PJ's Happenings

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Calling All Parents!

After visiting many schools, homes and talking to teachers I have realized we need to create collaborative groups. It takes everyone to raise and educate a child. This has been said, researched, and proven before. I am not saying anything new.

What I am saying is, in many cases we are still not doing it. Parents are busy, teachers are over worked and distraught by all the pressure created by "High Stakes Testing". People in general are angry, frustrated and upset by the educational process in the US. We have to set aside all our emotions because ultimately it is the children who suffer and lose out when we are blinded and frozen by these same emotions. We need to have clear heads and remain focused as our goal needs to be our students educational welfare.

Saying that, I realize it is always easier said than done. I am calling on all parents to try to put your emotions, anger, frustration on the back burner. Let's think about what can be done to build safe, happy and productive learning environments to help our children learn and grow.
Here are a few suggestions to get started:

1. Talk to your child/student in order to find out what they like and dislike about school. This applies to parents and teachers.

2. With the above information ask what the child thinks might help them enjoy their education more. What would they like to read about, learn in math, science, and geography. Tap into and ferret out their interests.

3. Ask yourself what you can do to assist engaging your child with school. Parents need to spend at least 15 minutes each day working with their child.

4. If you have the luxury of a little extra time volunteer to help in your child's classroom. Most teachers love and welcome the help and interest.

5. Make games out of school work. Write math problems, vocabulary words and test questions on 3X5 cards and hide them around the house and yard. Everyone loves games make learning fun, play together.

There is loads of data which proves to us the children who spend at least 15 minutes each day reading with their parents actually can gain one year reading level with any other special program. This doe snot mean you tell your student to go do their homework or go read alone. It means you share reading together, then you discuss what this just read. This allows you to check their comprehension. Imagine, only 15 minutes a day, no extra monetary costs, no traveling to special tutors, no magical phonics or reading/math programs which more often than not end up in the back of some closet.

I would like to end saying we need to evaluate our two greatest resources, our children and our time. Human contact is one of the more precious things we are losing on today's society. Children spend more time on technology than they do with family members. What separates us from animals is that we learn and acquire information from each other. Let's embrace the little time we have with our children. This is why I am "Calling All Parents!

Calling all P

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Educatioanl Functional Fixedness

What is "Educational Functional Fixedness?" I will use the example my husband uses. A toothpick. One can't see it having any other use than for teeth. It can hold a cake together, fasten wrapped foods. It could be used, as a shim, to hold a screw tightly in place.
I have seen functional fixedness in teachers. An educator develops a style of teaching, feels comfortable, has a modicum of success with it. Until, along comes the child they can not seem to cope with. "This child 'can't' and won't' behave, doodles on papers, refuses to complete work, won't bring back homework, is 'lazy,' 'disruptive'," just to use a few descriptors. As a former principal I sadly heard this too often.
It's the adult's style that is not effective for this particular students learning style. The adult won't budge saying, "I have taught for years, what is wrong with this kid?" It is the adult's functional fixedness not the student. The teacher feels a failure, but remains unwilling to change. It is simply a matter of tweeking a few things to make the teaching work. The adult needs to tap into the child's abilities, talents and interests.
It's not failure on anyone's part unless the adult refuses to seek out the child's abilities and interests. Many children have "diverse learning skills." Often our society views someone different as having a deficit. No! They have gifts, talents, a variety of ways of learning. Adults need to apply their talents to create success stories!
I have always said, "Teachers are the most talented people I know, they can take nothing and turn it into lessons." When I use my motto: Teaching Done Right, All Children Can Learn," it is not a slam toward teachers. All I am saying is we have the responsibility to make sure we are including each child and have paid special attention to their learning styles.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

New Children's Book Release: DD & Daddy's Big Night Out

Please read of our October Newsletter. It tells about some great things that have happened and more terrific things which are in the process of coming out from Pennie Rich Publishing. The most empowering gift which can ever be given is the gift of literacy. Give books, audio books and more books to children and let's fill ever house hold with books!

Give books to your favorite charities, books to your doctor's offices and books to any impoverished children they need books in their homes the most! Give books along with food to the food banks.

Let's feed the minds of our youth just as we fight to feed their stomachs.

Thanks you from the bottom of my heart as I continue my battle against illiteracy in the world.

P.J. Nickels

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Illiteracy in the US: Education starts here!

When I refer to education "Beginning Here" it sounds like a vague statement. Not so. The reason is literacy begins any place a child is. Let me explain.
It begins in the home first. We now know children can begin to recognize letters and sounds or what we educators call, "letter, sound recognition" at an extremely early age. As young as two in some cases (note not all cases). Next, and very quickly after letter sound recognition occurs, they can often begin to recognize "sight words, or high frequency words." These are words such as, "and, the, I, a , to, an, you," etc. Children are able to do this because these sounds and words are used again and again. They hear and see them every place and delight when they recognize what they are.
From there it is ideal for children to begin pre-school, Head Startand and go on to kindergarten. The scientific data and observations about children who experience early literacy beginnings demonstrates they have higher success rates in school.
I know first hand what it is to have a very bad elementary beginning, as I had no early home or kindergarten learning, there was no one practicing the alphabet with me or even reading me any stories or books. Reading was not something that was nurtured in my home. Consequently, in the fourth grade it was discovered, after years of faking my way through, I could not read. It was so horrible for me I finally dropped out of school before I even completed the 9 th grade. Children who are that far behind, unless an intense "Individualized Learning Plan" is put in place and acted upon, never catch up. They begin planing ways of dropping out as they can not stand the degradation, constant, unending, daily
struggle school is for them.
Now we ask what happens to the adults who have never learned to read? What happens to the more than 30 million Americans who are functionally illiterate? The answer is we continue to create learning centers. We act with the utmost compassion. We work as volunteers and actively createing environments and programs where people feel safe and accepted even though they can not read. We treat the situation as if it were anything else needing immediate attention and compassionate intervention.
We do things such as I am doing with all my children's books. I know the reality of illiteracy in our homes. I understand why there is failure many times as teachers send home reading books for the students to sit down and read with their parents. I saw these little assignments fail over and over in the schools in which I was a principal. I personally experienced this during my entire elementary school experience. Things being sent home to houses where the parents can not read or speak English. This type of thing sets everyone, from the student, to the parent, to the teacher up for failure. We must do our own homework as educators before we randomly send home assignments or books to be read. We must know our students and their homes.
My answer to this is I am writing and developing a full line of children's books with audio books. The students can take the books home, adults can be asked to spend 15 minutes each day reading along with their children using the audio book along with the book first. Everyone gets to see the words, hear the words and the story. After a few times they all become able to read together.
To make the audio books special, with an upscale feel, there are original songs written by composer, Maynard Williams and the narrations, with character voices, are beautifully recorded by former BBC presenter and voice-over artist, Paul Mackenzie from Nottinghamshire, England.
There are lesson guides for teachers and parents as well. These guides take the books and their text one step further. The Lesson Guides help adults expand on what is being read by crossing curriculum. This means the materials in the Lesson Guides are carefully developed by myself and a wonderful biologist, Dr. Kathleen Farquharson to expand on the contents fo the books. We show, in the guides, how to turn activities into the materials children are tested on in the elementary schools. We do this by aligning the guides to the National Standard's of Learning in areas of, science, language arts, history, geography, art, music, etc. These guides make it easy for home schoolers, classroom teachers or any family who enjoys doing a few extra activities with their children.
The fight against illiteracy in our country is awareness. That is the first remedial move to solving any great problem. Remember, "Education starts Here!"

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Educators & Attitudes

With everyone returning to school there is a lot of buzz once again on blogs, in the news, and through the media regarding teacher's, student's and parent's attitudes. I feel responsible to inform folks that it is all the players coming in with attitudes. And, these attitudes can be both positive and negative.
Students of all ages have bad attitudes, for a variety of reasons, about school and their teachers. The students may simply not want to be there, this can include younger and older students alike. Teachers may be the same. They are tired, frightened, have the feeling they may no longer be making an impact on kids or they may just be burnt out and hate their jobs. I must mention, these types of teachers, in my experience are few and far between. Most teachers love teaching.
There are good and bad students just as there are good and bad teachers. This description has a broad definition, but at the end of the day all these players are human. All humans have attitudes about themselves and life in general. These attitudes come into the classroom no matter who brings them.
At this point I remind my readers this is not a problem endemic only to schools and classrooms. Attitudes are in our homes, workplaces, communities, churches, and organizations. There are always those who are achievers, some are helpers, those who always seem angry, people who are always happy, and those who are always sad or solitary. Then there are the ever present pians-in-the-neck who are lazy, never pulling pull their weight.
Now we ask what do we do about it? Can we do anything about it? My answer is yes there are solutions.
One thing is stop and examine the situation for what it really is before responding. Don't add to the drama or trauma. Most of the time someones attitude may not even have a thing to do with you as a person. It may actually be about the teacher or student with the attitude. There can be dozens of reason for the way they respond and act toward others. It may be hard to believe but their actions may not have a thing to do with you or those they are lashing out toward.
If someone is a miserable human being they may a miserable human being so anyone in their paths get mowed down by them. If someone is miserable that becomes their problem. The only problem which becomes ours is in not getting drug down with or by them. Easier said than done I know, but with practice it can be done. I have done it for years...much to the chagrin of the miserable.
The complaints coming in are from both sides. Complaints by the students about the teachers and teachers complaining about the students of today;s world. Teachers say students don't care anymore and the students are saying the same thing about the teachers.
Well, news flash! You are all correct. Our world of today is nothing like that of the 70's and the 1970's where nothing like the 1950's. Everything is always changing. With everything changing we must continually reinvent ourselves to move with the changes. Those who do not and decide to fight the changes become angry, tired and bitter.
Your final question or comment to me is, "So then why do I have to give in to the person with the attitude issue?" The best news is, you don't give in or try to change them. The only thing you have to do and the only responsibility you have is to take care of yourself. It all comes down to how you personally decide to respond to the other person. You are and can only be responsible and accountable to you, no one else. The greatest thing I have witnessed by embracing this concept is that by adopting a positive, healthier life style others around you begin to respond differently as well.
Of course there will always be those who don't respond to anything. They are miserable human beings and will always be so. The way I love to deal with these types is the more negative and nasty someone become the sweeter I choose to react to them. I love this and it always makes my day go better. Sometimes a tiny spark of hope is seen and if not you have the satisfaction that you may have made their day much worse!
Lighten up everyone and learn to laugh at yourselves. Enjoy the school year!

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Education in the Nunivak Bush of Alaska

Sat. August 29th. I woke at 7:30 Alaska time and decided to take a walk alone to reflect about my last two days with the Cup'ig Eskimo people. I wanted to try to remember as many stories and interesting things I had seen and been told. The children have been a delight and as sweet and funny as any children one meets in the world.

I had one last thing I wanted to get done while I was on the Island and that was to walk through the cemetery. I tried during several of my tours with the children to go see the cemetery and the children simply changed the subject or they immediately changed our direction for another destination. I quickly understood it is not the same as my children who grew up playing in our cemetery. They even played basketball over there as the woman who rented the caretakers house had two boys the same age as two of my youngest kids. The cemetery was the playground out in the country as we were 2.5 mi. from town.

The cemetery was only a short walk from the little house we were staying in. So with movie and still camera in hand I began my trek through the silent streets. As I trudged through the sandy street up to the grassy windblown hill over looking the sea I could see the white crosses. The brightest white ones I came to see whee the newest. All the crosses where the same and for the exception of three or four they were all just crosses, no adornments, flowers or other decorations. The crosses all had the name of the deceased, the DOB and the DOD. It appeared they were put up painted and labeled and then they were never repaired or repainted after the time they went in. There were many that had been long stripped of their paint and information by the constant winds, blowing sands and harsh weather.

There was one grave that was heavily adorned with silk flowers, a sitting angel, many little shells and rocks. I looked through the artificial silk flower vine wrapped around the cross which covered the DOB and DOD. I carefully moved the flowers to see the name and information only to find it was the 6 years old girl that Nus and Howard had told me about.

This little girl fell through the ice and went under the water. They said how fortunate they felt to be able to recover the body. It would have been an even more tragic death to have not recovered her for burial. That would have been the case with us all. When there is no body one feels empty and has an even more difficult time with the morning process without a body. This young and tragic death impacted everyone in Mekoryuk as one can only imagine. This entire ordeal was horrible. When something happens to someone in Mekoryuk
I have come away from this village a changed woman. I will never view life or circumstances the same again. I was so richly and deeply touched by all the people I met on the Island. having the precious opportunity to give copies of all my books, audio books and to spend time with each child if only for the time it took to ask their names and sign each book for them it was still life altering.

I only pray they feel a little the same...that would satisfy me. There are actually no words to describe the feelings I felt and the instant and deep affection I feel for the Cup'ig people. Their beautiful faces and gracious smiles are enough to win even the coldest heart. I am still pondering the praying about the emotion I continue to feel about this adventure I so desperately knew I had to make. I had to do more research and see, feel, smell touch, everything I could in my short three day stay in order to finish the last three books for my Nuni of Nunivak Island series.

Beside all this my poor artist Juliann Kaiser said, "you had better take thousand and thousands of pictures for me!" We had both worked on Nuni basically blind and when I walked and came across one beach which looked exactly and I mean exactly like the one in our book I stood and with goose bumps running all over my body I just wept uncontrollably. I asked God how is it possible Juliann and I could have made such an incredible connection without ever seeing this incredible place?

I always say that as soon as we meet another person our lives are altered forever. You can never go back to being the same person as that new person who comes into your life changes you. So I say thank you to Nus for helping me these past three years, and to Howard her dedicated and gentle husband, i will never forget the fast and easy smile of Solomon, the first Cup'ig man who met us at the air strip, I thank Alice, Edith, Annie, Pam, Boyd, Peggy from the school for their warmth toward us. I will never forget Ralph, Stephen, Nathan, Sandra and most of all all those wonderful, wonderful children in the Mekoryuk School. I love you all and pray the Nuni books bring pride to you and enrich your lives.

I want the world to know about this quickly vanishing people. Their language and very existence is in peril. We could actually see them become swallowed up by our present day society. They need to find work, go away for their educations and they marry into other cultures more readily in this day and age. I hope the Nuni series will capture and preserve some of their culture and beauty. Thank you my dear friends.

I will be adding more as I can think back on all this. I will be posting pictures and video after I can get home and get settled.

As they say on Nunivak "tawa piura" my friends.

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