Saturday, February 19, 2011

I Hit a Student

Yes, you read the title correctly. I lost control and hit a kid in the face this past Friday. It wasn’t my intention, but it just sort of happened. I thought I had the situation under control but I was wrong. This is how it happened…


It was a normal Friday morning and I was in the tile gym. I saw the student standing a measly ten yards away from me. He was mocking me, making faces at me, and even doing a fair amount of trash talking. So, I did it. In my defense though, I was aiming for his gut. However, my release was all off and the ball sailed a little high on me and caught this trash talking student right on the chin.

Soon after I released it I knew there would be consequences of this action as a barrage of bombardments balls flew in my direction. I was hit and out before my ill-fated ball even made contact with the poor student’s face.

I continued to play the rest of the game with the over 200 students in the gym that morning and had a blast. More than the fun of the game, but for the relationship building that happens on such occasions. For most students, teachers are just adults in a classroom that assign homework and give tests. In this case, I was a player just like every other person in the room and the kids love it.

Now when I ask the students to put some more effort into a project they are more willing. Why? The reason is that I am not longer just a teacher, but I am also that guy that will take a shot and play bombardment with the kids in the morning. I shoot hoops with them during study halls, and have been known to play RISK with them from time to time. In kid language it gives me a little street credit and that pays large dividends in the classroom.

Kids will work hard and do what is asked of them if it comes from someone they have a positive relationship with. Those relationships may take days, weeks, or months in a classroom. However, if you look in the right places they can be built in a morning of throwing bombardments balls at each other. They can be found playing table tennis, shooting hoops, kicking a soccer ball, or the host of other extracurricular activities available to kids. Those are great places to build those relationships that will help kids buy-in to your classroom and more importantly into you as the teacher.

Relationships are key in life and certainly key in a student, teacher relationship. How are you cultivating your positive relationships with students?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Are Teachers Obsolete?

I recently saw this commercial on TV and it got me thinking. Technology does move faster than the speed of light and the world is struggling to keep up. I remember not too long ago my parent’s first mobile phone. It was a bag that was kept in the car and had about a ten minute monthly plan and everywhere you went was “roaming”. My cell phone does more thing than the first computers I worked on in school. The reality is that the technology we have now will not be around in its current form when our children are our age.


With that being said, one has to reflect on the technology and teaching in the classrooms. Overheads are largely a thing of the past and interactive whiteboards are all over the place. However, has teaching really changed along with the technology being used? Is the way we go about doing our jobs different than a generation ago? As the technology changes and becomes obsolete, are traditional teachers becoming obsolete along with it?

To be clear I would define a traditional teacher as one that stands in front of the classroom as the grand dispenser of knowledge. Students sit in their desks and takes notes and study hard for their tests. Homework is assigned every night because that is what is done and if you turn it in late your grade is lowered. Tests are given as assessment of learning and certainly no such thing as student choice and retakes. To me this was largely what I experienced growing up in a rural public school system.

Has the practice of teaching changed or just the tools we use? Is the way in which students learn changing, or do we just understand it better now? Can a teacher that taught 50 years ago be successful in our classrooms today without adapting and changing to the students in the seats? Can students learn without a teacher? My 5 year old son is learning how to read with his ipad…and I find it an amazing thing to witness… Do the students need us to teach them? Or have our jobs changed?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Common Sense

It has become abundantly clear to me in recent weeks that common sense is something that truly is not common. Regardless of what the topic or circumstances, common sense is just not common. With that in mind I wanted to share some things that I view as common sense but have gotten feedback to think I may be wrong. Am I wrong or are these things supposed to be common sense these days?


 
  • Students are not motivated by grades.
  • Nowhere in the “good teacher handbook” does it say you have to assign homework or grade everything students turn in.
  • A five year old boy will always laugh when he farts…and his two year old brother will too.
  • Technology is merely a tool and does not guarantee increased learning. Used properly, it most certainly can and will increase learning.
  • Education reform is not a buzz word but something being done right now in classrooms around the globe.
  • Pregnant women should not drink alcohol.
  • Standardized tests are but one measurement of a child. Just as a free throw percentage is but one measurement of a basketball player.
  • Good teachers are good because they’re good, not because of tools, resources, or technology.
  • Experienced teachers have just as much to learn from new teachers as they do from them.
  • The Chicago Cubs will always break my heart.
  • Students will not misbehave if they are engaged in meaningful and engaging work.
  • You can’t “make” your students do anything, you can only encourage them.
  • The best way to see if something works is to try it yourself.
  • Everyone is capable of learning.

 
Again, these are things that I view as common sense but maybe I am naïve. What am I missing that should be considered common sense in this day in age?

 

 

 

To Be or Not To Be...

Over the past few years I have been approached by various peers as well as administrators in my school district about pursuing my administrative degree and joining the administrative ranks. Naturally I find this flattering that anyone would think I would make a good administrator. However, my answer to those requests and comments has always been the same. No. I never say never, but at this point in my considerably short career I don’t see it happening. Recently, I have been trying to evaluate why my answer is always no and why teachers make the choice to become an administrator.


For some people there is a bump in pay which is a realistic and justifiable reason to make the move up the ladder. I don’t do the job for the money so this is not a motivator for me. Teachers that are motivated by money are not doing the job for the right reason and therefore would not make good administrators.

Another reason I see teachers move into administration is for the move up the ladder. In most corporate settings you start as low man on the totem pole and work your way to the corner office on the top. Some educators are not that different and see the move to administration as the move up the “corporate ladder”. I have no desire to move up a ladder and therefore this is not something that appeals to me. I would also argue that administrators that view this as their reason are probably not doing it for the right reason.

The third and final reason that I could think of for becoming an administrator is the increased influence and control that an administrator has in a school or district. Administrators can influence curriculum, school policy, staffing, scheduling, and nearly every aspect of a school. If we have good teachers in these positions we would assume that they could be good administrators. They use the increased influence to move a building or district in a forward motion to increase over all student learning. Through tapping into their experiences in the classrooms, they can look to make positive changes. However, we also know administrators that use their authority to push personal agendas or just keep the status quo.

I got into education because I like teaching. I enjoy working with students on a daily basis and sharing their learning and their lives with them. I enjoy the relationships I build with staff members and students alike. Administrators do have influence on building decisions, but I influence my students’ lives daily on a deeper level than I ever could in the front office.

So, if you are an administrator, I would love to hear why you made the decision to be one. If you are a teacher that does not want to become an administrator, I would like to hear why.