Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Child Friendly Quality Indicators Workshop

A training workshop for stakeholders of the Ministry of Education was held on the 14th of February 2011 at Education Development Centre meeting room. The objective of the workshop is to introduce the use of child friendly quality indicators for stakeholders of the Ministry of Education. Participants from EDC, FE, ESQID and Planning Section attended the training.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Perfectionism in Children: Leah Davies, the Teacher Counselor

Perfectionism appears to result from a combination of inborn tendencies and environmental factors. These can include excessive praise or demands from parents, teachers or trainers; observation of adults modeling perfectionist characteristics; and parental love that is conditional upon the child`s exemplary achievement. Extreme perfectionism has been linked to performance and social anxiety, eating disorders, migraine headaches, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and suicide. When this behavior obstructs growth in the areas of achievement and social relationships, these children need assistance from educators.
Some characteristics of children who are extreme perfectionists include the following:
• having exceptionally high expectations for themselves
• being self-critical, self-conscious and easily embarrassed
• having strong feelings of inadequacy and low self-confidence
• exhibiting persistent anxiety about making mistakes
• being highly sensitive to criticism
• procrastinating and avoiding stressful situations or difficult tasks
• being emotionally guarded and socially inhibited
• having a tendency to be critical of others
• exhibiting difficulty making decisions and prioritizing tasks
• experiencing headaches or other physical ailments when they perform below the expectations of themselves or others.
Gifted children, who are accustomed to excelling, are often perfectionists. Problems occur if they refuse to attempt new assignments or do not complete their work because it may not be done flawlessly.
Teachers and/or school counselors might be able to help children who exhibit extreme perfectionism in the following ways:
• Admit to making mistakes and model constructive coping skills.
• Provide a calm, uncluttered, and structured environment.
• Create opportunities for success that will enhance the student`s self-confidence.
• Comment on the child`s strengths and accomplishments.
• Avoid comparing students.
• If possible, reduce the academic pressure on these children by altering the grading system.
• Involve them in setting realistic standards for themselves.
• Have frequent teacher/child meetings that include evaluations of the student's work.
• Use listening and other communication skills.
• Challenge students' beliefs that they are failures when they make a mistake; provide a more rational evaluation.
• Give specific praise.
• Help students understand that it is impossible to complete every task without making mistakes.
• Teach students to revise, start again, and learn from their errors.
• Challenge students to be courageous and try difficult tasks.
• Provide support if students perform at a lower level than expected.
• Provide opportunities for these children to become comfortable with ambiguous situations.
• Use terms such as "admirable work" rather than "perfect" or "brilliant."
• For those students who procrastinate, emphasize the need to change the goal from perfection to completion.
• Teach students to prioritize tasks and to break assignments or projects down into manageable parts.
• Assign biographies of successful people who overcame failure, persevered, and achieved greatness. For example: Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller…
• Teach children to develop and use positive "self-talk."
• Help students learn ways to cope with negative self-appraisal or criticism from others.
• Promote relaxation techniques such as listening to soothing music, counting backward, walking, participating in a hobby, or reading.
• Teach the steps to problem-solving and provide strategies to deal with the pressure to excel.
• Ask students to identify areas of their lives that they can control and those they cannot control.
• Have children examine the advantages and disadvantages of perfectionism in their lives.
• Ask children to keep journals in which they can express their thoughts and feelings.
• Help students understand that saying disparaging things about themselves is detrimental to their well-being as well as to their social development.
• Help these students learn how to be more generous in their comments toward peers, teachers, and others.
• Encourage constructive peer interaction through group work.
Counselors or teachers may assist the parents of "perfectionist" children by taking the following steps:
• Stress that their child needs to experience unconditional love and respect.
Help parents understand that too much pressure to be perfect is detrimental to their child`s emotional well-being and self-confidence. For example, it says to those children, "You are not good enough the way you are."
• Support parental self-acceptance of their errors and acceptance of their child`s mistakes.
• Encourage parents to acknowledge without judgment their child`s negative emotions such as frustration and anxiety.
• Stress that high standards are important, but that there is a difference between perfectionism and excellence.
• Encourage parents to model perseverance as well as coping skills when dealing with disappointments.
• Ask parents to examine their competitiveness and, when necessary, decrease their emphasis on winning.
• Caution parents not to compare their children and thus instill rivalry among them.
• Ask parents to explore and agree on realistic goals for the child.
• Suggest that a parent engage in a journal exchange if their child has difficulty expressing his or her concerns. For example, the parent writes a thought in a journal and puts it under the child's pillow. The child responds in writing and puts it under the parent`s pillow. The exchange of ideas continues. Since what is written is only discussed if the child is in danger of hurting him or herself or others, the child feels free to write down his or her deepest thoughts and fears. This method assists parents in discovering problems the child may have and serves to reinforce parent-child bonding.
Children who suffer from extreme perfectionism need assistance from the adults in their lives. They may also need help from a professional therapist. The goal of all this support is to reduce the child's perfectionist tendencies to the point where those tendencies become an asset rather than a liability.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Freedoms and Responsibilities by EMMA McDONALD

You know in your mind that you want a balanced classroom environment. You want students to have a voice, but you don’t want them to take advantage of your good will. The goal is for an atmosphere of mutual respect. But how can you make that happen?

If you choose to run your classroom like a dictatorship, ruling with fear and oppressing students, you will develop a classroom environment of resentment. Will students obey? Reluctantly, yes, but only out of fear of retribution. Eventually, students will begin to rebel in small ways. Those small rebellions will strengthen them, and soon you will find control slipping through your fingers.

When people are given a completely free reign, on the other hand, chaos tends to occur. With no accountability, any behavior becomes acceptable. The leader is treated no differently than anyone else in the group. In fact, any initial respect is soon lost as the people see that their leader is unable to maintain control. That happens all too frequently in the classroom, when students make all the rules or the teacher does not hold students accountable for their actions. No matter how fun and interesting your lessons are, without structure your class will be in constant chaos. You even might find yourself pleading with students to behave. Be aware; in that moment, they are the ones in charge of your classroom.

Your goal should be to empower students to take a part in their own learning while being held accountable for their behavior and work product. That can be developed through a system of Consistency and Flexibility within the classroom.

You might wonder: What should those freedoms be? What kind of responsibilities should I give my students? Both Consistency and Flexibility should naturally develop from your expectations Also, think about how you would expect to be treated -- How irritated would you be if you forgot a pen and were forced to sit outside the room as penance for your forgetfulness? Take the golden rule to heart: Treat others as you want to be treated.

In my classroom, students have the freedom to use the toilet (with a pass), get materials, consult with other students, take a short break, and get a drink of water as needed. Their responsibilities are to get their work completed on time and in a neat manner, be respectful of others, and keep their areas clean.

Now, you might wonder how you keep students in their seats for instruction if they have those kinds of freedoms. I use a concept I call “My Time/Your Time™” that provides a structure for mutual respect.

First, I show students respect by empowering them to take care of their needs without feeling as though they are in prison. In return, I expect them to respect my time as the teacher. “My Time” is any time I am giving direct instruction, giving directions, or addressing the class as a whole. (That applies to any adult in the room.) During my time, I ask that students show respect by listening quietly, taking notes as needed, asking questions as needed, participating, and staying in their seats. I always teach mini-lessons, so my time generally lasts no longer than 15 or 20 minutes.

Your Time” is any time students are working individually or together on an assignment or activity in the classroom. During that time, students may sign out to go to the restroom (one at a time), get a drink of water, get materials, consult with other students (about class work), and so on.

In return, each student is responsible for getting the activity/assignment completed and turned in on time, respecting others, and keeping their areas clean so the classroom is left the way they found it.

In my classroom, we talk about the “My Time/Your Time” concept at length, and discuss what it means to me and to the students. I take some time to explain to students that just because a freedom exists, doesn’t mean it can be taken advantage of. If a freedom is abused, then the consequence is that the freedom will be taken away for a day or two. After that time, we will try again.

We also talk about how each student is an individual and that sometimes what one student needs another doesn’t. “Fair isn’t always the same” is what I tell my students. If one student didn’t get breakfast before coming to school, he or she probably will need a snack early on. That doesn’t mean that everyone in the classroom needs to get a snack. I ask all my students to use their best judgment and to remember that when freedoms are abused, they will be removed.

With any freedom you offer students, make sure there is a corresponding responsibility. And make sure that you provide some structure to those freedoms. For example, you might allow only one student at a time to leave the classroom.

With structure comes accountability. What will happen if students abuse their freedoms? Be up front about the consequence so students know in advance what to expect. Once the consequence has been met, allow the freedoms again. That helps students learn from their mistakes and allows them to show growth in their maturity and responsibility.

With a balance of freedoms and responsibilities, you have the opportunity to develop respect between yourself and your students. You also are teaching them skills they will need in the working world as they interact with their colleagues, bosses, and community. I think you’ll find that, as long as you provide the structure, students will respond positively to that type of balanced classroom environment. Empowering students opens the door to mutual respect, positive attitudes, and good behavior in the classroom.