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When Reading Rainbow contacted me and asked if I would be willing to review The Rhino Who Swallowed A Storm, written by LeVar Burton & Susan Schaefer Bernardo and illustrated by Courtenay Fletcher, I was thrilled. I’m always looking for new children’s books, and partnering with Reading Rainbow is such a wonderful opportunity. RhinoSwallowedStorm When the book arrived, I showed my class the cover, and they were immediately intrigued. I read the title, and the questions started pouring out of them: “How can a rhino swallow a whole storm?” “What is this book about?” “Look at that rhino’s face!”

The official summary of the book:

When little Mica Mouse is scared by thunder booming outside her cozy home, Papa Mouse reaches for just the right story to comfort her. Hugging her close, he begins to read The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm. In this poetic book-within-a-book, a happy little rhinoceros is overwhelmed by a storm that sweeps away everything he loves. Swallowing the storm just makes him feel worse, so Rhino sets off on a whimsical journey toward healing. Along the way, he meets many friends, including a kind spider, a brave kangaroo, a wise tortoise, and an uplifting whale. With their help, Rhino lets go of the storm inside and learns to see the light in a world turned gray. Mica Mouse is soothed by the story and Papa’s gentle reminder that even though bad things sometimes happen, the world is full of people who care.

REVIEW:

I read this book to my primary class – all boys of ages 5 and 6. What amazed me was how instantly connected they were to the story within a story. They loved that Papa Mouse wanted to comfort Mica by reading her a book. Interestingly, they became caught up within Rhino’s story and only remembered that this was the story Papa Mouse was reading when they noticed the incredible illustrations on several pages that included Papa’s fingers holding a book. My students wanted to make comments after each page, as they were drawing comparisons to how Rhino’s friends helped him through his tough times to their own lives.

The story is so well-crafted, and the poetic verse of each of Rhino’s friends provides an additional layer of beauty to the story. Fletcher’s illustrations captivated my students! I watched their faces while they explored the pages of the book and noticed their expressions mirrored the colors and scenes on each page.  At the end of the book, there are discussion points/questions that led us to some revelations about ourselves, as we were able to compare our own experiences to those of Mica and Rhino.

What I love most about this book is that we are comforted knowing it’s okay to have feelings of  fear, anger, or sadness… but that we don’t have to face them alone. Through the wonderful advice of Rhino’s friends, we learn multiple methods of coping: asking a friend for help, singing a song… and that even a good cry can help  relieve the “storm” inside of ourselves.

Thank you to Reading Rainbow and LeVar Burton for sending us a copy of your book to review. It has become an instant favorite, and my class asks to read it again and again. We can’t wait to share it with the rest of the classes at our school, as well as all our friends in our Team Baldwin network!

My students wanted to share their thoughts about what they liked most:

RS: “I liked when Papa Mouse made Mica Mouse feel better by telling her a story. When I am upset, I like to ask my mom to help me.”

ZR: “I like the illustrations in the book. My favorite part was when the rhino swallowed the storm, because I really like the dark colors. This picture is what I feel when I get upset.”

BC: “My favorite part of the book is when Rhino’s friends helped him out of the big, black hole. That’s what it feels like when I am sad and my friends help me.”

NS: “I loved when the whale told Rhino good things. My mom does that to help me be happy.”

under: Reviews

My Identity

Posted by: | October 4, 2014 | 15 Comments |

For too long, I have identified myself as an educator.

Of course I paid lip service to the fact that I am also a wife and mother, and that my family always came before my career.

But that was a lie. Mostly to myself.

Words and actions are not equal. It doesn’t matter what you say is most important if your actions don’t reflect it.

And I get it… as educators, we often must LIVE our careers. We take home with us the worries over those kids who need us so much. We must constantly think about how we can help each and every child in our classrooms to move forward in their learning. We tend to love these children as if they were our own (because they kind of are).

This is what has taken me nearly 20 years in education to discover: if I am not my best self in every OTHER aspect of my life, I can’t be the best teacher I can be within the classroom. No matter how much I concentrate on my career… if I’m suffering somewhere else, it shows in the classroom too.

A speaker came to our school a couple of weeks ago to talk to the kids about identity. He said something that has stuck with me every single day since:
“If I am what I do, then I must always do more to be more.” When is it enough?

Hmmm.

My perspective before was: If I’m going to be a good teacher, I need to learn more about teaching, connect with other teachers, blog and tweet constantly to reflect and learn, attend edcamps and conferences, present at conferences, keep my name “out there” so I get invited to speak at more conferences, focus on becoming a featured speaker at conferences, reach for that pinnacle of speaking at conferences- the keynote, start writing a book…

Pretty soon, this was all I was doing. Doing more to be more. (Was it always more about becoming a good classroom teacher? Or more about becoming Super Educator?)

And all along, I was growing more and more dissatisfied. My kids grew up somewhere along the way. My relationship with my husband (who, by the way, was extremely supportive of all of it) suffered. I didn’t have a lot of local friends.

Please don’t take this as criticism if your life looks like what I described above. That’s not my intent. This is about me and what hasn’t been working for me.

So… I backed off. A lot. Without quitting any of it, I reduced everything professional, and kicked up everything personal. I’m working way harder at being Michelle than michellek107 or the blogger behind the posts here.

I’ve already written posts about balance between personal and professional life, but I don’t think the balance can be what I thought it should be. 50/50 is rough for me, because the educator part of me is selfish and needy. And because the personal side always gives in.

In addition to the “do more to be more” quote rolling around in my head, I’ve also been thinking about the “oxygen mask on planes” analogy. If I don’t put my mask on first, I’m no good to anyone when the oxygen in the air runs out.

My oxygen ran out.

So, this is what you’ll probably see from me for now…

    A lot of tweets from my classroom (@TeamBaldwin)

    More personal photos, but fewer posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

    Fewer face to face sightings at conferences

    And most importantly, a happier human being who happens to be an educator.

So, if you ask me to introduce myself, I’ll tell you I’m Michelle. I’m married to Jon who is my favorite person on the entire planet. We have four great kids: Bailey, Jon, Amanda, and Carlye. (The rest of my family is awesome, too… but I’m not listing them now, because that will become a new blog post.)

We have two dogs, Diego and Paco, and they’re pretty spoiled and loved.

I love to sing, play piano and ukulele, read, go to movies, golf, and spend time outside… especially in the mountains.

Oh, and I teach, too. I love teaching so much… but that’s not all there is to me.

under: Uncategorized

I’m Bad At…

Posted by: | July 17, 2014 | 8 Comments |

When I first started teaching over 20 years ago, I remember asking little kids questions like, “Who is a great singer?” Every single one of them raised their hands. For every grade level “older” I asked the same question, fewer and fewer kids raised their hands. The same pattern emerged if I asked them if they were good artists, good basketball players, good dancers, etc.

As we get older, we start to compare ourselves more with the people around us, and that’s a very human thing to do. Eventually, we start understanding what it means to be a good _______, because we have more experience from which to make those comparisons.

Sadly, the trend I’m seeing in the last decade or so is that I see fewer hands raised when I ask those questions of little kids now. When I returned to the elementary music classroom in 2009, I actually had kindergarten students tell me they were bad singers. WHAT!? How does a 5 year old kid think he’s a bad singer?

When I started at Anastasis in 2011, I remember an 8 year old who told me she couldn’t draw at all. When I asked her if there was something wrong with her hand that made it impossible to draw, she laughed a little but then remarked that she just wasn’t good at drawing. We talked about how we’re all still learning and that practice is important, but underneath it all, I wanted to cry listening to this child’s defeatist attitude at 8 years old.

Where is this coming from?

While I’d like to blame Malcolm Gladwell and his pseudoscientific (and factually incorrect) 10,000 hours claim, I can’t. It’s not Gladwell.

It’s all of us.

I stopped to think about the number of times I’ve apologized to my students or my own children before doing something that I wasn’t really great at doing. There are too many examples.

cc licensed photo by anna gutermuth

cc licensed photo by anna gutermuth*

Whenever I’ve gone up to the chalkboard or whiteboard to draw a diagram or an image, I have apologized to my class before: “Sorry, I’m not a great artist, so this won’t be that good.”

I’ve just set them and myself up for judgment about what is good, and I’ve also given them an example of an adult who is so insecure about drawing that she has to apologize before she even starts.

Additionally, I’ve put a poor value on something that might be better than what my students might have drawn. If I say “this is bad,” then what does that mean to a kid who might not have drawn as well as I did?

“Wow, Mrs. B must think my drawings are REALLY bad then.”

I’ve stopped doing that.

And now I think about all the images and statements we unknowingly pass along to kids:

  • I’m bad at math.
  • Ugh. I hate my body. I’m going on a diet!
  • Karaoke? No way! I can’t carry a tune in a box!
  • I wish I could play tennis as well as Serena Williams, but I can’t… so I don’t even try.

I’m sure there are many more we could add to this list.

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect about certain things in the last week, and I’ve come to some very sad conclusions:

  1. My fear prevents me from doing things that I would probably really enjoy.
  2. If I’m not good at something, I don’t do it.

I love to sing and I was a voice major. I love singing karaoke with my friends, because it’s fun… not because I want to show off. However, it’s also a comfort zone. I’m not afraid to get on a stage and sing, because I’ve been doing that almost my entire life.

It really bothers me when I hear people say that they can’t sing. Of course they CAN, they just don’t think they’re any good at it. So, I encourage them… karaoke isn’t about who is the best singer; it’s about having a good time and enjoying yourself.**

I’m such a hypocrite.

My husband wants us to play tennis. I really, really suck at tennis. REALLY. So, I’ve been balking at the idea. When I finally told him that I’m afraid to play because I don’t know how, he just said, “So what. Let’s just go have fun.”

Permission to not be an expert and to just have fun. 

That’s incredibly freeing.

Hmmm… giving kids permission to try, not be perfect, and just have fun with it. I SAY that to kids all the time.

But I don’t DO it.

We all need to be better models for our kids, and DOING is more important then SAYING. We know that.

Time to walk the talk.

Time to stop saying, “I’m bad at...” and start saying, “I can’t wait to try (or practice)… and just have fun!

This doesn’t mean we should take away anything from people who are truly gifted in specific areas or erase competition from everything. Competition has its place, although I’ve written about its overemphasis, too. There is a need for expertise and talent to be recognized. However, there’s also a need for encouragement to SIMPLY TRY, and then practice to improve if it’s something you’re interested in improving.

ACTION:

  1. What things have YOU said, “I’m bad at…” to other people or kids?
  2. What steps can you take to eliminate that negative self-talk, whether you’ve been saying it aloud or just in your head?
  3. What would you like to try, but your fear has been holding you back from doing so?
  4. What can you do to start trying?
  5. How will you change your approach with children?

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

 

*photo credit: CC licensed photo by anna gutermuth, “124/365

**While I know karaoke might be a bad example (lots of “not great” singers get up to sing, usually after some form of liquid courage), singing is a great example. Singing is very personal, and I notice that, in the US especially, very few people in the crowd ever sing the national anthem at sporting events anymore. There’s always some professional at the microphone, and everyone else just listens. In Canada, I’ve noticed more people tend to sing along with their anthem. When I went to a Denver vs Australian Army rugby game a few summers ago, the Australians in the crowd were singing along, quite vigorously, with their anthem. So, is this just an American thing? Are we more insecure in the things we’re not great at than other nationalities? Maybe the Star-Spangled Banner is a bad example, because it truly is one of the most difficult songs to sing, but I still think there’s something about insecurity here that prevents people from singing.

 

under: Teaching and Learning
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Summer Learning

Posted by: | July 15, 2014 | 6 Comments |

As an educator, I’ve heard people discuss the “summer learning loss” since my first ed methods courses. For that matter, I remember adults talking about it when I was a kid, too. As a kid, I couldn’t figure out what they meant, because I learned all summer long… it just looked different than what it looked like in school.

If we look at learning as facts to be retained indefinitely, then summer learning loss is a concern.

However, if we realize that learning is fluid, that we often temporarily forget concepts, skills, and procedures when we don’t use them regularly, then summer learning loss shouldn’t be a huge concern. When we assume kids should all learn certain concepts by a certain age and then retain them forever, we do a disservice to those children – and it also means we don’t really understand LEARNING.

(How many of you remember every theorem you ever learned AND can use them right this minute with no review? How many of you took a second language and can still speak fluently if you rarely or never used that language again after you graduated?)

I’m worried about some of the articles and posts I’ve read recently about what kids need to be learning over the summer. Many of these posts contain lists that stress more drill including math facts and reading strategies, such as practicing affixes, etc.

“Hey, kids! Let’s have some fun today! We’re going to practice AFFIXES!” [cue kids cheering]

(I wish someone would hurry up and create that sarcasm font we’re all needing.)

Yes, let’s just make summer about killing the joy of learning, just like we have to do during the school year. (I use the word “we” here as a generality. I don’t think all of us have to do that during the school year, and I know for certain that our school, Anastasis Academy, is about bringing back the joy in learning. But that’s not the focus of this post.)

What if, during the summer, kids had the option to learn in a manner that is natural for them?

cc licensed photo by Lotus Carroll

cc licensed photo by Lotus Carroll*

  • running
  • riding bikes
  • swimming
  • playing in the yard or park, running through sprinklers or around the fire hydrant
  • pretending (we spent more time as kids playing Charlie’s Angels than anything else over the summer)
  • neighborhood/street games with no adult intervention

Those 6 things help kids learn a MULTITUDE of important skills, including setting boundaries or rules for games, problem-solving, and being creative just to name a few. The physical activity alone is enough to warrant hours and hours allotted each day for these physical activities. Kids should NOT be sitting around all day, and most especially not during the summer! Sitting has shown to be incredibly harmful to our bodies.

For shorter periods of time during the day, kids should be allowed quiet time to read. The most important part of silent reading time is that the kids have choice to read what they want.

As an adult, when I walk into a bookstore or a library, I feel like a kid in a candy store. That’s because I LOVE TO READ. I love to read, because I had a LOT of choice as a kid. We went to the library often every summer.  My mom didn’t force me to choose books that were at my lexile level, nor did she tell me I shouldn’t choose a book because it was too easy for me. It was always MY choice.

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed some of my students love to read fiction. Some love to read non-fiction. Some love to read magazines about animals. Some adore comic books. Some kids will read the boxes of anything in the room, if they’re allowed. (I remember reading every cereal box we had on the table at breakfast!)

If we want kids to read (and write) better, we need them to be reading MORE. Kids will read more when they’re interested in what they’re reading. The more choice we provide, the more likely they will want to read something different AND will eventually trust us when we do recommend something specific. Summer reading should be an extension of just that… allowing kids to choose what they want to read.

As for math facts and problem-solving skills, of course those things are going to fade over the summer. These are conceptual facts, not just something we memorize and ultimately understand. Kids need practice, but they need practice in context. Flash cards might help SOME kids memorize these facts, but why not provide something real for kids to do?

What if, instead of carving out an hour a day for drill practice, we asked kids to build something that required measuring, adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing? What if we baked or cooked together with kids? What if we gave them a box of craft materials or recyclables that are just going to be thrown out and asked them to invent something? What if we asked them to create a work of art, compose a song, or write and perform a play? All of these activities involve math concepts, among many others, even if those are not directly articulated to the kids.

Now stop and think about all the kids who may not have (safe) access to a library, a yard with grass or trees, or other neighborhood areas that are conducive to the type of play I mentioned above. Should they be limited to “drill and kill” activities? The majority of “summer learning loss” articles I’ve read say that children living in poverty need MORE drill and practice in academic-specific skills (usually math and reading/writing) over the summer. I disagree.

“Welcome to summer, James. You are already behind in school due to factors that are beyond your control, so let’s just make your summer seem like you’re in a prison, too. We’ll start by practicing your multiplication tables for the first hour, and then I’m going to ask you to read something you have absolutely no interest in for the next hour. After that, even though you’re probably already feeling like a zombie in the first 2 hours, we’ll continue to have you suffer through more drill and kill activities for the rest of the day. You’ll be SO ready for school in the fall!”

Again, I disagree whole-heartedly and believe that all children need safe and convenient access to play and pretend opportunities, with physical activity options and music and art. How do we ensure this happens for ALL kids?

KIDS NEED TO PLAY.** Period. They need to be silly, laugh, pretend, and they need to MOVE. When we dismiss the benefits of play for children, we do more damage to their eventual “academic” learning than we realize.

Alfie Kohn has already written more about this than I can even begin to attempt, but here’s a great example of his opinion on summer learning loss: Lowering the Temperature on Claims of “Summer Learning Loss.”

As a parent, I understand the worry that your child might be falling behind in school. Since my children have grown into adults, however, I regret that I worried too much about their academic progress when they were younger. I didn’t worry enough about their happiness, their physical activity, and their growth as complete individuals who would become happy and successful adults.

What do you REALLY want for kids?

 

*photo credit: CC licensed photo by Lotus Carroll, “Summer Essentials: Sprinkler Karate

**Articles on benefits of play

under: Teaching and Learning
Tags: , , , , ,

Innovate West 2014

Posted by: | June 13, 2014 | No Comment |

In May, I attended Innovate West at Connect Charter School in Calgary, Alberta.

Why did I travel all the way to Calgary for an education conference?

US policy makers: take note.

The educators in Alberta get it. Period. And the Connect Charter School is a great example. Inquiry model, problem-based learning, outdoor education, and an environment where the kids are thriving.

Is it a perfect system? No, but I really believe they’re on the right track when it comes to how students learn and how they should be assessed.

My favorite day was Friday. The Connect students led tours around their building and explained how they learn. They were so proud to share their school, and every single student, regardless of age, was able to articulate how this school is different and how it works for them. I’ve visited this school for three years now, and the day of the tour is always my favorite.

Friday night, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Innovate West audience as one of three keynote speakers. I love sharing the story of my students and our classroom. The things my students come up with in our inquiry-based school always amaze me! It was an incredible opportunity to share the the things they learn, say, think, and do on a daily basis.

The conference hosts had invited a local Calgary artist, Sam Hester, to create a “sketch note” drawing of the three keynotes. After I finished and walked over to her work, I was immediately overjoyed with what I saw. My students were living on that page! I couldn’t wait to share it with them when I returned to school the next week!

With Sam’s permission, I’m sharing the portion of her work where she drew my kids.

20140613-165328.jpg

In my next post, I’ll share the learning that happened for me at Innovate West. I can’t recommend highly enough this conference… and what it’s like to attend a conference outside your “own backyard.” It’s good to see and hear different perspectives and methods of how we should be thinking about teaching and learning.

under: Uncategorized

Victims

Posted by: | June 4, 2014 | 6 Comments |

I’m not sure I’ve ever been as disappointed in my edu-network as I have been in the last 48 hours.

I watched as a blog post written by a young woman went viral. She detailed events as she remembered them, and they were hard to read.

I watched as my friends and people I admire reposted and retweeted this blog post. They shared it with horrified comments and mutual disgust.

Out of all those friends who shared the viral post, ONE thought to consider and comment about the fact that we were reading only one side of the story.

ONE PERSON.

We read stories about victims, and we want to immediately support them.

I get that.

We absolutely should support victims and then try to do what we can to change the culture around us.

However, we need to be certain we don’t create additional victims in doing so. And that’s exactly what I saw happening today.

There’s a reason we don’t try cases in the “court of public opinion.” Mob mentality rarely looks at facts or the reasons for due process.

When due process is ignored, we open the door to persecute those who have been falsely accused. Some of them never recover. Additionally, that often leads to more victims being ignored or treated as if they are not truthful.

I’m involved in this particular situation, because I was a witness to the events of one of those accounts in the viral post. My recollection of those facts are different from what was written. I’m not going to discuss any of those things here, because I have already done so by phone with the parties involved. I have supported people on both “sides” of this situation, and I will continue to do so.

IN PRIVATE.

Do I want to change the culture around me to make it a better, safer, more supportive place? Yes.

I will not push my agenda, however, at the expense of any person’s reputation, no matter what I THINK might have happened. Instead of raising awareness about a bigger cultural issue, this has become a “witch hunt.”

If you do not personally know the facts about events that took place, who are you to make a judgment about another person’s character? And what are the implications on people’s lives if what you think happened did NOT happen?

I have watched as people have assailed the character of the young woman in this situation.

I have watched as people have assailed the character of one of the men she has implicated.

NONE of you making these judgment calls were there, yet you’re calling for people to ban the accused from attending conferences. Calling for people to unfollow them and un-invite them from any future conferences. Demanding or acting entitled to details and explanations that should have been handled privately in the first place.

How about we take off our judging hats, listen more, and ask what would be the best course of action for the future?

There are REAL lives that will be affected now. How did YOUR actions in the last 48 hours hurt the people involved? (ALL of the people, not just the one you choose to support.)

Every person involved in this situation is someone’s child.

Did you stop to think that this was someone’s son or daughter? Did you consider that maybe there were other loved ones who are now impacted by your actions as well?

Or did you not consider that before pressing the retweet or share button?

I teach my students to think critically before the share anything publicly. So do many of you.

I saw some people learn the hard way today that they can’t really take back what they have posted or shared.

Now, the question is, how will they make amends for the damage they have done?

And…

How will you change your future actions in deciding what you share and how you share?

under: Uncategorized

Have you ever read If You Give A Mouse A Cookie?

Sometimes, that’s what learning is like in an inquiry-based school. And I LOVE it! Kids follow their curiosity into amazing areas of learning.

Today is April 1st. I really detest April Fool’s Day. (such a bah humbug!) I wonder if, in addition to the day after Halloween, this day ranks low on many teachers’ scales of great days. I was determined not to be a crankypants for my kids, though, who were waiting for me with huge grins on their faces. They were definitely up to something, and I had been warned they had a great prank all ready for me.

As I approached them to head upstairs, they all started staring at me, quickly raised their hands in the Hunger Games Katniss salute, and then they whistled/sang the four-note tune that was a signal between Katniss and Rue. It cracked me up. (Have I mentioned before how much I love these kids?)

After they all had a good laugh and we walked upstairs, we plopped ourselves into a room. They started chattering about good April Fool’s Day pranks, but then started discussing the difference between a harmless/fun prank and a mean-spirited prank. I loved hearing examples that they shared – some they had pulled on siblings, some that had been pulled on them. It was a fun discussion.

In any other school, it might have ended there. But not ours. One kid wondered what was the best April Fool’s prank of all time– which led to another asking how long April Fool’s has been “celebrated”– to another asking where it all started. If you give a mouse a cookie… 

I asked them if they wanted to find out more, and they did. So then I asked, “where should we start?” They threw around words like history and origins. We had found our key search terms.

Within ten minutes, my students had found very few answers.  They were able to find some traditions that dated back to the 1500s with mentions of England, Scotland, and France, but no definitive origins. I showed a video that explained that no one really knows where April Fool’s actually started, but there are several theories. Within the theories presented, the kids recognized a few stories from their research this morning. Their favorite was the story of the rural French citizens who were never informed about the 16th century calendar change from Julian to Gregorian. They were ridiculed with fish slapped on their backs  et voilà! Poisson d’Avril!

If you give a kid a question, she will want to find some answers… but then will ask more questions.

After the laughter about a fish being slapped onto someone’s back, somebody asked, “What’s a Gregorian calendar?” My standard response in this case is, “I wonder how you could figure that out?”

Cut to kids looking up information about the Gregorian calendar. And the Julian calendar. And the Roman calendar. “Wait! There were only 10 months in the Roman calendar?!”

[Me] “What do you notice about the eighth month?”

“It’s October. Hey… OCTOber. OCTO means 8!”

[another student] “And SEPT means 7… and NOV might be 9… and DEC is 10!”

If your class of kids pranks you on April Fool’s Day, you can have meaningful discussions about word origins relating to an ancient calendar. 

Hmmm… that sounds about right.

 

From our @TeamBaldwin tweets today (first tweet is at the bottom):

AprilsFools2

AprilFools1

under: Teaching and Learning

Struggling vs Suffering

Posted by: | March 18, 2014 | 1 Comment |

No parent wants to see their children suffer. We want to surround them, protect them, and help in any way we can. I’m a parent. I get this.

However, there’s a really big difference between a child “suffering” and “struggling.” Struggling is a necessary part of learning. When we learn to walk, we struggle. We fall down. A LOT. We keep pushing ourselves past that point of frustration in order to take those first steps. It’s natural. It’s developmental. It’s necessary.

Struggling is nature’s way of helping us move along to the next level. It’s gamification (I really don’t like that term, but that’s another blog post) in reality. If we didn’t have to struggle to learn something, there wouldn’t be the sense of accomplishment we gain in order to want to keep improving. Struggling helps us move beyond the need for instant gratification.

When we protect our children from struggling, we deprive them of a very important step in the learning process.

I watched the movie Ray again over the weekend. In one scene after Ray has just lost his sight as a child, he falls off a chair in his childhood home. His cries for his mother are heartbreaking. She stands there silently, tears streaming down her face… and she doesn’t help him. As much as she wants to go pick him up and console him, she doesn’t move. Ray wasn’t hurt, and he wasn’t in danger. He struggled to pick himself up, walk around his home, and learn how to navigate using his sense of hearing, smell, and touch. After a few minutes, he stops crying, and he begins to smile. He walks around his home, and you can see that the struggle is fading… the accomplishment is clear. Soon, he senses his mother standing nearby. He speaks softly to her and says, “I know you’re right here,” pointing directly at her.

This scene really stuck with me. I know Hollywood took quite a bit of license here, but I also know that Ray Charles often spoke about how his mother, Aretha Robinson, really taught him to fend for himself. To be independent. She didn’t enable him when he lost his sight. She knew he would have to learn to function differently.

How often do we allow our children to struggle? How many times do we swoop in and rescue kids who don’t really need to be rescued?

Please don’t misunderstand me as write this… there are a lot of kids suffering in situations where learning has become painful. Where life in general is painful. Those kids need rescuing.

There are, however, a lot of kids who are never allowed to struggle, and we are doing them a huge disservice. They need to fall down. They need to learn how to pick themselves up again. They need opportunities to struggle in learning without fear of great penalties.

Struggle is important. Without it, are we truly learning?

 

UPDATED: I just read an article today: 5 Things Teachers Wish Parents Knew: Your Children Can Do More Than You Think. There are a couple of sections in there that complement the idea of “struggle.”

under: Teaching and Learning

Do Something

Posted by: | February 17, 2014 | No Comment |

(This post is very disjointed and extremely poorly written. I apologize for the quality of the writing, but this topic is entirely too important to sit on and wait until I can make it better.)

 

When the Dunn trial verdict was announced and “breaking news” alerts started popping up, I was stunned. Again.

I don’t even know what to say… what to do. So much injustice. I cry for Jordan Davis’ family. And Trayvon Martin’s family. And Marissa Alexander.* This list is too long, and I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

I never had to tell my children to be careful what they wear, so that they wouldn’t appear threatening to white people. (This link is to a heartbreaking blog post written by my friend, Rafranz Davis, about a conversation she had with her son after the Zimmerman trial verdict last summer.)

I never had to worry that my children would be accused of something they didn’t do, and then fear the “law” would automatically assume their guilt, due to the color of their skin.

Raising my children in Nebraska… I didn’t have to fear that it was the worst state per capita in the US (!) to grow up male and black. 

No parent should have to worry about their children like this. And yet, they do.

This is a HUMAN BEING problem.

  • I’m angry reading about another child taken too soon.
  • I’m angry that white men are considered justified in “standing their ground,” but a young black mother is not. 
  • I’m angry reading labels such as “black on black” crime… as if that makes anything okay. It’s dismissive and de-humanizing.
  • I’m angry hearing people talk about statistics of homicide amongst children of color… they are not statistics. Statistics are easy to dismiss. Each and every one is someone’s child. 
  • I’m angry that the topic of white privilege ruffles the feathers of so many white people… as if it can be denied. 

 

More than anything else,  I’m angry about the injustice of it all. It doesn’t have to be like this.

 

On Saturday, all I could think of was the Edmund Burke quote:

 “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” 

We can’t just sit back and assume someone else will do something. That this is someone else’s problem. We need to address issues of racism, privilege, and how we can all work together as people.

Things I know I can do now:

  • help my students learn to be caring, empathetic people who value life.
  • listen to, learn from, and share the voices of those who refuse to be silent: Melinda Anderson, José Vilson, Mikki Kendall, and Suey Park are all writers you should know.
  • speak up… silence only maintains the status quo.
  • small things matter, too. If we wait for the grandiose gestures, we do nothing.

DO SOMETHING. Say something. Your silence and inaction speaks volumes more than you know.

(I’m not opening up comments on this post, because this is not about me. If you have a reaction, write about it. And then do something.)

 

*If you haven’t been keeping up with Angela Corey’s continued prosecution of Marissa Alexander, please do. Read more here and help contribute to legal funds here:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/marissa-alexander-freedom-fundraiser

under: Uncategorized

Attribution

Posted by: | January 29, 2014 | 4 Comments |

A couple of days ago, someone shared an image of an anchor chart (for lack of better term) for questioning levels. I thought that my kids could really benefit from it, but I wanted an illustrated version. So yesterday, I spent about an hour making my own version of the poster on chart paper. This is what I made:

4LevelsQuestionsIllustrated

 

As I started to write the original “creator’s” name at the bottom, I realized I didn’t know who had shared it. I spent a couple of hours (yes, hours!) looking for it and could not. The best I was able to find was a couple of teachers who had shared the item via Pinterest.

Still… no attribution.

I don’t believe in using other people’s work without giving them credit. My friend, Krissy Venosdale, has had her share of issues with that lately.

So here’s the deal… teachers love to “steal” each other’s work. We joke about using that word, steal. I have no problem with doing that as long as we also share the credit.

If you know whose original work THIS is, please let me know so I can properly credit him/her. Thanks.

Original4LevelsQuestions

 

under: Teaching and Learning

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