Waking UP Together,
by Ruth Virginia Barton
October 28, 2019
Teaching, by Ruth Virginia Barton
I teach according to what my students need and how they learn best. If a student must master algebra but doesn't feel comfortable with math, I will break the lessons down until the student does feel confident, and build up to a solid understanding of algebra from there. If they need to find their own Voice, every lesson will be geared to their self-expression. If they need to learn writing, I will explore with them the joys of freely transferring the thoughts from their brains to the screen (or paper). I may employ the Socratic method, where we read the same piece and discuss it. I may facilitate project-based learning, where students create their own projects and learn as they go. This is an especially good avenue for kinesthetic learners, who like to move and work with their hands. In any case, I love learning and am committed to each of my students finding their unique strengths as students. Simply by expressing themselves – in speaking and on paper, screen, or another medium - students learn to listen to themselves and then find they have something to say! By taking information in and expressing it out according to their own design, students grow to understand the material, having fully incorporated it into themselves. More importantly, they have grown in self-confidence. A confident student feels assured of their ability to learn and express themselves and have fun doing it. They can be themselves and master their world.
I am a student of brain-based learning. Students’ brains learn by building solid relationships between what they already know and what they are learning. Their brains take in meaningful information and incorporate it into the neural pathways they already have. New information connects with old information it relates to, an electrical connection between the old and the new in a meaningful way – literally, a process of relationship! The brain’s creativity builds meaning when it connects the already perceived with the relatable incoming. As these neurons or brain cells build onto each other, students' brains create an increasingly complex root system of neural pathways, or networks of information, leaving the brain ready for even more. Students create meaning and the joy of learning is born, electric with the excitement of connecting neurons.
Brain-mapping technology has also taught us what doesn’t work in the brain-body connection: when a body is overloaded with too much stress, this brain-based learning gets derailed because whatever information is coming in must bypass the brain and go directly to the body to keep it safe. Complex, higher-order thinking in the neocortex must be suspended until the body feels safe again, safe enough to focus on creating more of those growing neural relationships.
This natural brain function explains why safety is so important to learning, and why students naturally achieve academic success when they feel safe. When people feel safe enough to express themselves, they love learning because it is a creative process that grows who they already are. Their online or in-person classroom has become a supportive environment for students to be who they already are, take in new information, express themselves safely, and grow.
I encourage my students to delve deep and emerge with what they really think, how they really feel, about the material we're studying and how we’re doing it. I enjoy creating an academic atmosphere where my students feel socially and emotionally safe as we explore the joys of learning. They access their own creativity and have their own source of ideas that comes from within them. They incorporate new information with fun and confidence. They make learning meaningful by expressing themselves and making it their own.
They master their world.
Going Deep with Social-Emotional Learning
My first teaching priority is to discover where students' learning matches up with their education, and where it doesn't!
My second goal is to build up the trust, skills and methodologies that encourage and inspire my students to show off their deep learning as projects they create (project-based, authentic assessment).
My overarching goal is for my students to uncover and energize their confidence in learning for themselves.
My job is done when my students no longer need me to learn!
Because they are in touch with their own curiosity, methodologies for how to feed it, higher-order thinking skills, and a peaceful, easy feeling that they can learn whatever they want to.
Some guidelines for teaching and tutoring:
Yes, my intent is to help students get their homework done, but it goes so much deeper than that: I really want them to thoroughly understand their school work, as well as its theoretical underpinnings.
I teach the self-reflective art of metacognition: understanding and trusting our own learning process.
My experience teaches me that there are several relationships going on here: student-tutor, student-learning, student-self, and family-tutor. Balancing these relationships, for the teacher and the student, takes trust and the time to build it. But the most important relationship is student-self, and that is the one I nurture with social-emotional learning and awareness.
Since the teaching relationship generally involves an adult family member as well as a student, I like to meet both together at the beginning.
For tutoring, I ask for a commitment of at least a month to give my method, which can seem mysterious at first, time to work.
After this time, I like to meet with the family member at least once more to give my assessment of what we have been doing together and what the student has learned with me, so that they family can understand what their student is understanding!
Then we go from there.
WeBelong School (WeBS) for Social-Emotional Healing
My online and under construction school for social-emotional healing, called WeBelong School, can be found by clicking on the sub-menu tab above, "WeBelong School Social-Emotional Healing." My school is called WeBelong because our students feel so much belonging - to the school, to each other and their teachers, and most especially, to themselves! And it's under construction because it's a virtual school that I plan to construct in regular reality as well ;). When completed, WeBelong School will be a center of healing through a safe haven education. All of the courses are socially and emotionally supportive and academically challenging, so students heal as they learn within a protected and emotionally sophisticated community. This means that all classes are respectful of multiple intelligences, varied learning styles, and socially safe community. A requisite of being a student at WeBS is an online mini-course that outlines how to create a safe online community together. All students participate in this collective safe space with the intent of collaborating in their healing process - together - from all over the world! Students attending the so-called brick-and-mortar WeBelong School will participate in in-person social and emotional support groups as well as the online one, which they will be able to participate in for long after they matriculate from WeBS. The healed community, in virtual and "real" reality, contributes to an excellent and protected academic environment, where students discover and cultivate their inner and unique brilliance! This natural genius is present and accounted for in all children; that's what we believe at WeBelong!
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