On The Joy of Commenting

só se vêm os jeans e botas de alguém sentado a pique sobre uma falésia que dá sobre o marPhoto by Nicole Harrington on Unsplash

     #Stubc Week 3

      There is something that concerns both gentleness and genuine interest, beyond some amount of sensible curiosity, in the fact of visiting and commenting on Students Blogs.

     Our 20th Student’s Blogging Challenge has started almost three weeks ago for its brave and generous journey. About   500 young participants, following common instructions from Tasmanian “Headquarters“, accepted the invitation to confront some subtle challenges on the art of Blogging:  different tasks to accomplish, new skills to acquire and friendly connections to make.

     All these Students come together by means of this common quest, and converge from all over the world in a “ten weeks meeting” to share their best dreams and conquer new friendships.

     For us, lucky adults who share the chance to camp for a while on some of these young bloggers lands, it becomes mainly a deep joy to read them and sometimes stare in wonder while listening to them.

     But they also count on our warm comments, our sincere praise, our humble engagement in conversation meant to learn, to share and to enjoy the grace of the candid communication that builds peace and spreads hope in our world.

    If you can take a moment, please listen to the beauty of the poem of young Rajyashori,  the avid reader who would like to “start some NGO to help the poor people” in her country ; please listen to the ingenious self-introduction at the “About Page” of Mrs Morgan Students, that presents the reader  straitgh forward to a living heart, like the poetic text of Holly  who ” wants to be the friend of everyone”.

     That’s a deep joy about commenting: without noticing, you start listening.

Ines

Why Do You Write?

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       Image:Stencil

      All of us write.

      Among so many other reasons, we also write:

  • To pacify confusing inner voices by bathing them in the silence that makes them legible again.
  • To figure out what we stand for about an essential subject.
  • To liberate imprisoned strengths that remain captive inside us and long to be made flesh in words.
  • To sharpen the blade of critical reason and break the chaos for a harsh decision making.
  • To decentre oneself and make two steps towards the unexpected.
  • To give an obscure intuition the form of a diamond.
  • To celebrate the unconceivable wonder of being.
  • To remain aware of the uniqueness of life and how lucky we are to have been here once.
  • To capture the fleeting movement that denounces the dwelling of a wild beauty  in the hearts of humans.
  • To decipher the ineffable footprint left by the loving presence of others.

And you, why do you write?

Ines

“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

Celebrating National Day on Writing

Imagem: Escrita Livre

    Writing may be a kind of amorous craft and a perfect hobby to those who feel a garden of germinating words has flourished in their soul.

    Irresistible may sound the ideas one may harvest in the flower beds of the heart. They spring suddenly, from an unconquered land, coated by vivid colours and some drawn in shapes never seen before.

     Writing may be the fruit of an attitude, a kind of listening turned to humble secrets awakening in the inner side of things, but that have been sowed with the affection of our attention to simple moments of everyday life: we collect very small details, but they bring infinity inside them, as in this trivial scene:

Just four kids around a table, writing:

Image: Escrita Livre

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

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.

A Favorite Tool: “Tridimensional Notebooks”

 

#EdublogsClub

A Favorite Tool or Resource – Prompt 34

   I was strongly inspired by the post of Nina “Everything”, where I learned about “Poundland Pedagogyand Nina’s creative way of really transforming almost anything in a learning tool.

     Some years ago, I read the wonderful book “Slow Down to Speed Up” by Lothar J Seiwert and, in particular, the chapters shared by Ann McGee-Cooper, who helped me to understood quite clearly how my way of managing time and sustaining motivation should be carried away with success, differently from what the traditional and respectable methods driven by “the left side of the brain” suggested.

     According to this author, people using mostly their right side of the brain are keen to a “Poundland Pedagogy” approach of tools to be used creatively in the classroom.

    So, I spontaneously invite my young students to improvise and try new ways of doing things, in particular, finding inspiration to write, creating a mix of drawing and writing, trying new ways of spreading beauty in whatever their imagination is dwelling upon.

    This brings us back to the learning tool question. As we work together in a writing workshop, I do my best so that each young student may have a special and highly personalized notebook. We even try to make it look like a “tridimensional object”:

  • I usually cut every picture, image or even a piece of colored wrapping paper I think that may be found beautiful or interesting by my kids and give them to be fixed with glue on their notebooks.
  • I also use those pictures or images as a motivation to keep them writing as I do myself.
  • They often use plenty of different sticky notes.
  • We collect small size pictures of modern and ancient paintings stamped in napkins, or different qualities of paper and illustrate our writing with them.
  • We fix along the notebooks pages, with glue or “bostick” glue sticks, little empty transparent plastic bags or small colorful envelopes where they may collect ideas, little secrets or just to keep personal thoughts inside their writing notebooks.
  • We also decorate our notebooks with our own photos, or artistic stamps, even small pieces of fabrics.
  • We use multicolored pens, and often we inextricably intertwine our thoughts with those of others, just by changing notebooks while writing about a common subject, at regular intervals.

Inpi

En Honneur des JMJ

Image: Jeunes Cathos

“Chers jeunes, votre chemin ne s’arrête pas ici. Le temps ne s’arrête pas aujourd’hui. Partez sur les routes du monde, sur les routes de l’humanité, en demeurant unis dans l’Église du Christ !”

Jean Paul II, Messe du 24 Août 1997 

Nous célébrons les vingt années des JMJ à Paris avec le bien aimé Jean Paul II, du 18 au 24 Août, 1997. Ces journées ont été si intenses qu’elles demeurent vivantes dans  les archives du cœur.

 Elles y demeurent, non pas comme un glorieux souvenir du passé, mais, plutôt, et précisément par la force d’avenir contenue dans ces moments surabondants de liberté vécue, elles soutiennent toujours le moment présent, dans ses soubassements, ayant gardé intacte toute la puissance de leur interpellation.

Ils étaient à peu près 800.000 jeunes lors de la vigile Pascale à Longchamp où le Pape a baptisé dix jeunes au total, deux de chaque continent. À chaque question posée lors de la profession de foi, et après la réponse du catéchumène, Jean Paul II demandait à la foule :

« –  Et vous, mes amis ? »

Sa voix portait plus que le son des mots humains, elle posait comme un tendre et inexorable défi, qui traversait la foule immense noyée dans la nuit, et rejoignait   le cœur de chacun, comme si le Pape était en face à face avec chacun de nous.

Image: Paris Notre Dame

Et voilà que vingt ans après, presque jour pour jour, 72 personnes, jeunes célibataires ou jeunes couples avec leurs enfants, partent aux quatre coins du monde, avec Fidesco, pour aller là où un appel au secours a retentit dans leurs vies avec plus de force que tous les risques qu’ils devront affronter.

Ils s’en vont en Indonésie, au Rwanda, en Inde, aux Philippines, à la République Démocratique du Congo, au Cambodja… pour offrir une ou deux années de leur vie au-près des enfants des rues, des handicapés, des étudiants pauvres, des médecins et infirmiers en détresse et sans recours.

Comment ne pas penser que c’est là encore un fruit qui a germé, une réponse à hauteur du mystérieux défi, tel une semence du Royaume, traversant cette nuit lumineuse, pour être déposé  dans le secret des jeunes cœurs?