Sunday, April 23, 2017

Teach Like A Champion? Crank Up Your Walk Up Music

The music blares as the batsman makes his way to the box. The crowd noise reverberates while the scoreboard projects runs, hits, errors and beer ads. Baseball is life. Music delights. It is a match made in heaven, or maybe Iowa.

Heaven. Possibly Iowa.
   The “walk-up” music in Major League Baseball is usually personally selected by each hitter. It is an emotional trigger to rev up the players and fans alike. It opens a curtain for the crowd into the player's musical tastes. It is a positive jolt for the man with the bat to rise to the occasion. There is a very good chance that this at bat will not go his way. So many forces are working against his goal for this encounter. His rivals sneer. Fans jeer. His own thoughts may be on a previous, disappointing at bat with the man on the mound. The heat, the glare, a nagging injury, or a 98 mile-per-hour fastball could tip the scales against him.

   But the walk-up music is the batter’s 6 to 15 seconds of mental and physical surge to steel for battle.
Walk Up Song? Moby:"Flower"

    Teachers need walk-up tunes. A day with 160 teenagers rotating in and out of your classroom can bring the highs of a slide-in triple or the despair of watching a called strike three. Teaching is hard.  Yes, teaching is also rewarding. Did I mention it was hard?  The toughest days can be followed amazing days with teachable moments, breakthroughs and hope for the future.
Want to know what your favorite hitter is charging up to as he leaves the on-deck circle? Which walk up music genre garners the highest batting average or home run per at bat? Look it up, it's all there to see:

If you are a teacher what is your walk up song? What makes you ready to lead, learn, teach, inspire and create? What makes you dynamic? What takes you to a higher plane, and lights the fires and kicks the tires?  Find it. Play it. Knock it out. (Mine is at 3:10 above)
Teach Like A Champion

Monday, February 27, 2017

Banner or Burner? A Day in the Classroom

   I planned for a Banner Day today.  Yes, that is asking for possible disappointment, but I took some recent lessons learned and threw choice, collaboration and creativity into my classroom blender.  The early returns show average or better results. I expected the sound of trumpets. Maybe a harp.

   Moving on. I did a lot more teacher talk than I planned to in my lead-in to a high-tech, high-touch, right-brain, left-brain lesson. Would a pre-recorded screencastify video have been better? I spoke about embracing complexity. I talked about the future being now and how they would have an authentic audience.  All meant to motivate.  It may catch fire. They may create content that inspires. They may find a mission. A passion.  A burning question.  I just do not know...for now.

"March Madness" Padlet of creative options...

    I recently saw George Couros speak at Discovery Education's Powerful Practices conference in San Francisco. He is the author of The Innovator's Mindset. His presentation hit all the buttons.  All of 'em.  There was laughter, handkerchiefs, knowing head nods in that room of educators in San Francisco. His views on innovation, leadership and education never strayed outside of his guiding mantra of "what is best for kids." The challenge is real. The customer has to come to our shop, but they aren't necessarily buying.

burner phone
     A Banner Day is worth shooting for.  I won't always get there, but it will beat a Burner Day every time.  I heard the term "burner phone" recently.  It is a phone used for clandestine, illegal, improper, awkward or just one and done conversations--and then the number is "burned" or the phone is thrown away. Not sure about your date? Use a burner phone number. Selling to strangers on Craigslist? Burner.

    Do you know people who have planned burner lessons, activities, or days?  I do. Me. I think I am not alone.  As Forrest Gump did not say, but should have, "teachin' is hard."

   I am shooting for that Banner Day again tomorrow. It is what we do.
*Cue the harp

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Building Community...with Purple Cows and Zoysia Plugs

   How do we build and sustain community?  Reaching out to people who share your vision for creating community is a great start. Allowing them to use their strengths and leverage their talents is a idea and practice that has interested me for a while. The Purple Cow, by Seth Godin is 2009 marketing book that is one of my all-time favorites. My copy will never make the trip to the used book store or the garage sale table.  It is gold...or even better-- purple. Godin writes about marketing and so much more, but in this book he discussed how "sneezers" in an organization pass along "idea viruses." I found a similar theme in Peter Senge's 1994 The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. The zoysia plug metaphor is used to discuss community building. Zoysia grass plugs are planted in a scattered mosaic and then slowly grow together to create a full lawn.  "Zoysia plugs" in a classroom or school are "the informal leaders who know how to 'make things happen.' Find them, wherever they might be and support them however you can" (Senge, et al., 1994, p. 527). 
    Whether they be influencerssneezers or zoysia plugs; the right people, doing the right things, at the right place and at the right time can work magic in community building.  
  Video:Flipgrid response & sharing stage

  I may have recently found the "right thing" for a community kickstarter. I attended the Silicon Valley Ed Camp "unconference." I learned about a website and app called Flipgrid.  Flipgrid allows the user to ask a question of their team, group or class and the respondents simply click a video record button and respond to the question.  The collected videos are then seen by all on a grid and the typical social media "likes" and comment sections are available to use. You quickly have group input to a question with the ability for the team to see what everyone has said and respond to their ideas easily.  It is visual. It is easy.  It is what people are already doing on their phones when they have leisure time. 
    Who are your "zoysia plugs" and are they getting the fertilizer they need?
Pictured: Zoysia plugs



Saturday, February 11, 2017

How Can We Remember to Forget in our Schools?

  🔀 Working as a teacher is a peculiar work environment.  Almost everyone in the organization is nearby, but isolated from each other as they interact with "clients" for a strictly defined period of time and then those "clients" rush to another employee for another isolated hour.  Thirty-something people with one organizational representative are locked into the learning chambers for an hour.  The employee cannot leave the clients alone.  The clients cannot depart the room without express approval and can be denied departure from the room.  Occasionally a disembodied voice makes an announcement. Small divisions of these employee groups meet to discuss policies and techniques monthly (sometimes more). The entire organization meets once a month with hopes of creating culture, enforcing norms, improving processes and hopefully some inspiration.  The employees will then go back to their locked rooms for the clock, bell and then onslaught of teens who have just been released from 1 of their 6 mandatory learning rooms for the day. 
    New teachers are encouraged to ask for help, but there is a reason so many leave the field.  There is not enough training or support in many schools.  The new teacher just has to hang on.  I actually work at a school that is very focused on student outcomes.  We talk a great deal about supporting new employees.  But, like most of our schools, we have not built a system that gives the enough training and support to the employees that need it the most. We have more coaching and the tide is certainly turning, but incremental change will not do the trick. The new teacher is thinking about ways to survive the observations by the administration and how to overcome their many classroom leadership failures that will occur before they learn to cope and find competence.  
    How can schools effectively improve, reform and perform at the high levels we need? It starts with these "newbies." This should be easy, since every new teacher has "been there, done that" as a customer for years. Yes, it should be so easy, but it definitely is not. Schools hire employees to teach that since age 6 have already spent thousands of hours watching people do the job they have been hired to do.  As much as education attempts to reform, "new insights fail to get put into practice because they conflict with deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting" according to Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization. The factory system, the rows, the monotony, the grade-focus...why do they persist?

   How can we help teachers remember to forget old habits and make today's best practices common practice?  

Monday, May 9, 2016

What Would a SUPER SCHOOL look like?

An organization known as XQ Super School wants us all to RETHINK High School. Here are a few questions and a short vision of that future school we all might want to go to...
XQ ? #1> Imagine what a typical day might look like for students in your school.
XQ ? #2> How will you develop and deepen students’ engagement with and responsibility for their own learning?
XQ ? #3> How will your school connect young people with peers, teachers, and other adults?
XQ ? #4> How will they use technology to connect with the wider world around them?
Our students awake to their school text wake-up service of choice. Their electronic assortment of assignments and announcements are organized with an elegant app. They arrive at the Cognitive Cafe on campus and select their healthy smoothie and warm sandwich.
They reach their “Learners Choice” session just after the ambient music starts on the PA, no jarring bells of old. Subject Matter Experts (SME) from the community start their workday as guides in the multiple career and project-focused Choice sessions.
Jose heads for the Health & Wellness Wing after his Learner’s Choice surgical simulator session. He finds his integrated team of Language Arts and Science teachers are finalizing the setup for the UCLA Medical Center videoconferencing session with Residents regarding their lessons learned in their journey. He already checked his blog post on his expectations and planned questions for today. He had a few tips from his Integrated English teacher and his Science teacher suggested further inquiry and refinement of a question he posted.
The English teacher departs the Health Wing and strolls past the dirt and native plant exhibition of the Landscape Architecture class and drops in to see Jasmine in the Service & Industry Wing. Jasmine’s capstone project was both her Learners Choice project and a major part of her Integrated Design class. The entrepreneurship module of her class was 20% online with her nearby community college. Her required community service led her to the Rotary Club where she met her mentor who advised her on her capstone project. Her effort was a comprehensive website and promotional plan matching local volunteers with local events. Jasmine has to take care of her grandmother three times a week, so she has taken advantage of the evening classes her school now offers.
Student choice, relevant learning, community engagement and an empowered student body. Welcome to our Super School.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Learning is INTERESTing

Learning can happen 24/7. Not 24÷7 which is approximately 3.42. Day 342 of a leap year is December 7th, a day that will live in infamy. Infamous is a word that is often misused, so is "penultimate" which sounds really great, but sadly means "next to last." Ford Motor Company used the "built to last" slogan and Built to Last is a book title from author James C. Collins who also wrote Good to Great. Great learning experiences occur in the classroom, but non-traditional learning situations have the potential for powerful connections. Serendipity awaits. Get outside. Get away.
I skipped a day of school in 6th grade. My Dad signed me out of class and took me to the ballpark. Baseball was a passion of mine at the time--24/7. But this outing was not fully about baseball. On the diamond the Chunichi Dragons, league champions from Nagoya, Japan, faced the Detroit Tigers in a Spring Training exhibition contest. The questions flowed. Why do the Japanese hitters lift their front foot so high before they swing? Why does Detroit play in Lakeland, Florida? Where is the Cactus League? Are we friends with Japan? How far? How many? Seventh-inning stretch topic tally: language, religion, international relations, Cooperstown, Tokyo, airline routes, "why do we call it the World Series" and more.
What do your students love? What motivates, inspires or captivates them? Ask. Use. Refine. Repeat.

Teach Like A Champion? Crank Up Your Walk Up Music

The music blares as the batsman makes his way to the box. The crowd noise reverberates while the scoreboard projects runs, hits, error...