Monday, November 26, 2018

What I'm Thankful for

I know Thanksgiving has past and we are all back to school. I was thinking about what I am thankful for and it took me a while to process it all. So, here is what I am thankful for: 
I am thankful for many things. I am thankful for Sriracha mayo, Chewy Chips Ahoy, and Eggo waffles. I am thankful for books and learning. I am thankful for knowledge. I am thankful for movies and imagination. I am thankful for the first amendment. I am thankful for facts. I am thankful for Democracy and term limits (except in 2016).  I am thankful that the 2020 election is almost here. I am thankful for Iced Caramel Lattes. I am thankful for the fridge in my office. I am thankful for the days I have had and the days yet to come. I am thankful that Jon Snow and Daenerys finally met.  I am thankful for Amazon and my MacBook. I am thankful for Twitter. I am thankful my Dad didn't die in his motorcycle accident. I am thankful for those who are open-minded and empathetic. I am thankful for legos and lincoln logs. I am thankful for my JFK mug which makes hot chocolate taste especially delicious. I am thankful for culture. I am thankful for my garage door opener. I am especially thankful for the horse tranquilizers that I use to get Hazel to calm down at night. I am thankful for jokes. I am thankful for the sausage Breakfast Boy. I am thankful for my dragon goblet. I am thankful for all the articles people post on Facebook. I am thankful for sports and competition. I am thankful for people posting their workouts on Facebook. I am thankful for technology and iMovie.  I am thankful for the air in my lungs, the blood in my veins and the electricity in my brain. Mostly, I am thankful for people like Abby, Olivia, Isabel, and Hazel. People like my mom and dad (best ever). People like my siblings. People like my DSU co-workers. People like my students. People that uplift me and make me think. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The NEED for Social Studies

We need social studies. I'm not talking about an official study or formal research project. I'm just telling you what I think. I think we need social studies. We need to talk about and learn about other cultures, how else will kids develop into thoughtful, open-minded people? Ignorance is dangerous. People fear that which they do not know or understand. Through social studies, we can teach students to be empathetic. To accept differences in other people, but yet we are all human beings living in this world together. With social studies, we can teach students kindness, respect, and compassion. We can teach kids that it's bad to lie, no matter who you are or what position you hold.  We can teach kids that if something is untrue, it will remain untrue no matter how many times it keeps getting repeated. We need to make sure students understand that a lie is a lie, no matter how many times it is spoken. "Speaking things into existence" isn't a thing and should NOT work, but it will be if we don't teach our students to be critical thinkers! It's important that we have social studies in school because we need to make sure kids understand that you treat people with respect, unlike the horrible examples they often see on the news. Degrading people and hurling insults is NOT OKAY just because those people don't agree with you about something. We need social studies because then we can teach kids to listen, think, reflect and then respond with a thoughtful response. I believe that studying social studies is one of our main weapons to end racism.
A lot of people won't need to be able to solve elaborate math equations as an adult. Most won't need to conduct science experiments, or paint a picture, or write a poem. But ALL people, no matter what, should be empathetic, open-minded and respectful because we are all humans living in this world together. Imagine if that were true? Imagine what the world would be like, or just what this country would be like? This is what social studies brings to school. At least, it would if it wasn't constantly being eliminated and viewed as not as important as other subjects. It's as equally important as any other subject area.
Take a look at social media comments. People are so nasty to each other! They are setting such a terrible example for kids! We tell kids to be nice and respectful, yet then go off on someone on Facebook.  In today's world, with it being as divided as ever, I can see how it is difficult to bite your tongue and not respond. Trust me, I'm with you. But we must set a better example for our kids! Engage in dialogue respectfully.

Social studies every day. Physical Education every day. Read every day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"Good enough" is not the goal

"Good enough" is not the bar we should be shooting for.
"How was the lesson?" - It was good enough. WRONG
"How was the lesson? - It could be better. I'm going to change this and this, etc." CORRECT!

The term "good enough" is fine for home DIY projects or things like that. But for education, teachers and learning, 'good enough' doesn't cut it. To be happy with good enough, don't settle for good enough. If something is 'good enough' then that means it could be better. So make it better! Sometimes we don't know how something is going to go until we try it. Which is totally okay! But after you try a lesson and it was simply 'good enough' reflect on why it was only 'good enough' and make a tweak for next time. 'Good enough'  lessons aren't disasters. They are not a total, epic failure, but they still fall short from making a real impact and difference in student learning.
Recently, I gave my students a task to explain something so a 5th grader could understand. The topic was to explain the three branches of government. They posted their video to Flipgrid. I gave them all 0/100. Sure, their videos explained the concept. They talked about the three branches, what they did, checks and balances, etc. The videos were, well....good enough. But that's not our goal! We don't want to settle for good enough so I made this point with something near and dear to their hearts: points and grades! Boy, once those 0/100 were posted, they were beating down my door, demanding an explanation. Which I provided: yes, you got a 0/100. It was good enough, but we are not striving for good enough. We are striving for greatness. You need to do better. More effort. More creativity. So, they were allowed to redo the videos and oh my! They were so much better. A clear difference between their first attempt and their second attempt. Way more creative, much more enthusiasm. They used props, music, actions. They were no longer good enough, they were great! That's what we are shooting for. Being great. Sometimes, it just takes a bit more effort.

Sit down and reflect on how you have been operating as a teacher lately. Have you settled for good enough? Change your mindset and perspective. Strive for greatness. Be willing to put in their effort needed to be great. It's in you. Just let it out!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

There is an Epidemic Spreading...

Holy smokes. Do you realize the crisis we are facing? Are you aware of this seriously frightening epidemic spreading throughout college campus all over the USA? Seriously, it's not good people. You step on campus for ONE minute and you will IMMEDIATELY see what I am talking about. But wait, no point in having to come all the way to campus to see evidence of this scary plague, because you can see it right where you are, I am willing to bet.  Just the other day, I was out for a nice stroll across campus and I almost became a victim of this epidemic FIVE times! And it's not even a very big campus. Sheesh. I'm telling you what. Something must be done. I don't think there is a vaccine for this. Not sure if there is a cure either. Oh, wait, there is. I know what the cure is. It's a sledgehammer. You may be thinking, "uh, what? What kind of epidemic is solved by a sledgehammer?? That makes no sense and I'm going to stop following this blog which is bad for him because I'm the only one who reads it."
This epidemic started out gradually. It started appearing, but only subtly and nobody really paid it much attention, in fact, most just joined in, willingly infecting themselves. No surgeon general's warning on the box to warn us of the dangers or to ward us off from diving in and joining the group.
It's too soon to see the long-term effects this epidemic will have. But the short-term results are in. And they are bad.  For me, I have witnessed plenty of people suffering from the horrible things caused by this epidemic: Black eyes from running into a light pole. Scuffed face from running into a brick wall. Tripping over a park bench. Dropping all their books. First degree burns after spilling their coffee. One person even missed the love of his life because of this!!! She walked right on by and he never even knew it. Had he been looking up, he would have seen her. An instant spark would have popped into his head and prompted him to say hello. This would have led to grabbing coffee later in the day. Then, dating. Then marriage. Then kids. A full life of happiness with his soul mate. But nope, none of that stuff happened because of the screen he was staring at.  It's terrible. I'm telling you, it's terrible! Cue the sledgehammer.
This epidemic is "Walking while texting" and it's out of control.  I was once standing in the hallway. Motionless, just watching a group of students walk towards me. One was looking down, on their phone while walking. I just stood there and do you know what happened? Yep, the person ran right into me. It was so awful (and awkward). Seriously! It's a problem. Even worse, some even text while walking backward. How dangerous! Not only for them but for the people around them who are actually engaged in the real world and not locked into a screen.  It seems everywhere I go, people are walking while texting and I fear that once they finally look up, they will see that 10 years have passed and they have done nothing but wasted it away on their device.  I offer a challenge! Put the device down. Look up while walking around. Perhaps you while notice the beauty in the world and engage in the present. There can't be anything that important that requires you to be walking while texting. And if it is an emergency or high priority, stop walking!
Social media makes people less social. I'm right there with them, inflected by this epidemic myself, but now I'm going to do something about it. What you ask? I deleted Instagram for starters. What's next? Probably Facebook. Then snapchat. Then Twitter (wait, no, who am I kidding. I'm not getting rid of Twitter). Or, maybe you don't have to delete any of that stuff, but just achieve some level of balance in life. Yes, perhaps that's the best route. I'll go with that. BALANCE!