Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. If you don’t give a child food, the damage quickly becomes visible. If you don’t let a child have fresh air and play, the damage is also visible, but not so quickly. If you don’t give a child love, the damage might not be seen for some years, but it’s permanent.
But if you don’t give a child art and stories and poems and music, the damage is not so easy to see. It’s there, though. Their bodies are healthy enough; they can run and jump and swim and eat hungrily and make lots of noise, as children have always done, but something is missing. Continue reading
“You can tell a Benchmark kid. They love their country – they know why it’s special.” I asked Carole Challoner, one of the founders of this public charter school in Phoenix, how she teaches patriotism to her elementary students. The teachers do it by inspiring the kids with opportunities for gratitude, service, and patriotism. Carole explained how Benchmark does it in ten easy steps. Continue reading
Do you remember sentence-diagramming in school? I do. It was the onerous process of breaking apart individual sentences into their component parts and identifying those parts, like the subject, the verb, the modifiers, and so on.
By the time sentence-diagramming was introduced in elementary school, I had learned how to play the game of school. I had learned that obedience, memorization, and regurgitation of exactly what the teacher wants is the key to school success. I played it well. Looking back, and witnessing how my own unschooled children learn how to write, I realize how arbitrary and artificial learning in school was. Continue reading
Recently, I was asked whether I had written any stories appropriate for the second grade block in a Waldorf school or homeschool that features tales about exemplary people. I wrote this story and told it before the November festival of Martinmas which is a time when the year turns toward outer darkness and we are reminded of the importance of sharing the inner light of compassion. This story could be told, however, at any time of year. In fact, as I add this to the Growing Children blog in 2018, we have just experienced a great March Storm here on Cape Cod complete with 90 mile an hour winds and high seas that poured into our seaside villages. It is at such difficult times that we can be inspired by the best in people. ~ Kim
Waldkindergartens, an all-outdoor kindergarten in Switzerland/Rona RIchter
For the typical American kindergartner, unstructured free play during the school day consists of 20 to 30 minutes of recess, and perhaps some time at indoor “stations” — perhaps creating with building blocks, costumes, or musical instruments. But what if there was more? What if the answer to “what did you do in school today?” was, “I climbed a tree, played in the mud, built a fire”?
That is exactly the kind of learning going on in the Swiss Waldkindergartens, or forest kindergartens, where children ages four to seven spend all of their school days playing outdoors, no matter the weather. With no explicit math or literacy taught until first grade, the Swiss have no set goals for kindergartners beyond a few measurements, like using scissors and writing one’s own name. They instead have chosen to focus on the social interaction and emotional well-being found in free play. Continue reading
Does photosynthesis work the same in underwater plants as land plants?
This perceptive query about photosynthesis asked in a fifth grade botany class led to one of those moments when curiosity electrified our classroom. When I admitted I didn’t know the answer yet, my students gave me an assignment.
“Will you find out and tell us?” Continue reading
There are days in this insane world when one is completely uplifted with the gift of life. This marvelous teacher will be a beacon of light across the years for her students. She will be remembered. ~ Ed.
It’s the second year in a row I’ve brought a white dress to school and my students have filled it with their artwork. This is one of my favorite things to do in my class! #thewearyteacher
This is something I’d seen on Pinterest a few years ago and I fell in love with the idea. I think every teacher should do this! It’s a great project and an even better keepsake.
“It was as if my long-term students and I were taking a long journey by ship and it was my fault that, in the parlance of the controversial education law, William was being left behind.”
Eugène Delacroix: Demosthenes Declaiming by the Seashore
A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born. ~ Antione de Saint-Exupery
Chapter 21 ~ Awakening
I couldn’t help smiling as I watched my new student, twelve-year-old William, running laps around the school field, one hand clutching his baggy pants to keep them from slipping inexorably toward his feet. This ten minute run was the energetic beginning of the two-hour class we called main lesson.
In spite of his trim, athletic physique, William ran in a lopsided and lackadaisical manner that, together with his ridiculously low-slung pants, had initially led me toward the admittedly judgmental conclusion that William’s sloppiness in appearance probably meant carelessness in his character. But, I reassessed my initial impression after talking with his mother who revealed surprising details about William’s morning ablutions and his painstaking selection of jeans and tee shirts. Continue reading
What if there were a better way to do early childhood education?
It’s a common complaint among teachers as well as parents in the U.S. these days: kindergarten has become the new first grade and the unintended casualty of that is preschool, which has consequently become the new kindergarten. Many early childhood experts consider physical activity and unstructured play the two main pillars for learning and a healthy development for preschoolers. Both are often lacking at American preschools, where play is typically directed by the adults and the students are more likely to be found cooped up indoors, filling out worksheets and tracing letters. Not to mention kindergarten, where students are expected to sit still at their desks for the majority of the day. Continue reading
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