Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Teaching Tip #34



Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #34

If you’re looking for an engaging listen or for some professional development, the Entreleadership podcast has been my go to for three years now.  There is no question I’m a better teacher because of it.


Andrews works with business moguls, NFL and NCAAF coaches, and everyone in between to help them improve their business and coaching strategies.

I believe that teaching is coaching and vice versa, so when I saw this episode on my podcast app, my ears perked up.

And I hit the mother load.

Andrews’ take is not revolutionary by any means.  You can boil it down to this – if you want to get results that are different than everyone else, then you have to do what everyone else isn’t doing.

Sounds simple, right?

But here is the catch: the best way to do this is to start with small – seemingly insignificant changes.  Think of Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point here.

So what little changes can you enact that – over time and done with enough consistently – that will pay huge dividends down the road.

Here are the little things that I have changed over the past few years that have had the greatest impact on my teaching, the culture of my classroom, and impacted students the most.

Note --- none of these are world changing.  If I can’t do them, anyone can.

Small change #3 – Take time to get to know you students on a personal level.

For me, this comes in the form of an assignment I give out on the first day of my classes: 111 Things About Me.

Students simply have to put 111 things about them on Drive.  Then I look over them and learn about students.  I’m focusing on trivial stuff mostly here.  Who loves Iron Man? Who loves Nickleback? Who binge watches The Walking Dead?  Who loves Star Wars? Who has been to 12 different countries?  Who has 25 different pairs of Crocs?

This is all vital info that lets me know who the students really are in my class.  Then over the semester, I can get to talk to them and tease them about these things.  I doing that I’m showing them I care and that’s the foundation of culture.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Teaching Tip #33


Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #33

If you’re looking for an engaging listen or for some professional development, the Entreleadership podcast has been my go to for three years now.  There is no question I’m a better teacher because of it.


Andrews works with business moguls, NFL and NCAAF coaches, and everyone in between to help them improve their business and coaching strategies.

I believe that teaching is coaching and vice versa, so when I saw this episode on my podcast app, my ears perked up.

And I hit the mother load.

Andrews’ take is not revolutionary by any means.  You can boil it down to this – if you want to get results that are different than everyone else, then you have to do what everyone else isn’t doing.

Sounds simple, right?

But here is the catch: the best way to do this is to start with small – seemingly insignificant changes.  Think of Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point here.

So what little changes can you enact that – over time and done with enough consistently – that will pay huge dividends down the road.

Here are the little things that I have changed over the past few years that have had the greatest impact on my teaching, the culture of my classroom, and impacted students the most.

Note --- none of these are world changing.  If I can’t do them, anyone can.

Small change #2 – get student’s cell phone numbers and let them text you.

I know this sounds crazy, but this small change has totally revolutionized how I teach and the impact I have.  No question.

Students today live in an era of “just in time” learning.  That is, they can learn anything they want – just in time.  They can Google or Youtube it and have instant access to whatever info they want.

When most of us were students, we lived in an ear of “just in case” learning.  That is, we learned information just in case we ever needed it.  Thanks to Mr. Matzke I learned that Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” and that “island hopping” helped us turn the tide in the Pacific during World War II.  But that’s about all I can tell you about those two things.  I learned them to answer some multiple choice questions on a couple of tests.  And there is a lot more I memorized that never stuck with me, though.

So why not give students your number so they can learn when they have questions.  I get texts from students at 4:15.  Why?  Often times it’s because a student is trying to get a paper done or a reading assignment finished before going off to work.  How can I get mad at them for that?  Sometimes I get texts at 10:00 as students are working on an assignment on the bus ride home from a game.  How can I get mad at them for that?

This works so well for me.  In fact, for Lent last year I decided to give up using my iPhone in the evenings.  When I told this to some students in the lunch room, one of the first things Kora, a former student of mine, said was, “What about your students?”

I love that.  That is what makes my classes unique and remarkable.

It can do the same for yours too.

Here are just a couple examples of the power of contacting students –

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Teaching Tip #32


Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #32

If you’re looking for an engaging listen or for some professional development, the Entreleadership podcast has been my go to for three years now.  There is no question I’m a better teacher because of it.


Andrews works with business moguls, NFL and NCAAF coaches, and everyone in between to help them improve their business and coaching strategies.

I believe that teaching is coaching and vice versa, so when I saw this episode on my podcast app, my ears perked up.

And I hit the mother load.

Andrews’ take is not revolutionary by any means.  You can boil it down to this – if you want to get results that are different than everyone else, then you have to do what everyone else isn’t doing.

Sounds simple, right?

But here is the catch: the best way to do this is to start with small – seemingly insignificant changes.  Think of Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point here.

So what little changes can you enact that – over time and done with enough consistently – that will pay huge dividends down the road.

Here are the little things that I have changed over the past few years that have had the greatest impact on my teaching, the culture of my classroom, and impacted students the most.

Note --- none of these are world changing.  If I can’t do them, anyone can.

Small change #1 – be open to social media.

There are so many benefits to just Twitter alone.  Not to mention Facebook and Instagram.

I mean, good lord, Kayla Delzer has built an empire using social media, so you’re telling me we can’t use it to have some leverage with our students?
One way I use social media – and this is still considered taboo by many – is to engage with students via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The benefits of this are obvious –

Students need digital role models.  They see enough morons on their social media feeds.  Why not be the ray of light in their feed that shows them how awesome it is to be an adult who is an active, passionate life long learner with a family who loves life?  

Students crave contact.  They are not like us when we were in high school 25 years ago.  They crave interaction.  This is a great way to interact with them.

It’s a great way to provide parents, administrators, school board members and so on windows into our worlds.  Think about it – when you buy a house, you can bargain shop, you can research it, you can haggle over it, you can tour it, you can have it inspected.  When you buy a car, the same is true.  However, when you send your kid off to school . . . for some of the most importance experiences of their lives, what do you get to learn about the teachers and classrooms they will be entering?

One of my favorite lines from this podcast is – you don’t need a bunch of fans, you just need a couple raving lunatic followers.  They will do more to spread the word about your program or class than anyone else.  And they often spread it through social media.

Here  are some examples –

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Teaching Tip #31


Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #31


Luckily for us, there are a few ways to lift the curse of knowledge.  Here are the last 4 (of seven) ways to make learning easier for your students.

4.              Narratives.  Tell a great story.  This one is all me.  Students might not recall much about MLA formatting or what sources they used in their MGRP, but they sure will recall my story about Barney or several stories about “Jack ass” Lance.  Build narratives into our lessons.

5.              Analogies and examples.  Another one that is right down my alley.  Analogies and examples simply aid our abilities to latch on and retain a concept, especially abstract concepts.  I’ll never forget one of my science teachers using an analogy of bowling balls on a trampoline to explain the concept of gravity in our solar system.

6.              Novelty.  When you give students a rush from something original or unique, you are activating dopamine which gives us a rush.  This is why every time I have a scavenger hunt, kids never walk orderly down the hall.  They are in a mad rush to accomplish the challenge!  But I need to do far more of this!

7.              Teach Facts.  Or as Dr. Reynolds put it back at BSU, activate schema!!!  I don’t know if I do this all that well, but I do know that one thing I do well – or one thing I have a knack for – is being able to connect anything back to the lives of our students.  I don’t care if we are reading “Young Goodman Brown,” “The Yellow Wallpaper,” The Dip, or Outliers . . . But I can make it relatable and connect it to the every day lives of my students.
How do you use narratives, analogies/examples, novelty and facts to make your lessons more engaging?



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Teaching Tip #30


Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #30


Luckily for us, there are a few ways to lift the curse of knowledge.  Here are the first 3 (of seven) ways to make learning easier for your students.

  1. Emotion.  Inject positive emotion into your lessons.  I try to do this with my passion and enthusiasm.  I know this works for every time my instructors (Ashley Beito and Darla Boen) inject enthusiasm into my work out classes, it energizes me.  If they can fire me up to do more burpies, then I can use positive emotions to fire my students up to write another paragraph or read another chapter.
  2. Multi-Sensory Lessons.  This one is pretty obvious.  If you experience something in a variety of ways (as opposed to just via lecture), the variety of experiences engaged the brain in a variety of ways.  Thus, the lessons stands a chance of being more effective.  I try to do this with my Keynote slideshows.  I always try to build in auditory and visual content.  But I need to do more.  How can I get students up and moving around too?  

  1. Spacing.  Cramming.  This, according to the authors, is bad practice.  But, like it or not, it’s what we all do.  And it is an effective way to memorize something.  I think of it this way (and I’m paraphrasing a quote I heard in my English methods class my junior year): “teaching is the art of acting live you’ve known all your life that which you just learned this morning.”

How do you use emotion, multi-sensory lessons, and spacing to make your lessons more engaging?


Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #31


Luckily for us, there are a few ways to lift the curse of knowledge.  Here are the last 4 (of seven) ways to make learning easier for your students.

  1. Narratives.  Tell a great story.  This one is all me.  Students might not recall much about MLA formatting or what sources they used in their MGRP, but they sure will recall my story about Barney or several stories about “Jack ass” Lance.  Build narratives into our lessons.

  1. Analogies and examples.  Another one that is right down my alley.  Analogies and examples simply aid our abilities to latch on and retain a concept, especially abstract concepts.  I’ll never forget one of my science teachers using an analogy of bowling balls on a trampoline to explain the concept of gravity in our solar system.

  1. Novelty.  When you give students a rush from something original or unique, you are activating dopamine which gives us a rush.  This is why every time I have a scavenger hunt, kids never walk orderly down the hall.  They are in a mad rush to accomplish the challenge!  But I need to do far more of this!

  1. Teach Facts.  Or as Dr. Reynolds put it back at BSU, activate schema!!!  I don’t know if I do this all that well, but I do know that one thing I do well – or one thing I have a knack for – is being able to connect anything back to the lives of our students.  I don’t care if we are reading “Young Goodman Brown,” “The Yellow Wallpaper,” The Dip, or Outliers . . . But I can make it relatable and connect it to the every day lives of my students.
How do you use narratives, analogies/examples, novelty and facts to make your lessons more engaging?




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Teaching Tip #29






Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #29

Now you have to admit that the title of this article catches your interest, right?


And what is this curse?

Living our lives according to bells and not know really what to do when our days aren’t segment by bells?

Eating like a mad person, trying to devour a meal in just 25 minutes (not counting passing time)?

Struggling to find a name for your child (or pet) because you’ve had so many students over the years that whenever you settle on a possible name, you think of an annoying, disrespectful, for troubled student by that same name?

Never having free time in the evenings since there are always papers to grade, lessons to tweak, material to read?

Lugging home a huge pile of papers on Friday and having that sinking feeling, come Sunday, that you didn’t get enough corrected and, thus, you won’t be able to return them to students on Monday as you promised?

Living in constant fear of a student recognizing your voice as you order at the drive thru?

I could go on, but those aren’t the curses at all.

The real curse?  Knowledge.

Here is why –

All of the resources describe the same phenomena -- that a strong base of content knowledge makes us blind to the lengthy process of acquiring it. This curse has implications for all teachers:
  • We do not remember what it is like to not know what we are trying to teach.
  • We cannot relive the difficult and lengthy process that learning our content originally took.
As a result, we end up assuming that our lesson's content is easy, clear, and straightforward. We assume that connections are apparent and will be made effortlessly. Assumptions are the root cause of poor instruction. And acknowledgment is the first step to recovery.
I’m guilty as charged.

I can think immediately of how I struggle and anger so quickly when my CC 2 students struggle to get down their first APA formatted paper.  It’s simple enough.  But nothing is simple enough – I guess – when you’re doing it for the first time.




Monday, October 09, 2017

Teaching Tip #28



Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #28

Here are six things that lie at the heart of great teaching.

First, you are kind.

One of my favorite sayings comes from Dave Ramsey, who says, “If you want grace, extend grace.”  I believe kindness is at the heart of grace.  So if I know I won’t get an essay returned to my class within a week, I try and find a place where I can grant them a little grace in return.


Second, you are compassionate.

I heard another great quote that reminds me of the importance of compassion: by establishing a relationship (through compassion, of course) with someone allows you to build a bridge of trust.  That’s vital because that bridge allows me to deliver some criticism or constructive feedback to them . . . and they will actually listen.  If I didn’t have that relationship built (through compassion, of course), then the other person will just see me as an asshole.

Third, you are empathetic.

I am reminded of the saying – everyone you know is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

That doesn’t mean you have to excuse or enable.  It just means you kind relate to what people are going through.

Another way of thinking of this is a quote I read in Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them about how she dares any teacher to find their high school yearbook, open it up, take trip down memory lane so they remember what it was actually like to be 16 again (to be scared, to be vulnerable, to be immature . . .).  Then look at your students and have a bit of empathy for what they are going through.

Fourth, you are positive.

I’ve said it continually: negative people suck.  Avoid them.  At all costs.

And I used to be one.  It didn’t do me any good.  Other than dragged others around me down and made me part of the problem, not the solution.

Fifth, you are a builder.

I think this is what I try to do best.  I always strive to see something inside of students when they can’t see it themselves.

You can’t buy that in a Collections curriculum order.  You can’t learn that in college.  You can’t quantify that with a standard.

That’s why teaching – the best teaching, if you ask me – is an art.  

Find a nugget buried deep within students and then start building from there.

Here is how it worked with one of my former students, Cierra, who I recognized early on as having a talent and flair for teaching.  She didn’t see it yet though.  Her it is from her own perspective –

Mr. Reynolds is without a doubt one of the most influential people I have ever met.  Without him, I wouldn’t have found my purpose in life.  I was fortunate enough to have him as my College Composition I and II teacher at Lincoln High School as a junior and senior, and again as my Introduction to Education professor at The University of North Dakota during my sophomore year of college.  After his class at UND, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  I was moved to tears countless times, knowing that I had finally found my passion.  Mr. Reynolds told me for years he saw me as a teacher, and little did I know he was right all along.  I am now entering the end of my junior year at UND with a major in Elementary Education.  Because of Mr. Reynolds, I found what I am meant to do.  Because of him, I figured out who I am and who I want to be.  A million thank yous will never be enough.”

Last, but not least, you inspire.

I have dubbed myself “Chief Inspiration Officer” of room 205.  If you stop by and I don’t make your day just a little bit better, then I’m in the wrong line of work.

We have to inspire our students.  But again, where will you ever see that on a lesson plan, rubric, teacher evaluation plan, or in a standard?