This year it has been difficult to find time to write posts. Even before this year most of my posts are written in bits and pieces over time…it just adds to my “style” 🙂
When I do have an idea I usually jot it down somewhere. My jots have been adding up, and most are somewhat random things. Since I haven’t had time to write an individual post on any one of the ideas, a couple weeks ago I thought about throwing them all together into one post with some wonderful twittery title like “15 things you need to…” Then I saw this tweet from one of the edutweetergodfathers:
I swear that some people would shut down their blogs if including a number in your title became illegal.
— Dean Shareski (@shareski) January 18, 2015
After thinking about what Dean tweeted I decided he meant people just weren’t shooting high enough. So what follows is not just any list, but a list of “Almost 32 things things you should consider doing in order to become the supreme teacher of the universe.” Each one I wish I could wax poetically about for a full post, but instead will just add a few sentences to what I jotted down on my pile of desk papers.
1-Get a good set of speakers
This fall I was at a PD session in which the presenter played videos, and the only sound came from the laptop speaker. Ugg! Your brain can deal just fine with bad video, but it cannot deal with bad audio. Your laptop or cheap PC speakers are not good enough for that kid in the back row. If they are expected to be processing what they see and hear but have to work extra hard to hear the audio something has to give. My favorite are these which sit on my desk at home. My second favorite are these which sit on my desk at school. Both can easily fill a classroom. My newest speaker that I use for conferences and grad class is this one. It is a little bugger that has great sound. Good for a small classroom when you don’t want to spend $100, Bluetooth compatible, and it practically fits in my pocket.
3-Do something with your kids that has no connection to your class
Last month we did a movie night. It is so neat to see the kids “acting normal” when they are not in class. It simply reminded me that they are still kids, they are not academic robots.
7-Do something silly each day
Each Friday we do “Bad joke Friday”–that one will get an entire post soon. Another thing I do is put up a little whiteboard each day with something that will make them smile. Usually, it has a couple brief announcements and something silly. It is one of those things that I often regret starting, and every time I want to skip it and force myself to put it out I find it worth it! Here are a few examples:
10-Support another teacher who is not as lucky as you
Saw a picture on twitter of a teacher in a nicely carpeted room, all the kids on Macs, and all kids dressed nicely. Don’t think people realize how desperate some teachers are. My school is pretty average, and I have not had had any money to spend in at least thirteen years. Check out other teachers Donors Choose and Kickstarter ideas. When you see one of those tweets saying “Vote for me!” please check it out. Here is someone I had in my grad class who I am supporting because she’ll make a difference http://www.gofundme.com/kmzksw I was recently on the receiving end of other people’s donations and it was amazing. Opportunity for some good Karma!
12-If you struggle with writing, spelling. grammar, typing, (you know who you are) install Grammarly.
Honestly, I had long forgotten about Grammarly. They emailed me asking me to try it out again, and I figured with my writing skills it can’t do anything but help. I have noticed that it has improved my writing and cut down on how long it takes me to proof and edit since more mistakes are caught. Also, as someone who misspells A LOT of words, it fixes misspellings with one less click than other editors. If you use Chrome, installing the extension is simple. My daughter used it for a paper and she loved it. We found ourselves having a discussion about grammar, uses of commas and overusing certain words. Will it make me a professional blogger? Doubt it, but I think it will simply help my writing become more professional which certainly can’t hurt when trying to express my thoughts more clearly. In this post, I learned when to use seems vs seem 🙂
14-Let your kids be messy learners
I cannot help notice how as we push for more self-directed learning each thing getting pushed keeps getting codified. It seems as though every great thing from PBL to Genious Hour to Mystery Skype now comes with rules that you can implement in order for kids to be successful. Try Mystery Skype with no rules and let your kids flop miserably and then watch them figure out how to do it better. It is not the teachers job to make them successful. Gahhh! As soon as something get mentioned on twitter within a year there seem to be all sorts of charts, rubrics, directions and exemplars on how it is supposed to be done. “Let them fail” is all the rage yet the failure they are experiencing seems far from authentic. Fear of failing is not the kids problem, it’s a teacher problem. Sometimes it might take an extra day for them to finish, sometimes the final product is not what you would have made or directed them to, sometimes it means glitter all over the floor, and sometimes it just looks like they are playing. Embrace the mess. Have trust in the power of play.
18-If you blog or use social media start sharing what you are doing
I would love to start a new hastag #shareyourbest I know, some people will have a problem with the word best, but anyway… At some point stop retweeting, stop tweeting out articles that talk about what teachers should do, stop blogging about what you hope to be someday, just stop it and blog/tweet/youtube something that you do that is awesome. #shareyourbest If teachers deserve respect, let’s see why you do. It does not have to be a massive project. It can just be something small that you do every day. Share, share, share. It is our obligation to do so and brand ourselves as superior to the edreformers idea of what we should be doing and who else should be doing it. I believe so strongly about this. Don’t have a platform to share? Write me. I will share it here anonymously or with your name. firstname.lastname@example.org I did tweet out the other day asking teachers to share and received exactly one response…thinking we can do better.
— Brandt Schneider (@SchneiderBrandt) January 30, 2015
21-Pick one unit and do not have a test at the end of it
Think about it. You finish a unit. You then review. Why? Because the kids don’t know the material otherwise you would not have to review. Then they go home and study. Why? Because they don’t know the material. So in one night they go home, study, spit it out the next day, and a few days later it’s gone. Why are you giving the test? To see what they know. After an entire unit why do you not already know what they know? And come on, you can pretty much predict what each kid is going to get anyway, so just give them the grade and skip the big process. Try Project Based Learning for one unit (if you are really cool and hip you can call it Problem Based Learning or Inquiry Based Learning, just look out on the internet there are now rules for how to implement it successfully). For one unit let there be some self-directed learning, let there be a way for kids to share what they learned without a test. The best assessments aren’t the ones from which you learn what the kids know. The best assessments are the ones from which the kids learn something new. Who could possibly get excited about a unit knowing that it’s climax will be a test? Do something different.
22-For you mysteryskypers and anyone else who video conferences–get a good mic and webcam
Remember, good video is a plus, great audio is a necessity. If you do a lot with live streaming or video conferences invest in a mic and webcam. If you use your laptop webcam all anyone sees is up your nose. If you are using your laptop mic then you need to be right in front of it to be heard and can’t have a class interact with the guest. With microphones you get what you pay. I recommend any Blue Mic. Snowballs are awesome and can be found under $50. I bought a Yeti used that I just simply love.
23-Give your kids a question and do not have them answer immediately
Kids are too busy in school to think. We give them a problem, question, worksheet and BAM they are expected to start working immediately. When was the last time they were given a problem or question and allowed to ponder and day dream. Each year I actually have to force kids to not get to work immediately. Day one of any research is usually a “no write” day. they are not allowed to write anything done. Just explore, make connections, or sit and think. An application for a grant came in my email box last week. I am still not exactly sure what I am going to submit. If I was a student I would have been expected to hand it in 45 minutes later. Try it. Give them whatever you would normally give them, but don’t allow anyone to write for just ten minutes and see what happens. And watch this:
26-Do the work you are making them do
I have a policy. My kids never do anything I have not recently done. I have two history degrees and I have been teaching social studies for 24 years–so I like social studies. If I wouldn’t be excited about doing the assignments I give to the kids why would they be? Stop teaching and be a model. Writing teachers who don’t write. History teachers who don’t research. Science teachers who don’t do experiments. How can you stand in front of kids teaching them to write and talking about its importance if you don’t write? How can you talk to the kids about how to research and write a thesis if you do not? Sorry, but having done it in college is not good enough. If you want to be taken seriously by the kids you need to practice whatever craft you are imploring then to do along with them. Get dirty with them, and shake like they shake. If you are going to require them to do a presentation, you better not spend days telling them how to do it. On the day your kids need to stand up and do it, you better walk to the front with them. Don’t tell them how it’s done, do it with them.
27-Get a good camera for your class
Get a good camera for your class. Sorry, but there is really no cell phone cameras that can do what a good DSLR even on auto mode can do (iphone 6 and Samsung Galaxy 5 and Note 4 owners are allowed to make faces here). Yes, they are more money, but if you have a Smartphone in your pocket you can afford a decent DSLR. Want to save money? Buy one that has been refurbished–all my tech gear from cameras to my personal computer was purchased refurbished. Take lots of pictures and videos of your kids and share share share. Share with other teachers and most importantly share with their family. I love sharing pictures of kids doing things that parents never get to see. Sure you may send home pictures from the “big” project, but parents never get to see their kids in the hallway, sitting at lunch, or going to their locker. Pictures of them doing the little things make a big difference. Throw them into a video with a song and you have gold. Get a camera, place it in a spot the kids can access, and they will do the rest. Under $100, a bit more and just awesome.
28-Stop reading about education issues for a bit
Read something out of your discipline and let your mind wander. I picked up a book on crisis negotiation a couple years ago and it changed my teaching. And this fall I was at a conference and the speaker mentioned that when someone was trying to figure out what all the creative types had in common at Apple the only thing they could find is that they all read science fiction growing up. With that in mind my wife gave me a fiction book at Christmas. It was the first one I read in 20+ years. My mind wandered to places it hasn’t in a long, long time. Next in my stack is a best selling science fiction book from China.
29-Stop filling the garbage can
Next time you sit down to plan a unit, think about where the final product will ultimately end up. If it is the garbage you can stop planning. Need an audience for your kids work? Contact me! paulbogush1@gmailcom We’ll watch videos, examine posters, read stories–anything! We can share through snailmail, email, video, or live.
30-Share a piece of yourself…
The next time you start class after reading this, sit down in front of the class and share a story about yourself with your kids. And then ask them to do the same. The first words out of your mouth each day tells the kids what is the most important thing in the class. Don’t let it be “take out your homework.” Tell them a story. Share a piece of yourself. Be bold. Be authentic. Be you.
31-Add a little heart to your class.
l believe that great classrooms can change the world. When classrooms include powerful stories, when those stories are told with heart the way they deserve to be told, kids thought patterns can change, they can be moved, fires are lit, and they will be inspired. Great classrooms just don’t just focus on content. They use the content in their course to deliver a story that has heart.
And last but not least, a big reminder I need this year…
32-All teaching is a call to action.
If your students are not moved to action by your unit, then what was the point? The only reason to teach is to change the world. If you don’t believe that…
What could possibly be your reason for teaching?