Secret Mums on “POSITIVE” Business … OR … Engaging Our Parents in the Learning Partnership

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I hope you don’t mind my indulgence. It has been a fantastic few weeks at our little school. We have been running an intimate and innovative program for our Middle School girls (aged between 11 and 14).

These are confronting years for our young ladies and we have identified the need to focus on our girls in this age range. Families are needing support to cope as their girls deal with the new pressures of adolescence; confidence issues, body image and representations of beauty, healthy attitudes to food and exercise, complicated relationships (parents, “other girls”, and attraction/s to others) as well as the stresses of school, building success and coping with the technological presence of social and electronic media. It is no surprise that anxiety and stress are a growing community issue.

If our young people don’t have the tools to deal with these issues, they are simply not in a position to be able to learn.

The Middle School team consulted and researched widely to target a program that would offer the girl’s the confidence to address these issues within the school environment. Staff worked to collate a library of POSITIVE centred readings, video clips, podcasts, songs, feature articles and short stories centred around the themes we had identified and addressed POSITIVE solutions to HELP Girls… Kaz Cooke, Maggie Dent (our patron), the “Dove” media packages offered some great provocations;  as well as best practice readings from Relationships Australia and other professional support organisations.

resourcesThese “readings” have been broken into five weekly reading packages which will be delivered as a “girls only” group in a fully integrated English program. We have secretly employed the mums who also completed the reading program, complete with homework for Mum AND daughter.

Mother and daughter study, discuss, read and reflect on the weekly readings TOGETHER before they come to school to share their thoughts with their “Reading Circles” group.  The package integrates perfectly with English, Health, Electives, Zentangles and our Girls group and is informed by the pastoral care focus we have throughout the school.

The series culminated today (Friday the 6th June) with a special surprise event! The girl’s arrived to find all their mothers AT SCHOOL accompanied by our special guest; Kate Wilson – our amazing “spoken Word Poet” – a passionate young lady who has much to say about the issues we are addressing. You can view a sample of her work at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rK46nILY-rw – she was truly MAGICAL!

Most significantly – each mother shared about a moment from their own childhood where they had to face a challenge lead to a POSITIVE; something that was special to all of the girls – they were invited to present their snapshot through a medium of their choice; a dance, a song, a poem, a story but REAL and from the heart.

They also gave their daughter a handwritten letter in which they communicated and celebrated the BEAUTY they see in their daughter.

We are sold on the belief that schools must work with parents in partnership toward developing our young people – not JUST in an academic program but multi-elementally. We are excited that our school has been in an intimate position to RESPOND to the needs of our children in partnership with our wonderful community.

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Loved like Churchill?

Tomorrow morning will be the start of a new school and a new set of classes and responsibilities. In addition, I will be embracing a new educational approach – perhaps that conversation is for another time. We have all heard the old adage ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’.

I know how tempting it can be to want to be ‘liked’ as an educator but realistically the key word should be ‘respected’. Not respected because of the severity of our behavioural management but respected because of the focus we bring to our classes, the commitment to developing the child and the outcomes we achieve with students.

Week One is a most significant opportunity to establish the tone of the classroom. Any revisions or updates we attempt to ‘add on’ later will take much longer to establish as long-term ‘truth’ in our classrooms. It is also fair to say that any ‘promises’ or ‘declarations’ you make on day one (when we are most motivated and excited about the year) will be remembered for a LONG-TIME – especially if you do not deliver… I have failed in this respect MANY times!

It is worth taking a moment to ask what you want from your students in 2011 but also to ask what changes our own delivery might require in evolving our own professional practice. What do “I” need to learn? What should “I” change? What are “my” weaknesses (you know the ones we know exist but didn’t get noticed in the appraisal)?

A teacher I was partnered with during my university training said, “You need to be Hitler in term one, Mussolini in term two then you can be loved like Churchill for the rest of the year.” Well, OK, it’s a strongly loaded analogy. Another trainer stated it this way, “Firm, Fair and Friendly and in that order!”. I can certainly see the need for establishing routines that allow education to happen, masterful classroom management, engaging lessons – but I’m no Hitler.

Let us know what you have planned for day one. Here are a few fun activities / ideas for your classes. Most are labelled ‘K-6’ but I will be using a few with my 7-12 classes tomorrow. http://www.ilovethatteachingidea.com/ideas/subj_first_day.htm

Is There A Baby In This Bath Water?

At a garage sale on the weekend I picked up an old copy of an education text I hadn’t seen for many years. Most WA Teachers would be familiar with BEGINNING TEACHING – I purchased it for $2. Flicking through the pages, I was reminded of the MANY techniques that these sharp educators exposed us to and wondered how many of these techniques are used adequately today.

I have read many books on discipline in the classroom, management systems and follow up routines. A little like a good recipe, we often need to see these methods ‘in progress’ in order to evaluate if they could work for us (or at least elements of them?). This video sample is one of many techniques demonstrated by TEACH LIKE A CHAMPION; a youtube search would give you more and you’ll find a comprehensive bank at their FACEBOOK SITE. If you do visit that site, have a look at TARA MEAD’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL ROUTINE. Phew! The comments on this post alone are quite controversial.

I’m truly interested to know whether you feel these techniques have place in YOUR teaching world? Is there a baby in this bath-water for you? Here’s a sample: