ROBOTIC TEACHING AND LEARNING

There is an alarming trend to describe kids, reading levels, mathematical attainment in numerical terms. We are assigning a number or grade next to each student in some vain attempt to make teaching and learning “safe” and easier. This will NEVER work. We are missing the point of education and we are not allowing children to use their creativity and grow- we are literally stifling their learning.

George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian argues that,

“Children earn best when teaching aligns with their natural exuberance, energy and curiosity. So why are they dragooned into rows and made to sit still while they are stuffed with facts?

We succeed in adulthood through collaboration. So why is collaboration in tests and exams called cheating?

Governments claim to want to reduce the number of children being excluded from school. So why are their curriculums and tests so narrow that they alienate any child whose mind does not work in a particular way?

The best teachers use their character, creativity and inspiration to trigger children’s instinct to learn. So why are character, creativity and inspiration suppressed by a stifling regime of micromanagement?”

Publishers are making a fortune writing formulaic programs that reduce teachers to little more than robots and put children into learning strait jackets! Schools buy these programs as they think they will force standards up and make sure teachers don’t make mistakes.

Teachers are being reduced to program administrators and not encouraged to use their valuable insights and judgement.

The whole explicit teaching movement was meant to raise teaching standards and ensure children were taught effectively so all could learn. It was never meant to crush children’s creativity and force children to learn in ways that don’t work for them.

Our unhappy children are paying the price. Everyday I work with children who are trying to fit this outmoded factory mode of education and giving up.

For the sake of our children, we need to utilise pedagogically sound teaching practices and encourage teachers to teach and not become program robots.

To read the whole article by George Monbiot:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/15/robots-schools-teaching-children-redundant-testing-learn-future

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SELF-CARE FOR TEACHERS

Thank goodness the holidays are nearly here.

Teachers look tired, children are grouchy and we all need sleep!

As a group, teachers are not great at self-care. They are so used to putting students first they forget that when the well is empty the water cannot flow.

No matter how talented and passionate- when a teacher runs on empty they CANNOT function, their health suffers and children do not learn effectively.

Most teachers spend a substantial amount of their holidays planning, making teaching materials and catching up on reference material.

Some of this is normal in any profession but due to the high stress levels of teaching, better self-care is a MUST for teachers.

An excellent website “Mindful teachers” points out:

 “Self-care is far from self-indulgent, especially among those of us who are committed to serving others. It isn’t about being selfish or shirking our responsibilities. It’s about figuring out what aspects of our work and schedules we have control over and making choices about how to most effectively spend our time and energy.”

It then goes on to offer tips, links, reflections, and mindfulness practices to help teachers cope with some common challenges. This link is well worth exploring to help all teachers retain their sense of balance and be able to give 100% within their careers.

I wish all my colleagues a wonderful break with plenty of sleep, fun and a good dollop of self-indulgence!

If all this fails- try chocolate!

http://www.mindfulteachers.org/p/self-care-resources.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FORMULAIC LEARNING

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The A-Z of Child Whispering: S is for STRANGE

I have been trying to make myself read some books from the Dog-Man series and it is like negotiating an alien landscape.

The comic book genre does not resonate with me AT ALL! Graphic novels are not my thing. My daughter bought me one many years ago and it still lays abandoned and lonely in the bedside cabinet!

However, the idea of a dog’s head joined to a man’s body for a policeman appeals to thousands of young readers. Each week I am asked, “Vicky, have you read the Dog Man books?” and each week I sat, “No!”

This week I can honestly say I tried and there WERE funny, weird moments that sort of appealed but no- I am just too staid!

Kids LOVE the weird, kooky, strange and bizarre. They want to borrow books about gruesome facts and scary animals. They LOVE Any Griffith with his crazy Tree-house books and devour ALL of them.

They love science, aliens and space and have absolutely no problem imagining what Heaven might look like! Their brains are like the stretchiest most flexible slinky you could ever imagine!

This will never change.

Think back. If I can, you can too!

I loved books about the supernatural, scary horror stories and movies like that too. I wanted weird. I was once a kid too!

So were you!

It our job to know what kids want but it also our job to gently lead them to engaging fiction that will make them think deeply and problem solve. By knowing what they WANT to read, I can lead them to certain areas.

I want kids to read about the strangeness of Narnia and feel the delicious fear in The Dark is Rising series but I must also enter kids’ weird worlds and meet strange characters like Dog Man.

Thank you to the writers of weird such as Dav Pilkey and Andy Griffiths and even JK Rowling. They keep the kids reading and inspire the ones with problems to WANT to read!

Below is a list of very quirky kids’ books. Some don’t appeal to me at all but they DO to kids! “Go the F*** to sleep” is obviously for adults!

http://www.polkacafe.com/quirky-and-unconventional-childrens-books-1028.html

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The A-Z of Child Whispering: S IS FOR SILLY

S IS FOR SILLY

Kids love to be silly! We all do. At the end of full-on day I need a fair dose of silliness too. We all need to smile, giggle and enjoy a good belly-laugh.

Luckily, I work with kids and their exuberance and out of the box thinking keeps me smiling and light-hearted!

Children desperately need to lighten their days and the larger the difficulties they face, the more “silliness” is needed.

Three children told me last week how much they hate school. All of them are well above average IQs, bright and bubbly but not fitting the “system.”

Each day for them is a trial where they know they will fail, be in trouble and be embarrassed in front of their peers.

So, we laughed, played learning games, read picture books and wrote books together- with me as final editor and often “writing slave” with the keyboard! I needed to help them feel more positive and be able to see they can be successful learners.

I know that the encouragement and motivation I provide is FAR more important than any of our learning programs.

A daily dose of silliness and light-heartedness with children leads to less stressed classrooms, better bonding and happier homes.

Being silly helps us all to keep a sense of perspective and to be able to climb above our problems and perceive possible solutions.

Interestingly, creativity and therefore problem-solving skills improve markedly with regular humour within our teaching.

https://www.parent.com/5-serious-benefits-of-being-silly-with-your-kids/

As the above article states: “Simply put, a child needs to be a child, and part of being a child is being silly. …….. when you take part in being silly, you are role modelling that life can be fun, joyous, and happy.”

 I could not agree more!

Let’s have some fun today and allow ourselves to laugh and be silly- whether with kids or by ourselves. We will ALL benefit!

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NAPLAN NONSENSE

Finally, my colleagues are vindicated in their anti-NAPLAN comments! This morning’s news featuring the report from Dr Ainley showing:

“There has been no improvement in maths and reading among students in a decade and the results of disadvantaged students have declined sharply, a major report obtained by the ABC reveals.” (link at end of this blog)

I train teachers around the country and many outstanding educators have privately shared their NAPLAN concerns with me.

These concerns include:

  • Having to teach to the test- not the curriculum.
  • Reducing child development to grades and benchmarks and not taking learning styles into consideration
  • Children’s fears and anxiety around these tests.
  • Parents making children work on endless worksheets that purport to give better marks- a whole industry has grown up around this reduction of the education process to grades and numbers!
  • Children are pretested,  post – tested- they are tested so often there is little time to teach!

I regularly give workshops to SE Asian teachers as well, and my Singaporean colleagues have asked me why we have so many national exams.

Singapore has very high standards of education and has been very exam oriented in the past but is gradually injecting more creativity into the curriculum.

We NEVER had to go this way.

Sure- literacy and numeracy standards needed to improve and we needed more rigour in our education process.

This could have happened with a tighter curriculum, more effective professional development and extra teachers and assistants to work with children.

NAPLAN was always a broken, inferior tool to mend an education system that needed serious improvement.

Read more about it here-

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-07/naplan-call-review-after-report-reveals-no-change-in-decade/9519840

 

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Tuition before school?

Today I worked with an amazing child who avidly dislikes tuition.

His wise, loving Mum wants him to improve academic outcomes so we put our heads together and decided to try 45 mins twice a week BEFORE school.

Today was the first session and I was blown away! This was a different child- keen, positive, chatty, receptive and the 45 mins just flew!

BUT- not only did we get done what I had planned- we did a whole lot of extra things too- fitted in both literacy and numeracy in a relaxed yet very productive, “vibey” way.

Some kids and adults are just morning people and if so- this is when tuition really works!

I am also a very early riser and MUCH more energetic in AM. Perhaps we need to match teachers and students by our most energetic times!

We have decided to offer these early slots for individuals every day after seeing how extraordinarily effective today’s session was!

I look forward to my next “early bird” session with this (now enthusiastic) morning oriented child!

Educators will know what I mean- you try 100 things that don’t work and then one REALLY does and it is all worthwhile again!

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The ABC of Child Whispering: S is for SMARTER

Can we REALLY help kids get smarter?

Intelligence is defined as “The ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills”- Oxford dictionary.

Yet we know it is MORE- it is to do with flexibility, thinking, reasoning and insightful “noticing” and “indwelling”- ruminating and often having a “rangy” mind.

It is not so easily captured in tests and IQ profiles and in fact we may well do children a real disservice by over-reliance on these instruments. We so often look at a single result from a test and make snap judgements about a child. This has a very limiting effect on their progress- there is no doubt they become whom we expect!

Thanks to the research into neuroplasticity area we know now that intelligence can be grown and that it comes in many varieties.

Our brains are capable of far more than we ask of them! All children can be helped to be smarter and develop their particular shades of brilliance. We now know that intelligence is not fixed at birth and that careful nurturing of intelligence will lead to higher levels of academic, social and cultural achievements.

Howard Gardner’s research from Harvard University has expanded our understanding and led to an enlarged map of intelligences. We now know we can be smart in many ways- at least 8. We need to expand our understanding of the term INTELLIGENCE to encompass all the identified intelligences.

Unfortunately, so often in the past we have only been interested in language and maths intelligence and so children who are brilliant in science, music, music or sports have been dismissed as “non-academic” and therefore not smart!

The truth is we can ALL improve our intelligences but we certainly do have an individual “cocktail” that tends to shape our career choices, hobbies and personal preferences.

Here are some ideas to help you stimulate each intelligence:

WORD INTELLIGENCE

“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”
Roald Dahl, Matilda

  •  Read to your child and listen to them read.
  • Play word games and encourage them to do crosswords.
  • Encourage them to write stories, keep a journal, and write letters to friends and relatives.
  • Write notes to your child and leave in their lunchboxes or on their bed.
  • Encourage them to talk about their opinions and feelings. Make meal-times TALK times.
  • Buy them jokes and riddle books.
  • Provide a good dictionary and thesaurus.
  • Buy books of word searches to improve visual discrimination, spelling and vocabulary.
  • Restrict access to digital media

 

LOGIC AND MATHS INTELLIGENCE

 

Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.

Albert Einstein 

  • Play board and card games that involve number and logic.
  • Provide brainteasers and number puzzles.
  • Encourage children to ask intelligent questions.
  • Computer strategy games.
  • Encourage children to classify their belongings and keep in an orderly way.
  • Visit museums, planetariums, and Sci -Tech.
  • Follow directions eg cooking, making models from patterns.
  • Help children to become interested in real-life maths  eg. How many litres of petrol do you think it will take to fill the car and how much is it likely to cost?
  • Use apps and websites that encourage maths understanding

 

SPACE AND VISION INTELLIGENCE

I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I had no words for.

Georgia O’Keefe 

  • Encourage children to make things with left over packaging, wrapping paper, old buttons etc. Keep scraps in a special “Making Things” box.
  • Provide clay and play dough.
  • Encourage use of different media.
  • Allow your child to draw and paint and display their efforts.
  • Jigsaws and Junior Pictionary.
  • Take them to art galleries whenever possible.
  • When you read to them, point out the types of illustrations used.

 

BODY INTELLIGENCE

Great ideas originate in the muscles.

Thomas Alva Edison. 

  • Provide lots of construction toys and help your child to use them.
  • Encourage your child to keep fit by walking, jogging, swimming or participation in team sports.
  • Encourage participation in some type of dancing or drama.
  • Allow children to pull apart old appliances and toys and put them back together again.
  • Play computer games that need fast reflexes.
  • Throwing and catching balls or Frisbees.
  • When they are doing homework, allow frequent breaks so they can move.

 

MUSIC INTELLIGENCE

An agreeable harmony for the honour of God and the permissible delights of the soul: Johann Sebastian Bach

I shall hear in heaven: Ludwig van Beethoven-last words 

  • Encourage children to listen to many types of music.
  • Help them put important facts to music- AutoRap is a great App for this! MathsRockx is a great App for times tables- put to great music!
  • Sing along to songs and encourage family sing-a-longs.
  • Show your children how to make simple musical instruments and encourage them to play along with their favourite music.
  • Buy your children simple percussion instruments and if possible let them learn a musical instrument.

 

PEOPLE INTELLIGENCE

Small things with great love. It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving:  Mother Theresa 

  • Buy your child some biographies and encourage them to learn about famous people.
  • Make sure your children have sufficient free time to play with their friends.
  • Play games with children and help them to learn to play by rules
  • Let your child join scouts, Brownies or join organised sporting groups.
  • Make sure your child has the opportunities to mix with children of different ages and interests.
  • Talk with children at meal times and make sure you stay off your devices and don’t continuously message when with children.

 

SELF INTELLIGENCE

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us: Oliver Wendall Holmes

  •  Encourage children to keep a journal for reflection.
  • Talk about your own feelings regularly so that they learn that it is O.K. to do this.
  • Model strong I MESSAGES to help them to become more assertive. Eg. “ I feel sad when you call me names and I would like you to stop it.”
  • Drawing self-portraits
  • Making a family tree.
  • Keep records of all your children’s milestones and regularly let them have access to these records and old photos so they can know themselves as well as possible and be aware of their changing lives.
  • Allow children spare time so they can THINK and REFLECT

NATURALIST INTELLIGENCE

 

 “No matter how few possessions you own or how little money you have, loving wildlife and nature will make you rich beyond measure.” :  Paul Oxton Oxton

  • Make sure your children get to experience nature as often as possible
  • Take time to stop and look at plants, insects etc
  • Talk to your children about pollution and ways we can help to save the earth.
  • Establish a nature study table for interesting rocks, plants etc.
  • Allow children to start their own garden plot, choose plants and care for it.
  • Encourage children to have pets and to look after their physical needs but also to pay attention to how their pets are feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DOES YOUR CHILD HAVE A BALANCED LIFE?

 

Increasingly we are working with children experiencing serious sleep disorders and reporting problems with tension and “letting go.”

Our daily mindfulness and brain- body connection time although only 5 minutes, is becoming crucial if children are going to be able to concentrate and give of their best during our sessions.

Last Friday and next Friday (13/21 Oct) we have had WORK-REST-PLAY balance as our themes for our ART FROM THE HEART program. This week the children are exploring Kandinsky’s concentric circles using 3 colours to represent this much needed balance.

It is crucial that children are helped to find this balance and we also need it. The best way to teach kids about healthy, balanced lives is to model it! Let them see you relax and show them you have interests- whether these be hobbies/ special reading/arts/crafts etc.

Many children who spend HUGE amounts of time on digital media are very un-familiar with the term “hobby” and we are trying to help them develop their intrinsic interests in our GENIUS HOUR and within our ART FROM THE HEART sessions.

Here is a helpful link about hobbies – let’s all try for some healthy balance this week!

http://www.creativechild.com/articles/view/the-benefits-of-hobbies-for-children-and-where-to-begin

Call 92714200 to enquire about our courses or email me on victoriacarlton@iinet.net.au for more info.

 

 

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The ABC of Child Whispering: S IS FOR STRANGE

Kids LOVE strange things.

They absolutely love-

Aliens

Black holes

Horrible histories

Strange animals

Weird inventions

Leonardo da Vinci

Black holes

Giants

Dragons

Mythology

 ……….

You can never get bored when you work with children!

They have that amazing sense of wonder and awe and a HUGE curiosity for their surroundings.

We are offering GENIUS HOUR time on Saturday mornings to help kids explore projects of passion to them and I am pretty sure there will be some VERY strange subjects!

This week during our SUPER SCIENCE SATURDAY time we are learning about the collision of black holes and the kids will LOVE it. They love “frontier learning.” They love to play around the edges of what is known and unknown. They love to speculate and this is where we leap into writing projects- in this case: I was sinking into the spinning black hole…….

This is a great list to help your kids- and you- to celebrate the strange!

https://www.bustle.com/articles/162670-13-weird-childrens-books-that-every-book-lover-read-as-a-kid

Friday 13th and Halloween are both approaching. Let’s celebrate the strange this year. I have learning packages on Teachers Pay Teachers for Friday 13th (tomorrow!) and Halloween- https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/FRIDAY-13TH-Multiage-learning-package-2204331

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/50-PAGE-HALLOWEEN-LEARNING-PACKAGE-2170776

After all – the strange of today will be the known of the future.

Remember when a trip to the moon was a really weird, strange concept?

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THE SIMPLICITY OF HAPPINESS

I am in Bali to work with some schools and knit myself back together! (A few dropped stitches to pick up!)

I am trying to get away here twice a year to “just be” and plan and write.

After rest and sleep the words start flowing in and the simple happiness and kindness of the Balinese washes me clean of the crazy pressures I willingly take on!

When I can’t stare at my computer screen any longer I  walk through fields and stare at rice paddies instead. I watch very old men working hard in the fields, cheerfully calling out to me as I slosh past in the new mud and puddles!

I meet heaps of giggling kids as they run up, ask our names and try out their English. (FAR better than my Balinese!)

Grandmas and Grandpas delightedly cuddle and play with babies and toddlers- no play-pens, walkers, bouncinettes needed here!

I watch the faces of the Balinese women as they watch their kids at play. They take real pleasure in their children’s carefree happy antics. There is time to play.

I am lucky enough to meet a family in a traditional village and have kids stare at me in amazement when I ask them, “Do you have much homework today?”

I request a coconut juice and the guy climbs up, picks me a perfect coconut, chops off the top and hands it to me. The warm, sweet juice is about as close to heaven on earth as i can imagine.

People here are not concerned about

  • wasting time
  • using spare time wisely
  • filling up every minute of the day

They don’t proudly describe themselves as SO BUSY.

Time has a different meaning here. Balinese people truly do know the thing we have forgotten-

HOW TO JUST BE

Everything is on a different time-line here.

It’s like entering another dimension. There IS time to think, reflect, chat, meditate and solve problems at a deep level.

I’m not naïve or romantic enough to think there are no problems here. Of course there are major poverty, sanitation and water supply difficulties etc but the rituals, ceremonies and nurture of village life help people KNOW they belong and are loved.

Kindness dwells here.

We are here for a full moon celebration and watch lines of white clad men women and children joyfully join another village to celebrate. They walk along tracks and through rice paddies with a single purpose- to unite, celebrate the joy of this special celebration and spread blessings.

I know one thing -the Balinese HAVE got it right. They know better than to sacrifice their entire lives to the great money god or to become like “machines addicted to machines.”

Bali does more than provide a holiday. It teaches us how to stop, become sane, get off the pointless “busyness” cycle and reflect, think and get back to important values such as kindness, tolerance and patience.

Balinese live their religion every day- rather than appearing for a fast “feel-good” pharisaic hour on Sundays.

They deserve their happiness. Coming here is worth thousands of self-help seminars and books. To BE happy we need to BE with happy people and study them deeply.

There is a tangible beauty of spirit here that we lack.

They get stuff done- but at a rate that allows reflection, smiles, chats and yes- happiness!

It’s not too late to dismantle the “busyness cycle “ and allow a small stream of Bali sanity, warmth and friendly spirit to creep in.

It could transform your lives- just one week of it has transformed mine!

To get my experience try Putri Ayu cottages (super cheap, massive room and huge private balcony and best vegetarian brekky ever!) JL Bisma, Ubud , and Wayan Suweca – best guide ever if you want to dive deep below the surface of Balinese culture- he taught us so much!  (facebook: Bali Hidden Paradise Tours)

Suksema   Bali

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