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Posts Tagged ‘Learning’

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In our school, this is the season of report cards. It seems as though, for staff, that they have been in process for about a month.

In just a couple of days students and their parents will open the envelopes of doom the assessments of work, behavior and effort. There will be praises and punishments resulting from these pieces of paper. There will be triumphant cries, and tears. There will be rewards and removals of privileges.

But …

do the report cards report on learning?

That is the question of the day, within the hallowed halls of educational places all over. The traditional methods of assessing learning are being looked at from every angle. As with many traditional practices in a variety of areas of life, what is done because it has always been done that way, assessment is being evaluated.

When we read a report card, there are (generally) two important parts:

  • the mark … be it a number or letter representing a range of understanding
  • the comment … included within may be effort, behavior, an example of a situation

The mark often represents how the student has done on tests, homework and assignments. The comment can be quite subjective, reflecting the relationship between the student and teacher, as well as the observations of the teacher.

These are okay assessments … not all bad. They are not, though, complete indicators of learning.

The following image/quote would reverberate for most teachers, school administrators, educational assistants:

IMG_2178Oh sure, there are a few educators who are just in it for the money (insert extreme laughter here), the long summer breaks or who simply got into the wrong profession. But those are the rare exception, not the norm.

The desire of the educator, who is called to their work. is not that a piece of paper, handed out two or three times a year, define a student. The greatest desire is that each student learn. That each student succeed, in some way (maybe not even academically), in their life. That each student know what their passion is, and how to make it their life’s work.

Truly gifted and called educators care more about who the student becomes, rather than what the report card assesses.

May we parents all, before opening that report card, look our children in the eyes and say, “I love you. I love who you are and who you were created to be. Opening this report card will not change that reality.”

 

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As the school year is coming to a rapid end, those of us who work in schools tend to become reflective about the year that has past. We wonder if we taught everything that the students needed to learn. We wonder if the students learned everything that they will need to succeed.

Earlier this past week I was speaking with a young man who is graduating from high school. I have never been assigned to work with him, I have never assisted him in a classroom setting, in no way have I ever been responsible for any part of his education. In spite of the fact that there is no direct connection to him, I have gotten to know him a bit by saying hi and connecting in the hallways.

This young man has not been successful in an academic sense. He was not a ‘good’ student. I would guess that he did not have the best handwriting in elementary school, the best understanding of algebra in middle school, or the best essay writing skills in high school.

From what I have learned, over the years, from talking to him, from watching him, and from hearing about him from others, I believe he will be immensely successful in life … and it has little to do with schooling.

This young man is kind … I have seen how he treats others.

This young man is hard working … I have seen his acts of service in the school.

This young man is responsible … when asked to do a task, he shows up, and does it.

This young man is humble … he does not do things for praise.

He is the young man who will grow up contributing to society.

He is the young man who will grow up caring for his parents.

He is the young man who will grow up supporting and loving his family.

He is the young man who you would want for a neighbor.

He is the young man who knows that he has nothing in this life without working hard, being responsible and being faithful to his commitments.

He is the successful result of parents who loved him and who modeled a life well lived. His success is the result of having the benefit of being able to participate in a program at school that allowed him to earn a portion of his credits by doing the manual labor he so loves (and is probably amazing at). He is the successful result of an inner strength of character that kept him going to school, just because it is a hoop we all need to do to be part of our society.

I wish I had had the opportunity to work with this model young man … I bet he could have taught me something!

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The words of the title of this entry bring anyone, old like me, back to 1984.

Start watching at about 0:54 …

Oh, Mr. Miyagi, the great martial arts teacher, and Daniel, the bullied young teen boy. When Daniel gets royally beaten up, and he is fading into ‘La La Land’, he sees Mr.Miyagi take on the whole gang of guys who beat the stuffing out of him, and win! Now, Mr. Miyagi is a pretty inconspicuous karate master, as his day job is that of a humble maintenance man / gardener. And, he’s old! We’re talking gray hair (well, what hair he has left is gray), and he’s short (but there is not a bit of a Napoleon complex here).

I think that Mr. Miyagi is one of my first role models in working with students who struggle in school. The lesson I learned from him is that learning does not have to be direct. For him (and yes, I do realize ‘it was just a movie’, but I like to gleen whatever good I can from as many sources as I can find in life) teaching karate did not necessarily mean teaching karate through ‘doing’ karate, but through life’s day to day ‘stuff’ (lets face it though, he did get his cars waxed, fence painted, etc.).

For me, to teach a lesson to the students I work with, does not necessarily mean sitting a student at a desk with paper and pencil. As a matter of fact, that would probably be the least successful way to teach them. The (high school) students I get to hang with know they are not going to be a Math or English whiz. But, frequently, what they do believe is that they are dumb, stupid, and sometimes even useless.

It is, I believe, my job to convince them that school is something ‘ya just gotta get through, so lets get it done, and move on’ (they hear that one almost daily from me), and that their failures in school classrooms DO NOT indicate what their future will be. Each of the students I get to work with have a gift, and we need to search until we find it, and figure out how to use it, when they get out of this small microcosm of life, called school.

So, I get to take my students out of school (I swear they hear the Hallelujah chorus in their heads as we are driving away), and place them in work experience jobs. They have worked in grocery stores, warehouses, plant nurseries and stores. Presently we are taking on, not jobs but service projects. And, in the coming weeks they will go to the home of an elderly lady to wash windows, mow lawns, and anything else that could make her life easier. And, at the same time, they will be doing work that has meaning, has real benefit … gives them purpose!

Along with training, and exposure to different fields of work, it is the sense of purpose, the sense of place in this world that I most strive for, for them.

Sometimes what is student learns is far more than what the teacher teaches … and, sometimes that was the hope of the teacher in the first place.

So, back to work guys … “look eye, always look eye … come back tomorrow!”

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sequestered – kept separated and secluded (freedictionary.com)

The idea of being sequestered was central to how I spent this past Saturday.

Our daughter is off at a Christian camp, but she is not a camper this time, she is a C. I. T. (counselor in training).

I knew it would be good when she will filling out all of the paperwork necessary for her application into the C. I. T. program. There was the standard application forms to fill in, along with medical forms, activity checklist, three written references, a statement of faith questionnaire, as well as a telephone interview.

She got the nod that she was accepted, followed by a weekend of service to the camp in early June, from which she returned with more paperwork to fill out, as well as assignments and devotionals to complete before she returned at the end of June, for two weeks of study and learning, followed by an exam, then a week of assisting in the cabins. If all goes well she will return in August for a week of having her very own cabin of kids to oversee (with assistance).

All last week I received notes requesting that I come to visit her at the camp. With each note I had felt as though I could see her grow, much like an adolescent growing taller during a growth spurt. But this growth was not in height, it was growth and development in her understanding and knowledge of the Bible.

Upon seeing her and hearing of her first week at camp, I realized that, although this sort of growth was possible in any time and place, it was especially significant when it was part of a time of seclusion, separation, sequestering. She had times of learning, times of prayer, times of worship, times of study, incorporated as priorities in her daily schedule. She did not have to ‘squeeze’ these important practices into her days, they were part of the framework, part of the foundation of her daily schedule so that it would be accomplished.

I am eager to see how this learning opens her eyes to all that God has for her, to all that He has planned for her life.

May we all have, and take, the opportunity to be sequestered, if just for a day, to be transformed.

“Do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Romans 12:2

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imagesRecently I was asked if I could share with another person what I do when teaching Life Skills to students, and I immediately became self-conscious and intimidated at the thought of having to put what I teach into words.

To teach Life Skills is daunting. There no, one, curriculum to utilize, because each student in a Life Skills class has such very different needs to be learned, comes from a unique cognitive and developmental stage, and has specific behavioral ‘triggers’ to be either avoided or sought. The result is a ‘curriculum’ pulled together from many sources, with extremely specific (and yet, general) goals, and the only expectation (on my part) can be that an allusive ‘something’ will have been learned, that will be useful in the present and/or future life of the student.

So, what are the most important life skills to be learned?

I have come up with an acronym for the word, Life Skills:

L – Learn

  • be willing to learn new things, every day
    (“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance” Proverbs 1:5)

I – Initiate

  • be willing and able to start a friendship, a conversation
    (“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” Hebrews 10:25)

F – Fitness

  • be willing to keep your body active
    (“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” Romans 12:1)

E – Each Other

  • be willing to care for each other
    (“Bear one another’s burdens” Galatians 6:2)

S – Speak

  • be willing to speak the right things to the right people
    (“speaking the truth in love” Ephesians 4:15)

K – Kindness

  • be willing to follow the Golden Rule … do for others what you would love for them to do for you
    (“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” Ephesians 4:22)

I – Irritation

  • be willing to learn how to control yourself when irritated
    (“love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” 1 Corinthians 13:5-6)

L – Living things

  • be willing to have healthy respect for living things, from peers to dogs to spiders (but not mosquitoes 😉
    (“And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good” Genesis 1:25)

L – Love

  • be willing to love and be loved
    (“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16)

S – Self Respect

  • be willing to offer respect to yourself … don’t call yourself names, or put yourself down
    (“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” Psalm 139:13)

It is all still pretty general (yet specific), and it may not what works for all, but I am really hoping it is working for the students I get to work with.

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A wise person theologian … one once said,

I think that our inner compulsion is to run from it. That gives us complete separation, and immediate relief. But does running from it have positive, long-lasting results? I do not know for sure that answer, but I tend to think it might chase us, and when we least expect it, re-surface again.

Then there is learning from it. Oh, how slow that process seems, and painful for to learn is to look at the pain and face it. But could more, long lasting good come from that process? I do not know for sure that answer, but I tend to think it is the better way.

There is a man in the Bible, of whom little is known, but one thing we do know is that he did not run from his past.

This man is Jabez. His one entry in the Bible is in the Old Testament book of 1 Chronicles. He shares his name also with a town near Bethlehem, but I am not sure if the town was named after him.

The accounting of Jabez, and his life is:

“Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.
His mother had named him Jabez,saying,
“I gave birth to him in pain.” 
Jabez cried out to the God of Israel,
“Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!
Let your hand be with me,
and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”
And God granted his request.”
1 Chronicles 4:9-10

Jabez was named by his mother, and I would guess that would not have been the norm, in such a patriarchal society. Now either his birth was horrific, or the timing of his birth was, or something else dreadful must have accompanied his entry into the world for his mother to have named him as she did.

The name Jabez is Hebrew, and it means sorrowful or pain. In those days, and within that Hebrew culture, a name was almost a prophetic statement, or a foundation for who this baby was to become. Andpas his mother saw his future as sorrowful or painful.

Whatever the reason his mother named him as she did, Jabez past followed him everywhere. Imagine the teasing of his childhood peers down by the well, “hey Sorrowful, having a good day? Oh, that’s right you NEVER have a good day, you are Sorrowful!”

He had a choice, run from it, or learn from it.

Well, it would appear that he did not run from it, heck, he didn’t even change his name, nor did God as He had of others in the Bible (Abraham, Sarah, Paul, etc.).

Instead, he somehow knew that the only hope he had of a future that was not sorrowful, was to pray. And pray he did:

“Jabez cried out to the God of Israel,
“Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!
Let your hand be with me,
and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”

His prayer was for a future complete with a relationship with the God of Israel, complete with blessing (perhaps the blessing he did not get from his parents), complete with God’s protection, complete with freedom from … pain. The prayer of Jabez is the desperate cry of a man born with a curse, with a past, and he knew it well. But, he also knew that he did not have to stay in his sorrowful state, and he knew the only one who would hear his cry … the God of Israel.

“And God granted his request.”

And, He will hear our cries to be freed from our hurtful pasts,
we just need to learn to cry out to the One who will hear us,
to change the direction of our lives.

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Last week I published a post called Tricks and Old Dogs. In it I wrote of my love of talking, and of a recent realization that when I felt as though I was not being listened to, I stopped talking, I stopped communicating. I also wrote of how I was planning on working on that personal response from a self-improvement context.

Since then I have encountered a certain passage in the Bible … twice, and I am starting to think that there is something in it for me.

The day after publishing that post, I read a post of a fellow blogger, which featured Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (he is a great writer and thinker, and his posts are worth checking out). The blogger focused on how the scripture emphasized the need and reliance for balance. That the reality of the seasons of the year, and of life required a concentration of the balance that they provide in our existence.

For instance seeds are planted in the spring, and the harvest is gathered in the autumn, because that is what makes for the best growth of plants. We can laugh anytime, but to laugh after a season of weeping makes the laughing all the sweeter.

Then, at our staff devotions, a teacher read the same scripture. This time, as it was being read, I ‘heard’ the message that was in it for me. Verse 7 states, “(there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:) a time to be silent and a time to speak.” When the words settled in my ears, I realized that maybe I had been silent for a reason that came, not from weakness, but from a holy, seasonal balance. Maybe this was my time to be silent?

When I came home I did my research. I discovered that the verse from Ecclesiastes was cross referenced to:
Amos 5:13, “therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times”
Job 34:29, “but if he remains silent, who can condemn him?”

Maybe, just maybe, my silence was not simply born out of weakness, nor the result of inappropriate responding to individuals or situations. Maybe, my tongue has been silenced because it is not my season to speak? Maybe, at this time, saying nothing is the healthiest, the most wise route to take? Maybe keeping quiet at this time is not about forfeiting my ability to express myself, but about taking the time to listen, and providing the opportunities for others to practice a season of speaking? Maybe, my silence is a holy protection, that I need to embrace, and not fight against?

I am still determined to learn through this experience. I just might try learning from the silence.

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