Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hurt Heart...

Have you ever given your all, heart, soul, mind..I mean your "ALL" and had someone make a disparaging comment about your competence? It happened to me today and though I am trying to get past it, I feel stuck. For an entire school year I have worked diligently to help a very special little girl gain success in my class. I cried at her IEP when the "professionals" who didn't know her minimized her significant issues, spent countless hours talking with her parents brainstorming ideas to help her succeed, and read everything I could get my hands on to increase my knowledge.
In an attempt to make himself feel more competent or look better when her mom rightfully questioned a school practice where she was left alone in a small nurses office after an incident where she threw mud all over a yard duty, my principal offhandedly commented,"Maybe Mrs. Young wasn't the best placement for this little girl this year." He went on to say that perhaps my "background" got in the way. ( Of course he did not have the courage to say this to me, but was actually stupid enough to say it to her mom.) My background? My background as a social worker and clinical therapist helped me care for this little girl, teach and learn with her, understand her, and look at her from a strengths perspective. My background helped me create a caring classroom environment where no child belittled, accused, or made fun of her differences. My background helped me tolerate getting hit, spit on, poked in the eye and screamed at more often than I care to recall.
So, when someone who has no clue about what occurred in my classroom because he spent maybe 5-10 total minutes in an entire school year thinks he can speak to "the best place" for my student, am I just to conclude that he knows not what he says? Intellectually, I know the answer, but tell it to my heart. It still aches..

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Creativity in the Classroom

Last Tuesday, on Edchat, I only had a few minutes to join in a conversation among educators interested in improving education, by making creativity more a part of the learning process and outcomes at school. Of course, creativity looks quite different in different age classrooms but my takeaway is this: Why are we so afraid to hand over more of the power of learning to kids? If we set the goals/objectives for the knowledge and thinking that must occur, why is it so difficult to allow/encourage a variety of ways to demonstrate that mastery? Several teachers I know fully admit and almost seem to boast "I am not creative." Are these the models we want for our learners? Is there a way to "train" teachers in creativity?Now if "create" is at the highest level of Bloom's Taxonomy, how can I be assured that these teachers will even know how to facilitate and reinforce students' creative thinking processes? Yes, the system seems to hold us back in a place where we do what's expected, don't ask any questions, and put forth a bland blend of "stuff" we call curriculum each day, luring our learners into a deep snooze of complacency. It's time we stood up, rebelled against the industrial-age model of education and learned how to build in assessment practices where we can assess our kids' learning. What kind of learning do they need to demonstrate? How about critical thinking where they give us answers that they didn't find in a book or website? How about answers where they developed and supported their analyses by citing and synthesizing resources. Even young learners can learn from reflecting upon and defending their points of view.  I love to ask my kids, " How do you know that?" or alternatively, "How can you tell that's not the answer?"  What makes you think that?
We need to be open to a brainstorming and solution generating process that may not come in an easy 5 minute thinking session.  Part of the big problem in education is that it mirrors the society we live in. We want instant everything. We don't have the patience for process. It's time to challenge these assumptions that solutions and learning come in quick fix magic bullet strategies.  How?
We can learn from our peers. And this is exactly what I do, on Twitter every day. Many incredible educators and others share resources, give support and challenge the status quo. So, how do you model and support creativity in your school? What do you see working? Please share your thoughts!
The Blooming Butterfly poster is a licensed image from the following source:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mother's Day: A Time to Thank my Kids

So Mother's Day is approaching and it makes me all teary as I think about how being a mother has been the greatest gift of my life.  Knowing that my kids, Nick (23) and Stefanie (22) have grown up into wonderfully loving, creative, kind, and hardworking adults has made me feel like my life is complete. No, I don't mean that I want to die tomorrow..but I know that if I did, I would have done my most important work in raising two beautiful kids who have so much to offer this world.
So, in honor of Mother's Day, a tribute to my Nick and Tef: the greatest joys of my life.
To Nick, whose messes and experiments must have rivaled the greatest of scientists and led him to the amazing engineering grad student that he is today.
To Stef, whose ability to turn anything borrowed from my closet,craft supply stashes, or kitchen cupboards into an amazing work of art, fashion, or culinary excellence never ceases to amaze me.
To Nick, my renaissance guy, who went from playing piano and guitar by teaching himself, to soccer and football while acing AP exams in all subjects in high school.
To Stef, my thoughtful questioner and dedicated student about to graduate college, always pondering, exploring and analyzing angles of a subject before cranking out amazing papers her professors brag about and use as examples for others.
To Nick and Stef: an incredible sibling support system who helped each other through the craziness of doing the every other weekend visits that my divorce in their early years caused.
To Nick and Stef as loving, supportive kids who keep me up to date on what is happening with them, even if it's through texting, talking online etc.
I could ramble on, and perhaps I will.. next Mother's Day. Thank you for all of the joy. I cherish both of you and savor all of our special times together.