Inquiry Into Learner Profiles: Balanced

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

When we’re asked what makes us feel successful as parents, I’ve noticed that our answers often involve our kids’ choices. But as I reflect, I can’t help but wonder if that is a perilous decision. After all, what if we do everything “right” and our kids still don’t “turn out” as we expected? Or worse still, what if our kids ultimately define success differently than we do? Might we then condemn ourselves to a life of stress and perceived failure?

Because we only truly have control over ourselves, hinging our sense of success within may prove more beneficial. And teaching our children to do so will in turn help them to take more ownership over the course of their lives.

To me, this is all tightly woven with being balanced. My days feel most scattered when I have neglected important roles, and they feel most successful when I have managed to give each the attention necessary. This week’s provocation is intended to help students consider what it means to find balance in their own lives, and to recognize what a lack of balance looks like.

Resource #1: Labeled food plate (story here)

Resource #2: Mobile by Verena Fels

A humorous and more direct connection to “balance.” I like how it addresses how we sometimes take ourselves too seriously in seeking balance.

Resource #3: Nuggets by Filmbilder

This video gets into the heavier topic of how drugs cause dependence. However, its representation can be expanded to anything that causes us to have extreme dependence, causing a lack of balance and self-control in our lives.

Resource #4: Yelp: With Apologies to Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” by Tiffany Slain & Let it Ripple Studio

The “looking for an info fix” here might add an interesting element to this discussion. I am a huge proponent for teaching kids the potential for good within tech use (rather than just teaching them not to do bad things); however, even with the most positive perspectives, might the result still be negative if balance is not part of the conversation?

Resource #5: Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson & Kevin O’Malley

If you’ve missed this spunky twist on an old tale, it’s worth checking out! Adds a great element of what it means to be well-rounded.

Resource #6: Moon, by Alison Oliver

My 8 year-old was very clearly able to see that Moon’s to-do list was seriously out-of-balance. Investigate with your students what else our to-do lists should include to live balanced lives.

Provocation Questions: 

  • What does it mean to live a balanced life for you?
  • What does it mean to have balance in your family?
  • How does balance impact our quality of life?
  • How does balance impact our societies?
  • What are the consequences of a lack of balance?
  • What role do humor and flexibility play in seeking balance?
  • What changes might I make to achieve greater balance in my life?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

7 Ways For Promoting More Choice within “Compulsory Schooling”

In John Taylor Gatto’s book, Dumbing Us Down, he contends that compulsory education impacts children in the following ways:

#1: It confuses students.

“I teach the un-relating of everything, an infinite fragmentation the opposite of cohesion.”

#2: It teaches kids to accept their rigid class & grade-level placement.

“The lesson of numbered classes is that everyone has a proper place in the pyramid and that there is no way out of your class except by number magic.”

#3: It makes them indifferent.

“The lesson of the bells is that no work is worth finishing, so why care too deeply about anything?”

#4: It makes them emotionally dependent.

“By stars and red checks, smiles and frowns, prizes, honors and disgraces I teach kids to surrender their will to the predestined chain of command.”

#5: It makes them intellectually dependent.

“We must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. The expert makes all the important choices.”

#6: It teaches provisional self-esteem.

“A monthly report, impressive in its provision, is sent into students’ homes to signal approval or to mark exactly, down to a single percentage point, how dissatisfied with their children parents should be.”

#7: It teaches them that they cannot hide, due to constant supervision.

“I assign a type of extended schooling called “homework,” so that the effect of surveillance, if not that surveillance itself, travels into private households, where students might otherwise use free time to learn something unauthorized from a father or mother, by exploration, or by apprenticing to some wise person in the neighborhood.”

While I don’t necessarily agree with all he writes, he makes a pretty solid case regarding these consequences of the institution of school. Despite the fact that he wrote it in 1991, we are still seeing similar consequences today.

by Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman, April 22, 2018

Nonetheless, here in 2018, we have so many opportunities to address these issues, even within the construct of “compulsory schooling.” I would like to visit how we might address each one today.

#1: Confusion Seek out inquiry & concept-based learning in which students start with the big concepts. Start with the student by provoking thinking and connections. See my list of provocations here on concepts ranging from empathy to color to how we organize ourselves. And check out Laura England’s fabulous recent example with her students’ big thinking.

#2: Accepting class/grade-level placement  Encourage student voice & global collaboration. Solicit their feedback & regularly meet in class meetings to ascertain their feelings about “how things are” and whether they have ideas on how it might be better. And if they want to talk with students or experts beyond their assigned grade level, facilitate that! See amazing examples here.

#3: Indifference Make time for student inquiry such as Genius Hour or Passion time for students to pursue personally meaningful learning over the longterm. See AJ Juliani’s guide.

#4: Emotional dependence → Reject trinkets & prizes in favor of intrinsic motivation. See this great example of how we can do so with regards to reading from Donalyn Miller.

#5: Intellectual dependence Put students in the driver’s seat as often as possible, from planning their day to self-regulation (see more details). 

#6: Provisional self-esteem  Implement Student-led conferences & blogging to allow students to clearly recognize and share their own learning.

#7: Lack of privacy  Ask what parents need (& otherwise view ourselves as support/appendages to the family, rather than family as an appendage of school).

There will always be limitations within the rigid public school system. However, especially as we make advances in technology that provides more opportunities for personalized learning and agency, there will always be ways to find flexibility to help learners take more ownership over their lives as learners. It may be the next best thing to fully self-directed learning.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

6 Gorgeous Picture Books Capturing Magical, Independent Childhoods #TeacherMom

One of my all-time favorite childhood books is Gyo Fujikawa’s “Oh, What A Busy Day!” What I found most magical about it as a child was observing all the ideas those kids pursued — without a single supervising adult.

As recently shared on the LetGrow site,

“Once upon a time, kids were part of the world. They were allowed to go places, do things, meet people. They were active.

For “active” now substitute “activities.” Kids participate in activities created for them, not by them. We take them, show them, teach them, protect them in a way that most of us — given the choice — would have rejected in favor of adventure.”

To me, this comes down to a major break-down of trust and community. Driven by our fears of all that might happen if we don’t do what is described above, we teach our kids that no one — not even our kids themselves — are worthy of trust.

That’s why I adore the following picture books. May they inspire you and your children to cultivate greater trust & recapture the magic of childhoods filled with healthy independence & adventure.

#1: Oh, What A Busy Day! by Gyo Fujikawa

Published in 1976, this picture book was ahead of its time with regards to diversity. It takes children through the possibilities of every facet of childhood, from make-believe, to fighting with friends, to enjoying the different seasons. I literally spent years trying to recall the author or title before I finally stumbled across our original beloved copy at my parents’ house — I immediately bought a reprint. Her own words describing how she felt about her audience sum up her beautiful work:

“In illustrating for children, what I relish most is trying to satisfy the constant question in the back of my mind–will this picture capture a child’s imagination? What can I do to enhance it further? Does it help to tell a story? I am far from being successful (whatever that means), but I am ever so grateful to small readers who find ‘something’ in any book of mine.”

#2: Everything You Need for a Treehouse by Carter Higgins & Emily Hughes

This lovely read came from Colby Sharp’s recommendation. I loved it so much that I bought it for my daughter’s birthday book as it reminded me of her sense of adventure & creativity. Kids are shown the many dreamy ways they can enjoy treehouse goodness — even if they are still waiting on a tree.

#3: Windows by Julia Denos & E.B. Goodale

Go for an evening walk with a young boy as he learns about his neighborhood through his own quiet observations. I love the way this captures how much kids can notice about their communities when given the chance.

#4: Bertolt  by Jacques Goldstyn

A book that will speak to the introvert’s soul. A child loves spending time with his tree, Bertolt, more than anything else in the world. His quiet observations and problem-solving will win over the hearts of all that love to get some alone-time.

#5: Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran & Barbara Cooney

My friend Faige Meller first introduced me to Roxaboxen, and it has been a family favorite ever since! The Goodreads reviews are packed with nostalgia, but I think it’s important to note that kids haven’t stopped being capable of creating such a retreat. We as adults need to just get out of their way more often to let them make it happen. “Roxaboxen is always waiting. Roxaboxen is always there.”

#6: Raft by Jim LaMarche

A story filled with appreciation and self-discovery. Kids will love following Nicky through the woods as he comes to love a summer of solitude at his grandmother’s house.

What about you? What are your favorite reads that promote the independent and magical childhoods we are all nostalgic for (and that we can again support)!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

 

Inquiry Into Learner Profile & Skills: Thinker

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

Giving students an opportunity to inquire into what it means to be a thinker is valuable at any point throughout the year; when starting a new unit, when working on how to display thinking, when refreshing the concept of metacognition. For the PYP, this can be used for both the Learner Profile attribute of Thinker, as well as the Learning Skill of thinking.

Resource #1: Obvious to you. Amazing to others by Derek Sivers

Resource #2: Nature by Numbers by Cristóbal Vila (This is math-based, of course, but I love the broader applications to thinking here — how did Fibonacci’s thinking originally unfold?)

#3: How to Figure Out Any Day of the Week for Any Date Ever by It’s OK to be Smart via TheKidShouldSeeThis (great example to see how we can be great thinkers, too).

Resource #4: reDesign Skills (these are teacher activities designed to promote thinking skills, but especially for older students, I wonder what would happen if you allowed them to take the lead on one of these for their classmates?)

reDesign thinking skills

Resource #5: What Do You Do With A _____ picture books by Kobi Yamada

Provocation Questions:

  • What is the connection between thinking and organization? What is the connection between thinking and courage?
  • What is metacognition?
  • What kinds of mindsets help us as thinkers? What kinds of mindsets hurt us as thinkers?
  • How people change as thinkers over time?
  • How does being an active thinker impact our lives? How does it impact our communities?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Can We Talk About Rationing Screen Time? #TeacherMom

First, let me be clear. I am not in favor of kids spending excessive amounts of time on their devices. The addiction factor, sleep issues, and even growing risk of depression/suicide are all well-known issues for me.

7th grade teacher Pernille Ripp has even recently gone #phonefree in her classroom for these last couple of months, a move her students seem to love as it allows them to more comfortably share vulnerable learning processes.

What I want to discuss is the impact of rationing screen time for our kids. I’m talking about bargaining for behavior, tallying minutes, and otherwise keeping such a tight grip on the amount of time our kids spend on screens that they begin to fixate on it.

It reminds me of what happens when we focus so thoroughly on “forbidden foods” that we end up binge-eating.

What if, instead…

…we regularly discussed the importance of balance?

…we explicitly taught even our young kids that tech can be a tool for empowerment, rather than just an device for entertainment?

 

…we created reasonable default screen time allowances our kids can count on so they don’t have to spend their days worrying when they will next be allowed to watch a movie or play a video game?

…we talked honestly with our kids about our screen time habits — both how we use it for practical and/or positive purposes, and how we are trying to improve not-so-positive habits?

…we set up rules and limitations in a shared manner, learning together about what helps us achieve balance and healthy lifestyle?

Our kids have been born into an remarkable and unprecedented age of technology. Let’s find ways to work alongside them as they work to develop healthy, positive, and balanced habits.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into Skills: Self-Management

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

We constantly talk about providing our students with skills that allow them to think, act, and choose for themselves. In the PYP, such skills include gross/fine motor skills, organization, time management, safety, healthy lifestyle, codes of behavior, and informed choices.

It’s important to regularly provide our students opportunities to discuss & cultivate those skills. This week’s provocation is designed to get the conversation going.

Resource #1: 3 Ways to Start, by New Age Creators

Resource #2: What Matters to You by Jorge R. Canedo E.

Resource #3: Why Incompetent People Think They’re Amazing by TED-ED

Resource #4: Arat Hosseini’s Instagram account run by his father (I especially loved the Arat’s father’s comment in the second video). 

My son, my hero @arat.gym _____ Father and son #fatherandson

A post shared by Arat Hosseini (@arat.gym) on

✌🏻 👨‍👦 🏅 🏆 @arat.gym I told Arat that’s enough but he wanted to continue. There are times that I get a video from him, but I don’t post it because he looks tired and unhappy , but after we were done with this exercise he told me: dad please post this video , when I grow up I want to see how hard I pushed myself and practiced for being a champion Translated by @asa_kh🌸 💯 💯 🆗 🌎 🌍 🌏 من به آرات گفتم بسه ديگه اما اون خودش ادامه داد. وقتي چهره آرات در فيلمهايي كه ازش ميگيرم به اين حالت است يعني خسته و ناراحت كننده من هيچ وقت فيلمش را نميگذارم اما آخر اين تمرين آرات از من خواست، او گفت: بابا حتما اين فيلمو در پيجم قرار بده تا وقتي بزرگ شدم ببينم چقدر تلاش ميكردم تا روزي قهرمان بشوم. 💯 👌 🌍🌎🌏🆗✌🏻 #sixpack #myson #myhero #hero #baby #kids @arat.gym

A post shared by Arat Hosseini (@arat.gym) on


Resource #5: Forever or A Day by Sarah Jacoby

Provocation Questions:

  • What does it mean to self-manage one’s self?
  • How does self-management impact an individual’s life?
  • What helps a person manage themselves?
  • What obstacles sometimes stand in the way of self-management?
  • How does self-management relate to growth mindset?
  • How does knowing our purpose help us develop self-management skills?
  • How are balance & self-care connected to self-management?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Turning Around “Family as Appendages of an Abstraction”

This phrase, “family as appendages of an abstraction,” leaped from the page as I read John Taylor Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down. While there were several points in the book with which I disagree, this one stands out to me, because it is a harrowing reminder of the ways that once viewed family as an appendage of school, rather than the other way around. This included:

  • Insisting that reading logs be signed by a parent each night, even when a parent told me she knows her daughter reads for hours each day & indicated that the log would not have any value for their situation.
  • Questioning why on earth a parent was opting out of homework so her daughter could focus on her rigorous gymnastics practice/competition schedule.
  • Feeling frustrated when some families expressed dismay when we discontinued math worksheets for homework in favor of what we viewed as a more relevant, choice-based approach (“Can’t they see this is better for their kid than some worksheet?”)
  • Any time I viewed myself as a greater authority on a child’s needs than the parent.

I cringe at these memories. Families are a child’s most lasting community, and parents their most lasting teachers. Gatto writes,

“The deepest purposes of these gigantic networks [like schools] is to regulate and make uniform. Since the logic of family and community is to give scope to variety around a central theme, whenever institutions make a major intervention into personal affairs they cause much damage. By displacing the direction of life from families and communities to institutions and networks we, in effect, anoint a machine our King.”

It’s why I appreciate teachers like Taryn Bond-Clegg who realized that on the homework issue, rather than making mandates for or against, she could ascertain from parents and students themselves what would be most helpful for their families.

It’s why I recently wrote about ways we can truly form partnerships with parents.

And it’s why I loved this response from Chris Tuttell on Bill Ferriter’s “5 Lessons for the Student Teachers In Your Lives:”

“18 years in and I still feel like I have so much to learn. As a beginning teacher I had such an idealistic view – I always knew I wanted to teach in schools that served lower socioeconomic students and I thought I would change their world – I watched ALL the teacher movies – “Dangerous Minds”, ‘Stand and Deliver”, “Lean on Me”, “Freedom Writers”, etc. I thought and said, more times than I care to remember, “Education is your ticket out.”

Can you imagine hearing that as a kid? What was I thinking? Was I really suggesting being educated was more important than the connections the kids had with their family, friends, community? Or worse, that being educated meant you had to leave behind the life and people that matter most? It’s really horrifying isn’t it? I was so ignorant.

Now, all these years later, I focus my efforts on connecting with the families, visiting the community – entering as a learner – seeking to understand by asking questions and truly listening. I try to live by Maya Angelou’s words “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I don’t succeed everyday but I am trying.”

I, too, am trying to learn & reflect as much as I can & come to know better so that once I return to the classroom, I can do better.

Of course, all this isn’t to suggest that all our kids’ home situations are ideal; far from it. But the point is that every family benefits when we focus on learning how we might support them, “seeking to understand by asking questions and truly listening.”

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto