Posts Tagged ‘thinking’

Tick, tick, tick……


This was a really long vacation.  Two days before it started, I was sure that it was going to last at least a decade.  Ah, sweet freedom……..Those long, lazy, restful, boring, relaxing, mindless days of winter vacation stretched out before me like a mirage. As if there would never be a spring testing season. As if Persuasive Essays existed only in my darkest nightmares.

Ah……sweet freedom…..

And yet, here I am, perched on the cusp of the Return To School.

So anxious.  So fretful.  So restless.

Last night I dreamed that I wanted to reorganize the desks in my classroom, moving them from a horseshoe shape into table groups. In my dream, I talked, and argued and ordered and ranted.  In my dream, I was completely ignored.  No one listened, no one moved a desk.

In my nightmare, the kids were all talking happily, and not one of them could hear my voice as I tried to shout.  In this awful dreamscape, one of the kids in my class came into my room wearing glittery gold makeup, with her hair sprayed and teased. She tried to explain why she wasn’t in the classroom during indoor recess, but I was too mad to listen to her.  (For the record; she wasn’t a real kid, although she was kind of cute).

As the dream went on, and no one would listen to my voice, yelping and arguing and trying to get their attention, a bus pulled up outside of my classroom, and I suddenly realized that I was supposed to have taught my kids a song and dance.  I was embarrassed and horrified and teary; they didn’t know the song! They hadn’t been taught the dance! Crowds of people were gathering to watch them!  I was sure that I was about to lose my job, and my career.  My throat actually ached from the accumulated tears.

But in my dream, my students all gathered together, and worked out a little song and dance. In my dream, they rallied around their friendships and without any guidance from me, they managed to sing and caper and laugh so that the audience broke out in wild applause.

I felt weak and limp and relieved in my dream.  I looked at my kids in awe.  I smiled at the suddenly scary authority figure who for some reason stood beside me, and he was charmed.

My dream ended with me hugging and smiling at my students.  It ended with me wondering, “Wow! Why on earth did I think they’d need me to create a song?”

I woke up with the feeling of the clock ticking.  Vacation is ending.  I have a list of rubrics and scores and mini-lessons that I am supposed to create.  But I woke up with the realization that if I just let go, and relax, the kids and I will come up with everything that we really need to teach our literacy and history units.

I need to trust my dreams. I need to learn how to let it go.

Vacation Ends


Here’s how I know that I am a very, very lucky woman.

Its the very last day of February vacation, and I don’t mind.

I slept a lot this week, did some knitting, walked my dogs, went out to lunch. A couple of closets got cleaned and I read a funny romance novel.  I spent a fun day with my Mom and I visited my son at college.  I baked, I cooked, I read magazines. It was a really rejuvenating, relaxing week!  Sweet!

But I don’t mind that its over.  I don’t mind at all.

I miss the kids, and that’s the truth.

I feel like I’ll get to see all my friends in the morning, and I don’t mean the other teachers.  I mean the kids.  I can’t wait to hear about Olive’s trip to Florida, and Cooper’s visit to his Grandmother’s house.  I hope that Mia got over the flu, and that Lily had fun skiing.

I want to show them the crazy colored scarf that I made!

I suspect that the secret to my teaching success is that I’m still incredibly immature.  I truly want to hear about Aidan’s hockey  tournament and Liam’s lacrosse games!  I know that the kids will crowd around my desk, and they’ll talk over and other and everyone will keep bursting into laughter telling tales about who fell over a chair, who spilled popcorn at the movies and whose brother had the flu all week and ruined everything.  At least one of them will shout, “I had the weirdest dream!” and then go on to detail an adventure in surrealism that could only be recounted by a ten year old.

Eventually, I’ll settle everyone down, and they’ll go to their seats and start the morning work, and I’ll take attendance.  And I’ll be back in my place, sliding smoothly through my routine, surrounded by people I love.  We’ll finish our Revolution biographies and show our projects to each other.  Kids will be proud of their little creations, like this depiction of the burning of Governor Hutchinson’s House by the angry Boston mob after the imposition of the Intolerable Acts.

I love the Leggo mob.

I love the Leggo mob.

At some point in the day, I will run into colleagues at the copier or in the teacher’s room.  Everyone will sigh, and talk about how short the vacation was and how hard it is to be back to the grind.  I’ll go along and nod my head, but I’ll be faking.

I’ll be happy to be back in Room 303, hearing all about the life of Samuel Adams and admiring the cardboard Liberty Tree.

Learning Styles.


 

The world of education is always trying to find new and better ways to think about learning.  This is a very good thing!  In the twenty five or so years that I have been a part of the community of educators, I have learned a huge amount about the ways that our brains function, and the many ways in which each brain is different.

I’ve learned all about Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence, and about Anthony Gregorc learning style delineator.  I’ve read everything that I could find about brain function and about the many nuances of memory, learning, critical thinking and problem solving.

It has been fascinating to see that the many theories of intelligence and learning have wound their way into education reform, and have shaped many of the latest theories of teaching and learning. How wonderful to know that schools no longer expect every child to learn at the same rate, in the same way.  We finally understand that every learner is different, and that as educators it is our duty to foster the various strengths of our students while helping them to develop their areas of relative weakness.

Here in Massachusetts, we are mandated to “differentiate” our instruction.  We are required to present information in different ways to tap into the verbal, tactile, musical and logical intelligences of our kids.  We need to choose materials at various levels so that all students can access the curriculum and can succeed.

I am all about this differentiating business, I really am!  I see very single day how important and how valuable it is for us to recognize that we all have different learning styles and different approaches!  I’m practically a cheerleader for this part of modern educational theory!

And that’s why I am totally baffled by two recent educational phenomena.

Number one won’t be any surprise:  Since we know that all kids learn differently, and since we understand that there are myriad learning styles, why the HELL do we use one single test to measure the success of each child, each classroom, each school, each district?  Huh?

We spend hours of time and millions of dollars to make sure that every aspect of learning is presented in a hundred different ways, at different rates, with different modalities because we KNOW that all learners are different from each other.  Then we turn around and give ONE test, in ONE week, and say that its a great way to measure progress.

You can’t even pretend that there is any logic to this.

And my second issue is this one: Given the fact that we know all about various learning styles and intelligences, why have the powers that be suddenly decided that all teachers need to use those big, packaged “kits” to teach? Why are we all given a script and a box and a binder filled with worksheets? We aren’t interchangeable automatons, any more than our students are!

After all these years and a dozen workshops (paid for by my district, I might add), I know that I am strongest in the verbal, interpersonal intelligences.  According to Gregorc, I am an “abstract random” learner.  I have learned that I am a “wholistic” learner, with a “right brain” style.   Using a sequential, detail oriented, step by step teaching approach is completely the opposite of what works for me as a thinker.  Using check boxes and concrete, detailed assessments does not match my learning or thinking styles in any way.

Why is it that we celebrate the difference in our students, but squash them in our professionals?  Why is that we recognize the need to differentiate for the children, but refuse to allow any flexibility in the staff who work with them?

This whole situation has become a lesson in the illogical.

 

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