The Definition of Insanity

You’ve heard the phrase before:  Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

When I’ve recognized it, I nod my head in agreement:  surely, this (whatever I’m doing at the time) is insane.  We’ve all been there, and hopefully, when we see that the same old processes and actions aren’t producing the results we want, we change course.

How is it we can recognize these patterns in our everyday lives, but not in education?

ticked off student

In a recent article, Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post quotes the work of Alfie Kohn, in which he outlines ten things about learning that are absolutely true, yet we continue to largely ignore them in our educational system.  You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here, but for your brief reading purposes, here are the “Ten Obvious Truths About Educating Kids that Keep Getting Ignored:”

  1. Much of the material students are required to memorize is soon forgotten.
  2. Just knowing a lot of facts doesn’t mean you’re smart.
  3. Students are more likely to learn what they find interesting.
  4. Students are less interested in whatever they’re forced to do, and more enthusiastic when they have some say.
  5. Just because doing X raises standardized test scores doesn’t mean X should be done.
  6. Students are more likely to succeed in a place where they feel known and cared about.
  7. We want children to develop in many ways, not just academically.
  8. Just because a lesson (or book, or class, or test) is harder, doesn’t mean it’s better.
  9. Kids aren’t just short adults.
  10. Substance matters more than labels.

If we are all talking about education reform, but continuing to ignore these naturally-occurring truths about children and how they learn, we aren’t going to change anything.  We’re going to continue to spin in this endless cycle of dissatisfaction, continue to throw money at the problem rather than real solutions, and in the generations to come, we’ll wonder why we’ve “fallen behind” – which is a another discussion in and of itself.

Let’s stop the insanity.

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Class Dismissed

For a long time, I believed that the best way to disseminate knowledge and information (a.k.a. to educate someone) was through the recently-adopted concept of teaching at a school.  In the past handful of years, I’ve come to realize that true “education” has nothing to do with a group of same-age children reading texts and completing worksheets together in an isolated room.  For as many reasons people will divulge to support the traditional school setting, I can come up with just as many to refute it.  While I am still, by many means, beginning this journey, one thing I’ve come to know is true (after MUCH personal internal conflict about EVERYTHING I’ve ever known about teaching):  education in America is broken.

You’ve heard this before – this is not a newsflash for you.

Problems run rampant within our educational “system” today and there are simply too many to list here, though I hope to address each one individually at a later time – which will likely take me the rest of my living days.  But I digress…

Maybe you are a parent or teacher or student who disagrees with me and finds that you’ve had a virtually pain/problem-free experience with traditional schooling.  I’m happy for you, but I have two questions:  When did you/your children attend school?  Where did you/your children attend school?  Because the answers to those questions can heavily impact your opinion of traditional school and how your opinion relates to traditional schooling today, in this country.

I’m beginning to “see the light” and it is with great joy and humility that I attribute my most recent awakenings to my daughter.  As of my writing this, she is 1 day away from turning 2 years old and has taught me more about how children humans learn, than any book, college course, or professional development program.

It is an absolute marvel to observe her and speak with her.  Yes, I have conversations with my 2 year old.  And most of the time, they make sense and go well.  The other times?  Well, she is still a toddler…

crazy toddler

So, it is with great pleasure that I share with you the next piece of my educational reform puzzle…  Class Dismissed: A film about learning outside of the classroom.

classdismissed

If you’ve seen this movie, great!  I will be joining your ranks shortly.  There are two viewings coming up in the next week, and I’m planning to attend both.  Based on the trailers I’ve seen so far and the internet chatter, I’m guessing this is going to be an eye-opening movie that will likely change the course of my career and educational path for my children.

At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

In the meantime, here is a quick teaser from the movie:

Tune in next week when I’ll give my first review on the whole film!

Killer Whales and Kids

With the holidays in full swing (yes, even now in January we continue to celebrate several things), and my house full of family, food, and fun, there isn’t much time to write. But I happened upon this article again while “cleaning out” my phone today:  A Thousand Rivers by Carol Black.

It is something I will be thinking about as we enter the new year, especially with my daughter showing signs of reading and math readiness.  And if you are an educator, a parent, a student, a homeschooling parent/student, or a human being in general, I urge you read this excerpt:

“Any wildlife biologist knows that an animal in a zoo will not develop normally if the environment is incompatible with the evolved social needs of its species. But we no longer know this about ourselves. We have radically altered our own evolved species behavior by segregating children artificially in same-age peer groups instead of mixed-age communities, by compelling them to be indoors and sedentary for most of the day, by asking them to learn from text-based artificial materials instead of contextualized real-world activities, by dictating arbitrary timetables for learning rather than following the unfolding of a child’s developmental readiness. Common sense should tell us that all of this will have complex and unpredictable results. In fact, it does. While some children seem able to function in this completely artificial environment, really significant numbers of them cannot. Around the world, every day, millions and millions and millions of normal bright healthy children are labelled as failures in ways that damage them for life. And increasingly, those who cannot adapt to the artificial environment of school are diagnosed as brain-disordered and drugged.

It is in this context that we set out to research how human beings learn. But collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World.”

KillerWhaleSunset

Teacherpreneur: Me?

I love a good challenge.

When I completed my Masters degree and basked in the high praise of the fully vested Ph.D. professors after my final presentation, I was launched into a completely new place regarding my career.

superteacher

Before that time, though, I had it in my head that I would move on to take more classes and eventually become an LDT-C (a.k.a. Learning Consultant within a school or district).  But after some extensive research and consultations with those same professors over the past few weeks, I’ve decided that track isn’t right for me.  Instead, I want to stay in the classroom – but also begin to lead other teachers, parents, policymakers, and members of the community, too.

I want to be a Teacherpreneur.

What does a Teacherpreneur do?  Well, pretty much anything.

Some Teacherpreneurs have created new positions for themselves within their respective districts, others have been invited to speak as experts at conferences and conventions, while others have been able to implement real, tangible changes within their schools that have truly benefitted the students.

For me, I can see any of the above happening, plus a few other things, like a published book, a teaching position in higher education, or a new schooling concept.  Really, the possibilities are endless – and I like that.  This ultimately allows me to be as creative as possible – and that is exactly what I’ve been searching for.

The world of teaching has finally become my oyster.

So, I’ll be posting my updates, ideas, lessons, and progress from time to time and I hope you’ll join me on this journey!  You can find everything on my Teacherpreneur page.

Validation

Amazing things just keep happening.  And I’m not complaining.

So, here I sit with not much to do.  Actually, I have plenty to do – it just feels like I have very little to do.  Why, you ask?  Well, that is because I’m not doing this anymore:

this is not me... but it's a good indicator of my past 2 years

this is not me… but it’s a good indicator of my past 2 years

Well, at least not for now.

A week ago today was the final day of my graduate study.  I’m done!  I did it!  I earned my Masters of Education in Teacher Leadership! 

And did I mention that I did it as a new mom, with a needy baby, and managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA in the process?

Yeah, I just said that.

Because, you know, I don’t brag.  I really don’t.  I don’t like braggarts, and I try not to be one.  But, when you work so hard on something, and it challenges you and pushes you to your limits, and meanwhile you have a screaming child who desperately needs you and you’re trying to figure out motherhood and get a degree and you do MORE than just “the minimum required”  – you need to take a moment and say, I just did that.

And really, if I am to tell the truth, there was a whole lotta God up in here and prayers these past 2 years, too… because I can do all things through Him, and I really can’t do anything without Him, either.

So, the last feat of this advanced degree was to create and give a presentation on how I’ve grown because of the program, how the program has influenced my career, and how I’m planning to use what I’ve learned in the future.

I put together a lovely PowerPoint presentation and practiced.  And then I realized I needed to just speak from my heart and vamp a little.

Then the big day came and I gave the presentation.  But first, let me give you the drama…

On my way to Rowan to give said presentation, I got stuck in a major traffic jam.  I mean, major.  Like, tractor-trailer-turned-over-during-rush-hour-on-a-2-lane-highway-major.  Panic sets in.  Sheer, unadulterated panic.  I start texting very bad words to my husband – because someone has to know the personal hell I’ve just encountered.  Then I call my academic advisor.  She miraculously answers the phone.  It’s going to be ok.

So, I finally arrive at school and park illegally.  Well, it wasn’t really illegal – just the wrong parking lot for which I had no parking tag.  Oh well.  Bigger fish to fry.

Anyhow, I blaze into the Education building and find the presentation room.  I only missed one presentation so far.  Sigh of relief.

I watched a fellow student give her presentation and then it was my turn.  I gave my presentation in spite of being completely thrown off by the traffic jam, being a half hour late, and my jangled nerves.

I nail it.

At the end of the presentation (which, up to this point, I was still worried about) the head of the Teacher Leadership program says to me, and I quote, “Wow.  You really know your stuff!”

She goes on to say more very nice things to me and I turn a deeper shade of red with each compliment.

hyperbole and a half really

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you are outside of your head, but still thinking to yourself, “Holy cow, is this really happening right now?”  Yeah… that was my out-of-body-experience throughout the feedback on my presentation.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing… but then again, I guess on some level, I could believe it.  I have worked very hard these past 2 years and my final presentation was no exception.

After the presentations were all completed, three of the six professors on the panel said more lovely and wonderful things to me about my presentation, my speaking skills, my ability to connect with a crowd, my knowledge of the program, and so on.

And then they made some suggestions about my career path and the next steps I should take.

And then I pooped myself a little.

Not really, but it was amazing and I probably should have.

Let’s just say that I would have been perfectly happy to have just given my presentation, collected my certificate, and moved on with my life.  But that night, I got so much more than I could have ever imagined.

For some very real personal and professional reasons, I’m not going to divulge the nitty-gritty details of everything that occurred later and the marvelous, lovely things that continued to be said, but I will give you a hint:

My career plans have changed.  BIG.  TIME.

I was set for one particular path, but now I’ve taken stock of where I am and what I’ve accomplished, along with the suggestions of the professors on the panel, and realize I belong on another course.

In time, those plans will be revealed, but for now – after all of the hard work, and wondering many, many times if it was all even worth it, and then finally hearing how valuable I really am:

joy sunset

Hello, Validation.  It’s nice to meet you.

*once again, my thanks to Allie Brosh at HyperboleAndAHalf for all her cartoon genius.

I have to do homework to have a baby.

So, our first childbirth class was this past Wednesday night and what a lovely experience!  Chris and I have decided to use the Bradley Method for the birth of our child, and we’re pretty stoked.

In a nutshell, the Bradley Method is a husband-coached childbirth method that focuses on a positive, natural birthing experience that gives the mom-and-dad-to-be skills and strategies to overcome pain and anxiety during labor and delivery.

The class was made up of 6 couples, of which I was pleased to learn, we are not the latest due.  Another couple is due January 24th, and another is due February 10th (as compared to our January 8th).  I was also happy to see that I’m not the only lady who isn’t yet sporting a fashionable “bump.”  Out of the 12 people in attendance, 5 are special education teachers – how funny is that?  It’s a special ed class… hah… get it?

Ok… moving on.

The instructor is a sweet young woman, about my age, who has two very young children of her own, and also teaches yoga.  I’m super excited about this because I’ve practiced yoga for the better part of 12 years now and I just know she’s going to throw some yoga stuff into the class.  I love yoga.

We also learned that another couple in the class lives near us, and are also working with the same Midwifery group that we are.  And, and, AND!!!!  The husband is special ed teacher – how excited am I right now?  You tell me:

Our babies are totally gonna be best friends.

I should probably stop.  I’m starting to sound like a stalker…

Anyway, the class concluded with a few exercises that Chris and I (mostly I) have to practice on our own.  We also have to read the workbook, the textbook, answer questions, and track my nutrition.  So, it’s like homework for having a baby.  Who knew?

That’s alright though… one day very soon it will all be totally worth it.

Wild Rides

When I started this blog, I quietly promised myself that I’d update it at least once each week.  That’s a nice sentiment when I’m not traveling, adopting dogs, or attending teaching seminars.  So, I suppose I can make up for my lack of posting with a “fast forward” post.  Here goes:

So, after we adopted Rex & Maggie we took our annual summer trip to New Hampshire.  With the dogs.  The 7-hour ride up went pretty well.  There was some whining and crying, but then Chris and I had coffee and we were fine.  The dogs fared well. 

Upon arrival, there were still renters in our cabin, so Chris and I camped for a night at the Wildwood campsite in the White Mountain National Forest.

 And the dogs kept guard of the site. 

They didn’t care too much for being tied out and they made sure to let us know they weren’t staying quiet every time a person, dog, fly, mosquito, bird or leaf passed our campsite.  Once inside the tent for the night though, they were quiet and we made it through the night with nary a peep. 

The next day, the adventure at our house began and we hosted friends and family for the rest of the week.  There was hiking, swimming, boating, playing on the lawn, bbq’s, sightseeing, bonfires and everything else a “woodsy” vacation includes.  It was a good time and the dogs were acclamated to the house and all visitors in no time.

After New Hampshire, I had the pleasure of taking part in a 5 day teaching seminar that took place in Philadelphia.  For you educators: it was the 30-Hour Comprehensive Orton-Gillingham Reading Instruction Training.  For everyone else: I learned how to better teach my students how to read.  I will undoubtedly have a separate blog entry on this, but for now just know that I had a fantastic time!  I didn’t think that dedicating a week of my summer vacation to a teaching seminar would be something I’d enjoy, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Not only did I not have to drive into the city (I never really even touched my car, thank you RiverLINE and PATCO) but I treated myself to lunch every day at Reading Terminal Market

After my week of intensive edumacatorin’, I returned to my regularly scheduled summer vacation with some serious house-keeping and weather-enjoying.  All to then be interrupted by an earthquake

As you can see the damage was, well, annoying.  And as my mom said yesterday, whether we like it or not, we’re on this earth for a wild ride.