Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

This is a great idea for when students don't submit homework: having them craft a letter (in business letter format) detailing why they didn't get their work in on time.

I'm going to use this next week.  I just wish I would have come across this sooner, for I had several students who really fell behind.  Having them craft letters home to their parents explaining why they didn't do their homework accomplishes several things I love: First, it holds them accountable.  I mean if I miss work, I have to come up with an explanation and then I have to do the work of getting sub plans ready.  Second, it keeps their parents informed, especially when it comes from the child.  Third, it teaches them culpability, for they are (trying to) take a modicum of responsibility.  Fourth, it gives them practice in letter writing and communicating with adults, which is something that will come in handy in both the workplace and in college.  Fifth, since I will be CC'd in the letter, maybe a student has a legit excuse for not being able to get their homework done, and I will be persuaded to give them an extension.  Sixth, students will be getting practice at argument and support in crafting their explanation.


I'm going to tweak it just one way: I'm going to have them first send a text right away to their parents (in front of me) simply stating "I didn't do my homework for Mr. Reynolds.  I'll email you explaining why in a few minutes."  I will watch them text this and send it.  Then I will help them craft their letter.

An interesting aside - if you read the comments in the blog post, you have a few folks spouting indignation at the author.  I laugh at this.

"I’m still reflecting on the strategy. It is borderline punitive, “if you do not do this…then I will tell your parents.” Have you considered sitting down with student and determining why they did not do the assignment before contacting parents? If this intervention doesn’t work, I can see getting parents involved but bringing them into the situation prematurely seems to destroy any relationship and trust a student has with you."

First, these people have clearly never taught real high school students before.  Second, as a parent, I would love to see a teacher force my student to take some responsibility for their lack of effort.

I just shake my head at the person who worries that this is punitive.  Of course, it's punitive!  They didn't do their homework.  What work are you living in?  What's wrong with a little punishment?

And only a person who has never ever set foot in a real classroom would ever through around a phrase like "destroy any relationship and trust a student has with you."

Puhlease.  Parents can check their kids' grades any time.  There's actually an app that allows them to get text messages when an assignment comes in.

The real point of having students craft the letter is not to punish them.  It's to hold them accountable.

Another person wrote this wonderful comment -

"Your strategy incorrectly assumes that all students have control over their learning environment and productivity. 
What about those students whose ineffective parents prevent them from completing or submitting work. How do you avoid making home worse for those kids? Even if the kid has good parents, that doesn’t mean those parents have the skills necessary to help students improve their writing productivity or proficiency.
You also assume that all kids produce writing at the same pace. Have you thought about asking students to log their progress during class and monitoring their writing strategies? Building metacognition will more effectively improve all students’ writing.
How can you make your learning environment more conducive to that child making progress?"

Again.  This is someone who has never ever set foot in a real classroom.  Parents are allies, not enemies.

Only someone who has never set foot in a real classroom with real high school students would only utter the jargon "incorrectly assumes that all students have control over their learning environment and productivity."

That is called enabling.  Stop it.

Hold students accountable.  If they can't work at home, go to the media center.  Or if they are in a class like mine, make use of their in-class work time to draft.

The author of the blog has a beautiful response to the critic above -

"Your comment about all of the assumptions I’m making about my kids suggests that you may not be familiar with my work or my approach to teaching. I wonder if after reading a bit more about my work and my current program if you would be asking me to think about how I can make my learning environment more conducive to supporting my students in making progress. 
That is what I call - boom. roasted.


10 Ways to Help Kids With Learning Differences That Could Benefit all Students

I love this idea.

Last night at our podcast club meeting, we talked about how the best professional development comes from within a school.  We have experts all around us.  There isn't always a need to pay thousands of dollars to have someone come up from Minneapolis to teach us.

This article is a great example of that.

There is so much we can learn from our special ed teachers that we could apply to our regular ed classes.


Speaking of the Podcast Club, here is the podcast we listened to and discussed last night: Living an Inspired Life with John O'Leary.

This is powerful.  It is well worth your time.  I promise you that you won't forget it.

There was so much that I liked about it.  Here are some of the highlights for me.

I love the quote he referenced from a holocaust survivor - if you know your why, you can endure any how.

I love that.  And it's so true.

Another thing I loved was his take on three simple questions.

When things are going rough for people who don't know their why, they tend to ask these three questions.

First, "Why me?"  Why do I deserve this?  Why did God do this to me?  It's all out of their control and they feel like a victim.

Second, "Why me?" leads to "Who cares?"  When things go from bad to worse, it seems like those people who are overly negative or lack their why, default to this question.  Something bad has happened to me, so who cares about how I respond to it.  Who cares about these little brats for kids that I have?  Who cares that my I visited my elderly parents for three months?  Who cares that I'm late for work every day?  Who cares that my students aren't being challenged?

Third, the first two questions lead to the last - and most devastating question: "What's the point?"  O'Leary knows where this one leads: deep depression and, often, self-harm or even suicide.

But O'Leary, who recovered from horrific burns to live an inspired life and impact the lives of many, says when you know your why, those questions take on a totally different meaning.

First, "Why me?"  Yes.  Why me?  Why did I get a job teaching students?  Why did I survive my car accident?  Why am I blessed with the ability to get up every moment and do what I love?  Why am I lucky to have an amazing family?  Why did God choose to take my parents from me at such an early age?  (Because I can now value my own health and family all that much more).

Second, "Who cares?"  My family.  My friends.  My students.  Everyone cares.  It matters what I do with my life and my why.

Finally, "What's the point?"  The point is to live an inspired life and positively impact as many people as I can.

That leads me to believe, I am so lucky that I was gifted my why, my family, my faith, my job, my friends . . .


This week we will listen to one of my all time favorite people for our Podcast Club: Seth Godin.

Good old Seth.  One of my heroes.

In this podcast, the host, Ken Coleman, asks Godin to reflect on something Coleman did as a parent.  Coleman explained how his son, a fifth grader, was a student in a class who goes to this job fair that is set up like a town.  Every student is then given a job, based on their interests and passions and talents.  

But, Coleman, adds that his son was given the job of a "meter man" where he would go from home to home and check the electricity meters.  Coleman explained how his son was devastated by this.  He has a passion for something else entirely, namely video editing.  So Coleman explained how - instead of having his son do the assignment - he pulled his son out of school and brought him to Ramsey Solutions, where Coleman works, and had him follow his passion and play around with video and editing.

Godin handles it well.  As a teacher, I was a bit offended.  I mean Coleman always talks negatively about helicopter parents and about how stupid it is to follow your passion and how there is dignity in all work . . . but when it came to his son . . . well - magically - those rules just don't apply.

Nothing like living your core values, right?


I would like to think had he talked with the teacher and the school, they could have made an accommodation.  

Had I been the teacher, I would have had Coleman and his son make a video on what it is to be a meter man and why they are still relevant in our world today.  That way, he'd be doing what he loves (video editing) but also still completing the assignment for class.

Godin said, had he been the father, he'd have made his son do the assignment and had his son find a way to be the best meter man he could possibly be.  I love that answer.  For it still empowered the teacher and the school and it would have taught Coleman's son a valuable lesson: all work matters and sometimes we have to do things we don't like in this world.  I mean Coleman always raves about how stupid it is to follow your passion and how young people just need to find a job and make their way in the world instead of following their passion (listen to his interview with Mike Rowe to hear first hand).

But I guess that applies to just other peoples' kids.


Speaking of parenting, here is an interesting read on helicopter parents and how they are ruining the work place.

Michigan State University surveyed more than 700 employers seeking to hire recent college graduates. Nearly one-third said parents had submitted resumes on their child's behalf. One-quarter reported hearing from parents urging the employer to hire their son or daughter for a position. Four percent of respondents reported that a parent actually showed up for the candidate's job interview.

This reminds me of when I was part of the scholarship selection committee at LHS.  We received an application from a student.  It was hand written instead of typed.  Now, I happened to have had this kid in class so I was familiar with his handwriting.  When I looked at the scholarship application and the accompanying essay, it was clearly not his handwriting.  It looked like a woman had written it: his mother!

Needless to say, we didn't accept that scholarship application, nor did we accept any of the others that she had filled out for him!!!

The next time you criticize a young person, just remember we played a crucial role in making them the way they are!


I found this on my desktop.  On the first day of class, instead of giving students my expectations for them, I have them list their expectations of me as their teacher.  I had to take a picture of this one because it inspires me every day.


This is why I love people!


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