We Don’t Adhere to Arbitrary Standards

IMG_9685-e1429895851898-768x1024Research: Rebecca Givens Rolland laments that schools are racing through K-12 education these days, with policies that encourage children to cover more material in shorter amounts of time, under expectations that are misaligned with natural child development. She argues, “This push, while well-intentioned, is counterproductive. Children need time to sit with a subject, to see mistakes not as humiliations, but as chances to learn.” What’s missing in this “need for speed” is an understanding of the nature of the learning process and proper encouragement to create lifelong learners.

Practice: Every student at Chrysalis is allowed to learn at their own pace and in their own time. Since we don’t adhere to arbitrary standards we can create educational programs that meet each child where they are and allow them to progress when they’re developmentally ready. Our program allows children the extraordinary gift of time to flourish, learn deeply, and develop a love of learning.

Our Beloved Smartphones Prevent Sleeping

smartphone-clipart-smartphoneResearch: A new study focuses on the effect of small screens (phones and tablets) on children’s sleep and concludes that they are worse for sleep than television screens. The problem is that we hold them closer to our faces, which prevents the increase of melatonin that drives us to fall asleep. They are also more interactive, which tells our brains to stay alert.

Practice: The prevailing recommendation for children and teens is to remove technology (TVs, computers, phones, tablets, etc.) from their bedrooms at night. Having a technology curfew is one great way for parents to protect their sleep. Teens especially just can’t resist the temptation of getting to the next level on their favorite video game or checking who “liked” their last post. This is where we as parents have to step in to ensure their ability to function the next day and their overall health.

A New Vision of Schooling

Research: I was taken aback by a recent opinion piece in which James Delisle proclaims that differentiation is a farce. These are strong words for a practice we believe is so fundamental to learning! He agrees that the theoretical benefits of differentiation are great: determining what students know and still need to learn, allowing students to demonstrate what they know in multiple ways, and encouraging depth and complexity in the learning/teaching process. But in practice, it simply cannot be implemented in the traditional heterogeneous classroom where so many types of learners are lumped together.

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/01/07/differentiation-doesnt-work.html?cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS1

Practice: Herein lies the qualification of his claim. When we think of schools and classrooms in traditional ways, he’s right—differentiation cannot take place. It can work, however, when we create a new vision of schooling. At Chrysalis differentiation is an inherent part of our program. It is a natural element of the individualized class and can easily be incorporated into small groups that group students according to ability. (Maybe we should invite him in to show him how it’s done!)

Middle School

photo 2 (2)Research: Middle school is a fascinating time in the course of child development. During this period, the section of the brain that’s in charge of organizing, decision-making, analyzing, and judging, is in the process of reorganization. This means that the part of the brain that monitors emotions is in charge of where information goes, which can spell trouble for learning. Author Heather Wolpert-Gawron underlines the importance of having teachers who understand and enjoy middle schoolers during this years. Teachers who can tap into their need to socialize and see their natural self-absorption as an interest to work with will be most successful. Humor, productive feedback, flexibility, and support are crucial during this period.

Practice: Our middle school program encompasses the 7th and 8th grades and is all about keeping our students engaged and preparing them for high school. Seventh graders spend 4 days at SC and Fridays at our high school campus, where they start to gain familiarity with the environment, staff, and students. Our 8th graders make the full transition to the high school, where they take courses with their cohort and begin to interact with the upperclassmen. In preparation for a successful high school experience, they take a personalized study skills class and are taught school guidelines and cultural expectations during this very formative year. Our middle school teachers are rock stars! They love this squirrely bunch and even travel back and forth between the two campuses to maintain continuity.

Thinking Differently

Thinking DifferentlyResearch: David Flink, an advocate for children with learning challenges, recently posted an article and video based on his book, “Learning Differently.” He argues, “…we must accept that one in five children think differently. It is absurd to admonish children with learning disabilities to ‘simply try harder,’ and detrimental and debilitating to cheerlead them along, without acknowledging that in our current school structure they begin at a deficit.” By approaching learning differences from a deficit perspective, we undermine a child’s potential. The most important thing we can do for them is understand their challenges, teach them the tools and introduce the accommodations to allow them to be successful, and encourage them to advocate for their own needs.

Practice: Flink refers to a need for adults to be “learning detectives” to best serve a child’s needs. In our admissions process we ask our students a lot of questions, probing to get a sense of how they learn best so we can match them with the right teachers. Then the work is transferred to our teachers, who are true learning detectives. They help our students identify what works best, implement any accommodations they need to be successful, and develop tools that they can use for the rest of their lives.