A HUMBLE MAN

I had an email from an overseas colleague this week-suggesting I meet up with a person she knows who is working with children etc-she described him as “a humble man”.

It was so interesting to note my reaction-I immediately wanted to meet him-I am so sick of meeting people who are convinced they know EVERYTHING!

The sort of ferocious business networking that takes place amongst business people-especially amongst education business people is so boring and vacuous-they are all trying to prove they are the best, know the most etc-there is no real exchange of opinions or ideas. How boring! How can people learn when they are so convinced they’re right-they are then shut off!

This is not helpful for education-NO-ONE has all the answers-we must keep the children in the centre of the equation and search for the best most nurturing solutions for problems. We have to observe these children and be prepared to be surprised, delighted-and often WRONG!

So will I meet this “humble man” -this educator who still has an open mind-YOU BET! I CAN’T WAIT!

THE QUIET OF THE NIGHT

I have almost come to love my insomniac habits-the hours I spend reading, writing, thinking and just enjoying the quiet. There is something quite exotic about being the only one awake in my street-possibly the whole suburb-after all it’s past 3am on a sunday night!

I have spent the weekend catching up on lesson plans for our licence programs as well as our Students at Risk (STAR) program. Now the words won’t stop and I have become a word machine!

Somehow I want to get the kids we teach to experience a bit of this-not to this extent of course-but to know the joy of words flying around the brain and then SPLAT onto the paper where they can be captured, tamed, changed and crafted!
I am still amazed by the power of visualisations on children’s writing-seems to open up the right brain and the words tumble out. They still don’t like the editing too much but they really groan when we ring the gong to stop the 7 mins “rave-on” writing. Is it because the gong compels them to start-no wondering WHAT to write etc-no sorting through ideas-just BANG-off you go?Seems to work!

I think the pictures they form in their heads from the visualisation stop the mind-chatter and promote imaginative writing-whatever-it seems to work and has now for many years!

This week I will write up some more visualisations for our website-teachers are enjoying downloading them and I want this approach to spread!

TIME TO THINK

We have just returned from training teachers in JOLLY PHONICS and JOLLY GRAMMAR in Katanning and Harvey- sooooooo good to get away and just reflect!

Staring at empty paddocks, trees that all lean the same way, cows that looks so content (but I still bought Harvey beef to feast on today!) and hills, valleys and narrow winding rivers that call out for exploration!

Do we get enough of this THINK time?

I certainly don’t and I doubt my colleagues and kids we teach do either! And yet-Martin and I managed to formulate some really great plans, I redesigned some of my books and still had time to wonder and dream-and all over a few days!
The actual quality of my thinking seems to improve when not under stress-how can we make this happen more often?

I am starting to see how days off are absolutely essential-even for a workaholic like me! I am also starting to wonder if the educational decisions and programs offered to children really have enough thinking behind them? Do decision makers and the writers of programs REALLY reflect and consider? If so-why do kids so often get stuck with programs that do not suit their learning styles and achievement levels?

Teachers are under so much pressure in this country from national testing and new National curriculum requirements- will they be able to really reflect on their class teaching programs anymore? I doubt it!

Stressed teachers=stressed kids=lower achievement

Food for thought!

HOMEWORK HASSLES

There is very little evidence to prove children benefit from long hours of homework when they have already been at school all day long.

Finland enjoys very high educational standards without homework or national testing! We need to really re-think our ideas and practices if we hope to attain Finland’s high standards.

If sufficient time is given to basic literacy and numeracy EVERY DAY- then why must children suffer endless worksheets to finish after school?

If work cannot be finished in the school day-something needs to be thrown out-NOT the basic literacy and numeracy lessons!
Sure-all children need to read every night, practise times tables and spelling-this can take 15-20 mins tops. This is the sort of homework we give out at ICE- basic skills practice that children can do without the help of a parent, Mr Google or endless time that takes away from fun, family time and exercise.

Children need to run, play, explore, talk to friends, have hobbies, help with chores etc etc. This homework madness has to stop-it is SO bad for mental health, family closeness and appears to do very little for academic success either-judging by the fact that 46% of all adult Aussies and teenagers have very low literacy skills.

NAPLAN MADNESS

We are making a HUGE mistake in Australia with the panic and emphasis put on NAPLAN testing. Even Government schools are spending inordinate amounts of time and money practising for these tests and coaching kids for the tests. Schools, Principals and teachers feel judged by the results and parents are stressed to the max!

Sure-some coaching is OK and all teachers and parents would like to see their kids do well and of course the results do impinge on the self-esteem of the kids.

BUT-it is the huge amount of time taken out of teaching time to do this that alarms me. Surely rich, well balanced and systematic literacy and numeracy programs taught by trained and caring teachers is the best preparation for improved results?

Instead of this we have endless hours of time wasted where chn have to sit for mock tests, “off-Naplan” year prep and testing and less time spent actually teaching!

With our alarming literacy results in Aus it is time to return to allow our fine teachers to do what they do best-TEACH!!! We simply do not have the time to spend on all this mock testing.

GET THE LABELS OFF OUR KIDS!

I am so sick of the labels being put on children. Why must we be so quick to make them fit into boxes they were never destined for??

Why can’t children be allowed to birth their uniqueness and gifts to the world?
Why must every child learn in the same way?

This is all errant nonsense! Children are wonderfully unique and need to be nutured and helped to develop-not rammed into pre-existing templates!

It amazes me that here we are in 2012, turning back and back into the “empty vessels” model of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times novel! We know better now so why don’t we apply it?

The answer is simple-intellectual laziness, lack of funds and lack of respect and concern for these wonderful young people who will inherit the arid and barren educational landscapes we are forming.

Education is about engagement, curiosity, wonder, intellectual rigour, exciting ideas and extension of thinking. We MUST allow for different ways of learning, personalities, strengths and weaknesses in our classrooms if every child is to reach their potential.

This means teachers must have access to training that will show them how to teach in flexible groups, multi-age settings, cater for individual learning styles, extend and remediate where necessary.

It is not fair to expect teachers to carry the blame for low literacy and numeracy results-and we certaily do have those at the moment! Teachers need access to the best literacy and numeracy programs and professionsl development.
Many teachers are paying for their own extra training because their schools cannot fund it-this is ridiculous. Our teachers deserve the best pre-service and post-service training. The programs, knowledge, expertise for raising our literacy and numeracy skills are out there-we already have them in place-let’s make sure teachers can all learn these edvidence based methods to ensure future Aussies are fully literate and numerate and can use their skills to transform the dismal futures we seem bent on providing!

It is time that as educators and parents we take an honest look at what we are doing-let’s stop trying to create designer children and accepts every child for the unique gift to the word they actually are! Let’s peel the labels off and instead get to know these children, observe them, listen to them and provide nurturing and caring environments where all can learn!

POWER OF KINDNESS

This is RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS week and I am reminded of how crucial KINDNESS is for education.
I was asking children at our centre last week about favourite teachers they have had-amazing how many times the work KIND came up! Not one child commented , “She taught me maths really well”. They ALL commented on attributes such as KIND, INTERESTING, LOVED ART, SENSE OF FUN etc! We know children learn more when they are relaxed so we need to permeate our classrooms and all education/tuition centres with a sense of love and kindness. Children will feel affirmed, nurtured and then they can engage with our teaching and grow.
Of course also applies to teachers themselves. They also need to feel affirmed and nurtured, and busy administrators may not always realise this. As educators it is vital we –
take time out
nurture ourselves with beauty
feed our minds with wonderful literature and films
reflect on our work and congratulate ourselves for successes
admit when we need help and ask for it!

Education around the world would be revolutionised if from today teachers, children, parents and administrators all practised kindness EVERY DAY!

EQ4 2012

We just finished our first EQ4KIDZ course for this year with an amazing group of children-10 kids with their dreams, wishes for the year, hopes, problems but so much DETERMINATION! If I had to sum up this group it would be COURAGE!

It amazes me that each group is so different-develops its own “flavour” and by the end has a really cohesive feeling.

I am also constantly amazed that children really WANT to talk about their “stuff”-emotions, their dreams, anger, problems etc. We have just seen the research on our course from the Masters thesis completed by Lynne Oliver and we are thrilled! We knew we were getting results but it is wonderful to have this ratified. Our aim is to get this course out to ALL Aussie schools during the next 5 years. We are also offering it in Singapore.

Staff who worked with me on this workshop would agree-the kids taught us SO much! Each time we run the course I am stunned by how much we learn from children. I thought I was the author of this course but I am getting a strong intuition that children are the real writers and crafters of EQ4KIDZ!

AWAKE NOW!

Well-just reading what I had written just before New Year! That seems like a million miles away and yet-it IS still a new year!
We had a full quota of kids for holiday programs last week and it was so good to see our usual families, meet many new ones and help them prepare for the year ahead. There is something wonderful about seeing the world through a child’s eyes. There was one moment last week when a 5 year old said to me, so proudly, “I’m wearing a belt”! I replied, “Are you really? Show me”.
He so proudly lifted his T-shirt to show me his new best and when I told him it was the coolest belt in the world he just glowed! When was the last time we felt like that about something we wear?
There is a joy and energy that surrounds teaching but so often we get bogged down with marking, results, discipline etc and do not get to the heart of the matter-the children themselves. They are infinitely full of possibilities-not just because they are young but because they BELIEVE. A few years ago I asked a little 6 year old girl what she would like to be- ” a ballet dance and a truck driver” was her response-more power to her!!

So this year-I want to dream ICE some more-dream up possibilities and see what the children can teach us-not just what we can teach them! Their teaching curriculum is more vast and intiguing than ours will ever be!

STIRRING AND WAKENING!

There is something deeply satisfying about writing goals BEFORE New Year’s Eve!
I love this process-this gradual quickening of thr year and the finding of words to describe and capture then essence of the year!

This is a DRAGON YEAR and I think there will be plenty of dragon energy around! The children will be delighted to usher in the year of the Dragon-kids have this everlasting fascination with these amazing mythical creatures and so I confess have I! So this is the WATER Dragon year-we have not had once since 1952! Thank goodness we found our water-dragon eggs and they are definitely growing!

So-back to the goals-this year I am going to read through them everyday and carry them at all times. But-this year I am going to leave a little more room for spontaneity and fun-personally and for ICE-there must be some serendipity in our learning cocktail!
I feel like a creature who has been deeply sleeping since Christmas Eve and just shaking body and mind awake-deeply refreshed and wanting to hang on to this feeling of time to spare-that is my challenge for this year! Thi is also the year we re launching our new Time Management seminar-so TIME-must ponder and meditate on this during my lazy pool/breakfast time tomorrow!