Fun at Disneyland

Fun at Disneyland

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Turning Education on it's big fat head!

Consider, finally, the case of education. Seymour Papert, known for his work on artificial intelligence, began one of his books by inviting us to imagine a group of surgeons and a group of teachers, both from a century ago, who are magically transported to the present day.
The surgeons visit a modern operating room and struggle to understand what’s going on, but the teachers feel right at home in today’s schools. Kids, they discover, are still segregated by age in rows of classrooms; are still made to sit passively and listen (or practice skills) most of the time; are still tested and graded, rewarded or punished; still set against one another in contests and deprived of any real say about what they’re doing.
Those tempted to point defensively to updates in the delivery system only end up underscoring how education is still about delivering knowledge to empty receptacles. In fact, snazzier technology -- say, posting grades or homework assignments on-line -- mostly serves to distract us from rethinking the pedagogy. Interactive whiteboards in classrooms amount to a 21st-century veneer on old-fashioned, teacher-centered instruction.
Even before the implementation of what should be called the Many Children Left Behind Act, states and school districts were busy standardizing curricula, imposing more and more tests, and using an array of rewards and punishments to pressure teachers and students to fall in line -- with the most extreme version of this effort reserved for the inner cities.
Here’s what would be new: Questioning all the stuff that Papert’s early-20th-century visitors would immediately recognize: a regimen of memorizing facts and practicing skills that features lectures, worksheets, quizzes, report cards, and homework.
(Above by Alphie Kohn)
Instead school’s would best educate their students and prepare them for the future using a constructivist approach to learning. These are the five central tenets of constructivism –

  • First, constructivist teachers seek and value students' points of view. Knowing what students think about concepts helps teachers formulate classroom lessons and differentiate instruction on the basis of students' needs and interests.
  • Second, constructivist teachers structure lessons to challenge students' suppositions. All students, whether they are 6 or 16 or 60, come to the classroom with life experiences that shape their views about how their worlds work. When educators permit students to construct knowledge that challenges their current suppositions, learning occurs. Only through asking students what they think they know and why they think they know it are we and they able to confront their suppositions.
  • Third, constructivist teachers recognize that students must attach relevance to the curriculum. As students see relevance in their daily activities, their interest in learning grows.
  • Fourth, constructivist teachers structure lessons around big ideas, not small bits of information. Exposing students to wholes first helps them determine the relevant parts as they refine their understandings of the wholes.
  • Finally, constructivist teachers assess student learning in the context of daily classroom investigations, not as separate events. Students demonstrate their knowledge every day in a variety of ways. Defining understanding as only that which is capable of being measured by paper-and-pencil assessments administered under strict security perpetuates false and counterproductive myths about academia, intelligence, creativity, accountability, and knowledge.

And this….this is what the school I am trying to get the boys into is all about. I want it so bad I can taste it. Please, fate of the universe, Gods, Goddesses, All the powers that be in the universe…..Please let both of my children to get into this amazing school.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Kids (and I) are Alright!

Geez. After my last post, I probably left my readers a bit concerned! I'm still here. Just busy and trying to focus on the positive.

We took younger son, James off the stimulants as well. He had lost 9 pounds in a mere 3 months! So we put him on the Intuniv too. He really did well with it, just the starting dose of 1 mg worked great for him at school, so that's where we kept the dose. School is saying he's still doing really well. Only slight issue is that he's tired in the afternoon, but his teacher is really great about it and just kinda meets him where he's at.

At home, we're continuing to have a real problem with the whining and crying over every little frustration and disappointment. The fact that he does not do it at school tells me he must have control over this, so we're working really hard at it; Ignoring him (the old "I can't hear you when you're talking like that") and reminding him that he's working on using his words. Honestly, I'm not seeing any results with that. It's frustrating and frankly, annoying.

I think it's really difficult for him in that he really struggles at school. Academically, he is average, but fine motor skills are such a challenge for him that I believe it takes a lot out of him to complete all the schoolwork and then come home and do homework. He's just done. They do so many work sheets at that school. It's ridiculous.

I am trying to get both boys into a new charter school in the next town over. They have a "whole child" approach and much more hands-on learning. I believe that would help both Blake and James. I don't think most schools are teaching kids the way they learn best. Children should develop a love of learning, so that they'll want to be life-long learners. They should have a personal investment in their learning.

In today's society, with all of our technological developments, kids no longer need to be "filled up with facts". They need to learn how to learn. How to think critically. How to question, investigate, test theories, collaborate and connect to their world.

I am very excited about this school and am hoping with all my heart that both boys can attend next year. The even better news is that it goes all the way up to the 8th grade!

Blake is doing pretty good. He's gained about 8 pounds and looks truly healthy. He's still oppositional much of the time, but the frequency and intensity of his violent tantrums have decreased probably about 75%. I'll definitely take that.

So, we're hanging in there. I'm still slightly in "catch my breath" mode, but I'm content. My kids are alright for right now. My marriage is good. I'm getting healthy again by exercising and eating right and I have hope for the future.

Life is OK and I'm good with OK!