Author: Tracy Clark

Why Making Meaning Matters for Student Ownership

October 5, 2015 by

EmpanadaThis post originally appeared at Getting Smart on September 12, 2015. 

This weekend I decided to make empanadas. I looked to my Chilean cookbook for inspiration, but ultimately determined lard, hard boiled eggs, and raisins did not belong in my version. So, I started to play. I peeked inside the refrigerator to see what ingredients might work, scanned the pantry for additional items with complementary flavors and began mixing, chopping, measuring.

At some point during my experiment, as I was standing there making the empanada dough from scratch, rolling it out, kneading it, and forming it into a meal, I felt this sense of pride and satisfaction settle in over me. I wasn’t just a consumer; I became a creator. I didn’t just heat up a Hot Pocket, I made one. And it felt good.

Learning From Scratch

I think kids feel the same way. Our students learn best when they make the meaning, when they begin to own the learning. When students start to control things like pace, product, even the content, they make more meaning from scratch.

We are simply settling for a shadow of what learning can be when we, as teachers, provide answers too soon and grant little time for students to wonder and make.

Our students need to see-think-wonder their way through new ideas and concepts instead of being told the right answer. They need to use real tools, pull back the bark and discover what is hiding underneath.

Our students need us to stop taking over, grabbing the mouse, the iPad, the pencil, or the paintbrush to show them how it’s done.

Our students need time to think, explore, and be puzzled–time to not know on their journey to knowing. Time to struggle and experiment and test hypotheses.

Our students need to know we, as their teachers, value thoughtful questions over answers. (more…)

8 Ways To Encourage Soft Skills (Core Dispositions) in our Children

September 8, 2015 by

This post originally appeared at Getting Smart on August 29, 2015.

In this post on soft skills I asked the question: What do we want our kids to be like? When it comes down to it, we parents want more than exemplary test scores and gold stars on papers, we want what will last. We want the kinds of character traits our kids will rely on to pull them through when we aren’t around, like optimism or grit. We want something at the core of who they are that will help them make the right decision when nobody’s looking: integrity. We want them to try one more time when they are ready to give up: perseverance. We want that irreplaceable feeling inside that grins from ear to ear when they accomplish something awesome without taking shortcuts or using cheat codes that only comes from intrinsic motivation and pride in their own efforts. We want them to see through the eyes of others and help those in need, feeling compassion and empathy.

itssofluffy_1

It’s so fluffy!

Parents and teachers alike agree this kind of personal growth and development matters, but these qualities still seem intangible, subjective, and hard to see and measure. I mean, what does (insert soft skill) look like? The very term ‘soft skills’ sounds pretty fluffy and doesn’t command the sense of importance it deserves.  So how might we, as parents, highlight and nurture these core dispositions in our children? (more…)

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