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General

Voices from the BAM Radio Community sharing their thoughts, insights and teaching strategies.

Posted by on in General

ocean wave

This article is actually from 2014, but it touched a nerve that has been raw since I was a student in the 1970s. The author is talking about the issue of students asking "Why do we need to learn this anyway" and after setting up the problem, he drops this:

The best solution to this problem is to make every lesson relevant to each student. However, given the impossibility of achieving that goal, I offer a few teaching tips that can mostly make that dreaded question about relevance a thing of the past. 

And to make matters worse, the link to this article called it "Three Ways To Make Your Lessons Relevant."

No. No no no no no, and also, no.

The instant you decide you want to "make" your lesson relevant, you've lost, because you have admitted that the lesson is not actually relevant. After all, you don't look at the ocean and say, "We'll have to find a way to make that wet." If your spousal unit says, "I'm looking for ways to make myself like you," that is not a good sign.

 
 

Your lesson should BE relevant, and you should know why it is relevant. And if your students ask why it's worth their time, you should be able to answer that question.

Put another way-- if you don't have a good reason for teaching the lesson, then why are you teaching the lesson? Note: "Because we always have" and "Because that's just one of those things teachers do" are not good answers. "Because I've been told I have to," is not much better, but in the current day and age, it is sometimes the honest answer.

So any time you find yourself trying to think of a way to make a lesson relevant, take a step back and instead ask yourself why you are teaching that lesson at all. As teachers, we have been given stewardship over a sizeable chunk of our students' lives. The most fundamental responsibility we have is to avoid wasting any of that precious time.

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Posted by on in General

Superhero girl

Are you focusing on small classroom victories?

Teaching can be exhausting, and it can seem like a futile endeavor at times. The amount of work that goes into a single day or unit of instruction is tremendous, without a necessary guarantee of student success. So when a unit is finished, or a hard day is done, it's easy to look at your results or the big picture of student data and get discouraged if things didn't go well.

I recently had a great conversation with a teacher at a school who is implementing our Mastery Learning System and she said that since switching to mastery learning she is still exhausted at the end of the day (as every teacher is) but now it's a "good exhausted" because she knows how much of an impact she is having and see's the small victories and growth each student has in her classroom each day.

It is this mindset and shift in focus, from the big picture to the small success stories, that can help you stay motivated and focused through even the most difficult stretches of the school year. This can be harder than it seems, but it can be done and can help you change the way you look at the impact you are having.

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Posted by on in General

statue of liberty

I headed to the District office for the usual Tuesday morning Leadership meeting. I had just heard about the first Tower attack. Like most people across the country, I was in shock.

A television newscast in the board room was replaying the first plane’s assault. A few minutes after my arrival, the Superintendent entered and asked us all to go back to our campuses immediately and bring some semblance of calmness and order to our school community.

At my office, I summoned the counselor and together we sketched out a plan for communicating with and consoling the staff, students and parents. TVs were ordered turned off. Teachers and I spoke only of what we knew and avoided speculation. Parents fearful of other attacks in the country were reassured. Above all, I made sure that I was in every classroom, in the cafeteria and outside at release time.

Students at every age were frightened. But it was the children who made the biggest difference overall during those first few days.

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Posted by on in General

teacher

Throughout my career, I've been asked numerous times, "Why do you teach?" This question is usually followed by one or more comments along the lines of observations of poor pay, crowded classrooms, lack of motivation on the part of students, lack of involvement on the part of parents, and lack of understanding on the part of those who craft school curriculum and policy.

Yes, all of these things exist. They've existed since I started teaching in the early 1980s. I'm sure they existed long before then as well. So with all of that baggage tumbling to the front of my classroom on a daily basis, why do I continue teaching? Why does anyone?

Why do I teach? Because all of those barriers don't matter to me as much as do the living human beings sitting before me. I can deal with all of the junk thrown my way. If necessary, I can dump it out on the sidewalk, close the door and devote my time to reaching the minds and hearts of the youngsters with whom I've been entrusted.

Teaching is so much more than the scattering of information upon youthful heads with the hope that spring assessment scores will be high. Teaching is about strengthening a child's heart as much as his head so that he will be able to function as a compassionate family member, as an empathetic community member, as a visionary architect of his world's future. It is one thing to prepare the minds of students with the information to meet these challenges. It is quite another thing to fortify the hearts of these students to allow them to actually put all the pieces together in a caring, meaningful manner.

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Posted by on in General

a1sx2_Thumbnail1_dj.jpg

We hurried down to baggage claim because we wanted to get home as soon as we could. We had an hour and half drive ahead of us and it was already 9 o’clock. My wife and kids waited off to the side, while I waited right next to the conveyor.

Everyone was tired and just ready to go and it seemed as if it was taking longer than usual for the whole process to simply begin. I waited towards the back of the line. I am not the type to just jump right in the front. Looking to my left I noticed a tall African-American gentleman who if I had to guess, was about 35 years old. We struck up a light-hearted conversation and in so doing I discovered that he had been to Cambridge, the small town where I live. He told me that he had done a wedding there.

And then…

Before I knew it…

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