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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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A Call to All Social-Emotional Learning Leaders

Edutopia blogger Maurice Elias asks SEL and character education leaders to work together to create a set of guidelines and to also decide on a common language and terminology.

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Melanie Smith's picture

There are so many "buzz" words in our field, I appreciate the effort that will go into integrating ideas and creating common language. Thank you

Gail Poulin's picture

This sounds helpful. As an educator of young children, I can see that others on my team have the same goal but the language is always moving and once the kids leave our classrooms, they have different language going out the door with them to their next classroom where they regroup for even more new language.

The Dixie Diarist's picture
The Dixie Diarist
Teacher, Writer, and Artist

When it all comes down to it, if kids and teenagers easily and naturally say "thank you" and "yes, sir" and "yes, ma'am" and "you're welcome," and then if they're generally kind to one another, then somebody's done a great job ... parents or teachers or both.

Saying "please" is pretty darn powerful, too.

Caleb Winebrenner's picture
Caleb Winebrenner
Teaching Artist currently based in AZ.

Interesting article. I agree that the landscape feels very like the Tower of Babel," but I think this misses a critical point of the discussion, focusing not on what it is, but rather how to most effectively do it (speaking from my bias as a teaching artist).

I've linked this article and another that may interest people in my post for November 12, here: http://wp.me/p2RoSH-9d

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Gratitude Can Fuel School Transformation

Blogger Elena Aguilar describes how developing a practice of gratitude on our campuses can help change the culture and climate of our schools.

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Making the Most of Mentors for Students

Blogger Suzie Boss provides pointers for teachers on how best to utilize adult mentors who help their students with projects.

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5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students

To inspire more inquiry in the classroom, blogger Rebecca Alber offers up five questions to routinely ask students.
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Mark Collard's picture
Mark Collard
Playful adventure educator, author, founder of playmeo.com

So simple, yet so good. Thanks for sharing Jim. This idea is going straight to my blog, to benefit tons of experiential educators out there... http://blog.playmeo.com

Norah's picture
Norah
Early childhood teacher, writer, life-long learner

This is a great article and the questions are very effective ones for extending thinking, learning, and thinking about learning; all slightly different things. Sometimes it is easy to ask "Why do you think that?" when an incorrect answer/explanation has been given, and ask "How do you know that?" when a correct answer/explanation is given. This can alert the student (and others) to the appropriateness of the response. I think that if the "thinking" question is asked for all responses, students are asked to provide more information which may either clarify to the teacher where the misunderstandings are, or help the student to explain and clarify their own understandings.

Norah's picture
Norah
Early childhood teacher, writer, life-long learner

Thanks also for all the other comments on this blog. I have enjoyed following the links through to other posts: and interesting conversation.

Trevor Teter's picture
Trevor Teter
middle school science inclusion teacher.

my thoughts exactly. We get comfortable asking those questions and getting those safe answers, but that is not my definition of engaging. Think deeper teachers! Model the messy inquiry method. Work on logic puzzles. Answer questions that do not have a definite answer. Get out there!!! (I feel better) Have a great day/night!

Trevor Teter's picture
Trevor Teter
middle school science inclusion teacher.

So I was trying to add the question related comment to the very first comment-maker (her name escapes me (due to frustration)) as a reply. However, it appears in the general stream of comments to this post. Which I think is brilliant.! Just wish my comment appeared in her reply comment-box-space. ???

Trevor Teter's picture
Trevor Teter
middle school science inclusion teacher.

As for the rest of you. I think you are GREAT and FANTASTIC for reading this article and leaving comments to be known, This is a community that I would like to be more a part of. The Inquiry Club,
I'm in. I love the advice. LOVE it!!! The idea that we should give them 5-7 seconds is a bit disgusting if you stop and think about that some more... more than 7 seconds. PLEASE!! Let's consider the following..... stumble, stumble,trip. Sorry, I get so excited and nervous all at the same time. Kids are so important and we have to learn how to honor them as well as teach them to honor themselves by honoring others. PEACE

Garreth Heidt's picture
Garreth Heidt
High School Liberal Studies teacher, Design-minded educator, Forensics Coach

I'm moving to a new position as a HS teacher next year after 20 years of crafting a curriculum unique to my district's middle schools. My position at the HS is in the English department but the vision for the class is, according to the superintendent, "Different, deeper learning, more critical and creative thinking...."

Ok then. So one of the first things I thought of, given its importance to all students, is to start with the Philosophical theme of "Who are you?" I've readings from David Eagleman's Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (chapter 1, "There's someone in my head and it's not me."), Pink Floyd (of course), The Matrix (of course), David Levithan's novel Every Day, studies of language and words and how thought and words define us (some Wittgenstein in there), an episode of Radiolab called "Words", and studies of Carol Dweck's work on Growth and Fixed mindsets.

Mike, this is a tremendous question and I really like how you present it. Any ideas you have for me would be greatly appreciated. Obviously such and essential question as this will last more than just a unit. I've tried to sketch out other areas of exploration (and I'll be soliciting student interest for these units) on "My Community", "My World", and "Other Worlds." No matter what, though, it will all come back to the question of "Who are you?" and the attendant question, "How do you know?" (Hello Descartes.)

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

Garreth, that sounds like a GREAT class. My favorite essential question ever was "What really matters?" Much like your question, it lends itself to all kinds of content and connections. Can't wait to hear how your class goes!

(And, as an old Forensicator myself, I'm also happy to see you include that in your profile!)

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The Mind of a Middle Schooler: How Brains Learn

Blogger Heather Wolpert-Gawron defines important brain terminology while providing a classroom scenario where a middle schooler's brain is hard at work.
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UC Study: 5 Findings on College Success for Low-Income Youth

Blogger Bob Lenz shares how urban high schools can increase the number of low-income youth graduating and attending college.

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Are School Librarians Part of Your PBL Dream Team?

If librarians know about upcoming projects, they can help to spark curiosity even before project launch day.

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A Teacher Perspective: Advice for Principals

Blogger Ben Johnson offers his observations to administrators to help them build better relationships with teachers.
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Brains, Brains, Brains! How the Mind of a Middle Schooler Works

Blogger Heather Wolpert-Gawron launches this three-part series by advising middle school teachers to read up on brain research which will give insight on how the 'tween brain works.

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Simple Ways to Cultivate Happiness in Schools

Blogger Elena Aguilar asks, how might you bring more happiness and well-being to your school?

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Jojo Zhong's picture
Jojo Zhong
Early Childhood teacher from China

I like your ways to cultivate happiness in schools. I will use them for my future teaching plan and try to establish a happy classroom environment. Besides that, I think we can still do some more simple activities to cultivate happiness in classroom for young children:
1) Plan a special field day that encourages families' participation.
2) Collaborate with another teacher to develop an activity that will be mutually beneficial to both groups of children (for example, older children reading to younger ones or a pen-pal program).
3) Add a few new toys or books that will interest children.
4) Get a classroom pet.
5) Invite parents or other visitors into the classroom to share their various expertise areas.
I believe that teachers who possess enthusiasm for learning and spark children's renewed interest can cultivate happiness in school and in classroom.

chemtchr's picture
chemtchr
chemistry

Elena, Jojo, Catherine, and Linda: I'm so glad to meet you all. The most important idea you are upholding here is that a child's happiness has value, and SHOULD be cultivated in schools.

I teach in a low-income high school, and all those ways of cultivating happiness will work there, too. There are so many
external factors that can steal happiness form children who are under life stress to begin with. I find that mine still have a child's ability to put those things aside, and be won over into happiness in the moment if we offer it to them. It even gives them wings again.

That's the real resilience they need, I'm convinced. Our administrators are now telling us we have to teach "grit", and that resilience in the face of adversity will be strengthened if we throw more stress and adversity at them.

We've concocted a scheme in our chemistry department to bring helium tanks for mole day, and let all the tenth graders fill balloons for experiments, and then take with them through the rest of their day. Wish us luck.

Lessia Bonn's picture
Lessia Bonn
co-founder I am Bullyproof Music
Blogger 2014

If I even begin to chatter around this subject I will leave a book on this page. Needless to say, your little blog post will get pinned quite a bit by this happy camper. Why am I happy? Because you spoke such truth. Just sayin'. Nothing wrong with a little happy harmony in one's classroom... especially when the lyrics are good. But one little thing; minor keys work too. Most kids love a little drama. Minor spells drama-- the good time when it's attached to deep lyrics.
And now I'm off to hug a tree. Oh- and I also love what Linda added!

Mel Buendia's picture
Mel Buendia
ESL, teacher educator, High school &College, MEXICO

I am so happy I found your articles! I completely agree with you. Learners,no matter the age,need to be hapy and feel happiness around, specially in a world that moves so fast. The real great moments in life are those in which you enjoy the present moment. I just changed my daughter to a new school for junior high because she was really stressed, and learning is smtg that should bring joy and hapiness. Today, she regained her curiosity, she joined the volleyball team and is very excited with her cucumber first harvest. As you said, for us mothers seeing our kids happy is a must. Thank you so much.
Greetings from Mexico.

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia
Facilitator 2014

Wow! I had no idea that there was such a drive to teach happiness in schools. I guess it's part of the whole social and emotional learning push - something which I completely support. Too often we are blindsided by the demands of national testing, and we ignore the emotional development of those children in our classroom. These tips are fantastic. I'm going to put them into use.

Catherine O'Brien's picture
Catherine O'Brien
I teach sustainable happiness.

It's tremendously important that we are starting to see the integration of positive psychology and happiness studies into education with recommendations for positive schools and positive education. I think it is also important to incorporate some "happiness literacy" because the media often portray happiness associated with material consumption - entirely opposite to what we have learned from positive psychology. Happiness literacy is one of the components of my sustainable happiness course. Other activities aim to help students understand that their happiness and wellbeing is intertwined the the wellbeing of other people and the natural environment.

zep's picture
zep
Education Specialist

Love the idea of facilitating sustainable happiness! A perhaps rhetorical question, is it possible for kids to be happy when they have no say over what subjects they learn, or on how long they spend on a subject? Can an unfree group of people ever be truly sustainably happy?

Catherine O'Brien's picture
Catherine O'Brien
I teach sustainable happiness.

I distinguish between "sustaining" happiness and sustainable happiness. Sustainable happiness is happiness that contributes to individual, community, and/or global wellbeing without exploiting other people, the environment or future generations. So yes, we an ask if education is contributing to, or detracting from, sustainable happiness. The answer is both but it could do much better with greater attention to integrating positive psychology with sustainability and other worthwhile perspectives such as health promoting schools, social and emotional learning, etc. We could be enhancing wellbeing for our students (and teachers) AND contributing to more sustainable societies. There are publications on my web site that explain this more fully: http://sustainablehappiness.ca/publications/.

Mary Jones's picture
Mary Jones
second grade teacher from michigan

Children are happy when they are learning new things.They are happy when they master a difficult task. They are happy when their thinking is acknowledged. Happy songs are okay, but learning is what schools are supposed to be about. And frankly, if I walked into a workshop and hear Johnny Nash or Roberta Flack singing, I'd wonder why I have to be subjected to Muzac everywhere I go.

Ahmed Hany's picture

I distinguish between "sustaining" happiness and sustainable happiness. Sustainable happiness is happiness that contributes to individual, community, and/or global wellbeing without exploiting other people, the environment or future generations. So yes, we an ask if education is contributing to, or detracting from, sustainable happiness. The answer is both but it could do much better with greater attention to integrating positive psychology with sustainability and other worthwhile perspectives such as health promoting schools, social and emotional learning, etc. We could be enhancing wellbeing for our students (and teachers) AND contributing to more sustainable societies.

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