Monday, November 19, 2012

Newbery 2013 Book Nominations

After enjoying the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, I realized it was a choice for the 2013 Newbery Book Awards.  

Some libraries are inviting parents and students into the 2013 discussion.  View the complete list of books for the Newbery 2013 Award found at the KCLS website.  The King County Library System near Seattle, Washington, is encouraging people to see the list of choice books, read at least 4/6 top suggestions, and then vote for your book of choice to receive the 2013 honor.  My son and I decided to read the six books and vote for our Newbery 2013 choice between December 2, 2012 and January 22, 2013.  Here is what we discovered:

1.  Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  A superbly written book on Kindness and the choices we make every day.  This is a book you will not be able to put down.  Although its reading level is Grade 3 and up, the lessons inside apply to all ages!  This book makes us stop and look at ourselves; evaluate where we are on the scales of kindness to everyone we meet.  As Palacio quotes The Little White Bird by J.M. Barrie, "Shall we make a new rule of life...always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?"  Because to be kind, is a choice. This book is superb to read independently or as a Read Aloud to your family or students.

Please read my reflections on this amazing book from my previous post.

2.  The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.  "Kindness and its ability to change lives shines through...this book."- Kathi Appelt, author of The Underneath.  This is a touching story told in First Person Voice of a Gorilla named Ivan who lives in a small Mall Animal Show.  Ivan remembers his youth in the wild Rainforest of Central Africa.  "Growing up gorilla is just like any other kind of growing up. You make mistakes. You play. You learn. You do it all over again."  He remembers his father teaching him "how to be kind, be strong, be loyal."  Read this book to emphasize the Virtues of Kindness, Respect, Gentleness and Trust.  It may be used to support and inquire about PYP Learner Profiles Caring, Principled, Open-Minded and Communicators. PYP Attitudes to connect with may include Empathy, Curiosity, Integrity and Respect.  This story may be used as a literature link to the Unit of Inquiry: Sharing the Planet or How We Express Ourselves.  It's reading level is for ages 8-10, but all ages will enjoy the determination and kindness demonstrated in this book!

3. Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage "...dreams are shape-shifters.  Get close, and before you can lay a hand on them, they change." What a lovely book about community, family and where you belong. Mix it in with hurricanes, trying to find a lost mother and solve a murder mystery, and you've got a story for middle grade students.  Read this book to emphasize the Virtues of Responsibility, Caring, Loyalty, and Reliability.  It may be used to support and inquire about PYP Learner Profiles Inquirers, Risk-Taker, Reflective and Thinker.  PYP Attitudes to connect with may include Commitment, Curiosity, Empathy and Independence.  This Newbery 2013 nominated book may be used as a literature link to the Unit of Inquiry Who We Are or Where We Are in Place and Time.  It's reading levels is for Grades 5 and up.

4.  Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead  "It's normal to be a little scared..."  This is a book about family, friendships and dealing with things that scare us.  Read this book to emphasize the Virtues of Friendliness, Confidence, Forgiveness and Truthfulness.  It may be used to support and inquire about PYP Learner Profiles Risk-Taker, Thinker, Principled and Open-Minded. PYP Attitudes to connect with may include Confidence, Integrity, Empathy and Curiosity.  This Newbery 2013 nominated book may be used as a literature link to the Unit of Inquiry Who We Are or How We Express Ourselves.  It's reading level is Grade 4 and up.  As with any of these titles, they make terrific Read Aloud books for your family or class.

This post reflects on 4 of the 6 books my son and I are reading before we cast our vote for the next Newbery 2013 Award.  I will keep blogging about the last 2 nominated books suggested by the King County Library System, and other Newbery 2013 nominated books in posts to come. We'd love to hear what you think of these books as you read and share them too.  Happy reading!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wonder- "What is Essential is Invisible to the Eye"

"We carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness." Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wow.  That is the first word that ran through my mind as I started reading the book Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  I love it when you see or read something that makes you stop in your tracks and reflect.  This book absolutely does this; making one stop and ponder on choosing to be kind and often the price that one may pay in this decision.  There's a knowing deep within you, that to #ChooseKind, is the right choice to make.  What vignettes in your own life demonstrate a time when you purposefully decided to choose kindness?

Published in February 2012, I first heard of this book from International UWCSEA Teacher @davecaleb on Twitter, who was encouraging others to read it.  It is currently on the voting list for Newbery Awards 2013.  The King County Library System near Seattle, Washington, is encouraging people to view the list of choice books, read at least 4/6, and then vote for your book of choice to receive the 2013 honor.  You can view all the book entries for the Newbery 2013, here.

Wonder is an excellent book to emphasize the Virtues of Kindness, Caring, Respect and Assertiveness; the PYP Learner Profiles: Caring, Principled, Open-minded and Risk-taker; and the PYP Learner Attitudes: Respect, Integrity and Empathy. 

To get you and your students started, you can find Wonder discussion questions posed by the author here.  Have your students also come up with their own "I wonder.." questions about the book and how different characters demonstrated behaviors/actions of caring or uncaring, respect or lack of respect, integrity or lack of integrity.  How do you and your students judge a "book by it's cover" or a "person by the way they look"?  Is there an example you can think of?

This book makes us stop and look at ourselves; evaluate where we are on the scales of kindness to everyone we meet.  As Palacio quotes The Little White Bird by J.M. Barrie, "Shall we make a new rule of life...always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?"  Because to be kind, is a choice.

I think Antoine de Saint-Exupery stated it best in The Little Prince, "Now here is my secret.  It is very simple.  It is only with one's heart that one can see clearly.  What is essential is invisible to the eye."

Enjoy the wonder in this wonderful book! 


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Using Your Voice- Transforming from Me to We

"Never doubt for a moment that you can change the world!"  Two brothers, Craig and Marc Kielburger started a movement to Free the Children.  Their work has expanded into humanitarian work and promoting the rights of children around the world.  They have started a Me to We youth empowerment organization which encourages our young to volunteer and be active in making our world a better place.  "Living we means walking softly, traveling lightly and making a difference in all your actions—small or large."

Recently, my middle school daughter has had the opportunity to apply for one of her school's spots to participate in the 2012 We Day Youth Conference.  The entire school is excited about the possibility to attend such an event.  This has only served to enthuse our youth to volunteer, serve others and use their voice to make a difference in our world!  Here is a video showing what We Day is about:

Educators around the world are using their voices to promote Freedom.

@intrepidteacher  posted a blog on "Azadi Means Freedom" about stepping out and using our free voices to help others.  This jumps out at me: "If you were living in an oppressed society, wouldn't you want the people who have freedom to use it for you?" Yes. Any person who lives freely- free to walk outside and feel the sun on your face when you want, free to write, read, study, practice your faith, go to school, learn, make mistakes... lives a privileged life; one which many in the world can only dream of living. We can take that freedom for granted and begin to focus inward on ourselves, maybe even grumble about things that are not perfect or didn't turn out just the way we wanted it to. Time for some perspective. It's time to use our voices for those who are restrained from speaking about their truths, their realities.

For the month of December 2011, @coolcatteacher also spoke out on an issue in our world in her blog: #endslavery, which started a movement of blog postings/tweets and people using their "free voice" for those held in slavery in the world.   I added my voice to the blog movement.  She posted again in April 2012, speaking out against slavery.  She knew we wouldn't "end" the issue of human trafficking, but the one power we do have is the freedom to use our voice to shake up the status quo.

Mother Teresa said, "If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out." You've got to use your voice.

And Margaret Mead stated, "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." You've got to take action.

Can we step out of our comfort zone and into our free voice? Because at the end of the day, when we do speak out or take action however big or small, we are changing the world into a better place. One word, one action at a time. I am excited to hear about the We Day experience from the students at my daughter's school at the end of October 2012!

How does your school encourage students and teachers to use their voices to make a difference in our small world?

Friday, February 17, 2012

At the end of the day...

My Education Philosophy
“The object and reward of learning is continued capacity for growth.” –Dewey, 1916

It is this reward of continued learning and growth that I seek for my students and myself.  John Dewey was a promoter of thinking, reflection, community and interaction. As an educator, it is my privilege to ensure students know how to continue in their journey as life-long learners.  I feel strongly that students who are involved in their education and are able to evaluate, reflect and grow from real life experiences, become better human beings with a richer life experience.

Dr. Noam Chomsky talks about the purpose of education: to help children learn to learn on their own.  He elaborates to include that our "higher goal in life is to inquire, create, search bridges of the past and internalize parts that are significant" to individuals. I write about this in my previous blog and there is a video of Dr. Chomsky to view. These are the foundation to my educational philosophy.

In order to achieve the above growth and continuous learning, I need to come from a place of service.  I believe that no matter what you do in life, whether you are a teacher, parent, business person, an engineer, carpenter, student, ... everyone, if you come from a place of service and helping others; you will achieve success.

At the end of the day, I ask myself: "Did I make the world a better place today?  What did I do to help others?"  When I answer those questions I see continuous learning and growth.  I see success.  What do you do to promote learning and growth?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Meaningful Education Creates Better Human Beings

Image posted by
Recently, I completed a course on Administrating Level B Tests for Learning Disabilities with Dr. Carter of U.B.C.  It was an excellent course!  Dr. Carter is passionate about meaningful education and careful testing that is done with precision so as to help a child, not hurt them.  Discussion then leaked into what is done at the classroom level as well. He stated that all data we gather for assessment must be a valid reflection of what we teach.  We must be thoughtful about our assignments, our projects, what we put into portfolios and in what we test. Valid tests are those that test what you teach, with no surprises and study guidance is given (it's not a guessing game). Testing is not about tricking our students.  Then you have a reliable test.  And further to that, testing is only one part of Educating a child.  You can test a child, but ask if they took something away from the learning experience?  Have they increased their understanding of the world around them, asked questions, made meaningful connections and discoveries?

Then I came across a video of Noam Chomsky talking about the Purpose of Education posted via @dcannell on Twitter. Thank you Darren Cannell. Wonderful!  Dr. Chomsky talks about the purpose of education is to help children determine how to learn on their own.  That our "higher goal in life is to inquire, create, search bridges of the past and internalize parts that are significant" to individuals.

When we use tools that are available to us (e.g. technology, testing) in this education quest, we must be able to question and evaluate if what we are learning and using are significant. Question: "Are we on the right path?"  In the end, are the tools and methods we are using in Education creating better human beings?  If yes, then we have progress!  What do you think?

Enjoy this video of Dr. Chomsky below:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Embrace Change, Thoughtfully

"Change give up what we become what we could be."  ( unknown) 
Our world is moving at a fast pace where new technology is a constant instead of a novelty.  Some are hesitant to embrace technology and changes offered to students in education, citing concerns stated in books like The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains by Nicholas Carr.  Concerns definitely to ponder as we thoughtfully embrace our changing and fast paced world. In his book, Carr builds a case for the printed book as promoter of deep and creative thought, while the speed and efficiency of the internet promotes production and consumption; the later encouraging loss of capacity for concentration, contemplation and reflection. For myself as an educator and parent, initially in the 1990s, I was hesitant to learn technology with the non-stop demands on a teacher.  I felt this was "adding" to my already full day. 

Now though, I'm embracing technology for my students as fast as I can learn it, seeing it as an engaging way to capture their interests.  This is partly in response to keeping up to my own children and students who seem automatically comfortable with exploring and using technology, and partly my own discovery of learning how to do things more efficiently.  I'm finding learning new technology fun! I like the process of publishing a newsletter, blog, word document, brochure, writing an e-book, or making a video or stop-motion movie. These are just a few options of how students can creatively demonstrate what they are learning and produce a product they are both proud of and fits into their individual learning style.  I like that technology offers a variety of choices to students with quick editing options so students can be thoughtful about their learning and easily make changes as they discuss and present their work to others.  Their work does promote deep thought and creativity as they edit and use a new technology tool to produce their final product!

I wonder what it is that makes some hold back in fear of change, stating caution and safety as their reasons, while others step out and move, ready to try something new; ready to lead.  When Apple came out with their new e textbook options for the iPad, I and some others were excited, ready to move and try it!  While some teachers claimed caution and that we need to move slowly (if at all) in this new direction as it may be harmful to our students deeper thinking. The cautious people encourage the risk-takers to be thoughtful; this is good!

When @cfrehlichteach posted this video on Twitter, I felt it captured the essence of both sides of change.  Some are ready to move, embrace changes and lead; while others are cautious and slower to step out and try something new. Watch, as one character tries to embrace the new technology of moving from a scroll to a book, while another encourages him to be a risk-taker:

Now we can't imagine a world without paper books nor one where we were still reading from scrolls! We all resist some changes in our lives of some sort; I think that is human nature. But often, when we do make a change and it turns out for the better or makes an improvement in the quality of our lives, we wonder why we didn't do it sooner!  If it does not work out for the better, we can always go back to the way it was done before - or at the very least, learn from the experience.  I'm suggesting that we embrace change thoughtfully and boldly! Let's step out of our comfort zone and try new technology to keep up with our changing world; to keep up with our students.  As educators and parents, we are preparing our students for future jobs that we can't even imagine. We need to be involved in the shaping of the 21st Century Digital Learning for and with our children. They will need to be able to step out, adapt and change.

Sometimes, it takes just one person to step out and lead a movement of change for the better.  Sometimes, we need to step back and re-evaluate what works best. We can only find out if we step out and embrace change, thoughtfully.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Run in Place or Move! The Choice is yours: 2012 Professional Development.

Model posted by Art Petty
Art Petty, author of several books on Leadership, Management and Professional Development, inspired me to think about my Professional Development Goals this year.  He offers this model of success where you keep on moving and keep on doing until you achieve success.  When it comes to individual Professional Development, he states it requires a deliberate and consistent effort to improve; move and take action!  Acquiring increasing skills and knowledge requires individuals to press on and fight the pull to do nothing and break away from the pack who may be running in place.

He offers 7 Quick Ideas to improve your Professional Development this year:  Personal reflections, Ask questions of yourself, Look for truths in your performance reviews, Start small and build from there, Read!, Stay positive and Celebrate all your victories- no matter how small. View a full explanation of his ideas by clicking on his name above, taking you to his blog posting.  In addition, you will find a list of his books on his site.

When @megangraff posted a video on Twitter called, "MOVE", I thought of how this creative and impressive work was indicative of what we need to bring to our own Professional Development.  Basically, this guy travels the world and takes a photo in each place.  As we see the artist walk and 'move' through the video with a smile on his face, the background setting is constantly changing. Sometimes that's how we can feel about Professional Development!  It is changing quickly and can be overwhelming.

However, if we face each new background (each new Professional Development opportunity) with a smile on our face, we are bound to learn more and enjoy the journey. The catch is: we've got to MOVE! When we move and try new ideas, we gain new perspectives, learn, grow and change. The scenery in the video reminds us to observe, question, reflect and take action.  Each step and photo he takes in the video encourages us to start small and build. The cheering heard in the video reminds us to enjoy ourselves as we learn, stay positive and celebrate all accomplishments; no matter how small. View this video here:

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Art Petty says this is the bottom line: "If you are running in place, you're going to fall behind."

Let's MOVE in our 2012 Professional Development!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Practice 9 Principles: On the Road to an Excellent 2012!

Photo By L. Frehlich 2011
In reflection of 2011 and preparation for 2012, this sign I saw out x-country skiing made me stop and think of The Road Less Traveled. I realized that 9 principles that I had been applying to my life on a daily basis were on this road; some days a more difficult road to travel.  However, I find the more I practice these principles, the better my life becomes.  As a teacher, I heard we make up to 500 decisions a day.  How was I to feel good about all those decisions and the implications for children and in turn, their families, and not question my every action?  I found my answer; and you can too when you make a conscious decision to choose to practice these 9 Principles.

1. Love: When making decisions and interacting with other people, if you come from a position of Love for that person, then you are making good decisions.  This is harder if a person you are dealing with is not coming from a place of Love for you!  Shake the offense off and go on.  Love is simply being good to people, keeping a good attitude and treating others well.

2.Joy: Joy is a daily choice and allows us to lighten up a little. When things aren't going the way you planned, make a conscious decision to hang onto your Joy. Once a day has passed, you never get that time again; so enjoy every moment. Get out of our own problems and help or give to someone else; it will jump-start your Joy.

3. Peace: One of the most important things we can have in life is Peace.  No job, amount of money or success is beneficial without Peace. This requires a choice and using self-control not to let others steal your Peace.  Live in harmony with others around you and choose not to get upset by letting your emotions control you.  This includes keeping a positive attitude and watching what you say. Storms will pass, so be a model for others and teach them how to hang onto Peace by your actions.

4. Patience: Patience is not waiting; but how we act while we are waiting.  It is something we have to choose on purpose. It is to remain stable and enjoy the journey because much of our life is spent waiting for the next thing to happen. If you find yourself becoming impatient, check your pride: do you feel you are too important to wait a little? You show tremendous Love for others when you are Patient with them.

5. Kindness: Kindness is being Kind to all you meet and especially those who don't deserve it. When someone is rude to you or maybe they did something that hurt you, be kind to them and watch what happens!  Kindness requires self-control; it is a choice. It allows you to slow down and give people some time. By being Kind to someone who doesn't deserve it, you are not justifying their behavior nor taking ownership of their actions- only yours! At the end of the day, you can sleep well knowing your actions were based on Kindness.

6. Goodness: Take your mind off yourself and make a choice to be Good to people. It can be in the form of giving your time, a compliment, an encouraging word, opening the door for someone and using your manners voicing: "Please", "Thank you" or "Excuse me". It is a mindful way to be a blessing to someone else.

7.Faithfulness: Faithfulness requires sticking to something until you know you are finished.  The way we grow is to stay with something. This involves integrity: people will know they can count on your word and depend on you. This also includes if your administrator asks you to do something, you are willing to do it.  Be on board with your leaders; avoid strife at work, home and in your relationships.

8.Humility:  Humility is defined as freedom to enjoy someone else's success. Humility is the opposite of pride. Pride is about "I" and is manifested in the form of impatience.  Out of impatience comes pride and pride dries up compassion and sensitivity. Watch your thoughts and attitudes you have towards others; let go of judgements, as what others do is none of your business- and pay attention to your own actions. If you feel yourself puffing up, check your pride.

9. Self-Control: Self-Control is to live in moderation. All of the above Principles require conscious choices. To purposefully choose to act in these Principles, requires Self-Control and discipline of your thoughts, actions and words. You have it in you; it is a commitment which leads to excellence.

So, there it is in a nutshell.  Practice these 9 Principles (Fruits/Virtues, Character Development), and you will find yourself on the road to an amazing 2012 filled with excellence.  Some days you may think that you are somewhat alone on this Road Less Traveled and that implementing them is difficult, but as you stay on this path, your actions will speak volumes to others. For more reading, you can read Secrets to Exceptional Living by J. Meyer, or  The Virtues Project by  Linda Kavelin Popov.

Enjoy your journey and best wishes to you in 2012!