Thursday, June 22, 2017

A GIFT OF WONDER , link to NEW interview by NPR on welcoming wonder & spontaneity into the classroom.

Public radio interview of Kim Allsup's A GIFT OF WONDER and how the real basics spontaneity and wonder, enable children to learn.

A GIFT OF WONDER excerpt, Chapter 4, Attention-- shows what this means in the larger sense for a first grade child.
“Reesa was lost in golden October. Shining maple trees bridged the concrete walk down the gentle hill. Brown-gold fallen leaves carpeted the hillside. Bright gold leaves floated toward this mottled carpet where, upon landing, they glittered like brilliant stars.
Alone in this golden splendor, Reesa seemed unaware that she should be with her classmates. Tall, slender, and light on her feet, she danced gleefully from falling leaf to falling leaf, catching a dazzling yellow bouquet of falling stars.” …
“I was tempted to open the door and call out to Reesa. I knew I had only seconds before I must return to the room or risk disruption. But I didn't call out. I wanted Reesa to learn to line up with the class. But I also wanted her to have this sacred moment. I made one of the one thousand judgment calls a teacher in a wonder-centered school makes each day. I just waited.”
“Teachers, visionaries, psychologists and politicians have long argued about the appropriate balance of work and play, of compliance and freedom at school. Advocates of open classrooms and home schooling might argue that Reesa should have been allowed unlimited time amid swirling leaves. In contrast, those who were successful in moving standards-based education into most public school classrooms in the early years of the new millennium might counter that the allocation of an hour or more a day for play in first grade cuts into time for reading instruction.
As a teacher in a wonder-centered classroom, my goal is to never sacrifice a moment of wonder. Yet, I know that while I work to protect each moment of awe, protecting every wondrous experience for every child in my care is ultimately impossible. I know too that the best shot at cultivating and protecting sacred moments at school is to entrust each child to teachers who are allowed to make, perhaps, one thousand judgment calls each day, who are given significant freedom in orchestrating the movement of children, dynamically balancing freedom and responsibility in each situation. Thus, the teacher demonstrates the dance itself, not just freedom, not just responsibility, but the art of living.”

August 24th, A GIFT OF WONDER will be the subject of an author interview with Kim Allsup on WCAI Radio show,
"The Point w/Mindy Todd." WCAI is an NPR affiliate.

This book publishes in August but is available now throught the publisher.…

 I absolutely love this book. It is one of the most personal, humorous and completely moving books about childhood and a school that really worked--using the wonder and amazement kids experience as impetus. Imagine learning linked to natural curiosity? 
Read this book, if you remember being a kid, teach kids or are a parent. 
Susan W


Kim Allsup's career as a teacher in Waldorf Schools was inspired by her memories of magical adventures exploring a saltwater estuary, climbing an apple tree and losing herself in books. In her memoir, A GIFT OF WONDER ( LindesfarneBooks,SteinerBooks, August) Allsup shows why wonder and other forms of intrinsic motivation, rather than rewards, such as praise or grades, are the ideal motivators for children's learning.

In Allsup's school a teacher stayed with the same class for many years, ideally through eighth grade, giving children continuity and deepening a teacher's understanding of them. The curriculum was based on the developmental stages of childhood and one of the joys of this memoir is to see how children change at different ages.

In this school teachers made up lessons to fit their class and learned to change them based on unexpected events or the responses of the students. In the first chapter, Allsup tells about a milkweed incident in a first grade classroom. "A milkweed pod on a window ledge, in the heat of the sun, burst. Parasols spread out in the room. All saw it and wonder spread. I was quiet. They knew I had stepped back. Students stood on chairs reaching toward them. Allowing children to follow certain impulses, even in the middle of a lesson, shows them that the teacher respects them. This helps them respect themselves, an essential in building executive function."

Allsup believes teachers and parents must do an intuitive dance, seeing when to drop plans to allow unexpected moments, such as one in a fifth grade math class. "They made drawings of a city and did estimations and mathematical calculations. The students insisted there would be video arcades and I insisted they calculate how many such arcades kids in this city could afford. They also brought up the idea that homeless people would live in this city. I objected, as it was designed to be ideal place where everyone had a home. Then a girl spoke up, saying that she had once been homeless. The class was stunned by this revelation. Suddenly homelessness seemed very real. When they put a homeless shelter into their design, I asked where the funds would come from. A boy said they could use the profits from the arcades. Since this was a math project, I had not planned to teach about compassion, but flexibility in the lesson allowed the students to help shape the lesson and bring meaning to it."

On the value of flexibility in lessons: "I could not have imagined in advance these opportunities to make the lesson richer. In this school, being tuned into such opportunities was expected and supported. Many school systems today expect teachers to be more tuned into test preparation than the authentic engagement of students in the moment. Some schools even require teachers to deliver scripted lessons. The irony is that when a teacher is allowed to  shape the lesson in the moment, she and her class can make the experience richer. Allsup explains, "If you are a sailor you know that heading straight upwind to your destination won’t work. Similarly, a narrow focus in teaching can be counterproductive. The zigzag path keeps the wind in the sails and gets you there. Teacher sanctioned zig zags can be mysterious, fascinating and fun. Time lost from the original plan is made up by a higher level of focus."

A Gift of Wonder is a personal memoir that is humorous and practical. Yet there is deep wisdom about education and the impetus for learning throughout life. Wonder and amazement are a uniquely human reaction to the world, which fosters curiosity, creativity and a reverence for nature. Who would not want to know more?

A Gift of Wonder by Kim Allsup
Date: August 2017
ISBN#ebook) 978-1-584-20-955-3