Sunday, January 22, 2017

Food for Thought: Engaged or Compliant........what are your students?

Dear all,

Hope you are all having a good weekend. This morning I feel that a haze has at last been lifted from inside my head and that I am truly back in HCMC.


Ken Whytock Flickr via Compfight cc

Just wanted to share this train of thought because it is useful for defining how we approach one of the three key pillars of our mission and also a section of our walk through data. The question compliant or engaged is particularly important when put into context of schools preparing students for the 21st century and their future. The work of Yong Zhao clearly identifies that one of the most important changes that has taken place in the our modern world and that education needs to address is that there is a declining demand for compliant employees as technology can easily replace these workers. What has emerged is a world where students need to be creative, innovative, flexible, problem solvers and life long learners who are prepared to be entrepreneurs and employers in the future. The importance of having engaged as part of our mission is that without this characteristic students aren't embedding their learning and understanding and able to utilize this to develop new thoughts. However, as this article from Mindshift points out there is more to being engaged that sitting in class quietly and getting on with a task. There is a lot to learn for all of us from this article, at all levels in our school about how we develop our classroom practice to further embrace our mission.

“Everything we know about the neuroscience of learning is that emotion drives cognition,” he said. But even if a student is behaving and feels good about it, if he or she isn’t actively making meaning out of the information, then active engagement still hasn’t been reached.
When Almarode visits classrooms he looks for eight different qualities that indicate students are engaged.
1. Does the activity, strategy, task, or idea allow for the student to personalize his or her response? Can they bring their life experiences into the activity and make it their own?
2. Are there clear and modeled expectations?
3. Is there a sense of audience above and beyond the teacher and the test? Does the activity have value to someone else?
4. Is there social interaction? Do students have an opportunity to talk about the learning and interact?
5. Is there a culture of emotional safety? Are mistakes valued because they are an opportunity to learn?
6. Do students have opportunities to choose within the activity?
7. Is it an authentic activity? This doesn’t mean it always must connect directly to the student’s world, but it should connect to reality.
8. Is the task new and novel? If kids are bored, it’s hard to see engagement

To complete this week's Food for Thought is a short 8 minute TED that might provoke additional thinking and links student engagement with teacher magic. When you watch it, it could easily be dismissed as irrelevant to our context as it is about urban schools in the USA. However, haven't you ever wondered why you see teachers teaching the same content, using the same pedagogy and yet the outcome for students is different. I have heard administrators in the past call this the ' je ne sais quoi' quotient that some teachers have and others do not. What makes this TED's conclusion interesting is that this teacher trainer believes that by getting to know what makes our students tick and their cultures, ie knowing who they are, then all of us can engage our students equally as well.

And finally wanted to share something different that links with our study of positive emotions and our reflection on compassion. I was reading some of the thoughts of the Dalai Lama over the vacation and came across this passage. I think it has a great deal of relevance to our thinking about how we redefine education and the school experience:

"Our modern educational system fails to provide sufficient education about compassion. The time has come to transform this whole system. Society is formed through its educational system, but the educational system does not transmit the deeper human values of compassion and kindness. Then all of society lives with this false view that leads to a superficial life, in which we live like machines that don’t need affection. We become part of that. We become like machines. That is because today’s society is based on money. A society that is based on money is aggressive, and those with power can bully and behave cruelly to others. This situation produces growing social unrest. A society that depends on money has problems that reflect its beliefs.

In reality, affection and compassion have no direct link with money. They cannot create money. Therefore, in a society in which money is the priority, people don’t take these values seriously anymore. People in positions of leadership, like politicians, have emerged from within a society that depends on money, so naturally they think like that and lead society further in that direction. In this kind of society, people who value affection and compassion are treated like fools, while those whose priority is making money become more and more arrogant."

Have a good Sunday,


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Food For Thought: Looking forward to a great 2017 at ISHCMC

Dear all,

Hope you have all had a fantastic vacation and are ready to set ISHCMC on fire for the second half of the year. You can afford to blitz the first three weeks we are back because we have Tet looming at the end of January. 

This is a long Food for Thought, but i would really like everyone to read through the articles and watch the videos. I want our work with students on positive behaviour, language and thinking, through mindfulness and our own control of negative thinking to be an area of focus for the second half of the year. If we are going to make a difference to our students, that counters the constant bombardment of negativity that they receive from the press, media and reported news, I believe it has to be deliberate and consistent across the School. This effort cannot be haphazard or random and needs all of us to contribute and reflect upon our own modeling. If we get this right we will all feel better and ISHCMC would be an even more special place to work and learn.

The more research that appears regarding positive behavior it becomes obvious how important this is for both ourselves and our students. In this article from the Huffington post, How Complaining Rewires Your Brain For Negativity, a logical rational is created for looking on the bight side and avoiding taking the easy route of thinking negatively about events that occur in and around us each day. this article concludes by giving us strategies to find the positive in our everyday lives. As we continue to understand positive emotions it would be a good exercise to try to think positively and not complain and to try and be more grateful for what we have in our lives.

This second article from the NY Times builds on the Huffington post article and challenges us to take better control of our thoughts and stop allowing negativity to dominate how we see our daily lives and the world about us. 

Kathy Osborn

"Here’s a New Year’s challenge for the mind: Make this the year that you quiet all those negative thoughts swirling around your brain.
All humans have a tendency to be a bit more like Eeyore than Tigger, to ruminate more on bad experiences than positive ones. It’s an evolutionary adaptation that helps us avoid danger and react quickly in a crisis.
But constant negativity can also get in the way of happiness, add to our stress and worry level and ultimately damage our health. And some people are more prone to negative thinking than others. Thinking styles can be genetic or the result of childhood experiences, said Judith Beck, a psychologist and the president of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. Children may develop negative thinking habits if they have been teased or bullied, or experienced blatant trauma or abuse. Women, overall, are also more likely to ruminate than men, according to a 2013 study.
“We were built to overlearn from negative experiences, but under learn from positive ones,” said Rick Hanson, a psychologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley."

Why for you:

Why for our students:

Wishing you all a great 2017 in which you all flourish,