On February 1 millions of people will celebrate the beginning of the TIGER year.
Children will be excited to receive presents, houses will be cleaned and special foods prepared. Often new clothes will be worn.
I believe that a knowledge of all major cultural festivals and events is important for children if we are to help prepare them to understand each other’s cultures and lead to greater empathy and harmony.
Each year I have always helped children understand all the major festivals and the LOVE the themed art/craft/maths and literacy we use at these times. It helps children get in touch with the wheel of the year and appreciate each other’s traditions.
Last year I decided to fulfil a dream and learn the piano. One of my mastery trainers bought me a fantastic keyboard for Christmas so I was all set. I chose the SIMPLY PIANO app and started.
How excited I was as I finally learned musical notes and started to play simple tunes. I started using both hands and I was on cloud 9 and could play some popular songs. I drove friends and my kids crazy making them listen to my recordings and thought I was well on the way. Pride really does precede a fall!
I passed through the first 2 stages and started to feel a little uneasy as there were some tricky parts and I was too proud to ask for help. Pity!
I started to avoid daily practice and barely went near the keyboard. I had so many excuses. I was too busy, too much work and would get back soon. Time passed and I realised sad truth. I had gone too fast and did not understand deeply and felt like I was drowning each time I tackled some difficult notes. I still avoided asking for help and just felt miserable each time I looked at the keyboard or saw ads for SIMPLY PIANO with people who were so good after only a few months.
Truth was- I had slipped into the “learning difficulties,” “remedial”, “lazy” categories.
I had gone too fast-buoyed along by my own pride and delight that I could do this.
Actually, I couldn’t do “this” at all. In fact I was stuck with a capital S!
What to do?
I knew the answer but avoided it.
Finally, I faced it. My playing was crapola and if I REALLY wanted to learn I had to start over and work my way up again-slowly, painfully, deeply and allowing enough time to learn thoroughly.
I am now in the “remedial” group and slowly moving up the ladder again. I no longer care what anyone thinks. This is MY journey, and I will do it my own way. I WILL master this and become proficient!
However, the whole painful episode has made me think deeply about the kids who learn differently. We race through the content, trying to meet school deadlines and curriculum expectations. If kids start to fail, we put them into the remedial group with the one program we have selected.
So- what if it does not work? The kids must be lazy, avoiding or perhaps it’s the parents’ fault- no discipline or ability to MAKE their kids learn!
The truth: These kids are hurting. We need to repeat lesson material in different ways, slow down, meet their needs exactly where they are and let the kids set the pace.
There is no such thing as fast learning for most kids. If they are 3 years behind- start right there!
Let’s do it properly and make 2022 the year we stop trying to hurry, hurry!
We will help kids get results if we slow down and do the job calmly and thoroughly. This is NOT rocket science and yet we miss the importance of slow, deep teaching and learning so often.
If we truly care about our students, let’s stop the collective denial and start giving kids what they actually need.
After Church today I was telling a group a rather comical account about a person who clearly does not like me and enjoys finding trivial and often rather silly ways to express this!
We were talking about how surprised we often feel when we realise someone genuinely does not like us and then the tone of the conversation abruptly changed. A friend, (a very confident capable and intelligent woman,) told us she had excelled in English at school. This was a source of deep enjoyment and satisfaction and she expected to do well in upper secondary school with English. Unfortunately, during her final school years, she had a new English teacher who consistently failed her assignments and exams with very little helpful feedback. Eventually, the disillusioned and disappointed student decided not to choose English as a graduation subject and yet it had been her passion and strength. This teacher wore her confidence down and left her convinced she had no ability in English.
My friend went on to have a long and distinguished career in a different subject area which she very much enjoyed. She told us it was only recently she had realised this English teacher really did not like her and now perceived what a massive impact this had on her life.
I felt sad but this further reinforced a great truth I am forever weaving into my training. Our attitudes towards our students have HUGE impacts – far beyond that of choosing a quality teaching program.
We must be nurturing and helpful for all our students – not just the ones we particularly like. We should all be respectful and kind to all of them, regardless of our personal feelings. I honestly believe that if we cannot do this, we need to take a break or change career directions. We leave large footprints on our students’ hearts and minds – let’s ensure we nurture and build confidence.
Our students of all ages deserve nothing less than this!
I love long train journeys! Lately, I have learned to use that time to think, observe and daydream. I treasure these times. It is a dreaming space and I intend to find more. I used to fill every spare moment with work-related projects on my phone or iPad but I am re-learning to think and daydream and it feels good!
I also notice so many children with this “busyness” complex. Their lives are full of arranged activities and they don’t have time to think or even play. They no longer have time to wonder and dream.
When they are old enough, we give them phones and iPads and that sucks up any free moments. Just look around you- we are ALL plugged in. When do we dream, observe and THINK!
I have been talking to kids about the use of iPads at school. They have shown me their clandestine ways to play games while appearing to research and do their work. When I inquired how many students do this my students look at me with surprise- “pretty much everyone” is their reply.
They are so dependent on digital media- as we all are. I have to insist they turn their phones over so they cannot see the constant stream of messages coming in. Students often glance towards their vibrating machines and I am forced to remove them completely.
There is no space. No nothingness. No time to dream anymore. Spare time is not there now. People sit at dinner while texting someone who isn’t actually there. And when they are actually with that person, they are texting someone else. Soon nobody will be able to concentrate at all! We have forgotten how to actually BE with someone!
A few years ago I visited a doctor who not only took the call- he actually said, “Won’t be a moment, “ and laid the phone down, continued to examine me and dismissed me so he could get back to the conversation. I was astonished but looking back it now does not seem like such a big deal! We are pretty much ALL in this now and we need to look closely at WHY we need to be so reliant on the buzz or beep. Is this OK?
It’s certainly not OK for the kids I teach. Some of them use this online world as a total escape. They don’t want to look at what is really happening around them and so elect to live in a shallow world that beeps every few seconds. Instead of the Enid Blyton enchanted lands at the top of the magic faraway tree, we have created the land of beeps, vibrate and weird rings. Are we too scared to be alone with our thoughts? Online learning, games etc are marvellous toots but we have to help children control them and that starts with modelling our own use of digital media. Let’s not give up!
I am learning to play the piano. Thomas, my friend and trainer in Singapore, bought me a roll-up piano just before COVID started. Finally, I have stopped playing around and started to learn. I was scared to start even though I have always wanted to play.
I purchased the SIMPLY PIANO app and started. It was SO hard! I didn’t even know where middle C was, let alone the other notes!
As I practised, I observed myself closely. I felt great as I mastered a few notes and kept at it a few times each day. I was astonished when one of my students (a very talented musician) recognised Ode to Joy as he walked up towards my classroom for his lesson with me. I had nailed it.
I was on my way to becoming a pianist and I shared my prowess freely with and friends and boasted on Facebook.
And then I met Bohemian Rhapsody. I have been playing this now for what feels like months! I am thrown into the “sin-bin” and placed on PRACTICE MODE over and over and over! I took a day off and pretended to myself that I was very busy with my work.
Ha! That put me back by so many steps and I have had to discover more resilience and grit than I ever knew I had!
Poor Martin has had to listen to me playing this tune (badly) hundreds of times and now I am DETERMINED! I swear vilely and yell at the keyboard and blame the program but a little voice is nagging-“Keep going,” and so I do.
4 times a day! I am failing but now “failing better!”
I am just over halfway through the torture of learning this tune and hopefully will get onto the next bit before spring. Spending the whole of winter with Bohemian Rhapsody is not what I crave.
And yet- just occasionally, I am getting (almost) through the song and sometimes even get lovely words like “Awesome” or a nice green tick! I NEED the praise and encouragement and in no way would I let anyone hear me play so they could grin or give me sympathy.
All the way through this process I am acutely aware that THIS IS WHAT MY STUDENTS HAVE BEEN GOING EACH DAY!
With kids laughing at them, teachers trying to be encouraging and parents ready to scream.
I am feeling stupid. But I’m not! I am just very bad at learning the piano and will need to practise more and never miss another session.
I’m an adult. I can reason about this. Imagine how kids feel and how disheartened we would also be if we failed each day in front of our peers. How depressing might that be? Really, really get with that!
Yes- kids need to read, spell and do maths. There are many kids who go through hell with this process- they need all the support and encouragement they can get.
I recommend you all to challenge yourself somehow and learn to fail, fail, fail and fail better!
Resilience, growth mindset and EQ are not optional extras for kids. They need to be essentials.
When lockdown initially happened, I moved all our students to ZOOM. We did the same with teacher training seminars.
I expected to have a sort of hands-off, inferior experience of teaching.
Instead, after a year of ZOOM I find myself invigorated, excited and always searching for new and better ideas to handle the distance education thing.
Most of my students are back to face to face learning and that is fantastic.
Some are not- due to distance and other concerns. 90% of all my training is still on zoom.
These have been many positive effects for my teaching:
I have to carefully monitor children’s body language and facial expressions to know how they are responding. The same goes for adults in my workshops.
I have been forced to search for ways to keep kids (and teachers/parents) active.
I have been unable to avoid learning about Kahoots, break out rooms, electronic whiteboards etc etc.
Interactive power-points, Boom cards, online spinners and stimulating zoom backgrounds are now part of my teaching kit.
I have learned to draw and be creative with kids in remote sessions.
I write copious observational notes about all students and NEVER teach or run a workshop without a pencil and notebook beside me. I NEED every bit of good feedback to inform my teaching.
I can assess kids with running records, spelling tests, maths concepts, teach tables etc etc
I have learned that if you think hard enough, strategies such as modelled writing, science experiments, all sorts of art and craft and ways to stimulate the brain such as Brain Gym can be taught effectively.
I have learned to be more flexible with strategies because at any stage our often wonky internet connection can let me down!
All this problem solving has actually enlivened my teaching and training. I think I am a more organised and empathic teacher. Interestingly, my face to face teaching has benefited greatly from the shake-up.
This pandemic has forced me to do a late re-boot to my teaching repertoire and has stretched my brain in many directions. It requires creativity and “out of the box” thinking. I have made SO many mistakes but have learnt to forgive myself.
My resilience has grown and my “bounce factor” is much higher!
I have also learned to place glasses of water right away from my keyboard and to be super-careful when conducting science experiments! CRUCIAL LESSONS HERE!
Sure, I AM totally exhausted after each ZOOM teaching and training session but so happy we can all continue to learn and share!
I would love to hear from other teachers, trainers and anyone receiving ZOOM training, about their experiences.
Recently I received this note from a child and rediscovered it yesterday under a mess on my desk.
I was busy preparing my GROWTH MINDSET seminar for this Saturday and as I re-read it I was reminded about the true worth of our work with children.
Our attitudes towards children and ability to connect and build rapport really matter- not so we can receive nice, complimentary notes like this; more because our personal attitudes affect the futures of our students.
Like all teachers, I have times when I have spoken harshly and perhaps not always tried to see a situation from a student’s viewpoint.
Those times are always when I am tired, under pressure and pushed for time. All teachers experience these conditions.
However, I KNOW this matters and that we need to take care of ourselves so we can offer the best interactions possible with children.
We can make or break futures when we show kindness, empathy and understanding.
It costs nothing but requires we remember the almost sacramental importance of teaching.
Teachers touch the future and because of this they need to look after themselves and take the time to do this.
I am so pleased to see schools adopt mindfulness apps and programs for staff. Nurturing all staff who work with children is vital and I have deliberately added an extra hour to deal with this in my GROWTH MINDSET course at no extra cost.
I think we had all hoped that 2021 would bring an end to the pandemic and perhaps it will- but not yet! For a while longer we must be vigilant and take particular care of the most fragile members of our community. There is a huge cloud of uncertainty and sadness hanging over the whole world and nobody gets to escape it.
Make no mistake – kids are also suffering during this time. Not only are many missing face to face school, play and leisure situations, they are also feeling our anxiety and Covid fatigue.
The news is full of pandemic flare-ups and death rates with pictures of overcrowded hospitals flooding the media. Even young children know something is very wrong and of course it is impacting them in all ways.
My work with children of all ages has shown me many first- hand examples of this. I have adapted our Growth Mind Set seminar to include specific strategies to help children understand and cope at this difficult time.
I have emphasised certain concepts such as adaptability and flexibility, planning ahead, finding joy in the small and seeming ordinary, expressing gratitude and learned optimism. To allow time for the additions, an extra hour has been added with no change to the cost.
Attendees will be provided with full notes, a gratitude journal for children, the 12 Habits of Happy Kids package and our Seeds of Hope affirmations cards. A supportive list of children’s books will also be provided to help children further grow their mind-sets.
As with all our programs, this seminar is based on what we actually DO so we can confidently offer effective, evidence- based strategies that will help all children to cope with confidence as this pandemic gradually finishes.
Details of the next GROWTH MINDSET seminar are provided here for interested participants.
Kids with literacy problems often don’t get to “play” with written language in the same way other kids do. This means they don’t predict, try out patterns such as rhyming, are scared to experiment with new vocabulary and generally view the literacy area as a serious of momentous tasks!
I see this in my primary and secondary tuition students and watch with dismay as they gradually become more and more turned off to reading, will only borrow very easy “thin” books and write the minimum number of words. (In case the spelling is wrong.)
We need to still take time to nurture the playful aspects of learning for these kids. This means doing lots of reading aloud, discovering word patterns together, encouraging playful use of language and tolerating some spelling mistakes in the interest of growing creativity.
Even phonic blending and drills can be carried out in fun ways. Use your imagination and try to see the tasks through children’s eyes. As soon as you mention the word “game” children visibly relax so try turning even the most boring but essential drills and tasks into games.
There is a balance of course and spelling and grammar are essential.
There is something more to language – a non-definable element that shows itself in an author’s tone, style, freshness of vocabulary and often playfulness with words. If we only concentrate on grammar and spelling, kids with learning difficulties will miss some very big areas of literacy development as well as form negative attitudes to literacy-possibly forever!
There are ways to help these kids-
Make sure they get to do lots of oral work daily.
Read, read, read aloud to students. (all ages)
Read to them and with
Never make a student read aloud in front of their peers if reluctant to do so.
Play with rhymes and substitute words so children can learn to make the language their own.
Occasionally record their words/stories on speech to text software so the words just pop up- you can then get the student to simply copy. This helps kids relax and let the words fly!
Use charts, videos, hands-on games and have many attractive picture books available for children to enjoy. Have some art/craft based comprehension activities. Minimise worksheets. Utilise digital media such as Kahoot to reinforce boring facts that must be learned.
Consider using the MASTERY LEARNING FOLDER approach. This really helps to individualise learning and WORKS so students can then apply basic skills and display their creativity. https://www.masterylearninggroup.com.au/mastery-learning-folders
Don’t (EVER) give them homework tasks they cannot understand. This just compounds the problem and causes frustration at home. One of my secondary students has just spent the entire year from February till now trying to cope with tasks he cannot possibly understand. He does not have the vocabulary and comprehension skills needed to complete the set tasks and is becoming more and more frustrated each week. That would be like asking me to read and comprehend a medical text and use the information to write reports, essays and offer my own opinions!
I’ve been a teacher for over 30 years so I DO know how overloaded and stressed teachers are BUT someone has to curriculum adjust for these children. Teachers need to be given time to do this properly and develop workable IEPS.
It doesn’t matter if students can’t read every word. It DOES matter if they hate books- so relax and help kids to enjoy playing with language, dive into poetry- sometimes ditch your rules and PLAY with words.
Keep your sense of humour and learn to laugh – kids also need to laugh and relax and using a light-hearted approach can diffuse many tense and unhappy moments. I tell jokes, have many joke books and encourage children to share jokes as often as possible.
Let’s try to help kids with learning difficulties to develop a more optimistic, positive and relaxed attitude to literacy. Personally I think helping kids to develop growth mind-sets and ENJOY learning are the keys to improving results and encouraging a life-long love of words!
Christmas is approaching and many families are doing it tough this year. This might need to be a Christmas of restraint and more careful spending. Even Santa might be forced to cut back!
Children naturally focus on wants. Young children are terribly focused on immediacy! They do not understand that having that toy, designer sneakers, app and so on will not make them instantly happy for a long time.
We need to help them focus on needs and to be gradually able to perceive the difference.
It helps for children to make lists of both NEEDS and WANTS and to be well aware of the difference.
Doing this as a family is great because then they understand everyone has wants. They can even make lists of things they NEED
Family planning is important when planning budgets, giving money etc. it doesn’t mean we cannot have a want- just that we need to take care of needs first.
This needs v wants video is very helpful. Really it is all about SELF-CONTROL!
It is hard for children to understand the sharing and accommodation that must needs happen in family life but this is essential if we are trying to bring up caring, compassionate young people. Being able to distinguish between NEEDS and WANTS is also necessary for financial intelligence to grow!