Denise Fawcett Facey

At its best, education broadens the way students view the world and their place in it.

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Christmas Break

December 3, 2017







This year, the blog will be on Christmas break the entire month of December. It will return January 2, 2018. See you then! And Merry Christmas!

Tools for Relieving Students' Stress

November 13, 2017

Tags: education, whole child education, students and stress, genius hour, mentors, brain breaks

Photo:http://users2.unimi.it/fens_stress/images/Sl_StressBrain.png
Remember recess? Having that time just to run around and be free, to enjoy playing with others, unencumbered by schoolwork, was pure bliss. Factored into the school day, recess was important as a break from the rigors of academia. It provided a release of pent up energy and stress all at once.

Unfortunately, many students know nothing about that today. With academics given priority over all other aspects of a well-rounded education, recess often disappears from the school day. The result is that students are far more stressed than students were years ago. Plus, outside factors frequently place additional stessors on students.

However, teachers can counterbalance that stress with a little forethought. Thinking through ways to relieve student stress will help students not only to be more productive but also to enjoy school more. With all of this in mind, consider implementing the following stress-relieving tools:

Brain Breaks
Throughout the day, having a few minutes of downtime can make all the difference for students. While they may not have access to a full “recess” period, just five minutes here and there to get up, stretch, chat or even daydream is not time wasted but rather time well spent. Stress is replaced by a bit of relaxation.

Genius Hour
A concept borrowed from the tech world that has gained popularity in increasing numbers of classrooms, genius hour allows student to spend an hour a week working on whatever topic interests them. It need not be strictly related to an academic subject but does need to encompass domains that students are interested in delving into, researching and producing a finished representation (e.g. a paper, visual, audio etc.) of that topic. This creative and intellectual outlet is a real stress reliever.

Mentors
Having one person who invests time and attention in a student can have a profound effect, particularly in relieving stress. As someone with whom a student can vent, seek counsel, bounce ideas and simply have a listening and caring ear, a mentor is priceless.

Building Other Relationships
When a mentor for every student is a luxury beyond reach, the importance of building other relationships with reliable adults can’t be overestimated. Whether it’s you, another teacher, a counselor or some other adult in the building, when students have people with whom they have strong enough relationships that they can talk when they need to, the likelihood of stress overtaking them is diminished.

Of course, there are other ways to help students release stress. Teaching them a few coping skills is worth exploring as well. The point is to give this serious thought, to devise concrete ways for making stress less a part of students lives while still working within the parameters and realities of 21st century classrooms. Sure, it’s a rather daunting task, but students are worth the effort.

Defusing the Power of Standardized Tests

November 6, 2017

Tags: Words or phrases to categorize this post for the tags section

Photo: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1331804/images/ o-STANDARDIZED-TEST-facebook.jpg
Just the mention of the phrase “standardized test” is enough to make many U.S. teachers groan. And there’s good reason for that. The bane of teachers’ existence, these tests have taken on such significance that many teachers spend the entire school year preparing students for them. Meanwhile, students spend their time dreading the results of those tests. After all, one exam can determine whether a student is promoted to the next grade and whether a teacher is deemed qualified.

Standardized tests should be measures of aptitude rather than weapons for evaluating both students and teachers, and then finding them lacking. But that’s another discussion. Since the fact is that these tests don’t seem to be going away anytime soon, we need to devise ways to make them less intrusive on learning and less stressful for everyone involved. So, here are my (more…)

Why Cultural Understanding Matters in the Classroom

October 30, 2017

Tags: education, cultural differences, whole child education

Photo: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ChIiCkCYvUY/UWR2ALGbo9I/AAAAAAAAANI/pATjwigSXag/s1600/CulturalDifferencesBlogButton.jpg
You can’t help but notice the wonderful cultural diversity of 21st century classrooms. Enriching each class with a melange of languages, traditions and worldviews, this diversity is something to be celebrated, not vilified, as has so often been postulated recently. Yet despite all the rewards of this diversity, when teachers don’t fully understand the way cultural differences impact learning, problems quickly ensue. For instance, consider the following scenarios:

  • Tang is struggling in your class despite his fluency with the language. You later discover that he misunderstood a couple of basic concepts but was unwilling to ask questions.

  • Consuelo is hardworking and well-behaved, but she has a habit of never looking at you when you speak to her.

  • Arjun is a great student who loses points in his physical ed class every day, ultimately failing the class for refusing to dress for class and participate. Instead, he wants to sit in a corner of the gym, reading or doing school work.
  • (more…)

The Difference Between Teaching Students and Teaching Children

October 23, 2017

Tags: education, creativity, student success, caring classroom, standardized exams

Photo:https://i.pinimg.com/736x/ee/5e/fe/ ee5efe250ed49214600a0d fab5079510.jpg
One of the many reasons I became a teacher was that I genuinely liked being with kids all day—specifically teenagers. While people often responded with horrified looks when they discovered that I did, in fact, teach teenagers, I always said, “Well, somebody has to like them! And I do.” They were more than students; I thought of them as “my kids,” people for whom I was not only responsible but for whom I sincerely cared. And this definitely influenced the way I taught and even the manner in which I planned my lessons.

With all of this in mind, a sentence in a recent article jumped out at me: “At some point, for those of us who do this work long enough, we realize the kids in our class are children first, students second.” Sure, it may seem obvious that our students are just kids. However, if we see them as kids first, their well-being takes precedence over their achievements. Rather than focus on standardized test scores and other grades, the physical, social and emotional health of our students becomes paramount.

And lest you think that educators have enough to do in teaching without having to concern themselves with the “soft” concepts, consider the following benefits of teaching children instead of merely teaching students: (more…)

Expressing Creativity in School

October 16, 2017

Tags: education, creativity, student empowerment

Photo: http://www.thecreativeeducator.com/2016/articles/images/creativity_main.jpg
Let’s just say it from the outset: School should be fun. It should be a place where students not only gain knowledge but also develop a curiosity for more of it. Replicating 20th century classrooms, with row upon row of student desks, a teacher's desk as the central focus and monotonous work labeled as "learning" should be unknown to today's teachers and students. Besides, it’s more than time to replace those tedious test prep lessons and mind-numbing lectures with discovery, exploration and innovation. That’s fun!

That’s also why I love anything that boosts students creativity and their opportunities to express it. And for all those teachers who like to say, “I’m not here to entertain them,” my response is, (more…)

What's in a Name?

October 3, 2017

Tags: education, whole child education, students' names

Photo: http://www.cybraryman.com/images/studentname.jpg
How many of your elementary school teachers’ names do you remember? Despite the many years that have elapsed, I remember all of mine, from Miss Sanford in kindergarten to Mrs. Maloney in eighth grade. And it’s likely that you do as well. In fact, students usually learn teachers’ names the first day of school. After all, while teachers have many students each year, students in the early years have only one teacher. That certainly makes the teacher and the name memorable. Now here’s the question: How quickly do you learn all of your students’ names? (more…)

Do Students Feel Safe Enough to Take Risks in Your Classroom?

September 18, 2017

Tags: education, safe classrooms, student risk-taking

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When you recall your best school experiences — the ones in which you felt the most success, the most enjoyment and even the most acceptance — what did those teachers and classrooms have in common? Chances are that you felt comfortable in that room, safe to be yourself, sure that what you contributed would be appreciated. It was likely a place where effort superseded perfection and failure was simply an opportunity to try again. In such environments, students soar simply because they are given the space and support to do so. Don’t all students deserve to learn in such safe and thriving classrooms? It’s what school should be.

Of course, all of this begs the question: How safe do your students feel in your classroom? (more…)

The Case for DACA Students

September 11, 2017

Tags: education, DACA, whole child

Photo: http://elhispanonewspaper.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/21/2015/05/daca.jpg
It’s funny how students become so much more than mere students. For many teachers, they become much like our own children. Getting to know them personally — their hopes, their talents, their quirks, their values — we care about them individually. As a result, anything that potentially impacts our students negatively takes on great significance for teachers. That’s why DACA matters so much.

Having taught students from every continent, except Antarctica, one of my greatest pleasures was the abundance of diversity among my students, culturally and economically. This variety enriched the students and me in equal measure as we grew from the first-hand knowledge we gained about other countries, cultures and languages. Not once did I ever consider whether any of my students was here without the proper paperwork. I didn’t care about that then and still don’t. (more…)

An Educator's Legacy

September 4, 2017

Tags: education, educator's legacy, Philando Feeds the Children

Photo: http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/ blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Leaving-A-Legacy.jpg
Have you ever considered what your legacy might be as an educator? A recent article provoked me to consider precisely that. Recounting the creation of a fund in honor of Philando Castile — a nutrition services supervisor beloved by students at the magnet school where he worked and who was killed by police during a traffic stop in July 2016 — the article spoke of a local professor’s efforts to continue Mr. Castile’s practice of purchasing lunch for students who couldn’t afford it. Her initial goal of raising $5000 has been far exceeded, receiving more than $16,000 in donations, which have established a fund called “Philando Feeds the Children.” For the students, still grieving his loss, it’s a tangible remembrance of “Mr. Phil.” In effect, his legacy of giving lives on.

With all this in mind, I considered the significance of educators leaving a legacy for our students. While content knowledge was ostensibly my purpose as an educator, my own goal (more…)
Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child

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