Thursday, April 25, 2013

...And this be so... A heartfelt perspective... in response to each child's learning...

The truth, the innocence, and the all-knowing spirit of life fills our first breath. Who and what answers our first cry? What happens in the moments of life that fill the years to follow? Do we become the sum total of who touches, who answers, who denies, who ignores, who accepts, who rejects, who encourages? What moves us out of the shadow of our own experience? How do we hold on to the promise and joy of our own experience? How do we befriend that knowing within? What is the power that breaks the grip of oppression? What is this power that declares in silence, in words, in deed? What's this power that knows only itself as its teacher? 

Why do systems that purport to educate have increasing numbers of youth shutting the doors of school behind them? Why does society have increasing numbers of school age children leaving the very systems that are supposedly preparing them for the world of work, independence and productivity? 

A birth of a child is filled with promise and joy. Each birth is another opportunity to allow life its meaningful expression. The child almost instantly seems magnetized to particular stimuli and experiences. Why is the child so drawn? Wherein lies his or her individual quest? Do we allow the child’s responses and in turn learn more of what life is when newly presented? Do we allow the child to experience joy of knowing self? Are we able to guide, nurture and encourage inquiry and exploration? Or do we impose and ultimately destroy what is open, curious, exploratory and creative? Why these questions? When one has been an educator for over forty years these are the questions that challenge the credibility of your profession. For over three decades children, teenagers, young adults, adults and parents of those who have been tagged failure, learning disabled, emotionally disturbed, attention deficit disordered, hyperactive, gifted under-achievers and “lazy”, have chose to avail themselves of services that provide a renewed opportunity to explore self, learning style, creativity, and those experiences that have encouraged or have dimmed the joy of learning.

What has these last three decades of service taught me? It has brought me closer to the pain of so many and closer to the joy experienced when freed from false beliefs, misconceptions of self and a sense of powerlessness. Those who tell their story tell of the judgments, criticism and pain they experience as students of failure. Yes, many “drop out” of school and “drop into” the health, social service, welfare and judicial systems. Failure and the thwarting of what is whole and natural is indeed the hallmark of disease and dysfunction, be it personal, social, economic or political. Understanding of what is supportive of individual difference is basic to the creative and harmonious use of human energy and motivation.

If we hope to creatively and harmoniously use human energy and motivation we must be supportive of individual differences and self-knowledge. If we are to be true to the precepts of a democratic system of governance, we cannot create systems that negate, demean or discriminate. A system that tags a first grader as a failure must be newly accountable. If a child does not readily acclimate itself to the world of filling in blanks, matching pictures, coloring in spaces, matching symbols o sounds is this child a failure? Or have we, the bearers of judgment and the creators of arbitrary standards, failed? to sounds is this child a failure?

The relationship of the “Seven Rays of Natural Intelligence”©, Survival, Change, Transformation, Balance, Communication, Visualization, and Transcendence, to the requirements of reading, mathematics, social sciences, writing, language, creativity, science and the arts are explored. In this way the student is brought closer to understanding the integrative action of the mind-body energy system and its relationship to learning. The student experiences the communication between mind and body and comes to more fully appreciate the power of one’s inner resources. Practices to enhance readiness for the learning process and to reduce stress so often experienced by these students in their everyday lives include:
  • Breath Awareness
  • Use of the Neti Pot
  • Nutritional Guidance
  • Guided Relaxation
  • Creative Visualization
  • Centering
  • Hatha Yoga
  • Affirmations
  • Imaging
  • Clustering
  • Mapping
  • Music & Movement
  • Art & Color
  • Poetic Expression
  • Task Analysis
  • Subject Mastery
  • Study Strategies
  • APOGEE Acu-Tone™
  • APOGEE Somatic Phonics™
These practices have significantly improved physical health, have enhanced mental and academic skills, have facilitated self-expression and promoted self-awareness. The immediate and long-range benefits to students have been documented by improved behavior, attention, motivation, attitude, achievement, and acceptance of self. 

With clarity of purpose, and understanding of intent, the student increases his or her ability to direct his or her mind. The student emerges newly motivated, newly energized and newly appreciative of his or her own power and potential. As each lesson proceeds, be it in reading, mathematics, social studies, writing, language, science, or the arts, particular attention is given to the relationship of the subject to an aspect of self. The intent is to see the Self in all, to know the self as a student of life, ever evolving, ever changing, ever present. 

Improvement in school grades, standardized test scores, SAT scores have been notable. Handwriting has significantly improved through stress reduction activities that incorporate breath awareness, music and movement. The use of color and breath awareness has reduced the stress associated with the reading task. Reading scores have progressed one, two, and three years within six months of program implementation. Remedial math instruction incorporates breath awareness, movement, visualization and body awareness exercises. The student who has experienced failure so often feels apart from his or her own very being. These practices allow the student the opportunity to realign self with self. 

As the students become more aware of themselves, more respectful of the care they must give their own bodies, more aware of how – what they do, what they think, what they believe, what they fear, what and how they feel, influence their ability to learn, they no longer feel defenseless in the wake of stress nor do they continue to be the victim of stress. These students have come to more fully understand the significance of themselves, their feelings and their own inner resources as they witness the “A” replacing the “D”, the success replacing the failure, the acceptance replacing the rejection, the calm replacing the chaos.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A shared accord... Supporting Learning: A Tale of Two Countries by John Krouskoff

Supporting Learning: A Tale of Two Countries

"In a major announcement earlier today, Google shared that nearly ten million students, teachers and parents in Malaysia would begin using Google Apps to support their national vision for education.  Ten million!  In order to support that, the government will provide Chromebooks to students.  The powerful synergy these technologies offer to students will play a pivotal role in supporting Malaysia's national view of the value of education and the changes that are needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century.  In their government report, Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, the Prime Minister stated, 
In order to meet our high aspirations amidst an increasingly competitive global environment, we cannot stand still. Our country requires a transformation of its entire education system, lifting achievement for all students. Make no mistake; this will require an entirely new perspective, so that students develop skills needed for the 21st century. Rather than simply adding staff and facilities, there is now a need to understand and improve the dynamics of the teaching and learning process.
The United States is also "striving to transform its education system lifting achievement for all students" yet our methods are a bit different.  We've had No Child Left Behind and now Race to the Top with some accompanying funding, as well as a Common Core Curriculum to define our expectations. These come with accompanying high stakes assessments.  Perhaps a better balance (a "Smarter Balance" if you will) would be to support our national initiatives and goals with the requisite tools for moving forward.  Imagine if our bickering over budgets and extremist politics was replaced instead by a collective statement similar to the one below from Malaysia's Prime Minister. Now more than ever, leadership matters.
But despite this, rest assured that not only are the Government and Ministry of Education committed to delivering on these goals, I am also personally committed. And hand in hand with the rakyat, I have every confidence that we will persevere and deliver. From individual parents to members of the local community to the private sector, we all have a role to play and a personal stake in improving our education system. A role that will help sow the seeds of our children’s success. A role that we should all be proud to play. So God willing, let us take this exciting, challenging and – most importantly – this necessary journey together, as one nation."
In response: by Rose Marie Raccioppi

When first starting my teaching career, I was quite taken by the simplicity and the wisdom of the words of John Ruskin. As a student of psychology I came to deeply appreciate the need of validation and purpose. To understand the how and why of learning and motivation for each of my students became the guidepost for my teaching. 
Over the years, and serving the needs of the special learner as an Educational Consultant/Therapist, these words of Ruskin continue to ring true: "Education is leading human souls to what is best, and making what is best out of them; and these two objects are always attainable together, and by the same means; the training which makes men happiest in themselves also makes them most serviceable to others." 
-- John Ruskin

When there is a collective vision that supports the attainment of beneficial goals to which both student and educator can identify with, education becomes the change agent. Yes, I feel the inherent power of such a vision. As stated: "Imagine if our bickering over budgets and extremist politics was replaced instead by a collective statement similar to the one below from Malaysia's Prime Minister. Now more than ever, leadership matters." YES, I yet imagine... 

YES... Lets get a dialogue going... our children deserve no less... 

Educators are to be FREE TO TEACH, CHILDREN TO BE FREE TO LEARN, holding to the spontaneity of the moment, bringing life to exploration and discovery, NOT TO TEACH TO THE TEST... and be bound by the sterility of drill... Serving the needs of the special learner, those gifted yet bored, those whose learning style requires supportive understanding, has taught me that the 'heart behind the teaching' not the score keeping, is what keeps learning alive!!! Let us rightly hold to a position that serves our children. We cannot be complacent toward a system that has become blind to the stresses imposed by unreasonable testing.Post, share, comment, let us bring our support and understanding for our learning youth into the realms of action and policy change...

As I look at the word 'GIFT' and see those very special endowments as seeds within our children, the word itself bears a message we are to heed... let us as parents, grandparents, educators, members of our communities, leaders, movers and shakers, see our mission to look upon our children with their 'GIFT' of BEING ... with Gratitude ~ with Inspiration ~ with Freedom ~ with Truth... and so the greatness of each child be nourished... and so our country's dignity be salvaged. Rose Marie Raccioppi

And so let the gifts be known, the needs be addressed, the success be realized...

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