Thursday, September 24, 2015

Endangered Childhood Movement?

Recently, I've been thinking about about the impact of movement on children's brains.  I stumbled upon this post by Angela Hanscom and have been chewing on the idea of an underdeveloped balance (vestibular) system contributing to a child's difficulty remaining still during times of focus. I often hear teachers reference movement breaks as a strategy for helping children "get their wiggles out" so they can focus on instruction. As I read more, it seems to me that brief breaks don't have much chance of helping overcome the movement deficit many children may be experiencing.
This article by the same author struck me because I recognize the examples of students playing too roughly on the playground, for example, trying to chase and catch a friend, but instead tackling and knocking the friend down.  I can't count the number of students referred to my office for rough playground behavior they explained with "I didn't do it that hard" or "I didn't mean to."  The children perceive that they are just playing, with no intent to hurt their friends, yet outcome of the behavior is aggressive and at times, injurious.
I'm not sure how schools can build in opportunities for all students to safely experience heavy work or tumbling on a regular basis to build students' proprioceptive sense.  A start might be to take a close look at the activities of recess to ensure that children are at least active. I often see students on the playground sitting, standing, or walking slowly, which I imagine does nothing to develop the vestibular system as Ms. Hanscom recommends.  I'll have to keep searching for next steps!

Monday, September 21, 2015


Over the weekend, I attended my first Edcamp in Charlotte, NC.  I loved it, as I knew I would.  The "unconference" model allows tremendous flexibility and autonomy over one's professional learning.  The "open source" approach requires all participants to be involved in the development of the content as topics are selected and shared.
It's hard for me to imagine a learner who would not benefit from this type of event. When I experience an ineffective professional development, my usual complaints are that the information presented did not match my current needs as a learner, and/or that the presenter did not take into account my needs as a learner.  These potential problems are eliminated by the Edcamp structure. All participants have the opportunity to suggest and vote on content, so learners have a high likelihood of having a conversation available that meets a perceived need.  Learners are expected to actively participate in each session by sharing their ideas and resources, but are also expected to leave sessions for other choices if the conversation is not meeting their needs.  Participants also take collaborative notes, which are then available for everyone to benefit from learning they did not get to experience firsthand.
By the end of the event Saturday, I had learned about:
-three apps I plan to share with teachers (Green Screen, Chatterpix, and Book Creator),
-an online course I may take and recommend for some teachers seeking strategies for students demonstrating persistent and problematic behaviors,
-an organization for supporting gifted learners, and
-lots of other tips and tricks.
Additionally, I added a few people to my professional network and ate a great BBQ lunch.  Other than the BBQ, I expect that every participant in an Edcamp reaps the same type of benefits.  If you haven't attended one, I urge you to find one.  (Local friends, here's one for you.) If you're not near one, find out how to create one. I'm looking forward to my next Edcamp!

Rules for Edcamp success

Thursday, September 10, 2015


This year, our school is participating in a professional development on educating gifted students, particularly those identified as Academically or Intellectually Gifted (AIG). Last week in our first session, we talked about several perspectives on giftedness.  One I found fascinating was Kazimierz Dabrowski's Theory of Emotional Development and the concept of overexcitabilities (OEs). (Here's a post that summarizes the theory if it's also new to you.) Basically, this framework characterizes giftedness as a higher than average responsiveness to stimuli that makes concrete stimuli more complex with greater emotional content, essentially amplifying every experience (Ackerman, 2009).
As an administrator, I often encounter students who are demonstrating what could be characterized as one or more of the five types of  OEs - psychomotor, sensual, imaginational, intellectual, or emotional - because their significant and/or dramatic responses to events, environment, or peers create disruptions to the classroom activities.  Prior to learning of Dabrowski's theory, I never thought of the behaviors in those moments as evidence of giftedness. While I don't want to rush my next classroom disruption, I am curious to see how my teachers and I may respond in such a situation, armed with this new learning.  We cannot and will not allow students to interfere in the learning of their peers, however, as we deal with individuals in need of support, perhaps our strategies can reflect a response to potential giftedness.

Ackerman, C. M. (2009). The Essential Elements of Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration and How They are Connected. Roeper Review. 31 (2). 81-95.