Category Archives: Learning

A Few Course Updates…

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Spring’s just started, but the learning opportunities continue!

I’ve conducted my newest course offering on Suicide Awareness and Prevention twice and the results have been rewarding and exciting! Not only have educational professionals attended, but students have included church employees, agency employees, and several who simply wanted the information for their own use—one attendee came all the way from Hermon!

My ego enjoys the ratings of the instructor and positive comments, but there are a couple of observations that are far more important. As a result of attending these two classes:

  • 85% of participants either agreed or strongly agreed they feel more comfortable talking about suicide.
  • 93% of participants either agreed or strongly agreed they feel more confident in their ability to recognize suicide warning signs and risk factors.
  • 85% of participants feel better equipped to help someone who might seem suicidal.

Currently, there are two more classes scheduled:

  1. Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at the Penquis Higher Education Center in Dover Foxcroft, sponsored by PVAEC, 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Call 564-6525 for information and to register.
  2. Thursday, April 14, 2016 at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport, sponsored by RSU 19 Adult Education, 3:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. Call 368-3290 for information and to register.

As promised in the classes already taught, I’ve started a website page of resources for developing good mental health and preventing suicide.

April is a busy month with Real Estate Classes–both licensing and continuing education. You can find a complete calendar on my real estate blog.

Due to increasing requests for learning opportunities, RSU 19 Adult Education is adding a second wave of classes in late spring and this summer this year. By request, I’ll be developing and offering an overview course, The Why’s and Where’s of Blogging The course is scheduled for Thursday, May 19 at Nokomis High school in Newport. We’ll also be offering the Substitute Teacher Course late in the summer.

The best way to avoid missing an opportunity is to sign up for the Learning Opportunities Newsletter. Since I know how annoying a flood of email can be, you’ll only hear from me about once a month at the most!

If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.

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Filed under Classes and Courses, Learning, Mental Health, Mental Hygiene, Personal Growth, Suicide Prevention

Won’t You Guide?

This is a chapter from “Small People — Big Brains” that was written in 2012, shortly after the Newtown tragedy. My intent in republishing it this year is not to remind us of the tragedy; it is rather to remind us of the possibilities and opportunities we face every day.


 

When I got the call last Monday that I’d be needed at school, I was momentarily struck with the reality that going “to work” included the distinct possibly of not coming home. Like many, I’d been mourning the huge loss we experienced in Connecticut. As a society, we’ve trusted teachers with our children’s education for a long time. The Newtown tragedy has demonstrated that we also trust those teachers and staff with our children’s very lives.

While I in no way want to diminish the loss of those children and adults, as time has passed I think we might consider that we are also mourning the loss of safe havens for children to learn. The grief that we are feeling calls out for answers and brings with it a rush to prevent this type of tragedy. We want to bring back those safe places.

One of the most meaningful things I learned about “classroom management” while preparing to become a substitute was the observation that “the only behavior you can truly control in your classroom is your own.”
child-865116_1280One day this week I was working with first graders on an art project. I’d been warned to keep them busy or “they will make your life miserable.” We’d been doing quite well, actually, when I suddenly lost control of the classroom. Amid the coloring and cutting and pasting and cries of “Mr. Boomsma, can you help me with this?” very suddenly and spontaneously one child started singing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Within seconds, fifteen little voices chimed in and I was left to stand and watch the unfolding of what might be described as a “Normal Rockwell Moment.”  For at least six renditions of the song (the part they remembered) my life was anything but miserable.

But it was not because of anything I did.

Every sane person wants to prevent the type of tragedy we experienced on December 14, 2012. As we work through the grief, I believe we need to remember that six-year-old who decided to sing. To be sure, somebody taught him to sing. But he decided it was time to sing. If we don’t remember him and his choice, we are in danger of deluding ourselves into thinking we can fix this by controlling things (guns, videos, the media, etc.) and perhaps even people.

I’ve asked myself what I might do to prevent this type of tragedy and believe the long look answer lies in another truth:  “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.” While we cannot ignore those broken adults, we (collectively, not just teachers) are “breaking” children every day by missing opportunities, failing to provide structure, and in too many cases engaging in outright abuse and neglect. The same newspaper that headlined the Newtown events also carried a story of an eight-year-old girl who was raped. These tragedies deserve equal outrage.

Anyone who spends any time working in schools has met them–the kids we are breaking. A kid who is constantly angry for reasons we don’t yet understand–copes by screaming and pushing his way around. The loner who is always seen off by herself during recess…

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

Just this week a nine-year-old confessed to being tired first thing in the morning explaining that her dad goes to work at 3 AM and she’s required to get up to care for her younger brother. She’s a real good kid and I think will grow up to be a responsible adult. I’m not indicting her Dad because it’s likely an economic necessity. But she’s carrying a lot of weight on her young shoulders–can we be sure whether it will make or break her?

What happens to us shapes us, but we decide who we are. Those of us who are fortunate enough to work with kids have a key–we need to focus on building strong children who learn the skills–including the skill of self-control–that will allow them make good decisions about what they will do and who they will become.

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you’ll go down in history!

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Filed under Learning, Mental Health, Mental Hygiene

Happy World Teachers’ Day!

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Third Graders learn the “Dictionary Race” during a Dictionary Day Presentation.

Bet you didn’t know today is World Teachers’ Day! Empowering teachers, building sustainable societies,” is the slogan for 2015.

By sheer coincidence, today I will be working with eighty third graders as part of the Valley Grange Words for Thirds Program. The program is designed to give third graders their own personal dictionary. I have the honor of facilitating the process and teaching the kids a little history and some basic dictionary skills.

Another coincidence was that one of the email newsletters I subscribe to included a very appropriate quote by thinker Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844–August 25, 1900).

Your true educators and cultivators will reveal to you the original sense and basic stuff of your being, something that is not ultimately amenable to education or cultivation by anyone else, but that is always difficult to access, something bound and immobilized; your educators cannot go beyond being your liberators. And that is the secret of all true culture: she does not present us with artificial limbs, wax-noses, bespectacled eyes – for such gifts leave us merely with a sham image of education. She is liberation instead, pulling weeds, removing rubble, chasing away the pests that would gnaw at the tender roots and shoots of the plant; she is an effusion of light and warmth, a tender trickle of nightly rain…

There may be other methods for finding oneself, for waking up to oneself out of the anesthesia in which we are commonly enshrouded as if in a gloomy cloud – but I know of none better than that of reflecting upon one’s educators and cultivators.

And therein lies a wonderful way to celebrate this relatively unknown day… thinking about those who have educated and “cultivated” us. We are all teachers and educators. We are all learners and students. I expect to learn something from these kids today. And I hope they learn something from me and the experience they have.

As I read Nietzche’s thoughts I was most struck by his suggestion that educators are liberators. Dictionary Day today will have, for me, a slightly different meaning today. I will be considering how today’s lesson and the book each child leaves with will be freeing and surely contribute to the person each becomes. As the kids would say, “Awesome!”

World Teacher Day

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The 8 Minutes That Matter Most | Edutopia

Like a story, lessons deserve compelling beginnings and endings. From pop culture connections to finishing with a level-up, here are eight strategies for holding students’ attention.

This is a great post about… well, getting and holding students’ attention. As a writer, I particularly enjoyed the quote from John Irving.

Source: The 8 Minutes That Matter Most | Edutopia

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Filed under Learning, Teaching, Writing Skills

More P.C.E.S. Fun Events

As the school year winds down (or should that be “as the school year winds up?”) there are more fun events coming up! Yearbooks will be distributed early next week!

2015 Arts Alive Logo-1On Friday, June 5, students, staff, and community volunteers will drive into Arts Alive! This annual tradition celebrates art, learning, community and life! Students have an opportunity to participate in workshops that include book-making, cartooning, crime fighting, decorative initials, ditty bags, dizzy dancing discs, name signs, mini-foosball, message boards, masks, martial arts, resistant painting, sand art, sculpture, slate etching, thumbprint art, tie-dye, tumbling, drumming, finger painting, flubber, origami, origami people, painted pots, paper lanterns, slate welcome signs, stop motion animation, stretch bags, and string art—nearly 30 assorted activities!

On Tuesday, June 9, Sixth Graders will host a Culture Fair–the culmination of a project in which students chose and study a country in depth, then share that information.  During the day, sixth graders share their projects with other students, then with friends and family in the evening from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. The fair features create a displays elements of the students’ studies such as history, foods, music, maps, games, puzzles, and sports.  Many students chose a recipe to make in order to give people a “taste” of a dish from their country.

Remember, the District Budget Validation Referendum will be held at the local polls on Tuesday, June 9, 2015, during regular polling hours. 

On Wednesday, June 10 Sixth Graders offer a fast paced Showcase of Skills that includes plyometrics–a form of exercise that involves rapid jumping skills, designed to increase strength—and cartwheels, round-offs, dive rolls, back walkovers, and walking on two hands. Students will also demonstrate a 3-Person weave into a  basketball layup, advanced jump roping skills, hula hoop tricks, and stretch bags—a creative movement piece with a surprise ending. The beat goes on with a very creative mix of percussion performances including recycled percussion, body percussion, and traditional African songs with authentic instruments. This is the fourth year for the drumming program at PCES and sixth graders have working very hard this year to put a fun program to demonstrate their skills. The program begins at 1:15 p.m. in the gymnasium.

On Thursday, June 11, Fifth Graders will be featured in a graduation ceremony celebrating the completion of the D.A.R.E. Program at PCES. The program will include reading of essays written by a representative of each participating class followed by the musical, “Just for Fun!” which is a collection of fun songs and lots of jokes and movement. It is a wonderful way to conclude their fifth grade year — the title says it all “Just for Fun, a lighthearted revue for young voices” The play is written by Teresa and Paul Jennings and directed by homeroom teachers with the assistance of Michelle Briggs, Music teacher, and Sheryl Allen, Physical Education Teacher. The program starts at 6 p.m. in the elementary school cafeteria.

On Wednesday, June 17 students leave the school for the last time… until fall!

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A World At School

A few disclaimers… I have not “vetted” this organization, but on the surface (and given they aren’t asking for money) it looks legitimate. I would also note that I’m not attempting to make a political statement by posting this. I don’t label myself as such but a reality is I’m a big advocate for kids and for schools. That’s probably why my cousin in Australia sent me the information. She knew I’d be unable to resist.

A World at School is an initiative from Theirworld, a UK charity founded in 2002 by Sarah Brown to make a difference to the lives of some of the UK’s most vulnerable babies, children and young people. The initiative includes young people around the world uniting with thousands of community networks in a mass signature drive to make sure political leaders keep an earlier promise to give every child the chance to go to school.

World leaders are meeting at the UN General Assembly in September 2015. This will be a key moment to change the lives of children all across the world. The world’s biggest petition in history would most certainly make its mark at this meeting. (The goal of the petition is 25 million signups.)

At first this all seems totally crazy. I have always doubted the value of online petitions, but I do understand the potential power of social media and, in this case, world-wide pressure. There are a number of resources available on the World at School website. That’s also the place where you can sign the petition.

This is a pretty easy way to give yourself the feeling that you’ve done something good today. You may help to change our world to a better place. Best of all, you may help a child learn and succeed. Please also feel free to share this post on Facebook. Sorry I don’t have any cute cat pictures, but when you visit the site to sign, you’ll see some cute kid pictures!

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He Was Big, But Was He Bad?

questions

Thanks to the “efficiency” of technology, this originally published with the wrong title and I fear went to subscribers with the title “Brain Surgeons and Truck Drivers Unite!” While there are some similarities, that’s a piece being developed for another day!


 

One of my more interesting assignments recently was working with a group of sixth graders who had just finished reading what is considered a “fractured fair tale”–in this case the story of Little Red Riding Hood written from the wolves  perspective. It’s not uncommon to ask students to read (or retell) a common story from another character’s perspective. The educational benefits are many. In this case, their assignment was to consider whether or not the retelling influenced their own perspective.

I was a bit surprised that all but one student readily bought into the wolf’s explanation. Most began to feel sorry for the poor maligned wolf now that they “understood” his perspective and were able to view the facts differently. But as I listened to them explain their conclusions, it was not so surprising. Kids are open-minded–much more so than adults–and are willing to consider new information. Yes, it makes them vulnerable but it also means they can learn and grow at astounding rates.

Now I will confess that I don’t recall ever questioning what happened in that story even as a kid. My reality has always been there was a big, bad wolf, a somewhat naive little girl, and a grandma who has a very brief role. I might have subconsciously identified with the wood cutter–it’s always  nice to identify with the hero. (There are several versions of the tale–in the earliest the story ends with grandma and the girl being eaten. They are not rescued. So much for the “happily ever after” aspect of fairy tales.)

Of course, we all know that the point of fairy tales is not to convince kids monsters exist. They already know that. The point of fairy tales is to show kids that monsters can be killed (attributed to G.K. Chesterton).

But in this sixth grade classroom (and, hopefully, many more like it) we find another point of fairy tales is to make us think. I found myself doing exactly that–not so much about whether or not the wolf was actually a victim as about how our perceptions influence our thinking and conclusions. One young fellow in the class took a minority position by remaining convinced that the wolf was a liar and was only trying to fool us the way he’d fooled Little Red Riding Hood. According to this young man, the wolf was  “bad to the bone” and we are crazy if we believe otherwise.

But are we?

Let us understand this is not about teaching truth. It might be about searching for the truth. It is certainly about learning. We have plenty of bias and close-mindedness in our adult world. I suspect some of that develops at a very young age when in our desire to protect children we adults create perspectives in them that actually become unchallenged prejudices carried into adulthood. Sometimes those biases are about others; sometimes they are about ourselves.

No matter who they are about, there is a lot to be gained in challenging them. Even if we end up maintaining our original beliefs, we may well gain empathy  and understanding of the bigger picture and those around us. That the wolf was big is probably not debatable. But was he truly “bad?” Are you willing to consider that he might merely have been doing what wolves do? In the book, he explains that he looks at grandma the way we might look at a cheeseburger.

In researching this article, I found some interesting theories about fairy tales, including speculation that they provide the “core of ethics.” Now much as I enjoy thinking, I really want to say, “or they might just be stories.” As a writer, I do think we should be careful to leave plenty of room for the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.

So you can decide whether or not the wolf was bad or simply a maligned opportunist–or perhaps even a victim. But you do have to think about it before you decide.

And the next time you hear yourself stating a perception  about others  (“All politicians are dishonest.”) or yourself (“I suck at math.”) you might consider whether or not that perception is a prejudice–a decision made without really thinking.  There may be some new information available or a perspective you haven’t considered. Now that you are an adult, it’s okay to let your beliefs and yourself be a little vulnerable. Remember, this is not a call for you to abandon your beliefs. It’s a call for you to learn and grow even if you end up believing what you always have.

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