Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

The fear of failure.

So often we (not to mention parents) want to try and insulate kids from failure.  But this article finds that mistakes prime kids for better learning.

Shock. Shock. Shock.  Right?

How can you learn if you don't make mistakes?

I found this passage particularly interesting -

Most of us can remember a moment like this from our school years: the teacher poses a question – maybe it’s math, maybe history. You raise your hand, you give your answer with full assurance. And then? You’re shot down. You got it wrong.

We remember moments like this because they brim with some of our least favorite emotions: shame, humiliation, self-recrimination, and that gutting sense that you want to melt into the floor. Ah yes, I remember it well.

As it turns out, though, such moments are ripe with learning opportunity. Contrary to what many of us might guess, making a mistake with high confidence and then being corrected is one of the most powerful ways to absorb something and retain it.

I love this.  I can recall several times where I thought for sure I was right . . . but in the end I was wrong or I was doing something incorrect.

Once I got over my hurt feelings and sense of guilt (for failing and letting others down and doing it wrong), I was able to recover and succeed.

The author goes in depth how American teachers tend to focus less on mistakes and focus on what students do right instead.

This isn't always bad.  In fact, I've had a lot of success in teaching writing by focusing on the strengths of my writers instead of focusing on all that they do wrong.  The thinking is that they will eventually do more of what they are good at and less of what they struggle with.

But - then again - I teach our real high flyers, so this approach might not work best for all students.  And - now that I think about it - this approach my work best early on in the semester.  But later - as students' skills grow - they need more detailed criticism and feedback to truly grow.

The author notes that Asian teachers, though, take a different approach.  In math especially, instead of being shown one way to solve a problem - as tends to happen in American class rooms - Asian teachers allow students to find numerous ways to try and solve the problem.  Along the way students struggle and receive feedback.  Little praise is given.  Students are being taught that hard work and struggle are part of learning, instead of compliance and conformity, which one of my favorite people in education, Ken Robinson, has ripped American education for.

I think what is was work here is the growth mindset.

And it makes a great deal of sense to me.


If you listen to anything, listen to this amazing podcast from the incredible John O'Leary on how to lead an inspiring life.  And, really, what other kind of life is there to lead?

We are listening to this as part of our "podcast club" (a few leadership/personal development junkies from the district).

One of my former students, Brian Loe, who is Dean of Students at Challenger, texted me (and he has for years now) about interesting books and podcasts to listen to over the summer while he farms for his father-in-law.

I suggested several episodes from the incredible enterleadership podcast series.

A few weeks ago, Brian and I were texting our thoughts about the various episodes when Brian suggested starting "podcast club" where we choose one podcast to listen to.  We'd have a week to listen to it and then get together to discuss what we thought of it, how we'd use it in class, and how it might impact students.

Then we invited a few others who we thought were also leadership and personal development junkies like us.  Next Monday will mark our third meeting.

This week's episode - featuring John O'Leary - was suggested by Josh Watne.

I couldn't have picked a better episode if I wanted.

Give it a listen and join us seven o'clock at the Evergreen if you want to discuss it!  We'd love to have you.


I cannot tell you how sad this makes me.

Why would you value home life so little that you wouldn't go out of your way to help.

This horrific story works as a great juxtaposition to the O'Leary podcast, for O'Leary talks about the team of doctors, nurses, janitors, athletes, and community members who went out of their way to help a little kid who was burned over 95% of his body.

Yet, these teens can't even call 911 or throw something to this drowning man?

I hope they are tried for murder.


From questioning my faith in humanity to restoring it:  This officer shows up for a tea party for a little girl who he helped deliver on the side of the road.



My colleague, Lisa, and I received a grant at the end of the school year last year for flexible seating.

I can't wait to get started.  Luckily for me, KoKo is going to help me rearrange my room.

Here is an interesting article on one teacher's quest for flexible seating . . . or as she puts it, turning her class into a "learning lounge."

Which classroom would your rather spend your day in? OR what classroom would you rather have your child spend their time in?





I'm stealing this stand up desk idea from Kayla Delzer.  I just have to enlist KoKo to help me with it.  This will free up so much room in my room as well as provide me with extra storage space, which, if you have seen may room, you know I need all the storage space I can get!


A must read for all teachers and parents: Steps for Cultivating a Love of Reading in Young Children.


Not good.  Not good.  Not good.

On either side.

I saw this on Facebook and didn't have time to check it out until now.

Apparently, this woman is angry at some Somalian girls who parked too close to her car at a Wal-Mart in Fargo.

When the lady asked the girls to move - according to the lady - they were very disrespectful to her.

Not good.

This, apparently, sent the lady off on a racist tired where she said that "We're gonna kill all of ya . . ."

Not good.

We live in a world where things like this can go viral in a second.  And it has.  I believe one of the Somalian girls posted it on Facebook . . . and you can imagine how things took off from there.

The woman, of course, apologized and said it wasn't the Christian thing to do AT ALL.

Of course, it isn't.

I just wonder about this.  I'm a Christian.  I get angry just like anyone else.  But what does it take to go from being a Christian when everyone is watching on Facebook to screaming that "We're going to kill all of ya" when you are angry?

Not good.

We were discussing this at work this morning and one of my colleagues said that if the white lady would have been smart, she would have reversed the tables on the girls and as soon as the white lady saw the kids were parked so close, she should have begun filming them.

Then she would have clear evidence to show their disrespect toward her that incited the racist remarks.


Finally, this is an excerpt from Frank McCourt's memoir, 'Tis. It focuses on his move to America and his struggle as a high school English teacher.

This part is when - after some years in the field - McCourt realizes the folly of teaching just the curriculum instead of teaching students.  It is at this moment that, or so I believe, McCourt really becomes a teacher.

From 'Tis: A Memoir -

I followed the teacher’s guides. I launched the prefabricated questions at my classes. I hit them with surprise quizzes and tests and destroyed them with the ponderous detailed examinations concocted by college professors who assemble high school text books.

Everyday I’d teach with my guts in a knot, lurking behind my desk at the front of the room playing the teacher game with the chalk, the eraser, the red pen, the teacher guides, the power of the quiz, the test, the exam. I’ll call your father, I’ll call your mother. ,I’ll report you to the governor, I’ll damage your average so badly kid you’ll be lucky to get into a community college in Mississippi. Weapons of menace and control.

A senior, Jonathan, bangs his forehead on his desk and wales, Why? Why? Why do we have to suffer with this shit? We’ve been in school since kindergarten, thirteen years, and why do we have to know what color shoes Mrs. Dalloway was wearing at her goddam party and what are we supposed to make of Shakespeare troubling deaf heaven with his bootless cries and what the hell is a bootless cry anyway and when did heaven turn deaf?

Around the room rumbles of rebellion and I’m paralyzed. They’re saying Yeah, yeah to Jonathan, who halts his head banging to ask, Mr. McCourt, did you have this stuff in high school? and there’s another chorus of yeah yeah and I don’t know what to say. Should I tell them the truth, that I never set foot in a high school till I began teaching in one or should I feed them a lie about a rigorous secondary school education with the Christian Brothers in Limerick?

I’m saved, or doomed, by another student who calls out, Mr. McCourt, my cousin went to McKee on Staten Island and she said you told them you never went to high school and they said you were an okay teacher anyway because you told stories and talked and never bothered them with these tests.

Smiles around the room. Teacher unmasked. Teacher never even went to high school and look what he’s doing to us, driving us crazy with tests and quizzes. I’m branded forever with the label, teacher who never went to high school.

So, Mr. McCourt, I thought you had to get a license to teach in the city.

You do.

Don’t you have to get a college degree?

You do.

Don’t you have to graduate high school?

You mean graduate from high school, from high school, from from from.

Yeah, yeah. Okay. Don’t you have to graduate from high school to get into college?

I suppose you do.

Tyro lawyer grills teacher, carries the day, and word spreads to my other classes. Wow, Mr. McCourt, you never went to high school and you’re teaching at Stuyvesant? Cool, man.

And into the trash basket I drop my teaching guides, my quizzes, tests, examinations, my teacher-knows-all mask.

I’m naked and starting over and I hardly know where to begin.


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