Wednesday, April 18, 2012

building partnerships...

This morning I woke up thinking about parent/school partnerships, and the challenge that comes when any member of the partnership lacks in some area of understanding related to effective communication. It seems that effective communication has been well studied and there are great resources to use to help all come to a better understanding of each other.

About 40 years ago as a social worker in Memphis, working with emotionally disturbed children at a private agency, we took a class in Thomas Gordon's Teacher Effectiveness Training as staff development. Then many years later as my daughter Lucy was was in first or second grade at the Clear Spring School, my wife and I took Thomas Gordon's Parent Effectiveness Training, and relearned the conflict resolution method practiced regularly at the CSS, even to this day.

As the years have passed, however, many new parents and children have come to the school without the communication resources that study of Parent Effectiveness Training can provide. If I've aroused your curiosity, you can find many free resources on the Gordon Training International website. It is amazing how much time is spent in schools dealing with interpersonal distractions that require conflict resolution and active listening. Interpersonal communication problems cut seriously into the time available to the lessons at hand. To have all those associated with a school skilled in interpersonal communication would be a true gift to education and to each child.

This morning I was at school preparing for tomorrow's class with the first, second and third grade students, in which they will make boomerangs for their study of the continent and nation of Australia. In addition, I have been preparing for a Wisdom of the Hands fundraiser/reception on Saturday, April 21. All guests will have the opportunity to make tops, and carry home pinwheels made by CSS students.

Charting the value of hands-on learning is challenging. We can measure learning in one of two ways, either statistically or by personal observation, and each side of the equation is distrusting of the other. I have been curious how teachers assess and foster spatial sense in the absence of music and the arts. We know that those things we do not assess, tend to decline in importance to us, and it appears that standardized testing ignores spatial sense, even though we know it is crucial to success in a variety of fields, including science, the arts, and mathematics. Some of this involves the perceived divide between the left and right sides of the brain, with the left being primarily analytical and verbal and the right being "intuitive and spatial, pattern recognizing, non-verbal." You might enjoy the contribution to the subject in this blog, Learning to see. The question I must ask is can we standardized test ourselves to the point of utter stupidity and ignore the essential building blocks of intelligence? Or shall we learn to consider and teach the whole child?

On another subject, I spent a few minutes today watching our first grade students at work on the monkey bars... (Technically called Brachiation Bars.) Ana was having difficulties beginning to read until introduced to the monkey bars, but the movement of one hand over the other helps to develop deliberate cross talk within the brain and is noted as a means to prepare the brain for reading. This relationship between the body and reading readiness was a thing observed by so many early educators.

The mind and body are not separate things, and the hands themselves form the best symbolic representation of the body's presence in learning. Each of the children on the monkey bars asked me over and over, "Watch this!" Being watched attentively by caring adults as children do things that they perceive as being dangerous, and involving risk, is a child's favorite thing, and Ana had many new tricks to show on the monkey bars that are also expressed through her advancement in reading.Just as we need partnerships between parents and the school, we also need an understanding of the partnership between the hands, brain and body in learning.

Make, fix and create...

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