Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Compassionate Attitude Never Changes

A truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively or hurt you." ― Dalai Lama

This is the story of a very quiet girl. She grew up in a small, farming community. The town was picturesque. It was set in a valley between high mountains with a majestic river running through it. The town was far from other towns or cities. In the winter, blizzards arrived making travel difficult. Everybody knew everyone else in this small, rural town. As a youngster this girl had a fabulous childhood. Her street was filled with large families so there always kids to play with. Her family was close-knit so the holidays were filled with love and family gatherings with lots of homemade food. Every summer the extended family all went to a private lake in the woods for two weeks of summer fun.

As the girl got older things started to change. Her grandparents died. Her family started to drift apart. Aunts, uncles, and cousins that she loved so much didn't visit anymore. There were no longer large family gatherings and camping trips to the lake. One day while walking to school with a close friend, she revealed to her that she was sad. She was sad because her Dad had changed. Her Dad used to be funny and happy. Now he was grumpy and hard to approach. She guessed that he missed his family and worked too hard now to enjoy life.
This girl had a big heart. She always looked after those who were less fortunate. She looked out for the elderly people who lived on her street. She took in stray animals. She gave her hand-me-down clothes to younger girls who were less fortunate. She helped her mom and her siblings. All people, young, old rich, poor, disabled, non-disabled were important to her. All animals were important to her too. Her family and classmates were always close in heart. The only real problem the girl had was in expressing herself because she was always so desperately shy.
In school, the girl took notes, followed along, and did her homework. She only missed school if she was sick. She was quite involved in extracurricular activities. Somehow when in school groups she overcame her shyness enough to be an active participant. She had a few close friends and many acquaintances. She usually went through every day without any conflicts.
Then, a terrible thing happened! Some of the kids at school who she thought were her friends, began to taunt her! They laughed at her and said mean things. One day,after getting off of the school bus, in the cold, snowy winter, a girl beat her up while others laughed. Her shoes fell off. She didn't fight back because these girls were her friends. The girl felt her heart break. She broke away from her tormentors and ran home barefoot and crying. She wasn't crying from the physical pain, but was crying from the mental pain because her friends had hurt her soul. How could they do this to her?
She begged her parents to not get involved, So they didn't. The girl stopped going to the extracurricular activities that these former friends were involved in. She made new friends. She joined new activities. She never said an unkind word to her former friends. She simply stayed away from them. She had hoped that the cruelty that her former friends inflicted on her would stop. Eventually it did. The foundation for being teased had been laid and a boy in her grade took over where the others left off. He provoked her on a daily basis. He harassed her from middle school all the way through their senior year in high school. This mistreatment agonized at her soul. He hurt her badly, emotionally. She hoped that she would never have to see him again!
As for the other kids that had turned their backs on her, she forgave them. The trust and loyalty she had once felt for them diminished but she became cautiously friendly with them again. All parties moved on after graduation. The girl did not keep in touch with any of the people that had scarred her childhood.
The girl went to college, married a young man from an affluent family, had several children, had a home in the suburbs. She had a viable career and a comfortable home life. She was a loving, involved mom. She no longer lived in the small town. She followed her dreams and ventured out into the world settling in the suburb of a prominent city.
Social-media became popular. The girl, now a woman, went on social-media and kept in touch with her adult friends. Eventually, the kids from her schooldays, now adults, found her and became her social-media friends. The woman and her social-media friends all shared a mutual respect. Then one day she received a social-media friend request from the boy that tormented her all throughout high school. After several days of thinking about it, she accepted his friend request.
The woman cautiously messaged "hello". Soon after she learned that her former tormentor had had a difficult life that included a couple of divorces, jail time, and a long history of job losses due to alcoholism. He was penniless. His children wanted nothing to do with him. The woman never said an unkind word to this man through her messaging, just supportive quips. They remain friends on social-media still today.
Did fate take part on how the lives of these two young people developed into adulthood? Does the outcome of their very separate and different lives give us a picture of why their young days, twisted and turned in torment? We never know what another human being is going through or is thinking. Humans mask their feelings all of the time. One may smile when their heart is breaking. Another may persecute because they are hungry or because no one has ever let them feel loved.
In a balanced world, compassion, along with being cautiously optimistic toward others, while believing in their positive fate is the best way to behave when there is sound judgement in mind. Tomorrow the tide may turn but until then it is in acceptance and kindness that the world will become a haven of peace.

Parent and Educator Links:

Eight Ways to Build Cyber Kids' Social-Emotional Intelligence

World of Psychology: The Power of Kindness  

Verbal and Physical Bullying Decrease as Children Age, but Cyberbullying Increases: Study

Autistic Rapper's 2Nd Rap:No Gimmicks by Russell Lehmann
Please enjoy my friend Russell Lehmann's Rap. Russell is a rapper who spreads the word about disability awareness.

Mitt Aubin's Book Review:

Hi Fly Guy! This is a very fun book! I am currently using it with a 7th grade group who are struggling readers. They love it! It's difficult to find engaging books that older readers will enjoy! Tedd Arnold has captured the imaginations of younger and slightly older readers with his "Fly Guy" series! I personally love how the "guy" in Fly Guy gets his name. I won't tell because it will ruin it's cute humor! Enjoy!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Island Hopping: Using a Cross-Curricular Approach to Enhance Deeper Learning

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." - Benjamin Franklin

     Today's goal in education based on the theories and practices introduced in the Common Core is to engage the student in such a way that he/she will leave the classroom with a deeper understanding of the content presented.  My academic approach to doing this is by using a cross-curricular model to educate my students. 

    Early in the school year, we began an unit on landforms in science.  This led us into a discussion on maps in social studies. Maps brought us to the creation of salt dough islands which again brought us back to landforms but also opened us up to  a discussion on adjectives in English Language Arts (ELA) class that can be used to describe the islands. What a whirlwind! Next we used the adjectives to write a descriptive essay on each individual island. The students had to name their island, describe the landforms, discuss the island's special features, describe the weather, and describe the people that live on the island. Discussing the weather crossed  over to science class where we are doing a weather unit!  The students had to locate on our classroom maps, where in the world their island would be located! 

     We of course were not finished there. Next each student made a map of their island which included a key and a compass rose. Since the students had previously studied maps they knew exactly how to make a compass rose and a map key using symbols. In life skills class we did a two day lesson on friendly letter writing and addressing envelopes. This lesson benefitted everyone because we designed postcards to go with each island. Finally to end this cross-curricular unit each student made a travel brochure to entice others to visit their island. 

     Cross-curricular teaching is such a positive approach. First of all it builds confidence in the students because they becomes experts in a certain topic that makes them successful in more than one academic area. An example of this is when the students did their writing piece in ELA class on their island, they were already familiar with the landforms, maps, and weather that they had discussed in science and social studies. This front-loaded* the information they needed to write their essays with ease. While writing, each student placed their island on their desk to let their imaginations flow.
    Deep-learning that is gleaned through cross-curricular teaching, integrates the heart, mind, body, and soul; making each project personal. This will help the students to retain this information long into the future.
     As with Project based learning (PBL) when students use ELA skills, hands on learning, and interact with their teachers, aides, parents, and peers, about what they are creating it improves learning. PBL and Cross-curricular learning take all learning styles into account: kinesthetic,visual, and auditory so both strategies benefit the whole child and all learners involved.
Anchor Chart:  An anchor chart, builds literacy in the classroom. Teachers and students make the thinking process visible as they record their thought processes on a given subject. Anchor charts can also benefit a mini-review lesson to debrief strategies such as the students using the adjectives on their anchor charts to write the essay about their island. *See explanation on front-loading below.

   Salt-dough Recipe:
     Each recipe makes enough salt-dough for 4 to 5 students.  
2 Cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of salt
1 cup of cold water


1)  In a large bowl mix salt and flour.
2)  Gradually add in water. Mix well, until it forms a play-dough consistency (being careful 
      not to make it too moist).
3)  Form a ball and knead it for at least five minutes.  The longer you knead it, the smoother 
      it will be.
4)  Store in an air-tight container unless you are sculpting with it. I recommend chinet 
       paper plates if you are making an island such as my students did.  The end product held 
       on tightly to the plates and was quite durable. 
5) If painting your sculptures, they do not need to be completely dry before doing so.  Our 
     island projects took several days to dry.

Educator Links:
Celebrate National Day Writing

Read, Write, Think-Finding Cross Curricular Resources

Parent Links:

Ivory Soap Science and Art

Some Tips on getting the Most Financial Aide

Mitt Aubin's Book Review:

     Todays pick is:  Maps and Globes-by Jack Knowlton and Harriett Barton. This little book is quite thorough.  It gives a history of maps,a bit on early explorers like Columbus and Magellan, map language,how maps are designed, the types of maps including globes, the key, and more. This book also comes recommended by Reading Rainbow. 

*Front-loading information is a technique used in literacy to activate and build prior knowledge in the student to enhance the learning experience.