Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I appreciated all the comments from my last entry about teaching children not subjects. I do sympathize with the constant pressure for teachers to follow the standards, as I think they should. Our challenge is to organize learning experiences that meet the needs of the children and support each skill. I am a firm believer in looking at the core curriculum and creating a 'road map of skills' in the order that supports development and learning. It is like having a GPS system for the year. Each week when I did my lesson planning I looked at my road map to see which skills needed support. Then I chose activities that suited the group of children I had at the moment. In the early childhood years, you can adapt almost any activity to provide support for a certain skill. This kind of planning kept me on track with the core curriculum and it also helped me choose developmentally appropriate activities for the children in my class. I also read my class. If the group (or individual children) was restless or bored, I adjusted the activity. The test scores were high because the interest level was kept high. Children do learn more when engaged in the learning experience.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
We recently viewed a video by the creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson. (http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/66) In this video he told the story of the choreographer of "Cats" and other Broadway shows. As a child, she could not hold still in class and her parents were told she had a learning problem. Fortunately, her mother and doctor discovered that she did not have a disability, she was a dancer. A dancer who could not sit still all day in a desk. She was sent to a performing arts school and became very successful in her field. My Introduction to Teaching students tell me stories about their visits to classrooms where the teacher is so structured that there is no room for children with diverse learning styles. In these cases, I think the teacher is only concerned with covering the material, not with turning the light switch of learning on for each child. We can use excuses like class size and high-stakes testing all we want. The bottom line is to be a good teacher is to provide support for learning basic skills through the learning style of the child. It is not impossible, it is just not 'assembly-line' work with dittos. Teachers need to work smarter, not harder. We teach children, not standards.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
I know I am a couple of years behind, but I just read, "The Book Thief" by Marckus Zusak. The perils of Liesel and Max during the Nazi occupation reminded me of the Head Start classroom that I used to supervise at the homeless shelter. I don't work with truly at-risk children on a daily basis any longer. I sometimes forget that we have children living in cars, living in foster care until a parent 'gets on their feet,' going to school or bed without food, etc. My heart always breaks for the children. They have no control over their circumstances and they live not knowing what tomorrow might bring. I worry that the current economy might leave more children in heartbreaking situations. I babysat three grandchildren yesterday. It hurts me that all children don't have the same safety, love and security that they enjoy. I wish I had a magic wand...