Monday, February 24, 2014

Effective Living for Effective Teaching

Guest Post: Effective Living for Effective Teaching

Every professional adult these days seems to have a short supply of time. They tell me that the 24 hours per day ratio is still the accepted standard, but surely we have less time than we
did when we were 9 or 10. Between being a teacher, administrator, secretary, mom, dad, son, daughter, church member, coach, fan, hobbiest, etc.…there’s just not enough time – is there? A few weeks ago, my school attended an education conference and one of the sessions I attended discussed “Personal Management”. The material for the talk led by Esther Williams, M.Ed. was primarily from the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. In this blog, I would like to share with you some of the things presented that made an impression on me as a professional educator. The talk structured all of the things we “do” in our lives into four categories:

1. Urgent and Important (critical activities)
2. Not Urgent, but Important (important goals, relationships)
3. Urgent, but Not Important (interruptions)
4. Not Urgent and Not Important (distractions)

This is called the Urgent/Important matrix. We all have moments in each category and that is perfectly normal, but the premise is to spend as much time as possible in the 2nd stage (not urgent/important). Category 2 includes health, professional, and family/relationship goals. Often as educators at any level, we find ourselves going through each day in “crisis management” mode – putting out fires and trying not to get burned. Sometimes, we live mon-fri consumed by category 1 and 3 so much that we find ourselves overdoing category 4 anytime we can. Ultimately, when we have to keep dealing with categories 1 and 3 we are not the best educators we can be for our students (or parents/children,
coach/players). We need to schedule time for careful long term and short term planning,
professional development, and creativity if we believe it has value. If we procrastinate on these
important, but often no urgent things, they will soon become urgent or never happen properly
from the start.

Critical activities and interruptions will always be a part of our lives; however, if we make a
conscious effort to plan and prioritize not urgent, but important things every day (that includes
Saturday and Sunday) we will be taking one more step toward reducing stress for the future and
reaching our private and professional goals. Today and this week, I challenge you to think about
what distractions you could limit or delete all together and schedule time to do not urgent, but
important things that move you toward your personal and professional goals.

Here are some not urgent but important ideas:

• Developing a personal purpose statement
• Setting personal and family goals
• Planning your time every week and making time in your schedule for other category 2
• Reading scripture, praying and meditating
• Personal exercise
• Nutrition planning
• Date nights with your spouse and with the kids
• Family nights
• Visualizing, reading and writing affirmations
• Career planning
• Journaling
• Wholesome recreation with the family
• Record your favorite television show and fast forward through the commercials.
• Read a book related to your educational field
• Enroll in an educational class

Give it a try and see what you can learn.

Tim is the Algebra 1 and 2, Trig, PreCalc, and PE teacher and Athletic
Director at Christ Our Rock LHS in Centralia IL.  He enjoys his job as a
teacher and coach, being with family, and all types of recreational activities.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Re-Up: Wright's Law: A Unique Teacher Imparts Real Life Lessons

Wright's Law: A Unique Teacher Imparts Real Life Lessons

"As soon as you get the kid asking 'how' or 'why', I can rope him in."

This is the inspirational video of a teacher who goes the extra mile and is loved by his students because of it. As it goes on, you also see that he has a notable situation in his home life. This is a probably a must-see for teachers, students, and people everywhere.
To quote the play-by-play from the website, Upworthy, looks like this:

At 0:10, you get a taste of this guy's awesome personality.
From 0:20-1:00, hear glowing reviews from his students.
At 1:20, I become convinced he's a WIZARD.
At 1:50, he puts a ton of trust in his students.
At 2:20, learn his teaching process and how he relates to his students.
At 3:00, he tells you the kind of issues he hears about.
At 3:45, this is where you learn about his remarkable son Adam.
At 5:20, he's going to earn your undivided attention here.
At 6:19, learn exactly what his son has to deal with.
At 7:18, I started to tear up.
At 8:40, his daughter finds a ray of hope.
At 9:10, he emphasizes that it's not important how things work, but why they do.
At 10:00, see how this amazing lesson touches all his students. 
At 10:20, there's a heartwarming moment between father and son.
And now, your video. 
Watch it, share it, love it, and see what you can learn. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tech Tip: YouTube Tools

I was not impressed with YouTube as a tool for student learning when the site first emerged. It seemed more like a platform for self-publishing quirky personal videos than a service to use in education. However, creative educators and dedicated content providers have turned the site into a vast storehouse of educational content. Rarely a day goes by when I do not use a YouTube video as part of some lesson or activity.

A few frustrations remain with YouTube. One concern is the content that appears on a page along with the video. Comments, ads, or links to other videos may not be helpful or appropriate for the classroom. There are also times when one may want to show only a portion of a longer video, and then a teacher might have to fiddle with time duration bar at the bottom of the screen during class time.

Fortunately, tools have emerged that help educators deal with these issues. ViewPure is a service the shows YouTube videos without any of the "extra" comments. Simply copy and paste the video URL into the service and a new page with only the video emerges. ViewPure even cleanses videos of those pesky commercials that run before many videos.

TubeChop is a site which assists a teacher in showing only the targeted content of a video. Simply paste the URL into the home page of the service. A new webpage will emerge with the video and a bar at the bottom with controls that allow you to "chop" off a segment of the video. The service then "creates" a new video with only your chosen segment and even creates a unique URL for that page so the new video may be embedded into other content, such as web pages or wikis.

Give these tools a try as you identify YouTube content for your classroom.

Monday, February 3, 2014

What to Do

What to Do - In the Classroom

The emphasis here is on the word "to". I once found a motivational cat poster that said "don't tell me what not to do. Tell me what to do." Had I listened to that poster, rather than just hang it up ironically for my roommates to see, I could have avoided much professional stress.

Once again taking a strategy from the great, Doug Lemov, in his book that every teacher should own, Teach Like a Champion, this strategy of "What to Do", is the simple wisdom saying that when correcting a student, instead of telling him what not to do, tell him what to do.

If it sounds too simple, that's because it almost is. There is some more depth to it however. The most overlooked tenet that makes this strategy relevant is this:

  • Students misunderstand or tune out more easily and more frequently than most teachers realize. 
So, because we have already explained something, we then misinterpret incompetence as defiance, as in, "he heard me explain it, he's just being a jerk." This may not be the case, and if we react to defiance when it is actually incompetence (or vice versa), we can cause some lasting damage to the relationship with that student, as well as the classroom. 

The best way to avoid this kind of gaffe, is to abstain from using vague statements like "Pay attention", "Stop fooling around", "Cut it out" etc. and replace them with what to do statements that are specific, concrete, sequential, and observable. Instead of "pay attention", instruct your student on the actions that can show he's paying attention: "Put your feet under your desk, sit up, pencil down, eyes on me."

The previous statement gives the student a specific set of actions to do and once done, he has no choice but to pay attention. 

This is the abridged version of Lemov's chapter. My goal for the month of February is to incorporate this technique into my normal routine. These simple techniques explained so well in the Lemov book (as well as various websites) are the kinds of things I wish I had mastered by now after 9 years. But, it's never too late to learn. So, give it a try and see what you can learn.