* Book reviews from amazon.ca
In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. The book that Dr. Brown’s many fans have been waiting for, Daring Greatly will spark a new spirit of truth—and trust—in our organizations, families, schools, and communities. (Amazon)
Based on Dave Burgess's popular "Outrageous Teaching" and "Teach Like a PIRATE" seminars, this book offers inspiration, practical techniques, and innovative ideas that will help you to increase student engagement, boost your creativity, and transform your life as an educator. (Amazon)
In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, PhD, a leading expert on shame, authenticity and belonging, shares what she's learned from a decade of research on the power of Wholehearted Living - a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness. (Amazon)
Forget everything you thought you knew about how to motivate people—at work, at school, at home. It's wrong. As Daniel H. Pink (author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others) explains in his paradigm-shattering book Drive, the secret to high performance and satisfaction in today's world is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. (Amazon)
Doug Robertson takes all the creative energy and zany antics he uses to inspire the students in his classroom and has channeled it into a fun to read, irreverent, but deeply meaningful guide to teaching. (Amazon)
* Book reviews from amazon.ca
To my Personal Learning Network (PLN):
THANK YOU! This past year has been a fantastic one for me. I have met so many influential and passionate educators that have helped shape my pedagogy. You have allowed me to make huge strides in becoming the teacher I’ve always wanted to be. Thank you for helping me find the reason I want to wake up every morning, and that is the process of reaching the heart of the child and then engaging them through their own curiosities. In other words, creating a more meaningful learning experience for my students. Every day you motivate me to improve. You are there to push me to better myself, and then when needed you are there to pick me up when I fall. To all moderators of Ed-chat groups, THANK YOU for taking the time in your busy life to help all teachers, like myself, improve our practice. The future of tomorrow looks bright because of you! So to everyone in my PLN, and to all those educators on Twitter THANK YOU and have a safe, family focused, well-deserved, holiday break! MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Enjoy the last day with your kiddos tomorrow!
Thank you to each and every one of you!
Today I had a major eye-opening moment! My amazing class of grade 7 students watched a video titled “Questions No One Has The Answer To” by Chris Anderson. The purpose of watching the video was to get my kids to be curious. The end hope was that they might develop some thought that would be a catalyst for a brilliant genius hour project. But what instantaneously materialized was a piggyback dialogue between ALL members of the class. Each kid was finding a nugget from what another student was saying and then would proceed to go on his or her own tangent. This went on, over and over again. The talk was unscripted and covered numerous topics that must have been hidden deep in the back of their brains. Some of the more extraordinary themes covered questions about parallel universes, god, heaven, dreams, life’s meaning and even the concept of travelling thoughts hidden in little atoms, kind of like pens concealed at the bottom of a backpack. I never intervened until the recess bell, and then promptly was asked if I wouldn’t mind allowing them to stay in for recess, as they were having “great thinking time.” Of course I obliged!
The idea of “thinking time” got me reflecting. Why did I love the unscripted chat so much? What is more valuable, having quiet thinking time or group thinking time? How can I use this piggyback method more? What should my role be in these chats? Is my classroom set up to allot time and space for more of these amazing chats?
If you as a teacher have not sat back and watched a 45-minute discussion that is completely and equally led by your students, it is something you need to experience. Kids brains becoming pepper shakers, letting everything just pour out for their classmates to witness without a care of judgment, was a pure delight to witness. Not only is it exciting seeing the inquisitive flame of each kid burn, but also watching them eagerly and actively listening in hopes of making a connection with a peer is a sight to behold. My students, regardless of any differences such as learning disabilities, self-esteem, culture, gender, multiple intelligence, to name a few, were seeking ways to connect with one another. The end result was an environment where students readily chose to be vulnerable for the sole purpose of learning. Learning took precedence and everything else was forgotten.
But where did all these amazing thoughts dispensing from my students’ brains come from? And even more intriguing, why were they so eager to jump out of their shells and open up? To answer this I turned within.
If someone asked me where I do some of my best thinking the answer is clear… a washroom. I, and many others, tend to do some of our best thinking while in the shower or on the toilet. Sorry if I gave you an unwanted visual, but I’m just stating a fact, supported by all those magazines next to the loo. This is because it is one of the only quiet times we get in a world that is very busy and loud. Quiet time, in a sense, allows everything to slow down. It gives us time to think at a deeper level and examine ideas that don’t typically cross our mind during our chaotic lives. Being cognizant of this, it easy to understand the importance of a quiet classroom. What quiet time does is allows time for our thoughts to incubate and mature. Steven Johnson, in his TED talk titled, “Where Do Good Ideas Come From” claims that it is during this time that we all develop these “small hunches.” I believe the problem with a quiet classroom however, is it doesn’t allow opportunities for a thought fender-benders.
See, as good as quiet time is for fostering thoughts it does not allow a space for thoughts to be bounced around. Daniel Pink said it best, claiming inner creativity is the sole force for engagement and the promoter of learning. What I witnessed this morning were kids so cooped up with innovative viewpoints that they just needed a platform to unleash their inner creativity. Not just that, but they needed others opinions to empower their ingenuity like a car needs fuel. The student engagement evident in all corners of my room backs up Mr. Pink’s assertions. They were proud of their knowledge and couldn’t wait to share it. The audience gave them a purpose to engage in the learning process. Without this platform the students lose a valuable chance to further their curiosity and learning. You see, quiet time is fantastic for fostering thoughts and beliefs, but it does not allow for the fulfillment you get when you connect a thought with somebody else and a light bulb of understanding occurs. As valuable as quiet time is, so too is the environment that allows interactive time where minds connect. This “connected mind” that Steven Johnson refers to, helps to deepen understanding, explore different perspectives and discover new things that would never have been learned or explored otherwise.
So then how can we create a classroom that cultivates all the benefits of quiet time while still allowing our kids to spring ideas around with as many minds as possible?
Firstly, you need a curriculum that is built around each child. If you fail to allow a student to delve into their passions then their inquisitive fires will slowly become extinguished. With no passion students learns to please others rather than learn for themselves. Secondly, don’t attempt to solely direct their curiosities. As a teacher, the only thing needed is to ensure that what they are wondering about is relatable to them and the world they live in. What I learned from my amazing morning lesson was that I did not need to be there. The process of active and connected learning was the facilitator. So, as tough as this may sound for some, often the best thing a teacher can do is just get out of the students’ way. Next, make global connections. Everybody loves sharing things they are proud of. Sharing ideas globally allows a greater chance of not only having a kid find that nugget to connect their thoughts with, but also a sense of amazement that other kids around the world share similar thoughts. Once these connections are made a series of joy, pride, inquiry and engagement happens naturally. Lastly, inquiry may be prompted but should not be guided. With this in mind, get rid of set time slots. For me, when I am excited to learn something I find it next to impossible to wait. So why do we tell our kids, “Great idea, but you need to wait until Thursday at 2”? You just continued to pour salt on the wounds created by a rigid school schedule. If an idea is brought forward that engages students and prompts discussion, go with the flow and allow it the flourish. Conversely, if an attempt to encourage a discussion flounders, don’t force it. If the students aren’t in the right mindset for ideas to flow naturally, come back to the discussion when the time seems right. Create a classroom environment with different zones to encourage opportunities for independent thought, this may include a quiet area, a reflection corner, a collaboration area and a space to connect globally. Not only this, but if a student is so intrigued with their own wonder don’t pollute their mind by plugging up their brain with information that you only teach for the sole purpose of hitting the learning outcomes. Students are relatively young in the learning process, and our job is to ensure that they fall in love with this process. Don’t stifle their curiosities and instead empower them in becoming lifelong learners.
Thank you for reading my blog! I am very passionate about making a more meaningful classroom, and I would love to hear from you if you have had any “WOW” lessons or have any classroom set-up strategies to accommodate active, engaging learning. And of course, I would also love to hear your thought on my blog. Thank you for reading!
Yesterday I read a thought-provoking article, Are We Raising A Generation of Helpless Kids? by Mickey Goodman. You can read her article here. As all good posts do, it got me thinking. Is she right? Are the introductions of devices such as phones, videogames and computers giving unearned gratification to our kids? Are we going overboard on unearned praise? Or, is she way off the mark, as children are vulnerable and need to feel valued. No matter if it comes from a “great job son” for a C- on an exam, or a phone under the Christmas tree to maintain safety at all times, things that make us feel good are always welcomed. As so often when there are strong cases to be made on both sides, there probably is a bit of truth to both. Here is my two cents as to why, perhaps, this article doesn’t necessarily hold water; success is oversimplified and too much praise is, well, a good thing.
We all know that no two individuals and families are the same. So by my math using Earth’s population of 7.13 billion people and, for arguments sake, using an average family size of four people, then there are just over 178 million families with different needs and different perceptions of success. With respect to her point being targeted on the western world ideology, my claim shrinks that number greatly. However, the concept of differentiating thoughts on success is still present. You can’t write a holistic article and generalize that the youth of today are not ready for the challenges tomorrow when there are so many different pathways to success. But what does success mean?
If you were to ask the modern parents what success means for their child, I’m sure you would find different answers based on the environment in which they live. Factors, such as socioeconomic status, would greatly change parent responses. There is nobody who can convince me that it is good for poverty-stricken children to continue to feel hardships so they can learn to overcome the obstacles they will face when they are in adulthood. They have gone through enough, and in my opinion every one of them deserves praise, gifts and any other type of gratification that they can get. Let them indulge in positivity as if they fail to receive it, perhaps these children will be to far off track to prosper economically and socially once they become independent. Conversely, there are the children who are raised in upper-class homes. Some of these children get the fancy gadgets, the designer clothes, beautiful new cars and even an education fully paid. These kids don’t feel the financial hardships and the pride that comes when you earn something. For these types of kids you can’t tell me that giving them a new tablet is best for them. But it is not the devices, or showering of gifts, that affects the backbone these kids will need to face future adversity.
Actually it is on these devices, they see the world changing. They see celebrities holding a phone in one hand and a ten-dollar drink in the other. They see stories of women carrying buckets of water on their head full of dirty water. If you ask them they will likely tell you the Starbucks drinking celebrity is more successful than the water-carrying lady. But here is where you must stop them. Is that woman struggling? Maybe that picture is of a successful, strong woman in her own environment. She is successful, just not in the means that the western world might recognize. So instead of being so quick to make assumptions, use the term success as a word for deeper enlightenment, not judgment. Explain how both the lady carrying water and the phone holding celebrity had to develop a backbone to get where they are. That they both had challenges and they both had to persevere. That regardless of your upbringing, forks always appear in the road. That it’s how you overcome these road blocks that gets you ready for later life challenges, and not Ms. Goodman’s assertions.
Moreover, let’s look at the idea of “monkey see monkey do”, and the importance of the home. As I’ve mentioned previously, kids are sponges. They pick up everything they see and hear. This means we as caretakers are being observed at all times. But we already know this. When your kid says a bad word, you know where he learned it, but too often we deflect blame rather than owning it and using it to teach. Vygotsky claims that solutions and problems are learned socially from the surroundings. So here, at home, is the single most important avenue to success (regardless of your idea of success), as this is where the child is most of the time. Vygotsky states problems and solutions are learned from your surroundings. So instead of finding excuses, be a superhero role model who conquers all. Regardless of socio-economic status or any other environmental variable, modeling strength is key. Live a life you want your kids to be proud of. If you do this I am sure your child will develop that backbone needed for later life successes, regardless of the amount of early, unjust gratification they may receive.
When is that last time you received praise? Did it make you feel good? Was it deserved? Ms. Goodman claims that if you answered no to the last question, and you are a kid, that you have just been damaged. I claim nonsense. No matter what the praise is it feels good. It puts us in a happy mental place. Of course more direct, meaningful praise impacts our psyche more, but some is better than none. Brene Brown, world-renowned author, believes that belonging begins with self-acceptance, and that believing you are enough gives you courage. Praise, no matter just or not, gives us these feelings of acceptance and worth, and in turn gives us courage. Courage being an attribute that Ms. Goodman claims is needed to succeed. But then again, deciding what to “succeed” means is clearly up for debate.
So in my opinion, praise away. Give all the devices you please. If these items of fulfillment are not warranted it is still better than the opposite. There won’t be consequences for making a child feel worth, happy and confident. It is you as a role model and the lessons you teach your child that prepares him for the future. So, talk about your failures, talk about your vulnerabilities, model politeness, love, respect and risk-taking. It is those lessons witnessed, that shape the future of our children. And lastly, we need to stop stereotyping people and in this case words. Stop generalizing “success” because there is no universal definition.
I Am A K-5 vice principal and teacher in Langley, BC, Canada.