Celebrating 16th Place


At the annual Spelling Bee in one of the schools I saw a very interesting reaction. In the 8th round, a student, who just happened to be my son, misspelled a word, was out of the competition, but celebrated as if he had won. He is a hilarious kid already, but this response took me by surprise. When it was all said and done and the winner was established, I asked my son why he was so giddy about coming in 16th place. He looked at me with eyes of devilish innocence and simply said, “Progress!”

Throughout all my years of teaching I always celebrated progress, growth…the little moments with that understanding that every student’s pinnacle may not be the same. However, when you take the time to make a big deal out of the little moments, students were encouraged to either keep climbing or challenge themselves on the next mountain. I’m ecstatic to know that my son has picked up on this and has learned to celebrate even 16th place…he didn’t even make the final 40 last year. Progress!

He just entered the Geography Bee…can’t wait to celebrate with him.



When To Put the  Lesson Plans Down


I saw some incredible learning today. I walked into a High School Social Studies classroom for a routine Tech Check and found myself wanting to forgo the remainder of my schedule to just to sit in. When I entered, students were providing political responses that were simple regurgitations of what their parents believe. Then suddenly a brave student said, “Mr. , what would make a good political party work?” The teacher tossed his notes to the side, pulled up a blank flip chart on his promethean board and simply said, “You tell me.” All heads were raised, eyes lit and students begin to design a Party based on their understanding of various features and characteristics of the current Democratic, Republican and Independent systems. The teacher would spit out an issue and the students would create their new party’s stance.

Personally, I despise whole group discussions regarding politics, but the students were extremely engaged. Every student had a say, I didn’t see any reluctance from anyone. Even the kid who was drawing when I walked in had something to add. The funny thing was, the students didn’t realize that they were demonstrating mastery during this activity. All they knew was this teacher valued their thoughts. What they also didn’t realize was the teacher simply wanted them to find their own voice and not the voice of others. He in turned realized to never underestimate the voice of his students.

I went a little further though. My suggestion was to provide the students with some sort of silhouette figure and decorate it by developing the perfect candidate to represent their newly created political party. Have them find a way to label the representatives characteristics, viewpoints, civic responsibilities, and anything else the would explain why they would be the exemplary candidate. This would also entail a full background that would most likely  be researched when being analyzed as a potential face of the party.

I know what you’re thinking. How many TEKS was he able to check off on that lesson. Who cares! I wonder how many students now truly understand the topic all because it suddenly became relevant. Sometimes it takes putting the lesson down for moment to make it applicable to where our students are today.


Rethinking The Value of Risk Taking

You’re in the cockpit of a smoking, loop-the-looping, out of control, 8-bit jalopy of an airplane. Grab hold of the yoke, ace. It’s going to take raw skill and white-knuckle stunts to get through this one. Enter the danger zone! Fly through treacherous obstacles, and earn stars to unlock new worlds.screen520x924 Whether it’s the verdant sloping hills of Summer or the time-bending passages of the Future, these levels are out to do one thing: stop you. Sorry, chief.

But don’t cry, you can always RETRY.

The above is a description to a new mobile game with an old skool feel that recently launched,  but I couldn’t help but to wish I was reading this about someone’s classroom. Retry, the game requires the player to take some risk in order to figure out the best way to navigate through the multitude of obstacles that are in place to keep you from reaching the finish line. Education can be set up the same way. Politics, assessments, lack of materials all represent the hills and slopes and treacherous dangers that keep us from allowing ourselves and our students the opportunity to take risk, fail and retry. We actually should embrace taking risk, failing and retrying; sounds like innovation to me. My most effective moments of teaching were when I had to revamp my lessons over and over, stand on my head, bust a rhyme (the means rap)  jump blindly into the learning space while dressed up like Ghandi, just to get a “aha moment” from my students. In demonstrating mastery, my students had to duplicate my efforts and had a blast start over and over and over. That’s when the most learning took place. I think the video below best demonstrates my idea of the Retry classroom and the value of risk taking. Hopefully after watching this 7 year old’s enthusiasm for taking a risk and failing you’ll have a different view of the impact it can have on learning. Thanks @Thrasymachus for sharing the video.

Funny thing about the video was it never showed the excitement in the device working to catch the monster, the excitement was in the overcoming the failures. #risktakers

I Will Get Better At…_____

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.”

How122843766_2fdec75605_m often do you look into the mirror at your reflection, especially in the morning, shrug your shoulders and go about your way without fixing what the mirror is there to reveal? Not often. In education though, it’s done time and time again until the mirror stops reflecting what’s wrong in our methods because we’re to busy trying  to reveal whats wrong with everything else. Self-Reflecting on what we are doing in the classroom is a critical piece to ensuring that we are providing the best possible learning experience for the students we have be given. Looking to see what the mirror reveals about our methods allows for us to truly ascertain the necessary steps we need to take in order to meet our students where they are.

Someone told me in that if we educators keep doing what we do, the same way we’ve always have done them, we will not get the same results like everyone thinks. The variable has changed; the student. Therefore, the way we approach the current learner has to be evaluated on a daily basis.With that being said, we need to get better at what we do every day. However, if we don’t look in the mirror of our teaching, we will not know what we need to get better at. Yes, that makes teaching more involved and stressful, but in the end, more rewarding.

So, Mirror mirror on the wall, please reveal what I need to get better at most of all.