Monday, December 30, 2013

Changing the Laws of Learning

Some time ago I observed two boys.  I was immediately intrigued by the curiosity and imagination. The boys had just found a very large cardboard box.  They were discussing how to design a fort. The older of the boys seemed to be "pulling the strings".  He was explaining that it had to have a door, window and a spot to lookout.  The older boy also began to create a list of rules that needed to be obeyed in the fort.

One of the rules that made me chuckle was the password to enter.  The older boy said the password was, "paper airplane".  As I continued to listen the older boy was outlining many procedures that needed to be followed.  In my opinion the fort looked aesthetically pleasing.  As I watched I thought the two boys were getting along wonderfully.  Then a bit later I saw the youngest in his room.  He appeared upset.  I went to the edge of the room and listened.  He was sitting at a table and I thought he was coloring.  On closer inspection he was writing.  The younger of the two boys was very independent, he loved to invent things and use his imagination.  Often his ideas were squashed by his older brother.  As I looked at the paper he was designing battle plans and even created a pouch to attach to the dog.  The dog would be the so-called scout or messenger.  I was really impressed with his creativity.  He had drawn a secret entrance in the shape of what he described as a, "sqircle". It resembled a square, but had semi-rounded corners.  I said, "Wow, you've got some cool ideas for your fort!"  He then looked at me with a very sad face and said, "he says my ideas don't make sense and there is no such thing as a sqircle."  This saddened me, I then told him I thought he had great ideas and he should do them.  A smile began to creep into his face, but I could also see that he doubted himself. Time after time his ideas were shut down.  I can see how this would stifle his creative juices.

Think about this story, are you the older brother or the younger brother?  Are you the out-of-box thinker or do you crave obedience/conformity?  Do you try new things or do you play it safe?

I've been in education for 16 years and what I have seen over and over again is that so-called "good" students fall in line with what they are told and remember what we say.  In many ways I taught this way.  I wanted my students to "hear" me and to "remember" what I taught.  My goal was that the lessons I taught would translate into problem solvers and thinkers.  As I look back I don't think I approached this correctly.  If I wanted problem solvers and thinkers I should have spoke less and given more open-ended situations.  I should have applauded the amazing imaginations and gotten out of the way of the creative thinkers.  My educational tactics have changed through the years, I now ask more questions and try to give less answers.  It isn't easy to change, but just because the majority do it a certain way doesn't mean it is correct.

We can learn a lot from history, some of the people we look to for inspiration were the most creative and imaginative of their time.  A few names immediately come to mind:  Steve Jobs, Galileo, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Beethoven, Da Vinci and Madame Curie to name a few. These individuals were willing to take risks and "go against the grain".  As I re-read great books like Classroom Habitudes by +Angela Maiers I see the need to foster a new way of teaching and learning.  We cannot continue to create students that simply regurgitate information.  

As I read @AngelaMaiers and Seth Godin I agree with the statement that, "No one is or can be a genius all the time.  But all of us are geniuses sometimes..."

Our students have an inner genius, it should be our goal to create a safe learning environment where students can imagine, create and explore.  This won't occur overnight but it is possible.  As educators it needs to start with adaptability.  

"Adaptability is more than just serving change; it is using change as an opportunity for growth." 

Life long learners embrace challenges with a beginner's mindset.  At one point in our lives we were the energetic beginner, over time change became difficult and we began to resist change.  We can be the energetic beginner again, it is inside all of us.  My challenge to you is this, will you help foster each student's inner genius?  Will you applaud out-of-the-box thinking?  

This Week's Big Question: Will you adapt your teaching style to meet the needs of tomorrow's future?

Articles Worth Reading:

A Look Back and Forward by @Suz_Gibbs

Old Pair of Jeans by +Tony Sinanis  @TonySinanis 

Put Another Log On The Fire by @ColinWikan

Videos Worth Watching:

Great lesson for everyone to hear! Thanks for sharing @DerekBraman  (4 min)

Re-Imagining Work (9 min) Very thought provoking...

The Power of Empathy (3 min) shared by +Suzanne Gibbs 

Hilarious! (7 min)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Wrap it up with a bow

Picture the day, sun just begins to rise and it is a cool 57 degrees.  Everywhere you look there are others preparing for the same challenge.  After going off on our own we reassemble with the group.  We laugh, we loosen up and we get ourselves focused for the task ahead of us.

A few minutes go by and we all approach the starting line.  Suddenly the gun goes off and everyone takes off!  Within moments people are spread out, some going full bore, others pacing themselves. Inside every person's head is a full gamut of thoughts and emotions.  For me it is the evil voice in my head telling me I'm not good enough, for others it may be the fear of pushing the boundaries and still with others it could even be lack of preparation.  No matter what it is, everyone feels something.

As I continue to push through the discomfort, I start leaning back on prior experiences, I try hard to encourage myself.  It seems to be working, my head is up, my attitude is improving and the well-wishers are cheering.  Then I see the finish line.  The crowd is cheering, it seems so far away, but my anticipation is driving me forward...I give it one last surge and cross the line.  I'm exhausted. Drained. But I made it, I did it!

What I love about races is the process.  The training, the effort, the mental challenge and eventually the sense of completion.  At the end of the race I get the opportunity to wrap it up with a bow.  Everything is done and I feel a strong sense of accomplishment.  I see strange parallels with teaching.  If you went back and took the word race or running out and plugged in teaching I think you would see the similarities.  It's always nice to feel that sense of completion, the ability to wrap it up with a bow and say, "I'm done!"

As we put the bow on 2013 I look back at so many memories.

*  We experienced births
*  We experienced marriages
*  We experienced retirements
*  We experienced hirings
*  We experienced new positions
*  We experienced trips that would change us
*  We experienced true teamwork (painting)
*  We experienced accomplishments of our own children
*  We experienced facing our fears and coming out the other side better
*  We experienced the success of grants and presentations
*  We experienced personal struggles and came closer together

When I reflect on 2013 and wrap it up with a bow, I have fond memories.  I miss our retirees.  I'm delighted with our new faces.  I'm getting used to new last names and I always love seeing babies in the building.  What I will remember forever is the effort and teamwork people invested.  I look forward to 2014.  We will continue to focus on students.  We always put Kids First!  

Articles Worth Reading:

Best Part-Time Job For Teachers Period by +A.J. Juliani @ajjuliani

We Can't Control Everything, And That's Okay +Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp

Statistics and a call for change +Benjamin Gilpin @benjamingilpin

Lesson From Nelson Mandela's Life @edutopia by Elena Aguilar

Quiet and Submissive +George Couros @gcouros (Truly makes me think...)

Coolest Parents Ever? +George Couros shared by @gcouros

Videos Worth Watching:

2013 in Review (1 min)

Sure to lift you up! (5 min)

Misunderstood! (1 min)  Must see : )

True Teamwork! Overcoming the negative voice to accomplish great things! (Which voice are you?)
(5 min)

Little Drummer Boy...beautiful! (4 min)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Three Types of Behaviors by Dr. Marcia McEvoy

The following post was written by Dr. Marcia McEvoy during the Spring of 2013.  After reading this post I immediately knew Dr. McEvoy "gets it".  Please read and see for yourself -

The word “bullying” has taken an interesting turn.   For the past 15 years, I have been working with staff, students, and parents all over Michigan and the Midwest to reduce student cruelty and to help students develop tolerance and empathy.  When I first started this work many years ago, I had to convince school personnel and parents that bullying was a problem. The response I so often received was “This is a normal rite of passage.  It is kids being kids.  If we don’t let them fight their own battles, we will surely raise a generation of wimps.” 

Today, with the increasing media attention to violence in schools nation-wide, the responses to my question “what is bullying” have strikingly shifted.  I often hear from parents and students that a single push in the hall or getting called a name is “bullying.”  However, we would all be much better served if we stopped branding every aggressive behavior as bullyingThere are three groups of students who engage in hurtful behavior.  Only the last group truly meets the definition of bullying.

The first and largest of these three groups are students who are typically caring and have a conscience.  They engage in sporadic cruel behavior towards peers for a variety of reasons which usually involve getting a laugh, showing-off, attention-seeking, or attempting to fit into a group.  Students in this category aren’t even thinking about how their bad choices are impacting the targets.  The behavior of these students is relatively easy to modify with consistent consequences and serious discussions about the negative impacts of their behavior. 

The second group of students who engage in aggressive behavior are also good kids with a conscience, but struggle with impulse control, frustration tolerance, and anger management.  They are frequently “hot-headed” and will lash out at peers when they are mad, frustrated, or are not getting their needs met.  These students need a combination of consistent consequences for acts of aggression, and social skills training.  They respond well to positive behavior support practices, including positive precision feedback, positive notes and calls to parents for behavioral improvement, and mentoring.  Included in this second group are friends or classmates who have a disagreement or misunderstanding that occasionally escalates into cruel words or actions.  Teaching all students problem-solving skills and conflict resolution skills would go a long way toward reducing this type of aggression.

The third group of students who engage in aggressive behavior are those who not only lack a conscience or empathy, but seem to enjoy inflicting pain on others.  Their hurtful behavior gives them an adrenaline rush.  By many estimates, this is about 2 percent of the population of any school.  These kids engage in repetitive, intentional patterns of cruelty aimed at students with less power than them (physical, social, emotional).  These students engage in chronic, habitual bullying.  Modifying their behavior takes strenuous and sustained effort, but is critical in mitigating a potential life path as a narcissistic or sociopathic adult who may negatively impact hundreds of people during their lifespan. 

All three groups of students will be served by developing a consequence rubric for aggression that is fair, consistent and predictable.  At the same time, it is important to weave social skills training, conflict-resolution skills, empathy development, and tolerance for differences into the K-12 curriculum.  Adults must also build positive relationships with aggressive youth.  Students who have caring relationships with staff are much less likely to be cruel.  Instead of labeling every aggressive behavior as bullying, we need to recognize that there are various types of mean behaviorWe can then create broad-based solutions to prevent cruelty of all kinds, whether it is simply an escalating disagreement among friends, an impulsive act, or true bullying. 

Marcia McEvoy, Ph.D.
McEvoy Consulting, LLC

Thanks for reading this post by Dr. Marcia McEvoy.  I do believe that together we can make a difference.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Been There, Done That

So much of life is about experiences.  The experiences that we have gone through shape who we are and how we react to most situations.  Four years ago when I began at Warner Elementary I was afraid of one thing.  I was afraid of my inexperience.  Sure I believed I would work hard and do my absolute best...but I knew there was no substitute for experience.  I feel fortunate that I have such a supportive staff, community, administrative team, PLN and most of all, family.  

You might say..."Where is this coming from?"  Please take the time to watch this trailer.

In this trailer The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Ben Stiller is on the phone with eHarmony and they ask him about the section titled, "Been There, Done That".  The main character then zones out and imagines different scenarios.  This got me to thinking.  So much of what we do in school is about teaching, modeling and doing.  We are trying to give students experiences.  We want students to reflect.  But what if the child doesn't have the experiences?  What if the child truly doesn't understand and cannot relate? What if there's a student in your room or school that has not been there or done that?

I bet there is.

This is a challenge in education.  We try to break down barriers and make the playing field as equal as possible.  But what if we can't?  What if we can't give every student every experience?

My approach has always been to seek first to understand.  Every student...scratch that, Every person has a story.  When we take the time to listen and learn people's stories we become invested.  My first year I didn't know the stories, I'll admit, I still don't know all the stories.  When it's all said and done the relationships are what we'll all remember.  

Next week our students go on break.  Some students will experience a variety of things, others will be very limited.  It's impossible to give every child every experience.  But what we can do is learn our students' stories.  Invest in each child and the possibilities are endless.

As 2013 comes to an end, I look forward with the promise and hope of experiencing more.  

This week's big questions: What's your story? How have your experiences shaped you?   


Monday, December 16th:  Holiday Musical 7pm at WCAC Grades K, 2, 4
Monday, December 16th: 3:45pm 1:1 Tech Meeting
Tuesday, December 17th:  Admin Meeting 9am
Tuesday, December 17th:  Select Choir 9am assembly in Gym
Tuesday, December 17th:  Grade 3 Trip to Optimist Arena
Wednesday, December 18th:  Assembly Grades K-2, (Mrs. Kelly is leading the assembly)
Wednesday, December 18th:  Grade 1 Trip to Optimist Arena
Thursday, December 19th:  Grade 4 Caroling at Arbor Oaks
Thursday, December 19th:  1:15 Crisis Response Meeting
Thursday, December 19th:  Holiday Parties beginning in the PM
Thursday, December 19th: Board Meeting 6:30pm
Friday, December 20th:  7:40am Staff Holiday Breakfast


The Bully To Close To Home (An Absolute Must Read!) @handsfreemama

The Forgotten Ones +Josh Stumpenhorst @stumpteacher (Another Must Read!)

Crazy Enough +Brad Wilson @dreambition (Another Must Read! I encourage you to take the time to listen to the Podcast, read the post and watch the video at the end of the blog.)


Terrific Video Featuring Things To Think About App by @dreambition

Beasts of the Beat "Bully Song" @JoeVercellino (Best if you read Brad's post titled "Crazy Enough")

Silent Night Game at Taylor University...nothing like this in sports! (2 min)

Flocabulary - Solar System (3 min) Cool video that students would enjoy.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Big Picture

Last week my oldest son Drew asked me a question.  Drew came up to me and said, "Why are so many people in the World bad?"  

I paused and I knew that I could not just feed Drew a line.  I thought about it and I told Drew that people tend to be selfish, which turns to greed or power hungry.  I then decided to use it as a teachable moment and talk with him about random acts of kindness, but more importantly an attitude of serving.  

Drew listened and he seemed satisfied by my response.  Over time I will see what effect our conversation has on him.

This conversation was ringing in my ears as I sat down to listen to Colonel Athens at #MEMSPA2013 on Friday.  Colonel Athens is a retired Navy officer.  I assumed he was going to talk about leadership, but he took it to a different level.  Colonel Athens began by telling us that he asks three questions to any one he interviews.  I perked up and listened intently, the first was: 

Do you know your job or are you striving to learn it?  I thought this was an ideal question.  I thought, how would I answer this? 

If you have a growth mindset and you are a life long learner you know exactly how you'd answer.  As an interviewing tool this tells you a lot.  I also thought it was a good question for an experienced individual as well.  It promotes thought and gives insight into the person's frame of mind.  The next two questions brought me to the big picture.  

Colonel Athens asked, "Will you make the hard decision even if it costs you personally?"  He also asked, "Do you care about us as much as you do yourself?"

These questions speak to a serving attitude.  The true BIG PICTURE!  Whether you are an educator, in the military or even working in business the way you answer will tell about your mindset and personality.  Colonel Athens spoke of serving, putting the mission and vision above everything else.  I thought to myself, what would my staff say?  What would our community say?  I know what I would hope they would say, but I believe some would think I'm out for personal growth.  The truth is, I know some people think, "I'm that guy".  Some may even think I blog or tweet just to bloviate.  Experience tells most people that you will never please everyone, I don't believe we should try.  I listened to Colonel Athens and his message focused on servitude.

The characteristics that reflect a serving attitude~

-Humility: Humility is a show of great strength. Thinking a lot less about yourself. Not thinking less of yourself. -Col. Athens

-Humbleness: To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength. -Jami

-Compassionate: Love and Compassion are necessities, not luxuries.  Without them, humanity cannot survive. - Dalai Lama

-Courage: Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. -Winston Churchill

-Competence: We can teach a lot of things, but if the teacher can't relate by talking to a group of students, he'll never be a competent teacher. -Glasser

Truth be told I needed this talk, I personally believe I have a serving attitude with most, but I can be better.  There is nothing more important than relationships.  The little things make the biggest impact. 

Colonel Athens had an inspiring message, I wish more could have heard it.  What I took away was this, it isn't about one person, it's about the mission & vision.  If we are looking for personal gains, clock watching throughout the day, viewing what we do as a job or living with a mindset of what I've always done is good enough, then we aren't striving to serve The Big Picture.

We are all in this together, we are all on the same team.  Our ability to improve ourselves and help others will make the biggest differences.

This week's big question:  Do you know your job or are you striving to learn it?


Monday, December 9th:  Santa's Secret Shop
Tuesday, December 10th:  Santa's Secret Shop
Tuesday, December 10th:  PTO meeting 7pm
Tuesday, December 10th:  Panther Pride Lunch
Wednesday, December 11th: Santa's Secret Shop
Wednesday, December 11th: Grade 3-5 Assembly
Wednesday, December 11th: Western Holiday Tea
Wednesday, December 11th:  String Team Holiday Performance at the JSO 6pm-7pm
Thursday, December 12th:  Warner Outreach 4pm - 6:30pm
Thursday, December 12th:  PD Planning 4:15
Friday, December 13th: Lockdown Drill in the PM

*  If you would like to help set-up our Warner Outreach for Wednesday please touch base with Shirley or Susan Walz.  These two will be in the cafeteria starting at 2pm on Thursday getting things ready.

*  CP Federal Credit Union will be moved to the front Lobby for this week.

Articles Worth Reading:

The Holiday's with ADHD children @behaviordoctor

Mandating the Daily Posting of Objectives, and other dumb ideas @grantwiggins

Why Teacher Retention Should Be a Top Priority and How To Achieve It shared by +Mr. Abud @MR_ABUD

5 Can't Miss Twitter Chats @thomascmurray

20 Ways Teachers Can Use Edmodo +Nicholas Provenzano @thenerdyteacher

Blogging in Kindergarten? shared by @runfardvs

You Do Not Have My Full Attention shared by +Krista Moroder  @edtechcoaching

Do You Really Get Connection? @ideaguy42

Why discipline is different than punishment @Angela_Watson

How To Bounce Back From A Bad Day +Amber Teamann @8Amber8

12 Smart iPad Apps for Collaborative Learning +TeachThought @TeachThought

12 Lies People Love To Tell You +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

My Favorite Torture Device @ShutUpRun

Videos Worth Watching:

The Future of Learning (8 min) shared by @smaj40

MUST SEE! When We Believe in Kids... (2 min) shared by @susankhaney

What Most Schools Don't Teach (5 min) Excellent Video! shared by @Rogers_Suzanne

Kid President Holiday Gift Guide (3 min) shared by +Julie Oliver @julieoliver333

Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool? (6 min) shared by +Scott McLeod @mcleod