It’s all about your attitude

I came across this blog post last week. The author Jeff is writing about someone else who inspired him with the suggestion that so much of the issues in our schools could be prevented or reduced if everyone started with The Golden Rule – treat others as you wish to be treated. So that student who you find incredibly irritating because they are forever asking the same question 5 minutes after you explained it to everyone else – if you were in their shoes, you would want to be treated with patience and respect, so rein in the growls of frustration and be your best self.

Jeff also notes that to grow beyond the most basic application is to recognise that we are not all the same – sometimes people would prefer a different approach than we ourselves like, so perhaps should we go that one step further and “twist the Golden Rule just a bit, moving from treating others as we would want to be treated to treating others as they would want to be treated”.

This is a thought-provoker for me – how do I treat my colleagues? My students? My family? Am I behaving they way I would want others to act towards me? Time for some self-reflection.

Justified censorship or overly sensitive?

There’s been a great discussion on the Tassie school library listserv this week regarding the book “Six White Boomers” and whether, in light of Rolf Harris’s recent incarceration for sexually abusing a number of young girls, this book should be removed from the shelves.

Wow, this is tricky. There is no excuse, ever, for abusing children. (Or adults for that matter).



Do we judge each book and resource in the Library by the personal lives of each person involved in its creation? At what point should external factors determine the inclusion or exclusion of an item? Secondary students studying the events of the 20th century read speeches by Hitler and other war criminals. I remember the furore when evidence was presented against Lance Armstrong, and some particularly clever responses reclassified his various biographies as fiction. Similarly the book “Three cups of tea” has since been proven to be more of an idealised parallel universe than a factual recount of Greg Mortenson’s charity work in Afghanistan.  In contemporary biographical works I find it difficult to locate titles concerning great sportsmen which are suitable for a primary school readership – many recent publications are too revealing of the warts-and-all details to be appropriate for younger readers. Thus the book content is the key factor in disqualifying these titles – give me some which skilfully skate past those more adult troubles and I will joyfully purchase them for my shelves!

It seems to me, then, that my key criteria is what is appropriate for my students to encounter first-hand. Our youngest readers, who most enjoy “Six White Boomers”, are not likely to have unrestricted or unsupervised access to the internet to search for and find distressing details of Rolf’s disgrace, therefore I see no harm in keeping one of the few fun, Australian Christmas songs that do not rely on out-dated outback imagery and Strine. If we were looking at a book for older readers, such as Year 6, and searching for the author were to result in a great deal of information/pictures that would be inappropriate and upsetting for that age group, then I would certainly think long and hard about whether that specific title should be purchased.

Improving the way we praise

“Sweet words are like honey, a little may refresh, but too much gluts the stomach.” Anne Bradstreet

I stumbled across this article about giving the kind of praise that promotes healthy self-esteem rather than narcissistic views of self and abilities. That click led to some other articles on the same topic, looking at Praise vs Feedback, Praise for Girls, and another referencing the excellent Verizon video showing how conservative views of what girls should and shouldn’t do can deter them from tackling things like science and engineering.

I work in a boys’ school, so in my professional life the girl-focussed articles are less directly relevant, but the core message is still important: we must take care to show children with our words and actions that we value their efforts.

Things I am taking from this reading on a dreary Friday afternoon:

  • from the work of Carol Dweck: praise the process eg “I can see that you have worked really hard to write this story/ improve your piano playing/ latest achievement of any kind”
  • give the child your time and undivided attention: it proves that you value their actions (this is pretty hard in a class of 25 students when at least 5 of them are asking for help at any given moment)
  • superficiality and throw-away comments do more harm than good

More than anything else this feels like something that has to be an attitudinal shift for teachers (and parents), because it requires real effort to slow down and focus on one thing long enough to find that meaningful connection. In some areas that comes more easily than others – in conversations with my students about books they have enjoyed, it is easy to relax into a discussion about likes and interests, not least because that is likely to be a one-on-one or small group discussion. Finding times within a frantically busy lesson to pause beside someone and let them know that you saw their thinking and correction of their own spelling mistakes (for instance) is a lot harder.

And this weekend I will be listening to the way I talk to my daughters and son, looking for ways to give them the kind of feedback that shows I value them as young people who are growing into confident, capable individuals whom I will support in whatever direction they choose to travel.

‘Twas the night before Term 2, and all through my brain…

beautiful chaos via Pixabay CC0

I’m juggling the chaos, I hope not in vain:

Coming back into the fold

I wanted some ideas this week about effective, valuable ways to use ipads in K-2 classes, because I am part of the team working on how we will be making good use of these devices when they arrive in classes later this year. For me it always boils down to the practicalities of how something will work in the classroom – I read a lot of philosophical and erudite discussion of enhancing pedagogy and moving through the stages of the SAMR model of technology adoption and integration etc, etc, etc, but when it comes down to helping teachers on the ground, I want to hear what is working for other people in similar situations.

Enter the PLN. I hopped on Twitter on Tuesday night (I am only a sporadic, purpose-driven user) and put the question out there, pinged a few people with direct tweets, and then spent the next little while marvelling at the wonderful suggestions I received.

Since then I’ve added 3 more apps, 2 more people, 2 more blogs, and several articles – oh and a very kind email list of schools to check out!

This is proving to me yet again that social media can connect us to people with the knowledge we need, if you build those networks purposefully. I found that my Twitter network grows most rapidly, and more richly, when I actively seek out people who tweet insights during conference streams. I want to connect with people who have lively, curious minds, who seek out new ideas and information and are so thrilled with what they find that they just want to share their excitement! I want to read about brave new projects, and about what goes wrong, and how they tried to fix it. Fortunately for me, I have just enough people in my PLN now that I can ask a few questions and get some helpful answers back in a reasonable timeframe, and with far less effort than trawling through endless search results in the-major-search-engine-of-your-choice. I guess it comes back to that sense of knowledge being curated information; a search engine can return data, but for a query about how to use ipads effectively in an early childhood setting, the personal responses from experienced educators are exponentially more valuable.

And speaking of gems found in the Twitter feed, just this evening I followed a tweet from @SJBetteridge to discover (on Free Tech 4 Teachers, a fabulous blog!) this lovely little homage to Libraries and Librarians in the Internet Age, by Common Craft:


And to get back to the point about PLNs and Twitter being awesome, this week a retweeted link led me to a post on Langwitches by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano about Unpacking a Twitter Conference Feed – this is amazingly helpful for anyone who is new to the whole thing!

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