Well, the cold is certainly descending on New England. A wet weekend storm that seems like it might want to hang around for the start of the week, is starting to feel a little like a no longer welcome houseguest. This can be a dark period for educators, as the middle of term rushes past and student assignments pile up, the weather changes and the pressure and weight of the upcoming holidays starts to come into view. In that spirit, here are a few items hopefully worth your attention and might even help a little.
This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the last one. Jason Reynolds is one of those rare rock-star writers that just happens to write specifically for young audiences. This segment that comes from a PBS show, Articulate, is a profile with a pretty powerful message, “The antidote to hopelessness is young people,” Reynolds believes. And it is a message that educators cannot hear enough, in my opinion. You can read the transcript from the segment or watch the video. Take the seven minutes and watch the video.
Stay dry and warm. it makes you happy. Read the second piece for more details.
Here are three curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.
The lost art of concentration: being distracted in a digital world – The Guardian – Harriet Griffey (12-minute read)
While there is a lot of information in this piece that is not exactly new, it is well-composed and more importantly includes some methods to combat concentration loss. Even more interesting to me is the reminder that so much of this is about habit and behavior. So this thought may be the most important one in the whole article for me, “The fact that we are the cause of this is, paradoxically, good news since it hands back to us the potential to change our behaviour and reclaim the brain function and cognitive health that’s been disrupted by our digitally enhanced lives.” I am not sure that we can be prompted with that enough.
There are some really good suggestions on how to wrestle back some level of concentration. In fact, I would argue that this might be one of the most powerful moments for advocating mindfulness. Sure meditation has its benefits but reconnecting to your own ability to concentrate forces a sensitivity and self-awareness that is necessary for mindfulness. Those elements of sensitivity and self-awareness seem fundamental to regaining control of our own behavior and health.
2011 : What Scientific Concept Would Improve Everybody’s Cognitive Toolkit? – Edge – Adam Alter (3-minute read)
Sticking with a theme that includes some mindfulness, this older but short article is a fascinating discussion of stimuli that impact us without our necessarily being aware. I think simply acknowledging the complexity of the human brain is a major step in the right direction. Unfortunately, there is a lot of press with considerable oversimplification when it comes to the brain, especially in education media.
I often wonder how much things like color and symbols or imagery are considered in the construction of public buildings like schools. It seems more often than not, attention to them is conspicuously absent. It just lends a new wrinkle and even more credence to that old adage that a new coat of paint can make everything seem new. The weather seems like something that we would all be a bit more conscious of having an impact, while the temperature was an interesting commentary in the piece. Either way, increasing awareness of these smaller details can make a much bigger difference than we might otherwise consider.
For anyone that has not read a book by Jason Reynolds, you really should take a few minutes and at least watch this video. Then consider going to the library and having a read of one of his already considerable output. He is one of the better writers for young audiences working today. I have read a few of his books. He is the real deal, not just some commercially hyped next big thing.
At a time where it is far too easy to feel overwhelmed and maybe desire to just check out, this is a pretty timely message of a way to instill some hope. And at the risk of sounding trite, working with young people is remarkably restorative when it comes to retaining hope. No matter how annoyed or frustrated we educators can become, always remember this line, “we don’t want to live in a world where young people are not irreverent.” That is a powerful truth. For anyone that works in a school, it should serve as a powerful maxim.