Monday, August 25, 2014

What children need to be successful in school

Talented teachers + engaged students +challenging curriculum = Success for all.

To make this equation into a reality, children need devoted and caring adults to be successful in and out of school.

As a new school year approaches, the conversation about what makes for good schools and good teachers begins. What do children actually need to be successful in school?  The questions are numerous —class size, teacher/student ratio, how well equipped is the school in terms of technology, how many resources are allocated for professional development and parent education? The questions don’t change and I believe they distract from seeing that children need first and foremost supportive parents and teachers.

Children need a champion, someone who believes in them. Someone who has his or her best interests in mind. Children need a close bond with their teachers. Teachers actually have to like their students to be good teachers. In general, school communities need social trust between parents, teachers and students. There is an intimacy involved in teaching and learning. How many times have we heard how a caring teacher showed a child that he could move beyond himself, into what they did not yet know. In 1977,California spent more money per student than any other state and now ranks 47th. Let’s not slide into faulty thinking that the crisis in education is only about money.

Teaching is a profession, a labor or love, and teachers need some basics to be able to do their job well. Teachers need coaching, they need professional development, and they need to have some autonomy in the classroom. In addition they need time to collaborate and learn from other teachers.

Teachers interact with students many hours of the day but during the school year, parents have less time for that interaction.  I suggest that reading to your children is one of the best ways to give children the attention they need. Talking with children about what you read helps parents be attuned to their thoughts and feelings, which shows children they are understood. In that attention, parents communicate love, respect and children then feel cared for in a gentle and tender way. I know of very few activities that accomplish this as well as reading does

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ongoing Dilemma: Which comes first: reading the book or seeing the movie?

I love the book The Giver but I feel ambivalent about it’s movie release on August 15. Since stories enter through the back door of our imaginations, they speak to our hearts and minds in very personal ways. I worry that if a person sees the movie before they read the book, they will know this story through the lens of another and that saddens me.

The story centers on a community that has eradicated worries and cares, where sadness doesn’t exist and one person holds the memories for all. The story unfolds and shows us what it would be like to live in such a world.

I highly suggest you read the story first and then see the movie. All too often I hear the disappointment people feel who see a movie first and then come to the book.

Every medium has advantages and disadvantages. But I can only seem to think of the advantages that come from reading a book. With a book, you can take your time. You can read it as fast or as slow as you want. You are in control. When it is all said and done, I want to be the one to bring a story to life. And only then I will be eager to see how another brought that story to life.

I don't want any movie to rob me of my first impressions or interfere with my fist encounter of reading the story. I am eager to see the movie but the book came first and in that order is how it should be.