Are you a Holistic Educator? Or a Dancing Monkey?

Holistic teaching involves more than just curriculum expectations and standardized testing. It is about teaching our students to connect their own feelings, emotions, and experiences with the knowledge to create meaning. Teaching holistically is important to foster a culture of inclusiveness, cooperation, and empathy in our classrooms.

We may understand the philosophy behind the holistic approach, but why then is it so difficult to implement? This is not an easy question to answer, especially in an age where standardized tests & scoring methods, and limited time frames to teach curriculum are a driving motivation for many educators.

So my question is, should we teach holistic teaching practices as add ons to our standardized pedagogies and practices?  OR do we abandon ‘teaching to the test’ practices for holistic teaching methods? Can it, or should it, even be both?!?

In his paper on the Transformational view of teaching, Johnson (2005), asks the poignant question,

  • are public schools are merely 13-year conveyor belts where all students march along, being given standardized parts at predetermined times?

This is a very important question to ask, because we can never truly expect to lead all students to a standardized set of predetermined outcomes or conclusions. We understand that emotions, feelings, thoughts, and personal experiences inextricably interact with information to create new knowledge.

As Johnson (2005) states,

  • ‘if standards become standardized, then we risk opportunities to create caring, intelligent, and self-actualized people. Education is not something that is done to students, it is something that students do’.

Therefore, transforming our own teaching philosophies and skill sets into a more Holistic approach is vital to creating a meaningful education and promoting a strong sense of Community, Culture, and Caring.

Holistic education is:

  • Based on interconnectedness. This is also a key value to embed that respects FNMI cultures.
  • Infusing meaning, consciousness & interconnectedness into the curriculum
  • Helping students to discover their full potential
  • Allowing educators and students alike to perceive the interconnectedness of all life systems
  • transforming our consciousness

Interconnectedness is vital because it really helps students to understand themselves, effectively engage in problem solving, make decisions, and effectively use emotion and intuition in all settings. We as educators need to not merely present the facts and the reasoning, but also attend to the emotions and how personal feelings can inform us about our actions and the actions of others.

How to foster Interconnectedness:

  • Explore students’ personal experiences and create welcoming environments
  • Learn to live in harmony with others and other life systems
  • Facilitate an understanding of how the lives of students affect or connect with others around the world
  • Teach the Seven Grandfather Teachings and help students to walk their own ‘Good Paths’ in life.

Educators do still need to define the knowledge and skills that needs to be learned within the curriculum, and we will always need to be aware of our skills sets and employ them as teachers, however, we can still help students explore what it means to be human in the world. Despite the fact that this is not something that is easily quantified, and therefore, often left out of most curriculum and lesson plans, we can work to infuse it into our practice.

How Pedagogy can inform practice:

  • Utilize yourself as an educator to create meaningful experiences for students, and be open to students authentic experiences and how those can shape the learning in class.
  • Engage in inquiry based learning and teaching, where questions are just as important as answers
  • Attend to the everyone’s internal states, ie., emotions, intuition, consciousness, values
  • Embed First Nations, Metis & Inuit cultures, values and knowledge throughout the curriculum and pedagogy.

Authentic Assessment:

Holistic teaching also incorporates Authentic assessment strategies. Assessment should not merely be about testing a core set of knowledge in and of itself. Therefore, it is important to continually assess students’ evolution toward personal goals and examine extent to which students are engaged in meaningful experiences (Johnson, 2005).

Assessment and evaluation does not need to merely be tied directly to the content within the curriculum, but can, and should, be about linking it to students personal thoughts and emotions. If we as educators want to engage in holistic teaching practices, we need to help our students to understand and learn that there is more than one way to complete a task, and that thinking is fluid and can always be changed. We also need to promote a freedom of expression, encourage deeper and more creative thinking, and to always have fun with learning!

Final Thoughts:

It is not just about adopting a ‘holistic’ teaching philosophy, it is about creating your own teaching philosophy that is holistic in nature. It is also about incorporating interconnectedness, emotions, intuitions, experiences, and consciousness of yourself as an educator, and of your students. It is a personal approach, that will inform your own philosophy, and will look different with every new learner you are working with.

Reference: 

 Johnson, A. P. (2005). I Am a Holistic Educator, Not a Dancing Monkey. Encounter, 18(4), 36-40.

 Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012 – 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

5 Ways to Foster Welcoming Environments for your Students

With so many Educators embarking on a new beginnings this time of year, it is a great time to reflect upon how we can create Welcoming Environments for our students and parents.

Creating classrooms and schools that are Welcoming for both students and parents, is absolutely essential to improving Student Learning and Engagement.

If we look at a Schools Paradigm only, schooling is about bells, standardized tests, inflexible schedules, and teacher/curriculum driven. This set up can be very unwelcoming to many students and their families. However, If we look at an Education Paradigm, school is holistic, and based upon the individual needs of our students, learning is flexible, and related to contexts that are meaningful for the students. A daunting task at best when Teachers are faced with large numbers of students in their classrooms. However, Teachers can help acknowledge students by representing their cultural diversity. This can be done by embedding cultural symbols, and practices into our buildings, classrooms, and creating online environments that serve to help make students and parents feel welcome and important.

However, it is a challenge to continually create Welcoming Environments in our schools. Especially since we are living in this 21st Century of growing Technology, that more and more people are using on a daily basis.

With increasing demands surrounding school report cards, test scores being linked to school funding, and demands for increased accountability for educators and students, Educators, parents, and students can feel overwhelmed, and forget that creating a Welcoming Environments can be the most powerful tool in our quest to improve student learning.

The following 5 Categories are important when considering how to create a Welcoming Environment within your classroom and school:

  • Ongoing, and Open communication
  • Physical Environment
  • Practices and Policies
  • Personal Interaction
  • Written Materials and Communications

 

1. Ongoing, and Open communication with Parents is crucial.

Parents and families of different cultures and special needs, warrant extra communication to foster a feeling of being Welcome in our schools and Classrooms. Whether parents are requesting this communication, or whether extra communication is warranted to further engage students and support their learning, Communication is perhaps the number 1 role of an educator. Though more personalized communication is best done in person, there are aspects of communication that can be met via 21st Century Technologies. For instance, email, blogs, webpages, wikis etc., are all useful tools to support the Communication that already exists, and can provide tools, links, and symbols to integrate and share valuable information.  But this should never replace place of person-to-person communication and real-life, real-time interactions that are absolutely necessary to engaging our students.

Parents, staff, community, and students will only become invested in their schools if they feel invited and welcome, and believe that the teacher is willing to reach out to communicate the families, and integrate culture into the process.

Welcoming environments can be created and improved upon by attending to the Physical Environment, School Practices and Policies, Personal Interaction, and Written Materials and Communications. Here are just a few ideas that can be used:

2. Physical Environment:

  • Embed Culturally significant symbols, ie., Medicine Wheel, 7 Grandfather Teachings, Dream Catchers, into hallways, classrooms, offices, libraries, websites & blogs, social media ie., School Twitter account.

3. Practices and Policies:

  • Promote strong sense of Community, Culture & Caring Policies. Co-create them and post them on school websites.
  • Continually refer to these co-created rules on blogs and other forms of social media.
  • Restorative Practices explained on social media and web-based platforms.
  • Character Education Models
  • 21st Century Technologies and Digital Citizenship Policies
  • Involving Parents in decision making perhaps through Google-Docs surveys or other assessment tools
  • Online Parent Groups

4. Personal Interaction:

  •  Calling parents, setting up regular meetings, and engaging in open communication with families, whether explicitly requested, or due to the necessity to engage all learners, cultures and special needs.
  • Catching parents after school to touch base. It doesn’t take much to make families of all Cultures and Special needs feel welcome and included.
  • Leaders in the school working on teambuilding with technologies to bring staff together & recognize accomplishments;
  • Co-create and share visions at Staff meetings by brainstorming key ingredients of a Welcoming Environment, include the ideas on a website or blog.
  • Do the same with Parent Groups;
  • Staff as friendly and inviting to students, staff, and parents, and then inviting them into this digital school community as well.
  • Call Parents!  Set up regular meetings, and engaging in open communication with families, whether explicitly requested, or due to the necessity to engage all learners, cultures and special needs.
  • Make it a general rule to talk positively at school about students, families, cultures, and special needs. There is nothing that will make a family feel more Unwelcome, and Disrespected, then to know that they and the students are being spoken of in negative ways. The world is a very small place. What is said usually does get back around, so make it positive and helpful!
  • Put yourself in the position of a Learner, and not always an ‘Expert’.  To help families and their children feel welcome, realise that they are in fact equal partners, and equal experts in the process of educating their children. Be open to learning new things with each new classroom and each new student that comes into your care!
  • Personally Research the Cultures and Special Needs that you are working with. One cannot assume that the learning that occurred in a University Degree will be applicable to the current situation. Teachers are wonderful and welcoming, because they are equals with the parents and community. They appreciate the diversity of all students, and are real champions of those who have historically experienced more prejudice, racism, bias, and un-preferential treatment.

5. Written Materials and Communications:

  • Regular Classroom & School Newsletters, Phone calls, meetings, in whatever format the parents and community wants or needs. Not all people have internet access! Not all parents check their email!
  • Classroom & School Websites
  • Recognize parent & community volunteers
  • Write articles about staff members, volunteers & students
  • Parent Handbooks
  • Twitter Feeds
  • School Facebook Page
  • Evernote
  • Dropbox
  • Ministry Learning Management Systems
  • Telephone answering machine messages
  • And always remembering to limit educational jargon, and write communications at a 6th to 8th grade reading level
  • Good Old Fashioned person-to-person communication with the families in need!

 

All parents and families need to feel welcome, and understood in order to increase engagement and Learning. Welcoming environments can be created by attending to the needs of different cultures and special needs, and keeping the lines of communication open. It is when these lines of communication and strategies to welcome all types of learners break down , that students and families lose trust and faith in the school system, and disengage from the education process.  We need to strive to create Welcoming Environments, and create school systems where families feel safe to learn and grow.

How do you create Welcoming Environments in your Classroom and School?

 

Deborah McCallum

 

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Resource:

Seeing your school as others see it.: Welcoming Environments.http://www.education.ky.gov/users/OTL/Beginning_of_School_Year/Seeing%20Your%20School%20As%20Others%20See%20It.pdf

5 Considerations for Welcoming Environments in our Schools

77665-Royalty-Free-RF-Clipart-Illustration-Of-A-Circle-Of-Diverse-Happy-Cartoon-Children-Holding-Hands-And-Looking-Up

Fostering welcoming environments in education is essential for improving learning and engagement. Schools can help acknowledge students by representing their cultural diversity. This can be done by embedding cultural symbols, and practices into our buildings, classrooms, and online environments that serve to help make students and parents feel welcome and important.

However, it is a challenge to continually create Welcoming Environments in our schools.

Educators are faced with increasing demands surrounding school report cards, test scores being linked to school funding, and demands for increased accountability for educators and students. Educators, parents, and students often feel overwhelmed, and forget that creating a welcoming environments can be the most powerful tool in our quest to improve student learning.

The following 5 categories are important when considering how to create welcoming environments within your education contexts:

  • Ongoing, and Open communication
  • Physical Environment
  • Practices and Policies
  • Personal Interaction
  • Written Materials and Communications

 

1. Ongoing, and open communication with parents is crucial.

Parents and families of different cultures and special needs, warrant extra communication to foster a feeling of being welcome in our schools and Classrooms. Whether parents are requesting this communication, or whether extra communication is warranted to further engage students and support their learning. Communication is perhaps the number 1 role of an educator. Though more personalized communication is best done in person, there are aspects of communication that can be met via 21st century technologies. For instance, email, blogs, webpages, wikis etc., are all useful tools to support the communication that already exists, and can provide tools, links, and symbols to integrate and share valuable information.  But this should never replace place of person-to-person communication and real-life, real-time interactions that are absolutely necessary to engaging our students.

Parents, staff, community, and students will only become invested in their schools if they feel invited and welcome, and believe that the teacher is willing to reach out to communicate the families, and integrate culture into the process.

Welcoming environments can be created and improved upon by attending to the P© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.hysical Environment, School Practices and Policies, Personal Interaction, and Written Materials and Communications. Here are just a few ideas that can be used:

2. Physical Environment:

  • Embed Culturally significant symbols, ie., Medicine Wheel, 7 Grandfather Teachings, Dream Catchers, into hallways, classrooms, offices, libraries, websites & blogs, social media ie., School Twitter account.

3. Practices and Policies:

  • Promote strong sense of Community, Culture & Caring Policies. Co-create them and post them on school websites.
  • Continually refer to these co-created rules on blogs and other forms of social media.
  • Restorative Practices explained on social media and web-based platforms.
  • Character education models
  • 21st Century Technologies and digital citizenship policies
  • Involving Parents in decision making perhaps through Google-Docs surveys or other assessment tools
  • Online Parent Groups

4. Personal Interaction:

Calling parents, setting up regular meetings, and engaging in open communication with families, whether explicitly requested, or due to the necessity to engage all learners, cultures and special needs.

  • Catching parents after school to touch base. It doesn’t take much to make families of all cultures and special needs feel welcome and included.
  • Leaders in the school working on teambuilding with technologies to bring staff together & recognize accomplishments;
  • Co-create and share visions at Staff meetings by brainstorming key ingredients of a Welcoming Environment, include the ideas on a website or blog.
  • Do the same with parent groups;
  • Staff as friendly and inviting to students, staff, and parents, and then inviting them into this digital school community as well.
  • Call parents!  Set up regular meetings, and engaging in open communication with families, whether explicitly requested, or due to the necessity to engage all learners, cultures and special needs.
  • Make it a general rule to talk positively at school about students, families, cultures, and special needs. There is nothing that will make a family feel more unwelcome, and disrespected, then to know that they and the students are being spoken of in negative ways. The world is a very small place. What is said usually does get back around, so make it positive and helpful!
  • Put yourself in the position of a learner, and not an ‘Expert’.  To help families and their children feel welcome, realise that they are in fact equal partners, and equal experts in the process of educating their children. Be open to learning new things with each new classroom and each new student that comes into your care!
  • Personally research the cultures and special needs that you are working with. One cannot assume that the learning that occurred in a University Degree will be applicable to the current situation. Teachers are wonderful and welcoming, because they are equals with the parents and community. They appreciate the diversity of all students, and are real champions of those who have historically experienced more prejudice, racism, bias, and un-preferential treatment.

5. Written Materials and Communications:

  • Regular Classroom & School Newsletters, Phone calls, meetings, in whatever format the parents and community wants or needs. Not all people have internet access! Not all parents check their email!
  • Classroom & School Websites
  • Recognize parent & community volunteers
  • Write articles about staff members, volunteers & students
  • Parent Handbooks
  • Twitter Feeds
  • School Facebook Page
  • Evernote
  • Dropbox
  • Ministry Learning Management Systems
  • Telephone answering machine messages
  • And always remembering to limit educational jargon, and write communications at a 6thto 8th grade reading level
  • Good Old Fashioned person-to-person communication with the families in need!

 

All parents and families need to feel welcome, and understood in order to increase engagement and Learning. Welcoming environments can be created by attending to the needs of different cultures and special needs, and keeping the lines of communication open. It is when these lines of communication and strategies to welcome all types of learners break down , that students and families lose trust and faith in the school system, and disengage from the education process.  For populations including First Nations, Metis & Inuit, the experiences of the Residential school system, and residual effects of this system still exist with our FNMI students today. The last Residential School shut down in the 1990’s.  We need to strive to create welcoming environments, and create school systems where families feel safe to learn and grow.

 

Deborah

Resource:

Seeing your school as others see it.: Welcoming Environments.http://www.education.ky.gov/users/OTL/Beginning_of_School_Year/Seeing%20Your%20School%20As%20Others%20See%20It.pdf

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Promoting Courage in our Educational Systems

Courage is an important trait to embody in our Education system, for both Educators and Students.  As one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings, it is a trait that enables all other aspects of good character, including Humility, Inclusiveness, Cooperation, and Respect. It also encompasses the ability to be imperfect, and the ability to contribute to the greater good of all, which is important in our Education System.

Courage is something that Educators and students use every day within our Schools. It takes real courage to demonstrate the following:

  • good character
  • contribute to the common good
  • feel confident in caring for others
  • express oneself creativity
  • display closeness toward others
  • to cooperate with others,
  • to develop commitments
  • imperfection
  • recognition of strengths and weaknesses
  • to use any personal strengths that situation may be required to move forward!

Effective Leadership is needed for our Educators and Students alike, in order to help discover the personal ways that everyone can demonstrate courage in their lives. How courage is displayed from staff and students is in fact a direct reflection of personal feelings of significance, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. Everyone will display Courage in different ways.

When individuals are convinced of their self-worth, their Courage will be displayed through their body language, and that in turn also convinces others of one’s self-worth, and therefore helps to reinforce the positive reactions of others. This promotes healthy, positive, and realistic attitudes of ones strengths and weaknesses. Healthy individuals have the courage to contribute positively to the greater good of all, and have the courage to be imperfect!

How Courage can be Developed through effective Leadership:

  1. Help staff and students to set personal boundaries! Allow others to display the courage to recognize their own personal self-worth and help manage how this is displayed and presented in various situations!
  2. Allow individuals to face what is wrong! Help others to feel it, recognize the dynamics, and reconstruct the self in relation to the problems, change interpersonal reactions of others, or even end maladaptive relationships for more positive ones.
  3. Give staff and students the freedom to explore and test new ideas in safe ways! As leaders and role models, we are often in a significant role in the lives of children, and we can demonstrate respect to them, and teach them how to respect, and be respected from others.
  4. Find new ways to make intervention and change strategies more motivating or meaningful to the individual, in order to gain a higher degree of compliance to intervention or change strategy!

The better that leaders and educators can harness effective strategies to promote ‘Courage, the better the outcomes in developing the whole student, and ensuring that everyone feels significant in their personal roles within the entire school community.

D. McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

It’s a good thing to be Humble: Humility in our School Systems

 

‘It’s a good thing to be Humble’, my Grandmother once said many years ago. Sounds simple enough, but I always come back to that statement in my life. How can something so simple, have the ability to affect our lives so greatly? Humility one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings, and is basically the act of behaving modestly, and respectfully toward others, is something that we may not see enough of today. Especially in this Digital and Information age of online networking and Social Media, with the purposes of self-promotion.

However, this is also a concept that can become lost within our schools. With the education system firmly entrenched in teaching skills that help students survive in the global, and greater culture, we can often forget to consider the stakeholders of our education system, and the real populations that attend our schools.

Humility is a cornerstone of many cultures, including the First Nations, Metis, & Inuit population. The concept of humility has always been firmly entrenched within the cultures that exist today among Aboriginal peoples since time immemorial, including today. Teachers need to keep this in mind when they are working with the Parents and students of First Nations, Metis,  & Inuit descent. Despite the fact that the last Residential School closed in Canada in the 1980, schools can still come across as hostile places for families with Aboriginal backgrounds, who often still feel that assimilation is necessary in order to succeed. However, inclusiveness and humility are necessary to help all families feel welcome and important.

Humility is an important concept to embody when dealing with students and families with special needs as well. It is certainly easy to forget, especially when Educators feel overwhelmed. Educators do not have all of the answers, nor do they have better qualifications than any other parent who is a part of the school to advocate and help their children. It is this aspect of our Board-level Improvement Plans, and Provincial and Federal initiatives that we need to put first on our list, in order to teach the ‘whole’ student, and learn from and with them as we continually co-create our classroom communities. It is important to ensure that teaching practices and strategies both overtly, and covertly, embody humility and respect for everyone involved. No one knows their child better than the parents. Lets express our Humility to all families, and work together in holistic ways to educate our children.

 

 

D. McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Restorative Practice Circles

Restorative Practice Circles are based upon the First Nations tradition of Talking Circles. First Nations, Metis & Inuit cultures are built upon oral traditions, therefore Talking Circles have been important ways to maintain and pass down important cultural teachings.

Restorative Practice is a form of justice, where in the classroom, it could be comprised of the person or people who hurt someone else, the person or people who were hurt, and anyone else involved in the incident. Rather than merely punish the wrongdoer, or engage in assertive discipline, everyone has a turn to speak, and it facilitates a deeper understanding of the hurt or incident, what happened, and greater satisfaction among all people in the circle. It incorporates some of the benefits of Talking Circles, in a way that promotes a holistic form of justice.

Restorative Circles provide many benefits including:

  • Fostering turn taking
  • Increasing respect
  • Creating a classroom community
  • Sending positive messages relating to Character, Culture, and Community
  • Allows for everyone to be heard and honoured

The Restorative Circles also work on much deeper levels as well. They provide excellent strategies for incorporating Cognitive, Developmental, Social, and Emotional benefits into the classroom including:

  • The ability to tailor the circle to the specific Developmental stages and needs of the students
  • The ability to be heard is often very therapeutic as well, which can increase student learning and involvement
  • Building strong working alliances in the classroom
  • Building reflection, and metacognition skills into the classroom structure
  • Building social relationships by increasing participation and interactions among students and between students that follow students outside of the classroom
  • Giving Students a greater ‘voice’

The use of Restorative Circles also serves as a great organizational tool or framework that can help Educators with decision making, lesson planning, accommodation of individual learning differences and embedding assessment strategies into the curriculum.

Considerations for Restorative Practice Circles: .

Teachers need to be cognizant of the skills necessary to effectively managing Restorative Practice Circles. These circles have the ability to be very therapeutic in nature as well, and Educators need to know effective ways of managing content being shared. Such skills may include, the ability to provide explicit feedback, positive reinforcement, effective acknowledgement of all participants, and ensuring consistency, good modeling skills, positive feedback, and allowing for adequate ‘Pause Times’ between responses and sharing.

The use of Talking Circles in education provides many benefits to students, not just academically, but also socially and emotionally. But let us not dismiss the importance of Restorative Circles as well as important ways to honour the Cultures of our First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples in our Schools and Communities.

 

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Creating Welcoming Environments in our Schools and Libraries

 

In many schools, there can be a lack of cultural diversitiy, symbols and practices that make students and parents feel welcome and important. This is unfortunate, because creating Welcoming Environments are essential to improving Student Learning.

However, it is a challenge to continually create Welcoming Environments in our schools.

With increasing demands surrounding school report cards, test scores being linked to school funding, and demands for increased accountability for educators and students, Educators, parents, and students can feel overwhelmed, and forget that creating a welcoming environments can be the most powerful tool in our quest to improve student learning. Welcoming environments invariably increase parental involvement and support, and parental involvement is paramount to improving student learning both directly, via activities such as tutoring and homework help, and indirectly, via activities including reading aloud to a child and discussing the value of education. Parents and community only become invested in their schools when they feel invited and welcome!

Welcoming environments can be created and improved upon by attending to the Physical Environment, School Practices and Policies, Personal Interaction, and Written Materials and Communications. Here are just a few ideas that can be used:

Physical Environment:

  • Embed Culturally significant symbols, ie., Medicine Wheel, 7 Grandfather Teachings, Dream Catchers, into hallways, classrooms, offices, libraries and websites.

Practices and Policies:

  • Promote strong sense of Community, Culture & Caring Policies
  • Restorative Practices
  • Character Education Models
  • 21st Century Technologies and Digital Citizenship Policies
  • Involving Parents in decision making perhaps through surveys or other assessment tools, parent groups

 

Personal Interaction:

  • Leaders in the school working on teambuilding to bring staff together & recognize accomplishments;
  • Co-create and share visions at Staff meetings by brainstorming key ingredients of a Welcoming Environment;
  • Do the same with Parent Groups;
  • Staff as friendly and inviting to students, staff, and parents

Written Materials and Communications:

  • Regular Classroom & School Newsletters,
  • Classroom & School Websites
  • Recognize parent & community volunteers
  • Write articles about staff members, volunteers & students
  • Parent Handbooks
  • Twitter Feeds
  • School Facebook Page
  • Ministry Learning Management Systems
  • Telephone answering machine messages
  • And always remembering to limit educational jargon, and write communications at a 6th to 8th grade reading level

Deborah McCallum

Resources:

Seeing your school as others see it.: Welcoming environment. http://www.education.ky.gov/users/OTL/Beginning_of_School_Year/Seeing%20Your%20School%20As%20Others%20See%20It.pdf

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cognitive Science: How thoughts and behaviours impact achievement and success in Education

Cognitive Science is a valid, quantifiable field that is able to help us understand a wide range of issues as they pertain to Education and Learning. The research behind Cognition has been focussed on how we think and the way we learn, and more specifically on the systematic biases in of the schemas that we hold about the ways the world works. Our biases and distortions are often the barriers to an effective education, and therefore, we need to address them within our education system.  Once we begin to recognized what those barriers are, we can engage in discussion, assessment, and appropriate intervention strategies. Intervention strategies can include effective ways for educators to begin to disrupt the thought patterns that lead to maladaptive behaviours. This is essential to help students and Teachers alike to create positive change in the education system.

Aaron T. Beck developed Cognitive Theory because of the belief that humans have the ability to evaluate their own thoughts, which in turn elicit behaviours. Thoughts certainly affect personality. Therefore, individuals must identify and change dysfunctional thoughts and maladaptive cognitive functioning, in order to improve behaviour.

The theory behind our Cognition basically posits that our cognitions (thoughts, beliefs and assumptions), will trigger our affect, behaviour and our motivation. In other words, how we feel will affect how we behave, and they will in turn have profound effects on our motivation to learn.

Self-monitoring is an excellent tool that teachers can use with students, to encourage more reflection, and metacognition skills (thinking about the way we think). Once students develop an increased awareness of their thoughts, then educators can help students engage in appropriate activity scheduling to help students actively dispute maladaptive thoughts, which will in turn affect maladaptive functioning and behaviours in the classroom.

Three cornerstones of Cognitive Theory include:

a) The necessity to recognize the ability for students to self-monitor their own thoughts and behaviour,

b) The ability for Educator(s) and students to collaboratively engage in appropriate activity scheduling, and

c) Active thought disputation.

Maladaptive behaviours basically occur because of maladaptive thoughts and reflexive responses. However, we as humans have the power to be active agents in our own development. Therefore, dysfunctional thoughts can be replaced if an individual engages in activities including deliberate thinking, goal setting, problem solving, and long term planning. With careful questioning and activities such as personalized homework assignments, Cognitive Science really helps to teach us that students can learn to use conscious control of their thoughts in order to recognize and override maladaptive behaviours and poor choices. Other specific activity scheduling strategies can include (but not limited to) Role Playing, Social Skills training, Assertiveness Training, and Talking Circles.

In addition, embedding Character Education, Community building, and a Culture of Caring within our schools is also extremely important to restoring public confidence in the education system, in addition to improving transitions from elementary to high school, and high school to higher education.

It is important for Educators to use questioning to bring about new learning by:

1) Clarifying and defining problem areas

2) Assisting in the identification of thoughts, images and assumptions

3) Examining the meanings of events for a student

4) Assessing the consequences of maintaining maladaptive thoughts and behaviours.

Cognitive Science also has the ability to inform maladaptive behaviours and thought patterns including anxiety and depression in our students. An increasing variable that we as educators are facing when educating each cohort. Cognitive Theory posits that people suffering from depression and anxiety are not consciously seeking failure in their lives, but distorting their own reality by adopting negative views of themselves, and of their potential for happiness. Another key assumption is that negative automatic thoughts are developed through everyday experiences that are perceived as negative. Activity Scheduling interventions are excellent ways to actively dispute negative thoughts and behaviours!

In Cognitive theory, we as educators can use these thoughts to serve as hypotheses that can be subject to empirical validation. Many Educators appreciate the tasks of homework assignments where students  test their own hypotheses, and can make personal observations to refute (or confirm) their hypotheses of their own thoughts and behaviours. Therefore, individuals are always active participants.

 

D. McCallum