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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

As I continue working with more and more teachers I'm often surprised at how many I still see "page turning" to plan instruction. "Page turning" is a form of lesson planning that a teacher uses, that is simply opening a textbook and continuing where they left off during the last lesson. Now don't get me wrong, textbooks have their place in education (I guess), but when teachers rely on them too heavily instruction can suffer greatly, and more importantly, learning does too.

Here are a few reasons you should get textbooks out of your lesson planning and start forging your own instructional path, outside the edges of those pages.

Textbooks Fail To Engage Students

I don't care how many pictures or fun activities exist in the realm of the book you are using, I will almost guarantee that it is not engaging all your students. The simple reason is that the writers of that book don't know your students, YOU DO. I have never (and will never) heard a student mutter "Wow! Chapter 7 was surprisingly fun and exciting! I can't wait to continue working to Chapter 8!" I would bet that you haven't either. That's because textbooks are designed as a curriculum TOOL to be used in lesson planning, not a curriculum in themselves. Students must interact, play with, and experience concepts, not just read about them. (or hear about them during your lectures...which don't work either by the way.)

Textbooks Are NOT Universally Designed

Textbooks are generally written at or above the grade level you are teaching. The pictures, diagrams, and experiences presented in them are also created at that level. I don't know about you, but most of my students, or at least some of them, were below grade level or still achieving their current grade level. I would also like to suggest that the context, circumstances, and lens in which most textbooks view your curriculum are not going to engage or allow for much adjustment or modification if they are your primary lesson planning tool.

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

Screen-Shot-2017-07-20-at-9.42.57-AM.png

… but learning isn’t.

I wrote my first book, Crush School: Every Student’s Guide To Killing It In The Classroom after realizing that most interesting education books are written for adults, and the ones students are forced to use in class mostly suck.

They’re not just uninteresting. They are dull and written in some weird code no one can, or wants to understand. And, they make your backpack look like you’re about to set off on a two week long hike in the wilderness, which would be cool if you’re into that sort of thing, except for the fact that you’re surrounded by concrete, glass, and steel. You’re not a horse either, so what’s the deal? I mean really…

And here’s one more unpopular opinion coming from this teacher. Most of the stuff in those books is useless. Most of the so-called knowledge can be googled. Some of this information will be outdated before you hit work. A lot of it is irrelevant right now.

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

students walking4

Walking is a tonic for body, mind, and soul.  (Rubinstein, 2015, p. 251)

Walking With High School Students

The Walking Curriculum offers learning activities designed to simultaneously develop your students’ sense of place and to enrich their understanding of cross-curricular topics and core competencies. Walking curriculum activities reflect the principles and practices of Imaginative Ecological Education as they connect engagement of the body, imagination and the local natural and cultural context through outdoor learning activities. The following walking-based activities have been specifically designed for secondary school-aged students.  Topics include connections between walking and mental health, mindfulness, and awareness.

2 Walks For High School Students: Practicing Mindfulness & Awareness  

#1 Mental Health Walk(s)

Walking has been called the “magic pill” for wellness as it can positively impact so many aspects of our physical and mental health. This walking theme will focus on the practice of walking to reduce stress and anxiety. Begin by asking students: Why walk? What are the benefits? Have a general discussion about the positive aspects of regular walking. Students may already know that walking builds muscle strength and bone density, lowers blood pressure and risk of heart disease, burns calories helping in weight management, and eases back and other muscular pain. Walking has also been shown to slow physical signs of aging (e.g. by keeping the body subtle and the heart healthier) and also supports brain health (cognition, memory) into old age. Walking is also an effective means to lower stress and anxiety. Discuss some of these commonly known benefits of walking with your students but then challenge them (as a follow-up) to independently research one more benefit of walking that is less well-known (e.g. recent studies associate walking with retinal health--I did say it was a magic pill). 

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

Walk more. Anywhere. (Rubinstein, 2015, p. 251)

The Walking Curriculum offers learning activities designed to simultaneously develop your students’ sense of place and to enrich their understanding of cross-curricular topics and core competencies. Walking curriculum activities reflect the principles and practices of Imaginative Ecological Education as they connect engagement of the body, imagination and the local natural and cultural context through outdoor learning activities. While all Walking Curriculum activities available at imaginED are adaptable to students of different ages, the walk themes that follow have been specifically designed for secondary school-aged students.

2 Walks For High School Students  

#1 Understanding Community Walk

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

lonely teens

If you haven’t heard the buzz, the Netflix mini-series “13 Reasons Why” has taken over many conversations in the educational community.  Based on the book by Jay Asher,  it focuses on high schoolers (set in today’s educational environment) with the usual cliques (cool kids, preppies, honors kids, jocks, band kids, and…). A student at their school, Hannah, takes her own life, and another student, Clay, returns home from school to find that he has received a package in the mail containing seven double-sided cassette tapes from Hannah, each tape detailing an incident and a person that played into why she killed herself.  They had been sent to several others before arriving at Clay’s door.  There were 13 parts on Netflix, and, after watching each segment, I had a nasty knot in my stomach. Some knots were from my own awkward high-school experiences; others were from the blatant evil that today’s students can be subjected to or can utilize.

I don’t want to give away the entire story, but it starts with an incident that I blogged about last spring. (On a side note, that post gained a bit of traction when someone became completely paranoid and thought he/she was the only one who received it. This is not sexual harassment; this is educational information.) Hannah has a picture taken of her with a boy on a “date” which is seen by the boy’s friend and taken completely out of context.  His friend grabs the phone and then sends the picture out to an entire class, which eventually makes it around the entire school.

Topics include the aforementioned body shaming, rape, sexual assault, cover-ups, and societal acceptance–the daily grind of what high-school life is today. High school is an interesting navigation as is.  Throw in today’s technology, and you have a whole new world–a world where previous generations can’t even begin to fathom what is happening in school anymore.  It’s no longer passing notes and settling the score at the flagpole over some stolen milk money.

Teen suicide is the second largest cause of death in the US. For every teen who commits suicide, at least six others are thinking about following that same path. Despite such a terrible statistic, conversations are happening every single day about getting people the help they need. While the series has launched a multitude of proactive stances and resources, it has also caused some copy-cat incidents and some concerns from mental health experts.

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