Monday October 4, 2015

This Monday there is one interesting article and a related online test. The author, "Carol Dweck is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation and is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her research has focused on why people succeed and how to foster success.”

Dweck’s research points to that that there is two kinds of mindsets. One is a fixed mindset and the other is a growth mindset. How we perceive ourselves seems to be

almost as important as our actual abilities. Through her research Dweck discovered that, “…students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset). And when students learned through a structured program that they could “grow their brains” and increase their intellectual abilities, they did better.” 

This research seems to be somewhat similar to the idea of grit and perseverance; that those who can bounce back from setbacks have greater success in life. But does it take into account factors out of control for many young people: poverty, sexism, racism, among many other barriers? Can these societal roadblocks be overcome with a certain

type of mindset? Are educational jargon such as grit and mindset, while well researched and intentioned, an excuse not to help the disadvantaged? This sounds almost like a Republican talking point. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps, work hard, be positive, and you to can be that "shining city on a hill" that Ronald Reagan espoused in the

eighties. Remember this: Politics can easily distort original findings and research into a whole new perception that easily becomes the new truth. 


Test Your Mindset:

Monday September 28, 2015

David Brooks is a quasi-conservative writer (he used to be farther on the right wing spectrum when younger—people do change) for the New York Times who has written numerous novels, among them The Road to Character and The Social Animal

In this column, which has very little to do about education on the surface, but much about how we struggle between two virtues: “the resume virtues and the eulogy virtues.” The resume virtues are the skills and knowledge you bring to the workplace. The eulogy virtues are about character: kindness,

courage, love. 

As Brooks writes, in his only reference to education: 

            “…our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.”

Basically, he asks that existential question, at the end of your career, or possibly your life, what will you have to show for it? Maybe for educational purposes it will be students achieving high scores and being admitted to prestigious universities, or, students striving to be intrinsically aware adults who care more for others than themselves.

Monday October 26, 2015

Today's article focuses on bullying, both in childhood and adulthood. Some findings in this article are:

a) There was a difference between rural and urban bullying. In an urban environment a child could escape abusive behavior by going to another school, hanging out in a different neighbourhood, etc. In a rural area it is much more likely everyone knows everyone else and the next school could be hundreds of miles away.

b) Many adults feel compelled to bully others, not through a traditional power weakness model (not in their minds anyway) found in schools, but by “’a lack of insight and self-awareness.’” Instead, they see themselves as righteous crusaders.” Adult bullies feel their actions are morally justified as they are correcting poor behavior. These actions are

often manifested on the Internet.

c) In schools it is possible to correct these attitudes among students, but very difficult in the adult world. Students can go to a parent, teacher, or a trusted adult to speak out

about school bullying, but in the adult world where do you go since it could be your job on the line?

This is the problem, folks. People study this problem. Why do we even have this problem that university educators have to make it a huge part of their research? Students who bully grow up to be bullies. So many adults justify bad behaviour based on results, not on relationships. This is what we are, simply. Result oriented, not relationship oriented. So bad behaviour will be tolerated as long as some kind of result, usually justified by the adult bully, is achieved. As a whole, as a society, as groups who say they are humans, we need to act more humane. This is our flaw. Our acceptance of this trickles down into schools. Don't fool yourself into thinking it does not. 

 There are some links in the article to the research that has been undertaken.

Monday September 14, 2015

A very interesting excerpt from the just released book, Class War: The Privatization of Childhood by Megan Erickson. Her main argument, that children from

wealthier families have built in advantages that are almost impossible to fathom for children of lower income families, while probably not revolutionary, was not,

though, constructed by chance. Rather, she posits, how modern education has become the real "hunger games, stealing opportunity and hope from disadvantaged children

for the benefit of the well-to-do." While this book focuses on American education, it is probably not a stretch to believe there are comparable situations

in other wealthier, western nations. 

For your own knowledge, Jacobin describes itself as “a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture.”

Monday September 21, 2015

This is an article from two years ago by Clive Thompson in The Guardian. He argues that social media might actually be good for teenagers. Previous generations bemoaned

the collapse and alienation of teenagers sitting in front of the television, playing endless hours of video games, talking on the phone endlessly (remember the landline),

listening to evil music that would turn them into sinister adults (take your choice: rock, pop, rap, heavy metal, death metal, black metal, even dangerous folk music). Did it happen? Possibly, but hard to gauge. Every generation of adults have their battles with teens

it seems; and the sensible answer often is, as the article states, is moderation. There are links to other articles that counter this argument. 

In education, as in any other institution, if you truly believe that your perspective is absolute, then you can blissfully live unconsciously knowing exactly what reality is. 

Have a better than wonderful week.

Monday September 7, 2015

Here are two articles you may find interesting. 

The first one is about math anxiety among parents. The findings suggest that math phobic parents transmit their anxiety to their child(ren) making them less certain

of their own abilities. Their is a short quiz at the end of the article to gauge your own math anxiousness.

The second one is an article on adults who surprisingly retained material and knowledge that they had learned in school—even decades after being out of school. A main implication is the sequencing of our teaching through curriculum management is vital, but one that receives little attention at times.

Monday November 2, 2015

This article deals with music and young children and what parents can do at home to cultivate this interest. Music just may be more powerful than reading in terms of cognitive development for a child. A University of Queensland study found, “… that informal music-making in the home from around the ages of two and three can lead to better literacy, numeracy, social skills, and attention and emotion regulation by the age of five.” These are interesting finds about how the mind works and that taking away from the arts in schools is very misguided.

Monday November 9, 2015

This article focuses on Project Based Learning (PBL). It seems like it is a trend, especially in the United States, as many elementary to high schools are incorporating this into their curriculum and daily routine. But, in some respects, it has been around since the early 1900’s. Teachers, along with students sometimes, come up with projects that take quite a bit of time over the course of the year. Time-management, working in groups, trial and error are all components of PBL. Students are more passionate about their learning since it is partially driven by their own interests. 

This is something to think about as we design our own Interdisciplinary units in the coming years. Additionally, what occurs in the Grade 8 Challenge can be seen as Project Based Learning. What can we take from PBL to help make teaching and learning more authentic for our students in the years to come?

 Monday November 16, 2015

This article, from the New York Times, examines “sexting” and the consequences. Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of education and history at NYU, writes "we’ve been worrying that new forms of media are fostering sexual immorality in the young. And we’ve called upon our schools to stem the evil tide.” He argues that schools have never really done a good job stemming this tide though. The best route to help students understand this issue is through technology where students feel most comfortable getting answers instead of a classroom. An interesting take on a prevalent issue.

Have a great week,

 Paul Steffan: Education of a Teacher

At the end of this teaching life all I will have is what I've left behind of me. 

Monday October 12, 2015

These two articles makes me think about all of the different personalities that make up a student body. This first article is about how introverted students seem to be on the outside looking in as schools make collaborative learning a much more important part of school life. There could be many reasons for this. One possibility, is that the changing working landscape heralds that working together will be unavoidable and this seems to have permeated down to schools. Another factor, could be that it creates “abrasion,” a term Jerry Hirsch, executive designer of Nissan, attributed to the "process of wearing down through friction as a source of energy.” This allows ideas to be confronted head on and challenged in order to see their true worth.  

In the end though, are schools the same as corporations? While there may be lessons to be learnt, should we mimic what happens in an adult workplace and translate that

into a school setting? Could it be schools are trying to transform introverted people into extroverts? Many students need quiet spaces and places where isolation is prized

and it seems the pendulum has swung the other way. Maybe we need to realize that it is not always about the group dynamics, but about an individual’s needs. Sometimes behaviours need to change, but could it be that we are forcing personalities onto one way streets with no possible exits or u-turns? 

The second article is about “eccentric” teachers who in England, anyway, seem to be a dying breed. It is the teacher who may not be the most efficient in documenting and planning, but who turn learning into magical and mystical experiences for students. These teachers are the ones that OFSTED seems to have no room for. The ones whose passion and love cannot be put onto a spreadsheet. The article argues that they do not seem to fit into the corporate model of education these days. And that is a pity. 

Possibly schools, where inclusiveness and acceptance is perpetually preached—but only practiced at the paper level—has little room left for either the student or the teacher, who do not fit into the corporate data driven  culture of our times.