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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

The world is full of heroes.

Some of our heroes are people that exemplify qualities such as ingenuity, flexibility, agility, determination, or reliability. For example, we are impressed by the extraordinary speed and strength of basketball player Lebron James, or the extraordinary agility and accuracy of soccer player Lionel Messi. We are awestruck by the perceptiveness and intelligence of scientist Marie Curie. We admire the bravery of Rosa Parks or Amelia Earhart. We note the selflessness of Mother Theresa. These people all possess transcendent human qualities that we also possess. The difference, often, is that we hold the same qualities to a lesser degree. Sometimes the people we consider “heroes” are those that demonstrate in large measure qualities that we feel we lack.

But humans are not our only heroes. We also emotionally connect with institutions (the United Nations) or concepts (democracy) that exemplify values we believe in: justice, equality, freedom. We may admire the incredible abilities of different animal species as well. So by “hero” I am not refering to a testosterone-driven male figure but, rather, someone or something exemplifying an extraordinary human quality.

The curriculum is also full of heroes; every topic of the curriculum can be seen as heroic in some way.

You’ve probably noticed that many young people associate with heroes or idols. It is not unusual to see pictures of a rock star, artist, or actor plastered into lockers or onto bedroom walls. Our students can become quite fanatical about learning all there is to know about some athlete, actor, author, songwriter, or world leader. If our students are associating with heroes constantly in the world around them, shouldn’t we pay attention to this imaginative activity? Imaginative educators do; they bring out the heroic in the curriculum topics they teach.

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Posted by on in Education Technology

As more schools go 1:1 with devices, classrooms increasingly feature a blended learning model. This requires a lot of student screen time because as Matt Miller argues, technology is a vital part of students' educational experience

Students need visually appealing platforms to engage them as they work on devices. Google Classroom has a visually appealing simple interface. It is perfect for facilitating student creation and collaboration with teacher feedback. However, teachers, especially secondary teachers, need to present students with content. Additionally, beyond parent e-mails, Google Classroom is not public. The new Google Sites is an ideal platform to present content in a visually appealing, creative way. Teachers can easily showcase their hard work and ingenuity to the public. New Google Sites is simple for teachers to use and approachable for students. 

Previously, Google Sites was not intuitive. It rendered ugly sites that did not display well on phones and tablets. The new Google Sites is no more complicated than pointing and clicking - no HTML knowledge needed (see tips below). It integrates perfectly with GSuite. This makes it easy to showcase GSuite files. 

Examples of Using New Google Sites in Blended Learning

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

pablo-34.png

 

This was the week I retook control of all aspects of my life. Things would be different this week. Everything would turn around and become better this week. Instead, I wasn't good enough this week and my students did not hesitate to let me know.

This week I started waking up a half hour earlier (3:45AM!) to start my morning workouts. This week I managed to start going to bed earlier. This week I refocused my eating habits to reflect my fitness goals (Elite Spartan Beast on 4/29) . This week was the start of a journey that required me to conduct 17 formal teacher observations in 8 days (12 days including post-observation conferences). This week the lessons for my 3 daily classes were absolutely on-point. Everything was going so well for me this week, until...

Then my students informed me that I am a grumpy teacher. One of my students coined the term "Grumpy T" (T for Thom) to describe me. This started a class-wide discussion in one period where the class agreed that I had been grumpy and different all week. This shocked me and I felt incredulous when I heard this. My body felt great from the workouts, I was getting more sleep than before, I was eating much healthier, and I was loving all the observations and genuine conversations I was having with teachers. How could I possibly be grumpy?

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Posted by on in School Culture

empathy

Empathy. Inclusion. Acceptance. Kindness. Respect. 

These are qualities we want our communities to exemplify. These are qualities we often seek to directly cultivate in our schools. Anti-bullying programs, multi-cultural clubs, and policies supporting LGTBQ students, are positive initiatives that move us away from ignorance and towards greater understanding.

My fear is that these kinds of explicit programs/policies, on their own, can not nurture the culture of care we desire. The qualities we seek require ongoing attention to bloom. They must be cultivated across grade levels and subject areas each and every day. I believe all teachers can play a role by educating the imaginative capacities of their students.

b2ap3_thumbnail_compassion-857736_1280.jpg

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Posted by on in What If?

One of the very best Saturday Night Live holiday season skits is "A Holiday Wish." In it, Steve Martin expresses his wish that "All the children of the world join hands and sing together in a spirit of harmony and peace." Fretting the logistics of such an undertaking, Martin quickly loses interest in that wish in favor of all-encompassing power over the universe, revenge on his enemies, and other items that render the clip unsharable with students.

If I had a wish this holiday season, I would  look up at a star in the night sky and greedily make seven wishes.

For all children to feel safe and included in our schools

This is a pretty obvious wish but takes on even more urgency for students of color and LGBTQI students with Donald Trump about to assume the presidency. The Southern Poverty Law Center raises legitimate concerns about students' safety in the age of Trump. Let's hope this concern is unwarranted despite early evidence it is.

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