Thursday, September 03, 2015

Teacherscribe's Teaching Tip #3 (Inservice Week)

Teacherscribe Teaching Tips inservice day #3

When you feel overwhelmed . . .

A perfect topic for the first week of inservice.  There is always so much going on: seeing your friends that you haven’t probably seen (in person at least) since May, meetings; getting your room together, meetings; unpacking supplies and new curriculum supplies; meetings; adjusting to new curriculum; meetings; open house; training on new software . . .  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Here is the first tip for dealing with being overwhelmed:

1    3.  Do something now.

Anything now is better than something later.

So if the first step, forget about the ultimate outcome, set the context for this and the second step, do the next right thing, focused just on identifying the next right steps, this third and final step is all about the key factor in combatting overwhelm: taking action now.

When I heard this step, I immediately thought of all those professional development sessions I’ve been through.  How many times have I heard a great idea or teaching tip or best practice that I could use to improve my craft, yet I haven’t done it yet?  Too many to count.

I just filed it away and never took any action on it.  And my teaching pretty much stayed the same.  So what was the point of the professional development? 

Last spring I attended NCTE. 

I made a vow to put in immediate practice at least one thing from each section.  And I did.  I had one class conduct a Socratic seminar.  I also sent an email to a colleague about how we could set up editing teams with our classes.  I also worked Socrative into a lesson plan the following week. 

That last example actually illustrates how I struggled with overwhelm perfectly.  

I was blown away by Socrative and wondered how I had never heard of this before.

Actually, I had heard of it as one of my colleagues presented a short session on it, but because I was overwhelmed a bit by all of the other apps or websites presented that day, it didn’t register with me!  

The reason it didn’t was that I was also presenting on a tech app (storify), so I was focused on that ultimate outcome.  I was not open as I should have been to developing a bias toward action (which would have had me taking more diligent notes about each app or website presented) and then doing something now, which would have had me start putting some of what I learned into action immediately.

So as a quick recap, when you (or your students) feel overwhelmed, remember these three steps -

1    1.  Don’t focus on the ultimate outcome.
2    2.  Focus on the next right action.
3    3.  Do something now.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Teacherscribe's Teaching Tip #2 (Inservice Week)

Teacherscribe Teaching Tips inservice day #2

When you feel overwhelmed . . .

A perfect topic for the first week of inservice.  There is always so much going on: seeing your friends that you haven’t probably seen (in person at least) since May, meetings; getting your room together, meetings; unpacking supplies and new curriculum supplies; meetings; adjusting to new curriculum; meetings; open house; training on new software . . .  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Here is the first tip for dealing with being overwhelmed:

1    2.  Focus on the next right action.

The first step, forget about the ultimate outcome sets the context for this next step.  If you spend an awful lot of time worrying about the ultimate outcome, most people tend to go to the worst possible outcome.  This creates fear.  Fear kills hope.  And that stops us dead in our tracks.

Whenever we start thinking that way, Michael Hyatt offers some advice: “Focus on doing the next right thing.”

I have actually used this in my every day routine.  I think of this when I show finish hall duty and walk into my class during my prep.  If I have 50 essays waiting for me to grade, I should simply chip away at them. 

But what do I tend to do? 

I check my email.  I see what’s happening on my Twitter or Instagram feeds. I read the news.  I chat with a colleague.  I do all this other stuff that simply isn’t the next right thing.

So when I have those 50 essays starting at me, I shut my door, close my laptop, get out my pen, and do the next right thing, which is grab the essay on top and grade it.  I certainly won’t get them all graded in that prep block, but I will get some momentum built up and I’ll feel like I am accomplishing something, which will help motivate me.

Another way of thinking this is develop a bias for action.  It’s always better to be doing something that moves you closer (even if it’s a micro-step closer) to your goal.

If you do enough of the next right thing, those add up and take care of the ultimate outcome.

This relates to my personal life too.  I’ve been on a quest to drop some weight and to get in shape.

It’s so easy to step on the scale, see absolutely no weight loss (if not weight gain!) and get frustrated.  Every time that happens (and it happens way toooooo often), I just repeat that mantra “Do the next right thing,” which for me is to drink some water, get some form of exercise (whether it’s taking the kids to the pool, hopping on the treadmill for a quick run, taking the kids for a bike ride, or even taking the kids to a park).  Those might not seem like huge steps, but they’re all better than grabbing a donut and plopping on the couch.

I get no momentum from sitting on the couch.  But by doing the next right thing, something (or anything, really) active, I get a sense of accomplishment.  That builds momentum and that reminds me that enough right things stacked on top of each other will eventually impact the ultimate outcome.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Teacherscribe's Teaching Tip #1 (Inservice Week)

Teacherscribe Teaching Tips inservice day #1

When you feel overwhelmed . . .

A perfect topic for the first week of inservice.  There is always so much going on: seeing your friends that you haven’t probably seen (in person at least) since May, meetings; getting your room together, meetings; unpacking supplies and new curriculum supplies; meetings; adjusting to new curriculum; meetings; open house; training on new software . . .  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Here is the first tip for dealing with being overwhelmed:

      1.  Forget about the ultimate outcome. 

I actually share this with my students whenever they fall behind.  They see that their grade is an “F”.  Then they look at the twelve missing assignments.  And they get swamped.  They lose hope and just wallow.

So my advice to them is just to buckle down and get caught up one assignment at a time.  I never expect them to go home and complete all of those 12 missing assignments in one night!  Instead, be just like Andy in The Shawshank Redemption and chip away at the stone.

When you focus on the ultimate outcome, most people go to the worst-case scenario.  The student thinks, Oh my God. I’m so far behind. I’m going to fail. I’ll have to take a summer class at the ALC . . .

They are focusing on the ultimate goal, which is so far down the road that they feel that they can’t get any momentum working toward attaining that goal. 

So if they forget about the ultimate outcome and focus instead on taking just one step toward improving their grade, eventually over time, they will have done enough steps to actually impact their final grade.

This is true for teachers too.

An example – whenever new legislation is passed (and when isn’t it, right?) we get hit over the head with the newest way to hold teachers accountable, whether it was through the Profiles of Learning or No Child Left Behind or now with Race to the Top . . . it’s easy to focus on all the new hoops we have to jump through.  When you focus on that ultimate outcome, it’s easy to lose hope and faith in our profession. 

Instead, focus on doing something that you can actually have control over.  In the example of legislation, don’t focus on what your eventual score will be as part of the new teacher evaluation system or instead of focusing on the terror of having to get a peer to review you this year as part of the teacher evaluation system, just focus on teaching the hell out of the 25 kids in your next class. 

There isn’t anything we can do about those ultimate legislative outcomes (I mean you can call your legislators and so on, but what kind of impact will that really have?)  But we can control hitting the learning target in our next class.  If we do that enough, we won’t have to worry about the ultimate outcome.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Final Roster Projection

Now that the important preseason games are done, and the Bengals went 2-0 while the Bungals went 0-1.

The Bengals were dominant at home, crushing the Giants and Bears.  However, the Bungals reared their ugly head in prime time on Monday Night Football last week vs. the Bucs where their first team offense and defense looked horrific.

Thankfully, in the most important preseason game, the third game, the Bengals first teasers looked great.  So it's time to make a projection for their final 53 man roster.

Quarterbacks -

Andy Dalton - love him or hate him, he is the undisputed (at least until midseason, anyway) starter for the Bengals.

AJ McCarron - he played very, very well on Saturday in shredding the Bears defense.  The ceiling is high on this former National Champion (twice) and fifth round draft pick two seasons ago.  The Bengals have half a dozen of his former 'Bama teammates, so he has their total respect already.  Add in all the other SEC players we have on the team (about a third of the team), and these guys all know what McCarron can do.

Runningbacks -

Jeremy Hill (no brainer.  One of the Bengals very best players. He led the league in rushing over the last half of the season once he became a starter.  He should get 25 touches per game).
Gio Bernard (another no brainer.  He is a great runner/receiver threat.  Plus, the Bengals are experimenting with Gio as a punt returner, where he excelled in college).
Ced Peerman (one of our very best special teams players.  This is a no brainer given how much he can do for the team).
Rex Burkhead (another no brainer.  Rex can run the ball and he has worked quite a bit in the slot as a receiver.  He could be one of the most surprising Bengals this year.  Plus, he is a core special teams player.  When it's all said and done, don't be surprised if Rex contributes more this year than Gio).
Ryan Hewitt (a TE/FB/B-back hybrid.  Cindy believes he is one of the best blocking fullbacks in the NFL, plus throw in how he can contribute at TE, and he is a lock for the roster).

Wide Receiver -

Usually, the Bengals keep quite a few wide outs, but I think they carry fewer this year since their offensive coordinator wants to run the ball more.  Given that Hewitt and Burkhead can contribute here, I think they keep fewer receivers to keep more defensive linemen or secondary players.

AJ Green (lock.  Outside of a drop and bad route here and there, he is one of the best receivers in the league.  With the other big three wide receivers getting contract extensions, expect AJ to sign for something like 5 years and 75 million dollars).

Mo Sanu (lock.  He had some monster games last year, but he did disappear in a few games when Cincy needed him most.  He is big and strong.  Will contribute massively out of the slot this year).

Marvin Jones (lock.  He missed all last year because of an injury.  But he added 730 yards and 10 touchdowns in '13 when he was healthy.  Has a knack for the end zone and has some real speed to contribute to the offense).

Brandon Tate (people hate on Tate a lot because he basically is the king of the fair catch when it comes to his main role as punt returner.  But he wins at least one game per year (in '11 it was at Seattle when he returned a punt for a TD; in '13 it was when he had a big return in OT against the Bills that set up a FG, and in '14 it was against Denver when he set them up for the game winner on a big punt return in the fourth quarter).  He is okay as a kick returner, and he can contribute some as a receiver).

Mario Alford (a rookie seventh rounder who has amazing speed.  Hue Jackson is salivating at being able to dream up dozens of ways to use him on offense).

Greg Little (big and experienced.  A former second rounder, he can contribute if needed.  Otherwise, he'll most likely be inactive).

Tight Ends 

Tyler Eifert (the first rounder from '13.  He missed all of last year with an injury.  But word out of camp is that he had an amazing camp this year and will be a vital part of the offense).

Tyler Kroft (a third rounder this year.  Will make the roster for his blocking).

CJ Uzomah (a late rounder.  He'll make the team but likely be inactive during the regular season).

Offensive Line

Andrew Whitworth (the second best left tackle in team history.  He is 33 and in the final year of his contract.  The Bengals drafted a first round pick to replace him, but don't be surprised if we see a one or two year contract extension.  He is in the best shape of his career and is most valuable as a leader).

Andre Smith (a very solid right tackle.  Smith is in the best shape of his life and in a last year of a contract too).

Jake Fisher (the second round draft pick.  He will play a lot as the swing tackle).

** Eric Ogboughy (the first round pick.  He will be on the PUP as he recovers from a knee injury.  But the Bengals are deep enough where they don't need him to play this year).

Russell Bodine (center.  The Bengals traded up to get him last year and he started all games as a rookie, but he has looked bad this preseason.  He is easily the weakest position on the offensive line).

Clint Boling (guard. He just signed a lucrative contract extension and will be around for most of his career).

Kevin Zeitler (guard.  His fifth year option was exercised, but for a former first rounder, he hasn't played like it enough this preseason).

TJ Johnson (back up center.  Versatile player)

Eric Winston (back up tackle. He'll be the first player off the bench to back up either tackle).

Dan France (a young back up who can player anywhere along the line).

Defensive line - here is where it will be the most interesting as there is quite a bit of talent here.

Michael Johnson (starting defensive end if his knee checks out. He gave all of Bengaldom a scare when he went down with an ALC sprain the first week of camp).

Carlos Dunlap (their best pass rusher.  He will get double digits sacks if Geno Atkins is back to his normal self).

Geno Atkins (before his knee injury on Halloween 2013, he was the best defensive tackle in football. Since then, though, he has been very, very average.  Word is he has been unblockable in camp)

Domata Peko (the vet on the defensive line.  He is their nose tackle.  He takes a lot of flak for his lack of pass rush, but the coaches love him).

Wallace Gilberry (filled in when Johnson left for Tampa Bay last year, but now that Johnson is back, Gilberry will be back to a situational pass rusher, where he is most effective.  He replaces Peko on passing downs inside)

Brandon Thompson (filled in for Atkins in 2013 and did okay.  He should make the team this year)

Marqus Hunt / Will Clarke (one of these two will make the final roster, but I think only one will make it.  Hunt has incredible talent, but he is very raw.  Clarke did nothing last year and supposedly was in great shape and having a great camp, but he has been invisible in the preseason games.)

Marcus Hardison (a rookie fourth round draft pick.  He looks like a DT but plays DE.  Hasn't done a ton in the preseason, but he's a rookie yet and has an upside, so much so he will probably push either Hunt or Clarke off the roster).

Pat Sims / Devon Still (Sims is a behemoth vet who has always played well for us.  Still has huge upside but he has shown just too little, especially with his attention on his daughter who has been fighting cancer.  I could see the Bengals saying enough is enough with Still and moving on from him. They essentially did that last year, but they brought him on their practice squad so his daughter would have the NFL's insurance for her treatment).

Linebackers -

** Vontaze Burfit (a Pro Bowler in 2013 and then signed a lucrative contract extension and then got hurt and missed a majority of the season.  He is slowly coming back from micro-fracture knee surgery.  I think they'll put him on the PUP list so he will miss the first six games while getting healthy).

Emmanual Lemur (the starting outside linebacker.  He is very, very average though)

Rey Maualuga (starting inside linebacker.  When he tackles well, the defense is excellent.  When his technique slips, though, the defense is very average).

AJ Hawk (the Bengals signed AJ for his leadership and experience to back up or start until Burfict is ready).

Vincent Rey (a key fill in and special team player)

PJ Dawson (the Bengals third round pick this year.  Has a shot to start next year)

Chris Carter (doubles as a defensive end on passing downs.  He is by far the best pass rusher from the linebacker corps)

Marquis Flowers (a back up player last year who filled in some on defense.  A key special team player).

Secondary -

Dre Kirkpatrick (the Bengals first first round pick back in 2012.  He hasn't done much but bide his time to start.  When Newmann signed in Minnesota, that opened the way for Dre to start.  He really came on at the end of last year when Newmann was benched.  Next to Atikins, Kirkpatrick is having the best camp.  If the former 'Bama star plays well, he is in for a hefty pay raise).

Adam Jones (he has had trouble in the past for the Titans and Cowboys, but he has been a model citizen, for the most part, since he's been with Cincy.  He too stands to make a substantial raise this year.  He is our best corner and by far the most explosive returner we have).

Darqueze Dennard (last year's first rounder.  Hasn't had a chance to crack the lineup because of all the talent.  But he will get his shot).

Leon Hall (long in the tooth former first rounder.  He is making a ton of money this season (9 million) for a guy who is their third corner.  He illustrates why the Bengals aren't cheap.  They don't pay millions to big names.  But they reward their star players).

George Iloka (third year starter from the Bengals excellent 2012 draft class.  He stands to make a huge pay raise too soon).

Reggie Nelson (only the second non-Bengals' drafted player to start for us.  He is in the final year of his contract and likely won't be back next year, but he is one of our best players)

Shawn Williams (former third round pick out of Georgia needs to show something to emerge).

Derron Smith (a rookie out of Fresno State.  Has been a ball hawk in camp, but we haven't seen that in nay preseason games yet.)

Josh Shaw (another rookie who the Bengals love.  He can play corner and safety.  And he is an amazing special teams player).

That should round up (more or less) the final 53 man roster.

Guys who should be in the news before the season with contract extensions -

AJ Green, Dre Kirkpatrick, Adam Jones, and George Iloka.

And for those waiting with bate breath, here is my projection for the starting lineup

Offense -

QB - AJ Dalton (second round 2011)

RB - Jeremy Hill (second round 2014)

FB - Ryan Hewitt (free agent 2014)

TE - Tyler Eifert (first round 2013)

WR - AJ Green (first round 2011)

WR - Mo Sanu/Marvin Jones (second round 2012 / fifth round 2012)

LT - Andrew Whitworth (second round 2006)

LG - Clint Boling (fourth round 2011)

C - Russell Bodine (fourth round 2014)

RG - Kevin Zeitler (first round 2012)

RT - Andrew Smith (first round 2009)

Defense -

DE - Carlos Dunlap (second round 2010)

DT - Domata Peko (fourth round 2006)

DT - Geno Atkins (fourth round 2010)

DE - Michael Johnson (third round 2009)

OLB - AJ Hawk (free agent)

MLB - Rey Maualuga (second round 2009)

OLB - Emmanuel Lemur (free agent 2012)

CB - Dre Kirckpatrick (first round 2012)

SS - George Iloka (fifth round 2012)

FS - Reggie Nelson (trade from Jacksonville, 2009)

CB - Adam Jones (free agent from Dallas 2010)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Today's Reads, Views, and Links end of summer edition

It's been awhile since I've shared some of the more interesting things I've come across via Twitter, so here it goes -

First, how awesome is this -

I'm totally changing how I teach College Comp this year.  Each period will have 10-15 minutes of silent sustained reading embedded into hear block.

This will take some time for students to get used to, but to help motivate them to read every day (and build up the habit and cognitive muscle to read) while they read, I'm going to have a different picture to display on the Smartboard every SSR section for each day the first few weeks.

What are those pictures?

Well, I decided to text several former students and asked them to share their reading load for this first semester.  Those are the pictures I'm going to show my juniors.  Just to get them thinking about all the reading they will have to do soon.

Here are some of the examples that came in -


One thing I love about Thomas Friedman's stance on fixing education is his emphasis on everyone bringing their "extra."

For me, thinking about my "extra" (which Friedman defines as that extra or special quality you bring to your customers, employer, or job) helps me define my role as a teacher.  Here is what I consider my "extra" to be - I bring a passion and curiosity to teaching that (I hope) infects my students.  I work hard to get them to consider what their element (Sir Ken Robinson) is.  Then I push them to become remarkable so that they can survive the dips (Seth Godin) that will come their way so that they will eventually become linchpins (Godin again) who bring their "extra" (whether that be creativity (Austin Kleon) or innovation (Steven Johnson)) every single day (Thomas Friedman).

This article talks about how American schools need to rediscover their "extra," namely what their true purpose and story is for the 21st century.  American education used to be about creating tiny little consumers and cogs (Seth Godin's Stop Stealing Dreams).  Then under the real golden age of American education (post World War II), it became the story of economic and social mobility.  When all those GI's came back from WW II and flooded the universities thanks to the GI Bill, it changed America.  Prior to that you could find a job as a cog and do relatively well . . . all without a high school degree.  However, once those GIs went to college and saw the power of even more education, well there was no way their children weren't going to go to college . . . and now we have hit a wall.  Today up to 2/3 of students leave college with massive debt and no degree.  Something needs to change at all levels.

For the record, the article give some tips on how to redefine American education and to get us moving forward

1.  Appreciate this unique moment in education history.  In other words, rise up to the challenge and act on it.  Don't do more of the same.

2.  Contribute to a global vision.  This whole thing is too good for me to butcher by paraphrasing.

Thinking about test scores is important for job security and job satisfaction. But confining performance to your school or district, or even your country, is a small slice of reality. Instead, imagine how 300 million youth under the age of 18 world-wide will rise out of poverty, find decent jobs, seek fulfillment, and design a livable world. Know that a significant shift has taken place world-wide: The concerns of teachers everywhere have converged, and every forward-focused teacher can be not just a local teacher, but part of connected network of educators trying to rally the world on behalf of youth. It’s a noble effort.

3. Redefine smart.   No longer does a four year college degree mean that you're smart.  Rather getting skills that match your talent and passion, and find you a career, that means you're smart.  Here is an excellent video that I show my LINK class every year.  It perfectly illustrates what a student must do to be "smart" in our new economy.

4.  Live the collaborative reality.  We used to teach in isolation: close the door and do whatever you want with your classes.  However, that must change now.  After all, if you have a Twitter account, you have access to more information and resources than every teacher in the history of the world before now combined.  There's no excuse not to have excellent resources and information.  It's just a search away.


What Teachers Can Learn From Vsauce's YouTube Show

This is my favorite part -

Stevens understands that the best teachers don’t just hurl vast shovelfuls of wisdom at their students, hoping some of it sticks as it whizzes by. Great teachers know that education is a long game, and much of the time, the lesson at hand is not the final destination but an opportunity to contextualize and support future learning. Stevens does hurl a lot of information at his viewers, but he also creates a massive net for his audience so they will be able to catch and hold on to his teaching.

Here is the Vsauce channel on YouTube.

Here is an example of one of many of his interesting videos


I love stuff like this.  The author of this article asks several people to list their favorite subjects and explain why those should be focused on more than they currently are.  See if your subject is listed!


Now why didn't I find this one earlier this week when I presented to several staff members at an EGF school about using social media to build their classroom brand?  10 Ways to use Instagram in the Classroom.  I love these.


I love Fast Company.  This article really caught my eye: Five Traits of Creative Leaders.

For the record they are -

1.  They rattle cages.  In other words, they aren't worried about holding people accountable or challenging the status quo.

2.  They listen to intuition.  Having all the research, evidence, and outside opinions are great, but excellent leaders seem somehow to have a very strong internal compass that leads them in the right direction.

3.  They move fast.  Again, they don't have to spend massive amounts of time gather all the opinions and research.  They can see the right thing to do and begin taking action quickly.  This is vital.  How many times do those of us who consider ourselves to be leaders (and every teacher should be a leader) come across a great new strategy or best practice, yet we often struggle to take action.  Why?

4.  They have convictions and stick to them.  Perhaps this is what is most admirable about great leaders.  They aren't afraid to, as our leader says - "die on a hill" for their convictions.  What is great about this is that while I might not agree with the conviction that someone is willing to die on a hill for, I will always respect them for their convictions.  As opposed to someone who is wishy-washy or willing to just say what is popular.  And that's something I had to learn to do myself.  It's always easy to agree with the prevailing opinions.

5.  They don't do (only) what's expected of them.  I think this gets back to what Thomas Friedman means by bringing your "extra."  Leaders have the innate ability to do more than just what is expected of them.  They somehow have a way to do things that only they can do in the way that they can do it. If you have ever thought "how on earth are they able to do all of that in just 24 hours?"  Then you are seeing this idea in action by a leader.

Now, how many of these do the people you consider to be leaders (bosses, coaches, mentors, politicians, teachers, parents . . .) have in abundance?


After reading this article, "The Gift of Failure," I would argue that teaching students how to develop grit and learn from their failures is an aspect that must be included in how we redefine education today.

There is no doubt that we stigmatize failure in our modern culture, and this isn't just limited to education.  I think parents unwittingly do this.

There is a great anecdote that illustrates this - Seth Godin was telling Dave Ramsey that he used to coach his son's soccer league in New York.  Now if you don't know who Seth Godin is, he is an entrepreneur/marketer/billionaire/philanthropist who is brilliant.

His take on coaching 5 year old soccer players is to put them all out there and let them find new and interesting ways to play soccer.  If they score a goal, great.  But the key point is to develop a love for the sport.  It's hard to be willing to put in the massive amount of time to actually get good at soccer if you don't first love it.

Godin didn't really care if the kids scored a goal as long as they learned something and loved soccer.

And what happened?

The other parents ran him out of the league!

As Godin told Dave, "Apparently, parents think that there is a trophy shortage."


Another way of thinking about failure is this - your kid comes home from school with a very high A, three B's and one C and an F.

What do parents always freak out about?  The F, right?

And there is a cause for concern, surely.  But where should that student focus the bulk of his or her efforts?

The "right" answer is the "A"!!  Shocker, right?

Here is why you should play to your strengths - being well rounded is overrated.  Very overrated.

I always struggled with math.  It doesn't come easily to me.  I need a lot of re-teaching.  I didn't get that at critical stages of my elementary school years.  So I was always behind.  In college I slaved over my homework in College Algebra and did very well on it.  But when it came to anything beyond that, I was lost.

Yet, English and composition came easily to me. And I have great strength there.

Where would I be if I didn't spend all of my time reading and writing up in my room and instead spent that time trying to raise my high school math grades from C's to A's?

Certainly not with a job that I absolutely love and am good at!  (Well, how good, I don't know since as an English major I just ended the previous sentence with a preposition!)

Play to your strengths.

That doesn't mean you should glorify your weaknesses or totally ignore them.  I'm just saying don't hinder your best traits by wasting time on the weak traits that will never ever be strengths.


The Power of Impatience. Interesting.