REFLECTIVE TEACHING : WALKING A MILE IN STUDENTS SHOES


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sit here pondering what to do. I struggle to run a functional program.  I have had an epiphany. Education and personal life need to be separate entities. One can not personalize classroom experiences nor allow personal stress to color reactions with in the classroom. However, personal lives do intertwine into ones life as an educator in a positive way. We learn in the classroom via trial and error. If we attempt to connect with the children in a way that does not work, we go back to the drawing board and seek alternate plans. Far from bias, drawing on ones personal experience can assist in assimilating a struggling child into the classroom successfully.

My younger son struggled with undiagnosed learning disabilities for years. He was labeled as lazy, non-compliant, and received many other negative labels along the way. Those labels have carried all the way into his college experience. He struggles with negative self efficacy and anxiety. In retrospect, my personal experience with my son has provided me with a nonjudgmental persona of my young charges in my classroom. I personally have experienced the pain of feeling incompetent as a parent due to people who were quick to label my son and family. A result of this experience is my ability to not label other children. What I child displays on the surface usually hides a precipitant which hides right below the skin.

As an educator, my job is to find out what the precipitant is. I have a kindergarten child in my class who constantly has urine and bowel accidents. The mother is devastated as the child never did this in the past. Other teachers have said the child is “babyfied” by her family and needs to be reprimanded more. In dealing with the family, I find quite the opposite is true. The family wants to eradicate the problem. I assured the family that the child is quite bright and capable. She was enrolled in the private kindergarten at my facility because she missed the cut off date for public school. The little girl is the youngest five years old in the class. I reassure the parents that the little girl is still extremely young.

Rather that chastise the family, I remind them of the reality of the situation. Kindergarten is quite a transition for children. My belief is that transition has been extremely difficult for this child. In preschool, children are reminded to use the bathroom. In kindergarten, they are expected to do so independently. In pre school children are expected to attend to academics in much shorter time chunks. Kindergarten presents new academic challenges such as sitting at a table developing reading and math skills. We need to respect each child for the individual they are. They reach developmental mile stones at different speed. When the child is ready, the milestones occur.

I have observed, processed, and attempted to trouble shoot in the situation. Rather than punish, I reward. Rather than embarrass the child, I developed a system that keeps her peers oblivious to her dilemma. Every hour or so I privately go over to the child and say “You know what you need to do right”? The child nods her head and goes to the bathroom. This takes minimal effort on my side to give reminders. It saves the child embarrassment from peers. Accidents have dissipated. If the child has no accidents I find little tasks to reward her for her compliance. I allow her to be a helper, line leader, or another role that she might covet. I remind her that these are big girl roles that are only doled out for responsible behavior.

Some of the behavior modification techniques were learned in school. Others were learned from going to counseling with my son during his developmental years. Thus the writer hopes a parallel has been made towards what one learns in life having the ability to teach us just as much as we learn in the classroom.

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

 

Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more   http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

 

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INSPIRING A POSITVE ATTITUDE IN CHILDREN IN CLASSROOMS


Today proved that reflecting and employing strategies in a difficult situation can pay off. The little girl who was evasive about homework assignments promptly pulled out her assignments. She feigned ignorance with problem solving. She was seeking the answers from me. I am aware of wear this child’s capabilities lay. To give her answers to problems she is capable of answering will enable her. My goal is to fill her was positive self efficacy and safe challenges. Part of the problem is a lack of self-esteem. This child feigns ignorance and inattentiveness due to her innate fear of making errors. My goal this year is to educate her on the fact that we all make mistakes. Mistakes are good if we learn from them.

My fondest wish is that she knows that I accept her unconditionally. Making mistakes with me is a safe zone for her to be in. This child absolutely abhors reading. The capability to read the content is evident. She was looking at her reading material silently while I assisted a student on the other side of the room. Upon my return, I requested that she read her material to me as was assigned. She pretended to be confused. I told her that I knew she was capable of this work and I would accept nothing but effort from her. I told her that I would assist her with hints, but nothing more. I slowly sounded out each letter in each word for her.

We painfully went through the reading process. She slowly connected the letters together in each word. When we were finished I commended her for her effort. I asked her if the work was really painful to perform. She looked up at me smiled and said “Oh Miss Mari” as she gave me a hug. I gave her a high-five, reminded her how smart she was, and told her she could now pack her book bag up for the day. She inquired as to her chances of being student of the month at this point. I informed her that it would take more than one day of effort to achieve that status. I informed her that she would need to continue the effort she expended today to be student of the month.

I am going to dangle this reward like a carrot on a stick for the whole month. If the right to be rewarded is earned, I believe I will choose her next month. If a child makes an effort to change their behavior, the wait for a reward should be relatively short-term. This child is only six. A month will seem like an eternity to her. I will give intermittent rewards of verbal praise, high fives, and special privileges to her for the duration of the month. Being an educator takes patience, flexibility, and most of all a sense of humor. We have the power to open a path of success for children. The wrong move could leave the child with poor self-esteem, and a sense of indifference that will be present into adult hood.

I tell myself I can’t make the right decisions constantly. I am not immune to having an off day in the classroom anymore than the children are. We are all human beings who err, no matter what our age. I find myself stepping back occasionally when the children’s behavior airs on the ornery side. I remind myself that I am their guide. The major observation I find myself constantly reminding myself about is the fact that these are not mini adults. They do not have the adult capability to verbalize their emotions. Thus, they act out instead. I have made a pact to myself to continue to hone my skills in terms of looking for a precipitant.

Mari Nosal, M.Ed.

Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more   http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

 

The Ingredients For A Great Educator


“To live with Apathy is to live with evil men”. Plato described the essential ingredient of human survival when he coined this powerful statement. If mankind does not function as an interdependent group, humanity as we know it would die. Humanity does not reside in a bubble. Society consists of people from different walks of life. Situations may vary amongst the human race. One commonality is shared amongst our society. That commonality is the need for assistance from fellow human beings.

Human design leaves all humans with fleeting moments of failure and despair in their lives. In order for those moments to be fleeting, and not long-term, emotional support from others is nonnegotiable. This is self – evident in the field of education. Team work and a positive educational system result in a fluid symmetry that benefits the student, parent, child, and society alike. A positive educational experience is dependent on a network of people that work cohesively as a unit. As Uri Bronfenbrenner believed, social, emotional, familial, and environmental issues are all part of the educational process.

A teacher cannot be expected to perform all of the above functions alone.  A supportive team for the teacher is imperative when difficulties arise. Cohesiveness is the strongest ingredient in terms of a positive classroom climate. Teachers, educators, administrators, and the community must work together for a mutual goal. That goal is the successful assimilation of children into our society; the end result is children who are empowered with the skill set needed to be future productive adult members of society. As educators, one gets one opportunity to assist children in developing to their fullest capacity.  Children are not commodities. If mistakes are made, they are irreparable. The deleterious out come will be a child who carries negative self efficacy into adulthood.

Educators have the monumental responsibility of mapping the successful or negative outcome of a child’s life. It is an awesome responsibility. Fluid symmetry between all people responsible for a child’s positive outcome must be supportive of each other. A teacher that lacks support will inevitably harbor feelings of futility. Futility will breed an apathetic demeanor. The end result will be a teacher who loses their zest for teaching, and a child who loses their zest for learning. My personal goal is to equip myself with the knowledge to help people within the community. I dream of a utopian world. All human beings will be assisted in gaining the tools necessary for a self productive life. Everyone in society would be equipped with the skills needed for self empowerment and positive self efficacy. The aforementioned skills are the building blocks to travel the road to success. May no one in the educational community be unsupported. May No Child Be Left Behind.

Mari Nosal M.Ed

Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more   http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

 

KIDS CHALK, SCIENCE, AND EXPLORATION ACTIVITIES


I have been perusing curriculum’s. I have compiled many ideas in my years as a school-age program coordinator. The time has come to spread my ideas with others. My goal is a society of children who may learn and grow together despite varied abilities, cognitive, developmental, or otherwise. Activities that enhance working as a group, provide children to recognize talents within their peers. This will provide a mutual respect of all that every child in the class can offer. There is nothing more wonderful than seeing the look of accomplishment on a child’s face when the “did it themselves”. I hope you enjoy my ideas.:-0)

More on the way:-0)

Mari

1) Chalk paint: Place chalk in a zip-lock bag. Pound the bag gently with a mallet until it is crushed into small pieces. If you are particularly daring, allow the children to stomp on the chalk filled bag. Either way should be resultant in crushed chalk particles. pour the chalk into a small bowl. Add water several spoonfuls at a time. Allow the children to add water and stir so they feel involved in the process. If a child lacks the motor skills to stir, I gently offer to hold their wrist and assist in the stirring  process. The goal is for ALL children to be involved in the process so they feel included. Several minutes of stirring should result in a colorful chalky paste. Now comes the fun part. Offer children paint brushes, sponges, or any other painting prop you can think of. Add paper, smocks, lots of smiles, and you have chalk paints.

2) If you wish for the chalk painting fun to go on – create a rainbow of friendship. Place a child’s hand in the chalk paint. The child may place their hand on a large piece of newsprint paper. When all their hand imprints are placed in the shape of a rainbow, a circle of friendship has been created.  This works best when the chalk hand prints are created in a wide array of colors to simulate a rainbow. I like to place info such as a positive characteristic, favorite food, activity, etc. that a child tells me about themselves in the middle of each hand print. Place the child’s name under their handprints as well. This gives the children a sense of ownership and pride when the rainbow is placed on the wall.

3) Science: Place a large bowl of water, grass (hay), and dirt on a table. Provide toy animals and children can attempt to place them in the correct habitat. This was popular in my classroom after a trip to the zoo.

4) Numbers hunt: This game reinforces math concepts in a fun way.Call out numbers and the children may attempt to find corresponding items. Example – chairs = four legs, forks = four tines. I like to adapt this game so everyone in the class may be involved at their level. If a child’s math knowledge is minimal, they are allowed to pick a buddy to assist them on the numbers hunt. Always make this the child’s choice.

5) Ball Sweep : Played with a broom, cardboard box, and a ball. Children sweep balls into cardboard boxes from a distance away. Using a broom is a great substitute to hockey sticks as children with motor skill issues, etc. have an easier time being involved  due to the wide base of the broom.

6) Exploration: Create the ultimate race track by taping paper towel tubes together at various angles. What angle creates the most speed, and how BIG will  the track get? Race friends with your toy car for a competitive edge.

7) Wooden block town: Create a track and town from wooden blocks as a team. Encourage the children to identify with landmarks from their own individual towns.

Have fun!!!!!!!!!! :-0)

Mari  Nosal M.Ed., CECE

Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more   http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

 

THE POSITIVE EDUCATOR – AN INVESTMENT IN OUR FUTURE LEADERS OF SOCIETY


Educators have an awesome responsibility. They touch lives in a way not seen in many professions. Educators are molding the future leaders of our society. Bias and preconceived expectations have no place in my classroom. Self fulfillment prophecies cause failure. An ability to observe and trouble shoot in a objective manner can create a positive classroom climate.  The impact I have on the children directly affects their positive self efficacy. If skills are learned and an innate feeling of empowerment is instilled in the children, a positive indirect effect will culminate as well. Children will take their skills and use them to make a positive impact on others as adults.

Educators are leaders. Leaders develop many different styles. One is not necessarily better than another. The success of the style must be adapted to the population it serves. Educators spend more time with children than their parents do. Thus, we are fundamental contributors to the development of our charges. A fundamental part of the observation process is to find a teaching style that the students are responsive to.   The innate characteristics of a teacher are Directing, Participating, and delegating. Student engagement, and a student centered environment is my style of practice.

I have instilled trust in the children. Thus I instill a safe and positive classroom climate. The children know they can ask questions and their questions will not be undermined. If the children are not focused on the curriculum I am willing to adapt it by a voting system and shuffle the curriculum around. There is always a reason for lack of focus. As the educator, it is my job to look below the surface and seek resolution. Directing is done by modeling, explaining, visual lists, and then I slip off to the side and become a delegate. Delegating responsibilities for a project and acting as a coach are my ultimate goal.

If a child appears confused I am available to assist. My ultimate goal is to establish independence in the children. A firm belief is that a classroom climate that promotes independence, promotes empowerment. A child who is taught that the teacher’s assistance is needed at all times will get the distinct feeling that the teacher deems them incapable of doing anything on their own. Like snow flakes, no two students are alike. Using one form of instruction, materials delivery and assessment is not possible. Individualized instruction takes into account the learning needs and interests of each child. My program is curriculum based. Projects spawn from a book that has been read. I must be cognitive of varied levels. My children are multi age. Their cognitive levels are as staggered as a set of steps. The writer will give an example of individualized instruction. Last week, a book on leave siblings transformed into a nature walk to find leaves that fit the description of those in our book. Some children were preoccupied with finding leaves that corresponded with the colors in the book. Others just randomly snatched handfuls and popped the leaves in our container. Although I guided, the children made the ultimate choice.

We reentered the classroom with our prize, bins of leaves. The next step was to set them upon the table for a collage. The goal was to make the collage as similar to the book as possible. Some children searched for pointy the yellow leaf, Paige the red leaf, and Phil the red leaf. Google eyes were attached. Some children even added Popsicle stick branches.  One child with poor fine motor skills was showing signs of frustration. Google were sticking to her fingers instead of the leaf. As the child proceeded to walk away, the powers of observation gave me the ability to assess the situation. I could have deemed her lazy and defiant. That would have been deleterious to her future enthusiasm.

I stepped out of my coaching character and assisted in a way that the child still felt in control. I held down the leaf, rubbed glue stick on the top. The child than set the googly eyes upon the leaf. Success was experienced. The child who was ready to give up actually asked if we could do another literary project the following day! The child was an active partner in our decision-making. I allowed for adaptation in the project so I could reach all learning modalities. I must take note that my I stepped in to assist the child’s project but the child still had an active role in the end result. The activity culminated with a child who was not made to feel incompetent in front of her peers. Her self-esteem was preserved.

The goals of a teacher are more complex than it seems on the surface. Many educators tell me that they like working with children and that was their reasoning behind entering the profession. Teaching is an art. An educator must be part educator and part sleuth. The classroom, the children, and the community must all be taken into consideration when observing and trouble shooting. The teacher is a facilitator. However to run a well-organized classroom we must have the ability to look at the class through the child’s eyes and not our own. In some ways, the child teaches the educator as much as the teacher educates the child.

As an adult, a classroom can evoke negative classroom experiences of our own childhood that can cloud the lenses that we view the class through. The social order of the class room, the play patterns, even disruptive behavior can evoke these memories. Memories can take two pathways in our own class. We can be introspective about our own past. Rather than reliving negativity that we encountered we can assess what was unpleasant to us and peers as children. We could remember an authoritarian classroom where the teacher had the last word. If we questioned the teacher we were ostracized to a far corner of the room. Perhaps we did not care for the class that was so silent we could hear a pin drop. I hated the rows of desks that did not allow for team work in the class.

If one becomes introspective, childhood classroom experiences can be a learning tool. Rather than repeating the very teaching styles we abhorred as children, we can draw upon those experiences to make a positive classroom climate. I hated the quietness of my child hood classroom. I now encourage group conversation and input into projects. A favorite democratic practice I use is the voting system. We vote on two items on the curriculum. The majority dictates which project is tackled first. I detested rows of desks. I now sit down on the floor with the children during circle time. I prefer being at their eye level, and it affords some great group discussions. I always tell the kids that I will never have them do anything I would not do myself. I model this, and have received respect for my authority as a result.

This writer would like to emphasize that she is not void of judgment. O n days when a recalcitrant child repetitively challenges me I find my self reverting to bias. I will avoid this child, and have even caught my self involuntarily rolling my eyeballs when she confronts me. However, I must remember my job is to teach her positive behavior strategies that will put her on a positive path. I consciously admit my foibles and strategize without singling her out.  Homework support was a constant battle with this particular child. I implemented a token reward system which is labeled on the wall above the homework table. Monday through Thursday a token can be earned for doing homework with out arguing or lying about what assignments need to be done. These tokens can be turned in on Friday for extra free choice time at a favorite activity. Homework battles have subsided.

Flexibility is the mother of invention in a classroom. I felt smug in regards to a warning system I developed. Three warning cards are attached to the wall. If all warnings are taken down no token is earned. I get up and silently remove a warning from the wall. If one warning remains on the wall the children earn a token. A chart on the wall was developed as a group project. The children colored the tokens. When twelve tokens are earned a group privilege is enjoyed. After a couple of months of using a movie as a privilege, poor behavior escalated. I charted behavior in reaction to new behavior programs in a notebook. Ultimately, the old token system was re-instituted. In charting reactions I found it was the most successful behavior program. I merely had to be flexible enough to take a vote on a new reward occasionally. Once new rewards are instituted the behavior subsides.

In closing I will summarize what skills a teacher must possess. Teachers have to understand their subjects, but remain flexible. Remaining flexible assists the teacher in helping students create cognitive maps, relate ideas, and clear up misunderstanding. Educators must connect teaching with everyday life. This assists in content. Assisting in content knowledge creates accessibility of ideas. Figure out what students know and how to make children excited about learning. Teach in ways that connect the child’s culture, social, emotional, and cognitive development into the learning process. Respect the child for who they are and never presume failure. Children will become who we believe they are. Be sensitive, inquiring, and structure situations where students talk about experiences. Motivating a child requires that we develop and appreciation and understanding for who they are. If we know what excites them we can incorporate it into the learning experience. Identify strengths yet address and strategist for weakness. Collaborate with students to teach teamwork. Collaborate with teachers for advice and support. Collaborate with parents to understand the home life. Be humble enough to analyze and change teaching strategies. Admit when a strategy does not work. Evaluation and observation is a constantly evolving process. As the child evolves so must the teaching environment, smile and show enthusiasm and the children will always smile back.

To all of you that make our society a better place by the contributions you make – thanks. :-0)

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more   http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

 

EDUCATION REVAMPED – MY VISION FOR THE FUTURE


As I sit and ponder what it means to be an educator, a strong vision comes to mind. I visualize a flock of geese following in a perfect V formation. There is a correlation between the perfect educational system, and the teamwork geese employ while they soar through the blue skies.

One bird flaps it wings and creates an updraft for the bird behind it. The geese generally place themselves strategically with the strongest bird in the front, and the weakest in the back. I surmise the reasoning behind this is so the stronger birds can lift the weakest with an updraft. As the stronger bird tires, the formation changes. The weaker birds who now have a reserve of energy take the place of the exhausted birds.

Like geese, people cannot fly alone either. Education encompasses a whole network of educators. In order to educate the whole child, one must think of the process as more than mere academics. Social, emotional, familial, and environmental issues are part of educating the child. Expecting a classroom teacher to perform all these duties alone is sure to breed chaos.

As geese form a perfect V formation, educators, administrators and the community have to work as a unit. The common goal shared, should be the successful assimilation of the children into society. If a bird tires, and another geese does not support their weak moment in flight, the formation will be broken. The weaker bird will tire and plummet. In terms of assisting a child in developing to their fullest capabilities, we do not get a second chance to repair the mistakes made. Due to a lack of camaraderie between all involved with that child, he is sure to plummet like the geese.

Society has become extremely fast paced. Teachers are struggling with the parameters of the No Child Left Behind Act, and equipping their students with the skills to pass MCAS.  In order to achieve these goals, gym, art, and music classes, are being cut nation wide. Dual income, achievement oriented parents are worried about their child being ready for the competitive world that awaits them. Thus, teachers, parents, and children alike need a supportive flock as never before.

A wise man named Uri Bronfenbrenner developed the bio-ecological perspective including the Microsystem, Mesosystem, Exosystem, Macrosystem, and Chronosystem. Mr. Bronfenbrenner made a powerful statement. He stated that “each system depends on the contextual nature of the person’s life and offers an ever-growing diversity of options and sources of growth”. What one could extract from this is the importance of how one system nourishes all the others.

There is a great need for skilled personnel who can equip children, parents, and teachers, with the support they need within the systems. My position as a school age site coordinator is a prime example of someone who bridges that gap within the educational system. We are onsite at schools across the nation. Family, children, administrators, and teachers interact with me on a daily basis. If a teacher has issues with a child’s homework progress, I can supply them with insight as I interact with the parents daily.

A personal example would be a child who was not turning in homework, and the parents were not reading notices. I was able to explain that the parents were immigrants with a language barrier who both worked seven days a week to make ends meet. The teacher and I devised a system. A homework folder was made. A must read folder, and a done folder were developed to simplify the process for the parents. The outcome for this family was positive to the teacher and me working as a team. The parents and all involved were empowered due to everyone’s issues being taken into account.

Another memory is of a child that had no snacks during the day. This deeply affected his concentration and energy level. The cafeteria director made me privy to fact that the child was hungry. I proceeded to contact the teacher, and started leaving food from my classroom, in hers to feed the child. I have been able to intervene with behavior issues by making the teacher privy to impending divorces, illness in the family, or other issues that may affect the child in his primary classroom.

When issues arise within the school, they are used as the topic of our Friday groups.

Several weeks ago the teachers were disgruntled with the noise level of our group. As a lesson in social skills, the older children within the group told the younger children why they disliked the screaming and interruptions during homework time.

After the group dispersed, the younger children were asked to go to one table and prepare a poster as a team, on why being loud and interrupting was wrong. The older children did a separate poster on why they don’t like loud behavior. These posters hang side by side on the wall in my classroom. I also had a teacher come in and reprimand the students on how their behavior disturbed the teachers, and made them each present a personal letter of apology to the education staff.

We have done similar groups on bullying, honesty, and respect. In all these situations the lessons learned were carried into other aspects of their lives. The outcome is a socially adept and well rounded child. After acquiring these skills, it has been noted that the children were applying these skills in the classroom. The ultimate outcome was an increase in positive self efficacy, and a positive classroom climate.

My personal goal is to help communities become socially as well as academically well rounded. It would be a wonderful world, if every one was equipped with a sense of empowerment, positive self efficacy, and was equipped with all the skills for success.  I wish to assure that children, families, and the community have every resource available placed with in their reach.

I realize my goal is slightly utopian in thought, and practice. However, one can always

dream.  May we all fly in the V formation, help each other soar, and may “No Child Be Left Behind”.

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more   http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9