Denise Fawcett Facey

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

Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child

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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, “Perhaps you’d like to consider another profession.” Learning should be all about enjoying the process. So, with all this in mind, here are my three ways to infuse your school with creativity:

Liberate Teachers
Teachers need the freedom to be innovative. As you will recall if you’ve taught for a while, teachers once had that freedom. Focusing on the curriculum as the overall goal, teachers had the autonomy to teach in whatever way best suited their students. For creativity to flourish, we need to get back to that, to trusting teachers as education professionals.

Include all Stakeholders
Not only does creativity or innovation have to be a schoolwide initiative, but all stakeholders, including parents and other community members, need to buy into the idea, embracing and supporting creativity in all its forms as well. With everyone on the same page, there’s much greater chance of success simply because the concept is accepted.

Empower Students
Step back and let students explore, discover and create. The results will be spectacular as students realize the value of directing their own learning as well as the liberty to express and represent that learning in new and creative ways. In the end, students learn not only the intended content, but also many “soft” skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, empathy and individuality, among others.

Learning that is fun and engaging shouldn’t be available only to students fortunate enough to have innovative teachers while other students endure total boredom. Together, these three elements can make creativity a way of life for all students. And that’s definitely an enjoyable way to learn.

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

Photo: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/j8gfl6L Q95w5cHfQyhyqHzvtPJpkXa8o0f57o9S4 BOtqrainAbuejao1VzJmoC6uIZCJBoqi1J2K4 FU9U8BQUQfAY3uPIVojNxO5tH1tzOnPzO7icGHk =w1200-h630-p-k-no-nu
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…)

When Schools Refuse to Give Up

August 22, 2017

Tags: education, trauma-informed education, whole child education, dropout prevention

Photo: http://www.socialwork.career/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/trauma-informed-care1.jpg
Sometimes it takes just one student to set the entire class off. Perhaps it’s the one who throws a small object at another student, for example — not intended to harm but certainly to gain the target’s attention — then gets it thrown back along with the full attention of the rest of the class. Or maybe it’s the one who repeatedly calls out commentary as you or one of the students speaks, provoking laughter from his classmates.

Whatever foolishness ensues from these situations and others like them can stop your lesson cold. It’s the way you choose to handle them that makes the difference. And since the usual scenario involves a punishment or stern rebuke for the throwers and commentators, anger generally enters the mix as well. But what if there were a workable alternative that saved you all the irritation while allowing students to save face as well? “Trauma-informed education” might be the answer.

The basic premise is that students’ negative behaviors stem from childhood traumas that impacted their developing brains. While I’m not convinced of that theory — I tend to believe previous traumas may explain the behaviors not because the brain’s development has been impacted but rather because the student has been affected emotionally — the details of trauma-informed education are worth consideration: (more…)

Cultivating Students’ Curiosity

August 14, 2017

Tags: education, students' curiosity, test prep, standardized exams

Photo: http://www.grpm.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Boy_w_magnifying_glass.jpg
Recently, I saw a posting on Twitter that asked the question, “Does your classroom cover content or cultivate curiosity?” My immediate response was, “Both!” As I see it, it’s not an “either-or” choice. There’s no reason why content shouldn’t be student-centered, directly involving students and piquing their curiosity. In fact, content should engage students ’minds and interest to the point where they groan when the bell rings, wishing they could learn more. That’s cultivating curiosity.

But here’s the problem: standardized exams. These exams have become the monster that devoured all the fun in learning, encouraging many teachers to turn to rote learning, work sheets and practice tests in a never-ending quest to help students achieve high scores. Sure, teachers feel as if they’re under the gun to obtain those scores, but there are ways to keep students engaged, motivated and, yes, even curious without numbing their minds with test prep.

Content should be fun, which doesn’t in any way preclude being prepared for exams. Moreover, teachers have to be charged with (more…)

The Value of Visiting Artists Programs for Students

July 31, 2017

Tags: education, arts education, visiting artists program, student engagement, whole child education

Photo: http://spotlight.mcmaster.ca/ wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Visiting-Artists-Program.png
Dance, music, photography, painting, drama — kids love the arts. They’re pure fun as well as opportunities for self-expression that other school activities simply don’t provide. Moreover, for some students, the arts are where they really shine, perhaps the only area in school in which they shine. Yet, in a budget crunch, these are the first areas cut. That’s why a visiting artist program I read about recently captivated me.

The concept is simple: Artists present their work to students in class and then take students’ questions. However, the impact is profound. Moving beyond the arts classes, visiting artists programs are integrated into core subjects, giving students new perspectives not only on art but on the core subject as well. For instance, a landscape photographer who photographed the toll that waste and pollution have taken on the environment presented his photos in a science class, opening students’ minds to ecological solutions, using visual investigation, observation and documentation—all of this gained simply by viewing photos. (more…)

July Educator Forum: What Are Your Icebreakers at the Start of the School Year?

July 25, 2017

Tags: education, classroom icebreakers, classroom culture

Photo: http://www.anniesullivan.org/sitebuildercontent/ sitebuilderpictures/TeachersPlay1994_edited.jpg
Creating a classroom culture of of warmth, acceptance and camaraderie was always important to me. Simply put, I wanted my classroom to be a safe haven for every student who entered. To achieve this, I used a combination of basic understandings that the students and I shared as our means of relating to one another as well as various unifying projects throughout the year to reinforce this.

One way to develop these elements, among many others, was through icebreaker activities at the start of the school year. Take partnered activities, for instance. On the first day of school, students sat with a partner, and each had three minutes to tell a few well-known qualities that made them proud of themselves as well as a few that others may not have known. Then they used their newly acquired information to introduce their partners to the rest of the class. Providing an immediate bond between the partners, this activity also developed a sense of rapport within the class. (more…)

EdTech Is a Tool, Not a Cure-All

July 10, 2017

Tags: education, EdTech, education technology

Photo: https: https://zedgodmartin.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/education-technology.jpg
For those who began teaching in the mid-1980s, as I did, educational technology consisted of a television and a VCR. And if we had those items to ourselves rather than on a rolling cart to be checked out from the school library, we felt privileged, indeed. To say that things have changed since then is an understatement. From Chromebooks and Smart phones to Skype and Twitter—and so many other technologies in between—the forms of available technology as well as the ways to use them can be dizzying. And as for that school library, it’s now a media center, serving as the hub of technological activity as well as a place to read, or even as a maker space, where students can create their own innovations not just for artistic purposes but also for actual use. Technology can be marvelous! (more…)