Thursday, August 20, 2015

Go ask Alice.

It's Thursday, and students are slated to walk through the door of my classroom next Wednesday.  That may sound like I have a whole week to get my act completely together, but anyone who teaches knows that my time suddenly becomes the "district's time" very soon, as I give up the hours of creative manipulation of time and space in my classroom, attempting to create an optimum learning environment.  

As I've been slowly moving into the reality of the 2015-16 school year, each day I seem to be a little more of a juggler.  You know, those guys/gals who toss balls, bowling pins, chain-saws, and the like, in the air, attempting to keep more things flying than in their hands?  They start with two things, slowly adding another, and another, until, well, soon, there is a whirling pattern spinning in front and above them.  Yes, I'm pretty sure that the number of things currently juggling through my head is similar in quantity to the ball pit at Chuck E Cheese.

Teachers are not the only ones who feel this kind of overwhelming pressure this time of year.  Parents are filling out the obligatory paperwork, and shopping at Staples, clicking their heels in anticipation of uninterrupted cups of coffee in a few short weeks.  They're also being shamed into creating perfectly wonderful, interactive, nutritious and well-balanced lunches, for fear of criticism by whomever seems to care or monitor those issues.  The Today Show billed this as "Everything your child will need to succeed," as they head back to school.

My dear friend, Leslie, responded on Facebook almost immediately after the airing of the Minion Sandwiches, questioning what is really important when it comes to the success of their children.  Today, she went a step further, with an Opinion piece in the local paper entitled "On Minion Madness:  Elaborate School Lunches and Mom-Shaming."

So what do our kids need to succeed?  Fancy bulletin boards, super technology, the perfect Activating Strategy?  Probably not.  The key to success for each and every student is AUNT ALICE.  (please read the link above to understand the reference!)

Much like Leslie's Aunt Alice, years ago, David Letterman coyly suggested that the government balance its budget by creating the "Department of Louise."  Headed by a housewife in rural Iowa, the DOL would be responsible for approving any and all expenditures.  "I'm calling from NASA, and would like to spend $12,000 on a screwdriver."  Clearly a NO response from Louise.  "$20,000 toilet seats?"  Not a chance.  Who would even consider asking Louise from Iowa to approve such nonsense.

So what do Alice and Louise have in common?  Common Core?  NO, NADA.

Common Sense.  The willingness and capability to see practical as logical, and children as children.

And guess what?  It applies to teachers as well.  We need to step out from behind the lectern and to stop attempting to juggle a ball-pit full of responsibilities.  We need to ignore the glitz and the glamour, and impress our students, first, with the compassion of Aunt Alice and the common sense of Louise.  Inquiry begins with teachers, inquiring about their students.

In 2013, Mind/Shift asked "Do you Have the Personality to be an Inquiry-Based Teacher?"

"When a teacher comes out from behind the lectern, leaves the front of the room, kneels beside a student to coach them through a problem, offers feedback designed to promote confidence and perseverance, and becomes a true partner in the learning process, the relationship between teacher and student automatically shifts. It’s no longer about telling; it’s about listening, observing, and creating the channel of trust that opens up a personal connection between two individuals."

Common sense + Human Empathy = Academic Success.

Even if the kids aren't "Advanced" on the standardized tests at the end of the year, they'll still be better prepared to carry forth in this world, having learned two of the best life lessons possible. 

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