Friday, January 27, 2017

Education Readings: teacher 'burnout'/ creativity/ Sir Ken Robinson/ and more about Finland

Time for teachers to fight back!

By Allan Alach

How did it happen?
Well, here we are at the start of another year, which in New Zealand and Australia is also the start of the school year. I wonder what 2017 will bring as far as education is concerned. I fear that little that is good will happen, especially in the USA, given the suggested Secretary of Education. The possible exception could be a change of government in New Zealand when the elections are held later this year. Such a change should mean the end of the current standards based nonsense, but we will have to wait and see.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Burnout's devastating impact on teachers who can't switch off
Burnout sneaks up on you, as I found to my cost. Beware.
‘Defined as the process of collapse attributed to excessive and continuous demands on energy, strength and other physical, psychological and emotional resources, burnout develops across time and can be viewed through a lens of ever reducing levels of passion and compassion, self-efficacy and effectiveness.’

Sometimes Misbehavior Is Not What It Seems
‘The following are examples of seeing misbehavior from a new perspective. In each of these cases, diagnosis is very difficult -- as are the remedies. For chronic misbehaving students, pay close attention to their home situations, the type of misbehavior, when it occurs, and whether they behave differently with other adults. Be advised that the best responses to these situations sound easier than they are to put into practice.’

To Encourage Creativity in Kids, Ask Them: ‘What if’?
‘I explained to them that these two words are a kind of secret tunnel into the world of new ideas. In fact, I told them, I only came up with the booger story after asking myself: What if a family picked their noses so much that they create a monstrous booger? And what if the snot rocket rolled out the window and gained so much steam it threatened to roll over the town? And what if the whole story rhymed?’

21st Century Skills Don’t Exist. So Why Do We Need Them?
‘This is a very good point and even if you don’t agree at first, we encourage you to chew, swallow, and then slowly digest it. Listen up (confession: all examples here are stolen from Rotherham and Willingham). Do you really think that in the ‘old days’ – whenever they were – we didn’t need to think critically and solve problems? What about the development of tools, agricultural advancements, discovery of vaccines, or land and sea explorations? And don’t you think the lads and gals back in the old days would have to communicate and collaborate to progress?’

How to Teach a Middle School Class in 49 Easy
Why Schools Should NOT Be Run Like Businesses
‘It’s absurd. Not everything benefits from being sold for a profit. Imagine if your spouse suggested running your marriage that way. It would turn you both into prostitutes selling yourselves at ever cheaper rates while any self respect, dignity and love disappeared.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Why A More Creative School System Might Be The Solution We've Been Looking For
Let’s start the 2017 year with Sir Ken Robinson:
‘If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065," he tells an enrapt audience in a video captured at the Monterey, California event. "Nobody has a clue, despite all the expertise that's been on parade for the past four days, what the world will look like in five years' time. And yet we're meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is
extraordinary."In his talk, Robinson describes the unpredictability of the market and the jobs it creates as an opportunity. But insofar as it is seen as a challenge, a problem, he says he's identified the solution: build an educational system that celebrates and encourages creative thinkers and out-of-the-box problem-solvers.Making our job a little easier, he suggests, is that kids are ready-made to come up with weird and wonderful ideas. We're just currently teaching them not to.’

The Beauty and Chaos of Free Play
Your plan or kids interests
‘I love the joyful learning that I see when children are engaged in free play, exploration and creative thought with materials, using them in their own innovative ways as loose parts. I often find any carefully presented centres I try to create are soon used in novel and other-than-intended ways and I have to resist (not always with success) the urge to say, ‘but wait…”. And while resisting the urge often results in a gigantic tidying time, it also results in unexpected and joyful learning.I often have to ask myself, is it more important for children to engage in this exploratory free play or to engage with the lovely provocation I have so carefully laid out?’

Finnish-ing touches on education
New Zealand needs to learn from Finland.
Education is also a national priority, funded well, with more than 55 percent in federal dollars, and catering to working families. Free meals, health care and outside-of-class child care are available to all students, who start formal schooling at age 7 after state-sponsored compulsory kindergarten that features outdoor play and exploration.School is mandatory through grade 9, or age 16, with two tracks in high school—general academic and vocational. Nearly 40 percent of students choose the vocational side, which is geared toward what the country expects to need in the next decade in terms of skilled workers, such as computer coding and engineering.’

3 Types of Unintentional Learning (And How to Make Them Intentional)
‘We are all aware of the teachable moment, and most of you reading this have experienced it firsthand. We know that one of the best opportunities for students to learn is when they are asking questions, so we make time for this in each lesson. Some questions can be off topic, and just like unwanted weeds, we pull them out and redirect the students’ attention to continue our planned and deliberate teaching (gardening). But most questions bring forth deeper clarity for the learners in the room, and sometimes there’s the ripe question that elicits deeper questions and understanding. There’s nothing like that moment when a revelation happens for multiple students in the room.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Creative Schools – an impossible dream?
Creativity or conformity
‘Educators who believe that education is more of a process of creating stimulating environments to allow students to begin the process of helping the young explore what it is that they are best suited for have always been in the minority. Most teachers have little choice to put programmes into place that have been defined by their school, by those distant 'experts' that determine the curriculum and, most invasive of all, by those who determine the means of assessing students learning. When the latter is in the hands of the politicians supported by compliant principals then the possibility of creativity is all but lost.’

'To seek, use and create'
Checking out your class, or school, for quality learning.
Something to think about for the year ahead.
‘Is your classroom a quality learning environment where students are able to 'seek, use and create their own knowledge' as it states in the 'new' New Zealand Curriculum?
Here are some questions to focus on.’

NZ Education going down the standardized teaching road to failure
National Standards destroying creative education in New Zealand

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Beginning the 2017 School Year - some practical activities to select from

Begin the year in style

The summer holidays in the Southern Hemisphere are coming to an end and teachers will be starting to think about the new year and  their new group of students.

Over the years I have posted  a set of readings of ideas to select from that may be of use at the beginning of the year.

From the feedback I receive some people have found them of use so here they are again.

Take a quick look - you never know might be something worthwhile to make use of.

What are the students' attitudes toward aspects of the curriculum?

 It is a good idea to survey the views/attitudes towards various aspects of learning before you introduce your curriculum. This idea will show you what attitudinal areas of learning you need to focus on.

Link to posting.

Beginning the school year - sharing our stories. The power of personal writing.

 It is a cliche for teachers to begin the year by asking students to write about their holidays but if n done in a focused way it is still an excellent idea. In the process it is an opportunity to introduce to the class ideas of quality and doing something well. We all like to have our 'voice' and identity valued.

Introducing  the idea of Carol Dweck's 'growth mindset' through a simple portrait activity.

The skill of observation is a neglected skill  but it is an excellent way to help the students really focus, learn not to rush through things and again to develop an appreciation of quality.

It is a good idea to recognize and value the talents and interests your students bring to your class - introducing the important ideas of Howard Gardner.

Link to posting.

It is important that students appreciate how they learn. Some students have  developed poor attitudes towards learning through negative experiences need 'learning recovery' assistance

Link to posting.

Ideas to help your students develop an appreciation of your 'stance' towards teaching/learning. Introducing the ideas of Robert Fried and Dr Glasser ( and Socrates)

Link to posting

 Extra reading for a little more depth about learning.


Friday, January 20, 2017

More light holiday reading on education - and Donald Trump.

The pressure to privatize public education apparent in the appointment of Secretary for Education by Donald Trump

There is an amazing amount of Federal money  up for grabs for those who believe in Charter Schools . Sadly Americans spend highly per pupil for education but are well down in international scoring - no wonder charter schools are attractive.

What is required, rather than privatizing schools, is a transformation of the public school system - to move it away from the current standardization to a more creative personalized approach - away from Henry Ford and back to the progressive ideas of John Dewey 

We need schools premised on developing the gifts and talents of all students.

America has paid the price for standardization of education with their large factory test orientated schools.


Teachers need to be freed to teach and to be respected - and given all the resources and help they need - not blamed for system dysfunction.

There are creative teachers who understand what John Dewey wrote about - and even a few schools. Sadly most schools are still about conformity and standardization not creativity and diversity. No wonder people see charter schools as an alternative.

Learning needs to relevant, real and rigorous -  authentic.

Relevance depends on the artistry of the teacher to personalize learning. Since the need to learn is an innate attribute of human being from birth this ought not to be a problem? That something that starts so well but ends so badly for so many students is the problem.

Time to take Sir Ken Robinson's advice! Schools premised on developing creativity

Schools are robbing too many students of tomorrow!

As John Dewey wrote 'Children are people, they grow into tomorrow only as they live today.'

Creative teachers create the conditions for all to grow- not to tests, label, sort and demean their students.

The culture ( environment) shapes all for better or worse.

Too many schools are suffering from an imposed obsession of evaluation, assessment and documentation - see below!

Teachers should be focused  on providing  positive conditions for all to grow to develop their unique talents rather  being exhausted by documentation requirements. 

As a wise of teachers once told me : 'teachers have two things to protect - their time and their energy - if they waste it on bullshit they can't teach' ( Howard Wilson New Plymouth NZ.) 

Peter Drucker, the respected business philosopher, wrote: 'the first country to develop the creativity of all its students will win the 21st Century.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Reflecting on education -light holiday viewing


Hekia Parata has gone - and our populist Prime Minister - and 2017 is an election year.

Time for teachers to get political if teaching is to be more joyful and creative for students and teachers

Some teachers ended last year stressed to the maximum.

Time to place developing students , talents, passions and creativity central.

National Standards are distorting education!

Schools have been sucked into formulaic teaching : WALTS, success criteria, and in the process student 'voice' and idiosyncratic creativity has been neglected.

The real life world of the learner is being lost.

Forget your plans - help the students learn - personalize learning not standardize it!

Its not MLEs, ILEs. FLS, ( or whatever they are called these days) or technology. What is required is a creative teaching pedagogy.

Students need authentic ( to them ) learning experiences.

Forget all those 'experts' ( someone who never has to do what they say). The answers lies, as always, with creative teachers. Look out for them - they are the ones questioning things!

Why do we have to do this?