quote

Peter Henschel … On Learning

Learning is fundamentally social. Learning is really a matter of changing identity, not just acquiring knowledge. That knowledge is integrated in the life of communities. When people develop and share values, perspectives, and ways of doing things, they create a community of practice. The challenge to all of us in education, on behalf of students and organizations, is to create, negotiate, nurture, and sustain the communities of practice in which effective learning takes place.

(Peter Henschel, 1949-2002)

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Resilience and a Revolution in School Discipline

education_blocksAs an ex-teacher, I’m still passionate about education – about what needs to happen in our schools to make them safe, vibrant and successful learning spaces for both students and teachers.

I’ve written about this before in other blog posts: The More Things Change (a personal reflection on my own teaching experience) and A Passionate Plea (in which I reflect on the similarity between many school and prison, but also highlight examples of inspirational schools doing things differently).

One aspect of many schools that I believe needs to change is their disciplinary policies and strategies. Much of the action that’s taken in response to poor behaviour from students is less than effective – frequently not effective at all!

It’s a fact that poor or ‘unacceptable’ behaviour – from swearing and fighting through to not completing homework or being out of uniform – rarely has anything to do with what’s happening at school but everything to do with what is happening in that student’s life outside school. Good teachers know this. The best teachers act on it.

So it was with delight I read about yet another example of a school that’s ‘getting it right’. :)

It’s Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, Washington State, USA, where the Principal has led a ‘revolution’ in school discipline, focusing on resilience.

Jim Sporleder, principal of Lincoln High School, had always taken a compassionate approach with students, but realised this wasn’t enough.

As says in a blog post where he outlines this new approach:

Before I learned about how toxic stress impaired a student to problem-solve or to take in new knowledge, I disciplined students in what I thought was a respectful approach. I took time to listen, I shared with the student why his or her behavior was inappropriate, and then I gave what I thought was a consequence that matched the infraction … I used to have a saying: “Discipline teaches; punitive discipline hurts”. I’ve had a history of being a relationship guy, and I have always interacted with students fairly and built positive relationships.

Two years ago I was introduced to the ACE Study and how toxic stress blocks the brain’s ability to process information. The student is in a fight or flight mode. This is when I took a hard look at my discipline philosophy and accountability and realized that I had been working with students who had toxic stress in a way that just didn’t work. Yes, I had to look in the mirror and say, “Jim, you are wrong, and you need to change”.

And how did he change and change the school?

I told them I was committed to making this a safe place, a place of learning and a place where they felt cared for.

At Lincoln it started by building relationships. We made changes on how we communicate on a personal level with students. We prove we are trustworthy through transparency. We set a goal to have a safe and welcoming learning environment.

Still sceptical? The results of this new approach at Lincoln High School have proved themselves over and over again, including an 85% reduction in suspensions and:

As a result the culture of our school has dramatically improved. I see the success in students every day in our classroom and in our community. When young people are able to process their emotions there’s more time for learning. We have a healthier environment where students aren’t afraid to take risks.

Watch the video below and be inspired! Jim’s blog post is also well worth reading!

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Things My Mother Said …

my-motherStill travelling memory road – like the topics for my last two posts.

This time, I’m remembering the things my mother used to say. I think many of them are pretty classic ‘mum’ sayings actually! I wonder how many on the list other people can tick off as well …

Here they are – in alphabetical order, for want of a better way to arrange them:

  • As long as you live under this roof, you’ll do as I say.
  • Because I SAID so!
  • Did you brush your teeth?
  • Do as I say, not as I do.
  • Don’t EVER let me see you do that again!
  • Don’t speak with your mouth full!
  • Don’t you use that tone with me!
  • Elbows OFF the table!
  • Mum and MeFinish your dinner, or you won’t get any pudding.
  • Hmmph … yes, get out of bed NOW. If you could stay out last night, you can get up this morning.
  • How many times do I have to tell you …
  • I don’t care WHO started it!
  • I’ll give you till I count to three …
  • If I catch you doing that one more time …
  • I’m not going to ask you again!
  • It’s way past your bedtime!
  • Leave your sister alone!
  • Look at me when I’m talking to you.
  • Stop that crying! Or I’ll give you something to cry about!
  • This is for your own good.
  • Turn that noise down!
  • When I was your age …
  • Wipe that smile off your face!
  • You’ll eat what you’re given and like it!
  • You’re older – you should know better.

And the final one … this became a family classic. :) As we got older, we used to tease mum by getting in first and saying it to her!

“Be good. Be careful crossing the road. Have you got a clean hanky? And don’t forget to say thank you!”

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Only yesterday …

Life passing in an hourglassI was sitting on a tram on my way home the other day and idly looking out of the window.

We pulled up to a very crowded stop where I saw all the hopeful faces of people waiting to board. And the thought suddenly crossed my mind … “Wow …. they’re all younger than I am!”

A young woman climbed aboard, dressed to the nines for a night out. Surely it was only yesterday I was as young as she is now, full of fun and hope on my way to a party. Some fashions haven’t changed all that much. Mini skirts and wedge heels are back in!

There’s a serious-looking Uni student, laden with books, presumably on her way home. Only yesterday I was at Uni too. Of course I didn’t have a smartphone in those days. But I recognise myself in her worried look. I guess there must be an assignment due.

I also find myself smiling when I see a wee girl in school uniform, juggling her heavy bag and moving down the tram to find a seat to hold because she’s too short to reach the overhead bar. I remember that very well! Hmm … though lots may have changed, my stature hasn’t. I’m still too short to reach!

And surely it was only yesterday when, at family gatherings, I saw all the ‘oldies’ sitting around the edges of the room, watching with smiles on their faces as we young ones mingled, danced and exuded energy. Now I’m one of those oldies myself.

Only yesterday, it seems, I could leap out of bed without a single muscle twinging or complaining. And only yesterday, I could see my reflection in a mirror without any if those wrinkle-shadows cast by an overhead light.

Only yesterday – just a heartbeat ago – I was much younger.

To forget is the secret of eternal youth. One grows old only through memory. There’s much too little forgetting.

(Erich Marie Remarque)

Perhaps Remarque was right and I need to do more forgetting! :)

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Things My Grandmother Taught Me …

My Grandmother

If someone gives you something nice, you should probably “keep it for a better thing”.

You need no more than three of anything anyway – one on, one clean and one in the wash.

Always remember to wear clean underwear, in case you get run over by a bus and have to go to hospital.

And if you’re going anywhere, be sure to have a clean hanky!

If you can’t be nice, then hold your tongue.

Sometimes rules are made to be broken.

And remember you can’t always trust a Sassenach! (My granny was Scottish …)

Staying in bed after 7.00 a.m. is sheer laziness …

Nature needs five
Custom takes seven
Laziness nine …
And wickedness eleven!

Finally … she taught me a very important lesson! How to make tea …

  • Warm the teapot first
  • Put in one for each person and one for the pot (spoons of tea leaves)
  • Take the pot to the kettle, not the kettle to the pot
  • Put milk in the cups first (for those “contrary enough” to take their tea with milk)
  • Let it steep for at least two or three minutes before pouring …

old_teacosyThat last is absolutely necessary if you’re making tea for someone who appreciates a decent cup!

I remember Granny commenting disgustedly about visiting someone where she was served tea that was “nae mair than a cup o’ hot water wi’ a couple o’ tea leaves floatin’ in it!”

My grandmother died a very long time ago, when I was only 17.

But all these years later, I still hear her voice. :)