Saturday, June 25, 2016

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

I just saw this powerful story.  In short, a rape victim speaks to a college football team about the time she had been raped by four college football players.  In her talk, she said that she actually hated the head coach - who only suspended the offending players one game and said they were good kids who made a bad decision - more than the actual rapists.

Then - and this is what is so powerful - she said "that man is right there" as she noted the coach in question was the head coach of the football team she was addressing.

Even more incredibly, that very coach, Mike Riley, had invited her to speak to his team.

As the victim stated at the end of her talk - in referencing Riley- this is what accountability looks like.

Let's hope there is some healing to go along with that accountability.


If you know me or read this blog often, you know how big of a fan I am of the millennials.  Well, here is what MTV is calling the generation after the millennials: the Founders.

An interesting title.  Why?

MTV President Sean Atkins says the name acknowledges that while millennials have disrupted society, it’s this new generation’s job to rebuild it. “They have this self-awareness that systems have been broken,” he told TIME ahead of the announcement. “But they can’t be the generation that says we’ll break it even more.”

Indeed, let's hope they find a way to fix the damage that has been done - not just by millennials but by Gen Xers too.


Five Ways to Personally Approach Your Students

The author steals five lessons on personalized teaching from watching Kung Fu Panda.

1.  A child is not your copy.  If you've seen the films, you know that Poe's father is a goose while he is a panda.  Something is clearly off here.  Yet, Poe's father appreciates their differences.  Initially, he tries to mold Poe into a noodle chef, like him.  However, when Poe has the chance to train to become the Dragon Warrior, he doesn't stand in the way.  He lets Poe find his true passion.  Now look at the other father son relationship in the film, Shifu and Tai Lung.  Shift is too blind to see the dark side of Tai Lung's nature because he is too focused on molding Tai Lung into his version of the Dragon Warrior.

So how can we, as teachers, allow students to develop their own talents and voices, even if they are not in line with our own visions or hopes?  When I began teaching, I had the foolish belief of being some kind of Mr. Keating from Dead Poets Society, where I would turn all of my students into budding intellectuals and poets.

Now, I know better.  I try to show students how they can use my classes to fit their true passions.

2.  Each has own abilities.  Shifu finally has a break through in the film when training Poe.  He realizes Poe has his own abilities and ways of doing things.  Once Shifu realizes this - he is able to unlock Poe's potential as the Dragon Warrior.

How can we get students to realize their own true abilities.  How can we get them to see things in themselves that they don't even realize are there?

3.  A cookie might be better motivation. Shifu realizes that he can motivate his other warriors through discipline and criticism, as they are all intrinsically motivated.  Not so with the Big Fat Panda, though.  He is motivated by food.

How can we find new and inventive ways to motivate students?  Simply yelling at them will only motivate a few.  How else can we get them work other than to say that it is assigned?

4.  You might wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach.  These are the immortal words to Shifu from Oogway when he councils him on how to train Po as the Dragon Warrior.

How can we adjust our expectations so we can appreciate the types of people our students become?  I'd be sadly disappointed if - as I tried early on in my career - I didn't produce future English teachers and wanna be authors.  I've produced a few of those, but I've also helped students discover how to use writing to excel in college on their way to being nurses, engineers, journalists, entrepreneurs, and administrators.

5.  "When a student is ready, the teacher comes."  This might be my favorite quote of all time.  And I don't think this refers to Po in the film at all.  I think this actually refers to Shifu, who also is able to learn a lot from Po.  Only when Shifu is ready to accept the first four lessons here, is he able to understand the fifth.

How can we learn to tap into students' true potential so that they blossom in our classes and that, in turn, we blossom into effective teachers?  I mean it's always more effective to teach students who really want to learn.


This was one of the highlights of my spring/summer.  If you aren't already subscribing to the Entreleadership podcast, you are missing out.  This is one of their top 20 best episodes: Leading the Next Generation.

The podcast features an interview with Tim Elmore, who specializes in helping teams and businesses understanding the two massive generations invading the workforce - the millennials and Generation Z.

This podcast was so good, I bought his book - Generation iY: Secrets to Connecting with Today's Teens & Young Adults in the Digital Age.

This is so full of excellent content, that I'm going to save a good portion of it for my 2016-17 Teacherscribe's Teaching Tips, but here is one tip from Elmore, that as a parent, I just love.

He notes that today's teens are in dire need of mentoring more than ever.  So what he did was when his kids turned 16 - a pivotal year in all of our lives - he arranged for six adults, who the family thought personified their values, morals, passions, and hopes, to mentor their son and daughter.

How brilliant is that?

I always stress to my students that it's awesome to be an adult.  I think they get the reverse message too often - that you should try and prolong your youth as much as possible.  I think they see this absurd message in all formats - certainly TV shows (like anything on Bravo, such as The Real Housewives, where those wenches act like the biggest spoiled brats you could ever encounter in elementary school) and even in the adults around them - how many times have teachers unconsciously only asked students about how they were doing in sports (thereby subtly implying that sports are overly important) or parents who act likes idiots at athletic events or other parents who treat their kids like friends rather than children and, worst of all, some parents who dress the same way as their kids!

Elmore and his wife first chose Sara, an RN, who was a great mentor for their daughter, Bethany, for Sara was willing to show their daughter how cool it was to be an adult and how important having a positive impact on the world truly was.

Elmore and his wife asked their mentors to spend one day with their daughter mentoring her.  Sara first took their daughter to a maternity ward to see mothers give birth.  Later in the day, Sara took her to a class for unwed mothers, many of whom were Bethany's age but were facing far greater difficulties.  Can you imagine the lessons Bethany learned in just those two instances?!  Sara's overall message to Bethany was on the importance of sexual purity and waiting for the right man.  Those two examples had a far greater impact than any lecture from mom or dad ever could!

The next mentor, Holly, took Bethany to downtown Atlanta where they worked on projects for underprivileged families.  Her message was on the importance of service.

Betsy, a third mentor, worked as a flight attendant, and surprised Bethany by flying her up to New York City for the day to show her the contrast between the glitzy big city life and her more rural, southern home life.

As parents, we all know the pivotal role peers play in the lives of young adults.  I like Elmore's method of finding adult mentors for his children as a counterbalance to the peer influence his children will face.


The horror, the horror!

I'm a huge modern art fan.  Lichtenstein, Rothko, Mondrian, and Picasso are all favorites.  So when we were in NYC for the choir concert, my wife was able to persuade her group to take a trip to the MOMA (museum of modern art).  I wasn't able to convince my group, as they wanted to shop, which was fine (I had to settle for a trip to the Manhattan Lego Store).

But when Kristie's Clique (the name for her group on the trip) began bombarding me with pictures of my favorite works, it was almost too much to take!

The group spotted a Picasso.  I wonder if his classic, "Guernica," was there?  I believe the last time it was in the US, though was from 1939-40.

Along with Lichtenstein, I love the work of Mark Rothko.  I could spend hours looking at this.

I love the work of Piet Mondrian, and her Brenna and Cooper are posing with one of his works.  I could spend an hour looking at this one too!

When I received this, it broke my heart just a little.  You see, I love the work of Roy Lichtenstein.  This is his classic "Drowning Girl" painting.  In fact, I have this in my classroom.  So when Kristie's Clique were touring the MOMA, they rounded a corner to take the elevator and saw this!  "Reynolds!" They all said as they knew I had this in my room.  They were kind enough, at least, to take a picture of it for me.


My wife has long been a fan of James Corden's Car Pool Karaoke.  This one might just be my all time favorite -

I like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but many of their songs do sound the same, but the musicianship is on full display here.  Growing up in the '80's I can't help but wonder how many of the bands that rose to fame back then would function on this show.  Most of them formed just to get laid and to get rich.  Thus their songs are three chords and junior high level lyrics.  I don't know if they could display the rhythm and style and flare that the members of the Chili Peppers do in here.


Finally, here is one of my favorite little pick-me-up speeches of all time.  


Can you believe we are 9 days from the Fourth of July?  That means after that comes the fair.  Then August rolls around and fall sports kick in.  Summer is just about over!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Choir Trip 2016

Tuesday Kristie and I returned from helping chaperone the choir trip to New York.

As Dickens once wrote, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times."

Actually, the only bad part was the toll it took on my feet.  On our first day in New York I believe we walked at least 10 miles.  Someone checked their fitbit and noted that over the course of the trip they amassed 100,000 steps!

Despite some sore and later swollen feet - and a total lack of sleep - it was a trip of a life time.

Here are some of the highlights -

As soon as our busses arrived in Manhattan, we got out to take a walk over the Brooklyn bridge.  It was amazing . . . the was just one problem: I had to use the bathroom.  Luckily, after the walk I was able to find our busses and use it . . . finally!

The architecture and design was amazing, as were the views of the skyscrapers.

Then we visited the Freedom Tower.  Last time I was on the choir trip - 2004 - there was still just a massive hole in the ground and a single cross, made from the girders in the basement, commemorating the attacks.

Now, this amazing structure stands close to where the Twin Towers were.  The majority of the building is devoted to business, but the top floors are an observatory while a few blocks away is a memorial.

The elevator ride up 80 flights takes only a few seconds and, as you ascend, the walls of the elevator turn to screens that display the history of the city around you as it grew into New York City.  It also displays the construction of the buildings around you.

The views are amazing.

It was wonderful having Kristie as a fellow chaperone.

The technology the presenter used was interactive and quite cutting edge.  This reminded me of the tech used in Minority Report.

The most powerful moment of the trip - besides the choir concert at Alice Tully Hall - was the tour of the 911 museum and memorial.

The lone surviving girders.

We delved into the basement where the museum was housed.

The NY skyline will never be the same.

Who can ever forget.

I believe this was the "survivors" stairway as it was an emergency stairwell that helped thousands escape the towers before their collapse.

Perhaps the most powerful part of the trip.  This is an artist's tribute to the victims.  There are close to two thousand individual pieces of blue paper here (one for each victim).  The sky on September 11, 2001 was a vivid blue.  So this artist used 2,000 different shades of blue, one for each unique person killed that day.

Below is a firetruck that stood just outside the towers.  Every firefighter that rode to the towers on this truck died.  They were as high up in the building as they could possibly go.  They had no illusions of escaping the building.  Their sole goal was to get as many people out as they could before it collapsed.  Thanks to their heroic efforts - and the efforts of all the other emergency rescue people - 15,000 people escaped.  Our guide noted that very few people ever talk about that.  What a sacrifice.

This is actually the cab of the truck, which was shredded from debris.

The fountains below stand at the base of each tower.  The names of those who died are inscribed around the base.

We were fortunate enough to be attending when word reached Kristie that there was going to be a moment of silence for the mass shooting in Orlando.  What are the odds of us being there to witness this?  

Another highlight was an impromptu trip from the cathedral of Saint John the Devine to see the location of the diner from Seinfeld.

The cathedral was as inspiring as you would think a cathedral would be.  The architecture, the beauty, the power . . . it was like being in the presence of the divine.  As I walked into the massive structure, I couldn't help but realize my own insignificance in the face of such beauty and glory.

Of course, the poet's corner inside was one of my first stops.

These were new additions to the cathedral since I had been in there 12 years ago.  Since the cathedral is non-denominational, it is a mixture of various faiths.  I couldn't help but think of Mexico's The Day of the Dead when I saw these new additions.

Of course, the new additions added a juxtaposition to the classical altars.

What trip to New York wouldn't be complete with out a visit to Times Square.  This made me feel insignificant too, but it a much different way.

We saw three musicals - The Lion King (quite interesting), Fiddler on the Roof (amazing), and Cirque le say Paramour (great).  It was amazing just to walk down the streets and see all of the glamour.

One of the coolest things - which I actually missed out on - was a trip to MOMA.  Kristie's group (known as Kristie's Clique) did tour it, and they were kind enough to send me this picture with my favorite Lichtenstein painting.

And now the highlight of the whole trip - the concert.

Here is the review of the choir concert at Alice Tully Hall.  I think he nailed it.  It was a truly amazing thing to witness!

One of our students, the amazingly talented, Caleb, shot this video recapping the trip -

After the concert we took a harbor cruise, which was beautiful.  Unfortunately, my camera doesn't take great outdoor, evening pictures, so I was only able to capture it all in my mind, but it was worth every second!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Bengals summer update

Well, the 2016 Bengals are taking shape.

They had a very solid draft back in late April, nabbing a solid corner in the first round (the fifth time they have drafted a corner in the first round since 2006), a much needed WR in the second round, a fast LB in the third (to be fair, though, the Bengals have had terrible luck drafting linebackers, so we will see how this one pans out), a much needed replacement for Domata Peko on the DL in the fourth, and a back up C and G in the fifth round.  My favorite pick came in the sixth round, WR Cody Core.  The Bengals spent a ton of time scouting the top WRs in this year's class since they lost their second and third WRs in free agency.  They must have spent a lot of time scouting Ole Miss' Laquaon Treadwell, whom our former defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer, now head coach of the Vikings, drafted one pick before us, because they took his teammate, Core.  He is fast and big and has his best football ahead of him.  Hopefully.

On the free agent front, Cincy did what they have come to do routinely in the past decade - retain their own.  They did lose out on their top FA target - WR Marvin Jones - who chose the same amount of money from Detroit but wanted to go to a club where he would be their #1 WR.  But they did bring back several key pieces on a very strong defense: SS George Iloka, CB Adam Jones, and LB Vinny Rey.  In addition to those players, they let go the aging AJ Hawk at OLB, and signed Karlos Dansby, a nice upgrade.  He will be a key figure on the defense this year.

Just recently the club again began their practice of locking up young players before the season starts (last year they gave AJ Green a huge deal and the year before that they signed Andy Dalton and Vontaze Burfict to big contracts and '13 they signed Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap to huge contracts).  This year they locked up starting safety Shawn Williams to a contract extension and just last week RB Gio Bernard signed an extension through 2019.

You can tell they draft well as they have extended three of their first four players drafted back in 2012 (Pro Bowl TE Tyler Eifert who they decided to give the fifth year option to, Gio - who was drafted in the second round - and Shawn Williams, drafted in the third).  The only miss in that class was DE Marqus Hunt, drafted in the second round.  This is likely his last shot at a roster spot.  But when you hit on 3 of your first 4 draft picks, you can afford to take a flyer on a player, which is what they did with Hunt.

Key things Cincy will focus on before pre-season starts -

1.  Getting Jeremy Hill back to his rookie year from.  Last year, Hill just never seemed to dominate the way he did in the final 8 games of 2014, when he led the league in rushing down the stretch.

2.  Finding ways to still inject creativity into the offense while finding consistency.  Hue found many ways to inject the offense with creativity and trick plays.  Ken Zampese, new offensive coordinator, needs to find a way to replicate that.  Moreover, he needs to find some consistency in the red zone.  Hue did calls some great plays in the red zone as the Bengals were great there; however, there were several times when he just blew it.  The Houston game comes to mind when he had to settle for two field goals instead of touchdowns, which ultimately cost us the game.  The constant attempts to get back up OT Jake Fischer a touchdown with tackle eligible plays was confusing.  And the goal line call for some kind of screen pass to Gio against the Steelers?  The ball is kicked and intercepted and Dalton breaks his thumb trying to make a tackle?  There, effectively, goes the season.  And, finally, that horrendous two point conversion call against Pittsburgh.  You call a lateral to Hill that loses three yards when a two point conversion would have ensured the Steelers couldn't beat you with a late FG even if your RB fumbles after an INT and your two best defenders commit stupid personal fouls???

3.  Finding a way to keep Andy playing his best football.  After a solid '13 season, Dalton had a below average '14 season.  In '15 Dalton led the AFC in passer rating.  Zampese has to find a way to keep Dalton at that level.

4.  Finding ways to have their young players see the field.  The last few years, the Bengals have used their draft picks much like colleges use redshirt seasons for their freshmen.  But the Bengals have some talented young players who need to see the field sooner rather than later.

5.  And . . . find a way to win a playoff game.  Please.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Teaching Tip #181 - Last one of the Year

Teacherscribe's Teaching Tip #181

This is why summer is kind of a bummer for me.

I am blessed for I have a life just like this.

And this is my hope for all of my students as well.