“Let the Children Reveal Themselves To You”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R03zw6FIoQc&t=16s

Image: Céline Alvarez You Tube

#Edublogs Club    Prompt 21

“Take a Look, it’s in a Book”

    While I was visiting several different sites belonging to “Dynamic Schools” and “Democratic Schools” in France, all drawing inspiration from the American Subdury Valley School, I stumbled upon a young French Author – Céline Alvarez – who achieved a unique experience, along three years, with kindergarten children. 

    “The Natural Laws of the Child” (downloadable in free pdf) is not only a vivid description of an outstanding educational adventure, but also a clear exposition of the principles and values that framed and guided the unfolding of the learning experiences actually carried out by the children.

    Céline’s site is now accessible in English and a growing number of teachers, all over the world, are participating in this approach;  in french, they are also freely sharing in the forum  different kinds of didactic material.

    Although I have also been reading some critical reviews on this powerful book, I would like just to present some valuable and inspiring messages it unveils. The work of Céline has been built upon the heritage of Dr Montessori, which she has enriched with the modern discoveries of neurosciences and cognitive psychology. All her way she has been supported by prof Catherine Gueguen, prof Stanislas Dehaene, and “The Center of the Developing Child” at Harvard University.

   27 children, aged 3, 4 and 5, issued from humble families, in a suburban public school, Genevilliers, have shown a deep enthousiasm and real commitment to deal with the learning activities that were individually presented to them by Céline and her assistant Anna Bisch.

     They were invited to exercise these activities freely and whenever they wished, all by themselves, in pairs or in small groups – the older children spontaneously taking care of the youngers and helping them. Most of the children learned to read and to count, among many other subjects; the older learned to write and to use the four mathematical operations; at the end of the experience, they were all in advance concerning school standards for their age.

     Both adults acted as facilitators and supporters, by presenting the activities and by creating a learning environment permeated by reciprocal kindness, respectful tolerance of differences and a cheerful tranquillity. In the video we may appreciate the relaxed concentration and the calm joy of the kids in action: they seem to feel secure, happy and actively engaged in their learning.

     According to the author, we can’t really teach, but we can and must accompany and support a child’s natural strong will to learn; and he will only learn trough his own free commitment into a chosen activity in accordance with intrinsic motivation. And the Author invites her readers: “Let the children reveal themselves to you”.

Ines

Effecting Change: the Power of Free Will

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Image: Stencil

# Edublogs Club Prompt 3

    While having always taught and tutored students in the realm of the traditional learning system, I, as well as so many colleagues, have been constantly worried about the central role our free will plays in the process of learning and the different ways to challenge it, to configure a valuable interpellation to students.

    Yesterday, I found this same concern in the deep reflection of David GuerinIs it possible to teach Grit?”:

“Kids with willpower habits do better.“

“Sometimes, I think we simply tell students to work harder or to persevere, but we aren’t giving them tools they need to learn these skills.

We aren’t teaching the behaviour we want to see.”

“Could we be doing more to explicitly train students how to have willpower?”

      Some of my older students are being introduced to the inspiring book “Make your Bed” by Admiral William Mc Raven – in Portuguese version – just hoping they will feel the power of the injunction to act by self-determination that goes through all the chapters as a burning fuse.

      Earlier, I had found this kind of vital inspiration in the approach of Team Couching proposed by the author Jeff Boss, ancient Navy Seal, in whose work the values instilled emanate from the power of free will as from a burning nucleus.   

    Many of my older students that struggle at school are deeply engaged in boxing, jujitsu, surfing, sailing, tennis… where they may be brilliant and feel empowered, thanks to their total dedication and relentless training.

    However, although these extra school activities allow them to win self-esteem and discover the deep joy of confronting obstacles, we don’t know how to help them to transfer these new competencies and skills to the inner – and only apparently more abstract – realm of academic subjects.

     Angela Duckworth – the author of “Grit, the power of passion and perseverance” – would say the gap between both is due to the fact that the former have been freely chosen, while the latter have been imposed upon students.

     She gives us some strong hope to be able to help our students to  “effect change” by stressing that “there is a surprising parallelism between teaching and parenthood” [1] and she describes how the communication of genuine affection, respect and high expectancies may arouse, in students that struggle in school, a more refined motivation and a stronger resilience in the adventure of learning.

    Yet, the question raised by David Guerin remains actual and urgent as ever:

“Could we be doing more to explicitly train students how to have willpower?”

Ines

[1] – My translation from the Portuguese version.

#EdublogsClub: Giving and Receiving Feedback

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Image: Stencil

#EdublogsClub Prompt 10 (Catching Up)

    Presently, the sort of feedback I give to my students is adapted to my work of mentoring their studies and enhancing their writing skills.

   I usually give feedback to my students through short writing prompts, questionnaires, conceptual/idea maps and oral interviews that I quickly transcribe and post later.

   On the other hand, I only receive informal feedback from my students, through their specific suggestions or if I ask them to address me a informal evaluation both in writing or orally.

      As I support their effort to achieve autonomy concerning time management, work organization and study strategies, these issues also constitute the object of my feedback. The final purpose remains to empower students to ask themselves metacognition questions, in order to monitor their own learning process.

    Usually, I use a questionnaire as a basis to provoke an oral discussion with both some wide open questions and some very specific topics that aim to allow students to become aware of the” mental gestures” that facilitate attention or memorization, thus enabling comprehension, according to what  I’ve learned from the French Author and Pedagogue Antoine de la Garanderie.

     I try to make very sensitive students feel at ease: they don’t have to share their classifications with precision; but they are invited to indicate their “strong points” as well as their “points in development” (we don’t say “weak points” any more, thanks to our school team couch Nuno Ribeiro). Then the student receives my help to formulate two concrete and feasible objectives for the next seven weeks. (This generally coincides with a school half-trimester and assessment “seasons”).

     Then, and exactly as it happens with every other student, he must be able to answer some questions to clarify and to concretize how he must proceed to achieve his goal. For instance:

  • Where, when and for how long is he going to dedicate to the subjects he chose?
  • With whom will he be studying? (Parents, mentors, older siblings, friends, all alone)
  • Which subject-matters will be under evaluation at the next assessment season? According to which criteria?
  • Which methods will he put into practice? (He may, for instance, prefer to read aloud each paragraph, outlining the main ideas, turning them into questions, writing short summaries or drawing a map of concepts, training with practical exercises…)
  • How precisely and distinctively can he listen to his own thoughts or how fine grained are his mental visual images of what he is actually studying?
  • Is he aware that only then his comprehension skills are set in movement by reasoning over these visual or auditory learning images? To become aware of what is actually happening in their own heads it’s a safe ground to build self-confidence and motivation, even if the student remains a very highly sensitive person.

     My older students ask me to study with them for tests belonging to subject-matters I don’t master – as they don’t belong to my own professional background studies. Thus, they lead me through their own paths as they already master some work strategies. Along this process of sharing the building of knowledge, my older students give me precious tips that enhance my abilities to help the younger ones.

Ines

#Edublogs Club: Celebrate and Reflect

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

#EdublogsClub Prompt 40

  • Goals: What are your blogging goals and how have these changed over the year?

    I would like to try to post more regularly, since I reactivated my old blog in English; I would love to post the texts I write along with my students, in alternate paragraphs.

      I would love to push my Portuguese blog to the next level, and that means to have parents and students commenting on their posts although I know it’s very hard to create the whole infrastructure when there is no school time reserved for students blogging.

  • Achievements: What are you proud of?

I’m proud of translating some of my student’s texts so I can post them here, where they can reach a larger audience at Edublogs Community. (They aren’t published yet)

  • Benefits: What do you see as the benefits of blogging?

  Blogging becomes exciting when it is shared, not only through comments but also through anonymous reading. As we are sitting at an invisible table with writing companions, it is easier to make a more sincere effort to reflect with rigour upon subjects we treasure.

  • Has it been worthwhile for meta-cognition?

I strive to bring my young students to the frontiers of this wide domain of meta-cognition:  we, educators, know there lays a crucial tool for achieving success in their studies and to reach a level of autonomy that will enable them to manage their own progress.

     From my own experience, I can say that the more I train reflective writing the more clearly I see how to correct, to improve or to innovate my practice as a tutor or at the students writing workshop.

  •  Building community? Gaining new insights?

Although I joined Edublogs Club at “the last hour”, I could participate on building community, as I met some awesome bloggers as Melanie Ruiz, Alicia, Nina, not to talk of the tireless help and encouragement I received from Kathleen Morris. In all their articles I discovered new insights or new energy to reinvent dayly life at school.  

  • The future: How would you like your blog to evolve?
  • I would like to progressively catch up with all the other prompts I missed, to visit and comment the blogs where they have been sparkling inspiration.
  • My older students could become my guest bloggers: I’ve already talked with some of them who liked the idea.
  • When I read a chapter or an article about something essential to educational life, as, for instance, some strategies taught by prof Maurice Elias on his great book “Emotional Intelligence Parenting”, I would like to share my own reflections upon it, as doing so turns to be a great help to put into practice the precise and reasonable strategies I just read.

 A Final word: Thank you for your generosity, Edublogs Club Staff.

Ines

On a Wonderful Author: Jeff Boss

Image: Escrita Livre

#EdublogsClub Prompt 39

A Call to Transformative Action forged in the Courage of Military Faithfulness

    I’ll try to “listen aloud” to an Author whose work I admire, by letting his challenges resonate in my educator’s world and by giving a personal shape to these injunctions.

    What strikes me most about this Author, Jeff Boss, is how he manages to transfer, with indisputable success, the higher values of Military to the Organizations, Teams and Personal present contexts.

     For our educational world, undergoing uprooting transformations, this may turn to be a decisive help, as our old education system only appealed to the noble cognitive functions. Here, on the contrary, through the multiple ways our Author spreads his powerful message, pervades an unceasingly call to awaken the bravery and faithfulness that qualifies human free will.

    It seems to me the Author’s work unveils a subjacent unity, finely waved trough a constellation of concepts some of which I’m begining to capture and that  I would interpret as:

    All these (and there are a lot more) interweaved concepts deserve a long, thoughtful work in order to be assimilated; in fact, all of them, both in their internal unicity as in their relational unity, follow relentlessly the aim of transforming reality: may it be the complex reticulate issues of organizations, or the art of genuinely deepening teams relationships or even encouraging the most delicate personal efforts to liberate one’s best possibilities.

  Certainly, this empowering work manifests itself in an original set of reflective articles, videos and podcasts, but, beyond these thougthful ways of expression, we must learn from the inner inflection of the Author’s writing, gently pushing the reader towards immediate and transformative action.

   Thus, it may turn to be a reference for us, Educators, who look forward to making continuous progress concerning daring educational challenges, which makes me especially and deeply grateful to the Author.

Ines

Celebrating Teacher’s Day

#EdublogsClub Prompt 38

Image: Kindness of the Author, Kate

     Two years ago, two dear colleagues, Kate and Teresa, teachers of Physical Education and of Natural Sciences, went, as volunteers, to spend a couple of months  in Mozambique, in a small farming school, in a place called Milevane, near to the Molucué river, on the base of the mountains of Gurué, in the province of Zambezia.

     Milevane can’t be found on google maps because it isn’t even a small village, but just a location, a vast extension of red land and striking green landscapes.

     Image: Kindness of the Author, Kate

     There, the “Farming Family School of Milevane” is run by six sisters of the same congregation of our school; they have built – some with their own hands – this farming and boarding school for 6th, 7th, 8th grades – by the demand of the population itself, about 25 years ago; the school property occupies about 50 hectares of red land and 100 more lent to be used for different plantations, mainly yukka and “mapira”.

    On the last trimester of last year, Kate went there all by herself, as a volunteer, earning no wages, travelling at her own expenses, with just a bag pack full of empty balls for the kids in the forest to play soccer, volley, basketball and to help with Portuguese and Math lessons; all through her adventure she has been supported by our students  campaigns to help her get all the balls and by their joyful messages during her stay.

Image: Kindness of the Author, Kate

    As two years ago, all the welcoming community of students and teachers had a great time with her, in the midst of a “never ending work” and all sort of challenging obstacles: the day begins at 5 in the morning, students sleep over thin mattresses on the floor, there is no hot water, they must walk about 1 km to school, everybody must clean and cook, by teams…

    This year, as a bridge had fallen, many teachers couldn’t come; the playground that had been bravely conquered to the lush vegetation was now recovered by the force of greenery and the balls were useless for a good time. White ants in the library had half eaten the study books brought last year, so that a fierce battle to get rid of them and save parts of the books took several weeks. And all was achieved in a cheerful mood and invincible hope.

Image: Kindness of the Author, Kate

     I chose to share this brave and true story to celebrate our day, because in some way, it represents something that touches the essence of the teacher’s mission: just walk away from comfort, participate in depth, enjoy heartily and love deeply.

Quoting Christian Bobin

Beauty by inpi17  #EdublogsClub prompt 37

    We can use quotes as someone who appeals to a master’s authority, in order to reinforce our own perspective and make it more easily acceptable. But, most of the time, quotes are loved and collected by themselves, for the “ power of rapture” they hold upon our hearts.

   Quotes are similar to a noble metal like gold, king among trivial metals, in this sense that they are made of rare and highly condensed “thought material” (if I’m allowed this paradoxical expression). They are beautiful to contemplate and they put us in a special wondering state of mind.

   They could also be compared with precious stones that sparkle their radiance around them even if we can’t grasp them with our hands: in fact, some are difficult to penetrate at a glance and put our minds in movement thus defying us to think.

   Their intrinsic creativity is contagious: they may touch, in us, deep chords of the soul and provoke the sudden feeling of an inner revelation.

   They can fill us, in a moment, with a joy that springs from the intuition of a hidden truth; they have the power to encourage us when we feel inclined to deception; they may turn us wiser by pointing to the preciousness of life even in the midst of pain.

On the “Crisis of Significance” in Education

_DSC8868_v2_Xr_v1, a shot from my new trip in the galaxy Pascal Rey via Compfight

#EdublogsClub Prompt 36

    In my old time, there were a few main differences between how we lived as students and how our youth cope with it today; perhaps the most subtle difference concerns the inner feeling of the rhythm of time: it seemed to be flowing away at a slower pace.

     The curriculum was much lighter than it is now, at least in the present education system of my country; still, it was already overloaded by this enormous weight of technical knowledge and very little space was left to learn how to reflect and raise deep questions.

   I was in a boarding school during my 7th and 8th grades: after the lights were down and only a very sweet blue light remained twinkling in the dark, I knew that was the time for reflection: it was the indispensable “me time” that we weren’t given during the noisy, busy, cheerful and collective work day. Then I would sneak silently out of my dormitory and would walk all along the school corridors; I would revisit the classrooms, only guided by the street lights that came through the large windows in the corridors.  I needed that nocturne walk to really decentre myself and process all the multiple and colourful stimuli I had received during daytime.

     I remember to feel astonished by realizing the fact that so many different people had dwelt in these same spaces during the day; the silence and obscurity of the late hour brought back to me the echo of sounds, movements and events, but in such a way that they seemed changed, ceasing to be familiar and turning out to be strange; only then they would unveil their hidden face and exhale a mixture of strangeness and enchantment: “So much life has been here, all this has happened, and this fact is in itself a deeper mystery than everything we learn in class”.

  I used to think that we were dealing just with things most of the time, that there was no wisdom in what we learned; we were expected to build a certain amount of  objective knowledge,  but nowhere the meaning of life was addressed as a human and essential question, except in Moral lessons, which were given by an awesome woman and Dominican sister who revolutionized the system. 

      School subjects were clever, interesting and utile, but we could grasp the sense that nothing crucial was at stake. Finally I found my way when I was older, in faculty, studying Philosophy. As Michael Wesch puts it so clearly: “The crisis of significance: the fact that many students are now struggling to find meaning and significance in their education.”

In the end, what really counts and gives sense to the school, is also and perhaps first of all, learning how to raise the vital questions we can’t solve as a mathematical riddle, the questions passionately human and genuinely urgent that engage the totality or our being; the questions with which we find ourselves involved and that need our own personal commitment in order to unveil their impressive and effective power to transform both our world, the reality around us and our inner selves.

     The wisdom to take the risk of a life quest that accepts the challenge of the ultimate questions, that’s what I would like that schools in the future could nurture and encourage.

# Edublogs Club -“Literary Scene”

#Edublogs Club    Prompt 18 (catching up)Imagem: CAD – Cena Literária 

     I would like to introduce my dear colleagues Carla, Paula and Paulo, as they take up the impressive challenge of Beauty, by teaching different Arts in our School, each of them trhoughout their own special passion.

 These colleagues strongly contribute with their singular gift to the unique physiognomy of our School, and more than that, they keep weaving its own secret soul, by putting their talents at the service of our students.

     Thus, they help their younger fellows to discover their hidden talents  and encourage them to come out with their unique personalities, to offer their best both to their own young lives and to our school community.

     But  beyond that, they challenge our students to go further, in order to enlarge even the whole horizon of their generation. By giving away the best of themselves, our youth add meaning and strength to the perennial quest of mankind.

As the post would turn to be too long, this time I will only chose Poetry: CENA LITERÁRIA

Imagem: Teacher Carla playing Conspiração no Palácio

    So, Carla – who teaches Portuguese and Literature – is an actress, in a Theatre Company, – temporarily closed –  playing main roles in different kinds of drama and comedy plays.

    She has a singular passion for poetry, so that she created a monthly event at school, each one to celebrate a different poet, whose chosen poems are recited or read aloud by voluntary students, in the library, open to an audience of all ages.

    Portuguese Poets like António Gedeão, Mário de Sá Carneiro, FlorBela Espanca, Fernando Pessoa, Afonso Cruz, Almeida Garret, José Saramago, Sophia de Mello Breyner, Walter Hugo Mãe, are brought to life by the young voices and the brave hearts of students.