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Happy Days, Freaks and Geeks, True Life

May 10, 2013

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Here we go again – in most parts, the end of school is imminent. My kids have less than 20 school days left.  It’s felt like a long spring, punctuated by chilly, damp weather and a longing to just be done with this year.  I’ve written about spring before and honestly, when I first considered this time of year this year, it felt a little wonky.

I zipped up my vest to my chin and  inhaled deeply, realizing my oldest will soon be a senior.  I smile as I reflect on how the transition to high school turned out to be remarkably smooth for my youngest.  I watch young children skittle down the sidewalk ahead of moms, chasing butterflies or racing up the steps to the bakery for a cookie while moms’ reminders fall  on deaf ears. I know later today my kids will take some downtime after school and then delve into homework and, of course, cruise the internet for school and leisure.  The contrast can between carefree skipping and the dogged pursuit of making it to the end of a high school year make me long for earlier springs.  Life seems more complex, more demanding, even for teenagers. But I know this is just the next step along their path and the same principles that helped us all through earlier years, still apply. Read more…

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Hip, Hip, Hooray – a Triple Thanks!

April 9, 2013

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Triple thanks, this post!

First, I’m tickled to have one of my posts featured this week on Teach.com’s blog.  Thanks to the Teach.com folks for featuring my writing.  If you don’t already know Teach.com,  is a comprehensive resource for information on becoming  a great teacher in any state across the country.  It’s aim is to provide all the information necessary to become a teacher no matter where you live.  It’s a rich resource for staying current on trends in teaching and teacher training, made possible through the University of Southern California’s Rossier School Online.  Be sure to check them out, whether you’re staying current, want to further your teaching career, or both!

Second,  thanks to my fellow teachers who made this post, and my work, possible.  They all are a reflection  of the commitment to  the positive development of children, best teaching practices and life long learning.  The folks at the Northeast Foundation for Children’s Responsive Classroom have been essential to  my development as a teacher by shaping my view of children and teaching, and challenging me to dig deeper with my own understanding.  I’ve been fortunate enough to receive tremendous support as an adult learner from them.  It goes without saying that the incredible faculty of St. Anne’s School of Annapolis who shared a week of hard work and laughter with me last August also deserve a hearty thanks! This group of dedicated, smart and compassionate teachers dug into the content of the week and have been plugging along implementing the approach in their teaching every day since.

Third, thanks to those of you who continue to stick with Wonder of Children and follow the posts, share your stories and post comments. Many of you are also colleagues and parents, which makes it all the more special. Without that interaction, it would all be silent characters on the screen!

Each of these three  serve as a reminder of the hard work and dedication on the part of many, many educators and parents that enrich not only the lives of our students and families, but also each teacher’s life and work experience.  I don’t just have to work, but I choose to work because of  people like you who share the a passionate commitment to the children and families in our schools.

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Looking Back, Looking Ahead- Development is Still Crucial

April 6, 2013

Finding the Passion

Arnold Gesell (1881-1960)  is one of the most well-known researchers in the field of child development.  Much of his work, from the Yale Clinic of Child Development and later at the Gesell Institute of Child Development, was based on the simple premise that behavior is a function of structure and that humans develop in a patterned, predictable way.  Gesell and colleagues studied children for decades to gather “norms,” i.e. normative patterns of behavior and hallmarks from their clinical observations. Even though this data was collected nearly a generation ago, it has been refined and updated, and it remains very much the same today as when it was identified.  At each developmental stage, researchers were able to identify characteristic patterns of:

  • Mental and physical organization
  • Social and emotional behaviors
  • Play interests and activities

It was found that these behaviors involve a combination of interaction between child and environment (including other people) and acknowledged individual differences, however, developmental sequences were proven to be similar from child to child and across varying cultures.  Following Gesell’s retirement, Dr. Louse Bates Ames, Dr. Frances Ilg, and Dr. Janet Learned continued his work by founding the Gesell Institute of Child Development and to this day, the institute examines the concept of developmental age  and school placement.   From their website:

Understanding stages of child growth and development and using this knowledge to interpret behaviors, plan appropriate curricula, and manage the classroom are essential to quality teaching practices. Such understanding is also integral to quality parenting, and in implementing best practices in all professions working with children.

Development is a complex process that can be understood when attention and focus is given.  This takes an understanding of child development, solid interpersonal skills, and an openness to observe behaviors so that a clear picture can emerge. When school placement, curriculum and instruction are based on developmental age, a child is given the opportunity  to be successful with the skills and experiences they have to date, with an eye toward nudging them to take on challenges they can reasonably attain and therefore, grow. Read more…

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