On learning

My young son learns by watching, by listening, by mimicking, by testing.

He learns how to eat by watching me eat and then eating.
He learns how to speak by hearing me speak and then speaking.
He learns how to stand by standing. And I’m sure it’s because he sees us moving around that he wants to as well.

Brought down to this simplicity, I am reminded of how important I am as a model in the learning process.

And how important it is to let students do.

Questions about tech and children

I like to use technology in education. But that isn’t any different than how I like to use technology in other aspects of my life. It’s a part of my life – in the classroom and out of it – and it is there to enhance whatever it is I want to achieve. But I make that choice, whether to use it or not.

The other day I was sitting in the waiting room at my chiropractor’s office, Dr. Paul Poirier at Earthway Family Chiropractic in Cornwall. As always, Jack was with me in his car seat. I was randomly flipping through a magazine and talking to a lovely lady sitting next to me when I noticed that Jack was craning his neck to see something. He was watching a slide show about back and foot problems that was showing on a tv in the waiting room. He’s 5 months old and I couldn’t break his gaze. Finally I got down right in front of him and showed him the magazine, which he did get very interested in, but it took a while to tear his attention away from the screen.

When I was breastfeeding every 20 minutes or so for the first 3 months of his life I spent a lot of time ensconced on the couch watching movies (had no actual tv plan at the time) and playing around online (google search – is it normal for a 3 month old to want to eat every 20 minutes? Is green poop normal?…) on the iPad I won through Etsy last summer. Once in a while I’d show a slideshow of black and white images that he’d try to touch and I’d giggle as he changed the size or image or whatever as he accidentally interacted with the iPad screen.

My son will obviously grow up with tech as a solid part of his life – it is a solid part of society and plays a large roll in his mother’s life. Even his father, self-proclaimed Luddite, just purchased a smart phone and is getting all geeky with his talk of megabytes and kilobytes per second and all.

The thing is, I hated watching him stare at that tv screen in the waiting room. I could understand that the flashing screen with its bright colours was fun to look at but I hated how hard it was to break his gaze. And I hated how that gaze seemed so empty.

The question is… (yes, finally getting to the point) … how do I (as a mother at home, as a teacher in the classroom) ensure that technology is used purposefully and not just something to stare at, to bemuse? I think the answer lies in modelling purposeful use of technology and sometimes the entertainment factor IS the purpose. But my mind keeps flipping back to his vacant gaze at that tv screen…

Another lesson from baby Jack about trying to do too much

Remember my post about how much I love tutoring? Well, I do love it. The thing is, I realized that I wasn’t ready to be away from Jack for even a few hours. I quickly began to resent the preparation, not the tutoring prep, that’s fun :) but the having to pump milk, driving him out to my parents, and then the tired drive home in the evening. And all the while just wanting to hang on the couch with my Jacklet because late afternoon is our best nap time :) So I’ve decided to enjoy my time off with Jack until I really have to go back to work.

Have I told y’all that I love him so very much? Each day he becomes more of who he is. Yesterday he was crying crying crying then noticed his foot and calmed himself down by holding it and looking at it. There’s got to be a lesson from baby Jack in there. Something about stopping to smell the roses and enjoying what we have around us. Hmmm…I can also apply that to deciding not to tutor after all, can’t I?

On honey versus vinegar: A lesson from Jack to take to the classroom

A lesson from my student teaching days whispered to me through the wind and the rain this morning. Sheila, my supervising teacher, taught me to attract bees with honey, not vinegar. Jack taught it to me again a few hours ago.

I am in a bad way this morning. My neck went out Saturday night as I fed Jack in bed every 30 minutes or so. We ended up falling asleep in awkward positions on and off all night. When my neck goes out, my lower back does as well. At the chiropractor’s office yesterday she managed to get the neck – was actually a rib that was out of place – back in order but my lower back was only made worse. The pain progressed with the day and this morning I can hardly move. Let’s add that to yes, another morning of constant feeding (Yippee for the 3 month growth spurt! Love it!). I was actually stuck in the bathroom, couldn’t stand up, Jack was screaming, really screaming, from the bedroom and that is what I felt like doing too. Scream scream scream. Instead, I started to sing.

You Are My Sunshine
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away

I kept repeating that verse and then making up other lyrics with Jack’s name until I could get myself up and make my way to Jack and yes, even bend over to pick him up (at that point the singing got really loud as I did that instead of scream with pain!). The result –> Jack stopped his screaming pretty much as I started to sing. The singing was a release for my pain and frustration, a salve to his frustration and hunger until I managed to get to him.

In the classroom, as in my home, there is always an alternative to a harsh yell of frustration. If I have to sing in the classroom instead of yell, I will. Singing is much sweeter than the acidic vinegar of anger.

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.