Tag Archives: teaching

Me – The User Manual

Adam Grant (@AdamMGrant), other of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, tweeted a link this LinkedIn article by Abby Falik today, “Leaders Need User Manuals – and What I Learned By Writing Mine.”

In the article, Falik includes her own User Manual, which includes these headings:

  • My Style
  • What I Value
  • What I Don’t Have Patience For
  • How Best to Communicate with Me
  • How to Help Me
  • What People Misunderstand About Me

As soon as I read the article, I immediately saw applications for education.  Not only would it be valuable to have this information about the administrators we work with, but also our colleagues and students.  Because many of us are about to begin a new school year, I challenge you to create your own User Manual to share with your students and/or colleagues.  Even better, consider this as an alternative to the usual ice-breakers we assign students to give them the opportunity to make their own user manuals after you share yours.  This could really work for any grade level with adaptations.  Kinder students could do a few of the sections with some rephrasing, (What is important to you?) and by answering with pictures.  Older students could use a program like Canva.com to create a User Manual/Infographic (see my example below).  Could your students who love programming write one in code?  As you can see, there are many ways this could be adapted for different uses.  The most important thing to keep in mind is how it can help us to learn more about ourselves and the people we interact with on a regular basis.

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The Trailblazer

One of my good friends, the incredible @lackeyangie, sent an e-mail about a recent vacation experience, and I asked her permission to share it here.  The implications for education are apparent, especially if you have heard George Couros speak – or read his book, The Innovator’s Mindset.

“Hi!
So yesterday I had an amazing day! We went to the Rusty Spurr Ranch, which is about an hour northwest from Breckenridge. We went to this ranch because they market themselves as being different from the regular “nose to tail” trail ride. They actually do NOT want you to follow the same trail, but pick different trails to get to  destinations on the ranch.  We had a really patient and knowledgeable wrangler named, Tess, who accompanied us on our 2 hour ride. I was riding a beautiful strawberry roan horse named Rosie. About an hour into the ride:

Me: “Do we HAVE to stay on a cut trail, or can we make our own path through the sagebrush?”
Tess: “Oh, we love for our guests to go off the trails! Blaze your own trail; that makes you a ‘Trail Blazer’!
Me: “Really?”
Tess: “Yes! It’s actually great for the horses if you get them off the trail. They get in such a rut following a cut trail. We don’t want them to become complacent.”
Me: “Really!” (Yes, same word, but I sounded more astonished this time.)
Tess: “Yep, if the horse is complacent, then they tend to become stubborn. Then, it’s extremely hard to teach them new things. We want them to wonder what turn is coming next.”
Me: “Look at me! I’m a Trail Blazer!” ( Yes, I actually said this as it was only my husband and kids on the ride.)
Marie: “I want to be a trail blazer.” (And she does with a proud smile.)
Sam: (Already blazing a trail with a smirk on his face.)
Then, before you knew it, everyone was blazing their own trail, and they were all the more excited for it.

Disclaimer: It must be said…Trail blazing did have it’s pitfalls at times! There are more mosquitoes in the tall grass and occasional missteps as the horse had to overcome various obstacles in it’s way like fallen Aspen trees. Moreover, Rosie got spooked by something and reared up! She tried to cut back to one of the trails for safety, but I calmed her down and kept on blazing.”

We often talk about teachers who are trailblazers, but how frequently do we encourage our students to search for new paths?  As George Couros states, “Compliance does not foster innovation. In fact, demanding conformity does quite the opposite.” Yes, there are pitfalls, but insulating our students from those will only make them less prepared when they encounter them in the future.

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imae from Pixabay

Cogs

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.

Change the World

How to Talk to Parents

This morning, Edutopia published my post, “New Teachers: How to Talk to Parents.”  I feel uncomfortable giving advice on anything because I certainly don’t consider myself an expert.  Even after 26 years of teaching, I know that I have a lot to learn.  But I have a few Oprah-ish, What-I-Know-For-Sure truths that I have collected throughout my career – and I can tell you that I Know For Sure that developing a positive relationship with the parents of my students goes a long way toward developing a positive relationship with the students.

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image from: Innovation_School on Flickr

12 Actions to Maximize the Value of a Teacher’s Time

In my latest article for Fusion, I give advice to school systems, teachers, and parents to help make education more efficient in ways that will benefit the students as well as all of the stakeholders.  Click here to read, “12 Actions to Maximize the Value of a Teacher’s Time.”

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And, just in case you missed them, here are my previous articles for Fusion:

No Man is an Island With Pineapples

Our state has a new appraisal system for teachers, and goals for professional growth are a huge part of it.  Within 24 hours on the Twittersphere I came across two great suggestions for helping teachers with this process.

First, I read a post by Jennifer Gonzalez on “Cult of Pedagogy.” Jennifer describes something called a, “Pineapple Chart.”  This chart is displayed in a central location at the school such as the lounge, and gets its name from the tradition of pineapples representing hospitality.  Each week, a blank chart is hung, and teachers can fill in spots to invite the staff to observe special lessons that they are doing that may be of interest.  No one is required to invite, and it isn’t mandatory to attend.  If one does choose to (inobtrusively) pop in on one of the lessons, there is no minimum time and no responsibility to take notes.  If you think what you are teaching might be of interest, put it on the chart.  If you want to learn about something in particular, visit a teacher who can model it for you.

Not quite as casual as the Pineapple Chart is Robert Kaplinsky’s “Observe Me” sign.  (H/T to Jodi Harris for sharing this!) Teachers who hang these on their doors are also inviting people into their classrooms, but they are asking for feedback on specific goals they list on the signs.  If there isn’t time for enough people to do live observations, there is even a sign version that offers a QR code that links to videos of the teacher’s lessons.  Along with the “Observe Me” sign, some teachers even include a clipboard with copies of the rubrics used for appraising the selected goals.

Watching our colleagues teach gives us new ideas for improving our own teaching.  Getting feedback from our colleagues is also invaluable.  Both of these suggestions are wonderful ways to promote professional growth and are probably far more effective than the traditional staff development model.

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Choose Kind

Today I want to give a shout-out to a teacher.  I’m not going to give his name because I don’t want to inadvertently embarrass the student involved.

Yesterday, my daughter told me about a girl in one of her classes who realized, too late, that she studied for the wrong quiz. Apparently, the teacher alternates Type A quiz and Type B quiz, and she had studied valiantly for Type B on a Type A day.

When the student realized her mistake, she was genuinely horrified and upset.

Before my daughter told me the outcome of the story, I thought about how I would have handled the situation as this student’s teacher.

I’m sorry to say that, as a 5th grade teacher many years ago, I probably would have told the student that she should have checked her agenda and I hope she learned from her mistake.

Inwardly I hoped that my daughter’s teacher was better than the rookie teacher I was 20 years ago.

My daughter told me that the teacher didn’t say anything.  However, as the teacher passed out the quizzes to the students, a Type A to each, he silently gave that one girl a Type B quiz instead.  

What an awesome teacher.  He realized what took me too long to realize – that you never discourage a child’s effort to learn!

Plus, way to be organized and have the other quiz ahead of time 😉

 

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