Month: May 2014

Just Imagine

Over my (many) years as a teacher, it seemed to me that the children were finding it more and more difficult to activate their imaginations.

There was absolutely no doubt that imaginations were present, but to have the students set those imaginations buzzing was becoming an evermore strenuous exercise.  They were able to retell any number of stories they had seen on television, in the movies or on a gaming site but were at pains to come up with an original storyline.

Now, I know that students have struggled with creative writing for as long as teachers have been expecting them to do it but it has been my experience that imaginations are being left idle.  A total waste of a valuable resource if you ask me.

The big question is, of course, why this is happening.  Is it simply that our kids are being exposed to so much visual stimulus via screens and monitors that the imagination ‘receptors’ have been dulled?  Probably not, but in my opinion, this certainly has some bearing on the problem.

We can’t hide our children from modern technology.  It is part of the modern world and they need to be able to function within that world.  But perhaps it comes down to how much of their days we allow to be ruled by technology. 

Old fashioned as it may be, I believe that kids need time to be kids.  I have seen, in recent years, the phenomenom of the “helicopter parent” (c0nstantly hovering) evolve.  These parents timetable every minute of their children’s days in the well intentioned belief that they are keeping the kids out of trouble and filling their lives with experiences.  The children are busy all the time.  They do not get to slow down, quieten their minds and let the world flow around them for a while.  It is in those quiet moments that the imagination can wander, explore and develop. 

People are time poor these days, either by circumstance or mismanagement, and this too has an effect on family interaction.  Many don’t have time for the family dinners which so encourage discussion and provide the opportunity for ‘I wonder’ moments.  You know the ones I mean.  Mum says that the dog has a scratch on its belly from trying to climb up the fence to catch the neighbours’ cat.  So Dad can then say, ‘I wonder what he thinks when he sees that cat up there?’ and so the imagination receptors are prodded. 

But, of course, the very best way to fire up those receptors is to read….reading to our kids, reading with our kids, letting our kids see us reading, talking with our kids about reading.  It only takes a few minutes each day but the rewards are massive.

Imagination is one of the most valuable tools we have at our disposal.  It is the key which opens doors to other worlds both real and fantastic.  It is there in each of us to be utilised and enjoyed but needs to be nurtured and encouraged for it to flow freely and fluently.

Think left and think right and think low and think high.  Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!  ~Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!

 

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Captain of the ship

“Parents seem so uncomfortable with setting limits and taking their rightful position as captain of the family ship. Their hearts are in the right place; they want to be more attentive to their kids’ needs than their parents had been to theirs. But we have overcorrected, turning into a generation of ‘parent pleasers,’ rarely saying no for fear of hurting our children’s feelings.”

I don’t know who said this. It appeared on my Facebook page today with the title QUOTE.  

Whoever said it, I totally agree.  I see the results everyday.  I even have parents saying things like this to me.

“Can you make him brush his teeth because he won’t do it for me and he does anything you say.”  (Really?  Whatever next?)

Adults really have to be adults. They need to understand that children need boundaries. Kids need to know how far they can go and what the consequences will be should they cross the boundary.  That knowledge provides a feeling of security for the child, even though he may rail against the imposition of the boundary. I have been called the ‘worst mother in the world’ many times over the years but, even at those times, my kids always understood why I was enforcing the rules.  We always talked through the situation after the angry moment had died down and, if new rules had to imposed, we discussed that too.   

Children crave a level of certainty in their lives.  They need to feel safe and, at the same time, have the freedom to explore their environment and extend their knowledge.  Finding the happy medium is the skill of parenting.  

We do need to say ‘no’ and demand that our children behave within the boundaries we set.

I believe being the captain of the ship is part of being a parent – a very important part.  

A Testing Time

When I was a kid, tests or exams were things that happened at the end of the week, term or year. 

Teachers worked through a maze of curriculum requirements, adding whatever creative flair they possessed, at a speed determined by the general academic level of the class group.  The bright sparks of the class were provided with extra work to challenge them and the less academically gifted worked their way through easier versions of the concepts being explored.  

Today this is called differentiating curriculum.  

I am not sure if the teachers of the 1950s did this as a conscious method of delivering instruction at an appropriate level for each child, or if it was simply a classroom management technique.  They knew they had to keep the quick thinkers busy and they also knew that there were always some kids in the class who struggled.  There was certainly a lot of ‘motivating’ shouting to encourage our efforts in the classroom and the ever-present threat of a visit to the Headmaster’s office.

At the end of term, our knowledge was tested and reports were issued.  Standardized testing happened at the end of primary school and then twice in the high school years – at the end of year ten when many people left school and again at the end of year twelve as a means of university entry.  So, we were twelve, fifteen or seventeen when these major tests occurred.

Today, our children are subjected to standardised testing in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 and in some states in year twelve.  

Teachers are under huge pressure to deliver results so that their schools appear at the top of results lists and thereby attract clientele and funding.  The first term is spent teaching for the test and doing practice tests. The children are becoming extremely stressed and their parents don’t know whether to push them harder or withdraw them from the tests.  

One little boy that I work with at the tutoring centre became so stressed that he developed shingles.  He is seven years old!  

Now, I know that we need to prepare our children to deal with the pressures of life but I do not believe in putting kids under pressure like this.

Test their knowledge by all means, but do not make those tests about anything else but the child and his/her welfare.  Testing should be used as a tool to identify the holes in a child’s learning so that those holes can be filled or, if a learning disability is detected, assistance can be provided.  Tests should not be used to create league tables to rank schools.  

Testing is also a way for teachers to evaluate their teaching practice and to refine and improve it.  Assessment is an important part of the learning process.  Every teacher knows this and incorporates it into every lesson.  Good teachers use assessment to design programs that best benefit each child in their care.  Teacher professionalism demands this.  

Standardized tests give a snapshot of what a child does on a given day, not what he is capable of overall.  The end of year report gives a far more rounded and complete picture of ability and performance than one of these national three day events that happen in the month of May.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still No Crowns!

When I was a kid I knew that all queens, princesses, kings and princes wore crowns.  They were there quite clearly in every picture book I read, whether the person in question was slaying dragons, threatening to jump from the highest tower or simply sitting on a throne. So it came as a major disappointment to me when I first discovered that this was not necessarily the case.  (See Q is for Queen post April 19.)

I was recently in Canberra for Anzac Day and happened to be in the right place at the right time to see Prince William and his wife. They were on their way to plant a tree in a memorial garden and chose to walk down the hill rather than travel there by car.

Image

Notice the lack of crowns.  Not one!  Not even a little tiara!   

I am guessing that they left their crowns at home because it was an overcast day and they didn’t want to risk wearing them in inclement weather.  One wouldn’t want one’s crown to rust.  Although…a crown shouldn’t really rust should it?  

Hmmm…okay, I am out of reasons.  Are crowns out of fashion? Does a crown clash with a navy suit?  Why would a princess-to-be choose a little hat with a feather instead of a crown?  

Has all that reading as a child seriously messed up my fashion sense?

The Holiday is Over

When I was a kid coming home from holidays was bittersweet.  

The great unfettered days of vacation were over and normality had to be embraced once more.  There was a sense of loss and a longing for the wondrous adventures that had been mine whilst on holiday. I would count up how many days it would be before I could once again declare myself to be ‘away on holidays’.

But..it was kind of nice to be at home again. All the familiar things brought comfort and the odds and ends that one didn’t/couldn’t take away were there waiting to be of use again.  Home was always a good place to be.

These days when I come home from holidays, as was the case today, the moment is still bittersweet.  I am home where I am at my most comfortable. I was welcomed with great enthusiasm by my two gorgeous doggies who had been cared for by our wonderful house-sitter. I had unlimited access to the Internet which I, technophile that I am, had missed so much.  

The downside is that I will have to go back to work on Tuesday, unless the Lotto fairy works her magic for me tonight, and that there is an enormous pile of washing waiting for me in the laundry.

 

Bittersweet indeed.  

How do you feel when your holidays are over?

 

 

P.S.  It was a great holiday.

Image  Canberra – Parliament House

ImageMe in the Speaker’s Chair in the Parliamentary museum.  “Remove that person from the Chamber!”

 

 

ImagePrince William and Kate wandering past us at the War Memorial on Anzac Day.

ImageBeautiful Port Arthur in Tasmania.

ImageA seagull sunning himself at Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania.