Sunday, January 25, 2015

Take Apart Center for Home or School

When I started teaching {back in the dark ages} I had a take apart center in my first and second grade classrooms.  People would send in broken gadgets and gizmos, and the students would use screwdrivers, pliers, and rubber mallets to disassemble everything from an iron to a computer keyboard.  They learned so much through this process of exploration!

WARNING:  Make sure the devices you take apart do not have any toxic components--televisions and computer monitors are especially bad.  Also, cut off all cords before leaving something for students in the classroom!

Fast forward about 18 years, and you will find that I live with a very curious almost six year old.  He has taken apart a mixer, hair dryer, toy robot, CD player, and quite a few other things.  He has learned so much {for example, speakers have magnets that you can attach a LOT of screws onto!}  He has even taken apart a TV under the supervision of Dad.  {I don't recommend this unless you do research, as some parts still hold an electric charge.}  I do recommend the free exploration of the world around us.  My son is waiting for me to say yes to taking apart a DVD player that I think is dead.

This is such an inexpensive way to encourage discovering and exploration.  I think it would even be great for inside recess days.  If you put the word out, it's easy to get a box full of items, and there is a good bet that a local hardware would donate a few tools.

How do you integrate exploration and discovery into your classroom and your own world?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Transformational Teaching Manifesto

As the years pass I am more convinced that teaching is an inside job. . .

It starts with the teacher. . . 

taking care of herself of himself. . . 

and then turning the abundance of that work into the fuel to ignite the minds of students.

I believe this is true for all teachers, regardless of subject matter or age of students.

I believe that teaching is a spiritual practice.

I believe teachers must act from love not fear.

I believe that we have forgotten this, and so we teachers are broken and we work in a broken system with a broken paradigm.

I believe the transformation begins with me.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Senior Adults in the Classroom

I am having an amazing experience this year with two senior adults in my classroom!  One is an aid for an individual student {and I can only hope to have as much patience when I am her age as she does.}  The other is a volunteer who comes in to read with students for an hour each week.

First, you should know that my life was heavily influenced by older adults.  {Even though I couldn't see it as a kid, I definitely know it now as an adult.}  I grew up living next door to my grandparents.  They did not have material wealth to use to spoil us, but they did invest their time, wisdom, and knowledge in us.  I learned so much from them.  I gained a love of reading from my grandfather.  I learned how to run a very small business in 8th grade growing flowers with my grandma.  I used the money for flute lessons, but I also know that I have the skills to get what I really want in life because of that experience.

I think we are living in a time when most kids don't get to spend much time with grandparents or other older adults.  They don't have people who are giving them the gift of time or unconditional acceptance.

Enter senior adults in the school.  I am completely blown away by the impact of these two women on the lives of my students.  {The first thing one student told me after winter break was that he had seen our volunteer in Target over break.  He beamed with pride. }

She enters our classroom every week with such love and affection for those kids.  They know she is just there for them.

She is exceptional.  I know.  I wish every classroom had volunteers like her.  I wish school administrators would seek these people out and bring them in.  It is a game changer for kids to just know they are loved and someone wants to give them time.  Aren't your students starved for that sort of attention?  Mine are.

One idea for getting senior adults into school is having a Grandparents/Special Person event.  It could be to invite them in first thing one morning or at the end of your day to listen to their child read or it could be a fancy program or somewhere in between.

Then invite them to sign up to return.

I have done similar things earlier in my teaching career, but now I feel like children NEED this more than every before.

Have you been able to utilize seniors in your classroom?  How did you do it?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Storytelling as a Teaching Tool

Have you ever used storytelling as an instructional tool in your classroom?

I used it in a very limited way before last year.  One year ago at this time my son started attending PreK at a Waldorf School.  His teacher really encouraged me to use storytelling with him to redirect his behavior and guide his will.  There was no blaming or shaming, just stories.

I secretly thought this never going to work.  At bedtime I started telling little stories about forest animals whose lives resembled his life experiences.  He listened.  He was very quiet.  He was clearly absorbing this right down into his little five year old heart.  {Sometimes he would ask if this story was really about him!}

I was astonished by the impact.

Fast forward to last week in my classroom.  We had a thief.  It made my heart heavy.  It wasn't the first time, but it was obvious that it wasn't just a lost treasure.  It had been taken.

The next day I got out two little finger puppets.  A mouse and a gnome.  The short version is the mouse has a package of cheese. . . stops to play at park. . . the cheese is taken. . . the mouse is walking home with a heavy heart. . . the wise old gnome speaks wise words with hard truths and cautions against accusing.

My class is completely quiet and engaged.  An aid for one of my students said it was great that there was no accusing so that everyone could keep listening without putting defenses up.

I wish I could say that the thief returned the items.  It hasn't happened.  But everyone has strategies around protecting their possessions without turning this into a blame game.  I was stunned to see the impact on a room full of children was just the same as one little boy.

I will continue to use stories as a teaching tool.  I'm thinking of ways to include them in the academic content of the classroom.  The oral tradition of teaching is thousands of years old and still used around the world.

I'm wondering if you use stories at all to teach?  How?  When?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Retreat as Self Care

Last weekend I went on a most amazing retreat as a way to begin the new year.  {If you hear that and you think a  group of people coming together and talking in circles and following a curriculum, it was not that kind of retreat.}

My retreat was just for me.  I travelled just an hour south of my house to Millersburg, Ohio.  It's the heart of Ohio's Amish Country.  The roads are twisty and winding, and cars share the roads with horses and buggies and bicycles.  {Even in the car I was filled with doubtful thoughts about spending money on myself, about being open and vulnerable, about my worthiness, etc.}

I arrived at True Nature.  This was my third visit there, and I never stop being amazed by the natural and simple beauty of the location and experience.  A week later I am still completely overwhelmed by the generosity of the hosts, Dave and Alana.  This is their home, and they just open up their life to guests.  There was yoga and massage and breema and nutritious whole foods, and gentle conversations.

And lots of alone time, where I created art and read and wrote down ideas in my notebook and thought and slept.  I also ate most meals alone.  That's part of the experience so that we can learn to slow down and be mindful.

I'm honestly surprised by how I continue to be sustained by that time.  I hit the ground running on Monday with a new schools schedule, a different parenting routine, a student teachers, and intentions for daily transforming my life.  That's a lot!  Period!  But it is working for me.  I am tired, but my spirit is still full!

If you are longing to be renewed I recommend a retreat.  Last year I took a day retreat for my birthday, and that was lovely.  But the extended time allowed me to slow down so much more.  My only regret is that I wished I had done more yoga!  I guess that will be next time!

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014: Year of Transformation Part 1

One year ago I said my word for the year was transformation.  I imagined a homely caterpillar morphing into a lovely butterfly.  And I desired that experience for myself.  Here is the crazy thing.  I fought it.  All year long.  Opportunities would place themselves in my path, and I would say, “I don’t think so,” or “Not yet,” or “It seems really scary.”

But in spite of my own best efforts to sabotage that transformation, it started.  It was slower and more painful that I had expected.  {I often find that I need to be hit over the head before I consent to real deep heart change.}  Nothing has been effortless, but the transformation has begun.  Here are some things I notice:

  • I am saying “YES!” more often.
  • I am trusting my intuition more.
  • I am accepting progress, rather than waiting for perfection.
  • I am more gentle with myself about parenting.
  • I am more trusting of my longings for a healthier body, mind, and spirit.
  • I am more accepting of imperfection in my world, rather than trying to force change.
  • More truth telling, at least to myself.

More, More, More!  I see so much more coming into my life, and when last year started I thought it was going to be about less--less weight, less work, less fear.  

This is the difference between living in scarcity and living in abundance.  I think I’ve just dipped my toe into abundance, and I can’t wait to see what happens when I cannonball right into that pool that is overflowing with love and peace and all needs met.

I believe that 2015 is going to be Transformation, Part 2.  I am looking forward to seeing how it unfolds.

What kind of transformation are you hoping to find in 2015?