Sunday, September 29, 2019

Food for Thought: Building on our understanding for GBWD

I hope you all enjoyed GBWD. In the build-up to this GBWD, and information about our brain, stress, and anxiety, I watched several short videos to support thinking behind the documentary Angst. Hence, this week's Food For Thought is three short videos, that I watched over the past few months that you might find interesting. Listening to Dr. Bill Mitchell, Dr Miguel, and watching Matthew Walker, Screenagers, and Angst it has become even clearer to me how inter-related all the aspects of wellbeing are to each other and most importantly how we need to teach our students and our selves that we have control  over our lives, and that we need to stop blaming external factors like work as the cause of our ill-health. 

3 Tips for dealing with stress.

In this video, Joe Piscatella provides 3 tips for dealing with stress. They are short and succinct and align perfectly with previous Food for Thoughts and our philosophies at ISHCMC.

How does stress affect a child’s development and academic potential?

Understanding cognitive development and stress in children can add context to systems of education.
Much of the growth of the human brain happens after birth. While unrelenting stress can damage developing structures of the limbic system, the calibrated challenge can positively stimulate brain growth. Teachers have an important role in assuring students of their safety when taking on new challenges.
Pamela Cantor, M.D. practiced child psychiatry for nearly two decades, specializing in trauma. She founded Turnaround for Children after co-authoring a study on the impact of the 9/11 attacks on New York City schoolchildren. She is a Visiting Scholar in Education at Harvard University and a leader of the Science of Learning and Development Alliance.

You’re Wired for Anxiety. And You’re Wired to Handle It

Dr. Anne Marie Albano, Director of Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders, traces the biological and evolutionary origins of anxiety, the unique features of anxiety in the 21st
century, and the powerful research and tech-driven treatments that have emerged in recent decades.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Food for Thought: Managing our Minds

Continuing with our links to Global Be Well day this week's Food for Thought links to our mind and how our thinking works, how we react and how this impacts us.

"Learning to manage your mind is crucial to both happiness and success. In this week’s episode of Don’t Tell Me The Score, Simon Mundie sits down with Professor Steve Peters, the English psychiatrist best known for his work in elite sport. He was integral in helping British Cycling become world beaters, has worked with Liverpool FC and the England football team- and has been credited with making arguably the greatest snooker player ever Ronnie O’Sullivan ‘the player he is today’. Steve famously created a model of the mind that was the subject of his first book ‘the Chimp Paradox’. Learning how to manage your inner chimp is the key to peace of mind, and getting ahead in sport and in life. In this episode, Steve explains what the inner chimp is and why we have to nurture it. He also reveals how negative self-beliefs are formed, and what to do about them, as well as the importance of establishing what your values are. He talks about working with kids – the subject of his new book ‘my hidden chimp’- and the importance of basing your self-esteem on the ‘human’ part of your mind. Crucially, he explains why working on your psychological health is one of the most important things you can do."

Although this podcast is 50 minutes long, and you may not be a professional athlete, it has lots of very important information that can help us all better understand ourselves and our children. The first part of the conversation outlines how our minds work and what is the Chimp Paradox. 

In the second half of the conversation, there are very good insights into why we think the way we do, and how we can approach situations differently by controlling our own minds.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Food for Thought: Reading comprehension and the words we use

Recently, I was visiting classrooms and an IB Diploma English class was watching  Lera Boroditsky's TED talk, How Language Shapes the Way We Think. Looking at the students in dawned on me the nature of the challenge that we face as educators in international schools where 80% of our students are non-native English speakers. I stayed and watched all of the talk because it started me thinking about the complexity of our role not only as subject or skill teachers but also as teachers of the English language. This complexity is exaggerated by the fact that each nationality with its own mother tongue construction of meaning could lead to very different understandings. Although having successfully completed two courses of 'ESL in the Mainstream' during my days of teaching, I realized from this video that there was a big gap in my understanding of EAL students and the immense challenge they face in not only learning English but in the interpretation and application of the language which is needed for high grades in the Diploma.

Hence this week's Food For Thought raises the question of our own understanding of supporting the 80% of our ISHCMC students who are not only learning words in English but also their meaning and interpretation, whilst at the same time carrying their own language's interpretation of the same words/ sentence construction.

In this article from Mindshift, How testing kids for skills hurts those lacking knowledge, two researchers in Wisconsin, Donna Recht and Lauren Leslie, constructed a miniature baseball field and installed it in an empty classroom in a junior high school. They peopled it with four-inch wooden baseball players arranged to simulate the beginning of a game. Then they brought in sixty-four seventh- and eighth-grade students who had been tested both for their general reading ability and their knowledge of baseball.

"The goal was to determine to what extent a child’s ability to understand a text depended on her prior knowledge of the topic. Recht and Leslie chose baseball because they figured lots of kids in junior high school who weren’t great readers nevertheless knew a fair amount about the subject. Each student was asked to read a text describing half an inning of a fictional baseball game and move the wooden figures around the board to reenact the action described."

"Churniak swings and hits a slow bouncing ball toward the shortstop, the passage began. Haley comes in, fields it, and throws to first, but too late. Churniak is on first with a single, Johnson stayed on third. The next batter is Whitcomb, the Cougars’ left-fielder.""I

The conclusion, below, again links to Hattie's work on the effect size of some forms of inquiry pedagogy, where he shows that the effect size is increased when students are pre-loaded with direct instruction before undertaking the inquiry. One could draw the same conclusion from this research about reading comprehension. If this research is applicable to all ages, and in particular our learners of English, then it shows us that we need to be careful when asking students to read as their first introduction to a topic or in the process of understanding a topic/ concept without us having previously provided some direct instruction that provides a background on to which a student can scaffold their understanding.

"It turned out that prior knowledge of baseball made a huge difference in students’ ability to understand the text—more of a difference than their supposed reading level. The kids who knew little about baseball, including the “good” readers, all did poorly. And among those who knew a lot about baseball, the “good” readers and the “bad” readers all did well. In fact, the bad readers who knew a lot about baseball outperformed the good readers who didn’t."

Embedded in our mission we have the achievement culture, and one of its strands revolves around Kind Words. Expanding this concept a little, this last article is from an AEON essay, The way words mean.  As related to our mission it made me wonder if the words we use in our teaching are always as kind as we think because of the embedded culrure and philosophical meaning that so many carry without us realizing. The article links to Lera Boroditsky's research and asks the question; Perhaps the meaning is more sunken into words than we realise? The thinking raised in this essay is useful for all of us as teachers of language but also specifically in subject-specific teaching and use of words and in ToK and its exploration of meaning. 

n his Philosophical Investigations (1953), Ludwig Wittgenstein draws a distinction that mirrors the one between these two ways of meaning. ‘We speak of understanding a sentence,’ he writes, ‘in the sense in which it can be replaced by another which says the same; but also in the sense in which it cannot be replaced by any other........"
"The first kind of understanding points to a peculiar aspect of words and sentences: two of them can mean the same thing. As Wittgenstein points out, we’d never think of replacing one musical theme with another as if they amounted to the same thing. Nor would we equate two different paintings or two different screams. But with many other sentences, understanding the meaning is demonstrated by putting it in other words.
However, the meanings of the music, the painting and the scream seem to be immediately there. ‘A picture tells me itself,’ Wittgenstein writes. There is no way to replace one expression with another without changing the meaning. In these cases, there isn’t really a sense of a meaning apart from the expression itself. It would be perverse to ask someone who has just let loose a chilling scream: ‘What exactly did you mean by that?’ or ‘Could you put that another way?’
Although these two examples of ‘understanding’ might seem of completely different kinds, Wittgenstein insists that they not be divorced from one another. Together, they make up his ‘concept of understanding’. And, indeed, most of our language does seem to lie somewhere along a spectrum between simply designating its meaning and actually embodying it.
On one end of the spectrum, we can imagine, as Wittgenstein does, people who speak a language consisting only of ‘vocal gestures’ – expressions such as ‘hmm’ that communicate only themselves. On the other end lies ‘a language in whose use the “soul” of the words played no part’. Here, ‘meaning-blind’ people, Wittgenstein writes, would use words without experiencing the meanings as connected to the words at all. They would use them the way a mathematician uses an ‘x’ to designate the side of a triangle, without the word seeming to embody the meaning in any way."
The essay leads to this interesting conclusion:

"These problems are not only philosophical. In all kinds of domains – science, technology, politics, religion – we are prone to taking useful interpretations and turning them into frozen and potentially dangerous ideologies. Instead of looking at the concrete application of the words, we disengage them from practice and instill them and the pictures they generate with greater reality than reality itself. We side with the words even when they begin to contradict the reality."