Four hundred and ninety fourth åsic- The Yellow Wall and The Blue Wallpaper

I used to teach in another classroom a couple of years ago. When I started off teaching there, I had an opportunity to decide for myself what the classroom would look like. I think that is one of the reasons that I liked it there. When moving out , I removed all the details because I wanted to give the new teachers the same opportunity to do whatever they wanted to make the classroom feel like ”theirs”.

This is something I wrote when I was still teaching in my old room: 

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper is an American short story read  by many, but how many of the readers have spent a fortnight of pure creative language learning in a yellow classroom ? The teacher had painted her classroom herself and turned the dark dull room in the basement into a positive oasis for learning. All walls were painted in a bright yellow colour. Her combination of gifts from previous students, her own creations or things she had got here and there, together with wisdom on little plaques or instruction posters with different themes like weekdays, phrases or words for certain occasions, gave the impression of a nice and welcoming place where the soul of learning was more important than anything else. Soul in English almost sounds like sun in Swedish, sol.

My classroom is not painted by me and it is not yellow either, but I have hanged The Blue Wallpaper myself and I have added a lot of blue accents, such as glass, fabric or decorations. Blue is my fave color and it also lead my thoughts to water or to a realxing feeling that makes me calm. In one of the corners of my room I have a waterdoor… In another corner are verbs connected to language use. The many hearts on the window to our pentry is decorated with thoughs or words on the theme LOVE. I think my students are important in many ways. I also find their background, culture and languages important. I think it is necessary for a classroom where languages are taught, that you actually can see that we speak different languages. All those languages are important. Knowing several languages is a true wisdom!

BLÅTT och GULT

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The teacher I visited in NJ, USA was teaching about weather expressions in Spanish when I was there and both the students and herself were happy… and yellow is the happy color that perfectly suits a classroom for Spanish lessons. A saying by an ”unknown” author that suits the yellow classroom very well:

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow

Four Hundred and Twentyfirst Asic- The Impact of the Principal in the Process of Change

To be a teacher means working in a constant change. It goes on and on and has no end. We all know that. We meet new groups of students, we teach new content to new age groups or we meet new teaching friends whom we are supposed to work in teams with. International school surveys like PISA and similar, serve as evaluation for school systems on a global level and governments in countries worldwide develop their school systems accordingly. We all understand school systems need to be flexible since everything else would be an obstacle to the whole educational system. But having said that, it would for sure help both teachers and students if changes on a local level would also be based upon scientific results, rather than a single person’s bright idea. Being part of something new and interesting and being listened to in a reciprocal process to create a better learning environment, such as the case below can be very rewarding for every participant, but what happens with the willingness to invest more energy in another ”bright idea” when you change principals in the middle of the process?

I remember a very interesting situation in my teaching career when the teachers in the school where I taught at the time, had worked together in smaller groups, with the only instruction to ”find a way to work more efficiently with the new curricula”. The groups may have been three or four. Every group consisted of teachers not only from school years 1-6, but also from the very new ”preschool class” level and from nursery school with children at the age of 1-5. The mix of teachers in each group, made it more difficult to find general solutions where every group member was satisfied, but on the other hand, all groups came to the conclusion that the very process was important. All groups also noticed that the process created a more close relationship between the different teachers involved. Being part of a group concerning school development stimulated the teachers and they found the project meaningful and interesting.

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They also felt more professional, more engaged and interested in educational development. Most teachers took their time listening to each other, both to experiences of teaching, but they also listened to ideas, new input that they themselves had not tried before. The principal at this school was very engaged, too, and after a while, the whole school seemed ready to form a completely new organisation. Many of the teachers could see a very interesting learning environment take form and where thrilled to go on with the process.

The new thing at this time in this particular school was to split up the original groups and classes vertically rather than horisontically. So far this school had taught groups of children born the very same year. According to the new idea children would follow a certain path or track with mixed ages within the group. The students would thus be in groups with not only children who were born during the same year, but also with both younger and older children. Teachers specialized for a certain age group would be working with teachers focusing on other age groups than they did themselves and the idea was to create an enrichment for all involved, both students and teachers.

When the idea with tracks was fixed as a new organisation to come, the teachers met a new challenge in planning for the work in each ”track”. Those who would be teaching the very same children planned for their own track and now they needed to focus on questions like ”How?” and ”What?” and ”Who will be responsible for this or that?”. A new frustrating, but also interesting process started, where members of the groups  tried to communicate what would be ”the very best solution” for their ”track”. Interestingly enough, the different groups found very different ways to work. None of them was ”bad”, but just ”different”, which every teacher in this school agreed upon. When they all met to share the results of the group level work. The good ideas were collected and shared between the groups. They all felt prepared and eager to start the new school year.

 

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Guess what????

 

This school then changed principals and the new principal simply said: ”The idea with tracks is not  my cup of tea. Let’s stick to the old organisation and cancel the change!”

 

 

I remember how I felt that moment… I remember I looked around the room and saw many disappointed faces… All the effort, all the anticipation and expectation for the coming school year was blown away… This was the starting point for a new principal with completely different ideas…

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The three hundred and ninetyfifth åsic- The Yellow Wall and The Blue Wallpaper

I used to teach in another classroom a couple of years ago. When I started off teaching there, I had an opportunity to decide for myself what the classroom would look like. I think that is one of the reasons that I liked it there. When moving out a few months ago, I removed all the details because I wanted to give the new teachers the same opportunity to do whatever they wanted to make the classroom feel like ”theirs”.

This is what I wrote when I was still teaching in my old room: 

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper is an American short story read  by many, but how many of the readers have spent a fortnight of pure creative language learning in a yellow classroom ? The teacher had painted her classroom herself and turned the dark dull room in the basement into a positive oasis for learning. All walls were painted in a bright yellow colour. Her combination of gifts from previous students, her own creations or things she had got here and there, together with wisdom on little plaques or instruction posters with different themes like weekdays, phrases or words for certain occasions, gave the impression of a nice and welcoming place where the soul of learning was more important than anything else. Soul in English almost sounds like sun in Swedish, sol.

My classroom is not painted by me and it is not yellow either, but I have hanged The Blue Wallpaper myself and I have added a lot of blue accents, such as glass, fabric or decorations. Blue is my fave color and it also lead my thoughts to water or to a realxing feeling that makes me calm. In one of the corners of my room I have a waterdoor… In another corner are verbs connected to language use. The many hearts on the window to our pentry is decorated with thoughs or words on the theme LOVE. I think my students are important in many ways. I also find their background, culture and languages important. I think it is necessary for a classroom where languages are taught, that you actually can see that we speak different languages. All those languages are important. Knowing several languages is a true wisdom!

BLÅTT och GULT

 DSC_0016DSC_0017DSC_0015

 

The teacher I visited in NJ, USA was teaching about weather expressions in Spanish when I was there and both the students and herself were happy… and yellow is the happy color that perfectly suits a classroom for Spanish lessons. A saying by an ”unknown” author that suits the yellow classroom very well:

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow

The three hundred and ninetythird åsic- I don’t mind the rain and wind, I’m indoors!

 

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In June 2014 I wrote a blogpost with the title ”A mini åsic- Rain, rain go away, come again another day…” Today is another of those rainy days when that song would be perfect. But being indoors when it’s raining is not that bad actually. I enjoy my good company at my friends’ and I don’t need to be soaking wet on my way somewhere, since we are all indoors. Generally I enjoy any kind of weather as long as I wear clothes that go well along with the weather… I also tend to think that whenever the weather doesn’t suit me well enough, there isn’t anything I can do about it anyway, so why be miserable?

”Bad” weather encourges me to do things around the house, maybe bake a cake, clean the clutter in the attic, get rid of some old clothes I don’t wear anymore… What if we had ”good” weather all the time? When would we then do all those ”boring” but ”necessary things?

 

The three hundred and ninetyfirst åsic- To help students understand and find connections is what teaching’s all about!

A recycled blogpost from my visit in Pitman New Jersey 2014!

For two weeks I have had the wonderful opportunity to be among students and teachers at #Pitman Middle School in #New Jersey, #USA. I have been monitoring instruction in many different classes and seen many very good examples of teaching. My main focus has been ESL-teaching and I have seen examples of that both in primary schools and in adult classes of different kinds. Some of the adult students were part of a program for parents and were taught in classes with students from many different countries. They were preparing for a test and if they’d pass the test that would help them qualify for being American citizens. Other adults I met learned language for their own good, so to speak. They had different private reasons for taking the course and were taught in a smaller group within a local college. In every one of these differents setting and with every single teacher I have noticed high quality and a good knowledge both in what an ESL student needs and also teaching and instruction in general. When in class, I can see that many of the teachers have the same idea as I have, i.e to teach through themes or concepts rather than details. Today, since it is Halloween here, I have noticed that younger kids in primary schools here learn about the local legend #The New Jersey Devil. According to the legend he was the thirteenth child of a worn out woman who didn’t want her child. She cursed him and said ”to the devil with him!” and since then he is haunting #the Pine Barrens in New Jersey. The story is told this day since this is his birthday.

All teachers and students seem very into the idea of Halloween, even if not all schools celebrate with costumes and dresses. One of the classrooms I visited today, a classroom where Spanish is the main subject, focused on the differences between Halloween and the Mexican tradition for Dia de las Muertas  (the Day of  the Dead). The American kids get a chance to comment on what is similar or different when they compare these two holidays. The teacher help them along the way and try to get them to precise what they mean. She asks questions like ”How do you mean?”  ”What would you have thought if a loved one came back to life?” The point for the teacher is to explain that the Mexican Holiday is not at all scary or horrific, but rather a nice way of remembering your loved ones who passed away. The teacher then connects to the American people’s connections to the date 9/11 and the kids all get a chance to share the stories their parents have told them about 9/11. The idea is to show the kids that by remembering and talking about sad or scary memories, those memories get a little easier to talk about each time. Then she wraps it all up by saying THAT is what the Mexicans do when they celebrate THEIR holiday. They stick to the nice memories of a person and cherish those memories in a more happy manner, although they are dressed or disguised into skeletons etc. I was very happy to get the chance to see this lovely explanation of what the different festivities are all about. To help students understand and find connections is what teaching’s all about! I have written in Swedish about the importance of this in my tenth åsic and in my seventyeighth åsic. Thank You and Farewell #Pitman Middle School

Those of you who read Swedish are of course welcome to read other posts as well. You will find those by clicking ”På svenska” to the left on http://www.asaole.com.

For my English readers more blogposts are found by clicking ”In English” to the left on http://www.asaole.com

The three hundred and ninetieth åsic- My New Favourite Tree

A recycled blogpost from my visit in Pitman New Jersey 2014!Quercus_rubra_1.jpg (582×671)

For a couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to experience a very mild and nice autumn here in Pitman, NJ. One of the days we had +28C which is not at all like the temperature for October in Sweden. In my 71st åsic(#Sjuttioförsta åseriet), I wrote about the maples in Sweden and how I used to collect the colourful leaves in the autumn. I have always loved trees and since I live in a part of Sweden where forests are a part of the nice scenery, I always find a walk in the forest very soothing if I need to relax or find new energy. I have walked along nice streets here in Pitman, where mainly tall maples and oaks give gardens their share of fallen leaves. One kind of the tree was unfamiliar to me, but I could tell from what it looked like that it had to be a maple or an oak, so I picked up a leaf and brought it with me to #Pitman Middle School, where I asked everyone I met: ”Is this a maple or an oak?”. Most people said: ”I don’t know but I think it is…” and then two people very quickly said: ”It’s an oak, no doubt!” Now I KNOW it is an oak, since I have done what most people do nowadays… I googled it… It turned out to be a red oak.

The fallen red oak leaves has the same SOUND as the fallen Swedish maple leaves when you walk through them… The other day I took a shortcut home and ended up very far away from home in an empty yard…learning that just as ”genvägar är senvägar” , shortcuts tend to be longcuts…

One good thing by taking the ”shortcut” was that I had to walk on a narrow path in a little forest, passing a railroad to get back home. The fallen leaves in a thick layer sounded like the maple leaves from my childhood and around me both squirrels and chipmunks ran about. I knew I was very close to houses, but the trees and animals made me fly away in thoughts for a while. The beauty of coloured leaves is still the same, no matter where I am. It gives me a feeling of gratefulness to see all the colours, hear the dry sound of the leaves as I walk through them. The sunrays hardly pass through to the ground and there are merely dark soil and old leaves for the squirrels to run about in. In its lack of colours, the ground already seems ready to meet the winter. In my lack of inner compass, I also seemed ready to meet the winter… Luckily I made a correct guess and soon found my way back to Broadway again…

The three hundred and eighty-ninth åsic- From Påskkärring to Tomten in Twenty Minutes!

A recycled blogpost from my visit in Pitman New Jersey 2014!

I have had another interesting day in Pitman Middle School busy with interaction with students and teachers. Today’s topic was a bit different from the other days, since one of the students wanted to know how we celebrated Halloween. I quickly commented on that, but then I shared photos of the tradition from Easter Thursday which is more like the American ”trick or treat” than anything else in our tradition. Kids dress out as witches, but not EVIL witches. They are supposed to be more CUTE than evil or ugly. A påskkärring is supposed to be a witch soon going off to ”Blåkulla” on her broomstick. The idea for the kids is to draw or write nice cards saying ”Happy Easter” and then walk from door to door with these greetings. If they are lucky people give them a little treat in return, but there is NO tricking…just the treat… They will keep the collected treats either in an old coffeepot or in a basket.

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I then got the question whether there were any other Holidays I would like to mention. I picked Midsummer, since that may be interesting if you haven’t experienced it. First of all, Midsummer is a fantastic time of the year anywhere in Sweden, thanks to the Nordic light, but in the Northern part of Sweden the sun doesn’t set at all for a couple of days, which gives your summer’s night a magic touch. Midsummer can be celebrated in many ways, but traditionally we would gather to raise a maypole covered with leaves and flowers and then dance round the maypole, both old and young. One of the most popular song has very easy lyrics and we all sang it as kids. It is called ”Små grodorna” which means ”The little frogs”.

It is said about Midsummer that you dream of your spouse to be if you gather seven flowers and jump over seven fences. But you have to be quiet if you don’t want to break the spell! You pick the flowers, put them under your pillow and in your dream you will meet the very person who will be your husband or wife. 

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Suddenly someone wanted to know whether it was true that our Santa Claus doesn’t look quite like the American… so then we talked for a while about Tomten and the tradition of celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve rather than  on Christmas Day.

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I was happy to have a computer to use to show pictures and talk about different details and finally I shared what TV-show most families watch on Christmas Eve. Kalle Ankas julafton… Donald Duck!

Glad påsk! (= Happy Easter)

Glad midsommar! (= Happy Midsummer’s Eve!)

God Jul! (=Merry Christmas)