Teachers talk too much. Even though I am aware of that, I still find myself speaking more than I should in the classroom. I think that I am better than I was 20-something years ago when I first started teaching – but I definitely want to improve in this area. The great Simon Sinek (author, consultant, and motivational speaker) gives advice about this in the attached video. Even though Sinek is speaking in a business context, many top educators like Jo Boaler would certainly agree that teachers should be included in the group of leaders who would benefit from this following this guideline. Instead of complaining that our students are too lazy to problem-solve, we need to ask ourselves how often we actually give them the opportunity to do their own thinking.
As I posted last week, our family has been on vacation. This is how our relaxing trip began (at 6 am):
“The Uber is here! OMG why isn’t everyone ready? I told you it would be here at 6, and it’s here! We need to wait outside. Where is the key? You can’t find the key? Fine! I’ll lock everything and go out the garage door. Take my stuff.”
5 minutes later in the Uber, “Where is my black bag?” Assured that if it was with my stuff it got put in the trunk.
15 minutes later at the airport, “You didn’t put my black bag in the Uber?!!!!!” Apparently it was not with my stuff.
And that’s when the Uber driver reassured me that he could quickly bring me back to the house to retrieve the black bag that basically had everything in it we needed for the trip and have me back to the airport in plenty of time. My husband smartly did not point out that we would not have had this extra time if he hadn’t insisted we get to the airport early. He knew, I am sure, that I would have snapped back that I wouldn’t have left my black bag at the house if he hadn’t made me get up at such a ridiculous time.
You might think that this was a terrible way to begin a vacation and you would be right. However, what could have become an escalating crisis resulting in a missed plane and a potential divorce actually turned into an enlightening car ride that made me appreciative of all of the amazing people we meet during life’s journey. So, I have decided to dedicate this post to all of the awesome people I encountered during our vacation, beginning with the Uber Driver who volunteered to drive 30 minutes alone with a hysterical woman who placed ridiculous value on a “black bag” which no one but the woman seemed to believe existed.
Anh, the Uber Driver – Anh heard “Proud to be an American” on the radio as we traveled back to my house and confided in me that the song always makes him cry. He is so happy to be in our country and that his daughter is able to go to school here. He choked up as he spoke about the people who have died for our freedom, and vented his anger at his former homeland where they apparently spend a good amount of the school day teaching students to hate Americans. Anh is the epitome of American patriotism.
Linda, Steven, and Nya at the Cellar Door Bookstore – Our travels began in Riverside, California where our daughter was competing in a tournament. After a failed trip to Palm Springs (where it was literally 118 degrees), my husband and I despaired of doing anything but going to the local mall to watch movies. (I don’t recommend 47 Meters Down if you are planning to ever swim in the ocean again.) . The Cellar Door Bookstore was a refreshing oasis in the middle of a blistering hot trip. I adore independent bookstores, especially ones with resident dogs like Nya. I bought a lovely book called, All These Wonders, which is stories from The Moth. Linda and Steven were so friendly and full of advice that I seriously considered moving to Riverside just so I could work in their store.
Lisa at Game Seeker – We finally got to migrate from southern California to Santa Barbara, where we discovered this delightful shop on State Street. I love games, but usually end up buying them online. However, Lisa reminded me why it is so important to patronize local stores like hers. She is very knowledgeable and personable. When she learned I had chosen the game Dog Pile for my classroom (gotta work on those spatial reasoning skills), she recommended something I had never heard of called Plus Plus, which she said would provide hours of building fun for my students.
Crystal at Stanford – My daughter and her friends wanted to tour Stanford while we were in California. By the end of the tour, I was ready to auction off everything I own just so I could attend. Crystal, our tour guide, was as enthusiastic about Stanford as Anh is about living in the United States. She showed us her own Foldscope, a paper microscope that had been invented at Stanford, told us about all of the hands-on opportunities she has had since she began last fall, and passionately spoke about the dedication of her professors. Crystal pointed out one science building on the tour where Stanford co-hosts a 24-hour live feed with MIT, stressing that Stanford believes in collaboration rather than competition.
What struck me about each of the people mentioned above was the enthusiasm and passion they brought to their work. Through my interaction with each of them, I felt inspired and ready to embrace my life with more zest.
And so I leave you with an image and quote provided by Inspirobot, an artificial intelligence inspirational quote generator, that seems to perfectly deliver the message of this post.
Nope. Wrong one.
Probably the reality check I need most of the time. But still not the right one.
This one hurts my head.
Yep. That’s it.
Anyone who attended Jennie Magiera’s (@msmagiera) keynote at ISTE 2017 will be forever changed by her inspirational address. It is not officially posted yet, but you can view the whole presentation on this Periscope provided by @1to1Brian. (Jennie’s part begins about 25 minutes in, but the beginning is worth watching as well.)
Jennie focused on stories – the ones we tell and the ones we don’t tell. She took us back to when she encountered one of her most inspirational teachers, Ms. Buckman, who started the school year by encouraging her students to look for her lost pet dinosaur, Jeff, and eventually exclaimed, “Look at the time. We’re already late for our adventure!”
Can you imagine the excitement your students would have in a classroom like that?
Jennie compares those of us who attempt to be innovative educators to the wizard Gandalf in The Hobbit – always trying to encourage the reticent to leave the safety of “what has always been” to embark on adventures. But, she reminds us with an ancient story of a dragon, that those colleagues have other concerns – and they may need to resolve some pre-existing challenges before they can consider taking new risks.
We don’t really know each other. We don’t know our students, and we don’t know our peers. Social media tends to reveal only the better parts of ourselves – unintentionally intimidating anyone who is fearful of making mistakes. We need to be better at telling the whole story, and about discovering it in others. Technology can be used to amplify the voices of those who feel like they are never heard or understood, and to reassure others that while adventure is worthwhile, it is usually difficult and sometimes spawns unpredictable negative consequences – that we can make it through with the support of others.
I am not as eloquent as Jennie, so I encourage you to watch the Periscope linked above (for which she received a standing ovation). My hope is that every school will show her presentation to its teachers before the beginning of the new school year. They will be energized and motivated to look for untold stories that must be shared, develop deeper relationships with colleagues and students, and to undertake new adventures.
If you are looking for more Inspirational Videos for Teachers, check out this Pinterest Board.
In the opening keynote of ISTE 2017, Jad Abumrad, creator and co-host of RadioLab, spoke about the creative process. He reminded us that all creators regularly oscillate between excitement and self-doubt. As Abumrad described some of his experiences developing stories for the RadioLab podcast, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the many Genius Hour projects I’ve done my best to facilitate over the years. Beginning with brainstorming questions, selecting one that resonates, researching the question, and running into obstacles, RadioLab is the embodiment of my students’ attempts to complete their quests for answers. And, just as my students sometimes run into perceived dead ends, so do the hosts of RadioLab. But by paying close attention, they may find paths that lead to something even better. As Abumrad says, “If you commit to the questions, you probably will not get to where you want to go, but you could get somewhere else. And it could be beautiful.” (This is why I think it’s important to tell students to “Get Lost” and advocate for Trailblazing.)
Our job as educators is to not only help our students “navigate uncertainty,” but to teach them to seek it out. Abumrad calls this, “The German Forest,” (based on an extremely difficult story he pursued regarding Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”). Going into the forest is always intimidating, yet exhilarating when you are able to make it to the other side. The more often you subject yourself to this, the better equipped you will be. Though the trials may never get easier, you will be able to reassure yourself that you have encountered this before – and succeeded.
During his presentation, Abumrad showed a favorite video of mine that features Ira Glass speaking about storytelling. Glass’ German Forest is “The Gap,” and it can only be bridged by constantly creating and endlessly honing your craft.
These are the lessons that we must impart to our children:
- Seek out what interests you, and be willing to take it where it leads you – even if that is not what you envisioned
- Take calculated risks
- It is normal to be uncertain, and to question your abilities
- Allow self-doubt to guide you to improvement rather than to stop you from trying
To those ends, ISTE promotes its students’ standards, which you can learn more about in the awesome Flocabulary video embedded below.
I love visiting the Kuriositas blog for unusual stories about animals, vivid descriptions of places all over the world, and their incredible video picks. Yesterday, I discovered the short video, Cogs, on their site. Directed by Laurent Witz for AIME (an organization dedicated to education equality), Cogs is one of those small packages that deliver a huge gift. In this gorgeous animation, a world is shown that is ruled by a factory that produces only two kinds of people – and they can only travel on their separate tracks. It is a sad, but unfortunately very appropriate, metaphor for the world’s drastically restrained and disparate educational systems. The film has a hauntingly beautiful theme sung by Mariot Pejon, and composed by Olivier Defradat. In less than three minutes, we experience melancholy that gradually evolves into hope. It is a wonderful inspiration to all of us who believe that every child should receive a quality education.
I will be adding this to my Inspirational Videos for Teachers collection on Pinterest.
This is a reblog of a post I originally published in 2015.
As graduation season rolls around once again, I thought I would compile a list of videos that I’ve found over the years that eloquently describe the hopes and dreams I have for my students in the future. I’ve placed the length of each video beside it. Not all of these are graduation speeches, but they all give one or more of the following messages: Be Kind, Work Hard, and Make the Most of Your Time and Abilities. Most of these videos (and many more) can be found on my “Inspirational Videos for Students” Pinterest Board. As always, please preview any video before you show it to your students.
Making It from StoryCorps (2:43)
These last two are my all-time favorite videos to show departing students:
Jeff Bezos at Princeton (18:44 – his part starts around 6:27)
For more resources, Amy Borovoy curated a wonderful list last May for Edutopia. You can find it here.
Fans of the fabulous Kid President know that he is part of a dynamic duo. Behind the scenes of all of the Kid President videos is his brother-in-law, Brad Montague. Now Brad has started a YouTube channel, and his first video is just as inspirational as all of the others he has produced. I can’t help but think that Brad’s new dad status might have been a motivating factor for this story. Or maybe he saw Hamilton recently…
By the way, I’m adding this video to my “Inspirational Videos for Kids” Pinterest Board. Check it out for more great short films!