Friday Two Cents: Start The Ripples Of Caring


 

‘From caring comes courage.’ Lao Tzu

  This week I had the privilege to work with several classes, all with wonderful students. Yet there were a couple of classrooms where a minority of students constantly keep me on my toes. This was not the first time I have worked with these students and sadly I have seen their type of behaviour in different schools as well. The behaviour I am talking about is caring for others or to be more specific, a lack of caring about others. Their behaviour towards being first in line, that their needs supersedes that of others, the attitude that “I’ll do what ever I want because that’s what I want to do and everyone else is not important”.

  Unfortunately I have seen a steady increase of this behaviour. Not just in the older students but starting as young as kindergarten and continuing into the older grades. I thought that this was a generational thing but after looking at some research I believe that it is, in part a generation issue; the generation being the parents of the students.
  Studies from the Making Caring Common Project in Harvard have shown that about 78% of middle and high school students choose ‘achieving at a high level’ or ‘happiness’ over caring for others.   They also found out that three times of them would see their peers agreeing with this statement, “I’m prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”
  Yet where does all this thinking begin? Where did it start? Well for that answer they asked the students and the results are pretty clear. They asked the students how they viewed their parents’ child-raising priorities when it came to achievement, happiness or caring for others. The results where: 81% said achievement or happiness and 19% viewed caring is their parents top priority.   The study continued by asking teachers, administrators and other school staff (school adults), who work with the students, the same questions about the parents’ priorities for the children. They found that about 80% of the school adults viewed parents as prioritising achievement or happiness over caring for others.
  So the research says that parents are sending messages to their children that ‘achieving at a high level’ or ‘happiness’ is more important than caring for others. Yet when asked they do not see it and are surprised at the results.
  I have found it baffling that parents under value their contribution to the education and moulding of their children. Many believe that their child will learn more from a teacher than from them. I have told many parents that my contribution to their child’s learning is a musicale one in the larger scheme of things. Many don’t believe me but I explain it this way.
  ‘Your child will be in school for about 14 years (elementary, middle and high school). They are with me for one out of those 14 years. It’s not even a full year, 10 months. Furthermore its only five days a week, for about 6 hours a day. That’s assuming they start when they are four years old. Yet for the first four years of their life and the remaining 14 years, who are they with all the time? So I ask you, who do you think has a greater influence in teaching your child, me or you?’ Their stunned silence speaks volumes.
  When I read all this research, add in my own experience and then add what I see in the world today, I should say, “Well if they don’t care, I won’t care either.” But something inside me says “No!” I do care about others. That is probably why this affects me so much. I care about everyone in the class. My contribution maybe limited to only a few hours a day, but when they do see me I will try to be that beacon that speaks to them that caring about others is my priority. Perhaps that will inspire some to care about others too. As a famous saying goes;

“Look at the ripples. So small a first then look how they grow. But someone has to start them.”

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Friday Two Cents: Who Truly Has A Sense Of Entitlement


 

‘Loving a child doesn’t mean giving in to all his whims; to love him is to bring out the best in him, to teach him to love what is difficult.’ Nadia Boulanger

 

‘The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.’ Benjamin Spock

 

This week I had the opportunity to revisit an old school that I had supplied in the past. I know the students and the teachers. It is a wonderful school and I enjoy going to there whenever I can. Yet I noticed something very interesting when I was there.

Standing on guard for thee

As in every school the morning routine begins with the singing of O Canada and then the morning announcements. The thing that surprised me was that once O Canada came on over the PA system the kindergarten students all stopped their activities and stood erect and sang the entire anthem. This shouldn’t be too surprising yet in many kindergarten classes, to get the students to stand and sing the anthem and not talk to one another is a constant struggle.
This incident made me think about why did these students stand and sing the anthem proudly and in other classes I have to constantly remind them. Is it because the students are older senior kindergarten students? No, there is an even mix of junior and senior kindergarten students. Is it because of the teachers? No, in every class I have been in the teacher is always the first to stand and remind the students. They are the perfect role models. Then what was the reason?

New to Canada

The only conclusion I could come up with was that the school’s student population (school A) was largely made of immigrant families and visible minorities and the other schools’ populations were largely 2nd, 3rd or greater generation families. In those other schools’ classes I had to remind students on a daily basis to stand and stop talking to their friends during the anthem. Yet that was only one of many differences that I noticed about the students from school A. Wherever I went in the school, the older students would hold the door open and use manners when interacting in the hallway. It made me think about the interactions in other schools with a smaller immigrant family base. There were times I had to remind students to please hold the door for others. Say please and thank you and show proper manners such as not burp in public and say excuse me.
Yet right away my mind went to the question of ‘Why?’ Why were these students in school A showing “better” manners and respect for others then other schools? Is it truly because the families are immigrants? Is it because they are from places where staying alive is a constant struggle and living in a country as amazing as Canada is a blessing?
I have and many studies have shown it, that parents are the greatest influence in their child’s life. More than teachers, celebrities or athletes, parents influence and mold their children into the people they will become as adults. It would seem that the generations of parents born in this country do not know or take it for grated, on how lucky they are to be in this country. New arrives to Canada know from first hand experience how difficult it is and the struggles they undertook to come here.

Parents have the greatest influence on their children.

Many people say that this generation of students is entitled and they want things done for them and I have examples of seen this. Yet perhaps people should be looking at the root cause of this sense of entitlement, the parents. Instead of passing off their children onto others and expecting them to teach their child to be responsible and respectable citizens, they should be looking to themselves. It’s their job, their responsibility to instill manners, respect for others and to be grateful for the blessings of living in a wonderful country like Canada. Maybe the people who need to stop having a sense of entitlement and expecting others to do things for them are not the students.

Friday Two Cents: No More Sharing, Delaying Gratification


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This past week I experienced a valuable lesson about sharing. Those of you who have children or teach young children would recognize this scenario.

I was supplying in a classroom this past week where the students knew me from previous visits. I noticed that during learning centres many of the boys would play with the Duplo blocks like so many students in countless classrooms. Yet in this case I had a student (A) come up to me saying that another student (B) was not sharing the blocks. I went over to B to see if this was the case and I asked him his side of the story. It turned out that the A wanted the blocks B was playing with. I said, “When B was finished with the blocks you can have them.” Student A said he wanted the blocks now. I restated my response adding, “Do you want me to take those blocks away from him and given them to you?” He said yes. I was a little surprised at the response but I said no you have to wait for them. He looked at me as if to say ‘WHAT wait are you crazy?’ He insisted that he wanted them.
I then asked him, “If B wanted your blocks that you were playing with would you like it if I took them from you and gave it to him?” He said no and then I asked how would he feel if that happened? He said he would be sad. Therefore do you want him to feel that way now? He said no, half-heartedly and he went back to the blocks but I continued to observe him and the others. I was surprised that A continued to tell B that he wanted his blocks, but B said no.
In the end it got to a point where student B had to come to me and say that A was bothering him about the blocks. I told B to play on the other side of the carpet and told A to please leave him alone and give him some personal space. That was the end of it but I was very troubled by A’s reaction that it reminded me about an article about sharing I had recently read.
In the article, the students learned that if they want something all they have to do is say that someone is not sharing and the adult (parent or teacher) will step in and force the other student to give up the toy, either within 5 minutes or right away. This teaches the student that if they want something they complain and get what they want, instant gratification. Yet if the student comes to you and we say you can have the toy after the other child is done, that provides a delayed gratification effect that the students are not used to.

Instant gratification vs. delayed gratification

Today everything is instant gratification. They want something, they get it, or if they are asked to do something there must be a reward in the end right away. The same was with student A. He wanted something and wanted instant gratification for his complaining by getting the blocks. By providing an opportunity for a delayed gratification he was not happy with the outcome, (he did get to play with the blocks after B was finished), this may have helped him in the long run. Study after study have shown the benefits to children who have learned delayed gratification.
One famous experiment by Stanford professor named Walter Mischel sheds light on this subject matter. In the experiment a child is placed in a room, sitting on a chair and a marshmallow is placed on the table in front of them. The researcher offered a deal to the child. He told the child that he was going to leave the room and that if the child did not eat the marshmallow while he was away, then they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. However, if the child decided to eat the first one before the researcher came back, then they would not get a second marshmallow. The choice was simple: get one treat right now or two treats later. He left the room for 15 minutes.

The Marshmallow Test

The footage of the children waiting alone in the room was very entertaining to say the least. Some kids jumped up and ate the first marshmallow as soon as the researcher closed the door. Others wiggled and bounced and scooted in their chairs as they tried to restrain themselves, but eventually gave in to temptation a few minutes later. And finally, a few of the children did manage to wait the entire time. The study was done in 1972 but the interesting thing is what comes later.
The researchers followed the children and what they found was surprising. The children who were willing to delay gratification and wait to receive the second marshmallow ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as reported by their parents, and generally better scores in a range of other life lessons. They continued to follow each child for more than 40 years and time and time again, the group who waited patiently for the second marshmallow succeed in whatever task they were engaged in.
Therefore, you could say that by teaching the students to not share or wait for their gratification, we are doing them a serves.
You can see a version of the experience and the children’s reactions on YouTube.

Friday Two Cents: It All Gives Me Hope


 

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This past week I started training camps for the students who joined the softball and T-ball leagues. For the first week I just want them to throw around the ball to get use to the idea of throwing and catching. For many of the kindergarten to grade 2 students it’s the first time they are wearing a glove or throwing a T-ball. The same can be said for the older students, the softball is a lot larger than a normal sized baseball or tennis ball, which many use to play catch.

Yet this is only part of what we do in the first week, we then go into a classroom where we go over some basic rules of the game. For the younger students we go over where to run to, so they understand were they should go. With the older students we go over a lot more rules such as tagging up from a pop fly and conduct on and off the field.
However these are just boring logistics of the game. I always let them know that this is a game and the #1 rule is, “Having fun!” And to extend this philosophy I always end the first day of training camp with a cartoon. Which cartoon you may ask? Why, that classic Disney cartoon with my favourite character Goofy; “How to play baseball.”

All the students love this little cartoon and it seems to set the mode for the rest of the season. I even had parents come into the class, sit-down and watch the cartoon. For some reason this little 8-minute cartoon speaks to kids of all ages. I guess I have to keep in mind that quote from the movie Field of Dreams:

‘The one constant through all the years, has been baseball. North America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.’

Quote from Field of Dreams Terence Mann: (James Earl Jones)

You know I think that is why I love baseball so much. When I see the students playing the game, throwing a ball or watching a cartoon about baseball, it gives me hope. It reminds me of all that once was good and could be again.

Friday Two Cents: 43 Classes And Counting


 

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This past week has been filled with many eye-opening experiences. It started like any other with me going into another new kindergarten class as a supply early childhood educator (ECE). It was a great experience as I was able to observe another teacher’s teaching style and class routine. I do this in every class I go in as a supply, a student in teacher’s college and in other classes I have been in since I decided to put all my energy into becoming a teacher. Suffocate to say I have observed many classes and I have learned a lot over the years.

But then this week I was given the opportunity to supply in a kindergarten class in the very school I went to as a child. As a mater of fact I worked in the very kindergarten class I was in when I started as a child. It was obviously different then when I was in the class as a student but many things were familiar. The chairs, tables and I remember playing with the blocks in the block centre. Yet the first thing that came to mind when I entered the class was that everything seemed smaller. Even the cubby area where the students place their jackets was the same as I remember it but it seemed smaller. I guess it makes sense since I haven’t been in that class since I was 4 or 5 years old.
Being at that school also helped me with a couple of other things. My time in that school was very difficult because I was bullied from an early age and not until I fought back and stood up to the bullies did anything ever happen. I left and had a much better time in my new school yet I always had bad memories about that school. My stint as a supply in that class, allowed me to exorcise old demons from my past and allow me to move on with happier memories.
The other issue arose when someone asked about how many classes I have been in as a supply ECE. I thought about it and thought it was at least 2-dozen classes but I was not sure. I then made it a point to find out exactly how many different kindergarten classes I have supplied in. When I did the numbers the results shocked me.
I started in 2013 and since then, I have been in 21 different schools and 43 different kindergarten classes. Some of the classes had the same teacher but from year to year they had different students. The student’s personality differences changed the dynamics of those classrooms where I have worked in with that teacher, therefore I see them as different classrooms. In some schools I have been in up to 4 different kindergarten classes in that school. I even have been in several French immersion classes during this time period.
To say that I was surprised at the sheer amount of classes would be putting it mildly. I decided to document this achievement with a tally chart. Below I have created a logo of a blue silhouette male teacher holding the hands of two students. Each of these silhouettes’ represents a different kindergarten class I worked in. I placed a number on the top right side that represents the year I was in that classroom. The classes that were French immersion are represented with a white fleur-de-li because the majority of the classes are English. Directly beneath this post you can see a tally chart of all the classes I have been in.   Saying 43 is pretty substantial but seeing it visually is another.
ECE_Supply_legend
For me this is a testament to my learning and hopes of one day putting all this knowledge I have gathered to good use as a teacher. I do not know what the future will bring but I will be posting this tally chart as a permanent fixture on my blog as a reminder. I will be updating it if I go into new classrooms. But this chart is not meant to show the number of classes I was in, but as a reminder of the difficult road to one day reaching my goal of becoming a permanent teacher. Hopefully I will not have to add more to see that goal fulfilled.    

 

ECE_class_count

Friday Two Cents: What Are Parents Teaching Their Children?


 

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This week I was very busy working in three different kindergarten classes on top of the after school students I normally work with. In those classes Christmas preparations are well on their way and the students are looking forward to a visit from Santa Claus.

The best part of these visits was when I was able to read to them my favourite Christmas story, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss. If you are not aware of the story I strongly recommend you read or more importantly share it with a young person in your life. It tells a tail of a person “The Grinch” who hates Christmas and in the end steals it from the town below. He thinks that he has stopped Christmas from coming but the town’s people still celebrate Christmas without any presents. The Grinch realizes that Christmas is not about the material gifts or food but there is something more about this holiday. Perhaps that the holiday is about being with family and people we love and care about or even something more.
I have always enjoyed this story at Christmas because for me the giving and receiving of presents, is not what Christmas is all about. Even at a young age I thought that Christmas has become too materialistic, too commercial for my liking. I read this story every year and it helps me to remember the important parts of Christmas. It is about being with people I care about and the good feelings that are shared with people. It is about my traditions and faith that comes from my family and friends. No matter how upset I am during this time I try to see that there are others out there worse off and I thank God for the blessings that I do have.
It is not always easy. I have had Christmas’s were I was down right miserable. But I try to see past these troubles. This year I had a disheartening experience with the students in the older grades. It appears that no matter what good I try to do it falls on deaf ears. One incident had to deal with a student quieting the Christmas play because he wanted to watch Star Wars the opening night, the same night of the concert. But the damming thing was that the parent supported it. Forget teaching their child the value of keeping their word or fulfilling their commitments, if they do not want to do something just quit. What lesson is the parent teaching their child?

I want it because I want it.

Another incident was told to me by a colleague, about another student when the teacher tried to show and teach the students about compassion and empathy. The teacher showed the students images of starving children and asking them why they should try to help, one student said they would rather keep their money and then go on a cruise. That statement was a bit advanced for the student and it sounded like a statement of what the parent’s might say. I sometimes wonder what the students are learning outside the school. From what I saw and heard this week I can get a pretty clear picture.
I have often wondered what kind of people, we as a society, are teaching our children to become. Then I experience these events and I begin to wonder if there is any hope for us. Yet when I see other students look at them with confused faces and shocked looks I know that these few students and their families are in the minority. I then look at my nieces and what kind of little people they are growing up to become and my faith in human kindness is rekindled. The majority of parents are teaching their children the values of how to live a moral life. In the end that is where the real teaching has to begin.  

Parents teaching their children

Friday Two Cents: Any Fool Can Know. The Point Is To Understand


 

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This week began with me supplying in a new kindergarten class at a new school. The teachers and the students where amazing and the school is a wonderful place to be, yet the school is not what I want to reflect on this week but an assembly on Monday. The entire school went to the gym for an assembly that features a dance performance by a group of aboriginal dancers.

They were invited to the school to introduce the students to aboriginal culture and dance. They were very good doing both contemporary dance as well as traditional dance. The other good thing they did was explain why they danced the way that they did. One example was why t they must step softly on mother earth as to not hurt her.

 

Here is the website to the dance theatre if you are interested.  http://kahawidance.org

I also went to other schools these past weeks and noticed that there are other things that are present that has to do with aboriginal culture. I now that the month of November has been Aboriginal Education Month for the Toronto District School Board but all this has brought a thought to my mind about what I have noticed. When has aboriginal awareness and emphasis on the culture, all of a sudden become so popular/important? Why is this happening and what is the purpose, beyond educating the public?

You see I noticed it around the time of my graduation from teacher’s college, when at the York University ceremonies they announced that the celebration is being held on aboriginal ancestral lands (they mentioned the tribe as well). Also during Canada’s Canada Day celebrations where they also mentioned the celebration being held on local tribes ancestral lands too. Then as well at other celebrations or public events in Ottawa during my trip and most recently, during the swearing-in ceremonies of the new Canadian government.

I ask these questions not because I am against all of this but from a healthy curiosity. I know that the grade 3 curriculum, for social studies, has to deal with aboriginal culture as well as the grade 6 social studies curriculum. Is there a new initiative, for people to be aware more of the aboriginal culture in Canada? Is there a new treaty or agreement with the government about this or is it because of the growing concern of aboriginal culture fading from Canada? I am genuinely curious.

In my experience there is always a motivating factor that makes things happen and I am curious as to why this new awareness is happening. If you know something I encourage you to please leave a comment and help me gather as much information as I can.

Just as a famous person once said;

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”Albert Einstein

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