Learning from Apple Juice

Bordering on the TMI – I’ve been having some difficulties nursing Jack. Mainly in the ouch department but more deeply with the frustration of knowing that if it is hurting me he is more than likely not having an easy time of getting the amount of nourishment he needs. He nurses every 2 to 3 hours around the clock and so it’s really easy to get achingly, wearily frustrated when you translate that schedule into the amount of sleep I must be getting!

The other day I decided to sit in a different chair, one that happens to be next to a book shelf, when he started to show signs of hunger. Blissfully, Jack latched on to me with out the need to grit my teeth and I just sat there looking at him for a while. I saw a book of Shel Silverstein poetry on the shelf so decided to read to him but then noticed The Sun My Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh and decided to read from that instead. Must say, as I read to Jack, the first story in the book brought tears to my eyes, reminding me to slow down and just be. (You can read the passage, beginning on page 3 in the google book thing below or, for those who may not have access to the book thing – sometimes these things don’t work on certain computers – I’ve typed it out below.)

Today three children, two girls and a little boy, came from the village to play with Thanh Thuy (pronounced ‘Tahn Tui’). The four of them ran off to play on the hillside behind our house and were gone for about an hour when they returned to ask for something to drink. I took the last bottle of homemade apple juice and gave them each a full glass, serving Thuy last. Since her juice was from the bottom of the bottle, it had some pulp in it. When she noticed the particles, she pouted and refused to drink it. So the four children went back to their games on the hillside, and Thuy had not drunk anything.

Half an hour later, while I was meditating in my room, I heard her calling. Thuy wanted to get herself a glass of cold water, but even on tiptoes she couldn’t reach the faucet. I reminded her of the glass of juice on the table and asked her to drink that first. Turning to look at it, she saw that the pulp had settled and the juice looked clear and delicious. She went to the table and took the glass with both hands. After drinking half of it, she put it down and asked, “Is this a different glass, Uncle Monk?” (a common term for Vietnamese children to use when addressing an older monk.)

“No,” I answered. “It’s the same one as before. It sat quietly for a bit, and now it’s clear and delicious.” Thuy looked at the glass again. “It really is good. Was it meditating like you, Uncle Monk?” I laughed and patted her head. “Let us say that I imitate the apple juice when I sit; that is closer to the truth.” (pp.3-4 The Sun My Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh, Berkley, California, Parallax Press, 1988.)

The pulp had settled and the juice looked clear and delicious.

There’s the aspect of clarity related to just ‘being’ and there is also the aspect that, even when things are cloudy, clarity exists and I just need to wait, it’ll show up.

It’s easier to remind myself of the need to just be, to sit and settle, when Jack isn’t crying and I’m not hurting and we’re both quietly doing what we need to do but I figure the more I remind myself the more of those moments we will have together.

And if I can do that with Jack, a 1 month old (today!), I can probably do it with any child, including those in my classroom.

Social Networking and Life-Balance, do we even know what that is? Responding to Angela Stockman

**originally published on 2011-02-20 07:51:20**

A long while ago (we’re talking 3 months people!), Angela left a meaty, thought-provoking comment on my post Why are we arguing that social networking does not have neg. effect on school & learning?. I apologize for not having acknowledged it, let alone responded to it, when it was made! The past few months have been a whirlwind of pre-baby/post-partum/new life changes :) At least Laura replied to some of what Angela said in her comment on the original post – thanks Laura!

The whole issue is a mammoth woolly elephant in the chat room, trolling in the background but not allowed to participate. Angela highlighted some key points that I’d like to further underline here.

She asked: Who is teaching kids about this? (social networking and mind/body/spirit balance)

Some people are thinking about this. If I do a quick Google search I find resources like:
Social networking sites: Finding a balance between their risks and benefits from Internet Solutions for Kids.

Minding MySpace: Balancing the benefits and risks of kids’ online social networks from California Schools Magazine

Generation text: Raising well-adjusted kids in an age of instant everything by Michael Osit

Parents: Instead of Banning Your Kids from Social Networks, Consider Teaching Responsible Usage from Managing Communities.

But none of these really address the issue of explicitly teaching kids life balance in an age of social networking. So I refined my search to responsible social networking lesson plan and found a few more things, including:

Responsible social networking – Secondary which has a lesson plan you can download

I’ve been talking about this myself for a while. Here’s a post from 2007, Facing up to Facebook where I wrote,

We need to be teaching kids about the realities of online social networks like facebook, and we need to be helping parents to do the same.

And one from 2008, Implications of Facebook Use. I used the story targeted in this post in my grade 11 classroom that year. I felt that since social networking is part of my teaching and such a huge part of my students’ lives it was essential that I teach about it.

But I didn’t find any explicit examples of teachers addressing the issue of how to balance our lives in an age of such public, 24 hour, social networking as we have now. Perhaps I didn’t look in the right places and perhaps such teaching is happening but isn’t being documented (such as in my example above, where I used something in my classroom but did not write about how I did so). I’d love to see some examples. I don’t mean examples of sites that offer tools to teach responsible and balanced social networking, but examples of teachers actually doing it in their classrooms.

Angela reflected: …it used to be that when social drama fired up at school, kids could find solace at home and experience a bit of a cooling-off period where they were away from the tension.

This begs me to ask, are we providing kids with access to tension-free environments in a time when the social sphere has no boundaries?

And finally, Angela writes: It’s hard to find conversations like these (that look at the positives and negatives of social networking) inside of my network though, and when I start them, most people disengage pretty quickly. Why do you think this is the case?

I think that the implications of the social networking debate is that it has created 2 camps – for or against. As educators and parents we may not understand how to balance our own thoughts and actions to do with social networking. We may also think ‘if I am for social networking, how can I speak out against it?’

Before we can teach about life-balance and social networking we need to know what it is and as long as we don’t allow it to participate in our conversations we won’t, will we?

Social Networking and Life-Balance, do we even know what that is? Responding to Angela Stockman

A long while ago (we’re talking 3 months people!), Angela left a meaty, thought-provoking comment on my post Why are we arguing that social networking does not have neg. effect on school & learning?. I apologize for not having acknowledged it, let alone responded to it, when it was made! The past few months have been a whirlwind of pre-baby/post-partum/new life changes :) At least Laura replied to some of what Angela said in her comment on the original post – thanks Laura!

The whole issue is a mammoth woolly elephant in the chat room, trolling in the background but not allowed to participate. Angela highlighted some key points that I’d like to further underline here.

She asked: Who is teaching kids about this? (social networking and mind/body/spirit balance)

Some people are thinking about this. If I do a quick Google search I find resources like:
Social networking sites: Finding a balance between their risks and benefits from Internet Solutions for Kids.

Minding MySpace: Balancing the benefits and risks of kids’ online social networks from California Schools Magazine

Generation text: Raising well-adjusted kids in an age of instant everything by Michael Osit

Parents: Instead of Banning Your Kids from Social Networks, Consider Teaching Responsible Usage from Managing Communities.

But none of these really address the issue of explicitly teaching kids life balance in an age of social networking. So I refined my search to responsible social networking lesson plan and found a few more things, including:

Responsible social networking – Secondary which has a lesson plan you can download

I’ve been talking about this myself for a while. Here’s a post from 2007, Facing up to Facebook where I wrote,

We need to be teaching kids about the realities of online social networks like facebook, and we need to be helping parents to do the same.

And one from 2008, Implications of Facebook Use. I used the story targeted in this post in my grade 11 classroom that year. I felt that since social networking is part of my teaching and such a huge part of my students’ lives it was essential that I teach about it.

But I didn’t find any explicit examples of teachers addressing the issue of how to balance our lives in an age of such public, 24 hour, social networking as we have now. Perhaps I didn’t look in the right places and perhaps such teaching is happening but isn’t being documented (such as in my example above, where I used something in my classroom but did not write about how I did so). I’d love to see some examples. I don’t mean examples of sites that offer tools to teach responsible and balanced social networking, but examples of teachers actually doing it in their classrooms.

Angela reflected: …it used to be that when social drama fired up at school, kids could find solace at home and experience a bit of a cooling-off period where they were away from the tension.

This begs me to ask, are we providing kids with access to tension-free environments in a time when the social sphere has no boundaries?

And finally, Angela writes: It’s hard to find conversations like these (that look at the positives and negatives of social networking) inside of my network though, and when I start them, most people disengage pretty quickly. Why do you think this is the case?

I think that the implications of the social networking debate is that it has created 2 camps – for or against. As educators and parents we may not understand how to balance our own thoughts and actions to do with social networking. We may also think ‘if I am for social networking, how can I speak out against it?’

Before we can teach about life-balance and social networking we need to know what it is and as long as we don’t allow it to participate in our conversations we won’t, will we?

Lessons for the classroom from a newborn

Hard to believe that 4 weeks have already passed since my little Jack was born.

My life has definitely changed and I know it’s only going to continue to do so. One thing that I am learning from this little guy is the importance of listening. He tells me what he needs through the cries he makes. He has no other way of letting me know he needs attention, whether it’s to be fed, changed, amused, or held close.

The children we work with who make a lot of ‘noise’ in our classrooms are telling us that they need attention. That they need us. They’re doing what they need to do, all that’s left is for us to listen and to provide.

Report Card Jargon and Teacher/Parent communication

Even though I was already on maternity leave 2 months before our first report cards (note that a ‘progress’ report was issued in November) were sent home I graded and wrote comments for my students based on the first part of the year and gave those marks/comments to the teacher who replaced me who could then use them as a baseline for her own assessments.

Last June was my first experience with writing report cards in Ontario and I was struck with how jargony we can get as teachers. In Ontario, Jargonese is mandated by the government who guides teachers in the language that is used on report cards in an effort to maintain consistency across schools and school boards. The idea is a good one – when a child moves from one school to another it is helpful if we can understand where the child is coming from so we can most effectively (and quickly) help him or her. The problem is that not only are the comments filled with educational jargon that parents need help with decoding (and to be honest, some teachers need help with getting what they really mean at times as well!) but the creation of the comments, as well as the process of inputting them into the report card system, is laborious to say the least.

In Quebec (at least at the secondary level. I haven’t taught at the elementary level in Quebec since before new report cards have been used) we were at the opposite pole – instead of teacher-written lengthy comments filled with jargon we could only use canned comments like satisfactory or absence hinders progress.

In both cases the effectiveness of parent/teacher communication is, er, limited, don’t you think? If reporting is meant to be a way of communicating with parents then what can we really say about teacher-parent communication? And if we want to argue that it isn’t… then why are we still using report cards? I’ve always found that the most effective form of communication between families and teachers is through conversation. And many teachers DO talk to parents on a regular basis so that everyone is on the same page.

I don’t know. It all seems to be extra work for the teacher when we could better spend our time planning, reflecting, thinking about active engagement with students. There’s GOT to be a better way!

What do you think?

A colleague pointed me towards this Xtranormal video on the ‘effectiveness’ of Report Card lingo for communicating with parents.

Why do we put so many layers between teachers and parents? sigh…