Cathedral Building

Another Teaching Blog

Posts tagged kids

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Sometimes what we need is what we give the kids.

I was exhausted and nearly on a tear this morning — when it comes to my kids, hospitals can be involved, cops can be involved, unexpected relocation can be involved, reporting, etc. — and shook my fists (via text) at a friend.  Who in turn via text gave me a fist bump.

Can I tell you how much that unwound me?  Probably not without sounding ridiculous.

But if someone just took a long look at the professionals and gave THEM a fistbump or a high five every now and then, I can’t help but think everyone would feel the slightest bit better.

Filed under education therapy kids social work stress go high five someone I miss fist bumps I miss the kids that gave me fist bumps because they thought high fives were lame

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YouTube Eating Challenges Sending Kids to the Emergency Room: Looking back, playing Chubby Bunny in our youth wasn’t the wisest thing—in essence, you’re basically stuffing marshmallows in your face until you, well, can’t. But now risk-taking eating activities are rampantly viral on YouTube, where dares like the “cinnamon challenge” (take a spoonful of the stuff, straight up) or eating baking soda and vinegar can take a more dangerous turn than the prank might seem. Food challenge-induced poisoning, choking, and respiratory problems are on the rise; a toxicologist at Loyola University Health System in Chicago recently treated a dozen 9-year-olds in the emergency room for cinnamon exposure.


At my last position, before I’d been hired, the supervisor had to be away for two weeks on a family emergency.  During those two weeks, whoever was in charge had had so little control (or knowledge) in regard to our kids that some of the youth attempted the cinnamon challengeat the program spacewith cinnamonfrom the program space kitchen.

And vomited.  Everywhere.  All over the program space.

And they still tell the story, on occasion, as a wild ride tall tale of triumph regarding the things they got away with when no one was really watching.

Also be aware of the salt and ice challenge, which involves pouring salt onto one’s hands, then gripping ice cubes until one can no longer stand the physical pain.  Obviously, this can cause serious damage.  I never thought we’d have to so carefully regulate ice, of all things — the kids would bring salt packets in from local shops.  Luckily we nipped that one sooner rather than later with a little stomach-churning lesson on what frostbite is…

Filed under education safety sometimes kids do dangerous stuff for fun hey college and high school students reading this: don't do it okay? youth kids

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Pink Boys and Puppy Dog Tails

Usually Psychology Today makes me cringe, I admit it.  They’re a popular magazine as opposed to a scientific one and often have articles that seem more suited to Cosmo than a supposedly science-based publication.  Then, of course, there’s the fact that they don’t always make the best choices (for example, ever publishing fringe evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa’s racist article on attraction, though American Psychologist made the same mistake with another of his articles so perhaps Kanazawa just has good glamor).

But this particular article is a very interesting conversation about gender variance in children, here specifically boys, that helps illustrate what I’m trying to say but more coherently.  Continue on past the mention of sexual reassignment — I know that at a young age that’s still very controversial and might put some people off immediately — because in a way that is not what this is about at all (though in a way it also is).  Rather, the article advocates for a different way of looking at gender expression in young children, one that keeps in mind fluidity and tries to set aside rigorous gender expectations.

Essentially, it boils down to this: Does your little boy want to be a little girl because he wants to wear dresses and sparkles?  Maybe.  But maybe he’s just a little boy who wants to wear dresses and sparkles.  Maybe he’ll grow out of it.  Maybe he won’t.  It’s all ok.  The same can be said, I imagine, of little girls who want to wear jeans and t-shirts and play with trucks, though the point is raised that we don’t necessarily panic as much over such an occurrence.

I will say, though, that I do contest one major point in the article that I don’t even know the author realizes she makes.  She implies that “swishy gay men” (yes, she did acknowledge that it was probably a politically incorrect term) were the only grown men who could grow up and still love things like dresses and the color pink.  A bit narrow in gender consideration — though that’s another point she admits to in the article, that she’s made that mistake before. 

Filed under education gender youth kids children lgbtq psychology paychology today yes that was in fact a true blood joke up top

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emilwriting asked: What makes you want to work with children so much, what is your driving reason?

I wanted to think about how to answer this one for a little bit, because it’s such a big question.  I want to stand up for the underdog.  In that sense, I have and might in the future work with or to bring visibility to issues of poverty, race, the LGBTQ community, veterans who aren’t getting the support they need, mental health…but I do keep coming back to children, and ultimately that’s where I want to be, at some point in my life, in whatever capacity (teaching, doing psych work in juvenile detention centers, working with LGBTQ youth groups, anything).

It affects the way I choose to do this, too.  Chances are, I’m going to prefer being in an area other teachers don’t want to go to, or working with an age group my education-involved companions avoid (re: middle school), or administering services that may or may not be typical.  If someone asks me, “You’re looking THERE?” it’s likely to push me harder into wanting to go there — not for the sake of being contrary, but because it means there are fewer people willing to stand up for them.

And among other social issues that I’m also passionate about, children can sometimes be the most powerless, or the least empowered, depending on the circumstances.  That’s not to say that young people don’t have power of their own.  They have energy.  They have fresh eyes.  They have amazing imaginations.  And I want to be there to make sure that those things blossom and grow, that they’re not strangled out.  That those young people realize that they’re amazing people, each and every one of them, capable of amazing things.

All in all, I want to make sure that the people who need help get help.  Children are at the mercy of so many factors in their lives — and so are their parents, and their teachers, and the people trying to help them.  Adding one more protective factor can do so much, whether it’s an extra meal, the ability to read a book that helps them escape, confidence to be themselves, or a classroom where they know they’re safe.

Someone told me, “You can’t save anyone.”  I’ve heard that a lot on the mental health end of things.  And in a way it’s true.  I’ve also heard “You can’t save the world,” which is in a way also true.  Because it’s not about “saving” anything — about having that be-all-and-end-all power.  It’s about helping them save themselves, and in the social justice and education fields, instilling in people the drive to go out and try to make the world a different place.   Saving the world is a group effort.  Empowering other people to do both of those things is important.  Working with young people is my way of doing that.  I want them to feel like they can do that.  To feel strong, and accepted, and capable.  And there’s a drive when I say that about young people that doesn’t push as hard when I say it about anyone else.  So, I figure, this is what I’m meant to do, eventually.

Filed under education ask children youth kids teaching

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How Do You Find An Effective Teacher? Ask a Kid.

It may be tempting for people to assume that students don’t quite know what they’re talking about.  After all, they’re the students.  They’re there to learn.

But students, as it turns out, may be better judges of their teacher’s effectiveness than someone who isn’t in the class all day.  Who would have thought?

And the lesson of the day is…don’t underestimate your children.

Filed under kids children teacher effectiveness students link news Gates Foundation studies education

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How To Read a Picture Book (“What Do Authors Do?” Lesson 1)

How DO you read a picture book?  From the beginning to the end?  All in one sitting?  Showing the pictures as you go, or reading upside-down so they’re always facing the listener?  Or, instead of at your feet, are the children you read to in your lap?

You learn about a hundred different ways to read a book when you’re teaching — ways that will vary depending on the book, the students, and what you want them to get from it.  But one thing I notice is that most people still like to sit and read a story as a story — start to finish.  And that’s great for some stories, and I’m sure I’ll talk to you about different ways to do THAT, too.  But not all stories are best that way.

While at the Eric Carle Picture Book Museum, myself and my librarian partner in crime, Colleen, picked up this excellent book that I’ve been wanting ever since I saw it in my first Literacy Acquisition course:

"What Do Authors Do?" by Eileen Christelow is not only a great glimpse into the process of professional writers for young readers, but it’s a perfect jumping-off point for any number of writing workshop lessons and activities too.  You can get your copy for fairly cheap:

Christelow is also the author and illustrator of the companion to this, “What Do Illustrators Do?”; the “Five Little Monkeys” series; and among other things, a book titled “Vote!” that I’ve never seen before but now intend to check out for my future classroom.  Seriously, you can never get enough of that sort of resource when you’re trying to encourage good citizenship — but back on topic.

Rather than just text and matching pictures, this particular book also utilizes an almost comic-like format in is illustrations.  I personally always have a hard time figuring out how to read these to certain age groups — I like to settle on having a student or two taking a character to read the speech bubbles.  But when you’re reading to six-year-olds, that can get a little difficult!  (This year was my first time working with students so young in anything more than an Academic Intervention capacity, to be honest.)

But besides that, because it’s nonfiction and walks you through the writing process, it can be taken apart piece by piece to walk your students (or children, or grandchildren, or you!) through the process, just the same.  Why not take the opportunity it gives you?

I heavily suggest, for the next couple weeks, taking this book out of the library if you’d like to follow along.  I’m going to be referencing it for the lessons, and while I could just take pictures, I feel like it would be unfair to both the creator and the publisher.  Better yet, seriously, buy this book.  Even if you’re a grown adult, it will be one of the better investments you’ve ever made for your bookshelf.

Lesson 1:  Telling a Story from a Prompt

The first few pages of the book talks about where authors get their ideas from.  To this end, the male author’s dog tries to chase the female author’s cat and antics ensue, which they both write about in their different ways.

BUT WAIT.  Why are you turning the page to see what the authors do? 

Instead, try this:

"Oh no!  What do you think is going to happen?"  "

Those are some excellent ideas.  Before we see what THESE authors write, I want to see what YOU’LL write.”

Take a break from the book.  It’s ok.  You’ll get back to it.  If you’re just working with one child, let them keep looking back at the page.  If you’re dealing with a whole classroom, see if you can blow up that particular illustration ahead of time — as much as SMARTboards occasionally irritate me, they’re great for this sort of thing, just scan and post on the board full-size.  If you have less capable digital media, you could try scanning in the picture and printing it on transparency paper; printing it out on multiple pages and taping them together; or, if you have a laptop projector, going that route.  (If you have specific questions about any of this, please don’t hesitate to comment and ask.)

Then, it’s simple: “Now, let’s all be authors.”  (“What does an author do?” “Write the words!” you’ll hope they answer.  A lot of beginning readers have trouble with this; if yours still gets author and illustrator confused, don’t be discouraged, just practice.) “This is your illustration.  Write me a story about this picture.”  Some children will go right to it; some might need some help.  Try asking them simple, open-ended questions (“Who is the cat? Who is the dog?  Why is the dog chasing him?”) or things more specific to the picture (“How did the dog end up in the wheelbarrow?”). 

Don’t forget: Make sure that your young authors give the characters names, too!

Every child is at a different level.  Some may write you a page.  Others might make a whole book, with extra illustrations of their own.  Encourage them!  If they want to create a whole epic saga about their characters, hand them more paper and ask them to read it to you when they’re done.  Classroom time constraints?  If your students don’t have a free-write time, maybe they can do more at home and bring it in for some editing, and “publish” it for a classroom library when they’re done with revisions.  (If you’re not used to doing revisions with your child/children, don’t worry — that’s covered in this book too!)

Did you try this at home/school?  Want to show it off? Send it my way, and I’ll be sure to feature it in another Tuesday post!

Filed under What Do Authors Do? picture books writing workshop lessons activities try this at home! try this at school! activities kids children education teaching ideas