Monday, July 10, 2017

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

What I love about summer is all the reading and time to get caught up on professional development.  I try to keep up during the school year, but I end up getting buried in papers that I don't get back to my students in nearly enough time.

So my email is clogged with hundreds of links I send myself during the school year that I will (like now) get around to reading during the summer.  There are also a few new interesting things I've come across sprinkled in here too.

First off, I had to include this for my sister-in-law, Karla, who will be taking a vacation soon: Bull shark bites BOTH legs of a swimmer.

Now great white sharks get all the headlines, but bull sharks are actually nastier, for bull sharks can swim up rivers and they are far more aggressive than great whites.


Now this is really interesting: The 8 Negative People You Should Avoid.

I'm a diehard optimist.

I don't know why.  Maybe it's because I lost both of my parents when they were still relatively young.  Maybe it's because I've played or coach sports all my life, but I love sudden change.

Change, or so I read recently, is a chance to do something amazing.

So when the world seemed to be crashing down because our wonderfully amazing principal, Shane Zutz, is leaving, I see it as a great opportunity for someone new to step in and try their hand at being wonderfully amazing.

The article above is near and dear to my heart, for their is nothing that brings me down more than negative people . . . And I used to be one!

Do you recognize any of these

The Naysayer - this person will tell you exactly why your idea won't work or why it will never work.

The Know-it-all - this person leaves you feeling like you know nothing.  Instead of building you up, they tear you down.

The Drama queen - the worst.  This person thrives on drama.  Therefore, they must stir it up when it doesn't exist at all.

The Taker - this person is only interested in what you can do for them.  I can tell these people apart by having a conversation with them.  Whenever we are talking, I can see they can't wait to turn it back to themselves and their problems.

The Impossible to please - These people are never satisfied with anything you may do for them.  And they are incredible sparse with praise.

The Manipulator -  Next to the drama queen, this person is the worst.  They have no intention of trying to help you.  They just want to manipulate you for their own gain and they are never happy unless you do what they want.

The Judge - above all, this person wants to look good.  That often means the look good by tearing others down.

The Self critic - This person believes all the lies they have been told and pays too much attention to all the doubts and what could go wrong.


Here is a great read from NCTE: Appreciating the Treasures of Teaching.

This article talks about a teacher who discovered a letter a student had written her talking about how much she appreciated the teacher.

Moments - or treasures - like these are all too rare.

Enjoy them.  Treasure them.  Keep them.

That's one reason I will - from time to time - frame the letters students write me at the end of the year.

Another thing I've done ever since I began teaching was keep a "Nice Things From Students" folder.

Whenever I get a card, nice email, note, or letter, I read it and then put it in my file for safe keeping.

I tell myself, when I have a truly terrible day, I'll open that folder up and look through it.

Luckily, I've never had to look through it yet.

I'm blessed.


The Amazon is amazing.  And terrifying.

Mostly, terrifying.

There is a book by Ruzo too.  Just ordered it to add to my College Comp 2 library.


Speaking of a classroom library, here is a great read from NCTE by Harvey Daniels on the importance of building one in your classroom.

I couldn't imagine not having one.

This is awesome.  If you're a baseball fan, I think you'll love this.  The world is a great place . . . regardless of what we see on the news.  Or maybe in spite of what we see on the news.


Disrupt Yourself - 7 Steps to Achieve Mastery and Success

Here is a run down quickly -

1.  Take the right risks - this is so vital.  Too often we take risks that just don't pay off or if we fail, their cost is too dear.

How this looks in my room - In CC 2, I took a risk years ago by asking Mr. Zutz if I could have students free read a book from the media center.

I envisioned just walking around the media center and grabbing a book for each student, handing it to them, saying they had a week to read it, and then write a paper based on it.  I mean that is how college works, right?

Mr. Zutz had no problem with it.

So I began to put my plan into action.  In other words, I took a risk.

Only I decided to tweak it some.  I had attended the Red River Valley Writing Workshop previously, and I thought of a great assignment a colleague, Judith Sheridan, had shared with us called "The Sticky-Note book report."  I wanted that to be the dominant assignment rather than a final research paper.

Then I decided instead of randomly assigning students books, I'd survey them first (asking for 3 things they want to read about and 3 things they don't want to read about), and then suggest a book for them to read either from my own classroom library or from our media center.

I cannot tell you how well this risk has paid off, for I have students who later text me how much they now love reading.  They just had never been given a chance to delve into a text with relatively low states (they just have to pack the book with 50 Post-It notes highlighting their thinking as they read the book and then give a 10 minute book talk on it at the end) and about something they are interested in.

2.  Play to your unique strengths - This is one of my favorite points from Seth Godin's classic, The Dip.  Godin argues the "wrongest" thing we teach in schools is to be well-rounded.  His argument is simple: by wasting time becoming "average" at something you suck at, you should, instead, play to your specific strengths.

I'm all in on this.

How this looks in my room - one of my strengths is building culture through the use of cell phones and social media.  So early on I ask students to write 111 things about them.  From that list I find out small details about them.  These details may seen innocuous but they actually are vital.  This allows me to get to know my students. So if I see a student is passionate about Captain America, I will share with them a Tweet about how Captain America serves as a metaphor for our country or even why Iron Man is superior to Captain!

This is my strength, so I play to it.

One of my weaknesses?  Math and grade calculation.  I spend zero time getting better at this because no matter how good I get at it, I'll still be below average.  Instead, I pour my time and energy into using technology and interacting with students.

3.  Embrace constant constraints - This is actually a key component of Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist.  Constraints offer us structure.  That structure can help define our tasks and inspire us.

How this looks in my room - I use this in College Comp with the braided essay.  The essay has to contain a personal history essay, a how to essay, and a best moment narrative essay.  The essay must also be braided together with each essay being broken up into chunks and embedded into the overall essay.  Each essay must also be written in its own unique font and spacing.  BUT beyond those constraints, students are free to write about whatever they want.

4.  Fight entitlement at every turn- This cost me dearly my senior year in high school.  In football, which was my true love and passion in high school, I had a great junior year.  But I coasted because I felt I was entitled to start and to be a captain and to lord over the underclassmen.  I had a very average senior season too.  And it was all because I was entitled.

How this looks in my room - Several years ago, I was telling Mr. Zutz over our once-a-summer lunch meeting about something awesome that happened the previous year in College Comp 2.  It was at this moment that Mr. Zutz smirked and said, "Okay.  I know your kids in College Comp and College Comp 2, but what can you do with some of our most challenging students, hot shot?"

It was at this moment that he said he was tweaking some of our remedial class.  In his words, Mr. Zutz said he was taking some of the school's high flyers (H and Mr. Froiland too) and giving them freshmen classes with learners who really struggled with English, science, and math.

I could have scoffed at this. I mean I'm just one class away from teaching all college in the high school classes.  I could have fought for a composition class or something that I was better at.

But I embraced teaching the class.  I just told Mr. Zutz that I didn't know how well I could follow our Collections curriculum.  Nor did I just want to do a class full of remedial reading strategies.

Mr. Zutz was fine with that.  He said, "I really don't care what you do.  The fact that they have you will make them better."

I said, "I want to make this super engaging and have them start to love English again."

Mr. Zutz said, "Perfect."

5.  Step back to grow - This means to be adaptive and always curious.  Sometimes, as teachers, we get too tied up teaching and can't really see beyond what they have always done.  Luckily, I have never had a problem stepping back and looking at what I've always done, trying to adapt it.

How this looks in my room - I often contact my colleagues at NCTC, UND, or BSU to see what they are doing in their classes.  I'm always looking for something to steal and use.  In fact, last spring Mr. Zutz gave me a professional day to travel to BSU to spend a day with their professors sitting in on their Composition classes to see what they are doing.

I was very curious about how to teach revision, so I modeled my peer revision process after a colleague out at NCTC.  It has evolved and regressed and evolved and went back to what I used to do and been tweaked since then.  But I would never have gone back to what I had been doing had I not been curious about how to alter things in first place.

6.  Give failure its due - one of my favorite things about Mr. Zutz was whenever I wanted to try something new, he always said, "Kurt, go for it.  Just make sure that if you fail, you fail in front of the kids."

"Why?" I asked.

Then he smiled and revealed why he was such an amazing leader: "Because I want the students to see how you recover from your failure."


How this looks in my room - I've taken to writing drafts with my class and in front of them.  I will assign a topic, say "describe your favorite time of year."  So I will take a blank Google Drive document, give editing privileges to the class, put the document up on the SMARTBoard and start writing my essay.  I talk out loud while I do it, making sure I highlight the things I fail at or get wrong.

I'll literally say, "I know this first sentences sucks, but I'll come back to it and make it better in the second draft" and "I know there are typos all over the place, but I don't care.  This is a rough draft.  I'll fix that later."

7.  Be discovery driven - always seek to learn new things and explore new ideas.

How this looks in my room - I'm never afraid to try something new.  I'm always also trying to talk to students about how I'm a diehard life long learner.  I show them the readings I've done over the summer and hold up the pages I wrote for each year's "Teaching Tips."

If I'm not writing and reading, I'm not discovering.

And that, my dear friends, is the exact reason why I'm writing now.


Posts and images like this drive me nuts!

Lies, lies, lies.

Worse, these are incredibly arrogant.

It's not like youth ministers, priests, doctors, nurses, day care providers, bus drivers, employers . . . have ever lost sleep over other people's children.

Give me a break!

How dare Nicholas Ferroni think he / teachers are the only ones to care deeply about other people's children.

Shame on you!

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