The holidays are getting in the way of my blogging, but not in the way of my book sales. I am thrilled to announce that I have only 12 books left from the second printing, for an initial distribution in the first year that will be the full 800 from two printings. First-come, first-serve for the few copies left!
Recently Harvard Business Review posted an article on its blog entitled, “The Three Threats to Creativity.” I was happy to see that their thinking aligns with mine, although the ramifications of their findings to our children and country are depressing, to say the least.
The ingredients of creativity discussed in this article are:
1. Smart people who think differently. The concern is that a narrow focus on basic subjects is not only endangering the acquisition of deep knowledge, but it is also limiting the development of creative or inventive thinking.
2. Passionate engagement. This article repeats what I have written before: dreaming, intrinsic motivation and love of learning and challenge are keys to success. The upshot is that workers today are more often expressing frustration than enjoyment in their positions.
3. A creative atmosphere. The researchers find that workplaces are reverting to assembly-line type atmospheres rather than promoting openness, collaboration, and exploration.
I can only keep hoping that our education system will catch up with the times. May all your children and grandchildren know the joys of dreaming, exploration, challenge, collaboration and life-long learning in the home, their schools, and eventually in the workplace.
Reading, discussing, questioning, and thinking with Grandma.
Posted in basic skills, Core elements of learning and being smart, Creative Kids, Developing a child's curiosity, Early Learning, Excellence in education, Grandma Says It's Good to Be Smart, Grandma says it's good to be creative, Growing up smart, It's Good to Be Smart, Modeling a love of reading, Passion for a field of learning, Passion in teaching and learning, school models, Serious learning, The chance to learn, Young Children
Tagged academically minded, be smart, becoming good at something difficult, caring about ideas, encouraging creativity, learning is fun, learning through exploration, life-long learning, passionate learners, passionate teachers, reading with your little one
On October 26, public radio had a story on the skills today’s babies will need to master in order to become successful adults. Learning to crawl, clap, walk, and talk, they reported, are a beginning, but technology has expanded/changed what must become the face of education.
I say expanded because we need to start with the appalling statistics that I mentioned in my post on September 27. I repeat: this year, out of 30 developed or industrialized nations, our children ranked 25th in math, 21st in science, and 11th in literacy. Needless to say, the basics have not changed – speaking, reading, mathematics, and science will continue to be the bottom line. And, in a global economy and mobile society, speaking and reading will require something we as Americans have never been required to master in the past – competency in multiple languages.
The story emphasized the importance of creative thinking and problem solving. With technological machinery now able to accomplish many of the tasks that people were required to do in the past, it is the creative, effective, and efficient use of those machines that is left to human endeavor. Interestingly, one of the age-old problems with gifted programs is that some students are removed for parts of the school week to participate in what are called pull-out programs. Often the focus of those programs has been creative problem solving. The problem? Thirty years ago, we as educators knew that creative problem solving should be taught to all children in the regular classroom. It’s no longer a case of “should be,” but rather a fact that these skills must be taught to all children if they are to be competitive in the future job market. Gifted children do need appropriate curriculum and instruction, but pull-out programs that give them a hint of the basics for a successful future while others are left in the dark is NOT it!
Yes, we must tackle the problems of the achievement gap – the unconscionable problems of inequity within the system. And, for all children, we must address the issues of quality. Society today is nothing like it was when I was born. The education of our children, however, has not changed, not expanded. Outdated practices and content do not add up to quality. The system must change.
Posted in basic skills, Compliance with state standards, Core elements of learning and being smart, Creative Kids, Early Learning, Excellence in education, Gifted and Talented Children, Grandma Says It's Good to Be Smart, Grandma says it's good to be creative, Growing up smart, High expectations, Parenting for academic success, school models, Serious learning, Teaching smart kids, The chance to learn, Young Children
Tagged academically minded, be smart, caring about ideas, creative problem-solving, creativity, encouraging creativity, life-long learning, parent alert, quality education, raising smart children, school models, skills for the future, smartness across diverse populations, systemic change
Waiting for high expectations. That’s what all the good teachers and good schools featured in the “Waiting for …” excellence in education documentary had in common. We can all agree on that.
Waiting for world class standards. Good schools are based on curricular models AND instructional models that are demonstrated to yield results.
Waiting for there to be good teachers in every classroom. Waiting for every child to have access to the curricular models and teachers who will inspire them to be all they can be.
Waiting for accountability.
I feel a little like Geoffrey Canada says he felt when he realized he couldn’t turn the problems with education around as easily as he had hoped the day he started teaching. After a 40+ year career in education, and having made a positive difference in the lives of lots of children, I had still lost hope. It wasn’t enough. As one parent had said to me, “It felt a little like building a beach, one grain of sand at a time.”
This movie both rekindles my hope and exacerbates my worry. Why did I exit the movie crying? Because Bianca, Daisy, Anthony and the other children in the movie each represent so many children like them. I was crying tears for the children whose stories had just touched my heart, but moreover for all the children without guaranteed options.
We are asked to act. Beyond what I am already doing in taking my WCATY message to the next generations through children’s books and parenting support, I resolve to take these steps:
- I join the team of concerned citizens who will work with Kaleem Caire and the Madison Urban League toward the goal of opening a top notch school for boys who are not making it in the system – Madison Prep.
- I pledge to share my background in instructional philosophies and models that go beyond world class curriculum in setting the stage for excellence in education, i.e., my message to Madison Prep is the same as it was to Madison Country Day School: World class curriculum is great, but it is just the base. Individual pacing and relevancy, high expectations, inspiring teaching, supported learning, accountability … these must all be added to the curricular base.
- I will continue to establish mentor programs and/or work as a mentor when that is the best choice for making a difference. In particular, as I left the movie theater, I thought, “Madison Prep, if it is over-subscribed as I expect it will be, will have the same problem as the great schools in the movie that were portrayed as using a lottery system of selection. Maybe what we need are mentors for all the children who DON’T get selected.” Maybe the students and parents of the students who do get selected could become a part of the mentor team. This is an idea that excites me. We’ll see where it goes.
Posted in Core elements of learning and being smart, Early Learning, Excellence in education, Grandma Says It's Good to Be Smart, Growing up smart, High expectations, It's Good to Be Smart, Parenting for academic success, Passion in teaching and learning, Role models, school models, Serious learning, Smart is cool, The chance to learn, Waiting for Superman
Tagged academically minded, accountability, becoming good at something difficult, caring about ideas, educational excellence, high expectations, life-long learning, mentors, parent alert, passionate learners, passionate teachers, poor smart kids, school models, self-confidence comes with accomplishment, Waiting for Superman
I hate to think of myself as a pessimist, but I have been feeling that, as a country, we were doomed to a bleak future. Because of partisan politics, the economy, crime? All of these are among the many reasons to be concerned, but the underlying factor for me is our broken education system. In 1983 the problems were clearly outlined in a book presented by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, entitled A Nation At Risk. Our children were already falling in international comparisons of student achievement. But we were going to fix it, right? Wrong. Today, the statistics that are quoted are worse: 25th out of 30 developed or industrialized countries in math, 21st in science, and 11th in literacy. Doomed is not too strong a word.
Then along came a documentary film: Waiting for Superman. The movie hasn’t come to Madison, and I intend to see it as soon as it does. But I don’t need to see it to have a glimmer of hope. Oprah had two shows devoted to it in one week, Meet the Press devoted half their Sunday morning hour to it, the news hours are covering it, the talk shows are talking it. A seemingly sincere dialogue has begun. Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan called it “A Rosa Parks Movie” because, he said, “the country is compelled to act.” Maybe he’s right. I hope he’s right.
I say go Newark; go Washington D.C.; go Detroit; go New York City! Leaders from these cities have been featured on the shows I’ve seen over the past few days, and I applaud their intentions to act. I join the Madison Urban League in its goals to turn around dismal statistics regarding graduation rates here for children of color. I await news of commitments in community after community, state after state. As in New Jersey may our Democratic and Republican leaders join forces in saying, “Yes, we have some great teachers, but that’s not enough. Every child deserves an excellent education. Every child deserves rigor in the curriculum. Every child’s dreams should be heard and encouraged. And we’re going to work TOGETHER to make it happen.”
Posted in Core elements of learning and being smart, Excellence in education, High expectations, Parenting for academic success, Passion in teaching and learning, school models, Serious learning, The chance to learn
Tagged academically minded, becoming good at something difficult, caring about ideas, life-long learning, parent alert, raising smart children, school models, self-confidence comes with accomplishment, smartness across diverse populations, Waiting for Superman
As our nation’s Supreme Court welcomes its newest confirmed member, Elena Kagan’s high school is in a turmoil over questions of diversity according to an article in The New York Times on August 4, 2010. Hunter College High School, for intellectually gifted students, has been ranked the top public high school in the country. Yet it has experienced a significant decline in numbers of black and Hispanic students served in recent years and debate over admissions policy has left a respected principal with no choice but to resign and faculty and students up in arms.
Justin Hudson was chosen by the faculty from among all the graduates of Hunter this year to be the commencement speaker. I read his speech in an attempt to better understand the emotion-laden situation. “I don’t deserve any of this…. We received an outstanding education at no charge based solely on our performance on a test we took when we were eleven years old. We received superior teachers and additional resources based on our status as ‘gifted,’ while kids who naturally need those resources much more than us wallowed in the mire of a broken system….”Justin told his classmates.
“We are playing God and we are losing,” he continued. “Hunter is perpetuating a system in which children who contain unbridled and untapped intellect and creativity are discarded like refuse. And we have the audacity to say they deserved it, because we are smarter than them. We have failed to inspire and uplift an entire generation of children. I am acutely aware of where I would be right now without (Hunter).
“I hope that I will use the tools that Hunter has given me as a means to provide opportunities to others … I hope that in the near future, (quality) education will not be a privilege for the few in this world.”
The problem is not Hunter High School, but the entire broken system to which Justin refers. When I was coordinator of gifted programs in the schools and later consultant for gifted programming at our state department of education, I stated that the ideal would be to eliminate my position. That could only happen if all students received a quality education. All children should be taught the skills of creativity in the regular classroom. All children should be able to learn as quickly and deeply as they are able. No child should be expected to wait for others to “catch up.” No child should be denied an opportunity based on ethnicity or economics. All children should graduate with the same curiosity and sparkle with which they started kindergarten.
My goal now for “Grandma Says It’s Good to Be Smart” is to get it into the hands of poor children through community centers, day care centers, and other community connections. At the same time, I am preparing to submit “Color Me Smart,” the story of children from diverse backgrounds who had doors of opportunity opened to them through WCATY, for publication. I need to reach a broader market. What I can do and what Justin can do are tips of the iceberg. It may seem like I can’t make a difference, but if I don’t try and you don’t try, what are the chances that “schooling” will improve? Wouldn’t it be nice to have children NOT hide their talents in school because they are proud to openly use and develop those talents? Will we ever be first in the world in education again?
Posted in Core elements of learning and being smart, Creative Kids, Diversity of giftedness, Excellence in education, Gifted and Talented Children, Grandma Says It's Good to Be Smart, Grandma says it's good to be creative, Growing up smart, It's Good to Be Smart, Optimal match, Picture books, Showing versus hiding one's talents, Smart is cool, Teaching smart kids, The chance to learn, Views of intelligence
Tagged academically minded, ages 0-7, be smart, caring about ideas, Diversity of giftedness, myths about intelligence, optimal match, smartness across diverse populations, turmoil at Hunter College High School, understanding kinds of smart