Teach Teachers How To Create Magic – Christopher Emdin

How important is the ‘act’ of teaching? No, not those theories of ‘pedagogical practices’ – sometimes ridiculously called ‘best practice’, as though such a thing exists. I’m talking about the ‘performance’; The ‘preacher -in-a-“black-church”’ type performance that truly engages.

This TED Talk by Christopher Emdin struck a chord with me. Like Emdin says, I set out to “be an educator, change lives, and spark magic” and every day I come home exhausted. I feel like an actor that’s been performing a 6 ½ hour show. If there’s every a day when the bell goes at 3:30 and I still have a whiff of energy left in me, I feel as though I didn’t try hard enough – that I didn’t push myself to create that ‘magic’.

Yes, of course, learning tasks should be engaging, content should be relevant to the students, learning should be student-centred, yes, yes, yes, blah, blah, blah. But all of that – the best theory, the best content, the best practice (scoff!) – in the hands of an educator whom lacks that X-factor, will never spark magic.

“So why does teacher education only give you theory and theory, and tell you about standards and tell you about all these things that have nothing to do with the basic skills, that magic that you need to engage and audience, to engage a student?” (Emdin, 2013). Spare a thought for the “aspiring teacher in a graduate school of education, who’s watching a professor babble on and on about engagement in the most disengaging way possible” (Emdin, 2013).

So what makes a great teacher so great?

Teachling<WordPress> < Twitter>

How do journos really feel about Aussie teachers?

A journalist’s take on why teachers are all incompetent, whinging drop-outs that are ruining kids’ lives…

This article claims that, despite increased spending on education in Australia, standards continue to slip. Fortunately for the future of Australia, the article also has the answers! The ‘those that can, do, and those that can’t, teach’ saying is true of Australian teachers: A group of “academic failures… coming from a substandard poor of graduates who themselves struggled at school”. Perhaps “uninterested, incompetent or jaded”, “teachers pass on their own academic deficiencies to their students” and believe they’re “somehow above scrutiny and assessment”. With their “persistent whinging and striking”, teachers can be “a destructive force who can inflict significant damage to a child’s long-term learning outcomes”.

I feel the title “Teaching Should Not Be A Last Resort As A Career Choice”, for Rita Panahi’s column in the Herald Sun this week (yes, I read the Herald Sun now and then over coffee at my local café – don’t judge me!), is a tad misleading and didn’t accurately capture the tone of the article. Perhaps “Why Teachers Are All Incompetent, Whinging Drop-Outs That Are Ruining Kids’ Lives” was Panahi’s first choice but was deemed too polarising by her editors?

Teachers receive a lot of criticism. But hey, scrutiny is fine. Being held accountable is fine. We are entrusted with an extremely important task – Improving the life-chances of children, by facilitating their academic, social, emotional and behavioural development. Yep, pretty important, and of course, we only want the very best for that task! However, there do seem to be awful lot of teacher-haters out there. From politicians, journalists, parents and the wider community, teachers cop a hiding. We do need thick skins, particularly when hearing or reading unnecessarily spiteful and thoroughly ill-informed opinions. Remember, Rita Panahi, teachers are people too… Unlike journalists – Kidding!

While I agree with Panahi’s suggestion of “weeding out the chronic underperformers” and that “teaching should be a profession that is held in the highest esteem, not a last resort option for those who can’t gain entry into any other course”, I can’t help but feel a bit knocked around by her article. Did any other teachers feel attacked?

Teachling<WordPress> < Twitter>

More from Teachling:
A primary teacher’s take on education blogs…
A teacher’s take on parent-teacher relationships…
A teacher’s take on respecting teachers, pt2…
A teacher’s take on respecting teachers, pt1… 

Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.2

A teacher’s take on how you can help your child succeed…

Click to read Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.1, Tips 1–5.

No. 6. “Know Your Child’s ‘Down time’”
Here, Andrew Fuller isn’t referring to that relaxing ‘down time’ we have when we’re surrounded by candles, having a bath with a glass of vino. He’s talking of the time at which you don’t learn new information as well as you do at other times. “As a rough guide, think of the time they go to sleep, then think of the time they usually wake up, calculate the midpoint of their sleep, add twelve hours and around that time is their “down time”. For example, if your child sleeps from 9.30 pm to 7 am, the midpoint of their sleep is 2.00 am. Adding twelve hours takes us to 2.00 pm”. 2.00 pm therefore, is the time at which that child’s brain is in ‘downtime’, switching off and least likely to be primed for quality learning. This is the perfect time to engage in hands on activities, play, relaxation, crafts, sport and other activities that are less taxing on the ‘academic’ parts of the brain.

No. 7 “Eat a good breakfast”
“If your Mum ever said have fish or eggs for breakfast because it’s brain food, she was right! As long as it’s medically safe to do so, a breakfast that is high in protein (think cheese, milk, bacon, eggs) and lower in carbohydrates (think cereal, orange juice and toast) promotes concentration and learning. Also encourage your child to drink lots of water- the brain runs on it! Students who don’t eat breakfast are not only more likely to gain weight; they will also have to work harder than others to do well at school.” Ew, fish for breakfast. I think parents can exercise common sense here. Obviously, Coco Pops every day for breakfast – although delish! – are not the best choice. Or worse, no breakfast at all. Give your child the right fuel!

No. 7 “Use Music”
“There is a growing evidence to suggest that playing instrumental music softly in the background enhances learning.” Avoid music that’s likely to be distracting, such as pop songs that they’ll want to just sing along to, instead of knuckling in to their homework!

No. 8 “Use aromas”
“Most people have had the experience of smelling a particular aroma and having a series of memories flood back. Partly this is because your olfactory nerve is directly linked to the hippocampus, which is the part of your brain where memories are integrated. The aromas most often associated with improvements in concentration and memory are lemon, basil and rosemary.”

No. 9 “Monitor their use of video and computer games”
“Video games are incredibly popular and give a sense of great mastery, challenge and involvement. Boys particularly use video games in a social way. It is important to realise that the use of video and computer games is not completely passive. Too much playing of these games can be negative. These games can be so compelling they become addictive. While some games require quite intricate problem solving, the skills learned on these games do not appear to readily transfer into other arenas of life. Very few of the games require creative problem solving or an opportunity to be an active participant in determining a story line. Some exposure to computer games is good. Too much, though, can be toxic. Sadly, there is no research that tells us what the right amount of time spent of computer games should be so you’ll need to think about the balance of your child’s life and their range of activities and interests.” Treat TV similarly.

No. 10. “Help them to build the essentials skills for success”
“Three of the skills needed for success at school (and in most areas of life) are concentration, memory and sequencing or getting things in the right order. The games that parents play with their children such as Snap, Uno, Concentration, Battleships, Monopoly, Chess, Jigsaw puzzles all play an incredibly important role in developing these skills of success. Computer versions of these games are not as effective in helping children develop these skills. To really help your child to succeed at school every so often switch off the TV, unplug the computer and pull out a game.”

No. 11. “Limit the amount of part-time work”
“Senior secondary students should not work more than ten hours a week at a part-time job. If they do so, there is clear evidence that their marks will suffer.”

Download the summary at http://www.andrewfuller.com.au/free/AndrewFullersHandyHints.pdf, extracted from Andrew Fuller’s “Help Your Child Succeed At School”.

Also read this post I reblogged, about What NOT To Do If You Want Your Child To Succeed, based on the article The Overprotected Kid.

What other Handy Hints for improving learning at home do you know of? Please share them in the comments section below!

Teachling<WordPress> < Twitter>

6 Things Overprotective Parents Do Wrong

Parenting 101: What NOT to do, if you want your child to succeed…

TIME

Anyone who’s ever been to a school science fair and seen the elaborate projects that obviously weren’t conceived by a child’s brain knows that parents are more involved than ever. New research shows that some surprisingly common things parents do to help their children succeed might not be doing their kids much good. And according to a new cover story by Hanna Rosin for TheAtlantic, the overprotective instincts of modern parents are destroying children’s independence, trapping them in a hyper-controlled bubble that they might never escape. (This behavior is not doing parents much good either; one study indicates that helicopter mothers are more likely to be unhappy.)

Here are six things mothers and fathers do that seem like responsible parenting, but might not be so great for some children after all:

1) Limiting Risk-Taking (Makes Your Kid a Scaredy-Cat): Rosin cites research out of Norway that…

View original post 446 more words

Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.1

A teacher’s take on how you can help your child succeed…

It’s Parenting 101. Limiting TV time, making sure your child gets plenty of sleep and helping them set up a designated learning space. Yes, it’s common sense. But hey, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.

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It goes without saying that a school isn’t the only place learning occurs. You’ve previously heard my thoughts on why I’m not fond of homeworkand that I think kids should get more opportunities to play and just be kids, but alas, parents are always asking me what they can do, to help their child’s learning. It’s actually a question I love to hear as it demonstrates a parent’s understanding that learning is a partnership between home and school; child, family and teacher. Naturally, different children need extra help with different academic areas, but this list – based on Andrew Fuller’s “Help Your Child Succeed At School” – outlines the basics.

  1. Most Learning Doesn’t Happen At School!
    “Children spend only 15% of their time at school. They spend more time asleep (33%) than they do at school. Most of their time (52%) is at home, awake, mucking around, playing, and learning about life and it’s what they do with that time that is important.” Remember that you play a much great role in your child’s education than their teacher.
  2. The Learning Space – Getting Organised
    Work with your child to create a dedicated space where they can do homework, projects and read. As you know from their bedroom, kids have trouble keeping things neat and tidy! They’ll need help with this initially, but you can help them figure out ways of keeping their stationary in order, the workspace clear and clutter free.
  1. The Learning Space – Lighting
    “Natural or indirect lighting such as a desk lamp is best for learning. It is best for your child not to study under fluorescent lighting as it is related to raised cortisol levels in the blood stream (an indicator of anxiety and agitation). Cortisol also suppresses language functions.”
  1. Limit TV/ Computer/ iPad Time, Of course!
    Don’t make them go cold turkey. An hour and a half per day is plenty. That’s not to say they should be doing ‘homework’ for the rest of the time: Arts, crafts, playing outside, listening to and making music, socialising, relaxing, family time, the list goes on. Oh, and keep electronics out of the bedroom and away from their ‘learning space’.
  2. Plenty Of Sleep!
    “A good nights sleep (at least 8 hours) is essential for optimal brain functioning at school. Memory consolidation occurs during sleep especially during dream (or REM) sleep. During the normal 8-9 hours of sleep, five dream (REM) cycles occur. Adolescents getting only 5-6 hours of sleep lose out on the last two REM cycles and thereby reduce the amount of time the brain has to consolidate information.Teenagers need as much sleep as children, partly because their brains are doing so much development. Always remember there is no such thing as a sleep bank. So just because you slept 10 hours one night doesn’t mean you can get away with only sleeping six hours the next night. Students who don’t get enough sleep have to work much harder to do well at school.”

 Follow https://teachling.wordpress.com/  to read Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.2.

Teachling<WordPress> < Twitter>

Download the full summary of Andrew Fuller’s version at http://www.andrewfuller.com.au/free/AndrewFullersHandyHints.pdf.

Image sourced from here

Discussion: Should we fine parents who holiday during term time?

I previously wrote about the impact on students that are regularly late to school (https://teachling.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/ding-ding-ding-why-are-half-my-students-still-not-here/). I just found this great post about families that take holidays during the school term. What do you think?

Secret Teacher

In September 2013 a new rule came into effect which prevented schools from granting pupils time off school, except for in ‘exceptional circumstances’. As such, parents who make the decision to remove their children from school to take them on holiday are doing so in a manner inconsistent with the law of the land and risk a penalty. Previously pupils could have been granted up to ten days leave without ramifications; however that is no longer the case. As a result, the number of parents being fined for taking term time holidays has increased by over 70%. Surely, this seems resonable. You break the law, you get fined.

That is, of course, until you consider why parents choose to take holidays during term times. Of course there are some parents whose holidays are previously prescribed to them or who simply cannot take time off at any other period of…

View original post 643 more words

White Men Can’t Jump and Primary Teachers Can’t Blog… About Anything Important, At Least!

 

A Primary teacher’s take on education blogs…

 

Like many primary bloggers, I am unable to engage in grown-up discussions about education because my brain is full of glitter, toy bears and gingerbread” – TruthfulClassroom

 

I once heard, those that can, do… Those that can’t, teach… Those that can’t teach, teach primary! We primary teachers, at the bottom of the food chain, don’t have much to offer the world of ‘professional dialogue’. Where secondary and tertiary teachers are able to talk policies and such, as MissHorsfall acknowledges, we primary teachers are better suited to topics such as:
-Why the hell do the red felt tip pens run out so quickly?
-Why do I either have 5 red pens and no black when it comes time to do the register, or vice versa?
-How exactly do 7 year olds get through so many glue sticks?

TruthfulClassroom and MissHorsfall are joking of course (I would actually, however, like some of those questions answered, to be honest!). 

 

They write in response to this post in which Michael1979 pondered the lack of primary teacher bloggers. Specifically, the lack of primary teachers that blog about ‘real’ education issues. Hence, wh the above tongue-in-cheek comments came about. He asks, why don’t primary bloggers write about topics such as:
-Will ‘scaled scores’ provide useful information at end-of-key-stage tests?
-Is primary schooling becoming all core and no breadth?
-Will the new grammar requirements in the National Curriculum raise standards of reading/writing?
-Is the current level 4b a viable expectation for 85% of students?
-How is the newly-enhanced Pupil Premium going to have an impact in primary?
-What impact are small cohorts or small sub-groups having on Ofsted inspection outcomes?
-What is the professional view on baseline assessments for children on entry to YR?

 

Did that list put you to sleep, as it did for me? You can see TruthfulClassroom’s counter-list here, which includes topics from the very *a-hem* important, such as:
-Literally, where the f*** do all the children stash the red felt tip pens?
-Which facial cues alert you to the fact that a child is about to projectile vomit all over their workbooks?
-Do any other teachers feel nauseous when they see Comic Sans?

To the more *literally* important topics, such as:
-How can we expose children to texts that they can relate to, but which also challenge them?
-How can we educate to equip children to challenge the rampant inequalities that face them?
-How can you teach climate change to 6 year olds in a way that scares them enough to care and empowers them enough to acts?
-Do all young male teachers get rapidly promoted out of the classroom, or just most? 

 

All people are different and bloggers are all looking for something different. Some might get a kick out of dry post about education policy, whereas others enjoy posts that help them, as teachers, make a difference in the day-to-day. Both, of course, have their place. If we don’t get more of the ‘right people’ making big policy decisions at the top, our future generations will be worse off. Similarly, if we don’t have the ‘right people’ at the classroom level, potentially great policies will make no difference.

 

Jokes aside, I enjoy blogging because it gives me a chance to read and write about education-related topics that interest me, as I work to facilitate the academic, social, behavioural and emotional development of young children. If it relates to kids and improving their futures, I’ll read it… if I have time! Similarly, I don’t try to limit myself to writing about any one topic in particular. I’ve written on topics such as why parents need to get their kids to school on time, why ‘grades’ should be scrapped in favour of real feedbackwhy I think schools are becoming overly ‘academic’ , lots about the importance of ‘relationships’ in education here, here, here and here, and the importance of ‘play’.

 

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I’m always keen to give my 2 cents, or ‘a teacher’s take’ on all sorts of topics that will help children to have the best possible start to life, particularly during their primary school years. So as always, please do let me know if there’s anything in particular that you want me to write about!

 

Teachling<WordPress> < Twitter>

 

 Image source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-pFRnnljuGac/UHRzcy4plVI/AAAAAAAADNA/pFws4U5ITyw/s1600/shakespeare.jpg