An Aha Moment In The Classroom While Recovering From Illness from our Favorite Guest Mari Nosal

Guest of our site Mari Nosal
Guest of our site Mari Nosal
Guest of our site Mari Nosal

Another fine article on Special Needs Education from Mari Nosal our favorite guest on the site!!

I have attempted to tell a story of my recovery from an ear infection. Every educator has most likely experienced the feeling of teaching when they wanted nothing more than to stay in bed. In this story I was reminded of how the children can teach me a thing or two:-0)

I am finally recovering from a terrible double ear infection that has left me temporarily hearing impaired. I must persevere. My classroom and personal issues must consciously be separated. I silently remind myself of this fact as I balance on one knee so I can hear the children’s requests. In reality, I would like nothing better than to be home in bed. Smiles must be placed upon my face and I feign interest in all the children’s requests. If I can’t do this the children will merely infer that I do not wish to be with them. Despite every day challenges they light up my day. I keep reminding my self that for some of these children, I am the only stability in their life.

I silently decided to remind myself of what my role in this class is. My eyes scanned the room and reminders of the positive influence I have on these children are every where. I eyed the cubbies. My coat had been silently moved to a five year olds coat hook. I had forgotten that she likes our jackets to be hung together on the coat hook so that they touch each other. On the table laid several notes written for me in childish scrawl from the children. One portrayed a brightly colored rendition of me wearing my children’s workshop shirt. Under the picture was a note that said “I like that Miss Mari Cares about us.”Another note said “I am glad Miss Mari is here”. These notes reminded me of how much my effort are noticed by the children. How could one not feel better after seeing these reminders?

The children would soon remind me of the difference betweens an adult’s perception of what is important versus a child’s. Saturday is the day we are celebrating Dr. Seuss birthday party. We are to have an open house at the school of which I am expected to attend. Mountains of Dr. Seuss pencils and erasers sat upon the table in my classroom. They awaited the active participation of my young charges to create 100 goody bags for the party. I gazed at those bags and thought about what an effort it would be to get these children to make goodie bags. The thought of that and doling out green eggs and ham the following morning was not my idea of a rousing experience.

The children surprised me. They reminded me of the dangers of assuming the future with my adult lenses. The children gazed at the goody bag articles and shouted with glee. They sat patiently as I explained how to assemble the bags. We than got down to work. The children ranged in age from five to eight years old. The younger ones were intent on tying the ribbons on the bags independently. My assumption of a job that would be incomplete at days end proved to be wrong. The bags were finished in one hour! The children had such a feeling of pride on their face.

I was reminded that not all learning experiences lie within my curriculum. There is more to learn than just reading and writing. I learned as much from the children as they learned from this experience. Children that began the project feeling incompetent and incapable of doing the project independently had learned new skills like how to tie ribbons on bags. They practiced sorting skills by placing two pencils, and eraser, and a pencil grip in each bag. What I initially perceived as a drudge project turned out to be an enjoyable experience that taught all involved lessons, including me.

I hope my experience reminds all educators of what an awesome job AND responsibility we have.

Mari N. M.Ed., CECE

A Meaningful Lesson From A Bar Of Soap In An After – School Program by talented Mari Nosal

Mari Nosal
Mari Nosal
Mari Nosal

Here is another fine article from Mari Nosal with regards to after school activities–>

Today I planned to execute a creative learning lesson for my school age program. (Fun after school time) Lessons must be learned. Lessons must be executed in a fun way. My students spend all day in school sitting at a desk learning academics. My role is to present a constructive learning format. One stipulation is that a high fun factor is present. This task can be formidable to say the least. How can a lesson in science be hidden in play? How can theories of magnetism or math be taught in a form that gifts the children with new information, but does not threaten student burnout? This is a challenge I am worthy of accepting.

I presented a lesson on soap sculptures. The children believed they were experiencing a mere arts and craft project. The hidden content was learned. The craft was fun but structured. Harmless melted soap chips turned into a math lesson, science lesson, and exuded a large curiosity factor. With out curiosity the children would rebel my efforts to implement this lesson. Solid soap chips of varied colors were melted together into a soppy mix. Before hand, the weight of the soap slivers was examined. My young charges placed a small mountain of soap on a scale. The weight was recorded. The soap was prepared for liquefying in the microwave.

Before transforming the soap into a liquid form we examined the solid consistency. I placed the slivers in the microwave. When the soap was removed, we compared the liquid form to it’s solid past. We talked about temperature changes. We poured the soapy liquid into measuring cups. A lesson in weighing liquid versus solid masses was learned. What had weighed 5 ounces in solid form had been transformed into liquid measurement. The children were in awe of the fact that microwaves could alter the composition of the mass.

We than proceeded to pour the liquid soap into molds intended for use in our play dough projects. The amount of ounces needed for various molds was measured and noted. The soap was set aside and transformed into a solid mass. Upon observing our finished project, we weighed our creations. Children estimated beforehand what the weights would be upon the soaps return to a solid form. They were shocked that the creations weights were now varied. I explained that we had used various size molds to complete this project. This obviously affected the weight. A lesson was learned. The children left my classroom with a prize (their soap), and a new idea to ponder. Objects in our world can be manipulated and structurally changed. Much like the children’s young sponge like minds.

One child looked concerned and lost in thought. I asked what the problem might be. My five-year old charge asked if he could turn into something else like the soap did. I responded by stating that his body was not capable of melting like soap. He is made of skin and bones, which hold him together. (Simplified for the child’s purpose). I told him that the only change his body would ever make is to get larger, stronger, and smarter. An Aha moment has occurred. Perhaps one lesson will overlap into another based on these questions. Perhaps I shall have a lesson on the human body. Stay tuned for updates.

Mari N.

A Story Of teaching And learning About Empathy In An After-School Program-Mari Nosal

Mari Nosal
Mari Nosal
Mari Nosal

Here is a fine article from Mari Nosal that really made me think–>

I was perusing an old reflective journal from grad school. It is a heartwarming story about teaching and learning about empathy. This is a long forgotten story but one worth sharing. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I enjoyed participating in this activity in my After school program.

1rst. excerpt ; A long-term project has been the topic of discussion for the last month. My fondest hope is to build character and empathy in the children through a donation drive for the homeless shelter. Children learn compassion for fellow human beings through example. Compassion is a positive character trait that becomes an innate quality. It is carried into adult hood. As children grow and seek employment, the ability to be a team player will be non negotiable. No question, literacy is important. It is a major component of positive assimilation into adult society. The concept of team work and empathy our valuable components as well.

Empathy towards co – workers can avail adults the chance of a successful career. These traits are developed in early childhood. My long-term project has a major focus. It will emphasize what power children have when working as part of a team. Children often feel powerless. They often believe they are not capable of achieving anything of worth to adults. Hopefully, by the end of April these children will be equipped with self empowerment skills that will take them far in life. We are designing a giving tree. It sits on the wall by the art center. The children can pick a blank leaf. They may take the leaf home write the item down that they wish to donate to the families at the homeless shelter. When the item of choice is returned to the school, the leaf is placed back on the tree. A box sits by the door waiting to be filled with donations. The parents were asked to let the children pick the item of choice.

Parents may feel that a child’s donation is not the same item they would have chosen. By not coercing the child by choosing the item, parents are instilling choice making skills in the kids. The children are sorting, and packing the items every Friday. I will deliver the items to the shelter. We will add cheery notes and pictures from the school age class to our donation box. The shelter has agreed to let their children respond back to the school age class. These will be memorable pen pals. Lessons will be learned, and a widened understanding of our world will develop.

2nd excerpt: I held a circle today to gain an understanding of how much my young charges comprehend about charitable projects. We have gone over basic concepts such as the definition of a donation, and what kinds of notes we will write to the children. I first asked the children what the definition of a donation is. A child promptly raised her hand. Her definition was quite interesting. The child said a “donation is when we give away things that we don’t like”. This is a direct example of how children access and scrutinize the adults in their life.

This child was mimicking others in her social circle. I responded by explaining that sometimes we donate things that others need. I added that this is a hard thing to do. We may choose a toy for our project. The child may decide that they would like to keep the toy. However, sometimes we need to realize that we have many nice things at home. The one toy we donate may be the only toy this child will own. Some may see this concept as above a child’s cognitive level. If adults take the time to model and explain, children surprise us with their level of compassion. Sometimes they are more empathetic than adults.

The next topic covered was the content of the pen pal letters. I asked the group what we should write in the letters. One child suggested that we write, “I am sorry you do not have a house”. I gently told the group that it was a wonderful sentiment but perhaps we could tell the children at the shelter about our hobbies, names, favorite foods, etc. In actuality, the child’s statement had shown a simple level of comprehension in regards to why families live at the shelter. I believe the children will be shocked when the kids at the shelter write back with similar likes and dislikes. Perhaps the children will find a kindred spirit in the shelter kids. Utopian in thought, no doubt, but doable!

3rd excerpt: I entered class today and assessed the leaves on our giving tree. I have been working long and hard on this project. A mere six leaves contained names of children who had donated to the homeless shelter project thus far. I have broached the components of our project for months. I have written, printed, and dispensed fliers to notify parents of our project. I pondered the idea of passing this project off as a bad idea. Perhaps the utopian lens I view this project through is clouded. I assumed that parents would embrace this project with positive support. After all, it is a unique chance for their children to learn empathy.

Approximately one hour after I pondered canceling the shelter project two families entered with donations. The donations were notable. Diapers, an inflatable infant pool, sandals, shorts, rain boots, and bathing suits, the items were of notable value, and seasonally appropriate for the warm months ahead. I addressed the director about canceling my project. She responded with positive support. The general consensus was that the project was beneficial to my students and the shelter. I was looking at the quantity of donations, and names on the donation leaves. The director reminded me that this project was beneficial in more ways than met the eye. The director reminded me of the many facets to this project. I am teaching the children to step out of the box. They are being challenged to help those in need. The children are learning that our needs are not the only ones to be met in society. One needs to learn to put others before themselves. They will hopefully learn to step outside the insulated bubble some of them live in.

I realize this is a concept that cannot be fully comprehended at the tender age of five, six, seven, and eight years of age. In reality, some of their parents live in a secluded bubble. There is much power to the phrase, “the apple doesn’t fall to far from the tree. Hopefully, I can instill the building blocks for empathetic, action oriented behavior. In years to come, when the children’s brains have developed to a mature cognitive level the memories of this project will guide their maturing brains. Perhaps, a connection will be made. Time and maturity will tell.

The children are learning letter writing skills. They write notes to the children at the shelter which are to be delivered with the donations. I have received approval from the director for the shelter children to write back as long as last names are not used to protect identities. My hope is for the children in my program to make the connection through writing letters that the children at the shelter are composed of flesh, bones, and emotion. Will this connection cause a larger interest in donating to our cause? My fondest wish is to be able to respond with an adamant yes. I will deliver the first shipment to the shelter during the upcoming weekend.

I will persevere, be creative, and not give up on my utopian dream. To assist in the assimilation of future empathetic, open-minded leaders into society! I will take advantage of the plasticity of their young minds and hopefully alter their schemas. If I don’t make an effort, I am not doing my job as an educator.

4th. excerpt: A young girl entered my classroom with some wonderful donations this morning. I was excited to see that she was finally getting excited and wanted to participate. This five-year old child seemed to display great difficulty in grasping the reasoning behind this project. She is extremely bright. She is a came from a wealthy family. Every whim, wish, and desire is granted. She has not been exposed to the atrocities of homelessness at any level. A couple of months ago I had posed a question to the class. I asked if they knew what a donation was. This child raised her hand. She said that donations are things we give away that we don’t like.

I gently explained that donations are given to help people who do not have any money. We try to give away things we no longer have use for. However we always give away things that we would like if we didn’t already own so many nice things. I believed that this child was indifferent to our project. Today would prove me wrong. I would be reminded that assumptions have no place in my class room. As the little girl stood by the donation box, I eyed her hand. It was squeezed into a fist. Something hung out of the end of her tight little fist.

Upon further observation I noticed it was money. I asked the child what was in her hand. She stated that she wished to drop a one dollar bill in the shelter box. I asked her if it was her money, or her parents. She proudly told me that the dollar was from her piggy bank. She had been saving for a new toy. She recalled my comment about poor children that have no toys whatsoever. The little girl dropped the dollar in the shelter box. She said that she wanted a poor child to buy a personal toy with the dollar she gave them. This was one of those days when a catch phrase is appropriate, and validated. That phrase is “and a little child shall lead us”!

Mari N.

No Child Left Behind, Fact or Fallacy by Mari Nosal, with my opinions and commentary as well.

Left Behind?
Left Behind?
Can education for the autistic be improved?

I am trying to spread autism awareness, lend a voice to topics that are interesting to people who are either autistic or have friends or family that are. I have 3 kids on the autism spectrum, I am asperger’s as well. My kids all struggle in school and I am concerned that they will graduate and if so what have they really learned. I was quite the opposite school academics came easy, it was the social and PE related things that were difficult. I was in a way left behind, might have skipped a few grades but due to my teachers and their concern or is it lack of concern or understanding I was never allowed to skip any grades, the elementary years were a joke for me, I could read as well as I do now at 43 at 8, and my math skills were about the same as well, but I was never asked to skip grades mostly due to my teachers not really understanding or “getting” me. In that vein of thought here is a fine article by Mari Nosal with regards to her thoughts on the so called “No child left behind idea”

No Child Left Behind, Fact or Fallacy by Mari Nosal

Hello – I have been observing opinions of the public at large regarding the state of our educational system. I have decided to express my opinions regarding this topic. Some may like my opinions some may not. That is the perogative of human individuality. One thing I believe we can all universally agree on is that we need to discard our THEM AND US IDEOLOGY AND CHANGE IT TO A WE. All societies are dependent on one another for successful existence. May we all become a united front and remember our ultimate goal – our childrens future! Merely a thought to Ponder.

Education reform has always been dictated by societal needs. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was born from a need for high tech, academically savvy Americans who can compete in our interglobal society. The next generation of capitalists must be trained. American corporations are interdependent on foreign trade to survive. Foreign countries experience financial growth through interactions with America. Land Rovers and Lexus have Toyota Engine parts. Chevrolet Geo has Suzuki engine parts. Gas hails from Arabian oil wells. Patients from other countries frequent our hospitals for high risk, state of the art surgery. American educators travel the world teaching English to foreigners. American icons such as McDonalds, Pepsi, and Spiked hair cuts are noted in foreign countries. These examples are a miniscule representation of the relations and dependency that countries have on each other. Prosperity is the ulterior motive of these relations.

The ideology of No Child Left Behind is not new. Expectations in education have been cyclical throughout history. The influx of immigrants in Horace Mann’s era necessitated a curriculum that focused on Americanization of immigrant children. The intent of Mann was not altruistic. It was the assimilation of immigrants into American society as positive contributors to our economy. During the cold war era, emphasis was based on academics. A similarity to modern day schools is noted. Gone was the emphasis on the whole child. Education was reformed to produce American engineers, scientists, and mathematicians that could compete with the Russians. We had to build a bigger, better, space craft than our Russian neighbor’s.

In modern day America, as with our predecessors, molding and training students guarantees the survival of our country. In the fifties the economy depended on competing with other countries for prosperity. In modern day America, the goal is to be sought out by other countries. What deleterious effects does America’s preoccupation with growth and prosperity inflict on our society? “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.” This phrase speaks a thousand words. The American ideal of survival of the fittest warrants focusing on the strongest members. The weak and assumed useless people are weeded out. Rather than find compensatory strategies that give all kids the same chance to succeed, each child is left to sink or swim. The ones who succeed will be our future leaders. The students who flounder will be left to languish in a hand to mouth existence with no skills. Children have become statistical data on an achievement graph.

Intelligence can’t be measured merely in academic form. A child may be musically inclined, athletically inclined, or artistic. A child’s learning may be impeded by learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, or a dysfunctional household. If compensatory strategies are taught the child will succeed. The standards used to assess a gifted child should differ from those for a learning disabled child. High expectations are non negotiable. However, what those expectations are differ from child to child. Challenges should be safe and individualized for each student. A challenge should create social and academic growth. If the challenge is too high, the child will shirk their academic responsibilities, and suffer irreparable damage to their self esteem.

Accommodations for individual children need to be in place in order for the academically challenged child to score within the median range on assessments. Unfortunately, accommodations cost money. In terms of education the basic mindset is less is best. A society, who will spend $150.00 on a ticket to a Football Game, yet will wage war at the threat of having real estate taxes raised for education. It is much easier to play the blame game. Blame the parents, society, teachers, and administrators. Taking personal responsibility for America’s educational dilemma would mean admitting that we all have a stake in children’s education. Not a comfortable idea for the majority of the population to ponder.

Teachers carry a huge weight upon their shoulders. The goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is to achieve success. A teacher who has the threat of her job dangled in front of her like a carrot on a stick is not going to feel success. They will experience burn out and become less productive educators. A child who does not pass the M.C.A.S. repeatedly will experience a sense of failure that will haunt them through out life. Watching peers graduate will breed a sense of futility. In the scenarios above, the outcome is predictable. For educators and children alike, frustration leads to apathy, apathy leads to indifference. The end result is that everyone loses.

Intelligence is genetic. However, it is manipulated by the environment. A bright child who receives no stimulation will underachieve. A learning disabled child who is safely challenged will rise beyond expectations. The chance of success can be increased in the right educational setting. Introduce safe challenges that a child is sure to succeed at. A domino effect will occur. Once the taste of success is felt the child will not be adverse to more challenges. Experiencing failure can cause even the brightest child to recoil from academics. Nurture can beat nature. It merely takes the right environment, realistic expectations, and an appreciation of each child’s individuality and learning styles. We all have a function to fill in society as an adult. In our democratic society, the government and stake holders should not decide what that function will be. Accept each child for who they are, and they will be accepting of themselves. No child should be left behind!

This is merely my opinion.

Stay well

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

Having lived in the system, and experiencing my own children’s lives in the system I definitely agree that things could be better. I am especially concerned for the more autistic of my twin sons who is in a self contained classroom. It is more of strategic organized teenage day care. He is sixteen nearly, and still can not tie his shoes.

David Berkowitz