Tag Archives: education

My Brains Came! My Brains Came!

The UPS truck made it up the driveway yesterday in spite of the storm… I suppose the driver thought it a bit odd that I proclaimed “my brains are here!” when he set the box down.

It was a fairly large box.

Dealing with test and quiz anxiety is typically a challenge for some adult learners. A few years ago I learned that using stress balls (sometimes called “squeezies”) can help restless children focus… the constant motion seems to release energy and allow the child to focus. So, I thought. “Why wouldn’t this work with adults taking quizzes and tests?”

My first experiment with the theory included a young man who was self-proclaimed “A.D.D.” and he actually broke the stress ball I provided. But he also got a pretty good grade and thought having it helped. So I ordered more–different ones that wouldn’t break.

These cubes proved popular–so much so that they’ve gradually disappeared and I’m down to three. Since it was time to order more, I decided to get a little creative this time… and I was quite pleased to find “squeezies” in the shape of brains. How much more appropriate could things be? Take a test–squeeze your brain! You might be surprised to discover what comes out!

From my side of the desk…

I’m always hesitant to call myself a teacher… for a lot of reasons, I suppose. One is that I do spend a lot of time at the local elementary school as a volunteer and I do not want any role confusion. (I had a young fellow at school ask me if he could something the other day. I replied that he needed to ask his teacher. His reply secretly made my day. “But you teach me stuff–like how to read!” Okay, but you still need to ask your official teacher.)

I do teach. I guess  I can consider myself officially a teacher of adults. And the role of the teacher and student is an interesting one… I’m often surprised–or at least disappointed– that a number of my adult students expect it to be somewhat adversarial. One of my colleagues reported a student announcing that since she was “the customer” and paying for the course she “would do whatever she wanted in class.” Fortunately, my colleague had the presence of mind to reply, “Yes, you are the customer and you can do whatever you like. I am the instructor and can do whatever I like–including giving you a failing grade for the course.”

I’m convinced that we’ve got this wrong in a very fundamental way. I think it stems from a too-often adversarial relationship between parents and teachers. It is not my intent to contribute to the hostility by defending teachers–certainly we are not a perfect profession at any age or grade level. I also do not want to over-simplify the topic.

But I do want to suggest that we get rid of the desk. I don’t want to sit behind it and I don’t want my students or their parents sitting in front of it. (Okay, I’ve never had an adult learner’s parent intercede on the students’ behalf, but I have been contacted by spouses.)

Let’s sit next to each other and talk about what it is that we are trying to achieve. Your homework assignment is to read this article before we meet:

“What teachers want to tell parents.”

The assignment applies even if you aren’t a parent of school-aged children, because our class discussion will be about how we view education and development… and how easy it is to forget what we’re trying to accomplish with it.

When I Was Their Age…

I was going to start this by wondering if you could stand another post about dictionaries… and then I realized, it really isn’t! The background is that I recently wrote an article for The Dictionary Project Newsletter and have had several nice comments on it. It was some of the comments that made me realize I didn’t just write about dictionaries–I wrote about the relationship between schools, volunteers, teachers, students, parents–that wonderful conglomeration of people who make up the community.

And in a strange irony, I had a short but wonderful conversation today with a third grader who recognized how a quilt is like a community… you find lots of different things and put them all together to form a pattern that is both many things and one thing.  It also ends up being quite colorful and pleasing to the eye.

So in a larger sense, I wrote about communities and expectations and communication and working together. To see if you agree, check out “When I Was There Their Age…”


Okay… now how bad is that? They’re are differences between there, their and they’re! And I really do know what they are!  Technology got me on this one… because I made the mistake, saw the mistake… but the automatic send happened before I could edit out the mistake! So there’s another advantage of subscribing to this… the odds of seeing my mistakes are higher! (For those who didn’t get the emailed version, I made the mistake in the title too.)

Ask Somebody!

For a number of years I’ve been conducting dictionary presentations with third graders. There’s a point at which I ask the kids, “What do we do if we come to a word we don’t know?”

Historically, the kids have pretty much unanimously replied, “Look it up!” (The pile of dictionaries behind me is probably a clue that helps them with the answer.)

Well, this year I was a bit surprised to hear a few kids say, “Ask somebody!” This in spite of the prominent pile of dictionaries.

And then today I learn about a project whereby Amazon.com has hired some folks from Quorus–a service that is adding a “social dimension” to online shopping. Say you are shopping for a gift and are having trouble deciding. The Quorus program would allow you to “discuss” the purchase (online) with other members of the family both in real time (chat) and offline.

Imagine being able to ask all of your friends online, “Will these pants make my butt look big?”

As if to reaffirm this trend, when I was getting instruction regarding my newly aquired SmartPhone, the representative pointed out that “the best thing to do when you are looking at an ‘ap’ is to see what the reviews (other people) have said about it.” Yep, that sounds like “ask somebody” to me! Instead of researching the developer and the features of the ap, I’m supposed to count stars I guess. (Actually, I do read reviews–but that’s only one component of the research.)

Surely we could spend days discussing the ramifications of this trend.  I’ll bet if we involved Madam DeFarge she’d opine, “It’s the best of times; it’s the worst of times.”

My relationship with technology is at times tenuous, although I confess I have personified my GPS and will occasionally argue with her, but often rely on her. “Greta says that I’ll be arriving in 45 minutes…” In practice, I’ve asked Greta (her last name is Garmin) how long the trip will take. So far, I remain convinced I’m still smarter than she is.

Let’s set aside the question of whether or not this is all good stuff. (Personally, I like seeing kids looking up things in the dictionary instead of asking somebody. I also still have arguments with Greta when she tries to make me take a turn that doesn’t make sense. Suffice it to say, asking somebody is not a substitute for using our brains.)

One of the questions this does raise… Where are we going to learn the social (media) graces? To wit, if I bump into you at the bank in Dover Foxcroft, I’m probably not going to show you a picture of what I had for breakfast. For that matter, if you invite me to lunch, I’m probably not going to whip out my (yet unnamed) SmartPhone to ask people what looks good on the menu.

Whaddya think?

Don’t say, “I’m not sure, let me ask somebody.”

Course and Class Schedules Posted!

You can use the tabs at the top or the page listing in the side bar at the right… to review at least three categories of courses I’ll be offering in 2012. Of course there’s the usual real estate licensing courses–a section unto themselves. Courses offered through PVAEC tend to overlap, but there’s plenty of excitement and opportunities. The “You Can” series developed as a collabaration between UMaine Extension and PVAEC includes plenty of “self-sufficiency” skills from backyard poultry to food preservation. Of course I’ve already announced my “Cash as a Crop” course

We’re also starting a “Solopreneur” Series… courses geared for folks who are or want to work alone and run their business single-handed. Of special interest may be a short course that will get you started with your own free WordPress Blog–much like this one!

All of the courses could also fall under the heading of “Personal Growth” — why not take on a new challenge in 2012?! If you have a special interest that’s not covered, let me know… we’ll see what we can do!