Children are the great gift-givers

For every child that is born, it brings with it the hope that God is not yet disappointed with man. 

Rabindranath Tagore

Some years ago, I gave a talk about learning difficulties at an amazing school in India where this quote was given prominence on the classroom walls.

What a hopeful message and a message we need to remember this week!

As children prepare to head back to school and we reluctantly shake off holiday mode, it is helpful to remember the amazing gifts children bring to this world- ALL children!

They bring us:

  • Honesty
  • Scarily clear and sharp minds
  • Curiosity
  • Fresh insights
  • The ability to sense when they are not liked and to react strongly- usually negatively!
  • The energy to rebel and look at things differently
  • Never ending questions
  • Energy to push back barriers
  • Love of learning (unless we flatten this)
  • Models of resilience as they get up from disappointments over and over again!

Children challenge us and help us see the truth!

We need the gifts children bring. The trick is to remember Rabindranath Tagore’s quote and to keep it uppermost in our minds each day as we re-commence our sacred task of educating these amazing kids.

Truly, every child is a gift from God to the world!

Let’s unwrap them and nurture their talents with care.

As educators we are part of a great revolution to transform the world! What a privilege.

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

―Malala Yousafzai

 

 

 

 

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What an art class can teach us!

I did an art class this week and learned so much. To be honest I didn’t really want to go and tried to dream up 100 excuses! I was terrified that my complete lack of talent would be obvious within 5 minutes.

My fear was well founded but the teacher and the rest of the class were gentle with me!

I learned some surprising things that I probably should have learned decades ago!

  • How to concentrate on one thing at a time

  • How to listen to instructions carefully and what happens if you don’t!

  • How to admit I had made a huge mistake and ask for help.

  • How to stop worrying about ANYTHING else.

  • How to hold a paintbrush.

  • How to choose colours and make a decision.

  • I CAN draw a bird (so can everyone.)

  • How to blend colours.

  • How to work out where highlights and shadows should go (this was where my huge mistake occurred)

  • How to be quiet for a long time and stop making self-deprecating comments.

  • How to actually enjoy the fact that I finished a piece of art I sort of like. Each time I look at it I am reminded how much I didn’t know and still don’t but CAN learn!

Just reading through this I am realising that most of the things I learned were universal truths and skills we want all children to learn! So why would we ever miss ANY opportunity to include art in every subject areas?

Thank you Dinky Di Art – https://www.facebook.com/DinkyDisArt/

Now, at this time of the year I am recrafting our teaching programs and choosing themes, academic content and creative art activities.

Most definitely, my art class has ensured we will ALWAYS have a creative component in every lesson!

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Why we DO Celebrate Halloween!

A few years ago I pretty much ignored Halloween as I considered it to be too negative and frightening for children. Wrong! 

Children LOVE scary things and celebrations like Halloween help them to get their fears into the open! I am amazed by the shared conversations I have had with children about death and fears. Children making skeleton drawings with cotton buds have opened up with so many, ‘I remember when…….” conversations and I realise it is the seasonal focus that is allowing this to happen!

Today, in the middle of a re-assessment, one of my students told me all about the death of her beloved cat and how she held it all night although she realised it had passed. She remembers it in detail although it was 4 years ago. (She is 10)

She still talks to it and has the most amazing, balanced and beautiful way of looking at life and death. I was humbled that she chose to tell me all about this and for once I was completely quiet!

Tonight I walked into a learning session where most of the children were reading a book called BLOOD by the Literacy Tower- they were SO into the book! Absolute, total concentration! They are fascinated by the human body- especially the interesting bits we don’t mention so much!

This is why horror tales such as Goosebumps have remained so popular. Children can play with these ideas from the relative safety of a cosy classroom setting!

The season also has Celtic origins and honours those who have left this world, something that children are greatly interested in. Death, fear, spooky things cannot be avoided. Halloween is a fun and safe way to explore some of these darker, troubling thoughts.

I have written a learning package about HALLOWEEN for teachers and parents- you can see it here: 50 pages of learning ideas and activities!

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

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Why I now celebrate Halloween

A few years ago I pretty much ignored Halloween as I considered it to be too negative and frightening for children. Wrong! 

Children LOVE scary things and celebrations like Halloween help them to get their fears into the open! I am amazed by the shared conversations I have had with children about death and fears. Children making skeleton drawings with cotton buds have opened up with so many, ‘I remember when…….” conversations and I realise it is the seasonal focus that is allowing this to happen!

Today, in the middle of a re-assessment, one of my students told me all about the death of her beloved cat and how she held it all night although she realised it had passed. She remembers it in detail although it was 4 years ago. (She is 10)

She still talks to it and has the most amazing, balanced and beautiful way of looking at life and death. I was humbled that she chose to tell me all about this and for once I was completely quiet!

Tonight I walked into a learning session where most of the children were reading a book called BLOOD by the Literacy Tower- they were SO into the book! Absolute, total concentration! They are fascinated by the human body- especially the interesting bits we don’t mention so much!

This is why horror tales such as Goosebumps have remained so popular. Children can play with these ideas from the relative safety of a cosy classroom setting!

 

The season also has Celtic origins and honours those who have left this world, something that children are greatly interested in. Death, fear, spooky things cannot be avoided. Halloween is a fun and safe way to explore some of these darker, troubling thoughts. 

I have written a learning package about HALLOWEEN for teachers and parents- you can see it here: 50 pages of learning ideas and activities!

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

 

 

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MATHS BY SUBTERFUGE

Due to the nature of the particular winter we’ve just had- the long cold nights, storms and cold, cold mornings, sharp frosts and huge amounts of rain, we indulged in more winter crafts than usual.

Our Perth based kids dream of snow. They long for snow and talk about it regularly! We have used so many recipes for snow dough and snow, snow slime, snow everything and we have enjoyed a feast of winter books!

We have finally mastered the art of snowflake making. The children rejoiced in my mistakes and watched me get up again and again, trying to model persistence while trying not to swear as yet another misshapen snowflake emerged from my scissors.

And then- what a wonderful moment- after endless winter days I got it and could pass it on. Just a sharp acute angled cut at the end and perfect snowflakes emerged!

The amount of mathematical language that emerged was amazing. Terms such as acute, equilateral, triangular, thirds, halves, symmetrical were used with meaning and the results carefully placed on our winter tree and display boards. The kids were so proud of what they had made during our maths lesson,

When I told them our craft work was all about maths they were amazed! And yet- they retain the concepts learned in this hands-on way.

This is maths by subterfuge and it works! Why not get some scrap paper, scissors, glitter and teach a fun maths lesson today to celebrate the seasons. I have many of these “maths by subterfuge” lessons planned for SPRING and SUMMER and piles chosen for HALLOWEEN and CHRISTMAS.

Check out this Pinterest page:

MAKING MATHS MEANINGFUL

https://www.pinterest.com.au/victoriacarlton/making-maths-meaningful/ for lots of ideas for linking maths and art and craft!

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream

Last night I had the strangest dream

I’d ever had before

I dreamed the schools were killing kids

And had declared a war!  (Apologies to Joan Baez!)

I dreamed a terrifying dream this week- one of the deepest, most disturbing ones ever.

I was in a Principals office. This man is known to me and is one of the wisest and most compassionate ever.

In this dream he had a huge chart with all the NAPLAN scores for his school and he was very worried. He was in trouble with the education authorities because around 10% had performed below the national average.

I looked at the scores and suggested 15 minutes a day with a strong synthetic phonics program would have a very fast effect on the literacy scores.

He excused himself and left the room and I awaited his return.

Minutes later he re-entered with all the low score kids and pointed a pistol and shot them all and then aimed at me. I somehow managed to escape with some of the kids and we ran and ran and found ourselves in a deep and dangerous jungle.

The meaning of this horrific dream is pretty obvious and was fuelled by a staff meeting we held recently about our methods and beliefs about education. We turned the whole meeting over to the deep stuff- what works best with kids, gentle, respectful ways to help children and motivate kids who have been casualties of the system.

To compound all this, I have had many recent interviews with very concerned parents of kids with learning problems. They feel their children have just become a test score and are no longer allowed to be a real child with strengths, weaknesses and a personality.

These kids are hurting right in front of us and dread school every day. They are treated as test scores while their home life is now reduced to endless hours of boring worksheets instead of fun filled play with neighbourhood kids. Then more of the same every day. And for what?

This approach does not work. It is ridiculous and built on the shakiest of pedagogical foundations. Research shows us the value of rest and play. Our kids need to be refreshed and learn through play. They need a different approach- one that takes into account the way they learn and one that seeks to make learning intrinsically interesting.

We could stop this damaging and dangerous practices immediately- no money involved- just a little thought, empathy and understanding and skill that teachers already have in spades- they need to be able to use it!

Give them the freedom to truly help kids!

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Learning Multiplication Tables

Knowing the times-tables is non-negotiable in my classes. You simply cannot enjoy maths and do well until you can automatically recall them.

Before children start to learn them, they must understand what they are doing.

Sorting socks or shoes into pairs, popsticks into groups of 3, playing with dice  etc helps children to make a clear visual pattern and develop understanding. The general concept of “groups” “lots of” “multiply” “times” must be established first.

hey have to be learned over and over to become automatic. We have to “over-learn” them so even when we know them, we keep going so we NEVER have to think of them again!

There are many ways to learn them but by far the best is to simply write them out over and over again- just 10 miutes a day will suffice. Writing them with bright markers will help their brains to really notice the patterns.

 

So- if a child needs to learn their 4x table they can see how many times they can write it out in 10 minutes and do that 5x in a week.

Don’t let them do this:
1x
2x
3x   etc etc etc!

By writing it a little at a time they will only remember it a little at a time.

The table needs to be written in its entirety.

e.g. 1×4=4          2×4=8

They need to learn all these tables- right up till 12, before year 5 and DEFINITELY before year 7.

There are helpful videos and apps and I have listed some below but the BEST WAY and MOST EFFECTIVE is to simply have the child write them out on scrap paper for 10 minutes and also say them in order- aloud!

Then you can quiz them.  e.g. what is 4×6 etc

Helpful:

Maths Rockx app  – we use this often!

https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/maths-rockx-times-tables/id996850981?mt=8

A VERY helpful site with lots of hints and printables-

https://www.mathsisfun.com/tables.html

This is excellent!

Don’t let your children give up. They NEED these tables in order to be successful with maths. Ten minutres a day will nail it!

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Our students need CRITICAL rather than DEFERRED hope

“To achieve critical hope educators have to combine material resources, like great teaching, with fierce love for students demonstrated with actions, not words. This is incredibly hard work, but through all its ups and downs critical hope requires educators to continue believing they can do what they’ve never done before.”

I love the words “fierce love” and I love the gritty optimistic tone of this article. We CAN make a difference and we need to keep fighting! This article is worth a read- you will be inspired!

https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/51206/why-critical-hope-may-be-the-resource-kids-need-most-from-their-teachers

 

 

 

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ABC of Child Whispering T is for TESTING

Most kids hate tests and with good reason.

They hate the tension and judgements that accompant them. They hate the fact that teachers use tests to manipulate and bribe them to study.

I teach children from around 40 schools. The one common thread is the number of tests children do.

We are doing more and more of them.

Why?

Do we really think we can reduce kids to some kind of lowest common denominator? A score that really sums them up and pigeon-holes them?

Scores are regularly given to parents who often have no idea what they mean. “Michael is only reading at level 3!”

 

 

Parents need to know:

  • What do these levels mean?
  • How many levels are there?
  • What level should Michael be reading at?
  • How can he be helped?

It is not fair to just give out arbitrary data and use it to worry parents and make them feel uneducated and ignorant.

Many schools test weekly and this of course reduces the hours available for teaching.

Whatever happened to observations, samples of work, video obs and so on?

What does a test really measure?

What do we REALLY learn?

Quite often tests mainly measure ability to read instructions –  not necessarily a deep understanding of the test subject area.

To get that level of understanding we need to TALK to children.

This morning I assessed a child and I received FAR more information from my casual conversations with him rather than my battery of formal tests.

Even the subtexts- the body language, the yawns, the animation that occurred when we discussed his interests- all these  gave me SO much more information than my formal testing packages.

Let’s get back to REAL assessments where we take the time to get to know children, determine their specific needs, learning styles and therefore make education plans that really work!

Over-testing does nothing except waste valuable teaching and learning time!

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Blessed by a child

I must have looked tired yesterday!

My last assessment yesterday evening really surprised me!

He boldly told me he wants to be a truck driver and a teacher.

After the assessment I was chatting to his Mum and he eagerly told her, “We are not going home yet. I am going to teach the next kid and Vicky can take time off!”

He is 5.

Kids never fail to amaze me! I HAD been tired but with such an offer I felt renewed, revitalised and blessed!

It is simply not possible to get bored with what I do!

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