I recently received an e-mail from WordPress notifying me that my yearly subscription fee would be due in a few months. It was at that moment that it dawned on me that I hadn’t posted on my blog site in more months than I would like to admit. After that e-mail sat in my inbox I began to question why it was that it had taken me so long to write on a platform that I once enjoyed so much.
I began to consider all the reasons why sitting down at the computer was starting to feel more like a chore than what was once a fun diversion for me. While I could convince myself that the summer months were meant to be spent outdoors rather than posting to my blog or that preparing for a new school year ate up all my free time, one truth kept nagging at my conscience that was difficult to avoid facing. The truth was that my initial motivation to create this blog was to share my passion for teaching and leadership, and what I began to realize over the last few months was that the spark had sort of fizzled out for me. I’m not sure exactly what prompted my temporary “burn-out” as I will call it but I will say that I know the only way to separate myself from this feeling is to move forward in both thought and action.
I find it simultaneously difficult and liberating to admit the truth to myself, let alone place it down on this blog post, but I feel that it’s necessary for me to move forward in being able to re-evaluate my current status as a teacher and consider the future choices that lie ahead in my career. So it was at 2 am this morning as I laid awake in bed that I realized I needed to admit this truth to myself so that I can begin to find what will reignite the curiosity, passion, and excitement again that I have for teaching and contributing to my blog. While I don’t have all the answers yet I am surprisingly excited by the prospect of not having it all figured out yet.
Who knew that a subscription reminder to WordPress would have such a profound effect on my thinking?
Thank you WordPress.
Here is a guest post from my husband Ryan Carney on creativity in schools. He is a middle school guidance counselor and advocate for finding ways to positively engage students in school by fostering their own innate talents.
Are students bored in school? Or perhaps the more appropriate question might be: has student attention declined with the surge of technology? After watching the video, “Changing Education Paradigms”, from Sir Ken Robinson I turned to Google and put in a search for “the rise of ADHD in children”. ADHD is described as an epidemic by many, with approximately 6 million children in the United States diagnosed with the disorder since 2011. I found a significant number of articles from reputable sources such as CNN, NBC, etc. citing that between 11% of children aged 4-17 are diagnosed with ADHD. These articles seemingly all cite technology as one of the main issues. They argue that students are facing so much screen time that they are unable to focus and pay attention in class. However, I do not believe that technology is the “problem” here.
It is human nature to crave and absorb information. The children of the 21st century are not an exception in that regard, they have just found new mediums that did not exist when we were growing up to find their information. Children are excited and engaged when they are with friends on their phones or computers looking at videos on YouTube, but when it comes time to pick up a textbook, they can’t focus. As a school counselor, I struggle to label this as ADHD. Teachers need to find creative ways in which to engage students so that As Sir Ken Robinson says, “ I am not saying that the condition does not exist, however I am suggesting that this “epidemic” of ADHD as described by the media is not as it seems.”
As a school counselor I work closely with many students that present with symptoms of ADHD. These students are generally among the most innovative of their class. The late Robin Williams once said, “We are all only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it”. In a culture where conformity is valued, those who do not fit the traditional mold are alienated, medicated and isolated. They are told to pay attention like everyone else, when they are incapable of being anyone except themselves.
As we move forward in education we must be diligent in our dedication to treat creativity in education with the same regard as mathematics, social studies, or any other discipline. It is far too easy to lose sight of our innate talents in a world as fast paced as ours. It is our collective creativity that brought America to prominence. We mustn’t lose our spark of madness.
Image: ©iStockphoto / Andrew Rich
I feel an exceptional amount of pride when I am able to tap into my skills as a bilingual speaker of English and Spanish to provide translation services to parents and students in my school.I eagerly await a moment when my colleagues will ask me to translate important school information to Spanish-speaking parents who yearn to be part of the classroom community despite their language abilities. I have found that parents with limited English skills are often nervous to ask questions so I always try to make myself available to help in ways that will alleviate any concerns they have regarding school procedures, classroom activities, or their child’s progress in the classroom. Recently I explained the steps to creating the time-honored “Flat Stanley” project to a parent of a first grader. I was proud to function as the bridge between teacher and parent to relay class information because otherwise the information may not have been received due to language barriers.
Teaching in the 21st century means that schools need to make it their mission to be inclusive of all diversities, languages, and cultures. We are preparing students for a future we are not even exactly sure will look like, sound like, or be like. So as educators we need to be inclusive of all people who enter our school buildings so that we can welcome them with open minds and open hearts.
Sir Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms
It’s time to go back to the drawing board. The critical time has come for a much-needed overhaul of the education system to take place. The education reform movement has created a period of disillusionment for parents, students, and educators. Rather than praise, the education system has taken some very hard hits from all arenas in an attempt to figure out what works best for students. Ironically, we are not reforming education, instead we are moving towards a more standardized view of what learning means. Rather than reform we conform.
Educators are being reduced to a label in regards to yearly evaluation practices and as a result our teaching practices are being watered down. The expectation to be excellent is defined by results on yearly student exams in only reading, writing, and mathematics. There is so much more to school than these three academic areas, albeit important ones. I find all of this so puzzling. Within the existing paradigm of education, is there a way to change the culture of the learning organization to value creativity without functioning exclusively away from learning standards? It may seem unlikely to foster creativity and innovation in a world surrounded by assessments and standardization but I like to think that anything is possible.
The purpose of schools should be to prepare children for their future, whatever it is that may be. The future being indiscernible makes an educator’s profession challenging, but not impossible. Educators need to enhance their students’ strengths by providing opportunities for social, emotional, mental, and academic growth. Classrooms and schools need to place value on all kinds of knowledge because there is no one single form of intelligence nor do we know what kinds of knowledge and skills will be valued in the future. It is up to us to understand who our students are on a personal level and what motivates, excites, perplexes, and challenges them. In order to do these tasks correctly we can use digital resources to help us know our students on a more personal level.
As adults we need to recognize that technology is a massive part of our lives whether or not we want it to be. It is almost impossible to avoid using some form of technology on a daily basis. Jeff DeGraff in his article “Digital Natives Vs. Digital Immigrants” defines the generational gap that exists between these two groups. Adults are now being labeled as “digital immigrants” – people born before the advent of digital technology and their counterpart is being labeled as “digital natives” – the generation of people born during or after the rise of digital technologies. While there are major difference in the belief and value system of these groups there is a tremendous lesson to be learned when both groups are open to learning from each other.
Yong Zhao, a scholar on technology and globalization in education offers some staggering statistics based on children’s use of media tools on a daily basis. Today’s young people (8 to 18 year olds) spend on average 7 hours and 38 minutes a day with media: watching TV (TV, videos, DVDs, pre-recorded shows), playing video games, listening to music, talking on the phone, and chatting with friends online. Alternately, children spend 25 minutes a day reading books, 9 minutes for magazines, and 3 minutes for newspapers. Zhao believes that as parents and educators, rather than trying to minimize the exposure children have with social media and technology tools we should embrace and understand their curiosity and happiness with all forms of technology.
If children can create pathways to better understand academic material through the use of technology then as educators we need to re-examine our skills and practices to meet the needs of our students. To accomplish these goals, as adults we need to make ourselves accessible to our students and create with them a collective sense of an open understanding and learning environment.
I have recently been exposed to many conversations regarding the well-being of teachers who feel de-professionalized in their careers due to the new reform movement in education. Unfortunately, many teachers express that that their profession, that more often than not chooses them as a calling, has left them. A huge sense of fear has infiltrated our classrooms. Instead of trusting their own judgment I have witnessed many teachers second-guess themselves in their classroom practices. How can we restore the trust and faith in ourselves as teachers and in our practice of education?
Just as doctors are required to take the Hippocratic Oath before formally entering the profession to uphold ethical standards of treating patients, maybe teachers should also make a promise to act ethically and be true to ourselves when in the classroom. Both professions directly impact the lives of those they serve by the moral decisions made by the professional. Physicians are revered in not just our society, but many others. Why is it that teaching is not held in the same regard?
Perhaps Harvard scholar Jal Mehta has unearthed the answer in his studies on the need for the professionalization of teaching. Mehta’s analysis proposes that the current movement toward educational accountability is a manufactured crisis that has plagued the educational field over the course of the 20th century. “The implication of this analysis is that while we often analyze school reform in terms of the effectiveness of particular programs, in a broader view it may be that the organization of the entire sector is problematic” (Mehta, 2013). Rather than managing top-down mandates from business and government agencies who have low regard for public education the teaching profession needs to be re-established as the pillars upon which our society is built.
In an article from The Atlantic – The Wisdom Deficit in Schools – Michael Godsey, a high school English teacher explains his internal dilemma with the restraints posed by the Common Core State Standards in his classroom. Godsey’s experiences in the most recent years of his teaching career summarize common complaints made by many teachers. It is as if the education field has been taken hostage and the need for a restoration of faith and trust is paramount to the welfare of the profession. Godsey explains the moral responsibility he feels to raise the bar for thinking practices of his students through the exposure to rich classical texts and experiences. Godsey identifies that the current pressures on teachers affects the educational practices that he has refined over the years of his career. The reform movement that has promoted standardization of teaching has caused harm to the field of education through the disempowerment and de-skilling of teachers. Throughout various examples provided in the article, I couldn’t help but feel similarly to Godsey.