Friday, July 18, 2014

This is an amazing tool for presentations

Ever see those RSA Animate presentations?  Like this one on Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From?


Here is another one from Ken Robinson.

Well, I've been searching for awhile for an app to do this same thing for my presentations.  And now I've found it:  VideoScribe.

Here are two I've created using their free trial software.

This one is for one of my College Comp 2 assignments: the Sticky-Note Book Report.  This literally took me 15 minutes to put together, so it's rough.  But it was awesome!  If you're thinking about flipping your classroom, this would be an essential tool.  After all, you can only show so many Powerpoint or Keynote presentations before students' eyes gloss over.

Here is my second attempt.  This time I added a voice over to it.  Not sure why it cuts off at the 5:33 mark with about another minute left.  Perhaps it was an issue when exporting it.  Perhaps it's an issue with the free trial software.

Once I get the Pro version of Videoscribe, I should be able to export it to my own computer in .mov files.  I can also add video and my personal artwork and pictures from my files.  I've asked to use classroom or school funds to buy a yearlong subscription, but this is just too awesome not to buy on my own if I don't get approval for this!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Movies I Love to Show in Class

In no particular order -

The Village

Poor M. Night Shyamalan.  His first few movies (Unbreakable, The Sixth Sense, and The Village) were spectacular.  Others, though, (The Lady in the Water and The Happening) are not so.

But when I saw this in the theatre, it reminded me of the works of Nathanial Hawthorne.  I see so much of "Young Goodman Brown" and "The Minister's Black Veil" in this film.

I think it suffered from poor marketing, as it was marketed as a horror film, which it certainly is not.

It's not without its faults (how a blind girl can manage to find her way in the woods? Some terrible dialogue, "We have the magic rocks . . . Why have we not heard of these rocks before?  Why do you wear the cloak of the safe color?" ), but it has elements of symbolism and plot structure that are great for discussion.  And its themes?  Excellent.

Plus, how Shyamalan breaks up the story and scenes to manipulate the reader makes for great analysis and discussion.


Ever since I taught Comp II many, many years ago, I have fallen in love with our theme of a film review.  We used to do it on The Natural, but since I've focused on a variety of movies: The Lion King, The Incredibles, War of the Worlds, Little Miss Sunshine to name a few), but Jaws is my favorite.

The story of its making is fascinating.  Remember, this is Steven Spielberg's big screen debut.  Had this bombed, would we have Indian Jones? Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Schindler's List? Saving Private Ryan?

Spielberg's use of the power of suggestion is brilliant.  He knows he's saddled with an incredibly fake looking shark.  Wisely, he holds it off until the very end.  By then we're invested in it so we can put up with how sketchy it appears when it leaps onto Quint's boat and gobbles him up).

John Williams' excellent score.  Play just a few notes of it, and it'll register with you.

Spielberg's great sense of humor balanced with shock.

The incredible suspense created in the dock scene, Ben Gardner's boat scene, and the cage scene towards the conclusion.

The great character development.  We actually care about Chief Brody and his family.  He's a good man and we want no harm to come to him.

How Spielberg plays upon our fears (fear of the unknown and fear of being eaten alive) and makes use of actual shark attacks from history (the Jersey man-eater and the USS Indianapolis).

Training Day

I show this as a modern retelling of Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown."

It's amazing how similar the two works are.  The wilderness.  The devil trying to corrupt a young man. The themes of good vs. evil, appearance vs. reality, and temptation.  Even the use of the color pink.

I haven't seen a film related this closely to a short story that it isn't actually based on since Hemingway's "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and American Beauty.

Sleepy Hollow

Though it's been awhile since I've taught this film (it goes best with American Lit or what is our Lit & Lang 11), it's an excellent film to show to illustrate American realism vs. American romanticism.

Here Ichabod Crane is a man of science from the New York City (all elements of science and realism) who must venture into the woods to Sleepy Hollow to face the Headless Horseman (superstition and magic, all elements of romanticism).

Plus, the film is gorgeous and does a great job making me feel like I'm back in 1799.


I like to show this as a modern comparison of To Kill a Mockingbird.

The idea of putting yourself in someone else's shoes and seeing what their world is like (which is one of Atticus' mantras) is perfectly illustrated here.  As are many of the same themes of Mockingbird.

I also show this in College Comp 2 to illustrate Steven Johnson's concept, from his book Everything Bad is Good for You, about how current pop culture is more intellectual complex than ever before because of multi-plot thread narratives like this one.  I have students track three main characters fro this film and then analyze how they "crash" into each other and impact the overall theme of the film.

The Island

A Michael Bay film? I know.  A lot of pretty people, explosions, product placement, and extreme lapses of logic.  However, it connects well with one of my favorite short stories, "The Lottery."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The End?

In Science Fiction II, we are watching 28 Days Later, which is about the end of civilization (at least in Britain) from a zombie apocalypse via a rage virus that spreads and infects the bulk of the population).  Then I saw a new trailer on iTunes Movie Trailers for a film called Aftermath, with the tag line, "The only thing worse than the end is what comes after."

As I watch these films and recall all the other end movies I've seen (probably the earlier one I can recall was the controversial (for the time anyway) The Day After, which aired in 1983 about a nuclear holocaust.

What all of these films never address is this simple question: what if people actually helped each other and were able to work together?

Oh yeah, I know why.  There wouldn't be any of these apocalyptic films!

I wonder what actual history has to say on this subject.  The Great Depression was pretty horrific, but it wasn't the end of America.  The fall of the Roman empire was terrible too, yet societies are still here.  The Dark Ages?  Same thing.

I would just like to see an apocalyptic film that actually differed from the traditional idea of survival after the end of the world (whether that be aliens, disease, technology, zombies, vampires, werewolves, a meteor, and so on) is worse than the actual threat to our existence.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The problem with customer service

Just read this nightmare example of terrible customer service when a husband (who just happens to be a former editor of a technology site) and his wife tried to switch cable providers.  Luckily, he recorded the agonizing conversation and uploaded it. Now it's gone viral.

This is not how you treat people, let alone customers.

Why don't we ever read about poor customer service from Zappos or Southwest?  Because they know how to treat their customers . . . like people, not like numbers.

I am reminded of terrible customer service at least every other week when I get my mail and there is a new DirecTV flyer or letter asking me to come back to them.  

I left them simply because my house has 57 oak trees surrounding it and a clear view of the southern sky is an impossibility.  Thus, there's no reason to get a dish put on this house. 

Not to mention that when I had my previous dish moved from our house to the garage, it was a fiasco.  The first man who came (and remember DirecTV outsources all of its maintenance) walked on to my property.  Looked at the tree in front of my dish and said, "Cut that branch and it'll be fine."

So I cut that branch.  

But it wasn't fine.

So I cut several more branches (much to Kristie's chagrin).  And it still wasn't fine.

So I complained to DirecTV about the service call (apparently, the man shouldn't have left until the reception was how I wanted it).

A few days later a different service guy showed up.  He moved the dish to my garage, and things were better . . . except he didn't bury the 25 feet of cable.

He said he couldn't do that.  I had to.


So it wasn't exactly with a heavy heart that I terminated my relationship with DirecTV.  

And now they waste who knows how much in inundating me with offers asking for me to return and lying about how much they miss me.

Had their customer service been better (even average), I wouldn't have canceled.  Had they sent a guy over to move my dish, helped me bury the cable, and thrown in a discount on Sunday Direct Ticket, I would have never, ever left them.

But no.  They treated me poorly and now they just piss me off trying to get me back.

The polar opposite of this: apple.

They have always treated me well.  As a result, I've spent thousands of dollars on apple products and services.

I will never - God willing - own a PC.  I'm an apple lifer.

Another great customer service provider - Purdy's Shoes.

I went in to get Cash a pair of shoes.  The owner came over and immediately started helping me.  I wasn't pressured (such as Trade Home Shoes in the mall) and coerced at all.

After personally measuring Cash's feet (which Cash thought was pretty awesome) and coming back with a pair of shoes, the owner actually said, "Well, the only way we'll know if these work will be if you run in them."

Cash grinned.

Then the owner said, "Run to the door and back as fast as you can."

Well with how much fun Cash had doing that, I didn't even bother to ask the price.  I was sold.

Of course, when I looked at Kenz she was fighting back a frown and longing for a new pair of shoes.

The same excellent service ensued . . . including having Kenz take a lap around the store.

Then I even ended up with a pair of sandals!  Great customer service and I will always go there from now on. I'm a lifer.

Treat your customers humanely and value them; they will do the same.

Reynolds' Top Horror Films of All Time

In honor of Science Fiction II, where we are examining zombies and how they represent real human fears (death, cannibalism, plagues, disasters, collapse of society, and so on), we are going to watch two of the classic horror films in the zombie genre: Night of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later.  So as I think about the first time I saw Night of the Living Dead - and how much it frightened me - I thought I'd revisit my semi-annual Top Horror Films list.

10.  Tucker and Dale vs. Evil - I saw this campy classic a few years ago at the behest of my step-son Casey, who raved about it.  And it was absolutely worth the time to watch.

What I love aboutt it - it's twist on the attractive, preppy college kids go campy and find redneck killers. I never saw this coming and loved every minute of the film.

9.  Let Me In -  This is the American version of Let The Right One In.  This premise is excellent - a young boy who is bullied befriends a young girl . . . who just happens to be a centuries old vampire.

What I love about it - the pool scene where the young boy is nearly drowned by bullies and is saved by the vampire.

8.  Cabin in the Woods - I saw this with the impression I was going to see just another run-of-the mill killer in the woods or zombie flick.  I couldn't have been more mistaken.

What I love about it - So much.  The laboratory underground (when all the monsters escape) is classic.  The ending is also amazing.  It's a perfect example of "I never saw that coming."

7.  The Descent -  I could hardly sit through this one.  Clostophobia and the dark are key elements in this film.

What I love about it - It's a nice balance of found-footage with a traditional horror perspective.

6.  28 Days Later - I wanted to see this so badly that I actually went to it by myself.  The entire film went by in about 10 minutes.  This was my first time ever seeing "fast zombies."  I'll never forget it.

 What I love about it - the balance of terror at the fast zombies and the sinister isolation the main character feels when waking up in the hospital all alone.

5.  Prince of Darkness - A campy classic that I recall fondly from high school.  I saw this about half a dozen times with my friends Harry and Simon at Simon's house (he was one of the few kids I actually new who had a VCR).

What I love about it - this has the best "smart person" in a horror film scene.  The ending - which is actually the beginning of the film - is brilliant.

4.  Night of the Living Dead - I first saw this (okay, I only saw about 20 minutes of this total since I had to change the channel every so often) during the late night horror series on KBRR with Mad Frank.  The mock news footage of the zombie plague erupting after the astronauts returned to earth and brought some type of virus back that re-animated the dead.

What I love about it - it's place in the horror cannon.  There have not been many movies that you can say "this started it all" about.  But Night of the Living Dead is where the fascination with zombies began.

3.  The Thing - A sci-fi classic.  Another Jon Carpenter film on the list (the other being Prince of Darkness).  This is gory and haunting.  I saw this one summer when we had a week of free HBO.  The rest of my family was out during yard work while I went inside. (Imagine that!  I'm sure I was trying to get out of the work). I became fascinated by the premise of this isolated arctic station battling an alien.  Then I saw the scene where a man seems to go into cardia arrest.  The camp medic attempts to shock him a a diffibulator.  Then "it" happens - the alien reveals itself in the man, causing his chest to turn into a great gaping mouth with wickedly sharp teeth.  The poor doctor's hands plunge right into the maw.  The mouth snaps shut.  The terrified doctor attempts to pull free and his arms are severed.

That was enough for me.  I was out helping my family with yard work.  It terrified me.  I'll never forget it.

What I love about this it - the ending.  Is the alien dead?  Is Childs an alien? Is MacReady?  Carpenter has never said a word.  But we're still waiting for a sequel!

2.  Seven - I never saw this one coming at all.  It was one of those rare films where I wasn't even aware that I was watching it.  I was in the film.  Pulp Fiction is the only other film that has ever really done that.

What  love about it - all of it.  The cast is superb.  The writing is excellent.  Kevin Spacey's Jon Doe is the most frightening of all monsters.  The twist at the end is a club to the face.  And best of all, what this film gets right is that it just suggests the horror.  This is where the Saw film gets it all wrong.  In Seven, the horrific murders are shown after the fact (well, all but one).  They are only hinted at and suggested.  In Saw, they glorify the murders, which makes them somehow less frightening.

1.  The Blair Witch Project.   Like Night of the Living Dead, this film can say that it started it all: the found-footage film craze.  But none have done it as brilliantly as The Blair Witch Project.

What I love about it - the isolation.  The use of the power of suggestion. Ramsey Campbell says this is the greatest film in the HP Lovecraft tradition.  It's got it all - the story is told after it's happened.  We know something terrible has happened to the narrator.  The monster/entity is only hinted at and glimpsed ever so briefly.

The scene where they wake up and realize their camera man is missing . . . and then they find some "present" from the witch . . . well, that still gets to me.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

Today is the true halfway mark of my summer.  It's the start of the second session of summer school at the ALC.

So here are my mid summer reads, views, and links.

I came across this link on Twitter last night, the 20 most popular TED Talks.  Of course, Ken Robinson's Do Schools Kill Creativity was #1, but this one from, Shawn Achor, is my personal favorite.  It's not only insightful but also hilarious.


Extreme Learners.  What an interesting title.  Forget life-long learners.  How do we create more extremely learners in our schools today? Here is an interesting read on what makes an "Extreme Learner."

The problem for teachers is that schools don't really want extreme learners.  Now bear with me for a second.

Let's say you're an English teacher.  You begin the year with short stories.  One of the stories you teach is "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe.  An extreme learner would, for example, fall in love Poe and read everything she can get her hands on related to Poe.  So instead of reading the next short story after "The Black Cat," say, "The Bride Comes to Yellow Skys," this extreme learner is devouring all of Poe's poems, essays, and even his one novel.

On top of that, she discovers that Poe had a profound influence on H.P. Lovecraft.  Now she off reading all of his short stories, books, and essays.  That leads here to the fact that Lovecraft's profound influence on some of today's horror writers.  So now she is off reading everything ever written by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Ramsey Campbell, and Clive Barker.

All the while the class is rushing along with poetry, drama, and a novel . . . none of which the extreme learner reads because she is off devouring what she is really interested in.

Though she learns a ton, guess what her grade would be?  Yet, this teacher would have half a dozen kids who did all the work, read all the stuff, and took the tests who earn A's but - in reality - learn very little.  (Just ask the kids in your class sometime if they've ever taken a class and gotten an A but learned nothing.  Better yet, ask yourself.)

And that's the problem with extreme learners . . . and our schools.


If you know me, I've been preaching this for a few years now: 4 Steps Towards a More Personal Classroom.

Here are the four ways -

1.  Really, truly get to know your students.

* for me, this is easy.  I begin my Lit & Lang 9R class with a homework assignment: list 111 things about yourself.  The kids freak out, but I share with them my list and calm their nerves a bit. I tell them you can list just about anything:  my favorite color is blue, I'm right handed, I love 90's grunge music, we just found a kitten, I have four kids, I love Star Wars, I saw Metallica when I was 16 . . . There I just listed seven things in ten seconds.  So 111 isn't tough.

The tough part is pouring over it the first week of school so I can get to know my students better.  But it's absolutely vital.

2.  Tailor student learning.

* for me, not so easy.  I try to give students freedom of topics and freedom to choose what form they want to write and how they want to write, but that doesn't necessarily mean "tailored learning."

3.  Help them set their own goals.

* I'm interested in this one.  This will be a goal of mine for next year.

4.  Use technology to help students interact.

* for me, this is easy.  This is how I teach.


This is amazing.  Ever wonder what it's like to watch the internet in real time?

Click here.

I saw this last year, but I haven't thought of it since I saw this on Twitter last night.  It would be interesting to see a comparison of what the internet would have looked like in 1994.  Then 2004.  And now in 2014.


I can definitely use this with my Teaching and Learning 250 class at UND this fall: My top early career teaching myths.  I can certainly relate to these too!


Now here is the million dollar question, especially for Millennials and Gen Z students as they enter the workforce and go through school: Can work ethic be taught?

Not only that, but the greater question is what is the best way to teach work ethic?

Model it?  Praise and study examples?  Toss children in and let them sink or swim?  Coddle and entitle them and hope for the best (this seems to be the most popular method today!)?

My father was a hard worker.  The man loved to be outside and for most of his life he had two jobs: a truck driver and a farmer.  Yet, the first moment I had, I was up in my room reading and writing or listening to music.  I didn't share his work ethic . . . for driving truck or farming.  But I did for reading and writing, something that is now actually paying off for me.  So I'm not sure all work ethics look alike.

My sister and her husband are also incredible hard workers.  I mean, come on, they had a dairy farm for many years!  Work doesn't get harder than that!  Should I send Cash and Kenz to spend a summer with them?  Would that instill in them a work ethic?

My brother, who is now in upper management at Crystal Sugar in Crookston, is another hard worker, logging insane hours at his job (in fact, during the strike I think he worked a month (maybe longer) without a single day off!).  Should I hold him up as an example of work ethic and praise him to my kids?

I don't have the answer, but what I do know, especially after reading Mindset by Carol Dweck, is that work ethic is the great leveler.  What I mean by that is it doesn't take much talent to work really, really hard.  It's like the coach's old saying, "hustle is the ultimate talent."

And coaches will take hard workers with average talent over gifted athletes who are lazy any day.

I mean have you ever heard of anyone getting fired for working too damn hard?  I haven't.  But I've heard the phrase, "very talented but so lazy" often.

Look at this example - Jerry Rice.  The greatest wide receiver to ever play.  He has three super bowl rings.  He would certainly even be in the consideration for greatest player in NFL history.  Yet, his workouts were legendary.  And he worked that way after his rookie year and after his 15th year.

Now look at Randy Moss.  The most talented wide receiver to ever play.  No question.  The NFL has never seen his blend of size and speed.  Look at his rookie year, 1998, where he dominated in every single game.  Yet, he has never won a championship.  And he is not in the same conversation as Rice.  Why?  Because Moss didn't have a work ethic.  There were stories of how he'd show up at the stadium, put his uniform on, and walk onto the field and play.  No stretching.  No warm ups.  Just talent and ego.  Who knows what he would have been able to accomplish, and the mark he'd have left on the league, if he had had Rice's work ethic.

So I don't care how you teach it, we as parents and teachers have to find a way to teach work ethic.


Speaking of work ethic, here is an interesting article that suggests work ethic is NOT the biggest threat to American Workers.

What is then? You ask.  Great question.  It's technology.

Simply put, we are struggling to have enough jobs for all of our people.

The article looks at the impact of technology is farming.  A century ago, a vast majority of our population worked in agriculture.  Now 1.5% of our population does.  Technology in agriculture has given us a major supply of food.

Now we have to have a vast supply of jobs.  And how do we do that?  It's simple: create your own job.  And this is where work ethic comes in to play again.  I don't know that many entrepreneurs, but the ones I do know and have read about are not exactly lazy.  The work and they hustle and they ship.

We need more of that.  Now.

People have always created their own jobs.  The trouble is that those who didn't (or couldn't) could always fall back on manual labor.  As Tom Brokaw put in in his The Time of our Lives, if you had a good pair of gloves, boots, and a strong back in America, you could make a good living.    But thanks to technology, those who couldn't create their own jobs now battle for the few manual labor jobs available.  And even if you get one, as Thomas Friedman has observes in That Used to Be Us, you better be a life-long learner to constantly stay relevant in your field.


This article, 8 Pieces of Advice for Thriving in a World of Constant Change, offers a great connection to the one of technology threatening the job marker.

In addition to work ethic and being a life long, curious learner, I think these pieces of advice are what every American student should learn at an early age.

  1. Become an anti-disciplinarian. We use the word “anti-disciplinary” at the MIT Media Lab. We want people who both break the boundaries of disciplines and can move seamlessly between them. Worldviews and frameworks are so different between the traditional disciplines that practitioners have a difficult time talking to each other. The anti-disciplinarian has a global worldview that means you can translate what you learn from one discipline into another. That means you can pull together insights and translate them usefully for others. As disciplines keep changing and reinventing themselves, and as the world gets more connected, being able to move seamlessly between these different languages becomes increasingly important.
  2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. I grew up going back and forth between the U.S. and Japan. In Japan, they called me an American; in America, they called me Japanese. As a result, I felt out of place in both places — but I realized that I was learning more than the people who were comfortable. So I say: get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable. The reason I went shark diving was because I was afraid of sharks; the reason I once lived in Dubai was that, when I first visited the Middle East, I was so confused and uncomfortable that I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn. In fact, I only learn when I’m outside my comfort zone. We all need to get out of the echo-chamber.

And finally the best thing I've seen all summer (though it breaks my heart at the same time as the little guy will be moving with his family to a larger house and the veteran will be moving into an assisted living complex.  Let's hope their relationship can continue.  And let's be glad that it existed in the first place!)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Second reading of #tlap

In his book Teach Like a Pirate, Dave Burgess writes about the importance of passion in teaching.  

Passion is the number one thing that turns kids on to learning.  Don’t believe me? Just ask your students.  

It’s hard to deny passion.  I hate Ted Nugent and his political vitriol.  However, there’s no denying his passion for his hardcore views.  I can tolerate him simply because of his passion for what he is talking about, even if I totally disagree with him.  

So just imagine what happens when you line up passion with something kids need (and maybe even eventually want) to learn about.

Now, he notes that we can’t be passionate 100% of the time.  That is simply impossible.  Be honest with yourself on this one, you know there are parts of your curriculum that you aren’t exactly passionate about (for me it’s works cited and in-text citation and anything related to grammar).

So Burgess seeks to solve this problem of always having to bring your passion to your classes by looking at passion in three distinct realms.

First, Burgess writes that there is content passion.

He asks, “Within your subject matter, what are you passionate about? In other words, of all of the topics and standards you teach as part of your curriculum, which are the ones you most enjoy?

For me this one is easy - writing and literature.  But those are incredibly broad.  And to be fair, I’m not fired up about all types of writing (if I have to teach another persuasive essay, I’m going to burst!).  But I certainly can narrow the broad topic of writing down into several areas that I’m getting fired up about right now just thinking about teaching them -

  • the writing process
  • how to craft engaging leads and introductions
  • how to teach revision as more than simply copy editing
  • descriptive writing
  • narratives
  • the braided essay
  • hyper-text essays
  • the multi-genre research paper

As far as literature goes, short stories are perhaps my favorite.  How can you not get fired up about some of these stories?

  • “The Lottery”
  • “Young Goodman Brown”
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper”
  • “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”
  • “The Black Cat”
  • “The Storm”
  • “Lamb to the Slaughter”
  • “A Rose for Emily”
  • “Doe Season”
  • “Listen to the End”

Now that I’m on a roll here, another thing I love to teach is what I call the Sticky-Note book report.  I have my College Comp 2 students list 3 topics they are interested in and want to know more about.  I have them list 2 topics that they absolutely are not interested in.

From there lists, I select one book from either my classroom selection or our media center, and have them read it.  While they read it, they must respond with 50 Sticky-Notes (actually placed in the books) to annotate their thinking, learning, and comprehension as they read.  

After that, they will give a 10-15 minute book talk to the class.  

Finally, they will create a blog on their book and post a 5-6 page hyper-text essay on one aspect of their book that they are interested in and want to research more.

Some of the texts students read are

  • The Devil and the White City
  • Teach Like a Pirate
  • Into the Wild
  • The Invention of Air
  • Tuesdays with Morrie
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me
  • The Digital Divide
  • Money Ball
  • The Tipping Point
  • Freakonomics
  • What You’re Really Meant to Do
  • Food Inc.,

And on and on and on.  

The importance of content passion is to try and spread this throughout your curriculum so that you don’t use up all of your content passion in the first month of the semester and then have to trudge through everything that you hate for the remainder of the semester.

Also, even when you exhaust your content passion, Burgess argues that’s where the second time of passion comes in to play.

The second type of passion is professional passion.

He asks, “Within your passion, but not specific to your subject matter, what are you passionate about? What is it about being an educator that drives you? What ignites a fire inside you?

Since I teach mostly college in the high school classes, the simple answer is to prepare students to be successful in college.  And for a few years that was enough for me.

However, as I began to grow as a learner and teacher myself, my mission changed.  It’s still to prepare students to be successful college students, but now, though, I’ve added a second mission: to get students to discover their “why.”  I know I’m channeling Simon Sinek here, but I want kids to leave my class with an idea of what they are passionate about and what they might want to spend the rest of their lives doing.

That, friends, will get me fired up in a nano-second.

So here is the key to using professional passion: “On all of those days when you don’t have passion for your content, you must consciously make the decision to focus on your professional passion . . . Incorporating an LCL (life-changing lesson), my true passion in education, also allows me to consistently ‘bring it.’”

So even when I’m struggling with works cited and in-text citation, I can fall back on my professional passion about teaching them how to do this because they will have to have this mastered in order to be moderately successful in college.

When it comes to in-text citation and evaluating sources and even finding sources, one thing I love talking about is not collecting dots (such as amassing sources) but connecting dots (which means actually seeing how the sources and their authors connect and relate to each other).  That is a skill that they will have to use throughout their lives, especially when it comes to their passions and whys.

Finally, Burgess argues that teachers need to make use of their personal passions when possible.  It’s simple: “To keep your passion for teaching alive, find as many ways as possible to incorporate your personal passions into your work.”  Burgess uses one of his passions, magic, whenever he can to make his classes unique and engaging.

I agree.  But I also think bringing in your personal passions will pay off in other ways.  First, it humanizes you.  Students have passions - even if they aren’t prone to state them.  And when they see their teacher get fired up about something outside of the classroom, it helps them relate to the teacher.  Second, it is a great chance to be a role model.  We want passionate, driven, life-long learners, right?  Then we have to model those same things in our classes.

For me, my personal passions are my family, so I’m always bringing in stories or examples of my wife and kids to illustrate what we are studying.  I’m passionate about running and trying to get into shape, so I bring that into the class.  I’m passionate about fashion and looking sharp.  You can be sure I bring that in to my classes.  That’s why I harass many of my students about their yoga pants, mandals with socks, or - gulp - Crocs!

These three passions are vital to not only keeping us fresh as teachers, but, more importantly, they are vital in also making our classes unique and engaging.

Friday, July 11, 2014

My Random Abstract Reading Detour

The summer PD reading started strong.  I polished off Sarah Lewis' Rise.  Then I was blown away by Peter Sims' Little Bets.  Then I devoured Michael Hyatt's Platform.  All of these led me right into Carol Dweck's Mindset.

And just as I was greatly enjoying Mindset, I went up to my room to grab Dave Burgess' Teach Like a Pirate to return to my principal.

And wouldn't you know it, just as I opened it when I got home and began reading the intro, I just got sucked right into the damn book all over again.

So I'm taking a respite from Mindset to read TLAP over the weekend before I return it to Mr. Zutz on Monday.

When I first read TLAP last summer, it was interesting because when Mr. Zutz borrow it to me, he encouraged me to mark it up and add my reactions to his, which were already in the book.

And that was what I did.

But then something unusual happened.  For one of my College Comp II student's Sticky-Note book report, I gave it to a student who is looking at becoming an English teacher.  I advised her to do just what Mr. Zutz encouraged me to do - mark it up and add her thoughts.

And she did with numerous Sticky-Notes.  I told her that it would make for a very interesting experience as a principal has read it and commented on it; a teacher has done the same; and now a student will also be doing it from her unique perspective.

I find myself enjoying her Sticky-Note comments as much as the book itself.

Here is an example (this one happens to be one of my favorite comments from the student):  When Burgess talks about the dreaded six words many teachers utter ("It's easy for you. You're creative.") as a cop out to why they can't make their classes more engaging, the student writes "'I'm not creative' is an excuse crappy teachers use to 'explain' why they're crappy teachers. There's no excuse; you just suck."

Ouch, but, I believe, true.

Another one of my favorites from the student: "If you were a student in your class, would you be interested?"  How different would our lessons and classes be if we had to answer that honestly every time we sat down to prepare a lesson?

And finally, this one: "Don't be the teacher complain about on social media."

That alone should make you want to follow your students on social media!  Why live in denial?

So give me the next few hours to polish off TLAP before I get back to Mindset.  Actually, though, the books work quite well together.  After all, one reason Burgess hates those six words mentioned earlier is because it discounts all of his years of hard work to develop and perfect his lessons so that they are irresistibly engaging.  That's the growth mindset at work!

And I think this quote from Michelangelo must be somewhere in Dweck's very office:  "If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all."

That is the total growth mindset perspective.

Early detection and warning signs

I am an advocate for gun control (such as assault rifles, not hunting rifles.  When it comes to that, every hunter I know is safe and quite responsible); however, I believe no amount of gun control would have averted this massacre.  This shooter was so disturbed that I believe he would have slit the throats of the family members as opposed to shooting them had he not been able to get his hands on guns.

However, as with so many of these tragedies, after the fact, the news comes out that the warning signs were glaring: I mean the guy's own mother had a restraining order against him!

Awhile ago I read about this slanted piece on a veteran being taken into custody for psychiatric evaluation (and who is now suing the government) over his alarming Facebook posts.  Well, as I said then, I'll take 100 false alarms like that if they prevent just one massacre like this one.  Sadly, though, the warning signs were glaring.  No one did anything about them.  Until it's too late.  And now a family is gone because of it.