Saturday, January 31, 2009

It takes a whole (global) village to raise a child doesn't it?

Friday afternoon, fourth class, second day of the second semester, first day second semester with this class. I had an unpleasant incident with two grade 10 students the details of which don't really matter.

What really matters is that the situation in which the students found themselves isn't the situation that most met their needs at that particular time. Neither of them wanted to do what I, the school, society, and possibly the other students wanted them to do. Their actions involved insubordination. The consequences needed to address that were provided by the administration (to whom I am extremely grateful).

Later on, I whined on Twitter, "If we are such an advanced society, why are we keeping kids in school when they don't want to be there. We have nothing better for them?"

The school cannot give either of these students precisely what it is they most need. To succeed in schools, students need to become skilled in time management and delayed gratification. Successful time management and delayed gratification become possible only if the child's needs for food, shelter, clothing, safety,nurturing, identity, love and belonging are adequately met. I don't believe that the school, on its own, can begin to meet these basic human needs. Schools CAN be part of a co-parenting of children with all the rest of the village.

For these two kids, and a whole lot of others, co-parenting from the village isn't happening. Until it does, some teachers and some students are doomed to play out the unpleasant drama we enacted yesterday afternoon.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Would This Qualify as "21st Century Skills"?

My grade 5/6 social studies class is ticked off with me. Really.

We are studying the geographic regions of Canada. We've already gone over what they are by reading a section of a book and making notes. We've even marked the notes together as a class.

As a follow - up, I've put them into groups of 3, given them short articles on the geographic regions of Canada from 2 different photocopiable activity books (which means that the printing is big and the headings and sub headings are large) and I've given them a frame (aka "note taking sheet") into which they have to put the correct information to complete the notes. In order to do the task, hopefully, a) they will work as a group; b) they will use headings and subheadings to help locate information; c) they will look for specific bits of information by skimming and looking for key words or clue words from the notes.

Yes we are using pencil and paper. Yes we are getting information from two different sources and putting it together. Yes maybe we are getting the idea that the information really DOES EXIST even though I can't locate it in 2.5 nanoseconds (Ms. Cone wasn't really lying after all.)

My experience with kids using the internet for locating information is that they have no, or almost no clue that they actually have to READ something beyond the first sentence or paragraph. Hopefully this kind of activity will translate into the development of better over all research skills so that they will use the internet (and other sources) effectively.

Wish us luck.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A different type of social studies test.

As I have previously Yammered, I've signed my class up for the 80 Schools Around the World project. Not being certain how to start, I just started anyway, as Sylvia has us all on a Google Docs database. I contacted Nadine Norris a tech consultant from Oak Forest Illinois (near Chicago). Actually I Skyped her; my class was working on an assignment and she was eating lunch in her tech room.

Nadine had a fourth grade class who was studying government and wanted to ask my class some questions about Canadian government. Nadine was shocked to learn (as are many Canadians) that the prime minister is not the head of our governemnt; Queen Elizabeth is.

Friday morning came and the appointed Skype hour. My grade six group protested that they didn't really know anything about Canadian government ("Too bad," I said.) I had trouble connected to the wireless with my Mac and had to use the Dell (I don't really like the web cam as well as the one on my Mac). In my haste, I had forgotten to re hook up the data projector, so my group of 12 or so was clustered around the laptop.

What I found interesting was the kinds of questions the American kids asked; for example, how long has the Queen held her position. (Since 1953 I supplied the answer). My class asked the fourth graders if they were happy to have Obama and the kids clapped (I guess that's a yes.)

On reflection, I think it was a great experience for the kids. Most of the time, we Canadians don't get this kind of experience until we leave the country to visit an other one. I still wish I had better technology for a big group; Skype is after all best suited for an individual to individual conference. However, what better way to do a crash course with a test on Canadian government? (Well, maybe go to Ottawa and have to work for an MP?)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

7 Things You May Not Know About Me

I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that being "tagged" on Donna's blog post means I am to write my own 7 things. So far, I've found everything else everyone has written FASCINATING; I'm not sure I can write anything that would keep anyone awake long enough to read the whole post, but here goes:

1. I spent one year in the (now-defunct) College of Home Economics at the University of Saskatchewan. I come from a working class background. After a year of studying Arts and Sciences, I felt like I needed to study something to get "a real job". I actually was able to transfer all my credits and at the end of 1973 had two years towards a HomeEc degree. I hated every minute of HomeEc and transferred back to Arts.

2. I have an advanced degree in Sociology meaning I have a 4 year arts degree. I have an equal number of French classes, but double majors in French and Sociology weren't recognized.

3. At age 14 I attended an election rally for Pierre Trudeau. It was more like a rock concert than a rally. I got a "psychedelic" TRUDEAU poster on a stick and after the ralley, I proceeded to carry it home through my working class neighbourhood. Every yard had black and orange NDP lawn signs. I was not attacked or verbally abused; however when I walked into the 25th Street Grocery (owned then by my uncle), the clerk told me to "Get that thing out of here."

4. I spent the summer before the election of the Partie Quebecois taking an amazing summer immersion course in Trois-Rivieres. It had been cooperatively offered by the U of S and Memorial University in Newfoundland. We didn't study French; we studied Quebec history, literature, and culture in French. We didn't live on campus; my "proprietier" (sp?) was head of the PQ in Trois-Rivieres. Needless to say, my political vocabulary improved immensely as did my understanding of the world view in Quebec.

5. I was a sick little kid. I had asthma and eczema. At 8 days of age I had a brain puncture to alleviate pressure on the brain. I was hospitalized once for two weeks and my parents weren't allowed to visit me (times have changed).

6. In 1990 or 91 I "crashed" the Edmonton and area teachers convention (over 5000 teachers at the Edmonton convention center) and happened to attend a session on multimedia. Someone wheeled in a large card with a Mac computer, televisions, laser disc reader, speakers, etc. etc. and proceeded to explain how this was the future of computing and media. I was hooked.

7. I got my first dog 11 years ago while I was working on my project for my masters degree. Lukey was an adorable miniature schnauzer. Rick Schweir even allowed him to play on his desk, after welcoming Lukey into his office like a beloved colleague. Lukey died in 2003.