Friday, November 09, 2018

Burnt out teachers and stressed students / Armistice Day / creative education

11th of the 11th 1918

Education Readings
 By Allan Alach

I know a school

I know a school where almost all the students are successful. It's an interesting place.
They don't give grades at this school.
There are no numbers.
No test scores. No SAT, ACT, no GPA or other acronyms.
No rankings.
Yet, the kids are more than alright.
They create amazing things.
They contribute to their communities in all sorts of ways.
They're happy.
They love coming to school.
Those that want to go to college after they graduate.
Others take different paths, which everyone celebrates.
We talk about success in schools as if it were a data point.
It's not.
And even if it were, you really think the data we're collecting now equates to success in any but the most tenuous ways?
Look at your kids.
Talk to them.
See if they love to learn.
See if they have passion.
See if they care.
See if they're happy.
Those are much clearer indicators of "success" than any set of numbers can supply.

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Armistice Day
At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the armistice that ended WW1 came into force.  Here are some websites that may be of use to teachers.

Armistice Day from the New Zealand History website

Papers Past
Older children could be asked to go back into time to read copies of newspapers from 1918. There may even be copies of letters.

Ten Facts About The Armistice

Armistice Day in WWI: Definition & Facts

We’re sure you will be able to find plenty of others and make this into a major study.

Moving on:

After National Standards - Have your say about the emerging ideas
Following the removal of the compulsory use of National Standards and Ngā Whanaketanga Rumaki Māori in December 2017, the Ministry signalled it would work with the education sector – with input from students, parents, whānau, iwi and communities – to focus on progress and achievement across the National Curriculum We want to know what you think about the emerging ideas developed by our Ministerial Advisory Group.’

Teachers: Move On Before You Burn Out
Have you moved on in order to keep from burning out? Have you changed a subject or grade you taught, or even your school? Sometimes this is the best choice.’

Why are kids impatient, bored, friendless, and entitled?
‘“Kids today are in a devastating emotional state! Most come to school emotionally unavailable for learning. There are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this.” . I encourage every parent who cares about the future of his/her children to read it. I know that many would choose not to hear what she says in the article, but your children needs you to hear this message.’

Drawing Is the Fastest, Most Effective Way to Learn, According to New Research
‘But according to a fascinating new study, the right answer is whenever was the last time you tried to learn anything new. Put away the highlighter (really, science shows they're worse than useless) and skip the flash cards. The fastest way to cram new information into your brain is by drawing it, concludes the research.’

How Jo Boaler Hopes To Mold Math Mindsets
Jo Boaler
Boaler — who teaches at Stanford — travels the country with a message of hope for teachers. There are obvious flaws, she says, in a system that uses stressful tests to decide who's got a brain for math and counts on rote memorization to build mathematical curiosity. With her talks, her research, and a website full of videos about mathematics, her mission is not to build memories — but mindsets.’

To Learn, Students Need to DO Something
‘First, let me say that authentic, project-based learning is probably the best way to have students experience meaningful learning. But many schools and classrooms aren’t quite there yet: They deliver instruction in a more traditional way. That model can still result in solid learning, if it’s implemented correctly. And that’s where I’m seeing a problem. I think we’re skipping over one of the most important steps in our lesson plans.’

Less is more – practical tips for teachers for students with a disability.
‘An education assistant can be an invaluable resource in the classroom to support the teacher to include a student with disability.  They can assist the class teacher to provide a great educational experience to all students as well as increase the independence and social connection of the student with disability.’

Be neotenous: The importance of curiosity for teachers
As teachers, I think we are genuinely interested in generating and nurturing curiosity in our learners. We worry about squashing curiosity and the childlike wonder in our learners, particularly when they start school. We believe that curious learners are engaged, passionate, excited. But I’m not sure that we invest enough in our own curiosity as adults.'

Why “Goldilocks” Parenting Helps Build Executive Functioning Skills
‘Increasingly, researchers are discovering that “just right” is an important concept for how we parent. It has to do with how kids develop executive functioning.
Executive functioning is the “air traffic control system” of the brain. It helps kids focus, remember rules, resist temptation and think flexibly. The way we parent can affect how kids’ executive functioning skills develop.’

Head, hand and heart
Steve Wheeler:
‘Hyman's perspective is that change is needed and that a repertoire of curriculum strategies is required to give young people a rounded education. These include real world learning (which presumably involves immersion in real world probems, challenge based learning etc), maths mastery, oracy techniques and storytelling - and dialogue, plenty of dialogue.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Einstein, Darwin, da Vinci & Mozart et all - lessons from the Masters
‘Although there have been individual teachers who have developed creative classrooms most classrooms could be classified as benign environments where students achieve success by achieving teacher determined objectives. Imagine an education system premised on developing every students talents and passions!’

Transforming education: Stop teaching and begin learning with your students
Teachers spend hours and hours of their time preparing lessons for their students but all too often the only person learning anything are the teachers themselves. Even the most attentive and compliant of students do not get what the teachers    intend – and worse still researchers have shown that that such teaching does not change students’ minds – and changing minds is the definition of learning.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Teach critical thinking / reading too soon?/ need to trust teachers / anxious students

Pink Floyd - 'we don't want no education'

Education Readings
 By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

When Should We Teach Critical Thinking to Kids?
As a media educator, I engage in critical thinking and questioning every day. For me it first started when I heard Elizabeth Thoman, the founder of the Center for Media Literacy, say: “Media literacy is not just about asking questions, it’s about asking the RIGHT questions.”'

The ‘Lawnmower Parent’ Is Destroying Future Generations
Also known as the snowplough parent…
Their goal: To ‘mow down’ every obstacle in their kids’ way so they’ll go through life without experiencing anything remotely unpleasant.’

Why Children Aren't Behaving, And What You Can Do About It
‘"We face a crisis of self-regulation," Lewis writes. And by "we," she means parents and teachers
who struggle daily with difficult behavior from the children in their lives. Lewis, a journalist, certified parent educator and mother of three, asks why so many kids today are having trouble managing their behavior and emotions.’

50 Ways To Measure Understanding
Thanks to Tony Gurr.
By dictating exactly what every student will ‘understand’ ahead of time, certain assessment forms become ideal. It also becomes much more likely that students will fail. If students can learn anything, then they only fail if they fail to learn anything at all or fail to demonstrate learning anything at all.’

Reading too soon…
‘There is a widely held belief in this country (and many others) that if we start teaching children to
read, write, and spell in preschool and kindergarten that they will be ahead of the game (and their peers) by first grade. We think that pushing our kids to start early will make them better and give them the edge.
But it doesn’t work that way, in fact it can be detrimental.

We Need to Trust Teachers to Innovate
If we want to see innovation happening in our schools, we need to trust, encourage, and empower
teachers to transform their practice. Too often, teachers are forced to teach inside the box and it can feel frustrating. What’s getting in the way, and what we can do about it.’

The Decline of Play and Rise in Children's Mental Disorders
‘Rates of depression and anxiety among young people in America have been increasing steadily for the past 50 to 70 years. There is a reason kids are more anxious and depressed than ever.’

From Australia – prioritise capabilities in education
Things like critical thinking, creativity, resilience and communication skills have been found to help young children prepare to learn, improve outcomes in school and increase lifelong wellbeing and job success.’

From Australia – how to implement the capabilities.
The general capabilities - critical and creative thinking, social and emotional capability, ethical understanding and intercultural understanding - were introduced into the Australian Curriculum as a way of turning this powerful vision into reality.’

The Problem Finders – The Design Thinking School
‘The Design Thinking School, a pedagogical framework that borrows from enquiry-based learning and problem-solving curricula to bring new meaning and relevance to students, and we’re finding that such a framework works regardless of curriculum, country, culture or language.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Why schools don’t educate – John Gatto
We live in a time of great school crisis', Gatto began his presentation, 'and we need to define and redefine endlessly what the word education should mean.Something is wrong.Our school crisis is a reflection of a wider social crisis - a society that lives in the constant present based on narcotic consumption.'

Pink Floyd – ‘teacher leave that child alone’. The difference between education and schooling
‘We don’t want no education’, sang Pink Floyd but it would more accurate to have said ‘we don’t want no schooling’, because education and schooling are not always the same thing. And schooling wouldn’t have fitted into the tune so well.’

Friday, October 26, 2018

John Dewey / Carol Dweck / Howard Gardner / and beautiful learning

Education Readings
 By Allan Alach

Happy birthday to John Dewey, visionary educator, social reformer, psychologist, and philosopher. Dewey was central to the development of the so-called progressive movement in education, which emphasizes the importance of student participation and meaningful activity in the classroom.

Dewey began his career as a classroom teacher. After becoming a professor of philosophy, he shifted much of his attention to education, founding the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and writing School and Society, which argued for the need for collaborative practical experimentation in the classroom. His emphasis on practical skills and learning by doing upended the inherited wisdom of the time, which valued obedience and rote memorization.

John Dewey died in 1952. Over the course of his long career, he published 40 books and 700 articles on a wide variety of topics, and indelibly influenced the world’s classrooms with his meaning-oriented, democratic approach to teaching and learning.

This weeks readings 

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Howard Gardner
Multiple Intelligences Theory: Widely Used, Yet Misunderstood
One of the most popular ideas in education is applied in ways that its creator never intended.The big mistake: In popular culture, and in our educational system, the theory of multiple intelligences has too often been conflated with learning styles, reducing Gardner’s premise of a multifaceted system back to a single “preferred intelligence”: Students are visual or auditory learners, for example, but never both. We’ve stumbled into the same old trap—we’ve simply traded one intelligence for another.’

Students on first-name basis with teachers as titles become old school
Teachers are allowing students to call them by their first names as some schools move away from the use of titles and surnames. Advocates of the approach believe it fosters a more personal relationship, removes languages barriers, and puts students in a better position to take charge of their own learning and feel more confident to question adults. And they say a title does not earn respect.’

If Not Learning Styles Theory, Then What?
An alternative take on the learning styles debate.
Departing from the traditional notion of fixed styles or abilities, he proposes that maybe it’s not the individual that the learning style depends upon but rather the task at hand. Maybe we all have more cognitive flexibility to switch between styles than we’re giving ourselves credit for. Maybe we just need to adopt different approaches for different kinds of information.’

Beautiful Learning
'We use that word to describe things that we find inspiring or awe-some in some way. Something that makes us want to stop an linger. Something that we hope to experience again. Which for some
reason led me to wonder, why don’t we use that word very often about learning? I mean certainly, there is such a thing as “beautiful learning,” a moment in our own lives or that we observe in others that inspires, that we hope to experience again.

Why do teachers find it so difficult to change the way they teach?
‘Research shows that people find it extremely hard to change their behaviours, and teachers are no different.  I’m sure you plenty of personal experience of this yourself! How many times have you started to make a change in your life and given up? Have you ever wondered why? wondered why?’

A Message To High School Students Who Hate High School
Here is why you hate it.
‘Of course, it is not only high school math I am against. I believe that every single subject taught in
high school is a mistake. What I write here will infuriate teachers, but teachers are not my enemy. It isn’t their fault. They are cogs in a system over which they have no control. I believe there are many great teachers, and I believe that teaching and teachers are very important.’

Carol Dweck Explains The 'False' Growth Mindset That Worries Her
‘Dweck believes educators flocked to her work because many were tired of drilling kids for high-stakes tests and recognized that student motivation and love for learning was being lost in the process. But Dweck is worried that as her research became more popular, many people oversimplified its message.’

Do we really want computerized systems controlling the learning process?
I quickly found that the conference organizers were thinking about personalization very differently than I was. The presentations at the conference focused on new software systems designed to personalize the delivery of instruction to students But I’m skeptical about personalized tutoring systems.’

Misreading the Reading Wars Again (and Again)
But the short version is the reading war claim that we are failing reading instruction is a long history of false claims grounded in selling reading programs.

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The urge to collect is strong in people of all  ages
People collect things for all sorts of reasons. Some people focus on collecting varieties of one item while others are more eclectic. Some collect because they just like the objects they collect, others collect because aesthetic or visual reasons, and some because they buy and sell their objects.’

Guy Claxton’s Magnificent Eight
In his book 'What’s the Point of School' he outlines what good learners do (as against being a 'successful' students). He has sorted the dispositions of good learners into what he calls his magnificent eight’. Teachers need to encourage all of them.’

Time for a rebirth of the creative spirit?
'The time is right for a true educational revolution! We need to listen to lost voices and rediscover our own. Who wants to join the fight to return to creative education?'

Friday, October 19, 2018

New Zealand loses a top educator - Kelvin Smythe / teacher well being / Importance of PE / Deep learning / creativity

Education Readings
 By Allan Alach

Sad news this week. One of New Zealand’s premier educators, Kelvin Smythe, lost his battle against prostate cancer last Saturday

Kelvin was one of the very best educators in New Zealand’s history and his passing is a tragedy for primary school education. Over the past decade from 2009, Kelvin led the battle against the then government’s imposition of national standards (not too dissimilar to common core standards in the USA) and I think it’s fair to say that his efforts contributed to the removal of these when the government changed a year ago.
He was indeed an educational warrior who fought to the end to protect holistic /creative /democratic teaching from current technocratic formulaic approaches.

Our condolences to Kelvin’s family, who devoted themselves to his care over the last few weeks.

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Mindset is encompassed by the holistic and should be seen as commonsense given space: I give it a strong tick

Kelvin Smythe’s last article, written with one hand as he had a broken arm and when he was in very poor health. He was determined to write to the end and one of his big regrets about dying was
that he had so much more that he wanted to write.
This posting supports mindset as expressed by the American academics Jo Boaler and Carol Dweck. I perceive mindset as a strategy to encourage holistic ideas into mathematics, in particular, a curriculum much in need of being repaired from its fragmented and perilous condition.’

Kelvin Smythe and John Hattie – the killing of creativity by the technocrats

‘Smythe, after reading Hattie's book 'Visible Learning', writes that Hattie's 'feedback' is really attached to a direct instruction process .It is more concerned with testable transmission of teacher devised content to the students and as such is antithetical to individuality and creativity. The book, according to Smythe, is 'skewed to a certain style of teaching and learning ( learning set up for measurement) and towards appealing to conservative influences.’

Kelvin Smythe’s advice for principals
“Principals need to be in charge of their own destiny.  Principals need
to focus on the important things -as for the rest just get them done. Principals, he said, need to take a moral stance. The best advice, Kelvin believes, is to 'colonise' the New Zealand Curriculum document and to keep integrity with their own beliefs. If principals cannot keep true to their beliefs they will become as confused as a 'chameleon on a Scottish plaid!’”

Teacher Wellbeing- some research highlights
‘Teaching as a profession is inherently stressful. We are working with people all day and human beings are complex, sometimes tricky even. Here’s some of what I found out about what may contribute to positive teacher wellbeing in our current educational climate.

Physical Education is just as important as any other school subject
PE is yet another subject area that lost ground due to the relentless focus on ‘raising achievement.’
Physical Education (PE) is often viewed as a marginal subject within the curriculum. PE is still championed for its potential to promote health and encourage lifelong physical activity. This is an important issue given that over 30% of year six pupils are classed as “overweight” or “obese”'

Being Barefoot Benefits Brain Development
'Proprioception gives us the ability to perceive the motion and position of our bodies in space, while
the vestibular system is responsible for balance and coordination.
The development of both of these senses relies heavily on sensory input we receive through bare feet, especially during infancy and childhood, Flegal explains in an article for Natural Child Magazine.'

5 Things Children Learn at Preschool That Are a Waste of Time and Not Developmentally Appropriate
'Calendar Time, Craft Projects, Teacher-Directed Lessons, Worksheets, and "Letter of the Week"
They're part of a typical preschool schedule, and parents rarely question their legitimacy. Instead, they see them as "real learning" and what's needed to prepare kids for kindergarten. Many child development experts, however, believe they're largely a waste of time and may even be detrimental.’

What is Deep Learning? Who are the Deep Learning Teachers?
‘Deep learning promotes the qualities children need for success by building complex
Deep learning
understanding and meaning rather than focusing on the learning of superficial knowledge that can today be gleaned through search engines.'

How to Teach Self-Regulation
‘To succeed in school, students need to be able to focus, control their emotions, and adjust to change.'

From Traditional Teacher to “Modern Learning Advisor
'What is the role of the single teacher in a classroom in a world where millions of potential teachers are now a few keystrokes away on a laptop or phone?

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Wounded by School

Success in life is all too often determined by success at school. And all efforts to improve schoolingvery rarely take the trouble to listen to the voices of teachers let alone students. In her wonderful book 'Wounded by School' Kirsten Olsen speaks passionately about the experiences of young people whom the school system has failed.
The importance of observation
Drawing is an ideal way to break through habitual ways of thinking. All too often our students see but they do not look. Observational drawing has long been an important means for some teachers to develop deeper consciousness in students - to assist students see through their habitual ways of seeing and to develop new awareness.’