Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘preschool’ Category

Assessments

There are days that my brain works like surfing the net — you look for one thing, find a link to something else, then something else and so on until you stop and say, “How did I get here?”

This weekend the goal of my blog was to look at The 7 Teachings and ended up focusing on “Wisdom”. From that conversation, I ended up thinking about what teachers and mentors need to provide in order to help children develop wisdom.

Now, that leads into thoughts about assessments. Although it would be interesting to look at how one would assess the development of Wisdom”, what keeps rumbling around in my head is assessing the teacher!

Although the vision isn’t clear yet I see something that looks like this:

Students: are learning, exploring, experimenting, questioning, documenting, analyzing, contemplating, and sharing. They are learning about themselves, about their world, about their impact on the world and their way of contributing to the greater good. They are learning how to mesh knowledge with their experiences, creating Wisdom, and they are learning how to share their Wisdom with others and receive others’ Wisdom to add to their own.

Teachers: are providing the opportunities, experiences, and resources to empower the above. They are helping all the students discover their talents, their interests, their motivators, their style of learning and processing information, and ways to contribute and share information with others. Although teachers already do all this at some level, my vision takes it to a whole new level. Rather than the focus being on the content, it shifts to the environment and to the uniqueness of each child.

So what does this mean for assessment? It means, to me, that for the students, we are not assessing their level of abilities, but rather “documenting” observations about their personal styles, interests, etc, providing a picture of what can be provided to expand their self-awareness, skills, and so on.

And, as for the teachers, well, the list is quite extensive. “Content”, the “what”, is the vehicle for all the above to be delivered rather than the source of the grade. So, along with planning for the content the educator is planning for multiple learning styles, communication styles, personality styles, strengths, needs, and personal passions. During the activities, they are observing and interacting with the students not only to expand the knowledge on the content but also to gather information about children’s development and personalities. This information will be used for future activities.

On the surface, I’m sure most teachers will say that “I do this already”. This is where my vision gets a little foggy. I can see the difference but it is still blurry. Perhaps it is because the possibilities are endless; maybe it is just way too much to expect of a teacher; perhaps it is because I have not witnessed anything like my vision to be able to put it into words.

I think child care centres are the environments that are settings closest to my vision. But, here again, I think we can do more. Not only are we missing, in my opinion, the inclusion of the core values and 7 Teachings, but we are not celebrating and empowering the unique characteristics to the fullest.

If I was in the classroom now and wanted to assess how I was doing, I’d be looking at (the short list):

* the environment: thinking areas for introverts and extroverts
* the environment: times spent outdoors, connecting with nature, using natural settings as the classroom
* the environment: using the local community as the classroom and as a source of mentors
* resources: tools available for use by writers, artists, builders, scientists…
* observations: strategies to document and use observations of each child
* observations: compiling a portfolio for each child, gathering information about the whole child, about the SPICES development
* program-planning: using “content” to inspire, to challenge, and to empower each child
* program-planning: basing the “how” to deliver content on awareness of each child’s abilities, interests, passions
* program-planning: resources and support to help each child gather information for a personal portfolio, enhancing self-awareness
* program-planning: finding a balance between empowering personal strengths and developing skills in all areas (ex. empowering the skills of the introvert while at the same time helping them develop skills for “extrovert” situations)
* team development: involving the child, the parents/caregivers, and the community in the planning and implementing of experiences beneficial to the child’s growth
* personal contribution: bringing my personal passions and talents into the classroom, bringing the “best” of me to inspire the children

This is quite the “short list” but very powerful — and challenging to do. On one level it is a matter of a checklist to make sure that we are doing our job but on a deeper level, there is the accountability. How do we ensure that this is happening and happening well? How do we support the teacher or teachers in the classroom? What resources are needed?

What would you add to this list?
What does your vision look like?

Read Full Post »

The core “self”, the Spiritual Self, what is it? What makes it tick?

I’m not going to delve into a religious or scientific perspective here, I want to look at the core values that guide us. In one of my earlier postings I mentioned the 7 Grandfather Teachings. These are the traits that are honoured and taught in the Native culture.

The 7 Grandfather (or Sacred) Teachings
* Wisdom
* Love
* Respect
* Courage
* Honesty
* Humility
* Truth

Wisdom
In the previous blog about this topic I mentioned that “Wisdom” is knowledge plus experience. As mentors in children’s lives this means that we need to be providing experiences and opportunities for exploration, for discussions, and for meshing knowledge with each of their stories and perspectives of life as they know it.
“Have you ever experienced something like this before?” – questions like this guide the thinking to past experiences, helping to make those connections and, thus, create Wisdom.

It is important to provide the time to think about the connections. We could stand back and hope that they get it; we could wait for them to some day make the connections between the knowledge and how it applies to their lives… or, as teachers we could guide their thinking, ask the questions and plant the seeds, helping them make the connections and ensuring that the thought process takes place.

Perhaps we could expand the definition of Wisdom to:

Knowledge + Experience + Contemplation = Wisdom

This, then, indicates that our job as mentors is to provide knowledge, to provide opportunities to discover knowledge, to provide opportunities for exploration and experience, and to provide time and strategies to contemplate the experiences (conversations, journals, pictures, etc).

Doing a quick proof-read of the above, the image of the Fire of Truth again pops into my head. The children are sitting in spots around the fire, each with their own unique perspective. To expand our understanding of the Truth we need each individual, each child, to have the best understanding that they can have of what they see and have experienced. That means that they need to be constantly expanding their understanding of life – from their own perspective – continually developing their Wisdom, not just knowledge.

We, as the others sitting around the fire, rely on all the children to see life through their own eyes, to mesh the knowledge with their own experiences, with their own way of looking at life, with their own way of interpreting things. We need them to be able to share this Wisdom, their Wisdom, their unique perspectives with us, which then expands our Wisdom and our understandings of the Truth.

If we, on the other hand, force the children to see things our way, to interpret things the same way that we would, then we are robbing ourselves and robbing humanity of that one beautiful thread in the tapestry in life. The coat of many colours that Dolly Parton sings about would be a plain old blue coat. It may be better accepted by society, it may “fit in”, but we, as a whole, (and the child him/her self) have lost something as a result of the conformity.

Bringing this back to school settings in particular, perhaps if we can see projects and reports as strategies to help students make this knowledge-experience-contemplation connection and to help them share their perspective, their Wisdom, to make their contribution to the “Fire of Truth”, then perhaps … perhaps we can take the education system into a whole new level of effectiveness and purpose.

It isn’t about a grade, is it?!
* It’s about developing Wisdom and contributing to the greater good.
* We, as mentors, are empowering the participants of the circle.
* Our assessment of how well we do our jobs (and not of the child’s successes) is whether or not a child is able to make connections, develop Wisdom, and share their unique perspectives with others.
* We are building the cognitive skills, the communication skills and confidence to share.
* We are building the ability to listen to and respect every unique perspective regardless of who is sharing it and how the viewpoint fits with our own understanding of the Truth.

Imagine: at the end of a school day or time together after working on some project, everyone sits in a circle and shares their Wisdom, their perspective of the Truth. Everyone listens intently, adding the other viewpoints and insights to their own. And then everyone takes time to contemplate again, thinking about what the united perspectives means, what even greater Wisdom they have now.

This is my perspective. What is yours?
Fire of Truth - Uniting our Perspectives

Read Full Post »

“I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education.” – Malala Yousafzai

Wouldn’t it be lovely if this was the mentality of all of our children/students!

This morning I wrote about my perception of the elements of change: Awareness, Belief, Motivation, Skills, Self-Control and I focused on what this means to us as mentors and educators. Today I want to look at how it applies to our role with students.

Assuming that our goal is to empower children to seek knowledge (and wisdom) and to be actively engaged in their education, how do we make this happen?

Awareness: Children need to be aware of what education is all about and what their role is. They need to be aware that teachers and mentors are there to help them. And … (what else goes on this list?)

Belief: Children need to believe in the importance of education, of learning, of experimenting, of sharing information, of exploring possibilities, and of doing projects, etc. They need to believe that it is their responsibility to be active in the learning process. They need to believe that they need to seek out wise others, ask questions, ask for help/support as needed, and participate in order to change knowledge into Wisdom. They need to believe that they have a role to play in the bigger picture and the purpose in life is to give back, to contribute to society in some way and that education will help them achieve this.

Motivation: Children not only need to be motivated to become educated but they also need to learn how to be aware of their motivations, of the little voices that guide their choices. They need to see how an education will impact their lives, whether they become a teacher, a researcher, an artist, or a construction worker.

Skills: Children need the skills to be curious, to process information, to question, to integrate perspectives into their own, to challenge what they already know, to expand their horizons, to share their discoveries, and to use their knowledge and Wisdom to contribute to the Greater Good.

Self-Control: Children need to develop the self-awareness, the motivation, and the skills to make conscious choices, to choose the “right”, and to live true to their beliefs.

Our Role
Focusing on early childhood education, I believe the awareness and the beliefs begin in the preschool years. In our conversations with the young children, in our own actions, we are planting the seeds that say education is important and it is a resource for them to use, not something that is just forced upon them. Questions such as, “How do you think that works?” and “How do you think we can find out?” and “Who do you know that might have some answers?” and “What will you do with this information?” .. are all examples of how we can plant the seeds.

Throughout their educational years it is our job to continue painting this picture, planting the seeds, and empowering them to learn because they want to.

I believe that, as the wise others, it is also our job to help them learn how to be self-aware, how to identify the motivators that are guiding their decisions. We want them to be able to manage the thoughts behind the motivators and to choose the ones that best serve their visions, their dreams, and their goals.

To do this we need to be aware of the messages that we send out, both consciously and unconsciously. We need to ensure that we are being true to our intentions and our beliefs — empowering them, being a resource to them, and not reverting back to the old ways of power and control and seeing education as the goal rather than the tool.

What is it that we do that undermines our goals of empowerment? What can we do instead?

Read Full Post »

In my last blog I wrote about recognizing a child’s inner “self”, the unique style of processing information, the passions, the purpose in life – the Spiritual Self.

I talked about how important it is to start piecing together the information about the personality and skills of the child so that we can a) help the child become self-aware and b) know how to engage the child, how to teach to, speak with, motivate, inspire, and support him/her.

Every person, every child, has a purpose in life, a path to walk. We each come with different interests and natural talents. We are inspired by different things, we are inspiring in different ways. We contribute to the bigger picture in our own unique ways. Being true to this uniqueness makes us stronger, wiser, healthier, and more effective at whatever we do.

But this isn’t just about the children in our care. It is not just about teaching them how to achieve this lofty goal. It is also about how we, ourselves, do our job.

Are you aware of your special gifts and talents? Do you use them in the classroom? What are your interests and passions? Do you talk about these or introduce these to the students in your care?

There is a place for the wisdom of “fake it til you make it” but that should not be how we do everything in regards to teaching and nurturing children. When we bring our “selves” into the mix, when we are passionate, when we are speaking from the heart and from our Wisdom, we have a bigger impact with what we do.

Imagine teaching a subject that you have little interest in and little knowledge about. You can fake it; you can do the research to meet the requirements of the class…. Now, imagine teaching a subject that you love to talk about. Can’t you just feel the difference? This difference, this energy, will add to the class environment and increase the engagement of the children.

Now, imagine teaching in a style that is not in your comfort zone. How does that feel? How do your feelings impact the environment? And if you teach in a style that is your “fit”?

I am reminded of the times when I joined the team of parent/teacher supports and I had my first real experience at facilitating workshops. I wanted to be professional, I wanted to follow the other experts on the team, follow their styles, and pass on information to group participants.

But it felt like being a fish out of water. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t comfortable and my workshops, from my point of view, were “so so”. Then one day, I started letting my guard down and becoming more casual in my delivery. I felt so much better and my personal style started to develop or be set free. I started to “fly” as they say; my workshops became more powerful and the participants became more engaged in the conversations.

To give our children “the best mentors” we need to be our best and not the best “fake it til you make it”. We need to be the best individual “Spiritual Selves”. Remember the “Fire of Truth”? It takes all perspectives to see the fire in its entirety. As educators, we need to be bringing our own personal perspectives, our own styles, passions, and Wisdoms into the classrooms and to the children’s experiences.

As part of the Circle of mentors, it is our responsibility to share our perspective, to give our view, to be true to our selves, to teach in our own style, to add our “me” to the “we”.

What is your personal style? What are your interests, your passions, your personal talents? Are you bringing them into the classroom or, as a parent, into the home? How do you think this affects your impact on the lives of the children in your care?

Read Full Post »

As an Early Childhood Educator I was trained to program plan around the developmental areas of: Physical, Intellectual, Language, Emotional, and Social. (PILES for short.)

I hated PILES. I hated thinking about PILES every time I sat down to plan upcoming activities. I just kept seeing a physical dysfunction and pain from sitting. (In case you didn’t know, “piles” is a word used for haemorrhoids.)

Anyway, I decided that I wanted to make my own acronym, something much more inspiring. I decided on SPICE, you know, as in the “SPICE of Life”?? Cool, huh? In my SPICE I included the area of Creativity. I wanted this to be an important part of the skill development. I wanted children to be good at creative thinking as well as creative expression.

In recent years my personal journey has headed me down a spiritual path and into the world of the Native beliefs. The honouring of all things as Sacred, the respect for nature and the being in awe of all there is in our environment really felt right. I believe that it is these beliefs that are at the core of all religions and of everyone who is walking a good path. And I believe these core values should be nurtured in every child. Imagine a child being in awe of a cloud formation and getting that “high” from watching a ladybug unfold its wings. Imagine not needing to turn to drugs and alcohol to get a similar feeling.That’s what I want for our children.

And so my SPICE of life turned into SPICES of life.
S: social. I want children to have good social skills, to be able to resolve conflicts, to be empathetic and respectful. I want them to be able to function in our society in a healthy, happy, and productive manner. I want them to be able to challenge the social norms in a respectful manner. (etc)
P: physical. I want children to know how their muscles work, to know their limitations, and to use their muscles to their fullest. I want them to be able to be as mobile as possible, to be able to sit still, and to write with a pencil.
I: intellectual. I want children to be able to think. I want them to question, to be curious, and to analyze and compare. I want children to develop a complex vocabulary that they can use to express themselves, to tell stories, and to learn from others. I want them able to calculate math, to record and read the written language; I want them to understand nature and all its intricacies.
C: creativity. I want children to be “outside the box thinkers”. I want them to be able to brainstorm new ideas and solutions to problems. I want them to be creative in their creations, whether that is with painting a picture or building a fort.
E: emotional. I want them to be emotionally healthy and emotionally aware. I want them to be empathetic, self-aware, self-confident, assertive, and resilient. I want them to be able to cope with challenges, to be determined in achieving goals and overcoming barriers; I want them to be self-disciplined and motivated. I want them to feel “whole”, to have a balanced and fulfilling life.
S: spiritual. I want children to know right from wrong, to choose right over wrong even if they “want” to do the wrong. I want them to be aware of their place in the bigger picture. I want them to respect and treat all things as Sacred. I want them to be in awe of all things, inspired by all things, and open to learning from all things. I want them to know that they have a personal gift/talent and perspective of the world and that this contributes to the greater good and shouldn’t be hidden. I want them to know that all that they do should add to the greater good, that they should contribute rather than take. I want them to discover who they are and what their purpose is.

Today, after this week’s blogs, I see that this last component, spirituality, is at the hub rather than one of the spokes. I see that my original SPICE was right — the SPICE of LIFE — but at the centre of this, at the centre of all of the development is that last “s”, the spirituality, the core beliefs and truths.

As parents/educators/mentors in children’s lives, everything that we do “should” be aimed at achieving these goals in one way or another. It is important not to forget this, to not get caught up in the surface level of the goals and lose site of the core intentions.
The multiplication table is not about getting it right and getting an A+ for the achievement. It is about providing them with a tool to help them calculate in a quick and efficient manner so that they can create and communicate.
Writing a book report on “Alice in Wonderland” isn’t about the book report. It is about being able to look beyond the written word, to try and understand the messages of another person, to be able to put those messages into one’s own words and to mesh the story with one’s own story, one’s own perspective. It is about being a creative thinker and a good communicator and it is about taking one’s wisdom to another level.
Conflict resolution isn’t about ending a dispute so that you can carry on with your day. It is about listening to another person, truly listening, and respecting their perspectives and intentions. It is about bringing the perspectives together to get a fuller picture of the situation and to find solutions that would create a win/win situation in some way or perhaps develop the coping skills to deal with disappointment and the integrity to put someone else’s needs first.

When we can think from these core values, when we remember what our true intentions are, then we can use these beliefs and values to take education to a whole new level.

Working with clients I like to say that there are two components to a problem: the surface and what lies underneath. Talking about education in general, you have the surface level of math and literacy for example. But underneath the math lessons lies something even greater, something more powerful and more empowering: the core beliefs.

Read Full Post »