Sunday, July 26, 2015

Directed or Inspired?

On a recent road trip, I heard a talk show use these words. It made me think: how many classrooms have teachers who direct kids to learn? The answer-too many. With standard testing firmly in place, too many teachers feel they must make sure kids read books and answer "test like" questions. Where is the inspiration in that? The special learners (you know who they are) feel directed. They hate coming to class. Can you imagine how you would feel day after day, knowing you will never do well? It's like picking up a physics book day after day trying to make sense of it because someone said it has to be done to pass the test. (sorry in advance to any physics people....I am not a math person!)

I was intrigued with the ideas of directed and inspired and looked at some research. I found a group of researchers at Case Western Reserve University. They looked at 2 types of coaching. One was positive emotional and the other was negative emotional. In the positive emotional session, the researchers were able to show that asking sophomores to talk about their dream future in 10 years activated parts of the visual cortex involved in imagining things. The more positive approach stimulated those parts of the brain involved in being open to new ideas and other people. The negative emotional session asked students who they were doing on their homework, readings, and assignments. It was found in this type of session, the questioning activated areas in the brain know to indicate self-consciousness and guilt.

Here is another article:

INSPIRE!!!!! Just hearing the word lifts the spirit. Everyone needs a role model and the story behind them. Cue in the picture books! Picture books are not just for young children. The shorter text, which can be high level with vocabulary, along with the pictures can help kids build knowledge and build vocabulary. Picture books can take children of all ages into new cultures and new experiences. The text and pictures help build images and help make connections to experiences or build a curiosity for a new idea. 

And, to the math people- There are many picture books about math concepts. I sure wish these books were around when I was in school. Maybe, just maybe these math picture books would have inspired me and I would have been a better math student. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Out of the Box

It's lonely outside of the box. Inside the box, I would have lots of people, who will want to be my friend. Why? Well, everyone is the same. There is nothing to make someone stand out. No competition. In my 30+ years in the field of education, If you are out of the box, one of two things happens-

1. If you are outside the box and you have team members who understand you, care about you and support you, school and personal life is easier. You have people who are interested and helpful, no matter how crazy the idea. These team members will listen, give advice, and give permission to allow for something new.  FACT: this does not happen often. In 30 years, I have had 2 teams, which were like this.

2. If you are outside the box and team members don't understand and don't care about YOU, school life is lonely and miserable. Nobody calls, nobody cares to check on you, nobody wants to be around you inside and/or outside of school. Outside of the box requires understanding of yourself and how others do NOT define you. Even still, it's lonely. You KNOW you are excluded. You KNOW there is negative chat behind your back. FACT: This happens all the time...even to our students.

When people view outside of the box as a threat, they consider outside of the box as making them look bad. This is not the intent. Outside of the box thinkers/teachers are not trying to out-do someone else. They are looking for a way to make things work better and more efficient..... going past the curriculum document to assure content and authentic learning happens. Students learn and are happy doing so. Outside of the box thinkers/teachers are not looking for attention, stand outs, or awards- Other teammates do not see this. They see Outside of the box thinkers/teachers as competition, a threat, a pain, eccentric, difficult to deal with, unable to comprehend.

When is this learned? How can this happen? We have students who deal with this problem every day. This is not just our Gifted and Talented students who identify with outside of the box. Consider the dyslexic, the ADD/ADHD, the introvert, the poverty stricken who look different due to lack of money. Yes, outside of the box starts in childhood and continues into the workplace.

It hurts.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Self Assessment

Just finished cleaning my closet. It took a massive amount of self assessment. Nobody could tell me exactly what the closet should look like when it was finished. There was no teacher to ask, "Is this good?". My mom was not around for me to say, "Do you think I did a good job?" My husband would tell me "It looks a lot better than yesterday!" but, is that really a good assessment of what I did? After all, I had 7 bags of donations, I can now find every piece of jewelry I own, and I know where to find last year's tax documentation. How do I know I did a "good" job? Is my closet cleaning finished? Is there something more I can do to improve? Who could I turn to for answers?

Students face this same problem. Often, they slap something down on the paper and run up to the teacher for a critique. Students want an answer and to be finished so they can move forward or not have homework. Is this learning? It is said the single most important thing a student can do to grow is to be able to self assess. We must teach them how to critically look at their work and the work of others. How do we do this? Stay tuned.......

By the way- the closet is not finished; however, I do feel better starting my school year now that I know I need to purchase. I am not sure if and when my closet will ever be complete- maybe we should just say it's a work in progress indefinitly!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


This is a difficult learning disability to understand. There are so many varying degrees of dyslexia. A dyslexic person works 10 times harder and longer than the average student. This article is thought provoking and interesting. Check out the end of the article which talks about how dyslexia is not in the DSM, and how some places do not even call the disability dyslexia. :(

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Another idea!

I need more coffee- my brain is on a roll this morning!


We have bucket lists, what about #LearningLists? A list of things you want to learn. I have loads of things on my list. Here is an excerpt from my list:
1. Classical guitar
2. The Frank Sonata for flute and piano
3. The 3rd movement of the Moonlight Sonata for piano
4. Google classroom
5. Quilling
6. Felting
7. Photography- yes, this is broad and a work in progress. I need to add to my knowledge every month
8. Cooking- specifically clean eating snacks
9. Essential oils
10. How to create stained glass pieces

What's on YOUR #LearningLists? How powerful would this be for your students?