Another brick in the wall?

Robot child reading a book.

What sort of an education do we REALLY want for our children?
Maybe it’s time to listen to the Pink Floyd song again but this time really listen!


Do we really want to turn our kids into robots or “just another brick in the wall?”
There are clear choices:
Choice A: Do we want happy, well rounded kids with high emotional intelligence and a wide range of talents and interests? Do we want kids who will become life-long learners? Do we want kids who love reading and love to express themselves in writing and enjoy the elegance and challenge of mathematics?
Choice B: Or do we want kids who just regurgitate facts like trained seals and do not know how to think or even have anything to think about?
Most definitely the British and Australian Governments are choosing the latter and this will have hugely negative effects on children’s well-being and ability to think, create and dream. We are in effect, once again abolishing childhood!
This is a really interesting article about the British Government trying to adopt a more test oriented approach to education- somewhat like the Chinese one; and strangely, at a time when China is moving away from this because it simply does not work!
https://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fgu.com%2Fp%2F4b8h7%2Fsfb&ref=responsive
The Australian Government is doing exactly the same. It has used the big NAPLAN stick to try to beat schools into some sort of results driven shape and reduce them to the type of school written about in Dicken’s Hard Times.
“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
It doesn’t have to be like this.
Children CAN learn the basic literacy and numeracy skills without the hugely expensive and inefficient NAPLAN process.
I don’t think all testing is wrong. As teachers we need to be aware of levels, learning styles and have practical plans to help ALL students reach their potential. However, teachers need to be given the tools to teach effectively, the resources and mentoring they need and to be trusted to get on with the job!
Term one in many schools is now given over to the new subject: NAPLAN! Kids do long, boring tests that effectively teach them how to pass tests but not much else. This means that 4 terms of work have to be crammed into the three remaining terms. No wonder teachers are tired, stressed and unwilling to teach the NAPLAN years.
We have to wake up from this soporific educational haze and look at what DOES work. I for one am sick of all the sycophantic praise given to Finland’s education system (one that DOES work) and then watching the Aussie Government totally ignoring good practice and reverting back to the big stick of testing!

Now the problem with standardized tests is that it’s based on the mistake that we can simply scale up the education of children like you would scale up making carburetors. And we can’t, because human beings are very different from motorcars, and they have feelings about what they do and motivations in doing it, or not.

Learning happens in the minds and souls, not in the databases of multiple-choice tests.
Sir Ken Robinson

Musical Intelligence

music 2

“Yea, music is the prophet’s art; among the gifts that God hath sent, one of the most magnificent.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Music is the first intellectual capacity to develop. Children respond in a positive and specific way at birth to the human voice. It seems that even while in utero the baby develops some musical ability. Babies in the womb are affected by many sounds-tones from their mother’s speech, laughter, singing, sound of mother’s heart, muffled sounds of music from radios and CDs and other’s talking. Music is one of the eight intelligences identified by Howard Gardner and indeed a very important one!
“In many ways music and rhythm are more foundational to our species than language. They have a power to evoke and express that no other medium expresses. Mothers use it to lull their children to sleep. Armies march to war to the beat of drums and national anthems. The use of chanting as a religious practice has been a part of every major world religion. And of course, the development of a wide variety of folk music has been used for entertainment and dancing, as an expression of grief, and as a declaration of love”
Eight Ways Of Knowing, by David Lazear, Hawker Brownlow 1999.
We can observe this intelligence at work as we watch young children enjoying singing, dancing, swinging their legs and enjoying the rhythms and beats of nursery rhymes. Children are delighted by music and certainly this is an important intelligence for many reasons-not just for enjoyment. Music is a civilising intelligence and our lives are all the richer for its development. It unites us and helps our children develop a sense of community.
We know that children can be helped to remember important facts by making up songs about them e.g. in grammar- Nouns are people, places things, just like desks, Marie and rings………..
Teachers are beginning to incorporate musical intelligence into all parts of the curriculum as it enhances learning as well as increasing enjoyment.
Children can be enthused by certain types of lively music and soothed by quiet lullabies. Tense, worried children can be helped to relax and improve motivation.
We all possess some degree of musical intelligence, whether or not we sing or play instruments. We can help our children to improve this intelligence through the following strategies:
 Encouraging children to listen to many types of music and draw their emotional responses is an excellent way to stimulate this intelligence. Whenever possible take children to concerts and expose them to as many varieties of music as possible. Develop the habit of singing along as a family.

 Playing “Brain enhancement” music to help children retain information and learn new material. Mozart and other Baroque composers are ideal for this. This of course is also very helpful for adults who are trying to learn study or just think more effectively.

 Singing stories such, as OLD MACDONALD and AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY are excellent ways to improve reading while having fun! Make up RAPS and songs about events or items to be learned.

 Read children plenty of poetry, as this will encourage a sense of rhythm and appreciation of the sounds and cadences of the English language. Encourage the children to make up nonsense rhymes such as “One, one, eat a cream bun……..

Using chopsticks for to tap out rhythms of rhymes is great fun!

 Try using percussion instruments for playing while learning times tables or buy one of the excellent commercial music CDs to help children learn these important skills.

 Use music to teach the alphabet and phonics sounds essential to learning to read in English.

 Changing the words of well known songs e.g. Twinkle, twinkle little star, my Daddy drives a motor car…….

 Making up family songs. E.g. we love our family, of yes our family, we sing together all the time. We love each other. We help each other and we are happy to be close-to the tune of You are my sunshine/

 Study and listen to great composers. There are many excellent books and music CDs for families to practise together.

 Clap out the beats (syllables) in much loved songs and make up fun dances.

 Celebrate the rhythms of nature together-the turning on day into night, months, seasons, celebrations. Rhythms are integral to our human existence and children delight in the celebration of all the changes and rituals associated with these rhythms.

 Go outside with your children and listen to the “music” of the breeze in the trees or the “swishing” of grass

 Listen to music from different cultures as this increases musical intelligence as well as enlarging our understanding of each other and our traditions.

These strategies will help your children (and yourselves) to develop this wonderful musical intelligence and don’t forget the amazing music of silence as this can heal us and help our brains to prepare for the next beautiful melody we meet!

NO TIME TO IMAGINE ANYMORE!

 

imagination

 

 

 

 

We are once again losing the plot!

Schools are using NAPLAN as their excuse for turning themselves into efficient factories with kids having knowledge rammed into them reminiscent of Dickens’ HARD TIMES scenarios!

Of course we have to improve young minds, help children retain knowledge, remember facts and spell, read, write and do basic maths. Nobody would argue with that.

But…we also have to inspire, light the fires of curiosity, lead, excite a love of learning, teach how to know oneself and how to be with others. We are called to be EDUCATORS and truly educating a child is a complex task calling for highly trained, sensitive and empathic human beings to lead, motivate and awaken hearts and minds.

This young extremely intelligent 9 year old had some literacy issues and LOVED the school holidays because she could dream, imagine, make things (she was a gifted little artist), and just be herself. As soon as school started her imagination had to shut down.

She came in crying one afternoon and thrust these words into my hands. I could hardly speak. I asked her if she would mind if I shared her words with teachers and her reply? “I WANT YOU TO!” So here I am sharing this child’s honest comments.

Let me translate:
All my imagination has to be locked up. I feel sad about this. Because school has started again. I have no time to imagine any more.

Surely we should be doing the opposite? Surely we should be awakening their imaginations by reading them great literature, providing enriching experience in the arts, music and movement and promoting divergent thinking skills?

Is this the bleak future we are offering? In that case we can expect more children to tune out, lose interest, become sad, depressed and lose the ability to dream up the future. We need to wake up from this nightmare and give our children back their hopes, dreams and futures.

LIFT THE LIMITS ON LEARNING!

I love FractionsCongratulations to our wonderful student who did so well with FRACTIONS last week at school. Charlotte is an excellent example of a very bright child whose learning style does not always coincide with the ones offered in school.
Ask her ANYTHING about nature and she will astound you! Charlotte is our consultant environmentalist and keeps us all up to date with endangered species etc.
We use teaching techniques that often leap ahead of the curriculum. Some children hear it, disregard but register the information somewhere deep inside, some grab it because they are ready and Charlotte was one of those!
This is what happened with fractions. Because we use a multi-age approach Charlotte had the opportunity to hear older children learning about fractions and when her class eventually started it she KNEW and recognised the concepts. She absolutely ran with it and proved to herself, her class and her teacher and adoring Mums HOW SMART she is and of course this is now a corner turned for Charlotte- not just a corner- a veritable U turn! She knows she CAN do it now and I know for sure the rate of progress will now step up!

We need to stop putting age-limits on learning- give them the knowledge when they are ready!

BACK TO THE SUMMIT

I have just had 5 days off in Canberra- to dream, wander in galleries, eat, spend quality time with my daughter and SLEEP, SLEEP, SLEEP!

5 days in another place- with emails, twitter, face-book, voice messages off and it was so good!

The thing is- sometimes you lose your perspective and start looking at the wrong things too closely. I needed the top of the mountain again and it is back. I can see clearly again and look in 360 degrees around and see what is REALLY happening.

I wonder how often that happens in education? At the moment many of my colleagues are busy preparing for NAPLAN and the kids are all down there in the details and missing “big picture learning”. They are missing the connections between the “bits” of skills they are learning and therefore their understanding of what they are learning is suspended in the education-sphere with no anchoring strings and connectors to the real world.

We are in serious danger of having an education system that has totally lost its way- missed the view from the summit -missed the big picture. The lack of forward planning, goals, guiding philosophical principles is unfortunately delivering results well beneath par.

This lack of direction and narrow vision has filtered down to children and we now see increasingly large numbers of children who experience education as joyless, meaningless and have little or no motivation to learn.

My teachers at ICE are needing to spend increasingly large amounts of time on motivation and re-kindling dreams and helping awaken children to their amazing, innate possibilities.

We need some leaders (preferably drawn from the teaching community), who can re-inspire, reinvigorate and reinvent our education system so ALL kids feel they can learn, ALL kids experience the joy of success and ALL kids have their curiosity and learning hearts reignited!

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE!

Well-today was all about love for me and what a day it was!

The Beatles were not wrong- it IS all you need and if you love a few people and a few people love you, you are truly blessed.

I had my usual long Monday list of THINGS THAT MUST BE DONE and love intervened in many ways- a bit like a hungry, determined cat that will NOT leave you alone until you stop and feed it!

There were family members fed up with me, family members I was fed up with, people who needed my love more than I had realised and the pain and joy of dealing with it all. And, funnily enough, at the end of a day that still has 90% of tasks undone, it feels like the most satisfying, love filled, frustrating and yet worthwhile day ever. Indeed, a day to remind me to keep the main thing the main thing!

I’ve been reviewing our programs lately and reflecting on why kids do so well on only once or twice a week attendance and I am convinced it is also about  love. The small staff at ICE LOVE their kids and I delight in the cheerful giggles, happy noises and smiling faces I see every day. Looks like in education we also need to keep the main thing the main thing. The Beatles were onto something-love transforms, heals and brings us closer. It is just as necessary in education as it is in our personal lives!

error

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)