Saturday, September 13, 2014

Today's reads, views, and links

Without a doubt, this is my all time favorite TED Talk.


Mr. Geiser sent me this.  What a brilliant idea for a fund raiser!


Now on to some serious links.

This was a lot of fun to read.  Of course, if you read this blog at all, you know that it's preaching to the choir.  Eight Effective Ways to use Social Media in the Classroom.

Here they are

  1. Teachers are sharing in-classroom tweets with parents.
  2. YouTube enables anyone to flip their classroom.
  3. Students share their life experiences with the class using Instagram
  4. Students react to homework and lessons by blogging
  5. Students manage their project-based learning using Pinterest
  6. Classrooms connect over Skype using projectors
  7. A classroom full of students can create the ultimate guide to just about anything using wikis.
  8. Use DonorsChoose and the other crowdfunding tools to help others in education.

At our elementary school especially there has been a gigantic shift recently when it comes to technology.  There were a few who were blogging and Tweeting and use social media to really create a brand for their classroom and their students.

This had never been done before.  As you can imagine, it didn't go over all that well with some more traditional (and more veteran) teachers.  It wasn't the veteran teachers' faults.  That just was not how they were trained.  They came up in a time in education where everyone taught in silos and kept what they did in class to themselves or shared them in their grade levels.  They weren't used to sharing what they did in their classrooms with parents and the world.

The times the are a changing.  That's for sure.

For my two cents, I'm don't use wikis and have never heard of DonorsChoose before, but the rest I have used.

I use Twitter, not necessarily to communicate with parents but to praise and support my students (past and present).  I'm always amazed at all of my former students who are still interested in what happens in my classes.

In the past two days on Twitter, a former student now at NDSU tweeted that she wants to come in and talk to my CC 2 class about the realities of college.  She has even begun preparing a speech!

Another student took a picture of the book I gave him for his Sticky-Note Book Report stating that he was only 35 pages in and already had 27 Sticky Notes!  He said I couldn't have picked a better book for him to read!

I use Youtube, not to flip my classroom, but to hook students for bell work or to supplement assignments.  I couldn't teach without Youtube.  It's also incredibly easy to embed Youtube clips in my class blogs, which does allow for some flipping of my classroom.

I use Instagram to promote and show off what we do in class.  Actually, my biggest use of Instagram right now is to push out Coach Mumm's motivation messages in the morning.  I get dozens of people liking these during the day.  I used to use Pinterest to do that, but Instagram is easier and makes it simple to also share them via Twitter and Facebook too.

I like the idea of students managing their product based learning via Pinterest.  I'm going to really look into that.  Right now I use it to store some of the cool things we do in class or I will encourage students to go there for some inspiration when they need it.

Finally, I don't use Skype, but I have used FaceTime.  My favorite example is when a student of mine was on vacation in Mexico and used FaceTime on his MacBook Air to connect with his group which was presenting in my class.  He still was able to perform his role in front of the class.  Loved it!


I knew it!  American teachers aren't the bane of the education world after all.  We spend more time in the classroom than any other teachers on the planet.  I'm sure the voucher folks and charter school supporters will still lament that this just shows how futile we really are as professionals.

This slideshow is interest.  The best states for education in America.  Minnesota is #9.


Here is an info graph one of my students created to illustrate her concept of career capital based on LHS.


As a Google school, we use Drive and Calendar and Gmail daily.  The one thing we haven't tackled yet - wisely, if you ask me - is Google Classroom.  However, it looks like it'll be a game changer when we finally do head down that road.


For those who loathe the common core, here is an info graph that looks at the difference between the "old way" and the common core way in how they approach analyzing literature.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Week 1 (and Week 2)

Wow.  The first day was only four days, but it felt more like four weeks!


Side note:  What is funny is that I actually began this blog post last Friday morning.  Now I'm finishing Friday afternoon . . . one week later.  That's how crazy the first nine days of school were.


Tuesday was a loooong day.  I'm getting used to not having second block prep, which I've had for about 6 or 7 years now.  I had grown accustom to preparing for first block and then having all of second block to get ready for third and fourth blocks.

Now, though, the day is an insane rush right up until 1:30.  That means having everything ready to go by the time class starts at 8:20 because before I know it, the day is essentially over.  Now I know my friends out in the real world are shaking their heads and thinking, poor guy he has to "work" from 8:20-1:30.  Must be tough.

I don't mean it that way at all.  What I mean is that it isn't easy having 20 plus kids relying on you for all of those hours!  That's taxing.  But totally worth it.

I just have to adjust to the new schedule.

On Tuesdays, I also have to travel to UND.  So as soon as I could, I left to pick Kenz up from school, grab Cash from daycare, then drop them off with KoKo, and bolt for GF.

Then I had my Teaching and Learning 250 class from 5-8.

By the time I got home my legs were aching and my feet were killing me.  So much for wearing flip flops all summer and teaching at the ALC for a mere four hours a day!

After the mad rush of the first day, things settled down and I found my groove.

Here is what I'm teaching first semester.

First block, Lit and Lang 9R.  This is not necessarily a remedial Lit class.  Students who struggled on the NWEA or MCA were placed in here hoping that a highly engaging environment - along with having a para in the room - will get them more interested in working on the vital skills in lit and lang.

So far we have read "The Monkey's Paw," "The Necklace," and just yesterday "The Most Dangerous Game."  We haven't done anything revolutionary.  We're just focusing on the elements of plot and irony.

But I promised them on the first day that this would be the best English class they've ever had.

So I better hold up my end of the bargain.

But that is easy to do considering some of the pieces we will be reading: "The Necklace," "The Most Dangerous Game," "Where Have You Gone, Charming Billy?," "Lamb to the Slaughter," "The Storm," and that's just the first two weeks!

Second block brings one of my all time favorite classes: College Composition 1.

We spent the first week focusing on the writing process, namely the descriptive essay.

This week we finally started looking at some literature.  On top of that we started applying some literary lenses - historicism, reader response, and feminism - to the works.

The only struggle is trying to get all of their drafts read and back to them on time.

My final class of the day is another one of my all time favorites: College Comp 2.

Traditionally, I've started with Mark Bauerlein's The Dumbest Generation.  However, someone spoke to me over Labor Day weekend, and I decided to can that and go with Cal Newport's So Good They Can't Ignore You.  My principal just okayed my request for funds to get 25 classroom copies.

I was compelled to go with this new text instead of The Dumbest Generation because while it's great analyzing how millennials do (and don't) prove Bauerlein correct, but I felt a greater need to get them college and career ready.  Thus, I made the decision to go with Newport's book.

Plus, Newport's book is a great contrast to one book they all ready in College Comp: Sir Ken Robinson's The Element, which posits that you need to follow your passion in order to have work that really matters.

And I adamantly believe that, but Newport takes a different approach to work with passion: he argues that passion is a byproduct.

Newport argues that the only way to love (or have passion for your work) is to become really, really good at it.  He calls this "career capital."  It breaks down like this - in order to build up career capital, you have to acquire rare and valuable skills through deliberately practicing them (in other words, becoming so damn good they can't ignore you).  When you have mastered rare and valuable skills, you are then able to gain "career capital."  This allows you to exchange it for work that leads to passion as a result of these three things: impact, freedom, and control.  In all types of professions, Newport has studied those who exhibit passion and love what they do.

In all instances, he found those workers with a great amount of impact, freedom, and control over their work.  Newport found that the more rare and valuable skills you master, a funny thing happens: the more impact, freedom, and control you get!

I had to impart this concept to my students not only to apply it to the rest of their senior year, but to also have them apply it to college.

Now, though, we are done with the book and students will be presenting lesson plans based on the final two parts of the book to the class on Monday and Tuesday, I am thinking about our next book, which I'm thinking might just be Sally Hogshead's How the World Sees You.

I can hardly wait!

#living the dream!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A very pleasant change

About a decade ago, I had a sad epiphany: when I was young, my parents were forever concerned with scores and results related to me, such as my GPA (my mom was a stickler for me being on the honor roll and maintaining the discount on our insurance), my ACT score (took it once my junior year and achieved an above average score and never thought about retaking it again), my summer income (especially my the balance in my savings account), my student loan amounts, my first salary at Lincoln when I was hired for my first real job, and so on on.

Then, as I said, about a decade ago, I realized that those were the good old days, for soon I was the one who began to worry about scores and results as the related to Mom and Dad: their stress test results, biopsy results, CAT scan results, blood work, colonoscopy results, and on and on and on.  Until both of my parents were gone (from lung cancer).

For a number of years Kristie and I were periodically attending funerals for family and friends.  In my immediate family alone, I can look at a Christmas picture taken at my sister's home from 12 years ago and count six people who have passed away!

I remember Kristie adding up the funerals Casey and KoKo have had to attend (and this was before Kenzie and Cash were born) and the number was at least 10!

While the funerals are inevitable I'm afraid (we actually just attended one for a dear friend just a few weeks ago), there are starting to be more weddings to attend than funerals!  Happy times.

About 15 years ago, I was in seven or eight weddings within the span of two years.  However, outside of my own, there have only been a few weddings to attend.  That, however, has changed now that my former students are getting married.

This is a most welcomed change.  While I cannot attend them all, as many happen in the summer when we are away or busy, I still try to make all the weddings I possibly can.

Last winter I attended one for a past student, Alex and his wife.  It was an amazing event.  The reception was held at the Ralph in town.  There were so many former students and players there to talk to that I could have stayed there a week catching up.  In fact, as I looked around at many of my former football players, I joked that we had enough team members from our 7-1 season that we could go out into the parking lot and run 245 counter (our best play that year, where Michael Benedict probably averaged 15 yards per carry on it) without a hitch!

One student I visited with for at least 45 minutes was Carli, who is now a nurse and - at that time - was about to get married the following spring.

Sure enough, at the end of May I attended her wedding (she married another former students and player, Kasey).  They had their reception in the Emperial room at the Ralph.  Again, I found myself sitting with some of my past students and talking the night away.

Last week I had the last wedding of the summer, this one for my former student, Ashley (who tied a record for most consecutive classes from me in a row.  The poor thing had me for the last half of her junior year and then all of her senior year.  I can only thing of a few students who have been subjected to so much of Reynolds!) and Nick (another former student and player).

Here I am with Ashley.

Again, I was able to visit all night with former students and players.  Here I am with one of my favorite former students, Derek.

It is truly amazing to see the impact teachers have on their students.  And it's amazing to see the remarkable young people our students grow into.

I could not be prouder of them all!

Our first bike ride

Tuesday evening Kenzie and I decided to go for a bike ride.

She has been clamoring to go for one all summer long, but it seems by the time Mom gets home from work and we have supper, we are pretty much out of energy.

So Mom, Kenzie, Cash, and I were all set to go when - at the last minute - Cash changed his mind and decided he wanted to stay home.  Mom offered to stay with him, so Kenz and I hit the road.

Initially, we were just planning on biking to the N (this is what Kenzie calls the large N of shrubs NCTC has over by the river, about 1.5 miles from our house).

As we biked, and Kenz had a blast going down "hills," which were really just small slopes in the road, I was reminded of how many bike rides I used to go on with my parents when I was younger.  I even remember sitting in a bike seat behind my father.  By our house Red Lake Falls, we had what amounted to a large rectangle.  We would take Third Street down past what is now Homark in RLF all the way down before taking a left and heading south through what is now the industrial park in RLF (Barry's Welding is down there as is Woodmaster's headquarters.  Then we'd take another left onto the road that runs east past what is now the pool.  Then we'd take one more left, and complete the large rectangle.

I recall on one occasion, when I still was struggling to ride my bike, I fell off and skun my knees.  Dad comforted me and then took me to the DQ on the way home from our ride!  That was about as good as it could have gotten for me.

So when Kenz and I biked to the "N," I asked her if she wanted to go back home.

"Nah," she said.  "Dad, let's check out the dock on the other side of the river."

So we biked across the bridge to a small park where there is a large wooden dock where people fish.  Several were actually fishing, so we decided not to bother them.

"How about if we bike the River Walk?" I asked Kenz.

"Sure!" She said.

So we biked the River Walk along the river until we came to where it intersects with Highway 59 over by the Eagles.  We waited for traffic and walked our bikes across the road to the small park with the fountain by the river.  Kenz had a blast going down the hill there and picking up speed as she zoomed by the river.  We even got to go beneath the railroad bridge on what used to be the emergency underpass.

Soon we were at the bridge by Hugo's.

"Should we keep going?" I asked.

Kenz just nodded.  She was really looking forward to a big first for her: pushing the cross walk button on the stop lights.

Again, we walked our bikes across the intersection, and we were back on the River Walk, zooming along the river by Hugos and following the path all the way down to Lions Park, where there is a walking bridge to cross the river, which we took.

It was at the point that I informed Kenz that our DQ was only a block away.

The smile that spread across her face will always be one of my most treasured memories.

To say she was excited would be a gross understatement.  "Dad!" she declared, "this is the best bike ride ever!  You make the best moments."

Then she added, "Don't tell Mom I said that though." Ha ha.  Bless her heart!

After ordering us a couple of Blizzards, we took a table and relaxed.  I couldn't believe how sore my legs were getting, which made me a little worried about Kenz, but she was fine and ready to do more biking.

When our Blizzards came, I gave her all of my whipped cream, which she was only too glad to gobble up.

She wanted me to send Mom a picture of her.  Of course, Mom and Cash back home thought we were just going for a leisurely bike ride around the neighborhood, not trekking across town to the DQ!

After finishing our Blizzards, we headed back, though we were not taking the River Walk all the way back.  We decided to take a much more direct (and shorter) route: Duluth to 8th street to home.

It was growing dark on the way home as we crossed the bridge on Highway 1 (about 1.5 miles from home) and as the street lights clicked on, I again was amazed at the things Kenzie noticed.  After all, I had run this same route all last summer, yet I never noticed any of the things Kenz did.

"Dad, look at the rings around the lights," she said looking up at the street lights.

"Dad, look at the sparkles in the street," she said as she eyed the individual grains of mix in the asphalt.

When we hit the final stretch, which is about a quarter mile from home, Kenzie kicked it down.  Honestly, I had to work to keep up to her.  She was all business at that point, hurting home to tell Mom about our journey.

It was funny that the highlight of Kenz's summer was an impromptu bike ride to the DQ, not the fair or our trip to Minneapolis a few weeks ago.  Like if definitely what happens to us while we are busy making other plans.  I hope Kenz thinks of our trip to the DQ as fondly as I think of my bike ride with my Dad to the DQ all those years ago.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Happens When I try to put "Girl" Legos in our cart

Yesterday, Kristie and I met Gail with Cash and Kenz at Target.  They had spent a couple days with Grandma in Mayville.

After the kids were calmed down from seeing us again, Cash pulled me aside and confessed, "Dad, I really want to look at some toys. Do you think we could go over to the toy aisle?"

Now how can I turn a request like that down? Especially when I know what Cash's favorite type of toy is: Legos!

His favorites are the DC and Marvel super hero sets.  But on our way there I couldn't resist messing with Cash just a little.  So I steered us through the "girl" Lego aisle (as Cash calls it).

Jokingly, I tried to place a Lego "Friends" set into the cart.

Cash was having no of it, though.

"No, Dad!" he said.

"Why not?"

"Dad!  You know why?" he said growing more animated the closer the box actually got to our cart.

"Dad!" he said, looking around. "You're breaking my heart!"

Now, I have to admit, that one got to me and I set the "girl" Lego set aside and steered him finally over the "boy" Lego aisle.

If I wouldn't have left my iPhone in my car, I would have documented this all.  However, here are some pictures from the previous time I tried to set "girl" Legos in the cart.  These are from the Kmart in town.

Before he knew what was going on, I actually set the Lego set in the cart.

Not that it would stay there long though! 

And my personal favorite!  He wasn't pleased when I refused to take it out of the cart!  Ha ha.

End of Summer Reads, Views, and Links

Our curriculum director showed this commercial at the start of our World's Best Workforce Meeting last week.  I had to get a copy of it, for it fits perfectly with College Comp when we briefly look at literary theory.

One of my favorite lit theories is post modernism.  One example I use is the children's book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.

A few years ago when I was reading this to Kenzie, I instantly knew I had to use it in class.  It is the story of the - you guessed it - three little pigs told from the point of view of the Big Bad Wolf.  That's classic post modernism for you.

So when Sara showed us this commercial, which is a take on the true story of the three little pigs, I knew I had to use this too.  It not only offers a totally different take on the fairy tale, but it does an amazing job connecting it to modern issues.  Brilliant!


This one is in the "Don't Mess With The Millennials" file.

I have a few colleagues who will send me stuff on the foolishness of millennials.  And don't get me wrong, they're plenty foolish.  Just like any other generation (if you want to look at foolishness, just examine my generation, Gen X, during our glory days of youth in the '80's.  I mean we actually watched such wretched trash as Punky Brewster, My Two Dads, and The Dukes of Hazard).

So when stories like this one arise, I'm all too eager to share them with my colleagues via twitter with the heading "Those Damn Millennials."

This damn millennial has just created an app that allows you to document police brutality.

I love it.

I hope the next one is an app that helps students document terrible teaching practices!


One of my favorite bloggers/Tweeters, Bruce Van Horn, has just published his reading list.

If you've read this blog at all, you know I'm fascinated by reading lists.  Or just what people are reading in general.

It's become my goal to read one book a month during the school year and three books per month over the summer.

It's an expensive habit as my Amazon account will attest too.  But over the decade I've been doing this religiously, I've read 180 books on leadership, teaching, and the teaching of writing.  That's a whole lot of professional development.

The first book on Horn's reading list is one I just came across thanks to the amazing podcast, EntreLeadership.  The book is by Sally Hogshead, and it's called How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination.

If you actually listen to Sally on the EntreLeadership podcast, you will be given a link and a passcode where you can go to her website and get your own personality analysis for free.  Plus, there is a free tutorial where Sally explains your personality traits.

It even allows you to print out a detailed .pdf illustrating your strengths and how you can use them to fascinate your audience.

How is this not perfect for teachers?


How to lose 1 million dollar in five seconds.  Students, know your mythology!  The sad thing is that this kid is a college student!!!

Worse yet, this wasn't his only gaffe on the show!

The horror!  The horror!

(This would fit perfectly in the with the links my colleagues send me showing how the millennials are the dumbest generation).

Worse still, here are more of his errors. Poor guy!



Saturday night I had a great conversation with a former student of mine, Scott, who is now all grown up with a career (careers, actually) and a wife and beautiful daughter.

As we talked, he brought up on of my favorite topics: millennials, as he pointed out to the kids on the dance floor.  He said, "This is the smartest generation."  Then he held up his cell phone and added, "They know how to use this technology so well . . . but they're also the dumbest generation."

Believe it or not, I agreed with Scott.

As we discussed the matter, he also hit upon one of my favorite topics: the media.

It's long been my contention that the media, coupled with social media, has not only desensitized us to many things but it has also made news out of things that have no business being news.

Here's an example: last week Robin Williams committed suicide.  This left the nation in mourning as it is almost impossible to not have laughed or at least been delighted by one of his characters.  For me it was watching Mork & Mindy and laughing at the crazy guy with the rainbow suspenders when I was a kid.  Then it was being angered at the injustice of Mr. Keating being scapegoated for a student committing suicide when Mr. Sorenson showed Dead Poets Society in English class.  Later, it was laughing until I literally cried when I saw Miss Doubtfire.  Then it was being amazed at his performance in the classic Good Will Hunting.

Both Facebook and Twitter will filled with comments about Williams and how he impacted the lives of others.  Of course, the focus on the media attention soon shifted from the loss of Williams to why he committed suicide.

This was especially impactful on me because last year we had a mother speak to our high school about her son's depression that led to his suicide.

How this relates to what Scott and I talked about was how quickly the news shifted from the Williams' death and his suicide to focusing on the "news" of what others thought about suicide and depression and on.

Suddenly, things that are not "news" became news.  One example is when a Fox news anchor who called Williams a coward for committing suicide.

What angers me is not the comment.  I say insensitive things to my kids every day.  And then I apologize (as the Fox anchor did later).  What angers me is that all the junk going on around the actually story itself becomes "news."

In other words, crap that has no business being news becomes the news.

Such is the world of 24/7 news coverage.

I recall reading somewhere that in the early days of radio when the news broadcasts were live on the air, one broadcaster came on for the evening news and said simply, "Their is no news tonight.  Have a good evening folks."

Can you imagine that today?

First, we feel like we have to "fill" the time.  So if it's an hour long "news" cast, by God there's going to be an hour of something, even if it's just the broadcaster talking about nothing related to the news.  And somehow this gets transformed into "news."

Second, since we have to "fill" the time, suddenly if we don't have broadcasters blathering to fill the time slot, then we have to manufacture stories.  This is evident on the NFL Network.  When Favre was debating whether to return to the Vikings in 2010, did we really need a "Favre" watch reporter camped out at Favre's house reporting on whether or not Favre left his house?  Or do we need a reporter sharing what Chad Johnson posted on Twitter?

That's not "news."  That's crap.

Social media, however, has fueled this to insane levels.  I have an app on my phone called Bleacher Report.  This service hires amateur sports writers (some of whom cannot write very well at all) to either scrutinize teams in insane depth (such as charting how many throws a certain quarterback had in practice or to give pre-season games grades), to just make insignificant stories seem significant (I just read one yesterday about the Bengals cutting a free agent fourth or fifth string back up defensive tackle.  The reporter discussed how this might be foolish as the player was later picked up by Dallas and has played well in the pre-season.  So the title reads "Did the Bengals miss on this defensive tackle prospect?"  The reality is simple: fourth and fifth string players never play in the NFL.  They're for depth.  That's it.  The only time they ever, ever, ever play is in the first and fourth pre-season games.  Then they are either cut and placed on the practice squad or just cut and go on with their lives in the general public.  But because this "reporter" has a quota of stories to publish, he concocts this story and publishes it.)

Third, now anyone can comment on any story.  This allows for "trolls" who are just the types of cowards who would say something rotten as they hide behind a username or avatar just to outrage someone.  This happens every single second.  You know these cowards can easily type something on a comment thread, yet they'd never dare say it to another person's face.

Personally, I've always wondered about people who are not only home at 1 in the afternoon (are they just too lazy to actually hold down or job?) and, worse yet, spending their valuable time instead of looking for work (or spending time with their family or educating themselves at the library) reading crap on Facebook or Yahoo news.

This happened recently when a tragedy occurred where one girl was sunbathing in her driveway with her headphones in.  Her sister didn't see her, went into the garage, opened the garage door, got into the family car, and, horrifically, ran over her own sister and she backed the car out of the driveway.

Instantly, gutless weasels began leaving comments like, "Who sunbathes in a driveway?  She deserved it!" or "That's natural selection at work!"  Now, those spineless folks lack the intelligence to even ask themselves, "What kind of idiot says such an insensitive and hurtful thing about a tragedy?"  You know those gutless worms would never dare walk up to the sister who just killed her sibling or to one of the grieving parents and say those same words.

But because they're safely hidden behind a screen, they can say horrific things.

I thing this type of shameful behavior always occurs, it doesn't matter if it's 2014 or 1914.  The only difference was that in 1914 it was said over supper or when lady's were having tea or men were in the barber shop.  Today it happens in a social forum.  But maybe we'd be better off just eliminating all of the comments together ?

As Scott and I talked about all of this, Scott said, "I wonder if I went out on the dance floor and asked these kids what Ferguson means, they'd have no clue."

"I think you're right," I said.  Then I grabbed my phone and he ld it up and said, "But they could find out in a split second."

Scott nodded.

"That's where teachers come in.  It's our job to get kids to make sense of the stories and world around them," I said.

Then on the fly I created a current events assignment: find five stories on the shooting in Ferguson.  See if you can find two or three different biases in the stories (one might be - the kid was a punk and had it coming.  It's not like he was a Boy Scout.  Did you see him shove that old man on the security camera footage? Another might be the police are militarizing and now assassinating citizens for any minor crime.  Being shot with your hands in the air for stealing a box of crappy cigars?).

After analyzing the stories and the biases, we could then use that to connect to the Trayvon Martin shooting from a few years ago.

We could analyze past instances of police abuse (Rodney King, for example).

Ultimately, and this would be the final assignment, students would take an older news story, such as an act of violence from the Civil Rights movement (such as lynchings or bus bombings) and cover it as if it were today's insane media storm.

Finally, we'd have a discussion about the differences in reporting.  Were things better 50 years ago or are they better today?  How have things changed?  More importantly, why have they changed.  And most important of all, what can we do to make things better?


Why Teachers Need Personalized Professional Development

I think our district has caught on to this.  Instead of having one hired gun professional development guru come in and teach a concept to everyone (I recall a God awful presenter we had in quite a few years ago to highlight reading strategies.  I swear when the guy spoke, he instantly either put everyone to sleep or made them want to gouge their eyes out).

Now we institute a technology professional development session in February where staff can sign up for areas that appeal to them.  Even better, many of these sessions are taught by their peers or colleagues.  This is the best kind of professional development.


Yet another reason why living in MN is not so bad after all.

You don't have to worry about ever being chased by a crocodile as you go for a short swim.

What would the poor guy have done had not a quick thinking tourist hurled something at the croc to divert its attention from a relatively easy meal?

It's not like had he just gotten to shore he'd have been safe as crocs are pretty fast on land, especially when they are after a tasty meal!!


This Robin Williams memorial at a Boston Park bench is amazing.

If you haven't seen Good Will Hunting, here is the scene some of the memorial refers to.


I've read a lot this summer about branding and building a platform.  Most of this applies to business, but I'm intrigued as to how it can apply to teaching, specifically in building classroom culture.

Here is an interesting article, 12 Most Powerful Ways to Build Instant Influence, that every teacher could put into practice to produce better classroom culture.

Of course, #3 is my favorite!!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reynolds' Family Vacation 2014

It doesn't seem that terribly long ago that Kristie, Casey, KoKo, and I piled into her Sebring and headed down to the cities to stay with her little brother, Eddie.  We took in the Minneapolis Art Museum as well as the zoo, and, of course, the Mall of America.

My how time flied.  Casey is now thriving full time in Fargo working as a supervisor for Digi Key and KoKo is going to be sophomore at NCTC.  Oh, yeah.  And Kristie and I have two little ones, Kenzie and Cash, of our own!

This summer, close to a decade after our initial family vacation, we first went to Fargo to pick Casey up (KoKo had to work, so she couldn't come along).  Then we headed across 94 to Minneapolis.

We stayed at a Best Western Plus that was right next to the MOA.  The kids' favorite part was the pool area.  They could have spent their entire vacation there.  Lucky for us, Casey took Kenz there in the evening and let her wear him out.

Here Cash is checking out the pool area from our balcony overlooking the pool area.

On our first night, we just played in the pool area.  The next day, Friday, we took a shuttle over to the MOA where we spent the majority of our day.

We bought wrist bands for Nickelodeon Universe.  Surprisingly, Kenzie didn't go on as many rides as I expected.  But Cash had a pretty good time.  The highlight: Casey and I convinced Kenz to go on the log ride with us.  She didn't know about the two steep plunges until it was too late - otherwise, we'd never have gotten her to go with.  But she loved it!

Then we walked around the mall a bit before the kids found Build a Bear Workshop, where they both got teddy bears: Kenz got a Captain America bear and Cash got an Iron Man bear.  They quickly ran up a bill, but for the kids to enjoy themselves that much and to be treated so well, it was a small price to pay.

Kenz wasn't even all that thrilled to go on the Wonder Pets ride that she so enjoyed a few years ago.

Big brother Casey almost got her to go on the Brain Surge with him until she chickened out right at the end.

Cash couldn't wait to get his face pained!

I know he's clashing his super heroes here, but when it comes to Cash, the more super heroes the better!  He got so many smiles and second glances in his get up!

After awhile Cash and I could no longer resist the siren call of Lego Land.  They have areas where kids can build their own creations.  Best of all, they have a set up where you can build your own characters from an array of parts and then purchase them.  Brilliant idea.

Here is Cash's Lego version of his Granda Ed.

Kenz wanted me to send this picture to her Aunt Karla.

She was pretty happy with her face painting too.

My Mecca!

Cash and Kenz at the wishing well.

After the MOA we were pretty exhausted so we ordered food and relaxed at the pool.  After awhile  Cash was pretty beat, Kenzie got her second wind.  As I said earlier, we were fortunate to have Casey with as he took her back to the pool and played with her for another two hours.

The next morning we decided to leave one day early.  We originally planned to stay Saturday night and come home Sunday.  However, after two nights of tossing and turning in a hotel room bed, we were all ready for home, especially Casey and Kristie who were looking forward to having a relaxing Sunday at home before going back to work on Monday as opposed to spending 6 hours in the car.

So Saturday we ventured over to the Minnesota Zoo, which the kids loved.

The MN Trail exhibit, featuring animals from all over MN was one of the best.  The wolverine, which actually came out and charged toward us, was one of the highlights.

Here Kenz is at the tiger observation station pretending to log field notes.

Cash and Mom on their first camel back ride.

The zoo featured an exhibition of large mechanical insects.  This arachnid was our favorite.  Needless to say, we didn't linger long to look at this one.

Just before leaving, Cash and Kenz paused for a quick picture.

As soon as we headed out of the cities, Kenz and Cash fell asleep.  They were out all the way to Fergus Falls, where we stopped to eat at a small, mom and pop cafe called the Viking Cafe.  I'm not kidding. It was like going back in time to my childhood of the late '70's.  It reminded me of the old Murphy's Cafe in Red Lake Falls.

The burgers were thick.  The bacon was amazing.  The fries were plentiful.  We sat at a booth table and had ketchup that came in an actual bottle and drank Coke in glasses with crushed ice.  There was a counter that could seat at least 20 people there.  If Bob Seeger, the Jay Giles Band, or Eddie Rabbit would have been playing, I would have thought we'd have entered a worm hole somewhere and been transported back in time!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Only a diehard Bengals fan would ever come up with an entry like this

Here is my all-time Bengals team.  For each position I only chose one player from Bengals' history. For fun, I also include their best year to illustrate why I chose them.

Offense -

Quarterback -  Ken Anderson (1981)

* Anderson was an all-pro that year and led the Bengals to their first Super Bowl.  That year he passed for 3,754 yards. In 1981!  Those numbers would still be good in today's league.

Runningback -  James Brooks (1989) and Corey Dillon (2000)

* Brooks had his best season as a runner in '89 when he took over the carries full-time when Ickey Woods went down early with a knew injury.  He was a dual threat.  That year it seemed like he was always good for one 40 or 60 yard run per game.

* Corey Dillon set the all-time rushing record vs. Denver in 2000.  He was a beast who never had enough talent around him to really shine.

Wide Receiver - Isaac Curtis (1975) and AJ Green (2013)

* Curtis was a phenomenal deep threat.  In '75 he averaged an amazing 21 yards per grab.

* Green is the most gifted receiver the Bengals have ever had.  He doesn't have Curtis' speed, but he has size and fluid movement that make him a match up nightmare.

OLT - Anthony Munoz (1988)

* Really Munoz (as the Bengals sole Hall of Famer) was excellent in all of his seasons.  I just chose 1988 as the representative year as that was when he helped guide the Bengals to their second Super Bowl.

OLG - Max Montoya (1988)

* He and Munoz made for an amazing left side, and one that would help the Bengals lead the league in rushing in both '88 and '89.  When he left after the '89 season for LA because then owner Paul Brown didn't want to pay a guard much money, it was the first sign of the lost decade to come when the Bengals would become known as the Bungals.

C - Rich Braham (2005)

* One of my favorite Bengals.  He came over from Arizona and excelled at both guard and center.  He helped give the Bengals a balanced attack in '05 when they could toss it to Chad Johnson downfield or hand it of to Rudi Johnson.

ORG - Eric Steinbach (2007)

* Had the Bengals won more (as they are doing now), he'd have made a few Pro Bowls.  Amazing athlete from the offensive linemen factory of Iowa.

ORT - Willie Anderson (2005)

* Next to Munoz, Anderson is our best lineman ever.  He was dominant and when he decided to finally get in shape, he was amazing.  2005 was his first Pro Bowl nod, and it was about six years too late.

TE - Bob Trumpy (1970)

* An amazing talent at TE for the Bengals.  This was one of his two Pro Bowl seasons.


Left DE - Eddie Edwards (1983)

* Edwards is our career sacks leader, even though he is about 47 sacks short because the league didn't keep the stat until 1982.

DT - Geno Atkins (2012)

* Our best defensive lineman ever (and that's saying something given the man I'm going to talk about after Atkins).  He was dominant in every single game in 2012.  My personal favorite: the second to last game in Pittsburgh when he single handedly destroyed the Steelers offensive line.

NT - Tim Krumrie (1988)

* The heart and soul of so many Bengals' defenses. One of the toughest Bengals ever.  He often led the team in tackles . . . as a nose guard!

Right DE - Justin Smith (2001)

* Smith is a beast for the 49ers now, but he got his start with the Bengals.  He came in at the tail end of the Bungals years, but his rookie year was phenomenal, despite missing all of training camp and the preseason with a contract holdout.

WLB - Vontaze Burfict (2013)

* Probably the Bengals greatest undrafted free agent signing ever.  Burfict is the face of our current defense.  He was a force this year.  Just look at his monster game vs. the Browns this year when he was all over the field, including forcing a fumble, picking it up, and scoring a touchdown.  Soon to be a very, very rich man.

MLB - Bill Bergey (1969)

* Bergey would later  star for the Eagles, but he got his start with the Bengals, earning all pro honors his rookie year.

SMB - Takeo Spikes (2001)

* The best linebacker not name Ray Lewis from the AFC North.  He was an absolute stud for the Bengals, but he forced Marvin Lewis' to send him on his way because he was tired of all the losing.  It was at the worst time too because - oddly enough - the Bengals would go to the playoffs 5 times under Lewis and Spikes would never get the chance to play in the playoffs.

SS - David Fulcher (1989)

* He was force in their Super Bowl year of 1988 (and could well have been the MVP of the Super Bowl had they actually won), but 1989 was his best year when he lead the league in interceptions and made the Pro Bowl.

FS - Reggie Williams (1992)

* Williams was part of the lost decade, but he was their second first round selection in 1992 (following - ugh - David Klingler), but he was a beast his rookie year.

CB - Ken Riley (1976)

* It's insane he isn't in the HOF.  In 1976 he picked off 9 passes for 141 yards and one TD.  A true shut down corner and ball hawk.

CB - Eric Thomas (1988)

* He was a beast in '88, picking off two passes in the AFC championship vs. the Bills.  Too bad a torn up knee in the '90 offseason ruined his career.

Talk about friendship

This is the best thing I've seen since Batkid Begins!

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

More on the insanity of high stakes testing.  This is from a professor at Eton who claims that our current state of high stakes testing hasn't changed much since the Victorian age and fails to properly prepare our students for the modern world.

Couldn't agree more.


This man, much like the owner of a Culver's in Wisconsin who chose to pay his employees for six month when their restaurant was burned down, is an inspiration to us all.  Stories like these should be mandatory for Yahoo to have on their news wire for at least one week.

I'd much rather read about this type of philanthropy than what skinny dress some actress wore to an awards banquet or the newest political scandals.


One strength of mine is being able to not only wake up early (around 5 every weekday morning) but to also get out of bed without hitting the snooze once.

All in my family are not so blessed with being early risers.

Here is an article on why this actually might be a good thing.

I've put my early mornings to good use for the past four months by running just about every morning.  If I don't run, I tend to have some coffee and read the news.

How many of us, though, squander valuable time by hitting that snooze button.

I recall the spring of 2003 when I was living on my own and trying to get up early every morning to run.  I remember several mornings where the alarm would go off about 5:30.  I also clearly remember hitting the ten minute snooze button.  Then hitting it again.  Then again.  Until finally 6:30 or so when I finally rolled out of bed.

Instead of hitting the snooze, do this -

What you should do instead: Pelayo recommends setting your alarm for the time you have to get up and then actually get up when it goes off, every day at the same time. Eventually, this consistency may help you feel naturally sleepy at the end of your day, so you'll feel compelled to go to bed when your body needs to, and then wake up without the need for an alarm.

All that time squandered because I couldn't get my sorry ass out of bed.  Glad I don't have that problem now.


Stupidity in public education, especially early education, should never be tolerated.  I'm always amazed - mostly from KoKo's education - how many teachers seem to hate teaching kids.  Why teach then?

Empower kids and make a difference in their lives.  Or get the hell out of the profession.


This kid made my day!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Time Heals . . .

It doesn't seem that long ago, following the Bungals dreadful 27-10 playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers, that I was seething about Andy Dalton.

Today, despite a lot of speculation that the two sides were not close to reaching a deal (which shows you how little the media actually knows about the state of any given NFL franchise), the Bengals signed Dalton to a 6 year 115 million dollar deal.

What angered me most after the loss to San Diego was how poorly Dalton played in the second half of that game, where he threw at least three interceptions and lost a fumble on a humiliating slide.

Dalton surely didn't help the Bengals' cause that day.  But neither did their sensational rookie running back Gio Bernard, who fumbled the ball on the one yard line after a nice catch and run.  Neither did Jay Gruden, the Bengals' offensive coordinator, who asked Dalton to hurl the ball 51 times that day - even after being up 10-7 at halftime.  Neither did their previously stellar defense, which had been harassing quarterbacks and stoning running backs all season.  They let Philip Rivers throw at will and couldn't get any pressure on him.

So yes there are a lot of question marks surrounding Dalton, but given how well he has played in his first three seasons (winning 9, 10, and 11 games, respectively each successive season) and setting franchise records for passing yards and touchdowns, it seems only fair that the Bengals take a chance on him for the long haul.

I know in this day and age, it's not that difficult to draft a quarterback and win right away with him (look at Dalton, Wilson, Flacco, Luck, and so on).  But it's just as easy to lose with a young quarterback too (look at Gabbert, Locker, Ponder, just to look at the busts from the 2011 draft).  And let's not forget that even the greatest quarterbacks, Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason, have not led the Bengals to the playoffs three years in a row and helped them become more than the Bungals.

Hopefully, Hue Jackson, the Bengals' new offensive coordinator, will take more pressure off Dalton rather than putting it on him like Gruden did.

And before we start totally throwing the franchise under the bus, remember the greatest quarterback ever, Peyton Manning, started out 0-3 in the playoffs too.

The point is that Dalton is serviceable.  The Bengals need to keep their offensive line replenished and their defense up to par in order for him to be successful.  If they do that, they can have a chance to win their first playoff game since my junior year in high school.  Let's just hope Dalton play average or maybe just above average on that day.  Let's hope it's this January when he does it too.