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Tag Archives: transformative education

From Earth, Fire and Water by William Butler Yeats

Today, an interesting thing happened. All three grades are at key points in Science. The Grade 8 class was learning and applying the equation for density. They were completing a worksheet, but got bogged down with the equation when it was not straightforward and had to think algebraically. I was moving between the Grade 7 and 9 tables and looked up. There was a colleague who had stopped by on her day off helping the Grade 8 students and the parent helper. I had not asked for help; it arrived in the quiet and I thought of this poem.

We can make our own minds so like still water

that beings gather about us that they may see,

it may be, their own images,

and so live for a moment with a clearer,

perhaps even with a fiercer life

because of our quiet.

What If Nature Could Remember or Dream?

After I posted Open Heart; Open Mind, I recalled a Wendell Berry poem entitled In a Country Once Forested. I wondered what if nature really could remember? What would that be like? What if nature were a dreamer of dreams? I think Wendell Berry says it beautifully and wisely in this poem.

The young woodland remembers

the old, a dreamer dreaming

of an old holy book,

an old set of instructions,

and the soil under the grass

is dreaming of a young forest,

and under the pavement the soil

is dreaming of grass.

I think nature is can recall and able to dream dreams. It might look like this.

Culture of Peace

Each child has a voice

In a secure space

Voices are revealed.

I am reading Tuned in and fired up: How teaching can inspire real learning in the classroom by Sam Intrator. It is the published version of his doctoral dissertation so I read it out of a twofold interest: as a teacher and as someone getting ready for the dissertation process. Sam asks teachers to consider the following question: “What engages children in learning?” That was the focus of his study and he found an innovative teacher, Mr. Quinn, who lived up to the challenge.

Mr. Quinn was studying Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, but found the students were not enjoying the early part of the book. He took them outside to the ball diamond, had them select a small patch of ground, and spread out from their classmates. Mr. Quinn asked students to observe, collect data, and write about a 1 foot by 1 foot (30 cm by 30 cm) patch of grass. They were to try see the world as a poet-scientist and find their way to describe their small ecosystem. Despite initial grumbling, the students became engaged and wrote poetry, reflective journals, and connected that patch to their lives in many ways. For many, it was the highlight of their learning that year.

In Grade 8 Social Studies, I found an activity in the Teacher Resource Manual called A Culture of Peace. This activity engages students and brings out even the voice of those who generally choose not speak up. This is one of those activities with no right or wrong answer.

First we discuss a Culture of War, which by the standards of the day should be easy to do, but an interesting thing happens. About 10-15 minutes into this discussion, students run out of descriptors for a culture of war or they repeat what has already been said. I record comments on the whiteboard and say, “It is time for a change of pace. What are some descriptors for a Culture of Peace?” I fill up a whiteboard with student responses. They are so engaged they know when they are duplicating previous responses. They are listening intently to each other. The shy, reluctant students engage in the conversation, because they feel no risk of being wrong.

The first time we did this we had to stop after an hour because we were borrowing another classroom and the teacher needed it back. When we walked out of the classroom to return to our classroom, one of the boys turned to a friend and said, “I could do this all day.” As a teacher, I felt like I was on Cloud 9. I look forward to this activity each year. The students and I become engaged in our learning.

Question: What was one learning experience that engaged you fully and made learning worthwhile and so memorable to be vividly recalled years later?

Ode to Teachers

I wanted to blog and post pictures of some great cloud formations around Edmonton last night, but I received an email and there was an idea I could not resist. We each had teachers, and I use the word in its broadest definition, who made an impact on our lives. Ruth is someone I taught with for 12 years.  I use the word taught guardedly and refuse to use the work word to describe our relationship. We learned together. Learning is different and is relational. In her email, she described a visit with a parent of a former student and shared this phrase, ‘child whisperer.’

Each of us, had or have people in our lives in many forms who fit the phrase. They remind us of what the root word of educate is–educare. Even the Latin word speaks of care, which I think is vital to the relational nature of learning.

I can think of many who filled the role. Sister Phillips was my first grade teacher. She was a member of the Catholic order the Sisters of Service and it was special in her class. Later, in high school, I had Ms. Lyford, a short, stocky Australian woman who loved Shakespeare. She once said, “Ivon, if you only tried you would be an A student.” She did it loving and in a caring way, I think. I was good with a B and explained that to her.

Outside school it was my grandmother and mother. I still learn from them although the former is long past away and my mother lives 8 hours away. I learned from my father-in-law and mother-in-law and, needless to say, I learn from the daughter I married. I learn from our boys and my students in many ways. This list is incomplete, but the point is : Great teachers are great not because they tell you do something, but because they lead you to want to do it and ignite your imagination and spirit for learning in a magical way .”

Blend compassion and passion

Bring out the best in each child

Walk with them

Open your heart

Greet them

With your story

Receive their stories gently

Reveal vulnerability

Be a guide they need

In each moment

Learn, share, create

Listen and hear

And speak in a voice

Only a child whisperer can.

Take a moment, tell us about a teacher or teachers who made a difference for you, who whispered at the right moment and spoke the right words lighting a fire in your spirit.

ivonprefontaine:

Larry Cuban is a leading writer and researcher in school reform or I think a better way to phrase it is a lack of true reform. He points out several key points in this excellent article. His first paragraph about teachers working together daily is not prophetic as you will see in the article. It has been part of the educational reform lexicon for a several years, perhaps decades is a better word. Why do the ‘reforms’ with all their pat answers and revolving, recycled fads secret this away in the closet? I think they are afraid.

 

First, top down measures are not the order of the day. Second, schooling and learning (my added word) at all ages are complex systems and forged out of relationship not transactional activities. This nature does not invite top-down. It encourages community and collaboration. The leading thinkers he refers to part way through the article are a short but impressive list. I would add others who contribute in many ways i.e. Deb Meier, James Comer, and Nel Noddings come to mind. Finally, real communities actually are dysfunctional. It is what we do in those moments that leads us to collaboration. Joining hands around the camp fire is nice, but only superficially functional. Agree to disagree is sometimes the path.

 

I read another blog today and my conclusion is slow is sometimes the way forward.

 

We in Canada who think we are doing something better are wrong. We all need the same wake up calls, a new conversation, and a reimagining of schooling and learning. Note I did not say school. That is the brick and mortar that in some cases is passé.

Originally posted on Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:

Want to give a “no excuses” reformer a stroke? Suggest that teachers working together on a daily basis have a better shot at improving teaching and learning than the highly marketed structural changes of standards-based testing and accountability, Common Core standards, more charter schools, and evaluating educator performance through student scores.

Too many reform-driven policymakers high on the rhetoric of these current reforms ignore how much improvement in teaching and learning can occur when  teachers work collectively in their classrooms and schools to improve their content knowledge and teaching skills aimed at common district goals.

For many years, teachers, administrators, researchers, and a sprinkling of policymakers have concentrated on both traditional and innovative professional development and learning communities to build teachers’ capacities in knowledge of subject and teaching skills to improve instruction in schools and districts. Such school-based efforts converge on the teacher simply because within the complex system of…

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Cartoon Time along with an Ivon Rant

Another Alberta-based educator at The Love of Learning posted this. It reminded me of a Ken Robinson video The Educational Revolution…Why? Because Schools Kill Creativity posted by Gen Y Girl. The video is worth watching several times. The first time I watched the video several years ago an administrator informed me the message was a need to add layers of technology on top of what we are doing.

I am not a neo-Luddite. The original Luddites were not opposed to technology. They opposed potentially catastrophic outcomes blind, thoughtless implementation of technology might have on British society of the time. A message I gleaned was a positive correlation between ADHD/ADD diagnosis and an increase in various forms of imposed, standardized, high stakes testing.

The second message is statistical evidence the highest levels of creativity in school are at the kindergarten levels. After that, it is all down hill.

These are not technology issues, but simply change for the sake of change.

Technology is the artful use of the tools available to us.

Questions: What changes would you suggest for education to make it more child-friendly and child-focused? What can we do to increase the creativity for children in classrooms?

A bit of an American slant to it, but where do Canadian educational systems take their lead from? Is this what we want?

Teachers as Storytellers

Think of the people we call teachers, not just in classrooms but in every facet of our lives. A quality they share is storytelling. They connect with our hearts and minds. We laugh, cry, yell, and carry on in every imaginable way with them. We remember them not because of what they taught us, but what they revealed about themselves and helped us discover about our self.

The best teachers are the best storytellers. We learn in the form of stories.

~Frank Smith

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