Building and Anchoring Resilience

Our new principal is bringing a fresh outlook and approach to our teaching and learning. While every change in administration does this for a school, we are filled with hope that things will be even better as we move forward and that we will “fit in.”

Today our principal shared something from her meeting yesterday with other administrators from the district. It is a different angle from what we have seen in the past.  She is  the product of single parent upbringing and has a unique (at least to my current way of thinking) perspective on student lives.

I find it quite interesting how reading something can take us down a wide range of paths. Which we choose to explore becomes our own learning journey. Students make personal connections (at least when the Common Core allows them to) and those connections anchor their thinking and learning in stronger ways. But I digress…

So when the principal shared an article, an interview with Maya Angelou, I searched for one of the references Dr. Angelou presented. It is a piece of art by way of poem/music written by James Weldon Johnson and at one time was even known as the Negro National Anthem. Take a look at the lyrics and maybe  listen to the link while you read them. It is a message of resilience, perseverance, and hope.

In order for me to frame this learning, I needed to read the interview and make meaning from Dr. Angelou’s message which primarily addresses the plight of people who are alienated and mistreated, as is the case with slavery and descendants of slaves. Music was a good vehicle for me in anchoring this message.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.”

Here’s a question from the interview that echos the same message I received in, of all places, a math MOOC I participated in this summer. That message is a can-do, growth mindset message.

You’ve lived in several places around the world. Do you think resilience is universal. or does it vary among cultures?”

“If children are given the chance to believe they’re worth something – if they truly believe that – they will insist upon it.”

I am looking to anchor this message more firmly in my own practice as an educator. The students are bundles of potential energy and I need to support them as they maintain a positive charge and activate their learning successfully.

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Global StemX Conference

Global STEMx Education Conference

Please join us for the Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference, the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being be held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend! STEMxCon is a highly inclusive event designed to engage students and educators around the globe and we encourage primary, secondary, and tertiary (K-16) educators around the world to share and learn about innovative approaches to STEMx learning and teaching. More information at the conference website, http://www.stemxcon.com.

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Brag – #Kinderblog13

This week, our colleagues in the #kinderchat #Kinderblog13 Challenge are asked to brag a bit, to tell something about themselves that is special.  I have a few ideas running around in my head but I will limit myself to one important one.  It’s not that I am super special but I can see some traits that serve me well in the classroom and out.

I LOVE to learn!   I seek out opportunities for learning and explore communities online to find nuggets or gems to add to my bag of skills and tricks.  This involves a certain amount of risk taking and that’s another cool quality to own.

Being a professional means staying on top of the craft as well as the science.  By following great folks on Twitter and by curating blog posts for  Scoop.it/Kindergarten, I come across loads of great ideas every day and they invariably help me see my job in a new light.  As an active member of my communities, I pass on much of what has appealed to me.

clmooc_site_logo This summer I am participating in #CLMOOC, a Google+ community of education minded folks.   The community is encouraging teachers on all ends of the tech spectrum to learn more about their own practice and demonstrating new tools for sharing our thinking.

I am also completing another MOOC through Stanford UniversityHow To Teach Math.  That one is full of reflections and peer sharing. I love the pace of it and the way the developers have blended videos with reflection almost seamlessly. I highly recommend this one.

Math_1Here is the response I drafted to a recent prompt:

Question:If you wanted to take on this new evidence on brain growth and ability, how would it change what you do?
Response
I will approach student learning with a clearer understanding that the students’ brains need to be exercised more.  Not by drills but by discerning where they are in the learning path, and by targeting instruction to shore up the weak areas of their foundations.  It will give them more connections for future learning and understanding. This does not need to apply only to math but to other subjects as well such as reading.

Learning new things? – yep, that’s what I am good at.

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Peace In Kindergarten

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Peace Jan. 2013, a set on Flickr.

Peace is pretty simple in the kindergarten classroom. It is the thing that holds us together as a community.

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My Confession Is Also My Credo

Since I am participating in a couple of online community challenges this summer, I thought it would be neat to connect the 2 of them whenever possible. The #Kinderblog13 blogging challenge and the #clmooc on Google+/Twitter/Flickr are both looking for some reflections this week.

As a kindergarten teacher, I am increasingly asked to teach a strong academic program.  I confess that I am at odds with this approach.  The world of exploration and discovery will always be the place of ideal teaching and learning, at least in my mind and heart.

The movers and shakers who are directing education (CCSS and educator evaluation) are forcing teachers to move away from the more natural learning environments and instead pushing us to create and show very specific results every step of the way.

The focus is on demonstrating student learning through assessments. The more time I spend on assessing, recording, graphing, checking off, reporting student learning, the less time I have for creating more meaningful learning opportunities.

It boils down to time.  Time that is in short supply.  Time that ends up being taken away from other aspects of my personal and professional life.

Teachers are being drawn to $$ boxed curricula, at least in part, because they need the ready-made assessments to present the teaching and learning and therefore prove their own mastery of curriculum planning and assessment.  That also means they teach the $$ boxed program to achieve those learning goals prescribed by the assessments.  I am at odds with the strong academics being foisted on early childhood education.

That is my confession.  My credo is always going to be challenged by the market-driven $$ powers that be.  Let’s see if this year marks a change and I find a healthy balance between my own credo and the needs of the evaluators.

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Summertime, and the Learning Is Easy

Summertime!  Ahh the bliss.  It is the time I recharge and grab some new excitement for the next school year.

While this post is supposed to be a bit about me for The 2013 #Kinderchat Summer Blogging Challenge, it also speaks to the core of my philosophy as a professional and as a person.  I LOVE to learn! 

This summer, I am participating in the #clmooc on Google+.  It has meant the freedom to explore and learn in a safe community of interested people.  We all need to learn in a safe and exciting environment and that speaks to the kindergarten school experience.  We learn and we teach others to learn.  Whether we are in Hawaii, Australia, or Southampton, Massachusetts, we open our doors to new learners every year and when they leave, we want them to always be searching for more, more, more!ImageThis fall will be the beginning of year 13 (I think) in the kindergarten classroom, after 14 as a prek teacher (and a few more earlier years as a nurse.)  I am jumping into a whole new way of doing business this fall and I hope the learning follows along as I present a science based curriculum with everything else integrated into that.  I hope this experiment of mine works out as it really speaks to the teaching and learning experience I want to share.  Who cares that I have 3 years til retirement! I am still excited about my work.  Wish me luck!

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Map Making with #CLMOOC

Cycle 3 of the Connected Learning MOOC in Google+ is calling upon participants to create a map and share it with the community.  I thought I would try again with Prezi and this time I found success.

After spending hours weeding my flower gardens, I took some pictures and in the air conditioned comfort of my computer room, I created a map of something called a #LearningWalk.  It was yet another opportunity for reflection.

Gail's_Garden

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