A Race Unlike Any Other

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The race of testing begins. For teachers it brings out sheer stress, making sure students take the test in its entirety and that everyone is present for the test. For students too, they race to finish and hope that they never have to see it again.

Students also pick on the stress of others during this process, the pressures felt by the teachers, the expectations held by the parents, and the overall buzz in the air. The thing is children and adolescents have enough on their shoulders on top of picking up on the weight of others’ shoulders. Agreed that testing is a race, but not to finish, but to run.

Think of a great race, one that you trained for and rested for. To prepare for it, you created a training schedule where you challenged and pushed your endurance slowly and steadily. Some runners try to beat their top mile against themselves and others hoped that they would finish the race. The key detail here is that the expectation a runner struggles with is their own, they aren’t focused on any one else’s pace but their own .

Testing is no different. It is a process that students prepare for, both mentally and academically. Both require strengths, one of your heart and the other, with your mind. Without both muscles, a student may not be ready to take or finish the test. However, if they are focused on their actions and not the stresses of others, then they can worry about just finishing the test on their level, at their own pace, and not the expectations of others.

Is testing a race? Absolutely, but not one to finish for a medal or prize. Simply a race that is a process to work through.

Silence Speaks

IMG_0401Lately, I’ve been intrigued by what children and adolescents, really learner of any age, says by their inactions. You know, all those little idiosyncrasies that make them them: the twirling of their hair while they are speaking, the chewing of the pen as they learn, or the constant tap tap tapping of their feet. Those things. 

When I was a little girl, I was captivated by reading people, learning their behaviors and mannerisms that would help me understand how or what they were saying. Now, it seems I am captivated by how all of these little things can add up into understanding them better as learners: how they learn best, and more importantly, what we, as the adults in their lives, can to do to form a bond that helps them become super heroes in their own right.

We can’t begin to convince ourselves that learning, understanding the learning process , is not connected to our feelings. When you think of how learning and feelings are connected, imagine one of those three metal rings that the magician at the classic birthday parties used to have. Somehow they are separate, each in their own right holding meaning and value. And try as you might you cannot unconnect them,  until they are all brought into one entity, a solid silver metal ring, that when given the right emotional attention, will release into their separate selves.    

Now take the same magician, except now  visualize each ring as one that is held by a learner: one representing their thoughts of what they are learning, the second how they feel about how or what they are learning, and the third, what they are doing while they are learning. The trick  seem a bit more complicated now, doesn’t it?

Just as no magician divulges his or her secrets to their greatest tricks, nor should children need to explain or validate the value they hold in, or how or what they feel and learn.

Life is a circus of not just many performers, but acts as well. For some we may see the life of our learner as their one act, wanting them to not experience the feelings of fault, failure, or defeat. But aren’t their more than one acts in our circuses? Don’t we all want our learners to be nothing but successful? Then let them be able to juggle not just their three rings, but maybe look at these three rings of what is said and not said in their mind, how they feel about their thoughts, and what actions they are making. 

Now the next time a magician performs this trick, and roar of the crowd begins to swell, think of all the juggling that children and adolescents do while learning, sometimes without immediate feedback, applause, or without any noise at all.

 

 

A Child’s Magic: a learner’s self-empowerment

I am not a doctor. It sounds like an infomercial that you hear around 2 am when you can’t sleep blasting from the t.v., right? What I do have is eleven years of teaching under my belt in some of the lowest neighborhoods where most of the parents barely graduated high school, residencies for my counseling degree at a residential treatment center where girls had been in the foster system for most of their life, and working as a school counselor in a variety of settings.

Think of the fairy tales you read as a child, none of them spoke of a magic formula where everything you ever wanted came true just because you did something you were told to. Fairy tales happened because of what the character, usually an adorable girl with pig tales or a handsome young chap with an earnest desire to explore, did something about. They made it happen, mistakes and all. Shouldn’t children have that same opportunity?

Sometimes it’s all about working with what the child or learner brings to the classroom. Sometimes you have the unwillingness learners, the ones that  are sleepy, almost zombie like, like this kiddo I observed last week.

He was sluggish, and unmotivated, but given the appropriate content, I knew I could capture his attention. With those types of learners, I work with what he  is interested in learning  on his own.  Using the wiggle seat gave him a constant ripple of motions that sparked his body to engage physically, and working on something he liked the first thing in the morning, made his brain engage mentally. Connecting the brain and body made his learning relevant, which in turn, helped him take an active role in his learning.

Like I said, I’m not a doctor, but aren’t these simple adjustments with working with our children something we can all do? I am all about magic and children, I just feel that they should be in charge of their own destiny .