Monday, February 17, 2014

Definition of Success/ Outdoor Education/ Preschools/ADHD

Definition of Success

Real Clear Books has a review here of The Triple Package, by Amy Chua and her husband, Jed Rebunfeld, which is a book that attempts to show why certain groups, esp. Asians, are more successful then other groups.  Here is their thesis:  "You are capable of great things because of the group to which you belong; but you, individually, are not good enough; so you need to control yourself, resist temptation, and prove yourself."  Here is my comment:

When did the definition of success become reaching a high economic status?  I like the sentiment attributed to Freud, i.e. the ability to love, work, and laugh.  My experience of 37 years teaching high school English leads me to believe that my pupils who had Freud’s qualities were much more likely to go on to lead rich, satisfying lives than the humorless, grade-grubbers I taught. 


Outdoor Education

Salon has a great editorial here on moving education outside.  The idea is that kids learn more, and are healthier and happier with a good part of their school day spent in the outdoors.  My comment:

I’m writing as someone who has taught high school English for 37 years. 

I completely agree that kids need to be outside more.  But I think this is symptomatic of a deeper problem in education, and in society in general.  We are too overprotective of our children.  I am sure that if this ever became a serious proposal, the reaction of most educators would first and foremost be that they are too afraid kids will be uncontrollable outside.

In English, instead of trying to open the world of books to kids, we insist they read certain titles that we think are good for them.  Especially with the Common Core now, all subjects are tightly controlled.  Even with sports, kids rarely play pick-up games that they control.  No, it’s all league play now, with adults as coaches.

I think we need to relax and let kids go—outside to play unsupervised, and inside to have more control over what they are learning, and how they learn it.

 I was touched by the comment of Ronald Pottol, who said, “But anything to break us out of the current system. My kids are miserable in it.”

That can’t be good.  I really like this idea of moving education outside.  It’s a great start.



The New York Times Motherlode column has an article here about various kinds of progressive preschools.  Most of the comments are thoughtful and interesting.  And most people are in agreement that the school should be warm and friendly.  Kids should learn to share.  All of the usual things.  My comment:

Yes, yes:  loving, nurturing environment, teaching kids to share, etc. etc.  All great.  I'll just add that perhaps most important is a preschool situation that works best for your family, as far as location, cost,  and schedule. 

If both parents are working, it will relieve a lot of stress if the preschool has extended hours and few holidays.  Life will be easier if the school is close by, and if the administrators are flexible about a parent's changing schedule. 

Anything that helps parents to be as relaxed and stress-free as possible will make for a happier, more supportive family life--and isn't that the most important thing?


The New York Times has an editorial discussion the value of medication in treating children with ADHD here.  Apparently it has become a controversial issue.  Here's my take:

As a high school teacher for 37 years, I have had many kids in my classroom with an ADHD diagnosis.  I don't think there is much real doubt that medication makes a significant difference in the lives of many of these teenagers.

However, I also think schools could do more to create environments where ADHD students--and all students, really--could function better.   These are techniques I found that helped:  giving students choice over when and how they did assignments; making sure the work they were assigned was as high-interest as possible; always allowing kids to use the restroom, get a drink, etc. whenever they asked, as I found often kids just need to give themselves a little break.

I remember one student I had who needed to be off of his medication for a couple of weeks for medical reasons.  I made sure the book he was reading for my class was one he loved and had chosen, and also gave him a signed, blank hall pass and told him to fill it out and take a walk when he couldn't sit still.  We got through the "no-meds" period just fine.  He didn't even use the hall pass much but just knowing that he could, I think, enabled him to stay.

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