Feed on

Why do I write daily? For me, it’s an itch that needs to be scratched. Journaling has become a daily habit, done in the early morning usually, as a way to organize thoughts and emotions and plan for the day, as best I can. Thirty minutes of quiet time, spent with myself, pays big dividends later in the day, I have found. I wonder why more people don’t enjoy this process.

For many people, writing is a chore, one to be avoided at all costs. I can relate to that, since I feel that way about mathematical exercises. Yet in a similar fashion to the satisfaction I feel when I finally stop procrastinating and balance my checkbook, writing to clear one’s mind can be surprisingly effective. Accept that you are the only audience to the page, and you may be surprised at what appears in print. It may be messy, but that’s the point – getting the tangle of emotions, ideas, and rogue thoughts into the light where you can consider, sort, keep and discard is an exercise worth doing. If the spirit moves, further drafts and refinements can proceed. Or allow the messy page to be enough, at least for the moment. If you are a perfectionist as I tend to be, simply allowing yourself permission to “leave it as is” may be a freeing experience as you begin a new journey of journaling. Let it take shape and see where it takes you. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Don’t resist the urge to record factual information, like the weather, events of the day, or conversations of note. But don’t feel constrained by those parameters either – allow your imagination some room to stretch and your words to flow freely. Find a “small moment” to write about – unpeel one event of the day, or one conversation, or a problem that you solved, and write about the “’aha moment” you discover at its core. Let the words tumble out of your pen or pencil without regard for grammar, punctuation or spelling in the first draft; not unlike exercising, the first attempts may seem labored, but will become easier with time and repetition. And the euphoric feeling of simply having started will energize you to try again. Remember – it’s a process and the journey is probably more important than the destination. Sketches, lists, notes and oddball phrases are all fair game – they may become nuggets of gold to be mined in future sessions. Perfection is not the goal; exploring the inner terrain comes first.

Will you write a best-selling novel, or make a million dollars as a published author? Not likely. But might you find satisfaction and even pleasure in looking back at your journal entries six months or a year from now? From personal experience, I can predict that you will. You may also uncover talents that you didn’t know you had, ideas that you want to pursue, thoughts that are worth sharing with others. What do you have to lose? Try it for a month, with as much regularity as you can, and your results may be revealing.

What are your earliest memories of learning? Do you immediately think of “school”? Where has your most powerful learning taken place? Are you still learning? What does it mean to be a “life long learner”? Does this term apply only to students, or does it describe each one of us, regardless of age?

These reflective questions can provide a lively debate! In a facilitated discussion,  wouldn’t it be interesting to consider the pros and cons of today’s educational debate (common sense versus the Common Core) and the continuum of educational opportunities present in region and world?  Examples of life long learning from the Mohawk Valley Institute for Learning in Retirement (MVILR) at SUNYIT could encourage listeners to embrace the power of inquiry, collaboration, and creative thought. The “Big Idea” of the discussion might be that successful citizens of the twenty-first century are confident readers, competent writers, problem-solvers, team players, and creative thinkers. Our schools are charged with developing these skills in our students. How well are we doing? Have we lost our sense of wonder? Could a more intentionally inter-generational model of shared learning support better achievement, health and wellness for all and recapture the “wonder” that seems to be lost?

What if, in our region and beyond, “learning” became redefined, and learners of all ages participated in forums of discussion, discovery and design for self and community?   Embracing the notion that every person is a learner, and everyone is a teacher, we can explore the realities of the global society we now inhabit. We could hold “Wonder Workshops” in a variety of venues, for children and adults. Every person has a story, and every story matters.  In what news ways can we wonder together about ourselves and our past, in order to assure a better future?

 When we communicate, we grow and learn.  It is through the tapestry of shared stories that a community builds its shelter, its power, its joy or its pain. If you are not already one, it will be to your benefit to become a Life Long Learner. Join in the dialogue of social change and rediscover the passion of learning. And above all, enjoy.

Happy Kids – Connected Families – Strong Community Imagine a school where…

·         Respect and success are expected and achieved

·         Potential turns into strength

·         Kids take responsibility for their actions

·         Plans for Excellence (PFE) contain Academic , Social, Emotional,  and Physical goals

·         College and adult success is in every child’s future.

This little blog floats like a tiny rowboat in the ocean of the vast internet; I draw comfort in the reality that it appears each time I type in the web address. Amazed still that we own such a symbolically powerful URL– www.teacherandlearner.org - the eternal optimist in me clings to the potential of the concept like a life raft.  Surely, I tell myself, everyone must embrace this concept – “everyone is a teacher, everyone is a learner”.  The personal story connected to the inception of this site floods back into my memory as I write. As I peer into the future, I wonder what ports our little boat may encounter, what relationships we may build, what tempests and storms we may need to survive. I’m reminded of the quote “Life is a journey, not a destination”. Also true for learning, and our chosen profession of education. We are traveling stormy and unsettled educational, economic, and global waters. And yet we aspire to be part of a positive solution, to find new ways to row WITH the current, not against it. Another book title springs into my mind – “If You Want to Walk on Water, You Must Get Out of the Boat”. Walking on water is hardly our intent, but charting more successful courses and navigating new currents of educational thinking is our modest, creative, proactive desire.

Last week, navigating those fascinating, mindboggling waters of the internet, my journey that day led me to a bigger version of our craft, www.facesoflearning.net; I anchored and explored for a couple of hours. I read, responded, posted my own story. Suddenly, it seemed I had discovered another boat like ours, albeit larger and better developed, that was aimed for the same port as we are. Might this be part of a bigger fleet that we could join?  I pondered the possibilities  as I turned off my computer for the day.

Returning the next day to the site, communication awaited me. Who would imagine it? The first story I read was written by a teacher from the same district where I taught twenty years ago – truly a “small world” cyber story. And to my story about learning experiences on rural bus rides in the 1960’s, a responding story from someone in rural Missouri. More affirming yet, that writer posted that the question I posed in my short entry created new thinking for her.  A smile crossed my lips and my mind.

More to come on this topic…never sure who might be noticing our little rowboat, but this week, I have renewed enthusiasm to keep rowing!!

Summer 2010

A vague but persistent inner voice makes me contemplative on this foggy morning, while my fingers skim the keyboard, waiting for directions from my brain. The deck table is strewn with books, my journal, and my computer; the almost-empty coffee cup waits to be refilled when two paragraphs are composed. That is the deal I have apparently made with myself, although I didn’t know it until those typed words appeared in print. For me, that is the wonder of writing – the path between my brain and my fingers so often carries a development of ideas of which I’m unaware until I quiet myself long enough to let them travel their route to expression in print.

What is the purpose of this website? Where can it take us? What would invite others to join the dialogue? How can we add our voice to the clamor of opinions, viewpoints and unfolding ideas on the internet? Rereading our posts from 2008, it is quickly evident how technology has expanded in two years; perhaps exploded is a more descriptive term.

A colleague friend recently encouraged me to join the “Twitter” community, sharing her new excitement about dipping her toes into that pool of online opportunities. Initially, I groaned, too aware of the time I already divide between my Facebook and email accounts, notwithstanding those favorite websites on which I promise my spouse to “only spend a few minutes”. Do I have time to tweet, even at the attractive limitation of 140 characters?  As usual, my groan turned into excitement, and I am now too the timid owner of a Twitter account. I must admit, I am intrigued, and will not be surprised if my caution turns quickly into another daily habit around which I organize my time. 

Won’t you join our discussion and let us know how you are making sense of this crazy, fascinating, sometimes frustrating world we now inhabit? Stories are still key, in my book. We are simply recording them in new formats. Our cave walls have become electronic screeens; some of us are more comfortable with the expressive, others with the receptive. We still need one another to survive…and thrive. Here’s a place to explore this new terrain in a safe space - and very likely, learn something in the process. We hope so. Joining is easy, and posting too. You can be our teacher, and we’ll be learners together.  Continue Reading »

Leveled nonfiction tradebooks that align with the National Science Education Standards and state-designed grade level expectations are not available from mainstream publishers, such as National Geographic and Millmark. Six-to-Six Interdistrict Magnet School in Bridgeport, CT has integrated carefully selected, quality leveled nonfiction readers into its science pacing guides in grades K through 5. This approach ensures reading that is tightly integrated with hands-on inquiry activities, thereby compacting elementary curriculum. Books include individual readers for guided reading groups, as well as big books that explain science concepts in life, physical and earth sciences.

Preliminary data from grades 2, 3 & 4 show increases in bimonthly DRA scores. To view the original Power Point presentation that was shared with elementary school educators from around the United States, please click here: NSTA Presentation.

Our website has been dormant for quite a long time, while life has taken Carmen and Ann in new directions. Happily, Carmen’s husband Peter has kept TAL in a safe, nurturing location, waiting for the day when our lives once again create time and opportunity for discussion. As I write this, wintery weather swirls about outdoors, the Winter Olympics dominates our conversations, and the much-appreciated “February School Break” offers an opportunity for updating and re-energizing our website.

We hope you’ll consider joining the discussions here. We still believe that we can learn best from one another…everyone a teacher, each of us a life-long learner.

A very bright high school freshman shared the following opinion with me  a few months ago:

“Schools are confining destiny. I have been taught well by many teachers and horribly by others. I disliked school the fifth week into high school because of the boring same old routines. Classes are hard and believe me, it is not fun to sit in class all day and get yelled at for the most pathetic things such as saying one word. Please help us!”

Let’s hear from more students. Just register on the site, and post your thoughts and ideas here. And please know….there ARE adults listening!

 Wikis. URLs.  Facebook. MySpace. Blogs. Email. IM (Instant Message). Spreadsheets. Graphs and charts. Word processing. Flash.  And the list goes on…

How confident are you about your own technology literacy? Are you a confident risk taker in exploring the new world of electronic organization? Or does the mere thought of using a computer make you want to revert to “the good old days?”

One thing is certain – technology will continue to have an impact on our lives, whether we like it or not. Our young adults already use technology for recreation, communication, work production, and experimentation. In an odd turn of events, the adults have become the “illiterate”, and our students now circulate in places and ways that feel inaccessible to adults. That is at once fascinating…and terrifying.

Consider the viewpoint of a high school sophomore named Natalie. In response to the question “How well do you feel you are being “technologically” prepared?”, her response is frank and illuminating: Personally, I don’t think that we are being prepared very well, I think that school could definitely use technology such as computers / laptops etc. more. I know that private schools use laptops in their classes and I think that public school students should have that choice as well. Continue Reading »

Are you ready to Wiki? It took a deep breath and a challenge from a student to push me into the Wiki World. But like so many other “things that seemed hard”, once explored, Wikis have become a new fascination for me. I offer this as a “work in progress” , to prove that making the attempt is the first (and often hardest) step in moving forward. I encourage other Wiki-ites to share your sites with us as well, so that we can learn, laugh, and help each other find twenty-first century literacy - whatever that means!

 Here’s the link to check out: www.teacherandlearner.wikispaces.com

Older Posts »