Friday, July 20, 2018

Today's Reads, Views, Listens, and Links

Where has the summer gone?  There are now 45 days until school starts again!

I blogged about this in the past, but I finally was able to finish up my third book of the summer, Chip and Dan Heath's The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.  There is no use beating around the bush: it's the best education related book I've read in several years.

Absolutely amazing.  Here is a link to the notes I took on it.  If you are interested.

The big take away - it doesn't matter if you're a business owner, boss, teacher, or parents, if you want to make an impact, you have to be diligent about recognizing defining moments and even creating them.

They focus on four specific types of defining moments in our lives -

1.  Moments of elevation (where the situation is such that our senses are heightened and we are naturally more impressionable at that moment) - examples - great customer service experiences or "first days" (I mean you most likely remember your first day of work, first day of kindergarten, first day of college . . . but why don't you remember you 67th day of school?  Just the fact that it's your first time or a significant occasion help create the moment of elevation).

The authors explain - Remarkable moments stand above the normal routine.  This is often triggered by hitting a particular sense (like the popsicles served at the Magic Castel being delivered on a silver tray).  

How I aim to create moments of elevation: I recall one remarkable moment I used to have in my 11th grade lit class when we read Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.”  As part of our intro to the story, I had students read this account on the Black Death.  I recall how that document talked about how if you had the plague, you’d get these large boils in your armpits and groans that were full of blood and puss.  They often were the size of apples. I don’t know why that description caught my eye, but it did. So when we began this unit, I’d have a good old Braeburn apple in my hand that I’d toss up and down once awhile.  Then as students took turns reading the eye witness account, I’d keep tossing the apple and draw their attention to it. Then when they read the description about the boils, they were disgusted. I said, holding the apple up, “could you imagine having a boil this size in your armpit or crotch?”  Then – without any hint at all – I’d bite a huge chunk of the apple out. Man! Kids would lose it! Ha ha. It was great.

Next year - the first day of class is a built in moment of elevation. Why just read through the syllabus and do boring crap? You're ruining a built-in moment of elevation! I am thinking about taking my class to the DQ on the first day. I do that on the last day, but flipping the script on a moment of elevation is a great way to make it more impactful. We can still cover all the boring stuff on the way over if we choose. I just want to give them a day they won't soon forget.

2.  Moments of insight (these are like 'epiphany' moments or as Gru from Despicable Me would say, "Lighhhhttt Bulbbbb!") - examples - These can easily be engineered.  A great lesson is a wonderful example of this.  Remember when your parents wanted to 'teach you a lesson' - well that's a moment of insight.  The more time and effort and thought they put into the lesson, the more insight it offered you and the more you can remember it.  Examples - this one I heard on the Entreleadership podcast a few years ago.  An entrepreneur/author, Roy Vader, author of Take the Stairs, recounted how as a high schooler, he always forgot to lock the door to their house.  His mother, of course, reminded him time and again to do so, for they lived in a neighborhood that was rampant with crime.  Of course, Vaden forgot again and again.  So one day he came home from school for lunch and the house was cleaned out!  Everything (his clothes, his electronics, the TV, the coffee maker . . .) was gone!  He called his mom in tears lamenting that he forgot to lock the door and now they lost everything.

His mother said she'd be right there . . . and she pulled up in a moving truck with all of their belongings boxed up safely inside..  She was moving them out of the neighborhood finally.  She just didn't tell him because she wanted to teach him a lesson.  Talk about a moment of insight!

The authors explain - Remarkable moments re-wire our understanding of the world around us.  I call these epiphany moments. These can be very effective - IF you put the time and effort into calculating them properly.

How I aim to create moments of insight: This type of moment still occurs in class. If you read “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, you’ll have a moment of insight in your class.  But if you pair that with this fascinating read, “Body Ritual Among the Nacerima,” you’ll pair one epiphany moment with another, even more shocking.

Next year - I want to be more tactical on creating these types of moments. I also want to build them into the gradual release model which we will be studying more in depth this year.

3.  Moments of pride (these are moments of recognition or achievement.  Here is one of mine.  These are often milestones in our lives, and, thus, mark significant moments in our lives.)  These moments take a lot of work and building up to.  But they are so worth it.  Examples - moments of achievement - when the robotics team is recognized at the end of a competition for their design award or when a player scores her 1,000th point in basketball and the whole gym pauses to recognize the moment or when their is a surprise 30th birthday party.

The authors explain - These moments catch us at our best.  Moments that involve pride take a lot of prep and building up to.  In other words, a goal has to be achieved. Seeing kids after a play, performance, or concert illustrates this well.

How I aim to create moments of pride: This one is actually simple: catch kids doing stuff right. A quick comment in the hall or a text is the best way I accomplish this.

An easy example (this was a text I received from a student once she read my comments on one of her essays)

Next year - I plan to be sure to build in moments of pride to recognize each student at various stages in my class. This can be as easy as when I go through the students' rough drafts, I'll highlight specific passages that are effective. Then I'll ask students to read them during class and recognize them in front of everyone for their effective prose. If they don't want to read it, I'll print out a copy before hand and read it to the class and acknowledge them still.

4.  Moments of connection (Defining moments are often social. Because of this, they allow us to connect to others who share in our moment, making it powerful). Examples - Think about weddings, graduations, vacations, baptisms, and so on.  How do you get your students to share and connect to help forge this type of moment?

From the authors - Moments of pride commemorate people’s achievements. We feel our chest puff out and our chin lift. There are three practical principles we can use to create more moments of pride: (1) Recognize others; (2) Multiply meaningful milestones; (3) Practice courage. The first principle creates defining moments for others; the latter two allow us to create defining moments for ourselves.

How I aim to create moments of pride: Build up special occasions during the class to celebrate our work. I recall Dr. Bonner's Advanced Prose class at BSU. She allowed us to submit one essay we'd written over the quarter for a class contest. I included one. She made copies (without our names on them) and broke us up into small groups to read the stories. Then we voted on our favorites. Then at the end of the class, she shared the results. The next class she read the top two selections. I still remember it 20 years later.

Next year - to be honest, I think this is one of the easier moments to engineer. Our passion project is a great example of this.

Final thought - I am going to have to get a hard copy of this book. It's that good. I need to read it again and annotate it all over again to really let all of this sink in.


How have I never seen this commercial before?

I came across it thank to a link in my fourth summer reading book, Teaching College: the Ultimate Guide to Lecturing, Presenting, and Engaging Students by Norman Eng.

Get out the tissues!


What happened to the America I grew up in? The one with the idealism of Jimmy Carter and the hard-lined, family values of Ronald Reagan, and the wealth and prosperity of the Clinton years?

And to be fair, those administrations weren't without their faults. But it seemed to me that they were focused on America first and personal interests later. Yes, Carter wasn't the leader Reagan was. Yes, Reagan dragged his feet over the whole AIDS epidemic and tens of thousands died as a result. Yes, Clinton was a lousy, wretch as a husband with very questionable morals. And maybe the prosperity of his administration set us up for the crash of 2008. But still. I never saw the divide among Americans that I see on a daily basis.

Under George Bush, it seemed we feared the radicals in the middle east. But it seems clear to me now that their radicalism has found a home right in the middle of our country.
Is it because we've had two of the most polarizing political figures elected the past two times? Is it because we've lost what it means to really be an American?

Dave Ramsey - a southern, evangelical Christian and conservative himself - talks about how if you don't think America is the greatest nation in the world, you need to travel more. In other words, appreciate what we have and learn to get along.

This is hate. No it isn't 'their' flag. It's your flag. It's our flag. You want to burn it? Fine. You have that right. You want to kneel? You have that right too. But you don't have the right to hate. You don't have the right to make up history as you so choose (such as denying the holocaust ever happened) and you don't have the right to decide what the media reports (you certainly can choose what to tune in to and what to tune out though - the more the better, if you ask me). But you don't have the right to hate or perpetuate it.

This is hate. Why can't we listen and civilly debate anymore? Yelling at someone and telling them to get out? Shame on you. That does more damage for your cause than any point you're trying to make.

What did Martin Luther King Jr and his protestors do prior to their first sit ins? They practiced how NOT to respond with anger. They sat while others played the role of the white managers. The managers yelled and screamed and called them all kinds of names. Yet, the protestors were conditioned not to respond with anything other than a smile and civility.

Can't we get back to that?

This is hate. I've said it time and again: there is nothing more pathetic than an angry, irrelevant, old, white man. Stop contributing to the hate and divide. And you're going to say you're praying for the protestors while every other word is a profanity? Keep it classy Mr. Nugent. And to the protestors, why not try to have a civil discussion of how to try and meet in the middle with political leaders instead of just making a ruckus outside a concert with maybe 6,000 people inside?

This is hate. Or ignorance. Right where I live.

Are people that paranoid?  Are they just trying to make a scene?  Is this some new type of crazy trend (like the clown obsession a few Halloween ago, eating Tide pods, or thinking the freaking earth is flat?) 

It's ironic that as I walked my kids to this very fair, yesterday,  I saw a young man in his Jeep.  He was relaxing in an unorthodox way.  He had a hammock set up around his Jeep.  So he was sitting in his passenger seat with his feet propped up in the driver's seat.  His head was sticking up through his sun roof while he watched his phone.  He had a military sticker on the side of his Jeep.  

It was unorthodox, certainly. 

I thought "Creeper" right away.  I mean who does that as they chill in the parking lot of the fair?  Yet, I knew he probably wasn't a creeper and had every right in America to do what he wished as long as he was hurting anyone.  

I thought his set up quite unique so I studied it for awhile.  Then I started worrying that maybe he thought I was a creeper staring at him.  So I nodded at him and smiled.  Then when I saw his sticker I smiled again and thanked him for his service.  I've no idea if he heard me, but he deserved respect for his service.  

We all deserve respect.  If we take the time to realize why.  Does Ted Nugent deserver respect? Sure. I'm sure he's done a lot to help his community with his wealthy.  It's just hard to have that respect granted when he curses every fourth word and has no ability to argue at all.

Or maybe we just need to rediscover a few things?  Mercy would be a great start.


Enough with the negative.

This is what both sides (all sides, actually) should want for their children in America -

This is what is right and just with our world.


I am part of our Leadership Team at LHS.  We just finished up a two day meeting where we examined the direction for our strategic plan, our professional development, and our common prep for next year.  We also went over the senior survey, where the seniors all give us feedback about LHS.

One of the most impressive responses was how a vast majority of the graduating seniors felt that they had someone at LHS who not only knew them but had their best in mind.

Here is how another school does that -



And finally a really interesting take on lecturing as the dominant form of instruction in college: A Lecture from the Lectured.  You can feel their pain.


Tuesday, July 03, 2018

2017 Bengals

Thankfully the awful 2017 is behind us.  The 2018 season is just a month away!  Can't wait. Hope springs eternal in the NFL.  At least until the end of September and the Bengals are 0-4.

Hey, I'm a realist.

Looking back at the miserable 2017 season.  The record was bad, 7-9, but the losses were worse.

And the hardest losses didn't even come on the field.  Allowing Kevin Zeitler and, most importantly, Andrew Whitworth to leave via free agency left the offensive line a shell.  Even with Zeitler and Whitworth, the line in 2016 was bad.  What chance did they stand without them?  None.  And that's why the scored a whopping 0 touchdowns in their first two games.

It was miracle the Bengals even made it to 7 wins given how bad their offensive line was.  And had they not lost Vontaze Burfict against the Titans and lost in OT to the Pack and blew a huge first half lead to the hateful Steelers, the Bengals would have logged 10 wins and made the damn playoffs!  Where they would have been one and done yet again.  Make no mistake about that.

Still, here were the highlights from last season.

Joe Mixon

Why Marvin Lewis kept giving Jeremy Hill the first series every game and then benching him for Mixon, I will never know.  Dumbest thing ever.  Just put Mixon in and let him be your bell cow, which is the plan for next year with Gio Bernard working as an excellent third down back and change of pace back.  Mixon should log the first 1,000 season for a Bengals back since Hill's rookie year of 2014.

AJ Green

Even Green admits he had a 'down' year.  But when you're a first ballot hall of famer, even a 'down' year is pretty great.

I think his 189 yard, 1 touchdown game illustrates Green's year.  While he helped them win it with his stellar performance, he did have a hand in them almost losing (having a hand in 3 turnovers).  But his talent is undeniable.  

Geno Atkins

He is still the best DT in the league, sorry Aaron Donald.  Yes, Donald plays for a sexier team (the LA Rams), but just watch Atkins destroy a team sometime and you'll see what I mean.

Here he is on the list of top 100 players for 2018.

They have never had a defensive lineman like this man.  Yes, Tim Krumrie was great, but he is no Geno.  I have seen Geno take so many guards and walk them back and knock the quarterback over for a sack that I've lost count. Who else does that?

The emergence of Darquez Dennard and William Jackson III in the secondary for the Bengals.

I hope they lock Dennard up before the season begins.  He is a great nickel corner and could supplement Dre Kirkpatrick before the season is done.

William Jackson III has the makings of a mega-star.  Let's hope he builds upon his epic first season as a starter.  Best of all, he is the perfect opponent to limit Antonio Brown's big plays.  Jackson's only huge error was failing to knock Bell out of bounds on a long touchdown catch.  That play signaled the turn in momentum for the Bengals in that key late season match up.

And the play that ended their season and, best of all, the Raven's playoff hopes.

Facing fourth and forever, Dalton hits Tyler Boyd perfectly for not just a first down, but a TD!  And it ends the Ravens shot at a post season birth (no big deal.  They had to beat the Bengals and the Bengals kicked their ass most of this game anyway).  Best of all, it sent the Bills to the post season for the first time since they lost the "Musical City Miracle" game to the Titans.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Finding Forrester

We are watching this movie in my Creative Writing class at the ALC.

I forgot just how interesting of a movie it is, and how well it relates to writing.

Here are a few of my favorite scenes.

The key to writing.

This is one of Jamal's more ruthless teachers.

Forrester does stand up for Jamal, though, when he needs it most.

Summer book #4

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

I discovered this in KoKo's bookshelf a few weeks ago and have been carrying it around in my bag for weeks now.  

I have an incredibly soft spot in my heart for this book.  It wasn't the first book I ever had to read for school, that honor goes to Bless the Beasts and Children in Mrs. Matzke's 8th grade English.

We read The Outsiders in Mrs. Christianson's 9th grade English class.  And I don't know what it was about that book, but it came a long at the perfect time for me.  I probably was a lot like Ponyboy in the book, struggle to come to grips with who I really was and how I fit into the overall scheme of things, totally unsure of myself, self-conscious, and longing to be part of something wonderful.  Whatever it was, the book has stuck with me all these years.

On Tuesday I found myself having to spend two hours in the LHS commons handing out spring yearbook supplements, so I pulled the book out and began reading it.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was 30 years since I read it (I was a freshman in good, old 1988).  A lot has changed over that time.  I was able to finish it by Tuesday evening.  I think it probably took us a couple of weeks to read it in 9th grade English.

But what I remember most vividly about the novel was the creative assignments Mrs. Christianson had us do.  I recall writing a creative piece class where I re-imagined Johnny's encounter with the socs in the blue Mustang.

As I was reading in the commons, I was reminded of this assignment and quickly went up to my room to find it, which I keep in a treasured folder called "9th Grade English."

And there I found this -

I read it over and couldn't help but smile.  Here is a young writer who easily got into the mind of a character in the book.  I also can see how heavily influenced I was by the Stephen King novels I had been devouring (poor Johnny in this piece has an interior monologue going with his father that King uses in every one of his novels).  I can also see how good my vocabulary was for a ninth grader.  Again, that was thanks to all of the reading I had done (magazines like Hit Parader and Circus and the novels of Stephen King and Dean Koontz).  I clearly had no idea how to organize my paragraphs yet or how to properly punctuate, let alone spell.

And that cursive?  Mrs. Christianson is a saint for having to put up with that hand writing.

I spent a few minute re-typing the creative piece just for fun.  It's below.

The park was so dark he could barely make his way around sevreal big pines before walking into them.  It was cold and the wind was out – blowing the urgent, almost unanswerable question in Johnny’s ear, Where you gonna spend the night? But he didn’t have an answer.  Where, where, where Johnny where?  It kept insisting. 
He needed an answer.
It’s cold out John.  Why, I’d say it’s freezing out.  Wouldn’t you?  It wasn’t the wind but his father’s deep, drunken voice.
Burr – John cold.  Yeath, that it is my boy.
He suddenly felt sick.
Yep, it’s cold, but I’m warm and if that waste of flesh called your old lady yells at me one more time, John, you know what I’m gonna do?  I’m gonna break this bottle over her thick, empty head – of course- after it’s empty.  No need to waste any Mr. Beam on a bigger waste like her.  Yeah, you’d like that, wouldn’t you, John my boy?  Wouldn’t you?
He clapped his hands over his ears as if to try and shut it out. Aaaah, John. You can’t shut out the truth, you know. So where you gonna spend the ngiht? In the tunk of blue Mustange maybe?
His heart stopped and leaped into his throat. His eyes bulged, fixed on the slowing vehicle.  He never heard his father’s last words, And if you do happen to come how tonight, I’ll break a bottle over you’re head too, Johnny my boy. His heart thundering in his chest was all he ever heard.
The Mustang stopped and five socs exited there transpo – no – the same guys that beat him before.  The trees began swaying slightly and a gust of air rushed past him.  He fet dizzy, but he realized it wasn’t him – the wind was rising.
Soon he was rising too . . . up a monstrous pine tree that he had been trying to hide behind, but he could have been invisible and it still wouldn’t have done him any good.  He was too scared.  He was a good ten feet up now.  Johnny tried to imagine what Dally would do.  He wouldn’t have climbed a stupid pine tree.  That’s for sure, he answered himself as sharply as a pine needle answered his butt as he tried to sit down on a branch.  Then he thought of Dally trying to climb a tree.  No, not Dally.  King of the asphalt jungle.  Then Johnny giggled.
“What are you laughin’ at greaers?  Ain’t it late for bird watching?” The others erupted in laughter.  They were now 20 feet below Johnny.
A shudder ran through Johnny’s person as a humorously bizarre thought placed itself in his mind.  He imagined himself falling out of the tree and getting bounced around like a pinball in a machine being tortured by one of those pinball wizard types that occupy every arcade in town.
There Johnny would lay on the ground with every bone broken and countless pine needles stuck in him. He would looks so bad the socs would wish they could have done such a good job.  Some might even say that they did.  That’s a typical soc trait, to take the glory even if it’s not yours.
Johnny tried to think what Dally would do.  Dally would get out of his car with a broken bottle in one hand and a baseball bat in the other hand and his best “this-is-your-lucky-day” grin on his face ever.  And the socs would be the ones in the tree.  That’s what Dally would do.  What would Johnny do?
“Come down, kid.  I’ve got a new ring, a real big one. I bet it could take out your nose and a couple of teeth. All at the same time.  What do you think?”
Johnny let out a small whimper.
“Maybe I’ll come up and show it to you,” the soc said before he lifted himself up to the first branch.
Johnny couldn’t move, even though ten feet still separated the two.  Eight feet.  Five feet.
The soc reached for the tree branch above him.  He wasn’t even sure that stupid greaser, who would be within his grasp after this next branch, was really worth all this trouble.  There were already several pine needles stuck into his jeans.  “When I get my hands on you, boy, I’m just gonna throw you out of this tree,” he said, trying to take his attention away from the height.
Johnny, what is Johnny gonna do?  Johnny kept asking himself as he grasped the branch above his head.  He pulled himself up onto the branch and looked down. Four feet now were all that was between Johnny and a lot of pain and, even worse, all the humiliation.  Dally would be ashamed.  He’d never say it, but he would be.  “No.  No, more,” Johnny spoke quietly and strongly.  “Why don’t you just get outta here?”
Bob looked up in mild surprise. “What will you do, greaser?”
“I’m tired of you socs,” Johnny said. “You think you rule the world or something. I know a guy whou could put all of you guys in this tree faster than you could say greaser,” Johnny finished proudly.
“Oh yeah? I think I’d like to meet this –“
There was a crack. The branch that supported Bob no longer did.  It was now pointing directly down.  Bob screamed and fell.
He landed on his back on the branch that was below him. The air was blown out of him, robbing him of the last taste of oxygen he would ever have.  The branch broke his fall by catching him in the small of the back.
Bob stayed there a second before he plummeted down six feet and encountered the next branch.  This one caught him in the throat, making him swallow his Adam’s apple along with half a dozen teeth.
He did a full 360 degree flip, head over heels and hit another branch, bounced off and fell eight feet, only to find himself straddling a branch that had to be the thickest on the tree.  A throbbing, unforgivable pain seized his stomach.  He found his face with his three fingered left hand.  It immediately turned red  The index finger found no teeth.
Bob managed to half yell and half gag out, “You did this greas –“ then a gurgling sound was all that was left.  Then pain mercifully claimed Bob’s consciousness.  He blacked out and died falling the final ten feet to the ground.
The four reaming socs just stood with their once-silver-spoon-occupied mouths open, a few even crying and shaking.  One soc who was their answer to Dally, tried to climb the tree but slipped off the first branch because the whole tree was slick with blood.
They all made for the car in the same second.  They were gone in the next.
The walk home was cold and lonely for Johnny.  Dally wouldn’t be proud, but at least he couldn’t be ashamed.  He found the field where the socs had first beaten him.  Johnny collapsed there and slept.
“You crazy, Johnny or what?” said a voice that pierced his sleep and reeled him back to the sunlit and awake world. 
“Just tired,” he answered.
Dally messed up his hair, and they both walked into Ponyboy’s house.  If they would have had the T.V. on, they wouldn’t have missed the news: “Teenager dead in park, fell out of a tree.”  The other greasers found out from Shepard. 
Johnny never said a word. He just remained the pet.