As a teacher, I am always looking for ways to make my lessons fun, exciting and motivating. I work and prepare, I prep and review. A ton of work and time go into preparing each lesson but it’s the lessons that are learned when you least expect it, that make being a teacher the most rewarding job. It’s the smile on the face of my student who proudly brings me his completed work without having to be asked. Or the special moment when one student touches the shoulder of his friend to let him know it’s his turn all on his own. It is the giggling and laughing from the students when they are dancing with each other or bouncing on the huge, blow up pillow and taking turns but don’t even realize it. Not only am I teaching lessons but there are many lessons my students have taught me that I have had to remind myself to use with my own children. For instance, they have taught me that it is far better to be patient with my own kids and give them time to do what I ask and most likely it will get done. I also must remind myself that I want my children to be independent, so I need to stop doing for them and have them do it themselves. My students have also taught me that it’s not always the words that are spoken, but the proud moments and huge smiles on their faces that speak the loudest. I know I am learning just as much from my students as they are learning from me. I often ask myself, “Who is the teacher here?” (Janean Mancini, Teacher, Celebrate the Children)
We all see things differently. We all have our own unique perspective. I am not on the backside of your eyeballs. I don’t know how you perceive the world nor do you know how I really perceive the world.
We all can be artists because we all have great individual perspective. But a successful artist, visual or otherwise, must communicate their perspective to others through their medium. So for me, that would be painting, sculpture, and drawing; for a musician, it is music; for a dancer, it’s a dance, movement, theatre, drama, production. And also literature is art. It’s something emotional, a perspective.
We need to get students to be able to communicate, non-verbally in my case, also through mediums, artistic mediums.
So this is the dilemma. Every art teacher has to go to school, you learn, you know what it is to be an artist, you get to class and the kids are all like, “teach me how to draw like you” and you sit there and it suddenly hits you like a ton of bricks… I can’t teach anybody how to be an artist.
Why? Because it’s praxis. It’s an internal process. It’s hand-eye coordination, ideation, motor planning and execution. So what do I do? What is my role? My role is to guide and facilitate. I am kind of like the art tour guide and since I like metaphors, and I like visual metaphors, I am your art tour guide. (Mary Beth Scheerer, Art Teacher, Celebrate the Children)
Many times we find ourselves questioning our life decisions or rushing time by counting the days until the weekend. By living in the past or the present it is easy to become wrapped up in a world of anxiety and doubt. As educators, parents, students, and people in general, we face many difficult decisions and challenges, but once in a while we have to step back, take a deep breath and smile for what every moment may bring.
In today’s world, it becomes so easy to get caught up and only focus on the outcome. This is where Greenspan reminds us that it is not the product that matters, but more so the process. The most memorable experiences we can give our children, are those that have indulged all of their senses, highlighted their passions and reached them in a way that can never be forgotten. Some may view this as work; however, it’s as simple as putting reality aside and making time to play. (Laura Baldwin & Antoinette Price, Lead Paraprofessionals, Celebrate the Children)
“This is the real secret of life -- to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” ― Alan Wilson Watts
Playing Soccer is the perfect time to focus on the foot/ankle complex in Physical Education. Along with good core strength, the feet are literally our foundation. They connect us with the earth and ground us energetically. They provide the gross physical structure for balance, along with the intricate vestibular system. What looks like an ordinary soccer warm-up for the hips by lifting the legs and tapping on the inside and outside of the feet, is really designed to bring students' awareness to this often ignored body part. Dribbling, the most fundamental skill in soccer, is practiced not only as a way to improve upon soccer skills, but to help with this body awareness referred to by Dr. Wachs in Thinking Goes To School, as the “Mental Map of the Body” and also known as Motor Planning. Each tap of the soccer ball to the foot provides important feedback to the brain about where the feet are in relationship to the body and to surrounding objects.
Additionally, there is a very important eye tracking (and subsequent eye-foot coordination) element happening here, which Dr. Wachs describes as a vital element in academic endeavors. As students dribble the ball from right foot to left and change direction they are developing “Coordination of Body's Axes” (Wachs) also known as “Laterality and Directionality”. Further, practice with turning the feet in and out can also help to overcome certain unwanted reflexes so that other movements become more purposeful (See Wieder & Wachs Visual/Spatial Portals to Thinking, Feeling and Movement). Finally, soccer practice (and sports/physical activity in general) in and of it self, provides students with a useful and appropriate outlet for physical expression, which is innately at the core of our being. Who knew? (Wendy Beffert, Physical Education Teacher, Celebrate the Children)
Students can experience difficulty transferring learned skills from one environment to another. Therefore, Community-Based Instruction is an integral part of our curriculum at CTC. Community-Based Instruction allows students to enhance their functional skills within a natural community setting, where such skills are used, in order to ease and enhance transitions to independent living, community participation, and employment.
A simple visit to a local store could become a great learning experience. Recently, my middle-aged students paid a visit to TJ Maxx. The assignment at TJ Maxx was to find items that would complete a "dress up" occasion outfit. This led to a class discussion about what occasions would require a suit, a tuxedo, or just a dressy shirt. This discussion led to another discussion about when it was appropriate for a boy or man to wear a tie. We considered which special occasions required a tie, and also which occasions required us to present our "best self" (possibly with a tie) such as a job interview.
Our discussion culminated in a tie-tying activity where each student was given a necktie and then given verbal and modeling instructions on tying a Windsor Knot. Each and every boy in the class showed complete interest in the activity and all students were determined to learn this skill. To remember this fun and useful activity, we took a class picture with each student wearing a tied tie.
Experience-based learning activities can be used at home and at school. It’s easy to create great learning experiences where the kids (and you) will have fun! (Kelly Reilly, Teacher, Celebrate the Children)
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.