positive things about the teacher and the ways in which she has nurtured the children. That makes grandma happy too.

However a few queries have been raised in recent discussions. One of these is with regard to class allocations for next year. The parents commented that Gorgeous 1 won’t know what class he is in, including teacher, classmates or classroom, until he turns up for school on the first day. They wondered if this was common practice and about its purpose.

Sadly, I think it is a fairly common practice for which a variety of reasons may be given. However I’m not convinced that any of the stated reasons are justified or have any real validity.

I very much liked the way my most recent school dealt with class allocations. I thought it worked well for everyone: children, parents and teachers.

Towards the middle of October children were asked to identify three friends they would like to be in the same class with the following year, and any they wouldn’t. I never emphasised the “not like” part but made sure that children knew it was there if they wished to use it. Few did.

friendship choices

 

At the same time parents were invited to submit in writing things they wished included for consideration when class allocations were made. Requests were to be specific to their child’s needs; for example friendship issues or the type of teacher thought best suited to the temperament,  learning style or needs of the child. Identifying a teacher by name would invalidate the request.

The process of allocating children to classes was time consuming with many things to be considered; including, for example, the distribution of children of high, mid and low achievement levels; boys and girls; children from non-English speaking backgrounds; children with disabilities or requiring support with learning or behaviour.

Current class teachers collaborated to draw up lists which were checked by an administrator to ensure even spreads and that parent requests (not revealed to the teachers) were complied with. It was no small feat. We would go into the meetings armed with lists of children’s friendship groups on sticky notes, scissors, coloured pencils, erasers, and more sticky notes. It was always amazing to see the classes come together.

The best part of this process occurred in the second-last week of term when teachers and children met their new classes for the following year. Another feat of organisation. Class teachers told children which class they would be in and distributed to each their portfolio of work to be given to the new teacher.

All year levels met in their respective assembly areas, divided into their new classes, met their new teachers and went off to their new classrooms for about 45 minutes. The new teacher would explain class expectations and topics the children would learn about. Sometimes the teacher would read a story or engage the students in discussions about what they had learned in the current year and what they were hoping to learn in the following year. Oftentimes children returned with a small gift from their new teacher; for example a book mark, pencil or eraser. They always returned excited.

In addition to stories and discussions, I would always ask my new students to draw a picture of themselves, write their name and anything else they would like to tell me about themselves or their picture. I would also take their photograph and attach it to their drawing. In addition to the portfolio of information coming from the previous teacher, this would provide me with valuable information that I could use when preparing for the new year.

Michael likes dogs

In addition I would have a letter and a small gift ready for my new students. The letter helps to create a positive connection, makes them feel special and helps to ease the transition back to school after the holidays. It also ensures they remember what class they are in and who their teacher is. It lets their parents know as well.

end of year letter

 

I think this is a wonderful process and one that should be adopted in all schools. It has many benefits; including:

  • helping teachers get to know important information about students before the year begins and aiding preparation.
  • reducing the anxieties of children and parents over the holidays, wondering about which class they would be in and which teacher, even whether they would be in the same class as their friends.

Once children knew their new classes I arranged their seating and named their groups to match. This provided opportunities for children to bond with future class mates as well as identify their class for the following year. There would be no unnecessary confusion or anxiety on the first day of school.

I’d love to know what you think of this process or of other processes with which you are familiar.

With the holidays just around the corner I provide links back to previous posts which provide suggestions for maintaining children’s learning in informal and fun situations.

Learning fun for the holidays, without a slide in sight!

Counting on the holidays!

Let the children write! 20 suggestions to get children writing during the school holidays

20 suggestions for maintaining reading momentum during the school holidays

The lists are all available for free download and distribution to parents from my Teachers Pay Teachers or Teach in a Box stores.

 

Thank you

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

Better than a trail of breadcrumbs

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

©Glenn Althor  Used with permission.

When I think of children’s stories about being lost, Hansel and Gretel is one of the first that comes to mind. Whether or not this gruesome story is suitable for children, I’ll leave for another discussion. The children were correct in thinking it was important to mark their way into the forest in order to find their way out. They were incorrect in their choice of markers.

Encouraging children to identify features of their environment has benefits beyond encouraging them to question and wonder. It is important for children to learn, from a young age, to identify markers on routes around the neighbourhood, shopping mall and school, as well as strategies to implement if lost or separated. Taking note of seasonal and other changes, both temporary and permanent, in addition to permanent features helps to build knowledge of one’s environment. This knowledge can be developing long before the need to find one’s way alone arises.

One day there will be a need to navigate independently, whether it be to walk to school, go to the shop, visit a friend, catch a bus or drive a car. All of these will be far less daunting for the child, and much less worrisome for the parents, if the ability to find one’s way around has already been demonstrated through discussions or deciding which route will be taken for a journey.

Often the first time children are required to navigate independently is when commencing school. They may need to find their way to the classroom in the morning, or to the gate in the afternoon. They will have to find the way to the playground, the office, the library, and the toilets and back to the classroom. Just as parents show children around the neighbourhood by pointing out landmarks, it is important for teachers to orient children in the school grounds and ensure they know how to find their way around confidently.

A delightful book that can be used by both teachers and parents to discuss the importance of knowing one’s way around and of staying safe is the beautiful Pat Hutchins’ book Rosie’s Walk which tells the story of a hen who goes for a walk around the farmyard and gets back home safely in time for dinner. The story also introduces many positional words.

Rosie's walk

Understanding of positional terms and describing the location of neighbourhood and school landmarks in relation to each other  helps to develop spatial awareness along with language; for example:

  • past the shop
  • across the bridge
  • over the road
  • through the park
  • in the middle
  • beside the lake
  • along the road
  • next to the bakery
  • around the corner
  • behind the fence
  • as well as left and right.

Discussing the placement of landmarks on a mud map of the neighbourhood or school and discussing different paths that could be taken encourages divergent thinking about ways of getting from one place to another. Sometimes it helps children to think of these maps as being from a birds’eye view, or from a plane. Other maps, for example Google Maps and street directories are also useful and children can learn to point out or mark places they have visited.

mud map

There are many opportunities, whether in the car or on foot, to take note of landmarks; for example:

  • house numbers,
  • types of fences
  • the number of streets to cross
  • large trees
  • the shopping centre entry
  • carpark space row and number
  • bridges crossed

While the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week was to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone or something that’s lost, I have taken the theme of lost and used it to provide strategies that may help children avoid becoming lost. My flash is a rhyme for young children, and an example of the types of things that children can be encouraged to observe in their neighbourhood.

To Grandma’s House

Bub’s buckled in, away we go.

Mum’s going to work, we can’t be slow.

Down the street past the green painted door.

Past the house with big number four.

Stop at the curb and look each way.

Off to Grandma’s, hip-hip-hooray!

Quiet past here so the dogs don’t bark.

Left at the corner and cut through the park.

Up the hill, past the posting box.

Open the gate, give three big knocks.

Hugs for Grandma waiting for us.

Wave to Mum as she boards the bus.

Go inside for milk and toast.

Days with Grandma we like the most.

Thank you

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

 

 

 

A positive start – back to school

school cropped

At this time of the year children, parents and teachers in Australia are thinking about the return to school which is approaching with haste. For some those thoughts are of excitement and expectation. For others they are of anxiety and dread.

While children have enjoyed the break from imposed structure and the pressure of school days and homework, many look forward to seeing their friends again and the routine of having something to do after long, lazy summer days. Others may feel anxious about being in a new class with a new teacher and new yet-to-be-made friends. For those starting at a new school, or school for the first time, there may be a confusion of feelings and vacillation between excitement and fear.

Parents, too, have mixed feelings about their children starting or returning to school. They may look forward to a return to routine and a relief from the pressure of providing full-time entertainment or alternative care arrangements. They may also experience feelings of loss when they hand their children over to the care of a stranger for most of the day. However, I think what parents most want for their children when they return to school, or indeed at any time, is for them to be happy.
Teachers experience a similar range and vacillation of feelings from excitement and expectation through to anxiety and dread. Even now many of those teachers are out fossicking through the cheap shops, scouring stationery and educational supply stores, looking for items for use in their classrooms. Others will be at home trawling the internet looking for resources, or making their own resources in preparation for the new school year.
One thing that is important to all is to begin the year positively and happily.

http://openclipart.org/image/800px/svg_to_png/101707/happy_pencil.png

Strategies for parents

Some strategies parents can use to ensure their children begin the school year happily include:

  • Talk to children in positive and supportive ways that will strengthen their optimism about returning to school, allay any fears and settle anxieties.
  • Ensure children are aware of how they will travel to and from school, and of any arrangements that have been made for before or after school care.
  • Familiarize children with the route to and from school by travelling it as they will be expected to, whether by foot, cycle, bus or car. If necessary, point out landmarks along the way.
  • Make sure children know their first and last names, address and parents’ phone number/s.
  • Have children’s equipment ready with books covered and every item identified with the child’s name.
  • If possible, take the child to school on the first day and meet the teacher.

liftarn_Adult_and_child

The positive feelings can be continued throughout the year by:

  • Daily conversations about the school day: learning, events and friends.
  • Volunteering in the class or school, or being involved with after school activities.
  • Maintaining open and positive communication with the class teacher.

Strategies for teachers

Some strategies teachers can utilize to ensure that children (and parents) begin the school year happily include:

  • Create a welcoming classroom with signs, posters, items of interest and inviting reading corners and activity nooks.
  • Greet children and parents with a friendly smile.
  • Engage children in activities that help you get to know them, and them to get to know each other.
  • Display children’s work to give them a sense of ownership and belonging.
  • Explain management and behaviour expectations and include children in composing a classroom management and behaviour plan.
  • Ensure children know the school timetable; when the breaks will occur and any lessons to be taken by specialist or other teachers.
  • Explain playground behaviour expectations, including showing areas where they may / may not play.
  • Take them on a walk around the school to show them the library, office, bathrooms and any other areas they may need to know.
  • Include singing during the day and send them home with a song and a reminder of what has been learned or engaged with during the day. (In a previous post Happy being me I wrote about Anne Infante’s songs of affirmation. Any of these are great ones to sing and help to create a positive environment.)

What other suggestions can you make?
What helped you as a child, parent or teacher prepare for the new school year?
Teachers, check out my new products on TEACHERSpayTEACHERS to help you set up your classroom and greet your new students with a Busy Bee theme. There are many resources to get you started, ready to download and print out.

bee 1

Bee courtesy of Bernadette Drent, used with permission.

Other clipart courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org.