Thursday, June 21, 2018

Today's Reads, Views, and Listens

It's been a long time since I've made an entry life this one.  There is just something about having some free time in the summer to write, research, and think more.

This week I received an email from someone at Digi Key who was planning some training on generations in the workforce and were seeking my input (thanks Shane and Sara for the recommendations).  Now, that is a topic near and dear to my heart and one I've blogged about numerous times.

Still, in offering my input, I came across a couple of videos that I think illustrate what we want to develop in learners/employees.

We want people who don't do this -

We want people like this instead -


So much for the Montana "werewolf." I was hoping though! Turns out - thanks to DNA evidence, though, that it was just a regular gray wolf.

The photo may have been taken at an odd angle that made it appear larger than it really was.  But it's just a regular wolf.

And, yet, this is how myths begin.  If this was 150 years ago, who knows the rumors that would have started up about this.  Ever hear for the "Beast of Bray Road" in Wisconsin?

Of course, there will be a portion of our society that won't accept this.  The DNA was tampered with by the government (remember, we didn't actually land on the moon and President Bush had the planes crash into the Twin Towers) or the scientists are conspiring to hide werewolves (remember vaccines cause autism).  Or people are just nuts (the earth is flat and the holocaust never happened).


Just saw this one via Twitter - A Clear Sign You Work for a Great Leader Comes Down to 1 Sign

The one word?  Freedom.

This is a double edged sword, though.  We had one leader a decade ago that gave us all freedom.  Too much, in fact.  A former colleague and I joked that we had so much freedom that we could just hang a sign on our doors announcing that our classes would meet in the media center for the day and then leave and no on would know.

Giving freedom can't also imply "I'm giving you freedom because it's easier for me to manage you."

Then we had a leader that also gave us freedom, but he had a way of also holding us accountable.  I would ask this leader, "Do you mind if I give this a try?"

He always replied, "Give it a try.  Just if it fails, make sure you do it in front of the students.  And make sure you show them how you recover from the failure."

That's leadership, and that's freedom.

By the way, Cal Newport in his book, So Good They Can't Ignore You, notes that after studying hundreds of workers that freedom - along with impact and creativity- are the three traits of work or jobs that people love.

And it's true.


Re-imagining the School Schedule . . . for collaboration and planning for teachers.

We have been looking into the effectiveness of our block schedule.  One thing it could be tweaked for, certainly, is more time to allow teachers to meet and collaborate.  We keep telling ourselves that our department meetings will eventually become this.  The goal five years ago was to get to the point where instead of going over checklists of issues, we'd actually practice our craft: bring student work to reflect on and discuss and grade as a department.  But we haven't gotten there yet, and it doesn't look like we will any time soon.


When I saw this article, Five Strategies Parents Can Use to Develop Their Child's Athleticism, I thought about how these might be applied to their intellectualism too.

Here they are -

1.  Encourage them to play.

2.  Keep organized sports fun.

3.  Allow (and encourage) them to play multiple sports.

4.  Allow them to fail.

5.  Find an outlet for strength training.

Now how might we apply that to helping students with their intellectual lives?  I might be a heretic here, but I'm not entirely opposed to Amy Chua's advice here in her iconic article, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." Now I'm not advocating no sleepovers, that Kenzie has to have an A in every single class (especially math), that she can play any instrument as long as it's the violin, and no TV.

But the single best bit of advice that Chua offers is found in this line, which is her explanation for why she demands her daughters do hours of math homework, "nothing is fun until you're good at it."  She is teaching both the growth mindset and deliberate practice here.  Those are invaluable tools that parents need to teach, not just coaches of sports.

So here would be how I'd adapt those five things to intellectual pursuits -

1.  Encourage students to play - that is encourage them to explore various subjects.  Have fun with math and try to use it in a real world setting. This happens to be one of my favorite discussions on this topic.  Have fun with art.  See what you can create and put into practice.  This happens to be one of my favorite examples on this topic.  Have fun with language and explore it and play with it.  Here is a great author talking about the joys of language, specifically poetry.

2.  Keep subjects/classes fun.  This is the anti- Amy Chua approach.  Who cares if a child gets a B or a C?  Does that end their lives?  Hardly.  I would argue with Chua that while I believe nothing is fun until you're good at it, she is stressing the wrong word in that phrase - good.  Watch kids play football.  Are they good?  Probably not good on an organized level, but they are having fun.  Fun (or passion) is the fuel that, I believe, they will need to then put in the work to become good.

Personal example - I had "fun" playing with language and writing my own (terrible) song lyrics.  I did this pretty much daily from 1984-1991.  I filled hundreds of tablets full of crappy songs, album covers, marketing campaigns, tour schedules even.  But I was tapping into my creative abilities.  Moreover, I began to have fun with language.  That "fun" would come in very handy in 2001-02 when I went to graduate school and had to spend 5-6 hours a night writing.  By that time I was 'good,' but the only reason I became good was because I had so much fun early on.

Kids have to experience this.

3.  All (and encourage them) to play multiple sports - Encourage kids to do what scholars did during the Renaissance: develop skills in multiple areas.  Now this runs counter to one of my all time favorite people - Seth Godin - who says that the biggest lies schools tell kids is to be well-rounded.  Success really pays off in obsessing over one thing.

But I think kids early on need to be exposed to a variety of ideas and subjects early on.  Too often we pigeonhole kids early on in one academic area.

4.  Allow them to fail - Parents, listen up.  Now, I'm not talking about failing an entire class.  But please allow them to struggle and face failure.  It's not fatal.  They are going to encounter failure and struggle later in college.  Why insulate them from it earlier when it is so vital to help them?

5.  Find an outlet for 'strength' training - By this I mean, find an outlet for serious study or deliberate practice.  This was vital for me - I had time to spend hours reading and writing on my own.  Guess what skills help me be successful?  It's no coincidence.  Too often we micromanage every moment of a kids' day.  I recall when I got Stephen King's Pet Sematary.  It sucked me in whole.  If I had grown up with a rigid schedule (baseball from 9-10, swimming from 12-1, piano from 2-3, and so on), I'd never have had time to just go 'all in' and totally consume the book, which is what I did.


I just downloaded the new Entreleadership podcast featuring one of my favorite speakers - Shawn Achor.  The specific podcast is #271 (and, yes, I've listened to every single one of the 271 podcasts, many several times over).  The title is "Big Potential."

Achor is an amazing speaker.  Check out his TED talk below for a great laugh and some profound thoughts.

This podcast continues Achor's focus on "positive psychology," which focuses on the importance of positivity, kindness, and the benefits those can have.

A few highlights -

*  We live longer, healthier lives surrounded by positive people.
*  There is a lot of research that shows how 'positive' peer pressure can overcome any type of negative peer pressure.
*  Parents need to model positivity and kindness for their kids.  (You would think that wouldn't have to be an issue.  But I was standing in Erl's the other day with Cash and Kenzie.  We were behind a mom and what I think was her son.  They were buying cigarettes and a Monster and some junk food.  (I'm not a saint either - I was buying snacks for the kids too)  The mother turned to the son and asked him, "Do you want to hang with me today?"  The son said he would rather go to someone else's house.  The mother replied, "If they don't have shit going on, you can go."  The son said something else and the mother again repeated, "Just make sure she doesn't have any shit going on.  Otherwise you can hang  with me. I don't give a fuck."  Great positivity and kindness there!)

This last resource is worth your time.  I bet it will be one of the best things you check out this week!

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