Exploring Genius Time in Schools

According to Fortune 100, Google is #1 in the list of best companies to work for – six years in a row. There are surely many reasons for this, and one of them might just be Genius hour.

If you were an engineer at Google, you could use 20% of your working time developing a project of your own interest –something you think could benefit the company- freely and independently. Creativity and innovation flourish when people are allowed to focus on their passions within work, and many successful Google products reportedly have been created during this time.

Could Google’s model be applied in schools? And if so, how?

For many years now, we have been implementing what we call “Enrichment Cloisters” at our school. It is not exactly Google’s Genius Hour – but the concept is similar and has proven to be effective in promoting creativity and motivation with our kids.

How does it work?

Every year, we set apart one full week in our school calendar, where regular classes will simply not take place. Instead, kids will work on a project of their choosing – within a range of options. Early in the school year, we poll the students to find about their interests: What would you like to learn about this year? What would you like to build, create or develop? What are you passionate about?

We use this information to design 8 to 10 different workshops or “cloisters”. The topics are chosen taking into account as much of the student’s input as we possible can. Teachers then choose which workshop will they mentor, moved by their own expertise or learning interests. We enlist parents as resources and co-mentors.

A crew from Al Jazeera filmed one of our cloisters -carpentry-  as part of their documentary on our school (Rebel Education Series)

We then publish the topics for the workshops and allow students to register to whichever cloister they like. There is no age or gender limitation. Boys and girls of all grades, 1st to 9th, share their working space for one week. We have covered topics such as carpentry, medicine, photography, architecture, radio, film and television, veterinary, ecology, magazine editing, restaurant entrepreneurship, science and technology, among many others.

At the end of the week we host an exhibition of products. Some of them are already complete, others represent an invitation for further development. There are both independent and collaborative outcomes of the experience. Kids report that this is their favorite week of the year.

A group of kids working on stop motion animation

Of course there are challenges. The only reason we do not host the cloisters twice a year or even more is time constraints. It is difficult enough to give up one week of regular lessons and still meet the curriculum. And surely, we would love to be able to offer even more cloister options –but hey, we are a small school with limited resources.

There are absolutely no grades at this “genius time”. And really, who needs them? Enthusiasm is so high you could use kids’ energy to light up a city.

Every child bears the seed of genius within. And one of the greatest joys for educators is providing the time and environment for it to gloriously emerge.

 

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers from Cathy Rubin’s Global Search for Education, this is my answer to this month’s question: How could Google’s “Genius hour” model be modified and utilized in schools?

Ethics in the Classroom

Watch out! Your students are looking. At you. Right now.

The most important lessons educators teach do not necessarily happen when they are actually teaching. Do you treat fellow teachers, parents and students with respect? Always? Are you kind? Are you fair?

Ethical behavior is important in everyone – but crucial in teachers.

See, you are in a position of authority. And if kids realize that you can get away with anything just because you are the teacher, not only they will not respect you, they will grow up with thinking that power erases responsibility. And that is a very, very dangerous idea – both ways. On one side, it builds up feeling of helplessness, anger and resentment. On the other, it can lead up to tyranny.

Problems like bullying could be minimized or even prevented if we were always able to shape our behavior by ethics and thoughtfulness. That requires social intelligence and, above all, the capacity for self-containment.

So, how do we instill a moral compass in every student?

School culture matters. A solid framework for moral values should be in place, consistently enforced and with clear expectations. At our school, we have a published policy that reads:

In this school we all respect each other. We are kind, fair and honest. We do no harm and we make things better. We show gratitude and love”

All members of the school community need to adhere to these policies. When problems arise, it is usually because at least one person reacted to conflict by wandering away from this backbone.

It’s more important to acknowledge good behavior than to punish bad one. That said, actions have consequences –it’s a natural law. That is how we build character: by allowing our students to bear the weight of their decisions.

What happens when a student cheats, but he is not held responsible? He will likely read lack of consequences as implicit permission to break the rules or even grow a sense of entitlement – rules do not apply to him. We are not doing that student a favor: Life will take care of teaching, the hard way, the lessons we avoided to give.

We have found that mindfulness and drama are specifically great to learn about self-discipline and empathy. Regularly presenting kids with judgement problems and difficult questions to think about powers up their ethics muscles. There are many opportunities to stimulate learners with such challenges. History lessons could be twice as constructive – and twice as fun- if you not only recount the facts, but also present the moral dilemmas faced by so many people from our past –and present.

Life is unfair, difficult and unpredictable. Bad things happen to good people. Even for those considering themselves privileged, the situation could turn drastically from one day to another. Just ask Marie Antoinette.

Being aware of our own fragility can bring us closer to one another, fostering compassion and respect.

If we want our kids to develop into global citizens, whose strong values are part of the answers the world is seeking, then we need to be those people ourselves.

 

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers from Cathy Rubin’s Global Search for Education, this is my answer to this month’s question: How important is teaching ethics in the classroom? How do we instill a moral compass in every student? How can we work to consistently cultivate values of thoughtfulness and empathy without directly teaching it? What roles do teachers have to play in creating kind and compassionate citizens?

Empowering Young Learners against Fake News

We have trained them to be quiet and attentive in class. We have convinced them that questioning the teacher is the same as being disrespectful. We have tricked them into blindly believing in their textbooks –and, by extension, in almost anything in print. We have told them what to learn and how to do it. We have complimented them for thinking like we do and we have made their lives difficult when they don’t.

And then, when they can’t distinguish facts from bias, when they so easily succumb to fake news, when they believe that being popular and famous is enough proof for reliability, we are shocked. What were we expecting?

As long as we keep looking at schools as the places to transmit “The Knowledge”, we will be perpetuating the belief that people in places of authority should dictate what we know and how we think. Changing schools into crucibles for ideas and educators into patrons for critical thinking skills is an ever unfolding, challenging task. How do we start?

Step down from the shrine. A teacher is not someone who knows a great deal of things and passes them on to passive, ignorant students. The idea of an omniscient, illuminated teacher might appeal to the ego, but will be a disservice for young, untrained minds. Knowledge cannot be simply downloaded from one mind to the other, and human brains are not just data warehouses. When you teach, beware of mind-closing phrases like “this I the way it must be done”. And don’t be afraid of honestly saying “I don’t know the answer to that” from time to time.

Educate yourself. Acquiring a broad array of relevant knowledge is not enough, but it is the first step to becoming an educated citizen and responsible media consumer. If you have your facts straight, it is less likely that you will fall prey into false claims and propaganda. However, students also need the skills to identify reliable sources and properly process the growing amount of incoming information. Educate yourself, and your learners, in media literacy.

Get active. Create awareness about fake news and discuss how they can affect us. Present your students with both authentic and questionable posts and challenge them to tell them apart. Discuss how Facebook and Twitter are not filters, but merely platforms for content. Dig deep into motives and objectives of any published piece and bring them out in classroom debates. We combat fake news and propaganda precisely by exposing our children to them, with guidance and support, and not by hiding, ignoring or minimizing them. It is also crucial that our students stop and think twice before sharing and liking anything they find on social media: if they go ahead with all impulse and little reason, they become part of the problem.

We will never be able to completely shield our learners from all that is misleading and inaccurate in the media, so we better start teaching them how to outsmart the many ones out there who, for any reason, want to dumb them down.

 

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers from Cathy Rubin’s Global Search for Education, this is my answer to this month’s question: How to we teach young people the rigorous critical thinking and research skills to distinguish news from propaganda? How do we ensure the next generation is one which communicates civically, values honesty, and recognizes reality?

Al Jazeera estrena Documental sobre nuestra Propuesta Educativa

Recientemente, Al Jazeera English, la cadena de televisión más importante de Medio Oriente, lanzó una nueva serie documental llamada “Rebel Education” o Educación Rebelde, para presentar a “los visionarios que están rompiendo paradigmas en el mundo de la educación”.  Seis propuestas educativas fueron reseñadas, cada una en su propio documental de 25 minutos. Me siento profundamente honrada por formar parte de este grupo de “rebeldes”, y por tener la oportunidad de resaltar la importancia de la educación temprana y el gran potencial de los niños pequeños. El programa que se realizó sobre mi historia con Colegio Valle de Filadelfia y Los Institutos para el Logro del Potencial Humano se tituló “Mexico: The Power of Early Education”. Este fue el episodio elegido para inaugurar la serie, cuyo estreno mundial fue el 2 de Enero de 2017.

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El documental es el resultado de una semana de filmaciones, en las que participaron  alumnos, ex alumnos, maestros y padres, bajo la dirección de Tim Froggatt y las cámaras de Arturo Fons, ambos por parte de la casa productora británica Glasshead. Tras la filmación, un equipo de post producción se encargó de dar forma y vida a la historia. Pero el trabajo comenzó mucho antes, desde las primeras entrevistas por Skype con Dorothy Stiven, líder del proyecto, y su equipo. Con todos ellos estamos profundamente agradecidos.

Muchas otras personas intervinieron en la realización del documental. El Dr. Carlos Hinojosa y las Maestras Griselda Vázquez y Linda Carrillo de Haro, quienes durante muchos años fueron supervisores de las tres secciones de nuestra escuela, accedieron a ser entrevistados. También tuvimos la valiosa colaboración del equipo del programa Prospera, con quienes, en conjunto con Los Institutos, estamos haciendo un proyecto en favor de la educación temprana de los niños mexicanos en situación de pobreza.

Compartimos este documental en el canal de YouTube de Al Jazeera English. El programa está en español, con subtítulos en inglés.

 

The Best Holiday Gifts for Your Students: Top Global Teacher Bloggers

Originally posted By  on Dec 24, 2016: Top Global Teacher Bloggers

2016-12-21-1482296833-4746560-cmrubinworldTGTB_December500.jpgThe Holidays are such a special time of year! Our lives take on a larger meaning as we think about our family, our extended family and our long-lost friends. It’s a time of giving and reflection.

Our Global Teacher Bloggers are pioneers and innovators in fields such as technology integration, mathematics coaching, special needs education, science instruction, and gender equity. They have founded schools, written curricula, and led classrooms in 13 different countries that stretch across every populated continent on earth. These teachers empower and enrich the lives of young people from nearly every background imaginable.

Today in The Global Search for Education, our Top Global Teacher Bloggers share their answers to this month’s question: What’s the best gift you would recommend for your students this holiday season?

“The technological gift that I wish for every student,” writes Adam Steiner (@steineredtech), “is to find a platform for giving voice to their passions and to feel that their voice is heard. When we give students the power to be creators, we give them confidence; we give students their digital voice and a source of internal strength to use it.” Read More.

“The best gift I would love all my students to have is the ability to find peace inside themselves,” writes Elisa Guerra (@ElisaGuerraCruz), “regardless of what is going on outside. Then, no matter how dark the world might get, their souls will always find a way to shine.” Read More.

“As we reflect on the year, it’s also important to reflect on exactly who we each are, our strengths, our weaknesses, our assumptions, and our truths,” writes Richard Wells (@EduWells). “A mirror might remind students to consider these points and in turn, remind their school that without formally recognising the importance of reflection and rationalised thought, learning is shallow and facts go unchallenged.” Read More.

Maarit Rossi (@pathstomath) recommends the blog of Kirsti Savikko, Headteacher in Kähäri school, Turku, Finland, who writes: “So what do I tell my students to do during the holiday? Play games? Perhaps. Get some rest? Sleep late? Forget the school? Read some extra? Reread the subjects? This list could also be quite long. But what I really would like to give them is a gift. Not just any gift or present wrapped in a silver paper. The gift of dreaming…” Read More.

“Every elementary teacher, history teacher, science teacher, and English teacher should engage learners in activities in which they distinguish between real and fake news, reputable social media posts and disreputable ones, credible author credentials and false ones, hard news or op-eds,” writes Todd Finley (@finleyt) in Greenville, North Carolina. “Democracy is humankind’s highest aspiration. Gift students with the tools to preserve it.” Read More.

“While gifts are fun, when not everybody has them,” writes Miriam Mason-Sesay (@EducAidSL), “it creates a two-tier society where some are left out and only some feel special. We will be encouraging all of our young people to do kind things instead of giving gifts and the gift they will receive in turn will be the peace of mind that comes with being loving and generous.” Read More.

“Children are our future,” writes Rashmi Kathuria (@rashkath). “We feel happy when they are happy. In India we celebrate all festivals. Here, the summer break is the longest break. In general for a holiday season we tell our students to enjoy to the fullest and spend good time with family and friends.” Rashmi’s many gift recommendations include “a lesson of empathy and humanity so that they can be a part of beautiful, peaceful, healthy and harmonious world” and “getting connected on social networking sites, sharing pictures and news.” Read More.

Warren Sparrow (@wsparrowsa) has many wishes students around the world. He says, “be encouraged to take the chance and learn something new today, do not be afraid to go against the main stream and actually be prepared to work, embrace different cultures, people and encourage diversity, do something for other people, do not just think of yourself, be proud of what you could possibly achieve, have a goal and strive to achieve it, be kind to others, you do not know what baggage they are carrying…” Read More.

“To give that “one gift” you need to know the child,” writes Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) from Camilla, Georgia. “Look at what they love and help them create and investigate. Give them a gift that stokes the flame of curiosity and sparks their imagination. When you give gifts that spur kids on from consumer to a creator, they’ll become more curious.” Read More.

“If we could learn from frost and snow and try to provide different opportunities for our kids to experience magic, to foster creativity and to simply play outside, it would be the greatest gift for them this holiday season,” writes Dana Narvaiša (@dana_narvaisa). Check out the creativity that students from Cesis New school are enjoying outdoors. Read More.

“This holiday season, I wanted presents that would last longer than a few hours and hopefully inspire the recipients throughout the New Year,” writes Blogger at Large Beth Holland (@brholland). “These seemed like fantastic options to achieve that goal.” Beth’s suggestions include “Kiwi Crate,” which aims to inspire a new generation of “scientists, artists, and makers,” and the “Extraordinaires Design Studio.” Read More.

“The average income in Brownsville is $28,000 ($11,000 in the housing projects), this can also create an emotional burden on our scholars from peer pressure when they return from winter vacation without something new and fancy,” writes Nadia Lopez (@TheLopezEffect). “I wanted to make sure that my scholars came back renewed from the holiday break and ready to invest in their learning, which is how I came up with creating t-shirt designs that would serve to empower each of them on a daily basis.” Read More.

The Top Global Teacher Bloggers is a monthly series where educators across the globe offer experienced yet unique takes on today’s most important topics. CMRubinWorld utilizes the platform to propagate the voices of the most indispensable people of our learning institutions – teachers.

(Photo is courtesy of CMRubinWorld)

2016-07-25-1469487170-9954573-cmrubinworldtopglobalteacherbloggers_headshots500.jpgTop Row, left to right: Adam Steiner, Santhi Karamcheti, Pauline Hawkins2nd Row: Elisa Guerra, Humaira Bachal, C M Rubin, Todd Finley, Warren Sparrow3rd Row: Nadia Lopez, Katherine Franco Cardernas, Craig Kemp,
Rashmi Kathuria, Maarit Rossi
Bottom Row: Dana Narvaisa, Richard Wells, Vicki Davis, Miriam Mason-Sesay GSE-logo-RylBlu

C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, “The Global Search for Education” and “How Will We Read?” She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland, is the publisher of CMRubinWorld, and is a Disruptor Foundation Fellow.

Worst Christmas, Best Gift

Some years ago I almost had the worst Christmas ever.

I won’t get into details, but there were many things going wrong.

Life is not always easy and Christmas is not always merry. And when lots of things are not going your way, it’s easy to loose sight of the ones that are.

Then, just four days before Christmas, on my birthday, my 16-year- old daughter gave me a little present. I opened the neatly wrapped box to find a framed picture of both of us, a remembrance of a trip to New York in brighter times. Over the glass covering the photo she had written a message in permanent marker: “It gets better”. And included hugs and kisses: XOXO. I realized that things were gray but not pitch dark. I was fortunate in still many other ways. Annie’s gift gave me perspective.

Annie's giftThat picture, and that phrase, got me through Christmas. It did get better. Over time, much, much better. There have been other hard moments since then, of course, and the little framed picture has always worked its magic. My daughter had taught me a lesson on resilience.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! When most people say these phrases, they want to convey their good wishes for prosperity and well being. But, what happens when the world around you is dark? Difficult times do not usually take a break for the holidays. Sometimes they even get worse, precisely in December.

Did you know that suicide rates actually rise over Christmas?

This season, some of my kids from school will be mourning a lost grandparent or older sibling. Another one will be dealing with her parent’s ongoing divorce. Some families will be struggling financially.

I think about my students and all the stories I know – and the ones I don’t – and although I can’t wrap up resilience and present it as a gift to them, I wish that they, too, had a nice framed picture of themselves and precise words to remind them how special and strong they are. It doesn’t matter if most of them are not going trough a storm just right now –sooner or later, they will.

There’s something powerful about being able to see yourself at your best. Somehow, it kind of shows you the way back there. Heartfelt words like “You are able to achieve your dreams”, “Life is tough, but you are tougher”, “You are talented and bright” and “This is you, at your best” can really work wonders. At least, they did for me.

The best gift I would love all my students to have is the ability to find peace inside themselves – regardless of what is going on outside. Then, no matter how dark the world might get, their souls will always find a way to shine.


As part of Cathy Rubin’s Top Global Teacher Bloggers, this is my answer for this month’s question: What’s the best gift you would recommend for your students this holiday season?

Sopa de Letras Filadelfia

Una mañana de trabajo en el Colegio Karol Wojtyla. Primera parada: Miss Ednna y Miss María José, con un grupo de 3o de preescolar.

Como autora de la Serie Filadelfia para el Aprendizaje Temprano del “Método Filadelfia” con Pearson, con frecuencia tengo la oportunidad de visitar escuelas que están llevando a cabo un programa de Lectura Temprana con nuestros libros. Es maravilloso poder sentarme en el fondo del salón, como si fuera una niña más en la clase, y observar a mis colegas docentes en acción.

Este mes de Diciembre estuve en el Karol Wojtyla, en Tehuacán, Puebla. En los próximos días seguiré compartiendo algunas de las muchas ideas que pude ver en marcha, y que pueden servir de inspiración a otras maestras y escuelas que estén trabajando con el método. Comencemos con una actividad que podríamos llamar Sopa de Letras Filadelfia.

Llegamos al salón de tercer grado atendido por la maestra Ednna Mariela y la auxiliar María José. La puerta del salón estaba muy bien ambientada con el país del mes para este grupo, Grecia (según el programa de nuestro libro Yo Conozco)

puerta-grecia-3o-karol

yo-conozco-3oLos temas de cultura global están a la vista de los niños: Este mes conoceremos sobre Grecia, admiraremos las pinturas de Rubens y escucharemos la música de Brahms.

La rutina comienza cuando Ednna reparte a cada niño una tarjeta diferente y les pide identificar quién tiene la palabra “viernes” y “diciembre”. Posteriormente, los niños ordenan la frase “¿Cómo me siento?” en el pizarrón y dan su respuesta: feliz. Posteriormente la maestra muestra las palabras de la semana. Es viernes, y los niños ya las conocen muy bien, así es que son ellos quienes las leen.

En este video podemos ver cómo transcurrió esta rutina:

Más tarde, Ednna proyecta la lectura de la semana y la lee con los niños. Ahora ellos deberán encontrar las palabras resaltadas y emparejarlas con las tarjetas de lectura que su maestra ha dispuesto a un lado de la proyección.

palabras-en-texto-karol-3o

 

 

 

 

Todas estas actividades sirvieron como preparación para llegar a la Sopa de Letras con palabras Filadelfia. Ednna proyecta la sopa de letras y les pide a los niños encontrar las palabras de la semana. Cuando uno de ellos encuentra alguna, pasa al frente a encerrarla.

sopa-de-letras-filadelfiaMuchas gracias a Miss Ednna, Miss María José  y a todo el equipo del Colegio Karol Wojtyla por permitirme acompañarles en una mañana de trabajo.  ¡Muy pronto publicaré algunas ideas más, de las muchas observadas!