Tuesday, August 19, 2014

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!!

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