Have you ever been driving somewhere with the family, and turned the music off or told the kids to stop playing their game because it occured to you they might not know the lyrics to the star spangled banner? Or what city and state they live in? Or what your phone number and address is? When this happens to me what inevitably follows is a barrage of question and answering until I am satisfied they have it, and I can rest easy the rest of the drive. I’m sure they love it.
Assessment is merely the process of finding out what your children know. It would be foolish to think you can teach someone anything without also knowing what it is they KNOW. Considering there is infinite knowledge in our universe, narrowing it down to what they DON’T know would probably help speed up the process. 🙂
But assessment, or testing, doesn’t have to happen as a seperate event. You can assess while you teach. The assessment can even be used as a teaching tool, as they learn while you figure out what they need to know. An easy way to do this is a simple line up exercise. When they are lined up to go somewhere (or sitting on the couch waiting, if you’re at home) just give them some questions. The correct answerer goes to the front of the line. Then, keep going. Ask the same question two or three times. Answer some questions if they don’t understand. Discuss. Repeat. Learn.
I use this with my class, and my kids. I’m thinking about using it with my wife as well. Honey – what’s the capitol of Indiana? 🙂
Creativity is important in our lives. I saw a little post the other day that said “EARTH, without ART, is just….EH…”
I thought that was clever, and a little true. Without the creative parts of our lives, we would tend toward the type of distopian futures we see in George Orwell books. It’s our creativity, and our differences, that make us unique.
Top three reasons we should keep creativity and artistic expression in our schools, in an age where time is money and our time is constantly running out toward the MSP and HSPE testing time.
1) It will help on the MSP and HSPE. To me, that’s the most convincing, because it’s important for our kids to do well on those mandatory tests, if only for them to feel good about what they are learning and feel they are doing great. The test is not the be all end all of their education, but it’s another pat on the back for them when they do well. When the artistic side of the brain opens up, it allows for quicker and easier recall and understanding of concepts. Cool stuff.
2) If our job is to create fully functioning human beings for our world, and humans who will interact with and improve our society, creative expression is going to be important in their lives. It’s very important to teach them to use word processing programs for future employment, yes, but also to use photoshop and blogging software and to listen and appreciate music. To be a total person, you can’t just rely on the worker aspect.
3) It’s fun. Especially for those kids who aren’t as analytically minded, if you don’t feed their souls they will not love school. And we want kids to love school like I do. Learning is living!
Education is important
We NEED school. With all the opinions and research out there, one thing doesn’t seem to be in doubt – education is important. Some students receive home school education from their parents, and I respect that. Some receive education from private schools and charter schools, but most of our population is educated in the public funded school system. And it’s a fact – our kids need education, in some form or another. I believe in the public school system because I believe that kids benefit greatly from the trained individuals that can give them the best education they can get. I know I am much better equipped to teach my kids about the range of a set of data, or superlative adjectives, when I myself have been educated and trained and have experience teaching it. It just makes sense.
Free public education is what we have. That’s an awesome, powerful tool. Our country, and democracy, relies on our citizens being uniformly educated. Every kid is a future voter, and our voters need to be knowledgeable to keep our country strong!
When I talk to my kids about what I do, I like to jokingly say that I fight evil. In our society, ignorance leads to violence, crime, and hate. By educating the future adults of our world, I’m helping keep them on the right track. In addition, I’m educating the people who will become our future doctors, lawyers, police officers, road workers, and soldiers. I’m educating the people who will help us and keep us safe.
Be thankful we have free education for all. It’s a small price we pay for an educated country. Not everyone in the world has that luxury. We need our schools. No question. Education fights evil!
We all don’t think the same
I’m always surprised when the realization hits me – people don’t all think the same as I do. Old, young, my same age, male, female, it doesn’t matter. While we all have a collective understanding of some things, so much of our thought process and way of thinking is different. In fact, every person is different in many ways from everyone else. So how, then, do we all work together day in day out?
We need UNDERSTANDING that people are different. This applies to the classroom, boardroom, and living room. There have been many times that I’ve tried teaching a concept to a student with no luck, only to realize they’ve been coming at the problem from a completely different way than I was. If I had only tried to think the way they did, I would have been more successful.
The old saying is “walk a mile in their shoes,” but I think you need to slip inside their brain to really get the idea. Try to move your mind around to their way of thinking, for a minute, to see how they see it. It requires a limber and flexible mind to do it, but it’s possible!
For instance, I cannot understand why my wife likes to watch old masterpiece theatre “Jane Eyre” productions. She’s actually seen about three different versions of the same story, and she’ll watch them over again. Why would anyone want to do that? (I know there’s a few hands up already.) I could argue with her about it, but I’m not going to change her mind. She is going to like what she likes, and I have to see that and accept it.
Same way with kids, co workers, bosses…we need to walk a mile in some shoes. The next time you think to yourself “how could anyone think that way?” realize that they DO think that way. It’s a fact. Start trying to understand and accept it, and we’ll all be a lot happier in life.
Unless you make me watch Masterpiece Theatre.
Just because an idea is an old one, does not make it a bad one. And it does not necessarily make it a good one. The wheel is still a pretty great idea, but maybe one made of stone isn’t so awesome. It took new thinking to say “hey, lets try something else.” And it worked. Some day, someone is going to try making Wheels from compressed air molecules. And that might not work so great (or maybe it will?). But someone else might think of a new way to make a wheel, and it works. If it works better than the old, should we stick with the old rubber models just because that’s the way it’s always been done?
New thinking is progress. And just like sharks, if we don’t progress we die.
We need new thinking in education, just like everywhere else. We need new thinking in parenting. If something works better, we should do it. Just because we’ve always learned our multiplication facts the same way, doesn’t mean we always should (even if all the parents say “This isn’t how WE did it.” or “I don’t understand this NEW way of doing it.”)
If something is working in your class or with your kids or anything in your life – KEEP DOING IT. But if something else would work better…lets keep progressing.
Life is a Videogame
There’s certainly challenges in my life. It seems like they crop up every day. Some days there’s little, some days there’s a lot. But every day brings at least one. It’s really just life. Challenges are what life is all about.
Most days, the challenges are your standard variety. The normal day to day parts of the job that people have to deal with – this student needs some extra multiplication help, this person needs an email to clarify something, the bank seems to be short $50 – minor annoyances that we are there to fix. The lightbulbs need changing. The laundry needs done. Pretty routine.
But some days the big ones creep up on you. The car won’t start before work in the morning. The car breaks down or you get into an accident. The kids have stomach flu, or worse. There’s an emergency at work. And of course, life threatening illnesses that are the world changers. They’re out there, waiting for us. They can happen at any time.
I used to be scared of these things happening. I used to dread them, and when they DID happen – trying to get ready for work and suddenly the kids are throwing up all over my jacket, for instance – I would get upset and frustrated and flustered.
But I realized something in those moments that make me change my perspective. Just a change in thinking about these instances made me change the way I approached the challenges of life.
When we play videogames, there are challenges all over the place. There are things we need to figure out, bad guys to defeat, and obstacles to overcome. If there were not, we wouldn’t even bother playing the game. A videogame where you just had to walk from point a to point b, and then it was over, with no challenges in the way, would be boring and mundane. Why even bother putting the game in?
When the challenges in life come up, remember – this is your chance to pass this level. This is the moment where you meet the big “boss” of this stage, and you can defeat him. The way you handle the situation will determine whether you make it past, or have to repeat the level until you do it right. Embrace the challenge. Otherwise you’ll never get any farther than you already are.
It’s a simple act. Step outside. Do something different. But it always seems so hard to make the first step. First steps in anything are, classically, the hardest ones to take.
Life is about making first steps. Every first step you take is a new experience you’ve put under your belt. That first time you tried turnips. The first time you went ice skating. The first time you wore neon green. You don’t think about it, but you get up every day when you probably don’t want to. You make a choice what to eat, what to get dressed in…and if you always did the same thing you’d never take any first steps. But then would you be experiencing everything life has to offer?
I think as teachers and parents we think we’re done with our “living” and focus on teaching the young ones about it. But the best teachers are the experienced ones. The best instructional tool is being a great example.
I want my kids to be lovers of life. I want them to be first step takers. I want them to experience everything, the good and the bad. And that means I have to show them what a first step taker looks like, acts like…what he does everyday in everything.
I think I’ll take that first step, and choose to go outside now. Maybe I’ll go bird watching. I’ve always thought about doing that.
make your time count
It seems that I count a lot. It’s a fundamental skill and idea in our society to use numbers (and a system of numbers based on increments of 10) to conceptualize an amount. It can be an amount of objects, and amount of time, and amount of money…if we want to keep track of anything we have to count.
I’m often counting down to motivate kids to quickly finish a task. “Okay, put away all your materials! 10, 9, 8, 7….”
Sometimes I mix it up – “100, 90, 80, 70….” It’s effective, and all my kids know how to count down from 10, I know that! 🙂
But when we engage with kids, and spend time with them, we need to make sure we don’t count down the time, instead of making the time count.
Every second you are with a young mind – as a teacher or parent or uncle (you get the idea) – is an amazing opportunity to take advantage of filling that mind with knowledge and wonder. Make your time count each day. If you are just filling the void with things to count down the time – “okay, now just write some sentences” or “just sit down and watch TV” you are missing the opportunity of the day!
Make your time count each day.
Boys are awesome (girls are too)
If you are a teacher, educator or parent, you know there is a big difference between boys and girls (beyond the obvious grass stains). You know that boys deal with problems, handle stresses, deal with boredom, deal with friendships, deal with authority all differently.
I want to be up front about the fact that I enjoy teaching girls in my class – that’s obvious. Most teachers will tell you that the girls in their class are fairly well behaved (elementary grades). They sit still, do their work, and their handwriting is so nice!
I’ll contend that school is a place where a girl (for the most part – there’s always exceptions to the general rule) will do well. The sit and be nice model works for the way a girl handles life (Brain Rules – Medina).
Boys don’t sit still as well. They are wild and crazy. They have too much energy. They want to hit a problem with their actual head, rather than try and solve it with their mind.
But boys are awesome too. They are fearless and boundless. They don’t have the problems socially with cliques so early on like girls sometimes do. And they are enthusiastic when they are interested. So INTEREST THEM.
Do something to engage the boys in your class. Do something messy. You’ll both thank me for it (and you won’t have to wrangle Johnny into his seat for the thousandth time that day).
Progression of Independence
At some point, all little birds must leave the nest. In nature, the birds have it right. They are eager to push them out because they know it’s what they need to survive in the world.
As parents, we’re reluctant to let go because we’re scared. Scared they will fail. Scared they will get hurt or worse. Scared we will have done the wrong thing by letting them go too soon.
But as teachers and parents, it’s important to get kid progressing toward independence. They need to be able to perform the skill we want to teach them BY THEMSELVES without any help.
We do that with steps. First, do it for them. Show them. Give examples. Let it sink in.
2- Do it with them. Work on it together, with them providing as much help as they can.
3- Have them do it by themselves with a little guidance, or with another student partner.
4-Have them try on their own. Repeat as necessary.
You do. We do. They do. Simple and effective.
Get your kids progressing toward independence! They’ll thank you for it!