A note to my parents.
“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.”
“과학은 지식의 집합체보다 사고방식이다.”
Science is a way of thinking and knowing! While the content and “facts” of science are important for students to learn, learning to think like a scientist is much more essential. Science is not a list of facts to remember but a process of learning and discovering.
과학은 인지와 사고하는 방법입니다! 과학의 내용과 “사실”은 학생의 배움에 중요하지만, 과학자처럼 생각하는 법을 배우는 것이 훨씬 더 필수적입니다. 과학은 기억해야할 사실의 목록이 아니라 배우고 발견하는 과정입니다.
At school, the teacher helps students:
학교에서 교사는 학생들이 다음과 같이 할 수 있도록 돕습니다.
학생들은 다음과 같이 할 수 있습니다.
Helping your child make sense of their learning:
가정에서 학부모님은 다음과 같이 학습을 지원하실 수 있습니다.
자녀가 학습 내용을 잘 이해할수 있도록 지원하는 방법:
Having conversations about science:
자녀와 과학에 대해 이야기 나누는 법:
Don't be a Vernon Dursley
What was a good question you asked today? Says the mom.
Our goal today is for the class to ask three "umm" questions. Says the teacher.
Learning is about the questions you ask, not about the facts you have memorized.
What are "umm" questions? "Umm," questions are questions that make the teacher go, "umm, that's a good question." "Umm," questions show that students are thinking deeply about the topic. "Umm," questions are tough to answer and sometimes take the class off track (those darn pacing guides).
If you have ever been around a toddler or preschool-aged child, then it is very likely you have been barraged with a plethora of questions. They are so curious. Yet as a middle school teacher, I have noticed that curiosity seems to have disappeared (at least during class). Where did the wonder at the world go? IMO the world (school) has beaten the questions out.
"Don't ask questions — that was the first rule for a quiet life with the Dursleys."
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Teachers often are like the Durselys. The reasons include but are not limited to staying on pace with district expectations, preparing for the end-of-year exams, and the fear of the room devolving into a lord of the flies type anarchy.
In a world of Google and Siri, students (all of us really) need to do more than memorize facts. The facts are at our fingertips.
"My investment of time, as an educator, in my judgment, is best served teaching people how to think about the world around them. Teach them how to pose a question. How to judge whether one thing is true versus the other."
– Neil deGrasse Tyson
What are you doing to encourage your kids (either personal or students) to ask more "umm," questions? Are you asking "umm," questions yourself?
Like the mom, instead of asking, what did you do today, try asking what is a good question you asked in class.
Like the teacher give at the start of class, give your students an "umm" question goal. And don't let those good questions fall by the wayside. Be okay with giving time to "get off task".
"It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question."
– Eugene Ionesco.
"It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heartache, you want it so!"
― Mark Twain
"Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It'll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they'll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields... and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?"
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
I love transitional seasons. Being born in April, I think I am hard-wired to love spring (with fall being a close second). Granted, it won't officially be spring for another two weeks(Spring Equinox); I can feel it coming. In the Christian/ western tradition, spring equals new beginnings, rebirth, and nature's awakening.
Personally, it is easier for me to wake up in the mornings, to get outdoors for a dose of sun, and to stay up later; I feel more productive.
I guess the Turkish Ministry of Education agrees with me. Monday, all grades will start back to in-person school. I will teach in the classroom two days a week (hybrid model). More than 50% of the students have signed up for in-person learning (it has been a year since they have been in the classroom). As I am sure many of you know there are still many unanswered questions, and there will be many issues that arise as we start.
As many reach the first anniversary of this modern Pandemic, remember to wash your hands well and often, wear your mask correctly, and watch for SCIENTIFIC updates.
The current episode of Star Talk is about a interesting tool, that could have the ability to improve how we consume news. Neil and Chuck (yes I am on a first name basis with them) interview Max Tegmark: a physicist from MIT and the developer of ImproveTheNews.org. This open source site allows/ encourages the reader to "choose your news diet the way you aim to choose your food: deliberately rather than impulsively" with the use of sliders.
The video (about 5 minutes) explains how to use the website. I also encourage you to give this episode of Star Talk a listen as the guest speakers do a much better job explaining the current issues with news and journalism than I could.
I believe ImproveTheNews.org could be a great asset to students and teachers in the classroom.
How could you implement this tool?
"Victims have big TVs, leaders have big libraries."
-The Tycoon, The 5 am Club
"Poor people have big TVs, rich people have big libraries."
-Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, author, and speaker
The 5 am Club: Owning Your Morning, Elevate Your Life by Robin Sharma is an interesting book. I am on my second listen on Audible. I may be a little bit in love with this book, even though I almost quit listening to it the first time.
The formatting of this self-development (formerly known as self-help) book is different from any book in this genre that I have ever come across. Instead of the author telling us how to make our lives better, Sharma has taken himself out of the equation. The concepts covered in the book the reader learns about via a hallmark movie type story (I mean that in the best possible way). The main players in the story are:
"There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches."
As the book opens, the tycoon is described as a homeless man. Although a bit skeptical (guess which one), the artist and the entrepreneur trust the homeless man/ tycoon and take him up on his offer to go to his island "called solitude." Even if you are not a religious person, we have all heard stories of characters who aren't beautiful (or are different in some way from the norm) offering help to the protagonist. Sometimes the protagonist refuses to help (or refuses to receive the support offered), and they are punished. Disney's Beauty and the Beast comes to mind. In other stories, the protagonist (sometimes against others' warnings) takes the help, and their path to the goal is eased. But I think that modern media gives us very few of these stories. The different are usually just plain ole bad/ evil and have nothing to offer.
The central learning from this self-development book can be simplified into three points.
Granted this those points are not just with Sharma but with self-development books in general.
The pull yourself up by your boot straps/ all you have to do is...
The artist and the entrepreneur both have the time/ resources to just up and leave to go on an adventure with the billionaire. I have been a single mother since 2001. If I had gone to this conference and meet the homeless man, I would not have been able to go (as much as I would have wanted to). Both characters also have freedom in their careers (the entrepreneur owns her company, and the artist is a freelancer. What about those who have to clock in/out of a 9 to 5?
And if we forget about the fictional opportunity of the adventure (gosh, Jamie, that's why the man wrote the book). The book's main concept is waking up at 5 am and using that first hour to change your life, but although we all have 24 hour days, not everyone's 24 hours are equal. Beyonce can get more out of her 24 hours than I am. She has a staff that probably includes a chief, trainer, personal shopper, and things I haven't even thought of. I can get more of my 24 hours than someone who has to work zero-hour contracts (and therefore has to work multiple jobs). I have health insurance, some savings, and I don't have to worry about having enough to pay my bills.
This book and many others like it do not acknowledge that resources (even time) are not applied equally to everyone in society.
"When people talk about the good old days, I say to people, 'It's not the days that are old, it's you that's old.' I hate the good old days. What is important is that today is good."
In the past, they had the answer. If only we didn't have modern technology, we all would be perfect people.
It erks me when authors use the past as shorthand for all that is right and good and paint technology with the brush of evil. There have always been humans who are exceptional (the overachievers and the layabouts), and there have always been humans who are just getting through life (the majority of us). I do not understand why writers feel the need to compare the imperfect present with the supposedly perfect past. I think this comparison takes away from the actual message. The message that no matter your place, position, or personality, if you follow the prescribed plan, you to can be great.
Why is every self-development writer a Luddite? I wonder if they were writing their books if they would hate on using the printing press, the steam engine, or the loom. I agree that all new technology comes with contemporary issues and consequences. Still, the answer is not getting rid of the technology. Like your daily coffee (from your coffee house of choice) isn't making you poor, having a smartphone isn't making you stupid and lazy (I can be lazy without using my phone, thank you very much).
The 5 am Club doesn't include any new innovations in the world of self-development; it is a nice easy listen. If you purchase the Audible, it comes with a PDF that contains the models that are covered.
Have you read the 5 am Club? What did you think about it? Do you have any self-development suggestions (I am looking for suggestions written by people of color and women).
2020 was interesting
Wow! It's been quite a while, and so much has happened in the world since September 2019 (my last post). I almost don't know where to start.
I am the mother of a high school graduate (Class of 2020). Yeah! But he was unable to attend his chosen university (boo! Pandemic). So he decided to take a gap year (which I think makes him sound very posh). He has used this year to continue to work on his art skills. He's taking French classes in preparation for making his move (name it and claim it) to an art academy there. In the next month or so, he should be hearing back from the schools.
We no longer live and China. We are now residents of Turkey. I am attempting to learn Turkish (we will see how it goes). I know some of you may be thinking that I decided to leave China because of Co-Vid19, but the decision to move to Turkey was made before the outbreak. Moving across the world (twice during a pandemic) was a bit daunting. We made it safely with no significant incident (canceled flights and long layovers aside).
Being a teacher at a new school in a new country is always a challenge. And I sure picked a doozy of a year to make the change. This past year has been tough (to say the least). I have yet to meet my students properly. It has been challenging building relationships with the kids, their parents, and even my fellow teachers.
This school year has been very isolating for everyone. I try to give every child the time to talk, share jokes, and show pets. In Turkey, children (and the elderly) are on a much stricter lockdown (only allowed out during a four-hour window). Not only are kids not getting social interactions from school it is also much more difficult for them to engage with people outside of their households. The word on the street is starting next month; some grades will start back with in-person school (families may decide to opt-out), but this may change.
I'm off to finish dinner.
Be smart, stay safe, and I wish you good health.
Today is Saturday, and I am at school. What?! I know, but it's not really what you think. I mean don't get me wrong I do have a pile of lab reports I need to grade, but the real reason I am at school is that I need to use a reliable VPN service.
I live in China, and my school (actually the entire country) is off for the week (Yeah! National Holiday). Due to the National Holiday, China is currently cracking down on the use of VPN services. A VPN or virtual private network is a service that takes your Internet connection and makes it more secure, helps you stay anonymous and helps you get around blocks and access censored sites.* VPNs allow those of us who live in China to access sites that are behind the Great China Firewall. From time to time, the government will crackdown on the use of VPNs, which tends to make the lives of expats a little more complicated (or at least more frustrating).
But even with the issues like VPNs and visas, I have found a life abroad that I love and that I don't ever want to give up. Living in China these past four years has allowed my son to receive a world-class education, has afforded us the ability to travel around the world, and allowed me to obtain an advanced degree (see also travel). I have had the opportunity to grow as a teacher and a teacher leader. I have the freedom to teach students, not just content but life skills.
I looked into teaching abroad because I was about to give up on the educational world altogether. I was extremely frustrated with discussions of bubble students and practice test for the practice test. I didn't feel like I was educating young people, and instead, I felt like I was preparing test-takers. While no school is perfect, I landed in the school that allowed me to be the sort of teacher I wanted to be.
Over the years, I have had a few stateside teacher friends ask me about teaching abroad. Last year my roommate and I did a video series answering some of your possible questions. Check out the videos. If you are looking for a position for the 2020-21 school year, now is the time to start your search.
International Day Business
The school year continues to roll onwards, and great things are happening in Qingdao. Yesterday we held the annual international day festival on our campus. Every year the festivities seem to get better. An international day is an excellent opportunity for the students, teachers, and their families to get together and enjoy one another outside of the formal classroom setting. There were multiple performances and musical acts including the QISS rock band (if you would like to see this year's performance just ask me for the link). In addition to booths from businesses and restaurants from Qingdao, and family and teacher booths, this year the committee encouraged students to try their hand at marketing and have for-profit booths. It was great to see students excited about selling bubble tea, stationery from Japan, and screen-printed tee-shirts. Some students at the end of the day realized that their business was not profitable. This was a real-world application of various skills. What better way to understand business than to do business. The day was a day of learning and fun.
The Mistakes I've Made
Five weeks into the school year, and I am just making my first post. Not to make excuses, but the start of this school year has been particularly hectic. I have taken on additional leadership roles within my school, and I am teaching a course I haven't taught in a couple of years. On top of the aforementioned professional changes, my personal offspring is dual enrolled at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). I wouldn't wish any of these opportunities away but golly gee more times than not these past five weeks have been challenging.
As professionals and parents, we often seek (or even demand) the benefit of the doubt when you are dealing with difficult situations. How often as a teacher have you been late with report card comments, or you didn't call a parent back within 24 hours. Or maybe you are the teacher who has to run to the copier during the passing period because you forgot to make copies for your afternoon class. I know I am guilty of at least one of these things.
Why do we as adults leave little room for mistakes to happen in our classrooms when we (at least me) make mistakes all the time. Mistakes: missing a deadline, not fulfilling the criteria, or failing to attempt the assignment should be a jumping-off point for learning to happen. And while sometimes that learning is content-based in my experience, it is often more important to facilitate kids in discovering methods to help them deal with the high expectations.
Learning new processes on top of learning new information can be both exciting and frustrating. As a professional adult person, I sometimes need a break or a helping hand to deal with new challenges. I sometimes want to quit, or I sometimes need to vent, but that does not mean I am a bad, lazy, terrible teacher.
If you have a student who is struggling to meet the expectations, remember they are not bad, lazy, or terrible either. They are learning. They are a senior in high school who is taking two online college courses and needs to learn how to stay organized and how to navigate the online system. They are a grade seven student who is new to international schools and doesn't yet speak much English. They are a grade nine student who is new to high school and is participating in sports and other school groups.
Yes, content is important but building students up by teaching them skills to help them become a better student, and a better human is even more important.
School without Grades?
Why do we have grades? How often do teachers say the students don't care about an assignment unless they receive a grade? Are grades are for the students and their success or are they for the adults? Have you had parents call concerned about students grades but not student growth? How many students have dropped out of school because they will never be able to make the grade?
For learning to happen students have to be awake and engaged. Are grades the answer to getting and keeping my students engaged? Students will often ask is this a grade? The implied meaning being that if it is not graded, then the assignment or activity is not essential. When students are given a choice, they ask which option is the easiest? The hidden message: I will do the easier one not because I am lazy but because I want to ensure I get the best grade possible.
Many teachers engage in "gotcha you grading," pop quizzes to prove that students are not prepared, or trick questions. But why? I thought school was about learning, but the longer I am a teacher, the more I come to understand that school is about grades. Students beg for good grades (an A+ please) and teachers and parents pester students about grades (that should be an A+).
What do grades measure? The ability for students to memorize and follow instructions? Time management?
When students fail to make good grades, I hear adults say that student is _______ (insert negative adjective: lazy, careless, dumb, stupid).
I want to venture that it is not the student nor the fact that they are lazy, dumb, etc. but the supposition that grades motivate all students.
Maybe there is a better way to ensure that students come to class prepared. Could school work with grades? Or is the only way to engage with students by slapping a number in red pen on the paper?
Without grades what would teachers and students focus on? Some schools and schools districts are moving in that direction. At Brooklyn's Middle School 442, students and teachers are focused on ensuring students are mastering the material, there is no "C or a D for a lazily written term paper. There is no failing. The only goal is to learn the material, sooner or later."
As a teacher, I want to ensure that I can help every student I teacher to grow as a student and to meet every milestone. I hope that the field of education one day gets to a place where the importance is placed not on the grade but on the student and their learning.
A teacher from the United States of America, currently teaching abroad. I teach science to middle and high school students. I enjoy reading and doing nerd things.