“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

A Story about Reading and Writing

Image: Writing Workshop

#Edublogs Club Prompt 16 Tell a Story

     The simple acts of reading and writing remain at the heart of my memories as a perpetual source of enchantment.

     Before I learned to read, my mother would read aloud, both in Spanish and Portuguese, thus unveiling the secret worlds that lay in silence within children books. She would encourage me to dictate my own stories long before I was able to write: I would stand by her, while, sitting, she would patiently put down word by word the fragile fragments of tales I entrusted to her caring attention.

     I remember having learned to read very early – thanks to my parents who were both eager readers; I would go alone to hide in our backyard in a silent place, holding my treasure, just to plunge in the mystery that was to me, at that time, the fact that I could reach another space and time and apparently share a different life with the characters.

   Later, when I was older, and looked for a book in the family library complaining about not knowing what to choose, my mother used to say: “Write what you wish to read”. Her advice became progressively more difficult to follow, but I never really gave up, and I keep cherishing writing among the best things in life just next to Family and Friendship.

   I reencountered the magic of these moments, many years after, with my young students, while reading aloud “The Ink Drinker”, “The Report Card”, or simply telling in my own words –  and reading some chosen passages – the adventures I finished to know almost by heart, like the “Chronicles of Narnia “and “The Hobbit”.

    As for writing, my young student texts have blew me away as soon as I started to teach. I discovered their feelings and thoughts could express an implicit but so strong insight about the human person, the meaning of life, a certain vision of the world that was still germinating but was already present as a promise of future.

     Their clumsy, novice writing was energizing, it concealed the power to make things happen in their own lives and could throw off balance some well-established prejudices  to make a better world.

    I began to collect their writings; then to share them in the classroom as a real “reading activity”; to use them for interpretation as the main text on tests; to publish them in the old school bulletin, later in our class blogs –  helping in their translation; we even participated in the Edublogs Blogging challenge in 2008, and took our turn to be in charge of the student’s blogs “Bringing Us Togetherand “Students Friends” (with my help for translations)  without any infrastructure in school that would allow us to blog; and finally, to print the texts typed in colours before giving them back,  just as an humble homage that seeks to enhance the discreet  and often unknown voice of young students.

    This was a story about the love of reading and writing and the transforming power that lies in both of them.

Ines

#EdublogsClub: Giving and Receiving Feedback

https://getstencil.com/app/saved

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

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.

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.

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

Interview – A Singular Path

Words for LifeCreative Commons License Leonard J Matthews via Compfight

#EdublogsClub – Prompt 33

      Today we share the joy of welcoming in our Writing Wworkshop, our dear ex-student, Júlia Marçal,  organizational psychologist and free lancer in a series of enriching initiatives  that have been building her singular path in the professional realm.

     OE – Júlia, please share with us a life experience that may have been passionate for you throughout your early school years.

     JM –  What touches us deeply remains recorded not only in our memory but also in our soul. So are the souvenirs I keep while being a student at Colégio Amor de Deus. A very funny  episode, that I remember vividly, refers to my experience, while a 6th grader, during a visit to the Lisbon Zoo. As we were having lunch –  students and teachers all together –  near the monkeys jail, one of the tiny ones, suddenly approached and seized the yoghurt from Mrs Sandra Pedrosa. There was a burst of laughter!  l 😊

     OE – Could you indicate the main factors that have modelled the original path you have been mapping as an independent professional?

     JMParticipating in different kinds of projects, being in touch with a variety of  tasks and people have been the main motivating factors so far.   Projects as my own book: “A Comida como Almofada Emocional – Why do we eat withouth feeling hungry?” become possible and allow me to put my creativity in practice and make my work known.

     OE  Which advices would you give to a young person newly arrived at the job market in order to be guided in this complex world, in the search for a job?

      JM –  The advice I would give to these young people is to choose a job aligned with their own values and personal interests, as it makes it easier to keep motivated. Another advice would be: don’t stop looking for different and better opportunities, in order to learn new competencies and abilities, which is fundamental in a job market facing constant change.  

     OE – If you could enjoy two years of financial freedom to survive with a moderate well-being, what activities would you chose to devote yourself. Why?

    JM –  Under these conditions, I would devote to writing, one of my great passions, as well as to projects related with empowering people at both  personal and professional levels.  

    OE – Thank you, Julia, for accepting to participate in this Edublogs Challenge. And keep up with your joyful comitment and creative work.

Júlia Marçal and Inpi

Author of “A Comida como Almofada Emocional

and Unforgettable Student at CAD

Advice For New Teachers

Imagem: Escrita Livre

  1. What was the best piece of advice a veteran teacher gave you and why?
  2. If you could tell your first-year-teaching self one thing, what would it be and why?
  3. Tell a story about a lesson you learned in your first year of teaching that has impacted you throughout your career.
  4. Put together a list of resources you think every new teacher needs.

 

1 – “You must link personal creativity with the common real world: both will become richer.” This advice opened me a royal path to engage with perseverance in long term group activities without losing my inner compass and to give my best to deal with life school challenges.

2 – Be free, follow your intuition: Listen to the kids, ask them to write down their most beautiful questions, collect them, and bring them all together to each one of them as a bunch of flowers to engage deep conversations and make them taste the power of writing.

The reason I would tell such things is because I’ve been given similar advices and they have perfectly fit with my way of dwelling in class. My young students, 32 years ago, were challenging and inspiring at the same time. Listening to their own questions and unleashing their hidden freedom to express their inner world in written words was a deep joy.

3 – As I was standing in the corridor trying to reach the right classroom, a little 5th grader suddenly came to me, took me by her hand all along the corridor with a charming smile until my destiny. She showed me my way quietly, with an exquisite delicacy, as if I was a rare piece of crystal and could easily break.

Such gentleness touched me deeply and it lives in my memory as a metaphor of what is mysteriously at stake in the privilege of communicating so closely with children.

4 – Even if a new teacher comes to a school that isn’t totally innovating yet, and where there is plenty of “talk and chalk” lessons, I thing he needs, at least, to be sure of this two resources: the warm support and sharing with his colleagues in the school community and the freedom to create new approaches of his duties, mainly inspired in his own students’ higher expectations.  

Inpi