Monday, December 23, 2019

Culture Building the Zappos Way

Zappos is a shoe company. It just happens to be the shoe company that I always use to get new all-black Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars, the shoe I wear to school every day. Here is an interesting fact about Zappos: They pay their employees $5,000 if they leave the company. You might be thinking, “What?!?! That’s crazy!”  Well, it is certainly unique, but it is Zappos applying pressure on themselves to make the culture at their company so good that people would rather stay and work for them, rather than leave the company with $5,000 in their pocket. Zappos knows that it’s all about culture when it comes to job satisfaction and employee morale.  Let’s apply this to school - would you rather stay at your present school or take $5,000 and go to a different school? The answer will tell you how the culture building is going in the school in which you teach. Apply that same concept to your class - would students rather have you for a teacher or take $50 and go to a different teacher? Thinking about this through the Zappos frame is a helpful way to approach your efforts at building culture. It is such an important task - to create a culture in your school/classroom that would cause people/students to stay with you, rather than taking a bag of money and going elsewhere. I FOR SURE would have taken the money and took my chances with another teacher, rather than stay with who I currently had. However, there were other teachers/coaches along the way that I would have stayed with, no matter how much money was dangling in front of me. Why? Because it’s all about relationships. Those teachers/coaches were super nice and took a genuine interest in me. I knew they cared about me and had my best interests in mind. They talked to me and treated me like a person, not a subordinate student. So, examine your world. What would your students do if presented with the stay or leave option? If you area principal, what would your teachers do? Jump ship with the dough, or stay with you? 

Be the reason people want to stay.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Kindness Wins

One of my biggest pet peeves in education/school is when teachers are not kind to their students. It bothers me so much hearing stories from students about how certain teachers treat kids. Granted, there are always two sides of a story, but when the same name continues to be brought up, time and time again, there must be some smoke there. I don't get it! Don't you know?? Kindness wins. Teachers on a power trip - boo.  Teachers showing kindness - Yay!  Students can become incredibly anxious when the teacher acts all high and mighty - or in other words, is on a power trip. I get how this can happen - you do have a sense of power over your students because you are the teacher and they are the subordinate students. However, that is no way to lead! It just cracks me up when a teacher is going back to school to be an admin yet, they are mean, sarcastic, etc. to kids. Wow, well on your way to being a crappy principal!  Teachers flexing their power over students and making sure everyone knows who is in charge is such a bad approach. I don't care how well you know your content or how many teaching strategies you know or how many hours you put in grading. I, along with your students, care about how you treat students. Treat them with respect. Show empathy. Get off your pedestal. Interact with the students in a positive way. Don't think you are a celebrity or famous (you're not). Don't be sarcastic. Don't speak in an intimidating way. Listen to your students.
I'll prove it to you: Being in my present role in higher education, I want to try to stay connected as much as possible to the k12 world. So I thought I would substitute teach during my breaks to get back into the schools and try to stay connected to that world. I subbed at a middle school recently and it was extremely challenging. There were 31 students in the class and to them, I was a complete stranger. They did not care what I had to say or who I was. They didn't care that I taught at a university. One student and I got off on the wrong foot so he became very belligerent and insubordinate. He was being very disrespectful and would not listen. I was close to pulling the trigger on sending him to the office, but instead, I decided to try my go-to approach with student behavior/challenging students: kindness.  I chose to stay calm, not react and shower him with kindness. Over the course of the next 40 minutes, my kindness began to break down his barriers. I pointed out we were both wearing Chuck Taylor all-black converse. I smiled at him and asked him how it was going. I asked him about his favorite NFL player. I encouraged him in what he was working on. Time and time again, he got off task and was disrespectful. Time and time again, I responded with kindness. It was challenging to stay calm and continue to show kindness, but by the end of the period, we had moved an inch. It was only an inch, but progress nonetheless. I asked the regular classroom teacher about this student later that week and she told me his story. A terrible home life producing distrust of adults, so it was not hard to see why he didn't automatically trust me. I had to earn it. She also told me that he had really good things to say about me and that he wanted me to come back. I was surprised by this but at the same time, I wasn't. Why? Because Kindness wins. Always. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Discussion Strategy: Mock Trial

Recently, in my social studies methods course, we held two mock trials. Mock trial #1 put the Confederate statues on trial, to determine, through trial, if the confederate statues should remain or if they should be taken down. In the second mock trial, we put the border wall along the US-Mexico border on trial, to determine whether the wall should be built or not.
The process: Half the class participated in the border wall mock trial, while the other half of the class participated in the Confederate statues mock trial. Due to numbers, we needed two mock trials as there were too many people in the class for one mock trial. In the mock trial that the students were not part of, they served as the jury and fact checkers.
For each mock trial, the students were assigned to either the prosecution or the defense.  Students did not necessarily argue for what they personally believed should be done in regards to the issue. I believe this is important because it forces the students to think about and dive into both sides. Besides, if students were left to choose what side they wanted to argue for, we may not have equal sides and it could get too personal. In addition, some students do not want people to know what they believe in personally. Once assigned to a side, the group of students determined what role each would fulfill. There were two roles: attorney and witness. There were two attorneys and three witnesses per side. They were in charge of coming up with who their witnesses were. They submitted their 'witness list' to the court so the other side could see who would be called and prepare for cross-examination. Once the trial began, I acted as judge and facilitated the proceedings. Each side gave opening statements. Then, the prosecution called their three witnesses, with cross-examination each time. The defense then presented their case by calling their witness, with prosecution getting their chance at cross-examination. Finally, each side gave their closing remarks. The jury then deliberated until they had a verdict, consulting with the fact checkers on any errors that were presented in either side. The jury was supposed to make their decision NOT on what they personally believed, but who presented the best case for what they were arguing.
The mock trial is a very engaging way to generate discussion on a deeper level. It's a great way to discuss current events. It's a project so there will be a significant amount of time spent with allowing the sides to be prepared, in order to have a rich, deep discussion/view of the issue at hand. It's a discussion technique that can be used in many different content areas. It allows the students to think critically, listen, speak and prepare.
Perhaps there is a place for the mock trial in your classroom!