NPHC in Argentina

New Members of The Not Perfect Hat Club say, “Hellllooooo!” (To watch the entire visit click HERE) This joyful picture captures 50 fifth graders at Colegio Newlands School in Buenos Aires saying hello at the start of my virtual visit on September 12, 2017. The visit was the culmination of several months of reading, writing, and self-reflection as the kids worked their way through my book, The Not Perfect Hat Club. This was also the third year in a row that I have visited with students at the school, so there are now more than 150 members of the club spreading kindness, laughter, and creative chutzpah across Argentina. There is a lot I can say about how the book and programs have evolved thanks to the feedback and support of teachers, parents, and students like those at Newlands, but I think I’ll let the kids’ work speak for itself. The one thing I will say is that their enthusiasm, questions, and creativity have given the story new and unexpected meaning for me. I have learned as much as I’ve taught, and for that I am grateful. Remember it’s ALWAYS best to be YOU! Slam Poetry One of the main characters in The Not Perfect Hat Club is a test-challenged skateboarder named Jabber. Although he has a hard time taking tests, Jabber is a gifted wordsmith and likes to challenge himself and his friends to write about topics and people that they are struggling with. One of the creative exercises in the NPHC program is to write a slam poem and share it on FlipGrid for others to enjoy. Watch...

Going Awry

Audio version: https://soundcloud.com/critterkin-jena/going-awry How many of you have direct experience with of the old adage, “The best made plans of mice and men often go awry?” When it comes to teaching, I think that saying should be changed to read, “The best made plans of educators will almost certainly go awry at some point.” And I would argue that’s a good thing! Here’s why. Human beings are storytellers and trial and error learners. We’re hardwired to need excitement and challenges to grow. So when life becomes routine, or the outcomes of our stories predictable, we get antsy and bored, and start looking for new adventures. When I first met Gloriann two years ago, my latest plan (and I’ve had many in my life) had not only gone awry, but morphed into something I barely recognized. I’d just completed the 4th book in my children’s book series, CritterKin, and was all set to begin the 5th, when I started getting requests to do video conference calls with classrooms outside the United States. The next thing I knew, I was planning and hosting an eight-week, global reading, writing, and creativity challenge with 169 schools in 16 countries, and 99% of it was done virtually. Being a dutiful teacher, I had a three-part plan all laid out for those eight weeks. I wanted to help kids fall in love with reading and writing; I wanted to use story and creative projects to help kids experience and explore topics like being different, bullying, and perfection; and I wanted to use technology to teach some important 21st century skills like empathy, collaboration, and creative problem...

How About You?

Click the image above to see a video from that day The story I’m about to share with you is true. It’s also a perfect illustration of why I cherish what I do. It was late January and still quite chilly when I arrived at South Elementary School in Mooresville, North Carolina. There I was enthusiastically welcomed by students and teachers alike thanks to Cheryl McCrorey, who’d done a great job preparing everyone for my arrival. I was scheduled to spend two days  at the school, and my itinerary was quite full. It included two assemblies, a book signing, an interview with a local news station, and visits with each grade. As a result, I was a bit blurry-eyed when an excited little third grader came running up to me at the end of the first day. “Miss Jena, Miss Jena!” she said, throwing her arms around me. “I absolutely ADORE your books. I’m going to be a writer just like you!” “That’s great,” I said, hugging her back. “I can hardly wait to read your first book.” “Oh, you’ll probably be dead by then,” she said matter-of-factly. “Katelyn!” her teacher gasped. “You shouldn’t say things like that!” “Why not?” Katelyn asked. “It’s true.” “I’m so sorry,” the teacher said, turning bright red. “That’s okay,” I said. “She’s just being honest. I’ll tell you what Katelyn. I’ll do my best to stay alive if you’ll promise to write fast.” “Okay,” she said. “See you!” The rest of my day was consumed by a book signing and reception, plus dinner with some of the teachers at a local Italian restaurant....

There’s Learning and Then There’s Learning!

  A post by Brandon Marshall on BeBee entitled, “Learn more so you won’t fossilize,” about the importance of being willing to continue to learn throughout your life, got me thinking. While I agree in principal with what Brandon had to say, “…my most valuable asset is my ability to learn,” I think we need to expand and elaborate on the definition of learning. Our ability and willingness to “learn” is often confined to intellectual acquisition of knowledge and skills. We are so enthralled with creating and using the latest widget, app, program or smart phone that we fail to do the more difficult, self-reflective learning that is necessary if we are to use those skills in responsible ways. Since October is “Anti-Bullying Month,” the most obvious example is how digital technology has empowered cyber bullies and can reduce communication between individuals to cryptic exchanges of text. We may have learned to communicate faster, but we certainly have not used that skill to communicate with care and compassion. We must remember that new “things” are only as good as the people who use them. We must examine and find ways to use our new technologies to tackle real world problems. In the case of education, where most of my attention is focused, it should be used to empower children to find and share their stories; to find creative solutions and collaborate with their peers around the world. In this way, the walls of fear, prejudice and judgment can be dismantled and new communication skills, grounded in empathy, kindness and respect for difference can be learned. If we look at  history,...

NPHC Goes to Argentina

Today we welcome fifth graders at Colegio Newlands in Buenos Aires, Argentina to the Not Perfect Hat Club. Jena had a great time visiting with the students, and their teachers, Viviana Lopez and Malena Accomazzo Scotti agreed to share their blog about the day with NPHC readers. Enjoy!     NPHC: Jena & Newton’s visit After much anticipation, we finally met Jena Ball, author of The Not Perfect Hat Club! It was a wonderful event, in which we laughed A LOT, we asked and answered questions, and we even learnt how to draw Newton! Also, some students showed their Not Perfect Hats and explained how they represented them. Finally, everybody took the pledge and so, we became official members of the international Not Perfect Hat Club! Special thanks to Miss Vivi, Miss Moni and Miss Flavia, who helped us prepare everything to make a successful connection! Miss Vivi and Miss Moni stayed with us in the whole event, taking photos and enjoying the special visit, too. Want to learn more about Viviana, Malena and their fabulous students? Follow them on Twitter: Viviana Lopez: @vivilopez2 Malena Accomazzo Scotti: @Malena_Acco You can also learn more about how the students at Colegio Newlands are learning with other students around the world by checking their Google+ community, “Bringing the World Into the Classroom.”  https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/112156213745836058444 This slideshow requires...

Maslow in the 21st Century – An #AussieEd Chat

Maslow in the 21st Century Classroom Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who is probably best known for his hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy is based on his theory that children’s psychological health (and ability to succeed as adults) depends on having innate human needs met. Maslow divided these needs into six categories based on priority, starting with basic physiological needs and culminating in self-actualization (see image above). Although many of these needs seem self-evident, many education systems today tend to place less importance on categories such as “love and belonging,” and esteem,” labelling them as “soft skills.” Ongoing research being done by psychologists and neuroscientists such as Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Richard Davidson are providing hard evidence that a child’s emotional well-being is as if not more important than traditional academics. In fact, children who do not feel safe, supported and empowered have a difficult time learning. In our chat on June 19th. we propose to probe a little deeper into Maslow’s hierarchy and discuss practical ways we as educators can address the needs of the “Whole Child.” Come prepared to think outside the box and to share your favorite Maslow quote. Some of our favorites are listed below.  See you Sunday! – Jena and Brett “All of life is education and everybody is a teacher and everybody is forever a pupil.” “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.” “The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” “What is necessary to...