The reading this week definitely gave pause for reflection. Parker Palmer said, “We are not fully human until we recognize what we know and take responsibility for it.” Turning our head or doing things just because it’s part of the job or not part of our job are not acceptable excuses for not taking a human stand when necessary. Palmer also said we are “in but not of” the institutions. Dan Edelstein wrote about a liberal education that promotes “independently minded individuals” and Dr. Sonia Henry wrote about medical students losing their empathy. The writings reminded me to do the right thing, the human thing, and what I would want someone to do for me or my children. I could share and say academic things that relate to this, but instead I’ll share a story about basic human needs.
If you have a weak stomach or you are eating, don’t read the rest of this blog. Not too long ago, I walked into the office to the most putrid smell I have ever smelled. It filled the entire office to the point where I thought I would vomit. When I asked my secretary what happened, she motioned to a little boy and said mom was on her way (she lives about 5 minutes from the school). The kindergarten boy had an explosion…the kind where there was brown up and down the back, coming out the socks and shoes, and everywhere in between. The mother had given the child a laxative and it hit him while he was on the bus riding to school. We always have spare clothes for kids who have accidents and the staff is happy to help out, but this was going to require a shower. When nobody showed up, I looked at my Assistant Principal and said get a bag and off we went to the nurse’s office loaded with wipes, clean clothes, and a little boy who needed somebody to the right thing. I told him I had a little boy once and that it was ok to have an accident. I cleaned him up from chest to toe and handed the soiled wipes to my AP while she held the bag. I told her that sometimes you have to override the decisions of others and do what is right for the child. Some people were willing to let that little one sit there until mom arrived (which didn’t happen until 40 minutes later). When I brought him back to my office all cleaned up, I asked him if he felt better. He didn’t say a word, he just walked over and gave me a big hug. As the principal of an elementary school, I can definitely say my most important job that day was to do the human thing and clean some poop. I told my AP that the lesson of the day was, we don’t let kids sit in sh!t.
I love the timing of this week’s blog readings. My faculty meeting on 3-6-19 centered on incorporating inclusive pedagogy to reach our students of color. My faculty is mostly white ( I would love some diversity and I have personally tried to recruit teachers of color – this is my 2nd year at this school and there has been little turnover). Our central office is also advocating for a more diverse group of educators as evidenced by an email stating this just last week. I believe the first step in advancing inclusive pedagogy is to be self-aware as educators and this is what my meeting focused on. In the Hidden Brain article, the author talks about the unconscious message we give to children. Awareness is needed so we avoid this. I’ve always been a believer in heterogenous groups and the research supports this type of grouping. I was surprised about how MUCH of a difference a diverse group makes. The statistic of $42 million increase in firm value related to female presence says it all. Another article we read related having a sense of belonging to improve academic success. As an educator, I definitely want all students to feel like they belong. For my meeting, I presented the need and benefits of inclusivity, discussed strategies I had researched, and shared videos from some experts on the topic. I also reached out to a principal of color to get her advice. She was positive about my plans and gave me some additional resources. My staff was engaged during the meeting and receptive to the strategies. My next step is to invite some guest speakers in to gain their insight. I also plan on reaching out to a parent of color who has been an excellent role model for his son. Here’s some of the items I shared with my staff: Subgroup Focus: Strategies for teaching black students:
The Right Mindset – believe in their ability to learn.
Positive Racial Identity – books, video clips, people who have contributed
While reading the piece by Ellen Langer, I immediately thought of how we traditionally have students pick the “one” right answer and how there is only one answer that can be correct out of the 5 choices on a multiple choice test. Given the “paradigm” shift referenced in the writing and the renewed emphasis on critical thinking, the Virginia State Standards of Learning tests have been changed to include Technology Enhanced Items, also known as TEI questions. Students now have questions where they must choose more than one answer, drag and drop selections to a chart, and fill in a Venn Diagram, to name a few. Although some students may struggle with these items which may in turn result in a lower passing percentage for the school, we should appreciate these items that are helping students to use higher order thinking skills to think critically. Most importantly, it reinforces the idea that there can be more than one solution to a problem. Developing this mindset in elementary school will help students apply problem solving skills to real world problems throughout their school career and later in life. A Langer quote that resonated with me was “what we teach” may be less important than “how we teach.” Students can google the content teachers are presenting and some of that content actually changes over time with new discoveries and different perspectives. This week I observed a 4th grade classroom learning about weather. The students viewed the “real” forecast on a big screen, looked at clouds outside, and then worked with partners to collaborate on a Kahoot game on weather related questions. The students were having a blast while incorporating some 21st Century learning skills. Allowing autonomy in the classroom so teachers can be in charge of the “how we teach” part will benefit the students (as long as they have outstanding teachers). I can appreciate many things Sir Ken Robinson had to say in the video we viewed in class. I also decided to watch some of his other videos and found them to be worth the time. This is how you escape Death Valley:
You let children do what they do naturally, solve problems and create!
My favorite quote from the readings and Podcast came from Michael Wesch: “Real learning is about the questions you leave with.” I loved his comparison of learning with the baby attempting to navigate the stairs. Learning should be fun and not punitive. In my opinion, the punitive side is what turns individuals away. I wonder what would happen if parents made learning to walk punitive? That’s a scary thought! Most parents celebrate every attempt with the “A” praise level which in turn encourages the baby to keep trying. My husband often tells our college-age twin daughters that college is where you learn to teach yourself. If they leave with questions after a course lecture, I hope they are seeking out the answers for themselves. With the power of digital learning, they most certainly have access to answers for most any question they have. On twitter – yes – I’m on there, although I do not use it nearly enough. Right now I blame that on my full time job and full-time student status. I do love the ideas I get from other professionals in my field. I also love the PR potential for my school. We just started a school Twitter last year, so we are slowly, but surely getting there. This digital platform definitely promotes communication with the parents and school community. On blogging – I love this for students. This is a wonderful platform for authentic student voice. When students know they have real readers, they also seem to put a little more effort into it. Blogging can also serve the purpose of therapy. Some people just need to get their thoughts “off their chest” to receive the joy of being heard. Others can gain new perspectives or think about life or learning in a different way.