Friday, May 27, 2016

Teaching Tip #177

Teacherscribe's Teaching Tip #177

I came across this interesting read on Twitter last week: 8 Pathways to Every Student’s Success.

5.  Integrity

This has to be Coach Mumm’s territory right here.  The author defines integrity as “Integrity is the ability to act consistently with the values, beliefs, and principles that we claim to hold. It's about courage, honesty, and respect in one’s daily interactions -- and doing the right thing even when no one is watching.”

In College Comp II, I used to have students do a remarkable assignment.  Students simply had to do one thing (and they determined what that one thing was) that was ‘remarkable.’

My two favorite examples were from Kylie Lehrer and Jorde Hutton, respectively.

Kylie - totally unbeknownst to me - took it upon herself to write a thank you note to every teacher, secretary, assistant, cook, and janitor at LHS.  One just showed up for me in my mailbox one day, and I thought, wow.  How nice is this?  And it made my day.  Then H asked me if I knew who had done it.  I did not.  Then I noticed that many teachers, like me, hung the note up somewhere by their desk.  It wasn’t until Kylie wrote about it in her final paper that I realized what she had done.  She never signed any of the notes either.  She didn’t do it to receive any thanks.  She did it to give thanks.  That is an amazing example of integrity.  And I bet if you were here during that time and got a note from Kylie, you can locate it in a matter of sixty seconds.  Mine is hanging right on my bulletin board.

Jorde - to offer a safer alternative to the senior party - went around town and raised money from businesses and community members to rent out the movie theatre for students who didn’t want to attend the senior party.  Every senior got a free ticket, a free pop, and free candy or popcorn.  How amazing is that?  That is integrity personified.

And it does my heart good to know both Kylie and Jorde are going to be teachers.  There is hope!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Teaching Tip #176

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #176

I came across this interesting read on Twitter last week: 8 Pathways to Every Student’s Success.

4.  Self-Awareness

As an English teacher, this one is in my wheelhouse.  Sometimes I wonder if this isn’t all I do!  Write an essay about your biggest failure and how you recovered.  Write an essay about a rite of passage and how it impacted you.  Write an essay about your strongest passion and how you developed it.  Write an essay about a topic you feel strongly about and support it with evidence.  

Then we read The Dip, The Element, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Linchpin, Talk Like TED . . . it’s all about making them more self-aware and how to play to their strengths not only now but especially years later.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Teaching Tip #175

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #175

I came across this interesting read on Twitter last week: 8 Pathways to Every Student’s Success.

3.  Resilience

And the most difficult one for me.  For the past decade or so, I’ve struggled mightily with this.  Each semester goes like this: I hit the ground running and my classes are humming.  Then somewhere at about the 9-12 week mark of each semester, I begin to seriously doubt myself.  Am I pushing my students hard enough?  Do I know what I am even doing?  Are my students learning anything?  Am I even qualified for this job?  

At the heart of those doubts is the idea of resilience: “Resilience is the ability to meet and overcome challenges in ways that maintain or promote well-being. It incorporates attributes like grit, persistence, initiative, and determination.”

Am I doing any of that?  Then with about a week to go in the semester, I get a bit of my confidence back and realize that while the semester wasn’t perfect by any stretch, my kids did do some interesting things and they did, believe it or not, learn somethings.

Still, I always wonder if I’m pushing my students to develop enough grit, persistence, initiative, and determination.  Am I being hard enough on them?

That is a question I go back and forth on all the time.  In fact, I was just thinking that very same thought as I was driving to Grand Forks last night.  On the one hand, I could pour the grammar and lit theory on the kids and make it seem like a foreign language to my students.  I sure would be showing off all that I know in the area of grammar and lit theory.  It would be hard and my kids would suffer and struggle to learn.  Part of me feels strongly that I should be doing more of that.  Especially for my top end students (yes, I know I just used a sentence fragment there. It’s for emphasis.  See, I’m showing off my grammar and writing skills).  However, a larger part of me thinks that great teaching is taking the difficult and making it appear simple to one’s students.  I find myself striving to do that far more than I do the latter.  But I don’t know that what I’m doing now produces students who are resilient enough.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Teaching Tip #174

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #174

I came across this interesting read on Twitter last week: 8 Pathways to Every Student’s Success.

2.  Sociability.

How do we build time in to our lessons or units that allow kids to socialize in a constructive way?  I like the way the authors phrase this.  For usually students “socialize” one of two ways in my classes: via their phones or group work.   That needs to change.

“We impact children's sociability when we help them understand that the words they choose make a difference to the relationships they create. When we teach them that every social interaction is tied to an emotional reaction, we help them avoid impulsive behavior and think through difficult situations before acting. We also build their capacity for collaborative teamwork.”

One of my favorite examples of this came from my College Comp 2 unit on Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist.  As a class we jigsaw the book.  I give an overview and teach a lesson on one key chapter.  Then I share a document with the class stating the rest of the chapters.  I call for each student to sign up for a chapter she or he finds interesting.  There can only be 2 students (depending on the size of the class) per chapter.

Last semester, Richard and Jace and Ethan and Cole decided to pair their chapters together and teach a double lesson to the class.  Ethan and Cole had one half of the class shooting baskets while Richard and Jace had the class watching them conduct a science experiment before them.

I was in awe at how they first dreamed up and pulled off this complex lesson, but I was also in awe of how they immediately engaged every student in class and had their attention from the second they began.  They truly mastered how their words could engage and interest the class.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Teaching Tip #173

Teacherscribe's Teaching Tip #173

I came across this interesting read on Twitter last week: 8 Pathways to Every Student’s Success.

  1. Curiosity.  Nothing like starting out with the one that is most daunting.  At least for me.

This is a double sided blade (sorry. I’ve been reading too much Game of Thrones).  On one side, I find that most of my students - whether they be in my 9th grade remedial class or my College Comp 2 class - are curios.  The trick - and this would be the other side - is keeping them there.

So many students tire of curiosity and just want routine.

I recall one of the saddest teaching days I ever had at Lincoln.  This was way back in the days when I had Journalism (around 2002 or so).  

I gave my class of 24 students a choice: they could either begin researching and writing a feature story for the school paper on any topic they wanted.  OR they could begin folding, labelling, and sealing envelopes, for we were sending out yearbook coupons to every parent.

I figured that I’d get a nice split.  I thought for sure that some students would be curious enough to want to write about something.  I mean they could write about anything.  It didn’t matter if it was about the tattoos the student wanted to get, a profile of the best cars in the class, a feature on why so many teachers at Lincoln are former students, or a column updating the fall sports.

I was so wrong.  Twenty three students gladly chose to fold, label, and seal envelopes.  And they were excellent at it.  We folded 700 envelopes in two days.  They were a machine.

But something happened as they worked so quietly and efficiently that just broke my damn heart.  It was an assembly line.  What was I teaching them!  I was horrified.  I vowed never to do that again.  And, for the most part, I haven’t.

I had to find other ways to tap into their curiosity and to avoid the routine.

And the one student who chose to write an original feature story?  Brittany Haviland (who now works for the Today Show).  She wrote a feature story profiling the strengths of each of her siblings and how they all impacted her.

Find a way to tap into the innate curiosity of your students.  I’d love to hear about how you do it.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Teaching Tip #172

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #172

I was listening to last week’s Entreleadership podcast: Leaning into Leadership.  It’s an interview with one of Dave Ramsey’s VP’s - Daniel Tardy.

During the podcast, Tardy made a comment that stuck with me.  He said, as a business leader at Ramsey Solutions, he always asks himself this question to stay motivated:  “What is here because I am here?”

He uses that question to examine all the value that he brings to his company.

As he spoke those words, I began to think about my job as a teacher.  So I asked myself, “What is here because I am here?”

I thought about my students, who could take an easier class out at NCTC or opt for Lit and Lang.  I thought about the relatively standardized curriculum that we teach and how it will be a challenge to still inject my personal touch to it.  Because if I can’t, then I can’t really answer Tardy’s profound question, “What is here because I am here?”  

After all, no kid shows up to a class because they love the curriculum so damn much.

So “What is her because YOU are here?”

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Teacher Tip #171

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #171

Be that “other” teacher.

Recently I had a former student come back wanting to speak to my classes.  He is going to be a teacher, and he was talking about some of the teachers here who impacted him.

“I recall Amit Patel saying how he had a question at 11:30 at night, so he called his English teacher . . . And the teacher actually answered the phone,” he said.  And then he added the kicker, “Now what other teacher would do that?”

“I once had to miss Chemistry, and I talked to H,” the student continued.  “And H came in - despite missing vital time with his family to make sure I understood the lesson and made up the work I missed.”  And then he added the kicker, “Now what other teacher would do that?”

Finally, he talked about a time he got busted using a website to ace his Pre-Calc homework . . . until Mr. Froiland snuck up behind him in the media center.

“Duly noted,” was all Mr. Froiland said.

The student said that he spent all day dreading going to Pre-Calc.  He just knew he was going to get a tongue lashing . . . if not publicly shamed.

“But Mr. Froiland never called me out.  He said simply that it had come to his attention some of us were using a website that gave us all the answers for the homework.  So we were going to start over.”  And then he added the kicker, “Now what other teacher would do that?”

Then it hit me: be the ‘other’ teacher.