Category Archives: life lessons

When students speak truth to power – Emma González – Marjorie Stoneman Douglas – Parkland, Florida

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Day in and day out I hear people ask “Is there no adult in Washington who will stand up and speak truth to power?”  All indications revealed there was no one to do it – that is until articulate, knowledgeable student Emma González presented the following amazing speech.  If politicians think they can get away with the same stale excuses they give for not passing common sense guns laws they are sadly mistaken.  Emma’s generation is speaking up and they are fast becoming of voting age.  I am impressed by hearing so many of these students speak up for themselves in the absence of so many lawmakers unwilling to do so.  I am proud to know that students like Emma will soon become the adults in the room who “speak truth to power.”   If you have not taken time to listen to Emma, consider doing so.  It just might leave you feeling better about our country’s future…

Gun violence in school – a child’s supposed “safe place”

I used to think of my classroom as a safe place for my students and told them as much. So many students these days need to experience a stress-free environment even if only for a few hours every day.

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Yesterday, hundreds to thousands of students went to their supposed safe place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen of those students lost their lives there. Still another fourteen experienced physical trauma from gunshot wounds.  The emotional scars inflicted on those who survived will remain for years to come.

Today, politicians offered their well rehearsed lines – the lines they have uttered at the hundreds of other school shootings since the tragedy at Sandy Hook.  Tomorrow we will probably hear elements of blame placed on reasons for why still another school shooting happened.

There has become a pattern of violence and insincere resolution in our country perpetrated by those having easy access to guns that have no earthly reason to be on our public streets and those who allow them to have access to them…

  • Tragedy – shootings
  • Political condolences
  • Blame game
  • Gun issue debate
  • Debate drags on
  • People forget
  • Brief respite from shootings
  • Another tragedy

There is no one reason on which to place the blame for these senseless crimes but rather a myriad of reasons that need to be discussed in a rational way without political affiliation or money generated concerns to guide ethical decisions. That said, it’s obvious that present administration politicians cannot satisfactorily meet en mass to discuss anything pertinent to the health and well-being of the people of the United States without adding a political bent to it. It should be obvious to all that after hundreds of school shootings since Sandy Hook that nothing will change unless the American voters start speaking up. Speaking up is done in any number of ways but the two most easily accessed is phoning and writing your representatives and senators. Be mindful that just one letter or call won’t suffice. If you want to be part of change in this country you have to be persistent.

To contact your elected officials find them at https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

If you’re not convinced your voice will make a difference – consider this quote by Margaret Mead…

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… and take a look at the statistics below…

Continue reading

Social Skills Instruction – Needed Now More Than Ever…

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In schools across the nation, violence has become a part of “daily life”. While it may be that we hear of it more often in secondary schools – violence is prevalent in all schools beginning in the elementary years.

When schools, administrators, and teachers are placed under microscopes to create readers and great test takers at all costs, developmental practices of teaching the whole child vanish from the curriculum. Pushdown curriculums frustrate learners who need to learn along a progressive continuum in order to establish self-worth, “I can” attitudes, and ultimate learning success.

We can’t assume that teaching reading and math for most of the day will lead to well-rounded learners. In order for children to thrive, they need to learn the fundamentals of being functional in society as well. This used to begin at an early age with social studies instruction, yet social studies instruction has virtually vanished from the curriculum. No time.

Children do not automatically learn how to behave. They learn by what they see and know to any given point in their lives. It takes everyone to provide appropriate behavior learning conditions and modeling. If it’s not happening in the home it needs to happen in the classroom. Unfortunately, teachers are so restricted by what and how they have to teach, they run the risk of poor evaluations if they step outside of the “box” they have been placed in.

We can’t blame children or teachers for what is happening in schools today. Perhaps it’s time to take a serious look at the curriculum being provided and offer a better path to higher student achievement through positive social interaction instruction which teaches children that morals, character, and compassion for others will lead them to being caring, successful, and productive members of society.

Physical assault on teachers?

Not just in Kent! My goodness! This has been going on forever! When I was in fifth grade I remember a very mean boy punching my teacher in the face. Working as a teacher, the first time a child threw furniture in my classroom was in 1997. No one knows what teachers’ work involves and until politicians and others step inside the classroom and spend time with teachers no one ever will. Then again, those spending time in classrooms might not even admit to what they see. We might call this “feigned ignorance” or “an easier way to blame teachers for all of the ills in society and education”.  It’s time to wake up and admit that all of us have a great deal of work to do! Parents, guardians, teachers, politicians, and others. Not only are society and our political system collapsing – education is too! So – is teaching all bad? Heavens no! I wouldn’t trade a moment of my experiences – good or bad – for anything! Every experience in life is a lesson learned. I am not blaming! I realize that all any of us know is what we’ve been taught to a given point in our lives. It takes an effort to change experience for all. While we can’t change the past, we can do something about the present and future. It takes courage to speak up and out. Will you?

http://q13fox.com/2016/05/10/teachers-union-says-more-elementary-school-kids-are-physically-assaulting-teachers/

Today’s Child – Maslow and safety needs

Second on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is safety. Children thrive on structure, stability, and freedom from fear.  Knowing what comes next in their daily routine makes them feel safe and secure.

  • Set clear boundaries and learn how to say “no”.
  • Maintain a calm, cozy home.
  • Keep activities outside of school spaced and simple.
  • Be sure your child is supervised and not left alone.
  • Check that purchased products for your child meet national safety standards.
  • Children love to explore. Check your home often to eliminate items that could be potentially hazardous.

For more information on preventive measures, check the World Report for Child Injury Prevention at…

http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/child/injury/world_report/final_data_10.pdf?ua=1

 

Today’s child – Maslow and physiological needs…

According to Maslow, a child’s first need is physiological. Children need food, water, clean air, and a safe, warm place to sleep. How can parents and teachers meet these needs?

Parents:

  • Make time to meet these needs in a “family” way – no matter how big or small your family may be.
  • Set the breakfast table together the night before.
  • Ask your child to help you plan a healthy menu while teaching him or her about nutrition.
  • Pack a healthy lunch instead of buying one. Include an “I love you” note for your child to read when the lunchbox is opened.
  • Find time for a home cooked evening meal and eat together around the table to discuss everyone’s day.
  • Keep the air in your home clean. Avoid exposing your child to cigarette smoke, excessive dust, and toxic fumes.
  • Provide a clean, restful slumber environment void of technological distractions.
  • Teach your child to be responsible for his or her own physiological needs over time.

Teachers:

  • Allow time for snack breaks each day. Children can’t learn when hungry.  Ask parents to donate healthy snacks.
  • Allow children to drink water as needed. If no classroom fountain is available, let children bring a water bottle from home.
  • Create a warm and inviting classroom environment.
  • Provide students the opportunity to design and keep up the classroom environment.
  • Classrooms are dusty places. Try a Friday cleaning day and include students in the process. This makes for a great way for all to begin new Monday morning. If needed, bring in an air purifier. Be sure to clean the filter as required.

All of these suggestions are easy to carry out and need very little time. If you have other suggestions, feel free to comment and add to the list.  Thanks!

 

Today’s child – Maslow at work or did we forget?

In 1954 psychologist Abraham Maslow developed his theory of Hierarchy of Needs. His hierarchy is based on the assumption that human beings have basic needs. These needs expound upon each other over time until self-actualization occurs. We’ve come a long way since this theory was developed. Though time and circumstance see our world a different place, the basic tenants of human nature and needs stay the same. Needs being met allude to learning taking place and meaningful life. Since learning and views on life begin in the home and continue in school, what better gift can parents and teachers give children than to truly understand and strive to meet their basic needs?  Maslow said humans have physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualization needs. These needs begin with infancy and continue through adulthood. Childhood then, is a critical time for all.

What about current childhood experiences? When Maslow stated his theory, most families had two parent households with one parent working and one at home. The steady rise of one-parent families and extended working hours has placed a strain on the amount of time available to meet the needs of children. Add to this increasing demands society places on all to achieve and it’s easy to see how the most important things in life may fall by the wayside.

That said, this will be the first in a series of posts based on Maslow’s Hierarchy, which is just as valid today as when first theorized. I hope you will add ideas and real world examples as levels are published. Children are our future and the most important adult task we have is to make sure children are nurtured substantively to encourage life-long learning that leads to meaningful lives worth living. Until tomorrow…

Up and the Hierarchy of Needs/tiffanyx93’s channel

9/11- Feeling safe in the classroom…

Vector - Skyline US NewYork by DragonArtI was with first grade students on 9/11, that tragic morning the Twin Towers went down. Within what seemed like minutes parents were rushing to school to sign their children out early. There sat twenty curious children wondering why everyone was leaving class so early in the day.  I decided to speak with the children about what was happening before they left me. Knowing the time constraints on most parents, I wanted to ease as many fears as I could. I briefly explained the situation. I ended the discussion by telling my students that their parents might be upset. I told them if they were calm and well-behaved it would help their parents. I reassured them they would all be fine and we’d all be back together in the morning. The next day began with further discussion. Most of the children had seen the news and needed to talk more. We did. I felt they all handled the information very well and then one of my students raised her hand. “Yes Jenny?” I asked.

“Ms. Ellington, why do I feel safer here in the classroom than I do at home?”  Other children nodded. This question has played over and over in my mind since, while the world has become increasingly unsafe. For many students – the classroom is their only safe place.

How can teachers make children feel safe in an unsafe world? Communication is key. Being honest with children instills trust. Withholding information creates mistrust. Encourage classroom discussion on current events – tempering topics discussed with age appropriateness. This is easily accomplished by providing social studies curriculum as part of an integrated classroom experience.

There are many other ways to make sure that your classroom is a safe place for students. What strategies do you use in your classroom?

Tending Gardens and Call for Teaching Memories

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

It doesn’t matter how long we have taught – there will always be moments that stay with us forever. Below is one of the moments that has stayed with me.


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I wanted to scream! They were tugging at me all day. “Ms. Ellington, Ms. Ellington!” is all I could hear them say. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t mind the tugging although it could be tedious at times. I just wished at some point some of the children would learn to raise their hand to get my attention. I know, I know… it’s hard for five-year olds to remember, especially when they need something. Besides, kindergarten children are like a “garden of flowers” and we all know flowers need tending.

Young children live in a world of ego. On this particular day, ego had overtaken our classroom and was increasingly trying. Riley soiled his pants. Jenny fell and scraped her knee. Kevin’s mom and dad argued while driving him to school – leaving him crying for home all morning. So many things to tend to and I still had to teach at some point.

To make matters worse, the art activity I planned for the children was harder than I thought. So there I was, running from child to child trying to help each complete their project. There they were, twenty little budding flowers all in need of nurturing at the same time.

As I frantically tried to attend to everyone, my thoughts flashed back to a Swedish friend named Heli who worked at a restaurant I sang at in my “singing” days. Heli was always smiling and pleasing everyone. One night patrons and coworkers were running her ragged. She looked at me and in her stealthy Swedish accent said, “If I hear my name one more time, I’m going to hit the ceiling!”

My thoughts of Heli were broken when Katey and Brittany at once yanked at my sleeve. “Ms. Ellington, Ms. Ellington!” they shouted. Hmm… Again I thought of Heli and looked at their faces. With hands on hips and one raised eyebrow I said, “If I hear Ms. Ellington one more time I’m going to hit the ceiling!”

The room fell silent and I could see some of my little ones, mouths open in awe, slump in their chairs like wilted flowers in need of a drink. It was an awkward moment, eyes meeting eyes and nothing to say. For that moment, the weight of my day subsided and I was able to catch my breath though regrettably, it now seemed hard for the children to catch theirs.

Then, as if in slow motion from the back of the room, Joanna tip-toed quietly to me. She approached, face aglow. In front of me, she deliberately placed her hands on her hips, raised one eyebrow, and with a missing front toothed grin said, “Oh, Ms. Ellington!”

We all burst into laughter and the moment of peace I thought I experienced gave way to a renewed sense of enthusiasm at being with these lively children.

These days, when I am caught up in classroom stress, I still see Joanna standing before me with that missing front toothed grin.


This is a good time to reflect on positive teaching memories.  I look forward to hearing about yours!  Thanks in advance for leaving a reply and sharing!

 

Why kids need more music in schools

In his postlude to The Mozart Effect author Don Campbell shares miracle stories of treatment and cure through music.   Excerpts recount music and its role in the treatment and healing of abuse, pain, aggressive and antisocial behavior, attention deficit disorder, depression, developmental delays, high blood pressure, etc.  The benefits of music are limitless.

As the American educational system seeks to cut the arts from classroom experience, we see children and adolescents seek out more available forms of art – usually portraying the more violent and dark side of life.  Young people perceive, and then opt to imitate the art that fuels their imagination.

Education can offer a positive approach to fueling that imagination leading toward the productive lives we want our children to meet by providing a healthier experience.

There are those trying to do that.  Be sure to watch as CBS’s 48 HOURS presents The Whole Gritty City, Saturday, February 15th at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Some say society is ill and we need to do something to heal it.  Will we help? 

“Each illness has a musical solution.  The shorter and more complete the solution, the greater the musical talent of the physician.”

–  Novalis