Monthly Archives: October 2020

The Strength of Education

Strength comes in different forms. A person who displays and utilizes physical attributes is considered to be strong. Someone who demonstrates calmness in times of stress or trouble could be thought of as emotionally strong. An individual exhibiting an above-average intellectual capacity could be classified as mentally strong. Educational strength, though not as widely acknowledged, is a life-changer capable of helping anyone who develops it.

Quality education produces the kind of strength life can be built upon. Its foundation is reinforced with the fortitude of knowledge, its pillars erected from the support of wisdom, and its structure solidified with the cement of confidence. Without it, the winds of chance and circumstance can blow through one’s existence like a hurricane in a treehouse.

Reading today’s reports on the challenges facing public schools would leave readers shaking their heads and thinking, why bother? Poverty, classroom size, family issues, technological inadequacy, bullying – physically and online, student attitudes, student health – obesity at epidemic levels, parental under-involvement or over-involvement, funding… when taken together, it’s no wonder such a bleak and negative picture presents itself.

Education is the Bedrock of Our Future

The truth is, we have to care because our future depends on it. The power of education is enduring, and it forms a bedrock for understanding and addressing the critical issues facing our country and the world in the 21st-century. Contrary to pessimistic headlines emanating from critics of public education, success stories are rampant in schools struggling to overcome the ever-present challenges and obstacles to daily learning.

Education, particularly in our public school system, has received a bad, and some would say unfair, rap. Accentuating the negative is, unfortunately, what makes news headlines far more frequently than positive stories which occur daily in classrooms across the country. Teachers labor intensively every day to build academically strong students who will be able to apply that strength throughout life.

Students from all walks of life are being provided quality education that will make a profound difference in their lives, and in their communities. Learning the three R’s and discovering their connection and meaning to the world outside school walls, is creating the kind of strength only literacy can provide.

Educational Strength Gives Birth to New Ideas

Educational strength gives birth to ideas and options crucial for dealing with some of the most serious issues facing the United States, and the entire planet. Discovering sustainable solutions to address present and future concerns, can only be accomplished through ongoing public education development, and a dedicated commitment to interactive instruction, engaged learning and quality graduates.

More than ever, societal issues are impacting our students and their search for a meaningful and productive life. Poverty continues to be a major contributor to academic failure. Among children under the age of 18 in the United States, 41 percent are classified low-income and nearly 19 percent – one in five – are considered poor and living in poverty.

Statistics like these represent sobering, and in many cases, insurmountable factors in the near-term, for achieving the kind of scholastic success needed to permanently reverse the continuous trend of ‘disadvantaged disengagement‘ in our schools. However, through education we find knowledge, and through knowledge comes hope. Hope for the future, and hope for a better life. We find strength.

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” – Maya Angelou

Why Use Socratic Seminars in Your Health Education Class?

What is a Socratic seminar? A Socratic seminar is a formal discussion based on a topic where the leader asks open-ended questions. Throughout the Socratic seminar students will listen closely to the comments of others, think critically, and articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of their peers. Students will learn to work cooperatively and ask questions intelligently and civilly. The Socratic seminar allows students to apply practical methods of a topic being discussed and enables the students to view certain points from several different perspectives. Throughout the discussion the teacher should minimally intervene, and when doing so it should be to lead the students to a specific topic or ask an additional open-ended question about a topic already being discussed. Giving the students the freedom to participate in a Socratic discussion will increase student involvement and student learning.

A Socratic discussion can be utilized in any subject including history, language arts, sociology, etc. but I would like to discuss the use of a Socratic discussion in a health education class. Incorporating a Socratic seminar in your health education class will be prevalent in most topics such as living a healthy life, building good character, physical activity, nutrition and health, managing stress, emotional problems, relationships, obesity, drug use, environmental health etc. this is because these topics are very relevant to your students everyday life. You can lead your students into a discussion with these topics with a current event article, after a discussion lecture, after watching a you tube clip, and relating it to something that may be going on or happening in your school. In addition these are all topics that I’m sure your students have interest in, hear about, and participate in on an everyday basis. With a proper questioning technique by the leader (teacher) you will be able to generate a very scholarly discussion among your students, you may be surprised how passionate some of your students are about specific topics.

The key to getting your students to participate and really get involved is to ask the right questions that will generate discussion. Once you are on a specific topic in class begin a Socratic seminar by asking a question on that topic, once a few students have responded start asking questions such as what do you mean by that? How does this relate? Could you give me an example? Could you explain further, what is he/she assuming? Why do you think that right? What lead you to that believe? What’s an alternative? Are you implying this? Etc. Again you may be shocked how some students may passionately agree with some of their peers responses and comments, or disagree and begin to debate which may be a good learning experience for the students because they will begin to view the topic/discussion from multiple perspectives which may enhance the learning experience.

The purpose of a Socratic seminar is to get your students engaged in a higher level of thinking to promote learning. Incorporating Socratic seminars into your class will lead your students in discussion, debate, critical thinking, acquiring greater interests, and the ability to apply practical methods. “He who learns but does not think is lost” Confucius (551-479 BCE).

Benefits of Music Education

It would be easier to deduce the benefits of music education, once you are clear about the basic qualities of music.

Music Soothes

Music is an ever-expanding field. What do you do when we want to relax? An immediate reply would be: listen to good music. And why? Because you tend to forget that a world exists outside, especially when the music is soft, lilting, and melodious.

This has been proved through research too. Wondrous are the effects of music on the human mind. Music creates positive energy and releases it to the individuals. That is the reason why music therapies are being adopted in every field.

Multi-faceted Benefits

Music improves the efficiency and attitude of the people. Its effects are especially felt and useful in treating sick and afflicted persons, because both the young and the old like it.

Music education helps us to learn new concepts and forms of music. You can learn and enjoy the serenity of music while sitting in your living room. Music education can be complete only if the learner grasps it properly. Efficient tutors can simplify complicated concepts and present them in a suitable manner.

Music education helps in creating awareness, and develops a person’s attitude by making him or her appreciate the finer things of life. Music is not merely an art, but a fine art too! By learning the basics, nuances, and forms of music through music education, you can enjoy the benefits bestowed by music in a holistic way.

Music Quotations

You can understand the benefits of music looking at some excellent quotations.

Music is God’s gift to man, the only art of Heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to Heaven. -Walter Savage Landor

Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.-Pablo Casals

Music is the soul of language.-Max Heindel

Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak. -William Congreve

Navigating the Special Education Maze

As a school psychologist, as well as the mother of a child with a chronic health condition, I understand all too well the intimidation that accompanies entering the “bargaining” sessions of IEP meetings. There are ways, however, to stack the proverbial cards in your favor. Read on…

To begin with, be prepared for anything. Keep accurate documentation and note the dates and times that everything occurs. I am not exaggerating – EVERYTHING. Every phone call, every progress report, etc. Nothing is more intimidating to IEP teams than a parent who has prepared for their meeting. A parent with a Plan of their own is scary for us, because what if we look like idiots, or offend you? You have to come into meetings prepared for anything, almost as if you’re documenting for a Due Process hearing. You never know, you might have to “go there.”

Second, know your rights. Ask for a copy of your State’s Parental Rights in Special Education (PRISE) for your review before you attend any meeting at all. You can find the PRISE for your State by entering a search on Google.

Third, know you are an active participant and that no one can force a program on you or your child. For example, some schools will hand you an IEP that they’ve already devised before you got there, with hopes that the meeting will go quickly and you will just sign and leave. But that is like going to an Italian restaurant and all that’s on the menu is spaghetti. Your child is unique and to truly devise an individualized plan, all of those involved should plan on spending at least one hour talking through the parts of the plan that are going to affect the child academically and socio-emotionally.

Know what you want before you go in there. Have a Mission in mind, know your goals, and outline your strategies before you even step foot in that room. For example, you will need goals for your child. Make sure you’ve broken them down to the smallest components before you ask for them – you will be surprised how much more you get out of your request.

I.e., Goal: I want my child to be able to get – and hold – a job when they graduate.

Well, that is plain, isn’t it? If you broke it down, however, you would have:

I want my child to learn:

How to respect authority;

How to type;

How to honor time commitments;

How to respectfully interact with peers;

Etc.

Now, doesn’t that look more like what you were thinking?

You may not get all of them, but you will get some – and that is way more specific than “get a job,” so there will be a bit more work required of your Team. Good.

Third, know you will run into snags. There will be red tape you will have to circumvent; you will meet people whose goal it is to keep children from receiving services (yes, after all of those years of education, you would think we’re all in this for the children. Yet some of our colleagues are actually naysayers); you will hear all about how “this is not how we operate” when you present documentation proving otherwise; etc. You will certainly learn a lesson in frustration tolerance.

If you are lucky, you won’t have to deal with any of the above. But I doubt it.

Fourth, learn from the negatives and appreciate the positives. You will also learn some positive things, such as knowing when to give up. By this I don’t mean walking out on your plan, but knowing when to compromise.

Fifth, know your child is entitled to individuality. If you look at evaluations, they might all seem the same. You don’t want your child’s IEP to be just like everyone else’s, or they will be ignored. Trust me on this one. I have seen 1,000’s of IEPs and rarely does the school hold itself responsible for child failure. It is always “Johnny X” or “Johnny’s mom Y.” Make sure your child’s IEP delineates what has NOT been done for him – not just what has been.

“You just want us to fix what you’ve done wrong.”

Did that statement infuriate you? It is what most school staff thinks when you demand fair treatment.

My advice? Listen more than you speak and ask very specific questions – questions that merit elaboration on the part of your Team. Most of all, remain respectful. No one likes a bully, or someone who blames everything on everyone else.

Oh, and smile graciously as you lay your tape recorder on the conference table… 😉

Adult Education – How is it Different?

How is it different from K-12? Why is this important to us? Discuss andragogy and life-long learning.

Adult education, how is it different? Before we discuss the practical differences, let’s first address the two primary categories of education – pedagogy, and andragogy. Simply stated, in Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, pedagogy is the art science or profession of teaching. Within the profession, however, pedagogy, more often refers to the K through 12 type of approach; the Socratic approach, if you will, where teachers teach and learners listen. The information is passed from the instructor to student – more of a rote learning approach, where the learner is dependent upon the instructor for all learning. The teacher or instructor assumes full responsibility for what is taught.

Andragogy, however, assumes that the learner is self-directed. The learner is responsible for his or her own learning. Self-evaluation is characteristic of this approach. With Andragogy, the learner brings his own experience to the learning process. Each adult learner is a source of knowledge and contributes to the overall learning experience. With this approach is more of a built in readiness to learn than in the pedagogical model. This self-motivation comes from the need to know in order to perform more effectively or to accomplish one’s goals.

So, adult education is focus more on learning what we need to know to accomplish our different life goals. The other education approach is more of a required process to gain certain basic credentials. It is often much less student centered and focuses more on specific outcomes centered around a set curriculum. Adult education in comparison to K-12 is more learner centered in the expectation is more participation based on life experience.

The adult education approach becomes important to us since the goals are primarily different. The goals are centered on achieving a specific task outcome, or learning new behaviors. The adult becomes less motivated by grade point averages, and more motivated by achieving specific goals. Most often these goals are more pragmatic, and are centered around specific outcomes at the learner wants to achieve.

In this 21st century world of complexity, all of our senses are continually being assaulted with multiple types of information. To survive and possibly even to prosper, learning becomes a lifelong process. Most of us become lifelong learners, whether we recognize that specific term or not. In essence, adult education is different primarily from our K-12 experience, and possibly early college, by both our motivation and our need. Adult education becomes a choice, not a responsibility.

Copyright November 4, 2009 Boyd K. Smith, Ph.D. All rights Reserved

Christian Vs Secular Education – Which Is Better?

At times, Christian are faced with a decision regarding what type of education to pursue for themselves and/or their families. The choice we will examine is between Christian schools and secular schools. Is one better than the other? The answer is not necessarily found in comparing the quality of the education but in the belief systems that are at the foundation of each. We will examine both types of education as they relate to the belief in God and their use of facts.

Difference 1: Belief in God

In general, secular education is based upon the assumption that there is no God; or if there is a God, then that God has no real impact on, or relevance to, daily life. Secular study of science, for example, assumes that everything “just happens” as a result of natural laws and interactions. One event triggers another, but (it is claimed) there is no ultimate planner and/or power guiding the process.

In contrast, Christian education assumes that God is, that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, that “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3 KJV). Christian education is further based upon the firm conviction that God continues to guide events “in heaven and on earth” according to His perfect plan, “for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6(b) KJV).

Difference 2: Use of The Facts

In Christian education, proven, empirical facts are facts. Mathematical equations, for example, are exactly the same. There are differences and Christian education does not hide them. Over the past century or so, some topics have been heavily “edited” to reflect a secular viewpoint. History and some branches of science have suffered from a biased reporting of “facts,” including hiding or ignoring some details, and skewing the perspective from which others are viewed. The skewed perspective has altered and/or distorted the interpretation of some evidence. True Christian Education rejects such distortions.

The Dilemma

Ethics and morality represent one extremity of these distortions. By rejecting the ultimate authority of the Creator, adherents to the secular perspective are left with no absolute foundation of right and wrong. Standards become fluid, so that “what’s right for me” may be different from “what’s right for you.”

When the Church accepts the standards of the secular world, it is left with confusion and instability. Consider the following illustration of this dilemma. For a number of years, respected pollsters have reported that the manifestation of ethics and morals doesn’t differ significantly between individuals who classify themselves as “Christian” and those who describe themselves as “not religious.” Specifically, the pollsters report that the sexual practices of the two groups have proven to be basically the same. Even though a permissive lifestyle has become common, the Christian faith has historically embraced strict scriptural standards of sexual purity and monogamy.

True Christian Education seeks to provide a superior grasp of all facets of knowledge, anchored firmly on the foundation which our Creator has supplied in His inspired Word. One could conclude that, for Christians, a Christian school education could keep them grounded in their faith in God. It could also shelter them from the skewed and altered versions of empirical facts that at times are associated with secular education. The decision should not be taken lightly but made with prayerful consideration.