In Praise Of Teachers

Lately I have been in many schools to train teachers how to use JOLLY PHONICS and JOLLY GRAMMAR.

 Yes, I know there are unkind,  harsh teachers who may lack some skills.
There are disinterested teachers and some who simply picked the wrong profession. This occurs in ALL professions. There are unkind, disinterested and  inept doctors, lawyers, accountants, politicians etc.
There always will be.

Teachers are particularly on public show and many people harbor thoughts that anyone who has been to school can teach. WRONG!

Just try to teach a group of youngsters with varied needs, learning styles and often with insufficient time, resources and with the huge demands placed on teachers to interpret the curriculum, continuously assess children and deal with many difficult parents.

Our teachers are well trained, extremely caring about the needs of the children in their care and often put their personal needs aside as they give up night after night to plan and mark. It is pretty much impossible to get all these tasks done in a school day, not to mention the research of new methods and searching for better methods to ensure ALL children are learning.

Yesterday I sat outside a kindergarten class waiting for the children to be dismissed as I was using that classroom for training. I was with a group of parents and grandparents who were watching their beloved children through the windows. I didn’t watch the kids- I watched the teacher.

I watched as she used a puppet to engage and enthuse the children, read a story with a wonderfully expressive voice and then lead the children to reflect about the morning’s learning. They discussed all their observations about the snails they were studying and were encouraged to postulate further questions to consider tomorrow.

Then these happy, excited kindergarten children spilled out of the class, many of them confidently saying “Hi!” to the stranger sitting there. (Me!)

Then after at least 4 hours of prep and teaching,  15 teachers sat and listened to me on tiny chairs, at tiny tables for another 3 hours as they ate their sandwiches. (No corporate training lunches for them!)

Without any break they encouraged me to begin, listened intently, asked many probing questions and examined ways they could use these programs to further improve literacy for their children. After 3 hours of presenting, I was exhausted but no- these amazing teachers wanted to ask questions, help me pack up and arrange to come to my center and borrow some teaching materials. 

This is a perfectly normal scenario. I often see teachers after exhausting days of teaching and no breaks as they often have playground duty and are faced with long prep hours at night.

They deserve better. They deserve our respect and admiration as they get on with their job of educating and transforming the future by their daily work.

Cut them some slack and forgive their occasional mistakes and grumpiness. Most of them LOVE your children and would do anything to help their young charges to reach for the stars.

 

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Teach like a kindergarten teacher

 

All I really need to know… I learned in kindergarten: Robert Fulghum

“These are the things I learned (in Kindergarten):

1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put thngs back where you found them.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
9. Flush.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Stryrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”
Robert Fulghum

Kindy teachers are different!

  • They don’t serve up learning in pre-parcelled lots- they knit it together so that little children make connections and learn deeply.
  • Kindy teachers know that if a child doesn’t understand- then show them in a different way.
  • They know children learn differently- very differently.
  • Kindy teachers are tired- often!
  • They can never say, “Turn to page 35 and do all the questions.”
  • Kindy teachers HAVE to be present.

They HAVE to be well planned and above all they HAVE to love children – a lot. They certainly don’t do it for the money. They are never paid enough to cover what they do!

All of us can learn from watching our immensely creative kindy teacher colleagues. imagine if all teachers taught like kindy teachers- children would be happy, be allowed to develop their strengths and learn in ways that suit their learning styles.

What a radical idea!

They have got it right and we need to study them and learn from them.

Be there. Be present. Love your children. Expect the unexpected and FLOW!

If you teach like a kindy teacher you will probably have premature grey hairs, lots of “crinkles” and have a desperate need for sleep. But be assured- you have more effect on your students than anyone else.

I am sure God has a special place in Heaven for kindy teachers- huge comfy beds, warm scented baths and trashy magazines with wine and very good chocolate!

What you do MATTERS and we admire you greatly!

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OVER TESTING LEADS TO UNDER TEACHING

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So now Year Ones are to have a new test to determine who has problems.

By this time of the year Grade One teachers have already identified these youngsters and doing all they can to help them catch-up and have success with basic literacy and numeracy skills.

The money to develop this new test could be used to put extra teacher assistants in the classrooms and purchase adequate teaching resources. (Teachers buy their own!)

Australian kids are over-tested and under-taught!

There are problems that results from this over-testing:

  • Parents naturally worry about the tests and are concerned the results will affect their children’s futures. According to parents, judgements about who can enter certain private schools are sometimes made using NAPLAN results.
  • MANY schools are holding time-consuming NAPLAN coaching sessions for entire classes and teachers who attend our professional development sessions are concerned about this.
  • Every time teachers coach kids to pass a test they are not teaching to the needs of their classes.
  • Students are really worried- we have so many year 3 children who are really frightened of NAPLAN
  • Parents are buying assessments books by the dozen and coaching kids at home. Kids are not getting to play and relax. This leads to stressed kids learning less in classrooms.

NAPLAN has always been a very expensive, ineffective and time wasting stick to try to scare teachers into somehow drilling facts into kids in Dickensian “Hard Times” scenarios.

I had a parent tell me her Pre-Primary son has been identified as at educational risk because he counted to 100 and missed 89 and became mixed up!  This is the result of teacher stress reaching out and affecting children.

We taught this particular child with some extra “hands-on” sessions. He had NO problems at all – in fact his maths intelligence was very strong.

We need to regain our sense of perspective and look at what actually DOES work. We say we do this but Finland is a leading light and they have very little testing.

Singapore is known to be a school system that is reliant on rigorous testing but I am regularly asked by my colleagues there why we have SO MUCH testing in Australia- and yet very little effect!

We need to honour and trust our teachers as professionals and give them the resources and help they need to help ALL youngsters reach their potential!

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HAPPY CHILDREN = BETTER ACADEMIC RESULTS

New mindset new results motivational phrase sign on old wood with blurred background

Our EQ4KIDZ course leads to better academic results. This is because children develop an I CAN attitude and therefore stop holding back in the classroom.

They are more positive, resilient and improve general self-esteem and develop an I CAN attitude.

This course teaches kids to understand themselves and develop more positive attitudes.

EQ4KIDZ is offered in Australia and SE Asia. Our goal has always been the same: To help all children reach their potential.

Students are led through art and drama activities, proven to help them understand themselves and others.

Training is also available for schools. We can provide trained teachers to run this transformative course in schools and we are also available to go into schools and train staff.

Readers who are interested in enrolling children in this course can contact ICE on 9271 4200 or email International Centre for Excellence iceinfo@iinet.net.au

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SAD CONVERSATIONS

bambino disperato si copre il voltoAlmost everyday I have sad conversations with parents and children about school work and homework they cannot understand.

A little challenge is healthy but to be constantly confronted with work they have no chance of succeeding with is just plain depressing. Then – just to rub salt in the wound, the NAPLAN results arrive and another nail is driven into the coffin of self-esteem!

F grade and a sad smilie, written in red letters in a spiral pad, shallow DOF

Of course there are curriculum guides that tell teachers the content expected to be mastered at different grade levels BUT a teacher’s task is always to take a child metaphorically by the hand and lead them through the curriculum. If they have not reached a certain stage you cannot just MAKE this happen. Children need to be given work they CAN do and then be shown how to get to the next level.

Children are not machines to be suddenly accelerated by a switch. They are wonderful gifts from God for us to nurture, love and lead gently through the education maze.

There is NOTHING more demeaning than to not be able to do school work all day (with classmates teasing and goading) and then to be given homework that you can’t do either. Schools need to be aware of how many families spend hours on homework tasks every night with resultant frustration and tears. These kids are not getting time to play, chat, daydream and generally be kids.

There is very little evidence that copious amounts of homework help children at all. Reading, practising basic spelling, phonics and times tables is appropriate. Any more than 30-40 minutes per evening is too much and children under 8 should have even less.

We need to stop robbing children of their childhoods and help them at point of need.

That’s why tuition that targets specific skills not understood, and that builds self-confidence and self-esteem really works!

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NAPLAN WASTE

brain 1So there have been no significant gains in student results this year.

So what?

Can we measure the more intangible but more important outcomes with tests?

E.g.

  • Curiosity and wonder about the world
  • Formulation of ideas, dreams and goals
  • Ability to socialise and communicate
  • Determination to overcome difficulties
  • Fresh, creative writing
  • Ability to think logically and problem solve
  • Children’s ability to empathise with others and ability to manage their own strong feelings
  • A feeling of self-worth and optimism?

Of course we can’t! You need careful observations and skilled teachers and parents to identify the above qualities.

All teachers know how important the above outcomes are to children’s lives and yet we concentrate on such a narrow band of abilities.

Why do we think education is always about measurable results?

Why are we so scared of aspects of education we cannot pin down?

A good education is so much more than the results in the areas that NAPLAN measures.

Once again, children are being likened to machines that just need information rammed in tightly.

NAPLAN completely ignores the fact that children have at least 8 intelligences. Children who lack skills in maths and literacy feel like complete failures.

We see children with amazing art ability and aptitude for thinking deeply and logically. We see children who know so much about science and have “out of the box” ideas for helping our environment. These kids are still consigned to the rubbish heap.

We have not come very far!

So many years and so little progress!

“Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them.”
Charles Dickens, Hard Times

The money spent on the development and administration of NAPLAN could so easily have been provided to schools for extra teachers, resources and ongoing professional development of teachers. That would have contributed to long lasting benefits for all Australian children!

Charles Dickens had it right- “There is a wisdom of the head, and… there is a wisdom of the heart.” – Hard Times

Hard Times ahead for education if we don’t get our heads out of the sand and stop applying flawed pedagogical principles to the education process!

 

 

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ELVES, WISHES, HOT CHIPS AND SPELLING!

 

 

elf

 

ELVES, WISHES AND SPELLING!

On Saturday we commenced our WINTER FESTIVAL.

I told the kids the old solstice legend of people hanging their wishes from trees for the elves to see and hopefully grant! The kids were keen to do the same so we hung our wishes on our learning tree.

I also told them that elves HATE spelling mistakes and don’t read wishes that are misspelled! What a change- they all checked their spelling carefully, checked in with teachers and used dictionaries. I have a feeling these spelling elves are here to stay at ICE!FullSizeRender (002)

I was fascinated to note their wishes. Many asked for gifts for their families. One child wished for immortality. A few asked for happiness and peace.

I truly believe rituals and celebrations are very important for children. They love the “wheel of the year,” and are fascinated by old traditions. They help children feel grounded, part of the community to understand their connections to the past.

This week and next we are celebrating this MIDWINTER time with a veritable festival of learning activities. We have even obtained a fake log fire to add to the atmosphere!fire

Here are some of our activities- they can easily be adapted for any classroom and are great to use at home!

  • Studying and writing about ice crystals http://encyclopedia.kids.net.au/page/ic/Ice_crystals
  • Mindfulness sessions- staring into a candle or fire and sharing what came into your mind.
  • Cook and eating wintery food such as baked potatoes, apple bread or hot chips.chips
  • Expressing gratitude for all the wonderful blessings we have experienced this year and setting goals for the warmer months ahead. You could light a tiny tea-light for each blessing children tell. (Keep up high!)
  • Reading and writing about the Earth’s orbit around the sun and why we have seasons.
  • You tube cold weather clips of crackling fires and snowy scenes. https://youtu.be/25SV6zqTl1k

https://youtu.be/zGD5C4wLsrs

So put plenty of layers on, make huge hot chocolates and celebrate this lovely deep, introspective season. It offers opportunities to go deep, get introspective, re-adjust the sails and just take a much needed deep breath!

 

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Treating kids like rubbish!

“Your son is absolutelycrumpled paper no good at anything!”

I was chatting to one our Mums this evening and she told me of a very sad incident. It concerned her young son and his classroom teacher.

The classroom teacher told the mother, “Your child is absolutely no good at anything. He is not good at reading, writing, maths, art or even physical education.”

The mother gave the best answer possible, “Whatever,” and grabbed a piece of writing paper from the teacher’s desk. She crumpled the paper into a ball and held it up for the teacher to see. “My son is like this crumpled piece of paper. You and this school have completely crushed his spirit and he has folded up deep inside himself.”Then she threw it in the bin and left.

She knows from her mother’s heart and brain that her son has strengths and weaknesses just like any child. She knows that given encouragement and a loving and nurturing learning environment, he will thrive.

This incident took place in a Church school. I think they need to remember the words of Jesus, their leader,

“Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.”

No wonder this child has no confidence and has given up. At the moment he believes he is useless and it now our job to help him re-build his fractured self-esteem.

How sad that a teacher can behave in this way. Educators are meant to teach and build children up- not crush their beautiful spirits.

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Your child won’t amount to much….

AllKids are Smart Front CoverYour child won’t amount to much….

At least 10 times over the last 2 years I have had sad, hurt parents tell me the teacher of their child (primary years) has cast a very negative judgement on their child. Here are a few typical ones:

  • “Will never be academic,” (turned out to be an A student),
  •  “Will not amount to much,” – child picked that up and then pretty much believed it and went on to tell her Mum that the teacher “knows I will never be able to do it!”
  • “Will make a good hairdresser”- yes- that really WAS said! Apologies to all hairdressers as I think you are amazingly gifted!
  • “You need to lower your expectations because he will NEVER go to Uni- just doesn’t have the capacity.”  (That one went on to top his high-school year and will definitely be going to uni!)

How can trained educators do that?

How can we judge human potential so lightly and go on to trample on everyone’s dreams?

Whenever I look at the groups I teach I am always aware that I might have an Einstein, a Richard Branson, Maria Montessori, Marie Curie or a Bill Gates sitting in front of me. They might wriggle around, show little interest and be downright non-compliant at times. So what? Maybe my chosen teaching method that day was boring. Maybe they already knew the material. Maybe they were tired or had a fight with their best friend………

Many very successful adults did very poorly at school and in fact failed!

What does that tell us?

STOP JUDGING!

It could be us as educators or our inflexible exam based system that is breaking the spirit of our children and holding up their potential.

I have met many successful people with terrible memories of school. They were made to feel stupid, inept and eventually angry and resentful. Luckily anger has lots of inherent energy and they used it to fuel their future success.

The interesting thing is that behind all these failures who made good was a parent or mentor who really believed in them.

Just one person to believe in them made the difference!

If not for Einstein’s mother the scientific world would be so much poorer.

My take-away message is two-fold:

  1. To teachers- stop judging potential and treat EVERY child as potentially gifted. Look instead at your teaching methods.
  2. To parents- keep believing. Refuse to swallow the negative, bitter pills given to you. Let your child know you believe in them, provide a positive learning environment and let your child’s mind unfold!

So what if they fail the test, exam or forget the facts? There is a lot more to education than those things.

We believe EVERY child is smart and this is why I wrote a book of the same name.

Refuse to believe anything less.

Contact us on 61 8 92714200 to get a copy of the book. If you are in Singapore you can purchase it from www.september21.com.sg

Email me privately on victoriacarlton@iinet.net.au if you have any matters re your children you would like to discuss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The ABC of Child Whispering: M is for MAGIC and MYSTERY

 

Cute school boy sitting on floor and using his smartphone

I am getting ready for tomorrow’s NEW-START workshop and thinking of ways to introduce some magic and mystery to the environment.

Last year we ran this workshop in Singapore and Perth and we turned the lights out and had scores of twinkling electric stars and candles when the children came in.Charlotte 2

The room felt like a IMG_3221cosy but mysterious cave and the children were all asked to remove their shoes as they entered. This signalled that we were going to be doing something quite different. We were going to get in touch with our deeper selves and try some transformation- all of us- adults and children!

We try very hard to create an air of mystery and magic at ICE and surprisingly it isn’t expensive or hard. You simply have to view the environment through the eyes of a child and then let your imagination run wild!

We have a star of learning that is switched on at every session to show how much we value learning and a learning tree complete with coloured lights that is hung with symbols of all the important learning activities we do as we go through the year.star

We always have quiet, relaxing music and some soothing art/craft or books ready for the children when they arrive. I love watching the way they visibly relax as they enter this magical space and start to interact. Children are so ready to enter into their imaginations and learn when given environments such as this.

I have been into so many amazing classrooms this year to train teachers and I have seen some wonderful, inviting environments deliberately crafted by wise, child-whispering teachers who understand the effect these surroundings make for children.IMG_5199

Parents can create a sense of sacred importance when they eat together as a family. Simply dimming the lights and lighting a candle to represent the love of the family, can create a special atmosphere. Children are far more likely to want to talk and communicate deeply in such special spaces.

Giving ourselves a magical interlude calms us and helps us open up to each other. It is no accident that romantic restaurants have candles and dim lights! Let’s also provide those spaces for our children to nurture their wonderful sense of magic and mystery. This is how we grow the imaginations and rich neural connections children need for learning!learning tree

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