Category Archives: school

Time Out for CEOs (Child Empowerment Organizers) and EPDs (Emergency Play Dates)!

 

CEOs - Take Two
The CEOs at their EPD (Emergency Play Date)…

A group of six-year-olds taught me the about power of networking this weekend.

After work on Friday, I get a text from my wife asking if I had the phone number of one of the parents in Malachy’s class. I asked her why she needed it and she texted back, “Wondering if they are around tomorrow or Sunday — the kids planned a secret meeting – LOL.”  I couldn’t wait for her and Malachy to come back from Karate class to explain what was going on.  They got a ride back from one of Malachy’s Karate classmates, who is also in his class at school and part of the secret meeting club.  Shien tells me that his classmate’s mom told her during Karate class, that her daughter told her after school that she HAD TO pick up 3 other friends tomorrow and drive them to our place, so they could have their secret meeting.  A designated chauffeur!  Shien immediately started texting and e-mailing the other parents to see if they knew or heard anything about it.  I’ve never heard of these Emergency Play Dates (EPDs) disguised as secret meetings before, and I was intrigued.  The kids were so certain that it was going to happen, and now, it looked like it was going to happen!

Of course, when I first asked Malachy, he says, “I can’t tell you what it’s about Dad.  It’s a SECRET meeting.”  I could tell that the wheels immediately started spinning in his head after he said that out loud to me, because we agreed that there were to be no kept secrets from Mom and Dad… EVER.  He paused and said, “You know, Dad.  I told you about it before.  It’s about the Fighting Club.”  Ah yes, the Fighting Club or the Fight Stoppers Club.  He and a few other of his classmates were tired of the play fighting and conflicts that occurred during recess.  Sometimes, they were the ones being bothered while playing together, so they started helping each other out and would try to help others in need of mediation or consolation, too.  Amazing.

So, after a few more texts and e-mails, it was all arranged.  1PM Saturday at our playground.  They met… and they PLAYED for 3 hours!  I stopped by the playground to check up on them, and there they were with all their socks and shoes off, one on each swing. They said they were trying to climb the rainbow sprinkler poles, and it was easier without shoes.  It was about an hour into their play, and I asked if they had their meeting yet.  Not yet.  I asked the other parents about it, and they were telling me how they would always tell them about the seriousness and importance of these meetings after school sometimes (i.e., playing in the playground), and they would talk about needing to meet during the “meeting,” but they never really had “the meeting!”  When the parents said it was time to go, they would then say, “But we haven’t had our meeting yet!”  GENIUS.  Our kids often hear about us adults telling them that we have have to go to meetings.  They know we need to talk through things and discuss things.  They get it.  Our kids sense the importance of them, and the message is very clear from them, too.  Kids play is IMPORTANT.  Kids need to meet.  Kids need to connect.  Kids need to network.  Kids need time to PLAY, and it’s SO much better without the disruptions.  It’s so awesome that they have created this safe place and group for themselves.

When Shien and Malachy came back three hours later, I asked how the meeting went, and he said it was good.  I asked him if they came to any big decisions or ideas during their meeting, and he said, “Yes.  We decided to create BIG obstacles, so the people trying to bother us won’t be able to get to us.”  I wanted to ask how they were planning on doing that, but I guess that’ll take another secret meeting or two in the future.  They do all the organizing, and we the adults are there to… 😉

Time Out For A Voice

MB900442068 (1)Last week, I wrote a guest blog piece, Is The Common Core Sending Children Over an Educational Cliff?, on Lisa Nielsen’s site, The Innovative Educator.  I couldn’t believe that it became the “hottest” post of the week on Lisa’s site, and I was so grateful to her because she’s given people like me a platform to have a voice as an aspiring school leader, as an educator, and/or as a parent.  In the piece, I wrote about my concerns about high-stakes standardized testing hurting our children and their education.  In writing the piece, I also knew there would be people who would agree and people who would disagree with my views.  After all, that’s what happens when you “put yourself out there” and have a real live audience, right?

Checking my e-mail this morning, I learned about a New York Post article that basically attacks and slams Lisa for her views on standardized testing and advocating for parents to opt their children out from these tests (if they choose to).  The URL name of the article is offensive (as it looks like they changed the original title).  Instead of presenting an opposing argument about how these standardized tests might be actually good for our children, the reporters go on to denigrate her position, post her salary, and attempt to shame her for having differing views from her “bosses.”  Yet, they question Lisa’s seriousness.

As the Director of Digital Literacy and Citizenship, Lisa is demonstrating the power of social media and digital literacy and citizenship to educators, parents, and students and educating them about the power of exercising one’s voice.  As we know, it can be empowering, but as we learn from this, there are also those who will attack you when they disagree with you or just try to hurt you, use you, or embarrass you for one’s own gain.  So, when such ugly “articles” are written up, we really have to question the authors’ purpose in writing up the piece, and the message they are trying to convey.  Who is the real “villain” here?  The person passionately fighting for choice and standing up for parents and students when it comes to high stakes testing and questioning what’s best for children or the person (people) resorting to name calling and ranting in order to bait readers?  No high-stakes standardized test is going to teach these real life lessons which our kids so desperately need to learn as participatory citizens.

 

 

Time Out for Justice

News came out today that 8 U.S. Army men have been charged with the death of Army Private Danny Chen. I had the honor of teaching Danny in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten.

Today, Justice lays down her sword, puts down her scale, takes off her blindfold, and weeps. She can’t bring back Danny to his friends and family. She can’t take back all the abuse Danny endured from those who were supposed to be on his side. Peace, Hope, and Love try to comfort her, as Anger knocks on her door. Joy is far far away…

They say Danny is in a better place… Why couldn’t that place have been here?

When Danny was in Kindergarten
My First Kindergarten Class - 1997
Joy

Time Out for After School Thoughts…

A Childhood...
GOT PLAYTIME?

I was the first to line up in front of Malachy’s school to make sure he got a spot for an after school program, the day after Labor Day (before the sun was up and in the rain).   After only one day (plus an orientation), we quit the program. It would have been FREE (thanks to Uncle Sam) every day from 3:00PM to 5:30PM. How could we give up such a coveted spot?

Just looking at Shien during the orientation pretty much made up my mind.  There was so much talk about getting “points” for good behavior or getting suspended for bad behavior.  For snack, they got some juice and graham crackers after school.  (Sugar and more sugar.)  And no, you couldn’t supplement with your own snack because all the other kids would want some.  Your child had to have a book at all times because there would be many times when he would have to wait for the next transition.  (Before the orientation started [right after the program ended], all the kindergartners and first graders were sent to another table and told to be quiet.  That didn’t happen.)  We had to sign papers and were told to go over the rules with our children when we got home, because they also had to sign the “contract” tomorrow.

Broken...

The thing was, we wouldn’t be able to pick him up early EVER. To be fair, you’re given three days out of the 180+, if you had a valid reason. I understood that it would be disruptive to pick your child up early, but to not have that luxury of picking him up when we wanted to or needed to was too much. Just today, seeing him break down much more easily than usual showed me how tired he was and how long a day it was for him. Multiply that by 180+ days, and I saw little good that could come out of that.

KID WANTED

I know that for so many parents, it’s not a choice, and that’s what greatly disturbed me today. Back in the day, my mom picked my sister and I up every day after school. We got to go home and have whatever snack my mom prepared. We did homework at HOME. We got downtime at home.  After we were done with our homework, we got to play, either inside or outside.

For too many kids and parents, it’s so so hard now. Some kids as early as age 3 are going to school from 8:30am to 5:30pm! That doesn’t even include travel time! It’s no wonder so many of our kids are burnt out and bouncing off the walls. What has happened to play time? What has happened to childhood? Our children deserve better…

As for the next child in line on the wait list that takes Malachy’s spot, I really really hope it works out for that child and the family…

Time Out for School

At School
Excited at School

Most of the time, when we ask Malachy how his day was, he’ll respond, “It was great!” I love that attitude, and he has inspired me to be more optimistic about everything. He reminds me to have a positive attitude and to really see all the GREAT there is all around. Hopefully, we can both keep it up! 🙂

He’s so excited about Kindergarten, and so are we.  He’s had two awesome years in pre-kindergarten, and we will really miss his old school.  How much he’s grown these last two years!

His new school looks like it also offers a great program with a fantastic philosophy of learning.  They call it “play-based learning.”  Sounds like learning will be fun!   🙂  That’s how it should be.  Plus, he’s going to alternate days in terms of learning another language.  One full day of English with one teacher and then one full day of Mandarin with another teacher.  We’ll see how that goes.

Life is GREAT! 😉

Feeling Great!
Life is GREAT!

Time Out for Math!

'Tis Math...

For some reason or another, Malachy has started to really get into numbers again.  Oddly enough, he’s also been loving the idea of winning.  We had tried one lesson with the abacus last summer, but because I wasn’t comfortable enough with teaching and practicing with him, we let it slide… 🙁

So, how did I feed his latest “ambition?”  I found out through Twitter that McGraw-Hill was giving away their Math apps for free from April 13-17 via iTunes, because it was the week of the National Council of Teachers Mathematics conference.  One of the apps he really liked was the Everyday Mathematics Baseball Multiplication 1-6 Facts: Multiplication game.  Of course, I had to immediately tell him that multiplying was not the same as addition, but in order to solve the problems, he could use his adding skills (using his fingers 😉 ) to figure out the problems.  So, when he saw 3×2, I told him it meant 3 groups of 2 or 2 groups of 3.  He would then use his fingers, starting with 2 fingers, adding 2, and adding 2 more, or starting with 3 fingers and adding another group of 3 fingers.  “Is it 6?” he asked.  “Yup,” I would reply.  I told him anything times two just meant doubling the number.  Of course, when it was 6×8, I spared him from using his fingers and toes and just gave him the answer… for now. 😉

It was amazing watching him trying to figure out 3×4, or 4×4, etc.  Somehow, he taught himself that when he went over 10 fingers, putting the additional fingers would give him 11, 12, etc.  Then again, it might have been my brother-in-law, his fiancee, Shien, my dad, or my in-laws.  I’m going to have to verify with them.  All I know is that it wasn’t me! 😉  The more he played and practice, the easier it became for him, although he would try to verify with me every time before submitting his answer, except for the ones he knew for sure.

Tonight, I decided to do a little experiment, just to see what he would do.  It was one of those, “I WISH I RECORDED IT!” moments, right after.  Arghhh.  I divided the paper in half, and wrote the doubles on one side and the two-times tables on the other side.  Then, I handed it over to him and asked him to complete it.  As he started it, he said things like, “Dad, both sides are the same!” and “Dad, it’s just counting by 2s!”  In no time, he completed both sides, sometimes going across, and sometimes going down.  When he got to 7+7, he thought a moment, and then realized it would be just 2 more from 6+6.  WOW!!!  I don’t think I figured this stuff out until the third grade, because that’s when I was first introduced to Multiplication!  That’s THE TRUTH!

This just proves that if we take our kids from where they’re at, and let them play and practice with things they are passionate and excited about, the sky is the limit. 😉

Time Out for “Hurtness”

ouch...

It’s amazing when kids invent their own words. Malachy’s latest new word… “hurtness.” He’ll say, “Mommy, please make the hurtness go away,” or “Daddy, how can we make the hurtness go away?” 😉

Well, this Friday, we had to deal with some “hurtness.” It was a grueling and mentally exhausting week because we were waiting all week to see if Malachy made it into one of the city’s more “prestigious” elementary schools. It was crazy how many dreams I had about it. He had made it to the top 290 from around 1400 kids, but didn’t make it into their top 50. For me, the biggest “carrot” for this school, was that if you got in, you didn’t have to worry about having to make any decisions or worry about any city/state exams from elementary to high school! We wouldn’t have had to worry in that department until college! We wouldn’t have had to deal with any “hurtness” in terms of having to try to make it into a “good” middle school or “good” high school. That makes me cringe, because shouldn’t ALL schools be “GOOD?”

We are in a society where we can start “prepping” our kids in one way or another if we want to increase their chances of getting into a “good” school or a “gifted” class in the city. How is it that we have such a range in terms of public education (starting at age 4 or 5) in a democratic society? Everyone is entitled to a good education but not everyone gets one. We are already separating and dividing our students at age 4! Is there not enough good education to go around for every child in America? What is up with that?

The one thing I have to remember is that we as parents are our children’s first teachers, and we can continue to play a key role in their education. No matter where Malachy winds up, we have to remember to stay involved and know that there is a lot of learning and teaching that comes from us. 🙂

So, it’s more wait and see for now…

Time Out for IQ and High Tea!

High Tea!

Another busy Saturday for Malachy this past weekend. We have been anxiously awaiting his big IQ test. In order to get into some schools in the city, your child has to take an IQ test and score at a certain percentile in order to get to the interview round. So, basically, for this particular school, out of about 1800 children who apply, about 300 or so make it to the interview round, and from there, about 50 students are selected! It’s definitely like striking lottery, along with lots of hope and prayer! If accepted, we wouldn’t have to think about applying to middle school or high school. How awesome that would be! 😉 In the meantime, we just applied for the NYC Gifted and Talented program, too, and that happens sometime in January. Wishin’ it wasn’t so complicated to get into Kindergarten!

We psyched him up for this day by calling it an IQ Fun Day, telling him he would get to spend some time with a teacher and show her what he knows and what is going on in his brain. 😉 We told him he’d be answering a bunch of fun questions and to just to do his best. And AFTER, he would get to go to High Tea with Mommy at Alice’s Tea Cup! Yay! 😉

Shien has always loved HIgh Tea. She took me once, and it was pretty neat. Definitely a bit on the chichi side. 😉 I KNEW Malachy would LOVE it. We were often reminded of it because Malachy really enjoyed this book series that we’ve been reading to him, and he often reads them on his own, too. The High Rise Private Eyes series by Cynthia Rylant is filled with charm and wit and humor, starring Jack Jones and Bunny Brown. Each mystery book has 4 Chapters – an intro, the case, the clues, and the solution. One of the books, The Case of the Desperate Duck, took place in a Tea Room and talked about High Tea. This really piqued Malachy’s interest, as it mentioned fancy tablecloths, fancy teapots, sugar cubes, fancy cookies, and fancy sandwiches. YUMMY! So, there was no doubt in our minds that he was ready for High Tea with Mommy. 🙂 Shien told me how he insisted on having cucumber sandwiches. He also saved some of his leftovers with me because he knew how much I loved coconut! I got to try some of the sandwiches and the coconut cookies that they brought home. 😉 Shien also told me about how he loved talking to the people eating next to them. They were celebrating a child’s birthday. Afterwards, he quickly took notes on his experience. 😉 His constant writing has inspired me to keep writing! Unbelievable! 🙂

So, how did he do on the IQ test? It’s hard asking any child after taking a test how it was and what was asked. I attended a technology conference this Saturday, and I thought it would be better for Shien to take him to it. 😉 Shien said he was really good in that he seemed ready to go and went into the test with the psychologist without even looking back at her. She said he was all business. Mr. Poker Face. 😉 However he does, we are proud. As with any parent, we just want him getting the best education and most of all, to enjoy his learning. For now, it’s just wait and see…

Time Out for Social Homework!

This past Saturday, I attended the first Tri-State Education Technology Conference (TSETC 2010) at New Milford High School in New Jersey. I found out about it from Lisa Nielsen, who did an awesome job as the Keynote Speaker. She is the author of The Innovative Educator blog and also the Technology Innovation Manager for the Office of Educational Technology at the New York City Department of Education. The conference was great. Most of the workshops demonstrated the “power of technology” in the classrooms and all the wonderful ways that technology can be integrated into instruction and professional development. There was also a whole lot of buzz about Social Media and its role in education. It’s all about connecting, collaborating, creating, and communicating with others. It made me think a whole lot about technology and its role in education.

Technology is often said to be a tool. Whereas most tools have a clear and defined purpose, technology doesn’t. I could be playing video games, and I could say I’m using technology, but is it meaningful? In education, we have to keep asking ourselves if technology is being used in a meaningful way. I feel when we think of technology in education, we picture the computers, interactive whiteboards, projectors, and all the other tech gadgets that are used in schools. Yet, it’s much harder for us to explain exactly HOW the technology is being used or WHY it is being used in classrooms.

This week, like any other week, Malachy got his Pre-K homework. It’s usually given on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays and due the following school day. This Monday, he was given a more unique assignment that’s due at the end of the week. It’s a worksheet from Scholastic, but instead of the typical circling, coloring, cutting, or filling out something, the assignment was to go on a Nature Walk. The instructions were to, “Go for a walk outside. Look for the things on this page. If you see one, circle it. It’s OK if you don’t see them all!” The rain finally gave way, so today, we were able to do the assignment! 😉

At first, it was just Malachy and me. I brought a camera because I wanted to document our homework and make it even more interactive. (Extra credit! 😉 ) After a few minutes of looking around and searching for the objects, two other kids asked what we were doing and asked if they could help us! They wanted in on this homework and wanted to help Malachy complete his assignment. So, we all walked around our building’s playground/park area, looking for the items. We were pretty sure we wouldn’t find a snail. Also, since there were no pine trees or oak trees in the area, the pine cone and acorn weren’t going to happen either. (Malachy and I did find an acorn later on. Or was it? 😉 ) What an awesome assignment this turned out to be!

Malachy’s homework “forced” us to interact with nature and with each other. We didn’t plan on getting outside help (networking!), but how cool was that to have others join in on the fun? This was a light bulb moment for me. To me, this assignment was like a microcosm of Social Media! It involved making connections, communicating, collaborating, and creating a meaningful experience.

It got me thinking about homework and technology and education. Homework shouldn’t be just between the student and a book or piece of paper. Technology shouldn’t be just between the user and a computer or other tech gadget. The goal should be about interacting and connecting with the outside world and with others and creating a meaningful experience. We should have more “nature walk” assignments for students, parents, and communities to work on together. When we learn together, we connect. Social Homework! 😉 That’s what it’s all about! 😉

This is part of the Tri-State Education Technology Conference (TSETC) Blogger Café Contest sponsored by edSocialMedia. TSETC is brought to you by Schoology.