And How are the Children..?

ACEI – Day Three!

Posted on: March 20, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009 at 4:26am

4:04 am – Early Morning Edition

Why am I awake? Well, funny story – after confronting the unreasonably loud pack of six guys in the hotel hallway at 2:38 am, I found myself unable to fall asleep again (though I did intervene before they managed to wake my sleeping child, who came to visit me tonight with her Papa). After what seemed like a reasonable effort, I succumbed to alertness, and made my way to the computer. Being a small hotel room, I can’t turn on any reading lights.

So I decided to take this opportunity to watch a few of the conference’s virtual presentations, which are essentially Power Point presentations viewed within the web browser. So I was forced to dust off and crack open the Internet Explorer.

The first presentation was about how teacher temperament affects teaching style. It appeared to be a preliminary report on early findings of their research, and seemed fairly straightforward: teachers who want to be in control of the environment, or who don’t want to take risks, or who respond more emotionally in situations will tend to have a more teacher-centered style.

But can we have another talk about presentation methods? Why in the name of all that is good would anyone do a Power Point presentation that is black san-serif text on white background, with no images????? The program comes with visual themes – you have to click about 3 times to access a theme that automatically fills your presentation with color and some rudimentary visual stimulation.

This isn’t just a matter of style – crap presentation is actually difficult to read and comprehend. I almost quit reading it several times, ’cause my brain was rebelling against it.

I watched 3 presentations, but missed out on the second one, because it required sound and I have the mute on. I’ll catch that one later, along with another one I downloaded that has a video accompaniment (impressive!). It is nice to have the option of “virtual presentations,” because they go pretty quickly, and can be pretty informative.

I’m thinking there’s a way we can use this virtual presentation format to casually present information to our programs, or people interested in learning about our Preschool for All models – we are doing some fairly innovative stuff, and have had visitors from other states come check us out. I will think on this…

Anyway – it’s time to give sleep a chance. Good morning to all!

– Atena

10:37 am

Alright – good morning!

I did manage to get back to sleep eventually and see Stella and Ian off on my way to the 8 am Early Childhood Committee meeting. There were 4 of us there – the committee chair had to leave town, and the other lady who’d been in charge had gone to a taping of the Oprah show. Carpe diem, right?

So we talked about what next year’s day of committee sponsored sessions should look like, and I, of course, began to steer the conversation toward advocacy. The other things on the list were infancy and diversity. I suggested that we use advocacy to frame a number of issues, such as infancy and diversity – they liked that, and that’s what we put down as the recommendation in the meeting notes.

It was a smart group of ladies – and we all agreed that we could use less discussion of what we need in early childhood, and more talk about how to actually make stuff happen. If they follow the plan we started developing, it’ll be pretty great.

If you’re an early childhood practitioner looking to present at a conference, I’d highly recommend getting involved with ACEI. They especially need a stronger representation for infancy issues and concerns. It’s too bad Illinoisans missed the boat on this year’s conference – it was right here, and we have fantastic early childhood resources and practitioners we could’ve showcased. Alas.

I would really like to do a presentation – though it is in Phoenix next year. That would be a logistical challenge. I’m serious about my goal of doing some kind of national-level presentation, though – I’ll just have to do some research.

The General Session Address was really great! The speaker was this year’s ‘National Teacher of the Year,’ Michael Geisen. I’m not sure who decides that, but his presentation indicated that he could probably back that title up. He made very good use of his presentation visuals (I think he was using ‘Keynote’ instead of ‘Power Point), and he was all over the room. He played the piano twice, and included some good video as well. It was very multifaceted, and appealed to a variety of learners. His topic: Children as Complete Human Beings: Going Beyond a Narrow Approach to Measuring Human Beings.

He talked about how we’re still using a 20th century approach to assessing achievement and intelligence. He talked about how what schools value has evolved in the past hundred years, and how the children who don’t fall into the limited scope of what is valued get lost. Notable ideas:

“We need to expand what we see as intelligence. The key is finding balance in what we do.”

‘To survive in the 21st century, the kind of work schools have been preparing children for won’t cut it. Those skills have been replaced by machines, computers or cheaper labor. We need to teach kids to be – innovative/creative
– collaborative
– adaptable
– continually learning
– knowledgeable
– conceptual thinkers
– globally aware
Right now, the only one of these we consistently support in schools is ‘knowledgeable.’

“Instead of asking ‘How intelligent are you?’ we need to start asking, ‘How are you intelligent?’ All facets of intelligence are valuable, and we need to institute a rigorous curriculum of creativity. This will
– Prepare students to participate in a global economy
– Value them as whole human beings.”

I also really appreciated that he kept making the point that in kindergarten, children can acceptably be taught as whole humans, using creativity to engage learning. He said we essentially lure them in with kindergarten, and then spend the next 12 years “stickin’ it to ’em.” Basically, it’s a dirty trick. I think he’s right about that. There was a great Maya Angelou quote in there that I didn’t have time to write down.

How dumb is it that we start out better in pre-k and kindergarten and then progressively beat the love of learning out of students? And for the purpose of teaching them skills that are less and less useful to them as the world changes and advances. We talk about wanting innovative thinkers and problem solvers and out-of-the-box thinking. But who’s teaching that? Anyone teaching that is likely getting in trouble for it, and most child learning those things are discouraged from practicing them. Stupidity model, indeed!

I walked in thinking I was going to leave for a snack, but then I stayed the whole time, because the guy was so engaging. This conference is turning out to be great in that regard – just when I think they can’t overcome my tiredness or hungriness, they hook me back in. I can’t complain – it’s pretty fantastic, actually! If you’re interested, Micheal Geisen has a blog:

I am taking a session break now, to rest a bit since I didn’t sleep so well, and to run a quick errand. Ian was kind enough to bring me some cold weather supplements, so going outside won’t be so uncomfortable with a proper jacket, hat and gloves. Thanks, honey!

My next thing will either be an international topic (Denmark), or a close-to-home topic (Indiana). I’ll let you know after I decide.

If you’re still reading these, I really appreciate it! If you’ve read any of these, I appreciate it!

More to come… have a great afternoon!

– Atena

3:12 pm

I have officially run out of business cards. Well – I have one, but it’s got lipstick on it.

So, I branched out for lunch and went to a little box of Chinese restaurant on Ohio street (having gone over to Erikson to pick something up). It wasn’t bad, and I got a free beverage, since they took so long. So I feel like I got my money’s worth, ’cause it’s basically 2 meals, and includes pretty fresh veggies and a good serving of protein. Orange chicken, with real orange rind and no deep-fried breaded mess.

I went to a session presented by the current ACEI president on the Indiana Quality Rating System. It sounded a lot like the IL QRS, but with 4 star levels, and I think we have 5. I should know that. Also, their system is statewide, and I don’t think ours is quite yet.

After that, I caught the tail end of a long session of research presentations. The one I was really interested in was scheduled last, and I got there just in time. It was called: Where Have the Blocks Gone? The presenter is doing research on how children use blocks symbolically.

This was perfect, because I have recently become aware of the need to really help the educators we work with learn about the value and potential richness of block play. It’s a part of our curriculum that is desperately under-utilized, and under-appreciated. And if we haven’t already bought them blocks, we can, so the thing that usually prohibits block use (cost) isn’t even an issue.

So I’m going to set up a basic workshop experience, and then maybe later on we can bring in an expert. I’m really excited to make this happen – when I spoke to the presenter, she was really encouraging.

I’m so excited about all of these experiences, and starting to feel a little overwhelmed by all of this useful information. Luckily, I’ve taken pretty good notes, so I should be able to keep track of my ideas and not totally forget anything.

The plenary business meeting is coming up – I wonder how that will be. I know they’re doing something to restructure their constitution, so that they have bylaws. I think some people are expecting me to come, but I’m not actually an association member. Clearly that doesn’t keep me from sharing from my big bag o’ opinions, but we’ll see how useful my presence is. I’ll try it.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Stay tuned for more Education Adventures!

– Atena

6:09 pm

You know what I like? I like a fast-moving business meeting. And that’s what I got today.

Granted, they were applying Robert’s Rules of Order, which I find to be good for moving things right along, but rather useless for the purposes of having any kind of real discussion. This became an issue when the acceptance of the new constitution was voted on, because the people who couldn’t figure out how to find and read the new bylaws were displeased when the “question was called” and that subsequently that motion was carried and voted in by an overwhelming majority.

There was a presentation on the state of the association, by the exec director, and they sound like they got their feet pretty firmly on the ground: keeping an eye to the future by developing technological capacities and planning around leadership development, working to stay relevant to global issues, building local networks and coalitions. These are good signs.

I would definitely like to join ACEI, and get involved with them as a way to enhance my professional portfolio in a productive way that serves children, families and communities (i.e. the presentations and publications that I previously discussed). I’m especially interested in getting involved with the Infancy/Early Childhood Committee. All in due time…

Alright – I’m going get some other stuff done now. Until tomorrow, friends!

– Atena


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