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Posted by on in General

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To her credit, she has been reminding me. I just keep forgetting to buy it. I mean it's not as if we haven't had several opportunities in the past week. So when my daughter asked me—again—if we had any paper she could use for sketching. She got the same answer. No, we don't. I have suggested, more than once, that she use her imagination and find something else until we can get her some.

This morning she asked again. I'm fairly certain she knew what my answer would be. I hadn't left the house since the last time she asked. But I didn't say that. I'm only allowed a certain number of smart-aleck remarks a day and it was too early in the day to throw one away.

I did remind her though—again—that she should try finding something besides paper on which to sketch. 

 

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

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… 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 Some of this information will be outdated before you hit work.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 Teaching Strategies

Without a doubt the first few days of school are the most critical ones in helping to create the foundation of good human relationships with your students. Even the most skilled teacher in the pedagogical sciences of education will be less than effective if the kids don't "like" them, yes, I said, "like them". Now I am not talking about making lots of young friends but I am talking about creating a relationship with your students that is built on mutual respect and a kinship, a kinship that forms your stove of learning. So here are six tips, teachertips, to build a strong, effective stove of learning for your classroom. 

1. Please don't go over the syllabus on day one. I know, it's expected, and that is exactly the reason I strongly advise against doing it. Your first impression, is just that, your first and only first impression, you get no do-overs, so make it magnificent. I am not here to tell you what to do on day one, you can go google that, but if you see your first day as the first blind date into a forced marriage, it takes on a more powerful significance. I used to start a video project on day one, a DV quilt, where all the students were responsible for coming up with a finish to the sentence, "America is __________" and one visual. We then patched them together for a class film that we could analyze and use to springboard ourselves into a discussion of the nation. It wasn't the tech or the fancy final product that made them want to come back for more, it was the engagement. So ENGAGE them, make them want to be in the forced marriage, otherwise you may be on the road to a difficult and long, painful divorce. If you are interested in developing your own DV quilt, check out the tutorial below to start marinating. 

 

2. Use the magic word. What is the magic word? It's their name of course! I understand it's a difficult task, especially if you teach secondary, there literally could be 150 names or more. But the point is not to memorize all of their names quickly, it's to convey the message to your kids, that their name is important, it's important to you. Make it a point in the beginning of the year that you are on a mission to learn their names, I would make a bet that if I didn't know their name in two weeks I would give them a point on their next test. It was this act, this act of good faith, that I believe, earned the respect from my students. You may make mistakes, no, you will make mistakes, but make no mistake about it, one's own name is truly the most magical word in the human language. So learn them and use them to make magic in your classroom of learning. 

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

disciplining kids

Then…

I (Brent) am a former student pastor turned public educator. Upon leaving vocational ministry, I moved into a position as a teacher and coach in southeast Texas. I taught science at the seventh and eighth grade levels for seven years and loved it. However fun my science classes were to teach, science was never my passion. My passion is in helping students learn from their choices (good and bad) and grow from one day to the next. During my time that I was in the classroom, I told my students on a regular basis, “My goal is for you to be a better person on the last day you walk out of my class than on the first day that you walked in. If you learn some science along the way, that’s awesome too!” Obviously, I wanted them to learn science and I wanted to do a great job of teaching it to them. After all, that’s what I was getting paid to do and I want to be great at my job. That doesn’t mean that science was my main goal for my students.

Like Brent, I (Jeff) spent 11 years as a student pastor before I transitioned into public education. I knew the call into the classroom was about relationships and helping kids to be better today than they were yesterday. Having taught both elementary and middle school students you come to find out that meeting the basic needs of students is universal. I can remember my first year teaching 4th grade, I had a parent of one young man indicate to me that it was the first year in his young school career that he had not been sent to the office. During that year we had several one on one conversations, where being 6’ 4’’ I would crouch down to eye level, and remind him what he could do. I always shared that  I expected more because he was capable. The power of high expectations seemed to resonate equally somewhere deep inside this little guy’s mind and heart. We developed a strong relationship by the time the school year finished. Though I was teaching english language arts we were all learning what it meant to live out the art of doing life together - what it means to become better with the help of another.

Now…

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Posted by on in Education Policy

kids and computers

I've been concerned that teachers are not paying enough attention to the health risks they are imposing on our children now that schools require students to use digital devices every day, and at ever younger ages. Ironically, teachers themselves seem to be avoiding this critical education.

What happens to children who use digital devices every day? Researchers and doctors agree that the risks for permanent retinal damage, physical pain, myopia, headaches, anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes, addiction, and suicide all increase. Add in homework on a device, and you can add sleeplessness, and the well known host of ills that accompany it: more weight gain, more depression, inability to focus, irritability, hyperactivity and poor school performance.

Since publishing "First, Do No Harm," my first article on EdWords, I have not had much feedback from teachers. The health issues posed by digital devices were recently discussed on BAM! Radio Network, in a Rae Pica interview. I hope you'll listen to it. You can determine how free of known hazards your own classroom is, and what steps you can take to help protect your students.

It's important to note that these health issues expand into our children's overall well being, and how our kids are going to grow up. Here is an article from Psychology Today you might find illuminating. I wrote it for Dr. Victoria Dunckley's blog. Dr. Dunckley is leading the national conversation about the impact of digital devices on children's mental health and brain development.

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