My teaching bag of tricks is full of stories, lots of stories— biographies that are a window into history, stories to teach the alphabet, stories that break down the complexity of a math process and metaphoric stories such as parables and fables that spark thinking.
My students are used to stories that take them on a journey that appears to bring them far away from our main theme, into a tale that is not so much a segue as a secret route to the heart of the topic.
Stories can be especially effective when students are stuck, when a concept is difficult or complex, when the kids just don’t get it. At this moment in our culture we are collectively stuck when it comes to making decisions about the future of education. My perspective as a teacher is that most people just don’t get why standards and testing wastes the talent, inspiration and joy that our nations teachers are ready and able to bring to children while teaching them well. Continue reading
Some of these things could end up being a service to young people, if only someone would just tell them. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
To maintain order in the classroom — and to keep their jobs — there are some things teachers just can’t tell their students, even if they want to, but some of these things, while perhaps controversial, could end up being a service to young people, if only someone would just tell them. Continue reading
College Professor’s Epic Class Introduction Went Viral
Originally published in August of 2015 – but well worth the read. ~ J.B.
Author’s Note: The following column is comprised of excerpts taken from my first lectures on the first day of classes this semester at UNC-Wilmington. I reproduced these remarks with the hope that they would be useful to other professors teaching at public universities all across America. Feel free to use this material if you already have tenure. Continue reading
I followed his astounded gaze back to the high window ledge. The pod had burst wide open into a cumulous, pulsating mass. The slight breeze from the other window tickled the fluff, coaxing bits of down into the air. Suddenly the room was clouded with milkweed down.
Then something happened, something that would happen again and again over my six years with my class, something of gigantic importance, yet imperceptible…. It was a simple, silent shift in the manner of the class prompted by a decision on my part to step back and allow the children to lead the way. I made no pronouncement. My turning the reins over to the class was a silent passing of leadership. Continue reading
Reesa was lost in golden October. Shining maple trees bridged the concrete walk down the gentle hill. Brown-gold fallen leaves carpeted the hillside. Bright gold leaves floated toward this mottled carpet where, upon landing, they glittered like brilliant stars.
Alone in this golden splendor, Reesa seemed unaware that she should be with her classmates. Tall, slender, and light on her feet, she danced gleefully from falling leaf to falling leaf, catching a dazzling yellow bouquet of falling stars.
I was tempted to open the door and call out to Reesa. I knew I had only seconds before I must return to the classroom or risk disruption. But I didn’t call out. I wanted Reesa to learn to line up with the class. But I also wanted her to have this sacred moment. I made one of the one thousand judgment calls a teacher in a wonder-centered school makes each day. I just waited.
I recently picked up Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for the first time. Finding the plot rather amusing, I began relaying it to my father over the weekend. Because he had never read the book, I was rather surprised when he began asking informed questions about the story. In no time at all, he was the one schooling me on plot elements I had not yet reached.
“Wait a minute,” I asked. “Are you sure you’ve never read this book?”
“No, never have,” he replied, “but I saw a cartoon version of the story when I was younger and everything I know comes from that.”
Here is a great lesson here that the students at Little Rock High School will never forget. I would presume also that most students would never have given this a thought.
In September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a History teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock , did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks in her classroom.
When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.
‘Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?’
She replied, ‘You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.’ Continue reading
You can’t put wonder in your lesson plan any more than you could plan for a sunny sky. But, while the weather is totally beyond our control, you can put out solar panels to catch the sun when it shines and teachers and parents can, similarly, prepare to catch wonder when it happens.
We can create habits in our classes so they know instinctively when we have pulled back to allow them to express their fascination. We can give unplanned time for student questions when they arise, can listen for the turn of conversation or the moment on a field trip where a child stops and looks with wide-eyed awe. Parents too can postpone bed time or mowing the lawn when they notice that one of those moments is arriving unexpectedly.
My book, A Gift of Wonder, A True Story About School As It Should Be is about those moments. You can pre-order your copy through by clicking HERE and choosing the secret perk at the top of the page. This is a special offer for readers of the Growing Children blog. Continue reading
“Dreams are extremely important. You can’t do it unless you can imagine it.” ~ George Lucas
Let’s dream about public schools of the future where children are motivated by wonder, curiosity and compassion rather than the wish to do well on tests. My book, A Gift of Wonder, A True Story Showing School As It Should Be, is both a true story about a school that works and a window into the future of education.
(Click here to order your copy of A Gift of Wonder)
Kim Allsup ~ June 14, 2017
A note from the publisher of Metropolis Café.
The short two paragraphs which you are about to read – I sincerely hope that you will make a commitment – for your children, your grandchildren and for the future direction of the Republic in which we live. What Kim Allsup presents – IS the ANSWER to the problems which we all share in this nation. As one who served our Nation in the military both in Europe and Viet Nam, and one who has continued to serve for nearly two decades on-the-air – I implore you to make a pledge and contribution to this amazingly worthwhile project. I will be doing so as well.
Thank you for your consideration in assisting Kim Allsup with this important project.
~ Jeffrey Bennett
It is said that when you write a commentary or column, you should write in such a manner that ALL can understand the point(s) you are endeavoring to make. Well…I am not a journalist, nor have I slept at a Holiday Inn recently so as to play one. I am certain that what follows will not be understood by any reader under the age of 58. For readers from 60 years and above, not only will you immediately grasp the following language, but you will also have come flooding back to memories the place and situation most likely you heard the following prose. Smiles will ensue, maybe some tears of sweet memory, maybe even some contemplation after all these years when such profound statements of life were first uttered, and probably not in a moment of intellectual insight, but rather a moment of life as you knew it at that moment being at a crossroads! Continue reading
Digging through the trash barrel, item by item by porch light, searching for the missing leg, I realized that a miserable, crying child can motivate a parent to do almost anything. A leg had had broken off my daughter Nora’s little figurine, a toy policeman carried from a foreign land by a big brother for the little sister who was now inconsolable because it had been dropped and broken and its leg could not be found. Anywhere.
Then, mid-trash barrel, a memory came to my mind. The now one-legged doll sparked a memory, an image of Joe, the husband of my childhood ballet teacher, with his crutches and his neatly rolled and pinned pants leg hanging loosely where his knee and lower leg had been before he had gone to war. Continue reading
Litchfield Park, Arizona Food Service director named Nutrition Hero
DAVID SCHWAKE, left, Food Services director for the Litchfield Elementary School District, checks on cabbage growth Feb. 7 with the help of kindergartners Kaylee Arthur and Colton Carter at Litchfield Elementary in Litchfield Park. Schwake has been with the district for 19 years and was recently recognized as a School Nutrition Hero. View photo by Jordan Christopher
When you imagine a hero, most likely capes and laser vision come to mind, but you probably don’t picture someone who feeds pupils in public schools.
David Schwake, Litchfield Elementary School District’s Food Service director since 1994, was named a 2017 School Nutrition Hero by the national nonprofit School Nutrition Foundation.
“I didn’t cry. I didn’t get real emotional, but my wife did,” Schwake said. “I was pleasantly shocked. I don’t think what I do is anything special; I just think I do what every food service director should do.”
Schwake was nominated by the school district and chosen by SNF for providing healthy menus and environments for pupils, volunteering at local organizations and food banks, creating effective school initiatives that teach children nutrition and helping the community at large. Continue reading
January 22, 2009 – The new economy is awash in contradictions, but few are more troubling than this one: At the very moment that brainpower is more important than ever, education seems more backward than ever. We have a new economy but outdated schools.
Out of this disconnect has emerged a quiet grassroots rebellion aimed at reinventing both the form and the function of American education. Charter schools – publicly funded startup schools that operate mostly free of regulation – have boomed. In 1992, there was one charter school in the United States. Today, there are more than 2,000. The fastest-growing education movement is homeschooling. Today, roughly 1.5 million children learn at home. Just as Internet startups and free agents rattled big business, charter schools and homeschooling are shaking up “big schoolhouse.”
Five-year-old children need play, not pressure. Then, at six and seven, they need learning infused with joy, wonder, movement, colors, music, and satisfying work that makes real things. Adults who learned this way thrive. They are in no way behind those who faced pressure. So, why? Why do governments (this is not the teachers’ idea) pressure little children to learn according to a tight, unrealistic schedule? My story about teaching without pressure will be published this year. A Gift of Wonder, A True Story About School As It Could Be, invites readers into our classroom as my students and I travel through grades one through six. Please plan to join us to experience education that is uplifting. Sign up to follow Growing Children to receive a notification when A Gift of Wonder is published. Continue reading
For the body and the mind – THIS is growth!
A few years ago the children at our school grew, harvested and, ultimately, ate a giant, two-pound carrot.
Our organic gardening program at the Waldorf School of Cape Cod has come a long way since then. We now have a unheated Sunhouse and a program where middle school gardeners lead first through fifth graders as they learn to build soil, plant, transplant, tend, water and harvest food year round. Our harvests are transformed by our school chef into amazing meals served at lunch. Continue reading