Monday, December 16, 2013

Flow: Your Brain at Play

"Play is the highest form of research." - Albert Einstein

I've always been intrigued by how we learned. Why can some learn so much effortlessly, while others struggle to make minimal gains? One thing I've learned through my own experiences is that learning through play is just about as hyper-efficient as you can get. When the learner is in a state of "flow" (which is often the case during play, amazing things can happen.

What is flow? Flow is a mental state of mind in which the individual is fully immersed in whatever task they are undertaking. Their focus is razor sharp and most importantly they are having FUN! state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. They are fully absorbed in the act! This is where the magic of play happens! If you don't believe me, take a loooooooong hard look at your child the next time they are entranced by their video game or other whimsical endeavor (whimsical is my "word of the day")...take a gander at some sports obsessed family member glued to the final seconds of the games...the examples abound. You'll see flow and recognize flow because you've likely experienced it yourself many times before.

Check out the article below. It offers some great information on how you get the most learning out of play, and honestly, would you rather that your learning experiences be boring? Make the most of every moment. Learn and play. =)

How to Create Learning Through Play -

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Giving of Oneself: Recent Adventures Promoting Family Engagement!!!

One thing that I've tried to make sure I do over the course of the last year has been to make sure that I don't take on too much. Yeah...that is not always successful, but I've gotten to a point now where the next 
eight months are finally looking manageable and that is great news! Whether it's families of children with special needs, foster and adoptive families, families of children considered to be at-risk kids, or the culturally diverse community of families and learners right here in the Metro Atlanta area, there is always something to do (and nothing says it can't be FUN)! Below is a letter I wrote for the Aspen Institute on behalf of Univision Atlanta Community Affairs. They have been an absolute amazing resource to me and have allowed me to connect with other likehearted and passionate peopl. The reason I am sharing it is to hammer home a point It is a point I am always happy to be reminded of myself during the course of life. We often think we are blessing others when in fact WE are the ones being blessed.....

To whom it may concern,

I recently had the pleasure of partnering with Univision Atlanta Community Affairs, through a partnership with Gwinnett Public County Schools and Univision’s educational efforts. Their sincerest intention is to benefit Latino families and students as they aspire to reach heights limited only by their imagination and the possibilities of potential. Through this association, I was privileged to take part in several panels, as well as appear in a television segment, all focused on the multiple facets of education. These were each meant to offer guidance and information to families urgently striving to help their children achieve sustained academic and life-long success. 

It was through this purposeful partnership that I was able to also discover and collaborate with the educational endeavors of other Univision partners like HOPE (the Hispanic Organization Promoting Education) and The LAA (The Latin American Association). These memorable occasions over the last few months have provided me with unique outreach opportunities that I have used to affect families in ways I never thought possible. These goal-oriented relationships have already proven themselves to be invaluable and there are two particular instances that I would love to share with you.

The first involved the family of one of my very own students from almost a decade ago who had viewed an education focused program on Univision. My appearance during this segment encouraged them to contact me resulting in us all reuniting during a recent visit to our school. I was in awestruck wonder looking at the young man before me that had once been a student in my elementary class. They both shared with me that he was participating in what is called the STEM Targeted Educational Program (STEP Academy), a program designed for at-risk, over-aged eighth-grade students that allows them to complete multiple grades worth of course work in just one school year.  

If he was successful in completing this program, he would transition to 10th grade and remain on track to graduate with his peers. What a blessing I had standing right before me in the form of a chance to aid one of my very own former students and his mother. I asked them if they had time for an impromptu workshop on becoming a more efficient learner, since I was certain they would both enjoy and benefit from the experience. Not only was this the perfect example of a teachable moment, but it warmed my heart to be THE teacher fortunate enough to provide it. I expect wonderful things from this young man and I am appreciative of the unforeseen opportunity I was given to be involved in his academic journey once again. 

The second, and most recent occasion, came as a husband and wife approached me at school, smiles broadly displayed across their face. The mother asked if I had a free moment and I gleefully offered her as much time as she needed. She began telling me how much she had enjoyed my workshop and what a pleasure it was to speak to me now. This left me puzzled. I had just completed a school workshop that very Wednesday and I was surprised that I could not remember either of their faces. Noting my confusion, they told me that they had seen me present at a workshop during the Latin American Association’s 14th annual Latino Youth Conference at Emory University. They had been looking forward to following up with me at Kanoheda since they also have a child enrolled here as well as a child in high school. 

They were relatively new additions to our school family. My collaboration with the combined educational efforts of these incredible community resources yet again proved to be a boon as it allowed me to make contact with a family that I may not have otherwise been able to reach so soon. They mentioned a desire to do even more for both of their children (music to my ears) and supplement the knowledge they had already received. I was able to immediately provide them with the additional support they needed as well as get them connected with several of the upcoming learning events scheduled at our school. The familiarity with this family, afforded to me through the previous work of these amazing educational partnerships, allowed me to provide support ideally suited to benefit both of their children, despite the disparity in their age. Once again, I was graced with an unanticipated blessing through the amazing collaboration in which I have been able to take part.

Since that first meeting at our school, I’ve had the pleasure of being in communication with this family on many occasions, with each instance heralded first by huge smiles on each of our faces. I could not have dreamed of a more astonishing way to begin a prosperous educational partnership with a new family or rekindle an existing one. These powerful individual examples are the result of a broad and purposeful focus on providing the support our families need to stay engaged in the education of their children and help every single one to fulfill the promise that is within them. 

As a teacher, I am so excited by the impactful prospects for educational support that I have now discovered through Univision Atlanta and their educational partners. Furthermore as a fellow parent, I am deeply stirred and eternally grateful for what is being done for the community of families and learners I am honored to serve. I wish you success beyond measure with this marvelous endeavor. Through these efforts, you have allowed me to experience triumphs firsthand that I had never before envisioned possible. For that I am profoundly thankful.

Angel Rodriguez

I'll close this post by saying I have LOVED my life of teaching, fostering, and most importantly...parenting. =)