Ronit Celebrating Diversity by Challenging Teachers’ Cultural Thinking

Teacher and elementary classroom

As teachers, we like to think of ourselves as very open-minded. We model this attitude and believe that open-minded teachers can raise open-minded students and when the mind is open, the possibilities are endless. Together with our students’ parents, we are the most important social agents in our society. Our best tool is to believe and be true to what we want to create. If we want to raise a whole generation of open-minded kids who are accepting, appreciating and celebrating diversity, we must first be living proof of what we want to teach and be able to ‘walk the talk’.

The first time I questioned my own open-mindedness was long before I became a teacher. I was 16 years old, and Israel and Egypt signed their famous peace contract. To start the official ‘relationship’ between the two countries, it was decided to send selected youth from both sides to meet each other. As a very ‘open-minded’ teen, I was chosen to be part of this unique delegation.

The Egyptian teens came to visit us in Israel. We had a great time together and one evening, the Israeli teens decided to visit the Egyptian teens in their room to see what they were doing. We knocked on the door and they were very happy to see us. They welcomed us in and we sat in one of the rooms and just watched them. We were completely shocked.

Why shocked? you might ask.

Because they acted like… teens. Same as us. They were listening to the same music we were listening to, their boys ‘hit on girls’, just like ours did, and their girls responded in exactly the same coy way as ours did. I vividly remember the question that popped into my head ‘What were you expecting?’

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Language Acquisition: Do Young children Need a Second Language?

Language Books

For years, people have been researching the acquisition of languages. One aspect mentioned in some of this research is the distinction between Primary (“mother tongue”) and Secondary language. I believe this distinction is essential for maximizing the power of learning another language.

Primary and secondary languages are stored in different places in the brain and through a different process. First, second and third primary languages are learned by creating patterns from a load of seemingly random information, while secondary languages are learned by using the primary languages as reference and building a “translation net” to map the secondary language back to them.

Experts still argue about the critical age for forming primary languages, but they all estimate it to end between the ages of 7 and 12. This leaves the early childhood educators to deal with this important channel of education in the most critical age – the early years.

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Doing No More Than the Average in Education

Most people put in 25%, great people put in 50% and the few amazing people put in 100%

Last week, my kids were guests at a primary school assembly at a school which was not their own school (Tsoof is in his fourth year at university and Noff is in Grade 9). At dinner, they shared their experience with us.

“The deputy principal”, Noff said in shock, “Told the kids they would be getting report cards soon and that if they got a ‘C’ they should be very happy, because ‘C’ meant they were at the average level expected for their grade”. Tsoof joined Noff in her surprise, not believing they had heard this coming from a deputy principal. I was proud of them for rejecting the idea that getting a ‘C’ or the average score expected of them was something to be happy about.

Tsoof said, “How can you expect kids to aim higher if you tell them that a ‘C’ is what they should aim for?”

Noff said, “They think they’re helping their students feel better about getting a ‘C’, but it only makes them give up on doing better” (she is just 13 years old).

Gal and I sat in front of them feeling very proud of our kids for saying that the average is never a good enough aim.

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Student Leadership Program Myths

Globe with the words Learn and Lead - it

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has – Margaret Mead Myth #1: Leadership is a natural ability Some people think leadership is a skill you are born with and that leaders have a natural ability to make others follow them. […]

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To Work or Not to Work? A Mother’s Dilemma

Child playing peek-a-boo

To work or not to work? Every mother faces this dilemma with every newborn baby. I had three kids, each born in a different place in the world and each in different circumstances, and I had the same dilemma each time.

When Eden, my 25 year old, was born, I could not really choose. I was still studying for my degree and working for a living. I had to go back to college and work a month after I had given birth to her. Fortunately for me, I could leave Eden with Gal, who was juggling his studies and his work to care for Eden. It ended up being the most wonderful experience both for Eden and for Gal.

When Tsoof, my 18 year old, was born, we lived in California, USA. This was far away from our families, after we had lost two kids. When he was 4 months old, we moved to Thailand. When he was about 10 months old, I felt like I was going nuts staying at home and we got a nanny. This allowed me to go to work, have adult conversations and keep my sanity.

When Noff, my 13 year old, was born, we lived in Melbourne, Australia. I started a business and she went to a family day care twice a week. This allowed me to fulfill my obligations to my clients.

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How to Be a Great Teacher (U to Z)

An apple and a bookworm

I love teaching. I think teaching is my calling and I know that many teachers feel the same. Over the years, I have collected effective philosophy and teaching tips and am happy to share some with you. In this last post in How to Be a Great Teacher, here are the tips from U to Z.

Use your space creatively rather than in the old fashioned way. A classroom needs to feel cozy and fun so that kids do not wait impatiently for the bell to ring so they can run away. Even if your classroom is small, be creative. You can make palaces out of any sized class. The students can feel like they are kings, queens, knights and princesses. You can tell whether you classroom decoration is good by the reaction of the kids from other rooms, by the fact that your students make sure their parents come to see it and by noticing that you need to encourage your students to go outside and play with their friends.

This post is part 5 of 6 in the series A-to-Z Guides

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How to Be a Great Teacher (L to T)

Apple on a stack of books

Establishing a good teaching philosophy and adopting useful tips from experienced teachers are essential tools for effective teaching. In this post, we continued with the letters L through T of How to Be a Great Teacher.

Love of learning is the ultimate teachers’ goals. Use any (positive) way you can think of to promote, advertise and support your students’ love of learning. If they love learning, regardless of what mark they get, you get an A in teaching. To evaluate yourself, ask the kids at the end of every year how much they enjoyed and loved learning with you.

This post is part 3 of 6 in the series A-to-Z Guides

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How to Be a Great Teacher (A to K)

Love teaching written on a blackboard

As teachers, our teaching ability is an art form that we keep developing throughout our careers. One of the best parts of any professional development courses I run for teachers, is the discussion about our philosophy and tips we can share with others about teaching. Establishing a good teaching philosophy and adopting useful tips from experienced teachers are essential tools for effective teaching.

Here is a guide that has informed my teaching over the years. I hope the teachers reading this blog will find it useful.

Affirmations are very important in education. Things you repeat over and over again become the thoughts and beliefs of your students. Make sure to plant good affirmations in their minds, ones that they will be able to use long after you are not there. “I can do it!” for example, is a great affirmation that will benefit them more in life than an A in math. Watch what you are repeating.

This post is part 2 of 6 in the series A-to-Z Guides

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Teacher Power

World

Today is the first school day in Australia and my 12-year-old daughter Noff is starting high school. That’s it, my little girl is in high school and I am very emotional.

Every year, on the first day of school, we get up very early. Most years, the kids could not sleep from too much excitement. If school starts at 8:45, but they were ready to go at 7:00. It is funny how many years you can drop kids off at school (my eldest is 25 years old now) and still have the same feeling every first day of the year. It is one of those things that time and practice do not change. I drop them off at school and feel I give the most precious thing for me to a group of teachers who will spend more time with him or her than I will. It is not a feeling of neglect, more like a bond we have between us, parents and teachers, that will last for as long as my child goes to that school.

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Teachers’ Award

Blue first place ribbon

It is the end of the school year here in Australia and like every year, my kids say goodbye to some wonderful teachers and I get sentimental. Noff (my youngest) is finishing primary school and will be going into high school next year, so we had to say goodbye to quite a few teachers.

As we were making up the end of year gifts, we made a list of all the teachers Noff has had in the last 8 years, and examined their contributions to her life and to ours, her family. Noff had about six teachers she said she really liked. Of those six, two made a significant impact on her life and one was such a fantastic teacher, Noff will remember her forever. She is what you might call a “forever teacher”.

Even just one teacher like that is enough to set your kid up for life. Noff was lucky enough to have this teacher for a whole year and then continued to stay in contact with her in one way or another for the next 4 years.

We, the Baras Family, would like to bestow the 2013 Best Teacher in the Entire World Award to Ms. Kellie Scrogings! Kellie (or Ms. Scrogings, as the kids must call her) was Noff’s Year 3 teachers. She then directed the school musicals when Noff was in Years 6 and 7.

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