Friday, October 02, 2015

3 - and Uh Oh

My beloved Bengals are 3-0.  If this were the mid 1990's, I'd be convinced they were Super Bowl bound, after all, from 1991-2002 the Bungals were lucky to win 3 games in an entire season! I think their high water mark was an 8-8 campaign under Bruce Coslet after David Schula was fired midseason.

So the Bengals are 3-0.  They were 3-0 in 2005 before traveling to Jacksonville on a Sunday night and losing by a field goal.  They were 3-0 in 2006 before losing at home to the Pats.  They were 3-0 last year before traveling to New England on a Sunday night and got pummeled yet again.

So 3-0 is no sure thing for the Bengals.  In fact, they haven't been 4-0 since 1988 . . . the last time the went to the Super Bowl.

Their opponent this weekend, the Chiefs, are coming off of a short week (but so was New England last year . . . so that's not a positive) after losing at Green Bay.

The Bengals are coming off a come from behind win in Baltimore.  They have beaten Baltimore before, but something about last week's win just feels different for this team.  And it might be a positive sign of things to come.

First, they didn't quit.  Historically when the Bengals have fallen behind, especially late in games, they tended to fold.  Instead of someone rising up to make a play, someone would fold.  But not last week.  Despite the defense's inexplicable tendency to not cover Steve Smith Sr, the Bengals found ways to come back (namely two late touchdown passes to AJ Green).

Second, Andy Dalton is playing well.  We've seen this before.  Last season the Bengals were off to a 3-0 start and Dalton was playing lights out - he was hardly sacked and was not throwing picks.  Then New England destroyed them, they tied Carolina, and Indy shut them out while they didn't get a first down in the first half.  3-0 quickly became 3-2-1.  And the chief problem was Dalton's play.  Green was hurt.  Jeremy Hill had yet to emerge.  Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert were out for the year.  And the defense became bad.

Then there was 2013 when Dalton tore through the month of October, earning NFL player of the month.  Ironically, on the day he received the award, the Bengals were playing a Thursday Halloween night game in Miami, which they lost 30-32 in OT.  Dalton threw for a ton of yards, but he also tossed three picks and was sacked for a safety to lose the game.  He was never the same the rest of the year and the Bengals suffered one of their most demoralizing playoff losses ever to San Diego at home.

This year, Andy is playing lights out. Hopefully, that will continue throughout the whole season.  Stay tuned.

Third, Dalton has so many weapons at his disposal.  Barring injury, the Bengals have an embarrassment of riches at the skill positions: AJ Green, Jeremy Hill, Tyler Eifert, Marvin Jones, Mohammad Sanu, Gio Bernard, Rex Burkehead . . . They are absolutely loaded.

In their week one demolishing of Oakland, Eifert had 100 yards and two TDs.  In their week two win over San Diego, Gio had well over 100 yards rushing and averaged over 6 yards a carry.  Last week Green went nuts and hauled in 10 passes for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns.  I'm betting this week Jeremy Hill will get back to his old self and have a strong rushing game (remember he led the NFL in rushing over the final 8 games of the season last year).

The Bengals have the #2 ranked offense in the league and as long as Dalton is steady, that shouldn't change too drastically.

Third, the defense is back to its normal top ten self.  The defense suffered a major step back last year with the loss of legendary coordinator Mike Zimmer and the fact that Geno Atkins was very, very average (coming off an ACL injury the previous season) and that they never found a replacement for Michael Johnson (who took major dollars in a free agent deal in Tampa Bay - but who the Bengals got back this year after TB dumped him).

Atkins is back to his All-World self, raking up two sacks and a forced fumble already.  He is so quick off the snap that he routinely blows up running plays in the back field.  Johnson hasn't had a major impact as he is recovering from an MCL sprain on the first day of camp, but his presence has been good for the entire defensive line.

Fourth, the running game hasn't clicked yet.  The Bengals are 3-0 and Jeremy Hill hasn't had 100 yards yet.  In fact, he has the same amount of touchdowns (2) as he does fumbles (2).  His fumbling problem got him bench for the last part of the San Diego game and allowed Gio to have a huge game.

But it's a good problem to have.  Jeremy is the sledge hammer and Gio is the perfect compliment to him.  Jeremy just needs to have one of his signature 25 carry games for 125 yards and 2 TDs.

While I am cautiously optimistic this week vs. the Chiefs, there is cause for concern.

The defense hasn't generated much in the way of turnovers.  Much of Bengaldom is just waiting for Dalton to have one of his infamous 4 interception games.  And the injury bug has - for the most part - totally avoided Cincy.  And there was been a rash of penalties as of late (holding the main issue).

However, when you look at the Chiefs, they have a great front seven on defense that will probably the best the Bengals have faced so far.  But their offense, outside of Jamaal Charles, is pretty pedestrian.

Hopefully, one of Dalton's big play makers on offense will step up (I'm betting on Hill going off or Marvin Jones or Tyler Eifert) and allow the Bengals to amass 450 yards or so.    If Dalton plays just like he did in the first three games and their running game returns, the Bengals should be sitting at 4-0 with a match up against the Seattle Seahawks in Cincy looming.

Hopefully.  However, every time I expected the Bengals to come out and finally play like a great team, they fold.  So I am not expecting that. I'm just cautiously optimistic.

Teacher Tip #19

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #19
Teaching is always personal.
When you are about to deliver bad news to a student, think about this before you utter the words that I’ve been guilty of uttering before: “This isn’t personal . . .”
What was I thinking?
Of course teaching is personal.  Of course learning is personal.  It doesn’t matter whether I’m offering a student praise or criticism, it’s always personal.
Any time you devote as much time as students “devote” (and I use that term loosely knowing that some students don’t exactly devote time to class . . . but most of mine do take it seriously) to coming to class and doing the work, of course they’re going to take everything I say personally.
Now, I choose my words carefully . . . because it’s always personal.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Teacher Tip #18

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #18
I love Keynote.  Not a big Powerpoint or Prezi fan, but I love slideshows.
I’ve always found them a great way to engage and entertain while delivering content.
I admit that from time to time, I’ve gotten carried away with the length and depth of some of my slideshows - where I end up with 50 slides, some of which are crammed with text that force my kids to scribble like madly - or worse - is unnecessary information.
In a way, slideshows have replaced the dreaded overheads of the past.
And it’s a shame, for it’s just another way of delivering notes to students.
That is a process that has bored students to tears for the better part of a century.
One of my favorite quotes is - lecturing is a way of getting notes from the teacher’s board to the students’ tablets without touching the brains of either.
But Keynotes could be so, so much more.
When I read Carmine Gallo’s most excellent - Talk Like TED, I picked up some awesome tips that really made my slideshow way more effective.
The most important one is to keep it short.
That is, don’t put too much text on a slide.  Keep it Tweetable, that is limit it to 140 characters.
If you have to deliver more content, have students read it or highlight it in a text.  Don’t put it on a slide.  Students will either never remember it.  Or - as I did for many, many years - they will write it down but either never remember it or never look at it again.
The best case scenario for this is that they do look at the notes again, but the commit that info to their short term memory the night before the test.
And we all know what happens after the test . . . the “knowledge” oozes right out of our ears as we walk out the door.
Plus, here’s a bonus tip - if you keep it to 140 characters, apple Keynote allows you to send your slides right to Twitter, so you can tweet out the key information from your slideshows either as you create them (as a teaser) or after (to reinforce the knowledge that was shared).

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why I have the Greatest Job in the World

The Linchpin boards.  I know the students dislike them. I know the book bores them, but to be fair: I'm not teaching the book to them as high school students.  I'm teaching it to them for when they finish college and enter the workforce.  So they don't quite appreciate all of the wisdom Godin has to pass on to them.

But one day around 2025 they will.

Until then, I torment then with Godin's book.  The final assignments are to write a research paper in which they explain either what Linchpin ability they possess currently or hope to acquire in college and, my favorite things I get to teach, their final Linchpin boards.

For the record, here are the seven traits of a Linchpin.

To show off their Linchpin boards, I reserved out Training Center and invited our administration, teachers, and parents.  As the students were setting them up, I was grinning ear to ear.

"You love this don't you," a student said.

"This is better than Christmas," I said.  And it's true.

Here is why:

Teacher Tip #17

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #17
I stole this one from Chris Hogan over at Entreleadership. Give students AIR
I am quick to always remind my students how much I appreciation them.  Even if they drive me nuts, they are still the reason I have a job that I love.
I work hard to inspire them.  In fact, that’s what I dubbed myself: chief inspiration officer.  I always tell my students (as well as my coworkers) “if you’re having a bad day, just stop and see me.  I’ll lift your spirits.”
Finally, recognition.  Don’t be afraid to recognize them for what they do right.
Appreciate, inspire, and recognize.  Three key ingredients to building culture in your classroom.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Teacher Tip #16

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #16
Praise in public; criticize in private.
How would you want to be treated if you were in your students’ shoes?
It’s the golden rule of teaching.
Again, praise in public; criticize in private.
Praise in public can come in a number of ways: recognize a student’s effort in front of the class, Tweet at them, send them a note or postcard, send the principal a note and have him mention how well they are doing in your class, call home and brag them up to their parents . . .
On the other hand, it’s simple to criticize in private.  I used to on rare occasions ask a student to step outside for a little tet-a-tet.  But I find myself sending a text (a carefully worded text) to get at an issue.  I’ve sent emails too.  This is great because I will also include the principal or vice principal on the email too.
And one thing I try to do more often is after I criticize a student, before ten class days have elapsed, I will try to praise them.  The trick is it has to genuine praise.  So if I send a text to a student who has been slacking on revising his work, I will praise them later on when they have taken my criticism to heart and applied it to their writing.  I might pull up part of their essay and share it with the class.
It all gets back to something my football coach told me once when I asked him if I ever did anything right since he was constantly criticizing me and calling me out.
He said, “When I stop yelling at you, that is when you have to worry.  That means I’ve given up on you.”
Since that moment, I’ve always viewed criticism in a different light.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Teacher Tip #15

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #15
All students need recognition.  As I’ve said many times before, find a way to catch your students doing something right.
Can’t I just teach?  Why do I have to be a cheerleader too?
Well, you can just teach.  But I’m telling you this: if you encourage and recognize your students often, you will find your teaching transformed.
When have you ever complained about being encouraged and recognized too often?
That’s what I thought.
Answer this question: when was the last time most of us got any applause?
It’s graduation.
That’s sad.  If you are in the encouragement business.
And like it or not, we all are (or should be, anyway) in the encouragement business.
Have you ever heard anyone disliking an organization or wanting to leave a place because they felt that they were being encouraged too much?
If you give recognition and encouragement to your students, it not only will cement culture but it will increase buy in.  You will find that your students will work harder for you.
Wouldn’t you?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Teaching Tip #14

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #14

Not everything goes according to plan.  Adjust for that.

I think this is one of my strongest skills, but it’s one that took a very long time to acquire.

Early on, if the students weren’t buying in or the lesson was going particularly well, I would just knuckle down and force my way through the lesson, students be damned!

Now, though, I have enough tools and skills built up that I can adjust the course as things fall apart or don’t go according to plan.

An anecdote that illustrates this is one of my favorite Ziglar stories (I’m channeling this from Seth Godin though) - if you take off in an airplane from Minneapolis to Dallas and right over Iowa, you run into some bad weather, the plane doesn’t turn around and head back to Minneapolis.  It adjusts the course and detours around the storm.

This is exactly how teaching goes most days.

Last year I was introducing my CC 2 students to their first APA papers.

I had a simple plan, give them two terms to look (taken from Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”).  They had to find out what the term was and summarize it using one direct quote.  Then type it all up in the APA style - cover letter, abstract, paper, bibliography.
After about five minutes, I saw everyone was lost and confused.

I didn’t plow straight through as I would’ve in the past (only to have to re-teach everything over the next couple weeks).

Instead, I had them stop everything and watch me as I went to my computer, opened up a Google Doc, shared it with them all, and then began typing my APA paper for them to see.

It was far more effective to take that little detour (which ate up the whole block as tons of questions poured in, mainly over why you have to have a running head on the first page and then just a header the rest of the way . . .), but it was so worth it in the long run.

So don’t be afraid to adjust the course, back track, re-teach, or take a little side adventure every once in awhile.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Teaching Tip #13

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #13

One of my favorite writers and thinkers is Seth Godin.  On an Entreleadership podcast two years ago Godin talked about the importance of having a business that delivers satisfaction.  Since my business is teaching, I immediately began applying this to how I teach.

Godin explained that customers pay businesses in three ways: with money, trust, and referrals.

I connect that to teaching in that I’ve found students “pay” us in three ways: with time, trust, and referrals.

Here’s a deeper dive:

Time - Think of all the class time students spend with us.  Think of the hours of homework.  If you connect with them and cement a nurturing culture, this time is a given.  If you don’t have a positive culture, the time is a prison sentence for students.

Tips 5, 6, and 7 are vital in helping cement culture.

Here is one of my examples - In College Comp 2 I assign a 6-8 page paper . . . due on the FIRST day of class.  

I have never had a late paper. 


Because I have cemented culture from CC 1.  Only those who really connect with me and are willing to put in the work make it to CC 2.  They are wiling to invest the time.

Trust - We must get students to trust us.  Without trust, it’s going to be an uphill battle to connect and let our subjects sink in.  

Get to know your kids and build trust.  If they know you’ll work for them and take a chance for them, they’ll return the favor.

Referrals - I never considered the fact that students talk to their parents about the class and me until one day a parent said, “Oh, we talk quite a bit about your class.”

I was taken aback.  What exactly did they say?

He chuckled and mentioned that the last conversation about my class was around the film Jaws and how much is daughter hated it.  He, though, thankfully, loved the movie and we had a ten minute conversation about Quint!

Just last year on the final day of class, a father texted me and said that I had a disciple in his daughter because she often began her conversations at dinner with the phrase “Mr. Reynolds said . . .”

But what if I don’t have have great culture?  What will they say then?

This goes beyond students though.  What do parents say?

Here is another example from three years ago.

I got an email from a parent whose son and daughter took both College Comp 1 and 2 from me.  She said that she was visiting with a co-worker whose son was taking summer school.  The mother didn’t realize that I taught summer school.  So after hearing this woman talk about how much her son enjoyed this crazy English teacher he had for Composition at the ALC, she asked the mother who it was.  

She was shocked when she said my name.

So she emailed me to share the compliment with me and to share some other kind words about the impact I had on her son and daughter too.

This totally made my year, and school hadn’t even started yet!  But the key thing that illustrates the importance of referrals is that she also blind cc’d that email to Mr. Zutz and Mrs. Larson.

I didn’t realize this until on the first day of school when I walked into school and saw our superintendent walking towards me.

“I was looking for you,” Mrs. Larson said.

Great, not exactly what I want to hear on the first day of school!  Ha ha.

“What an email that was . . .” she began.

Then it dawned on me that she had been included on it without me knowing.

Later when Mr. Zutz mentioned it too, I knew that he had been included as well.

And I had no idea!

So what else is being said about us and our classes that we don’t know?

Certainly it wall won’t be positive, but let’s try to make it as positive as possible by remembering the three ways students “pay” us.