Saturday, November 20, 2010

I'm Learning Like SpongeBob

I've always loved the SpongeBob cartoons! SpongeBob is one of those ineffable characters that means something different to each person. To me, SpongeBob is the ultimate learner. He is fully aware of his lack of knowledge, and yet that doesn't daunt him as he plunges forward to soak up the knowledge that others around him offer. He doesn't care that he doesn't know everything. It doesn't hold him back from trying new things, no matter how great the risk of failure. Throughout, he remains upbeat and kind to his friends, bringing them along for his intellectual forays.

Even when the going is tough, SpongeBob keeps on trying. I'm still not sure if SpongeBob ever got his driver's license, even though he must have taken the test over 15 times. Despite the frustration of his teacher, he still applied effort with enthusiasm. After all, if a goal is truly important, it's worth repeated efforts to accomplish it. Mastery is worth the effort!

I think SpongeBob is a great example that we all can emulate. We shouldn't be afraid to take on new educational risks, but should relax and enjoy the challenge before us. Like SpongeBob, we should soak in all the information around us, process it, and squeeze out the wonderful juice of knowledge. Look for the knowledge others have to offer. Read the attachments for presentations you were unable to attend. Follow up on the links that others share. There's a wealth of information for the taking, and your friends have already narrowed down the pool to the really worthy material. Take advantage of these gifts that are offered to you. Don't shrink from the challenge, but explore your world and your discipline with the childlike enthusiasm of SpongeBob. You'll swell up in no time!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Keep it Moving!

I just attended some great workshops this past weekend at the NJEA convention in Atlantic City, NJ. Two were particularly inspiring: "I'm the Write Teacher" by Joseph Pizzo and "The Kinesthetic Classroom" by Mike Kuczala. Mr. Pizzo brought new energy to classroom pedagogy with his integration of fun activities that accomplished the same tasks as a boring lecture. I particularly enjoyed his impromptu poetry slam made up with teacher-supplied excuses. It was a fun exercise that also demonstrated parallel structure, a win-win strategy!  Mr. Kuczala showed some simple ways that movement can increase cognitive processing, class cohesion, and just plain fun. He managed to get over 150 teachers moving, laughing, and agreeing that these were worthwhile activities.  I plan to purchase his book that offers more background on the research and many practical applications of movement for all disciplines.

My point? Our classrooms don't need to be boring to be effective.  We need to work on developing energized environments that appeal to all learners and keep them engaged. Humor, movement, and just plain silliness are great assets for teachers.  Let's remember that if we're bored, our students are probably asleep.  Plan for movement. Plan for group interaction. Plan for laughter and silliness.  You'll be glad you did!

Here's a link to Mike Kuczala's book: