JIVE LIVE in the Classroom!

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Total engagement, inclusion, and focus of each class is the Teacher’s dream realized. Creating moments where classroom materials marry with imaginations to transport us to new understandings can be rare or regular; much depends on the learning environment and collaboration of the team. USE HIGH LEVEL PERFORMANCE ABILITY TO ENGAGE STUDENTS.

 

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Traditional teaching methods could look a lot like the scenario above; teacher-centered, other staff supporting from the background, students listening passively. Modern teaching methods, we’re told,  differ greatly. They are more student-centered, individualized, self-paced, and teachers coach or support along side the students. But many ask, “What does that look like?”

 

Student-centered and individualized learning looks just like the picture above as well! Or parts of it does, the lesson, the progress towards understanding is similar; it does look similar to classrooms we are familiar with much of the time. One difference is the ordering, the timing, the implementation, and assessments of student learning could look and feel quite different. Students in the picture above are hearing a story, experiencing a conflict they are going to try to resolve, right before they engage in a hands-on project to test their knowledge and reasoning ability. A student centered classrooms has all the same learning goals as a traditional one, but we will more frequently ask students to do most of the work independently, once the framework and the exercise is explained. What is “added value” in modern environments is hands-on and digital components, teamwork, innovation, expressions of students (possible changing the direction of the lesson slightly!), and scientific inquiries into real inquiries the class will see along the way, question,and then engage in direct discovery about. Teaching with inquiry-based themes, hands-on projects, and teamwork on progress towards requisite products of the course, do require some restructuring of an educator’s ideas about learning components in the lesson and prioritizing of delivery of each part. On teachers part, it may require a robust effort to be more adaptable to change, and more adept at stepping out of the way of student dynamics when projects go in new or unexpected directions.

 

Teacher’s new goals in the educational environment include;

  • guiding students into the realms of a subject or problem,
  • show them a question or theme to be explored during the learning experience,
  • responding with feedback at appropriate places,
  • without doing too much to assist the learner.   

Teachers also have to analysis, collect formative data, and plan for the learning needs trajectory of each student that can allow an for in-depth measurement of their skills, progress, and aptitudes. Some teacher’s assessments of students will need to be done in traditional ways through tests, and some of it will perhaps be digitally achieve portfolio materials, including student owned social media content that shows student expertise and mastery of a subject- not only to the administrators of a course or school, but potentially to employers or collaborators in the field and global economy. School has taken on whole new dimensions with large-scale internet availability to research, open resources to learn from, and private educational opportunities abounding. Competition from student attention and focus is much greater in today’s world.

Schools who remain competitive and deliver competent educational credentials must quick advance into the digital age of learning. Materials and courses should be UDL accessible and understandable to a large range of learning abilities, also available to the mobile or in-person student body, with easily understandable and transferable credits.

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Inner Life of Behaviors

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My parents were not overly educated. Neither finished high school actually, but that did not prevent them from having a full measure and graduate level understanding of human behaviors. The code of the day, when I was a young child in the 1960’s was still “Spare the rod; spoil the child,” and “Children should be seen and not heard [from].”

It certainly never occurred to my parental unit that a day would ever come when children and their behaviors ruled a household, or determined the decisions (socially, emotionally, and financially) that had to be made by the heads of their household. At the same time, my father deeply understood children and adult inner motivations, and was my first teacher in the art of personal empowerment, choice making, and consequences. He effortlessly created a rich and rewarding real-life learning environment for his children which included hands-on involvement with the world, travel, questioning the facts and the opinions of others, research, and thinking for oneself. It is not what I learned that mattered to him, as long as I was keenly interested in something and trying to understand it from all sides and angles. I often had far reaching goals and dreams in my youth and my parents always let me know they believed in my ability to carve out any destiny I chose. They didn’t make me believe it would always be easy and they didn’t mask the possibility of failures along the way. But they believed in “getting back on the horse” when you’ve been thrown, and they frequently picked me up, dusted me off, and sent me back to the ring to try again, whatever the risk or possibility of failure might be. They did not protect me from making mistakes, even when they advised me fore or against any course of action.They accepted I had decisions to make, and that I must live with them.

From this early experience of “getting down and dirty” with life and my chosen paths, I have built a praxis in teaching, and in understanding the needs of the modern young person. I have practiced and participated in the learning and teaching experience over the past 4 decades and I now consider myself somewhat of an expert.:) But I also realize in each exhale how much more I have to learn. Currently I live with several disabilities of my own, including auditory and visual, but I do not consider them disabilities because living with these challenges has help prepare me to work with students with disabilities. I currently teach children  with severe learning disabilities, Autism, and non-verbal students in K-12 and adult learners. My students often represent the hardest group to serve. But because of many years and different situations of teaching practice I am prepared and pleased to be teaching my kids.

My last four years I have spent leading public school functional life skills classrooms in three states and I have learned from research and practice the key components of reasoning behind student misbehaviors and bad habits. Because I have really not found this information shared elsewhere, I am writing a blog that will focus on explaining my findings regarding instruction, classroom environmental design, UDL curriculum design, Common Core adaptations, and what is (wrongly) called “classroom management” skills to help other teachers and parents find meaning to their pressing questions in regards to special needs and unique learning students.

Many of my experiences- and research- driven practices will surprise some of you. Others will exclaim, “It’s about time someone used their common sense!” Whatever your reaction to my commitment to turning all education, especially Special Education, into an experience that is student-centered, -driven, -assessed, and which empowers students to choose and follow their own self-constructed paths to success, I hope that you will share it with me. Cheers! Remember to visit my site www.enablethem.com!

Zen and the Art of the Classroom Teacher

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1942 Young people who would become my ancestors and first teachers. Note the big smiles before have children and careers!

The first teachers are our parents. We are all “home schooled” by accident and on purpose; learning to observe and adapt to visual, auditory, tactile, emotional, physical, and kinesthetic lessons that shape our lives and characters. “Nature or nurture?” is the question that cannot be fully answered, only balanced against the fires of experiences that shape each of us. Elements of perseverence and compassion, personal opinions and choices continually shaping our development and swaying the directions of our paths into life.  Like a tree branch or root system, we are always growing, extending, seeking, recoiling, and readjusting the path.

Our teachers throughout life make remarkable Impacts onto our lives and the future of ourselves, our children, our whole world. Our teachers shape and groom the face of society, culture, and the future by the words they utter, the things they do, and don’t do while we are with them.

The blog posts that follow are the reflections and lessons of a life well lived for over 5 decades, and of the wisdoms gained by teaching for over 3 decades. The teaching praxis reflected on follows the concepts of a common-core enriched, project-based, art and music infused, hands-on, autonomous learning style with students inside and outside of public schools, home schools, charter schools, and innovative start-up schools from 1981 to the present. Starting out as a reluctant school teacher, pursuing the life of an artist, non-profit leader, energy conservation guru, teaching-artist, science teacher, math tutor, sculptor, weaver, writer, researcher and parent has rounded my view point of what learning means.

The blog will pursue the theme “What it Means to be a Great Teacher,” and more importantly why. Teaching is not a career pathway for the “faint of heart.” Indeed, teaching requires deep insight into your own personal struggle to find meaningful work, and education. Teaching means growing a thick skin in order to endure both an unappreciative student body and family brand. Teaching means countless little losses of face, and a few giant leaps of faith. Teaching means investing in a future you may never witness. Teaching implies you always smile, you never give up, and as Loren Green taught us in a Bonanza TV show in 1951;

I don’t have anything against education, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of your thinking.

Remember to visit my site www.enablethem.com!