Friday, March 16, 2018

Teaching Tip #124

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #124

#2 –  Take a daily “thank you” walk.

I think of this as “Catch students doing something right.”

I often do this during my prep.  I’ll take a walk down to the office to get my mail.  I’ll peak in H’s and Kahlhammer’s rooms to see what they’re up to.  Inevitably, I’ll see something amazing. Then I’ll be able to ask them about it and compliment them on what they do sometime during the day.

But this is just as true for students too.  I used to walk by the art room and see what the kids were creating.  Then I’d ask them about it and visit with them about the creative process and thank them for sharing that with me.

A day cannot be filled with enough thank yous.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Teaching Tip #123

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #123

#1 – Be positively contagious

If you are positive and lift people up, who doesn’t want to be around you?  It doesn’t matter if you’re positively supporting and inspiring your peers or your students.

Do that, and you’ll have students eager to show up to class.

Keep this in mind - You can either choose to light up a room one of two ways - by your entrance or your exit. Which would you rather have it be?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Teaching Tip #122

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #122

Nothing beats a good teacher.

And this one is awesome, if just for the title alone:

I don't think technology can - poof - turn average or poor teachers into rock stars.  It can, I hope, engage students better which, again, I hope, will cause average or poor teachers to improve.

But nothing beats a good teacher.

In fact, that is a point hammered home in the book I just finished reading: What Great Principals Do Differently by Todd Whitaker. The best principals focus on what is best for their best teachers.

Why is this so important? Whitaker hits a few key points -

First, former students remember these teachers as the best ones long after they've graduated.

Second, parents regularly request these teachers for their kids.

Third, other teacher respect these teachers the most.

Fourth, If they lost one of these teachers, it would be next to impossible to find a replacement of their quality.

The impact of good teachers goes far beyond just students. It shapes the entire school.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Teaching Tip #121

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #121

I just heard on an EntreLeadership podcast - referencing the book The Millionaire Mindset by Thomas Stanley that the average GPA of "deca-millionaires" was 2.75! 

This - I think - drives home the point that sometimes our greatest innovators and entrepeneurs aren't adept at "doing school."(check out the great book by Denise Clark Pope of that same title - it's on our professional library)  It's not that they're not bright.  I just think they don't see the merit in jumping through the hoops of school.

It would be very interesting to follow some of our 'great' students - with their lofty 4.0 GPAs (and by that I mean the ones who learn to"do school" which means not to really learn but to study hard the night before to do well on a test to earn the grade without really learning anything - as Don Tapscott said when studying college students "The goal is to get an A without ever having gone to a lecture") to see how they fair out in the real world -

Here are 10 top entrepreneurs who explain how to be awesome.

My favorite is Steve Jobs' advice: Be willing to fail.

How often do we allow our students to do that?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Teaching Tip #120

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #120

Ten Questions to Help You Become a Better Teacher This Year.

Question #10 – What’s my focus?

I have to help my students discover their why.

This is going to take some time to illustrate –

Everyday when I park my car across the street from my classroom, I imagine this scenario: Mr. Zutz, our principal, notifies every student at Lincoln High School that instead of reporting to their regular first block class, they are to go to the classroom where they feel the most valued, inspired, empowered, and challenged.
As I enter Lincoln High School, make my way up to my second floor classroom, and open my door, I ask myself this: Would I have anyone seated in my room?
My answer is simple: there better be a room full of kids.  Otherwise, what am I doing here?
That reinforces my “why,” which is a concept I have honed since I watched Simon Sinek’s iconic TEDx Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action. Sinek believes leaders and organizations must address three basic issues to be successful: what, how, and why.  Most leaders and organizations, however, address these in the wrong order.  They start with what they do, then go on to how they do it, and probably never even realize (let alone effectively communicate) why they exist. As a result, they never resonate and impact their audience or customers.
Sinek’s concept applies to education.  Schools and teachers often get their what, how, and why in the wrong order and, thus, fail to resonate and impact our students as much as we could.  Educators have a great idea of what they do: Teachers equip students with the necessary skills to earn their degree, so they can be successful in the workforce and contribute to our democracy.  Educators also know how they do it: Most teachers stand at the front of the class, controlling the assignments, and assigning a grade.  Few, however, have any real idea about why they exist: The teachers I had joked about the three reasons they loved teaching: June, July, and August.  Others sought to teach because it was the only path that enabled them to coach.
Sinek argues, though, that great leaders and organizations (and I believe great teachers) not only inverse the order, but they also clearly communicate their why, how, and what.  I strive to illustrate my why, how, and what to my students every single day.   
My why – I guide and inspire students to discover their elements. One of my favorite books to teach is The Element by Sir Ken Robinson.  He defines the “element” as the point where the things we love to do and the things we are good at come together.  Robinson argues that when you discover your “element,” you find purpose and meaning. Suddenly, work – if you are fortunate enough to find a job that involves your “element” – becomes like play.  When you are in your element you are the best version of yourself because you are tapping into your strongest aptitudes and deepest passions.
I live for seeing students discover their element.  Students often stop by, text, and email when they have finally found their element.  Last summer I received a text from Wendy, a former student interning at a law firm. She informed me how she had just she witnessed a young female lawyer win a big case for a family. Wendy said while watching this young lawyer she knew she found her element because there was no one she wanted to be like in the world that this young lawyer.  Wendy thanked me for encouraging her to follow her passion for family law while she read The Element in high school.
My how – I’m not just as a guide for my students, but I strive to be a co-learner right alongside of them. When doing my professional development, which includes attending and presenting at several conferences, like TIES, MCTE, NCTE, and our own district’s own Martin Luther King Digital Retreat, I share with my students my habits for preparation and applying what I learned to what we are do in class.  Then while in class, I struggle through all the assignments with my students, modeling the skills I want them to attain. Recently, I was selected for a Teacher Appreciation banquet held by our senior football players. At the banquet each player explained why they selected their teacher and how they impacted them. When Derek, the young man who chose me, got up, one of the first things he said was, “Mr. Reynolds learns right a long with us.  In fact, I think he learns as much from us just as we learn from him.” When I heard those words, I thought back to my how. I was ecstatic that Derek saw me as a co-learner.
My what – I don’t simply want to prepare students for college and a career.  Instead, I want to help develop remarkable, life-long learners who have been, to borrow a term from Duke’s president, Richard Brodhead, “future-proof,” for I want to help my students develop skills that allow them to adapt to any changes the future may hold. Several years ago, I received an email from Carli, a former student who was on the precipice of applying for the nursing program at UND.  She informed me she had been struggling with writer’s block over a one page, personal statement, which was a requirement of the application for the program. She was emailing me, not to ask for help but to encourage me to keep inspiring students to find their voices. Carli wrote that she finally broke out of her funk when she sat down in her apartment and opened her old College Comp II folder, full of dozens of her high school essays. One essay in particular, a personal narrative on an expertise, caught her eye. Carli recalled how much fun she had writing it because I encouraged her to use her voice and style in the paper.  I recalled her essay immediately. Carli’s expertise was on “being blonde.” She chose to write the essay in the same random-abstract, mile-a-minute way she talked. The entire essay was one long run-on sentence, but it perfectly illustrated Carli’s expertise. She displayed her wonderful personality with her amazing voice and style. In the email, Carli said she regained her confidence and attacked the one page, personal statement. She ended the email informing me that she had just received her letter of admission to the UND nursing program.

In other words, my why is simply helping my students discover theirs.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Teaching Tip #119

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #119

Ten Questions to Help You Become a Better Teacher This Year.

Question #9 – What has changed?

This is one that is near and dear to my heart.  

Part of me agrees with the age-old mantra, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  But part of me of is also always worried that I’m missing out on something better.

That’s why I love attending TIES and MCTE to see what I’m missing out on.  And that is what I love about Twitter, as I’m constantly finding new (and better) ways of improving my classes.

I would love to take my first College Comp II students and hand them this year’s syllabus.  So much has changed.  So much is more challenging and forcing them to step outside of their comfort zones.

What has changed?  What hasn’t?

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Teaching Tip #118

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #118

Ten Questions to Help You Become a Better Teacher This Year.

Question #8 – What are the most important ideas in my academic standards?

For my college comp classes this one is pretty straightforward: students must write at a college level in a variety of modes.  Likewise, they must develop a spirit of curiosity and inquiry that is then illustrated in writing and presentations.

Everything I do in both CC and CC 2 is centered around those standards.