Saturday, January 30, 2016

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

I recall reading an article a few years ago about how students want to be coached more than they want to be taught.  So when I saw this story: 5 Ways a Coach Can Help You, I thought about posting it here.

For the record, they are -

1.  Define your currently reality

2.  Clarify your vision and goals

3.  Identifying roadblocks to your vision

4.  Test your thinking, opinions, conclusions, and behavior

5.  Establish accountability


Another interesting video and post: The destruction power of "The Myth of Normal."

Who wants to be merely normal anyway?

I always tell people to proudly let their freak flags fly!


Ever since I heard Mr. Zutz say it a few years ago, one of my favorite lines has become: Culture eats strategy for lunch.

Well, here is a take on it: culture eats your strategy for lunch.

This article seeks to explore how the structure of a company or organization effects culture.  I don't think, though, that it's that simple.

Culture, I think, is inherently tied to the people in an organization.  Those people who care, inspire, and motivate are far more than any structure one can implement.

Think of the best coach, boss, or teacher you have ever had.  Would they be the same way regardless of what sport, business, or school they taught in.  My guess is yes they would.

It's all about getting the right people on the bus (structure) and then getting the right people into the right seats on the bus (I'd call that culture).


And one of the best Tweets I've read in a very, very long time.

Two of my former students, Wendy and Jackie, made a great point when speaking to my class a few years ago: they said, "the biggest adjustment to college is realizing no one cares about the person you worked so hard to become in high school."

In college no one cares that you were homecoming king or football captain or won the section championship or went to state in speech.  All that is meaningless in college.

It's the biggest reset or start over ever.

And I think it's one of the biggest things our students have to adjust to.  It's a major identity crisis.  Fortunately, most students find new areas or majors or careers to re-dedicate themselves to so that they share a new identity.  But many who were the big studs back home and never developed skills to do anything else struggle.  They commit the cardinal son of peaking in high schools.


This baby's reaction to seeing itself for the first time is hilarious.


Just in case you ever think you're having a bad day at work.  At least you aren't one of these people!


Her are my favorite signs (and ones I try to foster in my classes).

When I first read this article I thought it would be all about how effectively a 21st century classroom must use technology.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It really has nothing to do with technology.

1.  Teacher as facilitator.  My best days occur when I'm not up in front of the class (at least for very long anyway).  Instead, my dest days occurs when I'm meeting with individual students or groups of students offering the suggestions or ideas for a project they are working on.  The days of the all-knowing teacher standing up in front of the class all hour are gone.  I think that's a good thing.

1.  Justification for answers.  I like that the author says about this - The largest problem that I encounter in my students reasoning is an almost complete lack of it.  Fostering an expectation of well-developed thoughts encourages students to approach a problem from a number of angles and discover what they truly believe.

 Too often - at least this was the way when I was in college - students simply had to regurgitate the professors' ideas back to them and all was well with the world.  But I had a few professors and teachers who really didn't care what I thought.  What they cared about was whether I could prove it or not.

That made a huge impression on me.

I recall one student several years ago becoming frustrated at reading The Dumbest Generation.  As we were discussing it and analyzing my students' reactions, I kept asking her specifically to keep proving what she was saying instead of just offering opinions or anecdotes.

She sighed and said, "You know it really sucks that people just can't believe you based on your own opinions."

I smiled and said, "Welcome to a college level discussion.  You have to always prove your opinions."

It was later that I came across a great quote from Amherst law professors Austin Sarat: "opinion is easy; analysis is hard."

It's true.  And it has to occur in a 21st century class.


These are hilarious!  Star Wars posters for educators.


You know that saying “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”? Here’s the thing: what makes you love what you do isn’t just a deep-seated passion for the work. It’s also a certainty that what you’re doing is making an impact and is a positive contribution to the planet.


English teachers and film buffs always geek out over stuff like the video below, which analyzes how one of the best films of the 1990's not named The Shawshank Redemption is actually a retelling of the King Arthur Legend.  Genius.

I absolutely love stuff like this, and if I taught at a college, I would totally have students watch Pulp Fiction and dream La Morte d'Arthur and write an analysis.  However, the film just isn't appropriate even for a College in the High School class I'm afraid.

But this reminds me so much of how I analyze how Training Day is a retelling of "Young Goodman Brown" or how, when I taught at BSU, we analyzed how American Beauty is a retelling of "The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber."

Nothing, it seems, is ever truly original.


Currently in College Comp 2 we are reading Cal Newport's So Good They Can't Ignore You.  It argues that the passion hypothesis (you know it -just follow your passion and do what you love and it will all work out) is actually horrible advice.

Newport argues this for a few reasons:

1.  People aren't born with passions.  So how are they to know what their passions are?  Just ask a young adult about their passions and see what you get.

2.  The passions of most young people (video games, sports, and so on . . . if they even know what the even are) just can't be translated into professions.

3.  When you study people who actually love their jobs and have "passion" for them, you see quickly that they really didn't start out "following their passions."

4.  For those who have "passion" for what they do, one thing becomes immediately clear when you study them: they are really, really good at what they do.

5.  Passion for a profession is the result (or byproduct) of being good at it.

6.  The only way to be good at something is to adopt the "craftsman mindset," which is about spending time diligently stretching yourself outside of your comfort zone to learn rare and valuable skills.

   I think of it this way - as a teacher, you can just follow the curriculum guides and "teacher proof" curriculum and you can do just fine.  You just will never develop rare and valuable skills, for anyone can do that.  Anyone.

   What will make you love your job (or at least in my case) is developing skills that set you apart (in other words skills that are rare and valuable).  For some teachers it's going on to get a MA degree in their content area.  For others it's leadership or coaching.  For others it's expertise in their area.  For others its going through the rigorous AP training to teach upper echelon classes.  For others, like me, it's adopting technology to connect with students.

  If you develop those skills, Newport argues, you will gain what he calls "career capital."  This is power in your field that you can then use to get three things in the work you love: impact, creativity, and control.

  Here is how it breaks down for me -

Impact - this is easy for teachers, for we so easily have impacts on our students - below are two examples

That was from a student of mine at LHS and UND.  This was totally out of the blue.  But there is no doubt my work had an impact on her.  

This is an email I received from a parent about the comments I left on her daughter's report card.  Think an impact was made?

Creativity - Since we are a 1:1 school, we have an absolute smorgasbord of opportunities to creatively deliver our content: TED Ed, Nearpod, Twitter, Instagram, Storify, Padlet, Blogger, Google Sites, Poll Everywhere . . .  There is no excuse not to creatively present your content or challenge your students.

I have been able to creatively approach several things - the multi-genre research papers, the Linchpin projects, mock TED Ed talks, the stick-note book reports . . .  That creativity challenges me and makes me love what I do.

Control - Fortunately, because I get to manufacture much of my own curriculum for my College in the high School classes, I get control over what I get to teach and the texts I can purchase.  If I were a second year teacher, there is no way I'd have been able to earn this type of control.  But the more rare and valuable skills I build up, the more impact, creativity, and control I get.

It is only when you have built up enough rare and valuable skills that make you attractive and valued to your customers or your boss, that you develop a passion for what you do and have a job you love.


A colleague shared this link with me concerning passion.  He wondered what my take on it is.

It is Mike Rowe's response to someone who once asked him about following their passion.

This part of Rowe's response reminds me of the very same mantra that Newport has been preaching for awhile now about just following your passion being terrible advice.

When it comes to earning a living and being a productive member of society – I don’t think people should limit their options to those vocations they feel passionate towards. I met a lot of people on Dirty Jobs who really loved their work. But very few of them dreamed of having the career they ultimately chose. I remember a very successful septic tank cleaner who told me his secret of success. “I looked around to see where everyone else was headed, and then I went the opposite way,” he said. “Then I got good at my work. Then I found a way to love it. Then I got rich.” 

This echoes perfectly just what we are reading about in College Comp 2 (don't you just love it when you see the very subject you are studying reflected in the "real" world?).

Here is Rowe's iconic TED Talk on the same topic


Coach Mumm shared this one with me: The Kind of Coaching We Should Expect From our Teachers.

This one is great and really thought provoking.  First, the author references an older story, which in itself is a very interesting read.

It breaks down coaching styles into two categories

1.  The transactional style of coaching - where you focus just on skills and plays that allow you to be successful and win.  We've all had coaches like this.  And they are successful on the field or court.  They win.  But what kind of impact or legacy do they leave?

Recently, in College Comp, I had students write about a time they quit or failed something.  Right away many of my students wrote about a 9th grade football coach who is no longer in the district.  He was not concerned with building or culture or transforming his players at all.  He was concerned with re-living his past of playing football at Middle Tennessee State and reminding his 9th graders how he would have played for the Steelers had he not suffered an injury.

I guess I was incorrect when I said these types of coaches aren't interested in leaving a legacy.  This guy did leave a legacy.  Every student who wrote about this individual explained how miserable he made it for them.   Look at that legacy of misery and hate for playing the sport.

What is really interesting, is that what I just wrote above was written after I just read the description of a transactional coach and this former 9th grade coach sprung to my mind.  The rest is just going off of what little I know of the man and what my students wrote about in their papers.  Now look at the qualities of the transactional coach

  • Relives glory days through youth practices and games, which highlight the coach’s achievements
  • Participates in youth practices and drills as a means to show off, rather than playing to the skill level of the children
  • Blatant or subtle disregard for organizational rules and/or the safety and health of athletes
  • Shows disrespect to athletes, parents, other teams, other coaches, and officials
  • Identifies the team’s wins or losses with his or her own self worth
  • Punishes athletes when the team does not win or if the team makes mistakes
  • Rewards good performance with playing time, keeping the win in mind. In other words, the best player plays, whether or not he or she is a good sport, attends practices, is a team player, has integrity, etc.
  • Shows favoritism, while belittling other athletes
  • Does not speak to parents, does not seek help from team parents, or refuses help from team parents

How many relate precisely to this poor excuse for a coach?  As the article goes on to explain, usual the transactional coach leaves casualties behind.  And they are littered throughout the senior class right now.

Now, on the other hand, is the other style of coaching -

2.  The transformational style of coaching - this coach focuses on developing a strong culture of team.  They know that any team is just as strong as its weakest link.  So they still focus on teaching skills and plays to their players, but they focus on it in a far more enriching way.  They don't relive their glory days or single just one player out or focus on a handful of star players.  Again, they know their team is only as good as the weakest player, so they coach up all of their players.

Here are some traits the transformation coach exhibits -

  • Builds athletes through teamwork, pride, responsibility, hard work, respect, and sportsmanship
  • Teaches athletes sports and life lessons in wins and losses, as well as how to handle wins and losses with dignity and good sportsmanship
  • Builds individual and team skills to make the team stronger
  • Positive role model, with constructive corrections
  • Holds athletes accountable for actions and gives athletes appropriate responsibilities
  • Welcomes interactions with parents, as appropriate to situation
  • Understands, appreciates, and accepts the coaching responsibility in regard to shaping a young athlete’s athletic career, as well as his or her life

Look back at your coaches and see how many fit in the transactional category and transformational categories.

Now, back to the original article that Coach Mumm shared - the author applied the transactional and transformational styles to teachers.  

I break it down like this -

Transactional teacher -

Focuses on curriculum first (and most).
Focuses on high stakes tests (focuses on summative outcomes).
Sees the parents as enemies or enablers.
Doesn't seek to foster culture in their classroom.
Doesn't seek out student interaction other than in their classes.

Transformational teacher -

Focuses on the student first AND then the curriculum.  They design their lessons with this in mind: When will my students ever have to actually use this and how can I connect the curriculum to their world to show how relevant it is?
Focuses on smaller, formative assessments as a way to gauge how students are doing before the summative assessment.
Seeks to engage parents and community members.
Focuses on developing a strong culture in their room.
Seeks out student interaction and connection.

I think this would illustrate the transaction teacher from the transformational teacher - have students simply go to whatever classroom they feel the most valued, appreciated, connected, and where the content is relevant to their lives.  How many would be in your room?


Finally, my wife has discovered this guy and his late, late show.

It's hilarious.

And this is maybe my favorite moment from his show.

No comments: