Tuesday, January 25, 2011

As Exciting as New Boxing Gloves

I run an informal bootcamp for myself and any other teachers who want to work out on Friday's after school is out. We use the wrestling room, and I bring some exercise equipment for everyone to use, including some martial arts and boxing gear. We don't hit each other, but we do hit some focus mits and muay thai pads. My friend Jarod has been coming quite often, and I suggested he buy his own boxing gloves, as he doesn't like wearing the pink boxing gloves I use as loaners. Strange.

Well, after a quick look on craigslist, he found some. Jarod was very excited - he fully intended to use them on Friday. He put them on and began wearing them around his house. I think he probably began lightly punching walls and pieces of furniture. Then he tried some shadow boxing. Then he threw his shoulder out. I guess he wasn't ready for the extra pound of weight on the ends of his hands. Live and learn.

Wouldn't it be great if we could teach so that kids felt as if the knowledge they had learned were like new tools in a tool belt. Or a new set of boxing gloves. And then kids would be waiting, wanting, itching for a chance to use this new skill. Nothing feels as gratifying as using a new skill successfully - it's a feeling of transformation. You couldn't before, and now you can.

But, without putting their shoulders out I hope.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Short Thought on Money

I have entered a different phase in life. I notice now, more than ever before, when my friends have bigger houses, or nicer houses, or more newly renovated houses, or some other physical object that says they have made more, or been smarter with, money. Perhaps they took risks, or perhaps they got lucky. Perhaps they are good at saving. Perhaps some of them are up to their eyeballs in debt. You just never know.

But I do know this. Being rich does not make you more able to be generous, anymore than being powerful makes you more able to be right.

You have always had the ability to be generous. I encourage everyone to be generous today. Be generous with your time, be generous with your love. Especially with your children. And hey, if you can spare a few bucks to a good cause (you decide which), I am sure someone somewhere will appreciate that too.

Preparing for OMG

I was thinking back on my teaching career so far. I thought back to a time when I was in my first classroom teaching a class of grade 3 and 4 students. I was reading the words out for a spelling test, one of the first of the year, and I kept checking my watch. I was wondering when the "real" teacher was going to be back. Then it hit me.

OMG-I am the real teacher now.

Some of what I studied in university was helpful in preparing me for my career. Some was not. What I want students to think about is the feeling they would have when a customer or client looks at them after asking them a question, and then they realize that this person is now depending on them to know what to do.

This is the "Oh My Goodness" moment.

Students need to shift their thinking from learning things that teachers and parents tell them to learn, to thinking about how everything they learn changes them, or how it might equip them for their own OMG moment.

Because you never know when it will happen to you.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Using Audacity to Help LD Kids Write

Thomas is a grade 6 boy and has a learning diability. Actually he has more than one. He might have something called Central Auditory Processing Disorder. He has difficulties at times coming up with the right word when speaking. He has incredible difficulties writing sentences.

A sentence for Thomas saying "I am going to the store to buy a hammer and some nails" might come out like "sotre hammre buy nail".

But, Thomas has ideas just like every other kid. It has been so long since has gotten his ideas out, though, so that he no longer thinks of himself as a writer, or that he has great stories to tell.

Thomas can talk. I put him in front of a computer, and opened up the program Audacity. It is an open-source program that can record your voice, and save it as a sound clip. I plugged in a mic and some headphones for better sound quality. Then I did some brainstorming out loud with Thomas on a topic he enjoys - dirtbikes and quads. I taught him how to record a sentence, rewind, and play it back, pausing after each couple words. He would then write the words out by hand. However, I noticed that he had some difficulties with spelling too. Thomas would spell the word "wheels" as "whelles". He knew there was a double letter in the word, but not which one. I thought that MS Word could help with this, so he began typing out two words at a time while he listened to his own sentences. This is an excerpt - sentences 5 and 6:

Three are deferent cines of quads there are some quads meet for racing and some are off road. Dirt bikes can do different tricks . you can do a superman grab on a dirt bike.

This is more output in 5 minutes than he does in his classroom in 20 minutes. He needs someone to brainstorm and rehearse his ideas with out loud. He needs practice using Audacity, and he needs practice using MS Word to spell check. After seeing his results, his teacher predicts that this is the way he will pass 6th grade. I am excited, and cautiosly optimistic. I work with him again on Friday, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Talk like you Tweet

I have been trying to save energy in my classroom. I don't mean by turning off lights, or changing the power settings on my computer monitor. I mean I have been trying to save my own energy so I have more energy to be a good dad and husband when I come home for the day. So, now I am trying to talk less during some classes.

The approach has been thus - talk like I tweet. When I post a thought on twitter, I get 140 characters to get my message across. It forces me to be succinct, and choose my words carefully.

When I make a jing, I get five minutes for my video, and that is it. Is this a sign of the times that people are developing shorter attention spans. Perhaps, but I think it is also equally likely that some people who like to talk have always been not quite as interesting to listen to as they think, and that now there are more options for people's attention.

Be brief, and set more realistic goals for communication. Talk for less time than people expect; they will appreciate it. Repeat yourself - students often need that . Eventually the message gets through.

Who Doesn't Love Swiss Trains

When I was backpacking around Italy, sometimes a 3pm train departed at 3pm. Sometimes it was a bit later. Sometimes, it was a lot later. Never early, which is good, because that would have screwed things up for a lot of people. But when I travelled through Switzerland (the most expensive 24 hours of my European adventure) everything ran on time.

I love Italy. Trains that are sometimes late do not make me love it less; how could it. But I love it when trains run on time.

When someone is on time, it says that they value your time at least as much as their own. When someone is late they are saying to you that their time is more important than yours. When you show up late, people aren't immediately thinking you are a jerk. They are thinking that you showed up late because you think they are jerks.

Then they think you are a jerk.

When students hand in work late to me, it is likely caused by one of two things.

1.) They lack confidence in their work and their abilities
2.) They don't feel the need to hand it in on time.

Say what you will about kids' organizational abilities; if it were concert tickets, they would be johnny-on-the-spot early!

Gotta go. I have to be on time for teaching class.