Sunday, November 24, 2013

Technically Teaching Horses . ..and Kids

This is not  'tech-ie'. Really, the opposite, but it is the reason I am so excited about the hope technology offers for education.
These thoughts are a result of some sound bytes  from today, combined with an inspiring ride on a horse my husband is training.

Before I ever started teaching elementary students, I trained a few horses, gave riding lessons and judged horse shows.  I very seldom ever rode a horse that bucked.  Thanks to my mom.  She had taught me that she felt safer if the horse never knew it could buck.
Long ago, her process was very long, three months at a minimum.  At the end, the horse was always a willing partner for the rider to go on and train to whatever discipline he or she chose.  Quite often, my mom ended up training horses that had failed other trainer's programs.  Usually, they flunked out, due to anxiety or being resistant.  My mom's patience with horses and willingness to start at the very bottom and take as much time as needed to go to the net step resulted in much happier horses and pleased owners.
There is another, more famous trainer, John Richard Young.  He wrote "The Schooling of the Horse" Another edition called it "The Schooling of the Western Horse".  His books were some of my mom's tried and true resources.  She always referred to him as JRY.  He published in the 50's and 60's, so his experience must have come before that.  Remarkable for his time, his strategies must have been contrary to most trainers.  We always see on movies and TV horses being 'bucked' out.  I do not ever recall seeing that as an option in his books.
  Well, one of mom's happy clients happened to have some contact with JRY and let him know about Sally.  So, that guy, actually came to our house to see if it were true, that my mom was a great trainer!  Sure enough, he was pleased and impressed.  I think, I will have to look, there is a foreword in the latest printing of that book which mentions her.  If not, I will revise this post to make it accurate.
Mom was a successful trainer and her horses were happy.

In order to do that, a trainer has to learn where the horse is at, in his training, then always set him up for success using quality, not gimmicky, instruction.  Now, just like people, every horse has a different level of tolerance for stress, some horses want to go forward, some horses only want to rest, and some will do anything just to please you.

I never tried to teach a horse something the horse wasn't ready for.  It doesn't even make sense.  Whatever training program you have, it has to adapt to the needs and capacity of the horse as a learner.

Why don't we teach humans like that?  Why do we teach them what everyone else is being taught, no matter what?  We set up programs to intervene when they do not get .  . .what they are not ready for.  But what if we only taught them what they are ready for?  Isn't that the point of learning where each child's zone of proximal development is all about?

I understand, that it has something to do with ages, building capacity, classrooms and tradition . . .but does it make sense?
What other options are there?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


MOOC or Massive Open On-line Courses, according to my favorite information resource, Wikipedia. (More on Wikipedia later)  MOOC offers opportunity to explore some new ideas mostly for free.    On this site, I found courses on sustainable foods, Introduction to Public Speaking, Math refresher courses, etc.
The idea that today, immediately relevant information from reputable places like MIT is available to everyone with an internet connection, is ground-changing!

Ground-changing, is like the newly leveled playing field offered when just 'anyone' has access to what used to be reserved for elite.

If we all have access to high-level learning, then we can collectively work together to solve today's problems and change the path for tomorrow.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The View from Here

As a Technology Specialist, in a 3-5 Elementary School, ( ) my view of the end of the school year is remarkably different than it was as a classroom teacher.

See, I spent my teaching career in a variety of classroom situations, for Math and Science Specialist in a 1st grade classroom,  3rd grade, regular 4th , full-inclusion 4th,  to a 4th Grade teacher who loops with the same students to 5th.  I earned my National Boards Certificate as a Middle Childhood Generalist in that setting.

Now, I am exploring the world of teaching to every single student in the entire school.

How does this time of the year look different to a Specialist?
  • For one thing, I know that I will get a chance to work with almost all of the students again next year.  So, the sense of closure is different.  I do not feel as if this week is my last chance to impart all of those nuggets of knowledge and life lessons.
  • I had my 525 grades to the teachers last week.  I am not poring through all of the data creating this child's last evidence of what he or she accomplished in this grade.
  • I am not creating individual bundles of memories for a portfolio, signed with a note from me, for their future tied with a bow in a tidy little portfolio that will easily fit into a parent's memory box.
  • I can easily make summer plans without feeling like I am in a tornado!
I do miss the relationships one makes with the children and families over the span of a year, or in the case of looping, two.  Two years with a family, for 180 days each, provides an amazing window into the lives of 25. If you think about it, we do not have that much time to spend with our own friends throughout a year.  I know my students and their families better than I know my best friends.  While that creates an intricate foundation to build learning experiences from, it certainly tugs at your heart as the students move on to the next class, the next school and the next stage.