Thursday, October 29, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Having worked in K-12 districts most of my career, I have had the opportunity to see the whole picture. That is, I have been able to watch kids go from Kindergarten to college. I have watched then grow, develop and learn throughout their time in school. I also have had the opportunity to visit with college students about their school experiences.
Disrupting Class, while written to discuss education in the future, had some interesting research around babies. I knew I needed to share it with the community and I have finally put those words on paper. It should appear in the Gazette one of these days.
I hope every young parent gets the opportunity to read it and respond.
Here it is, Language Dancing.
“Goochie Goochie Goo,” “Goochie Goochie Goo,”
If you have a baby or are going to have a baby, know someone who has a baby or will be having a baby, this article is for you. The number of strollers I see traveling the sidewalks of Guernsey indicates this is important to many folks. Parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, this is for you.
“By some estimates, 98% of education spending occurs after the basic intellectual capacities of children have been mostly determined.”
“…a significant portion of a person’s intellectual capacity is determined in his or her first 36 months.”
That research alone should get this article cut out and hanging on refrigerators all over town. But let me tell you the story, and you decide.
Everybody is researching education these days. You can’t open a newspaper, magazine or book without someone quoting statistics about what education is doing or not doing. The studies that led to the statements above come from a significant sampling of parents and their children in their homes for the first two and a half years of the children’s lives. Based on that research, it was determined that parents speak an average of 1500 words per hour to their infant children. That’s the average. Talkative parents average 2100 words, taking the bottom numbers down around 600 words.
This comes out to the difference between hearing 48 million words and 13 million words.
But, the story gets better. “Interestingly, the most powerful of these words, in terms of subsequent cognitive achievements, seemed to be those spoken in the first year of life---when there was no visible evidence that the child could understand what the parents were saying.”
I have always known that reading to your child before they enter school or pre-school is very important to their success and self esteem, but this research got my attention.
So, what is this “extra talk,” or “language dancing,” that is so important? It is face-to-face, adult, sophisticated, chatty language. It is talking to the child as if they were listening, comprehending and fully responding to the comments. It can occur anytime, in a shopping cart, folding laundry, changing a diaper or simply cuddling and talking. It takes the form of commenting on what the child is doing, what the parent is doing and planning, thinking aloud and just chatting.
It is not, “business talk,” like, “Finish your food,” or Hold out your hands,” or “Get in the car.” It is also not “background noise.” If your child is lying in front of the TV listening to a purple dragon, it is having an insignificant impact on their intellect.
Here is what is happening when” language dancing” is taking place. Our brains have about a bazillion neurons or brain cells. These guys spend their days and nights sending messages back and forth, like teenagers text messaging. Each neuron has an axon, or filament that hangs out sending signals and dendrites, which are like “baseball mitts,” catching signals. Little electrical signals cause all of this pitching and catching. When this “practice” goes on between neurons, just like with baseball players, they get better and more efficient at pitching and catching.
“Extra talk,” or “language dancing,” in the first three years of life, with a focus in the first 12 months pushes the efficiency of the brain’s ability to pitch and catch up about 3.7 times, give or take a catch or two. Simply put, the child has been “wired” to think in more sophisticated ways, and the payoff later in life is immense.
I know, I know, you are thinking, “Griffith has finally gone around the bend.” That may have happened a long time ago, but it has nothing to do with the importance of this research and language dancing. As a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, I meet with 24 other administrators from across the nation four times a year. Part of our work involves professional development and homework. Can you believe it? Someone gives me homework?
Anyway, one book they assigned me was, Disrupting Class, by Christensen, Horn and Johnson. The book’s major premise is that education has to think beyond brick and mortar to where we might be in 10 or 20 years. It speaks to disrupting how we do things now to get to how we might do things in the future. I was able to spend a morning with Michael Horn, one of the authors, discussing the book and their findings. A large part of the conversation centered on the ability of kids to think in ways they will need to in the future and nested in that conversation was the language dancing and preparing children for the rigor of education and life in their future.
Since that day, I have been pondering how to share that thinking and my thinking on the subject to my world.
I just did, and I apologize to the authors if I stumbled on some of their words. I think I had more, “business talk,” than, “language dancing,” when I was an infant.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
“Democracy is both demanding and inspiring … (it) is about who we are as individuals and how we live together as families, friends, neighbors, and citizens.”
The above quote comes from a page on the Institute for Educational Inquiry website. As I looked for information on stewardship, I came across this and thought it was a good lead in to describing the responsibilities we have as educators.
Stewardship is one of the four core principles of the Agenda for Education in a Democracy. It can be defined as the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care. As communities, we are responsible for the education of our students. Too often, segments of that community either neglect their responsibility or point the finger at other constituents as the reason our children are not finding success. Stewardship is realizing we are all given certain gifts and with those gifts certain responsibilities. A commitment to excellence and toward stewardship from all involved is the key to providing our students an excellent education and a head start on a successful life.