Is it possible to learn everything about a topic; to answer every question that can be asked?
Math teachers might point to the skill of addition, where 2 + 2 always equals 4.
But does it?
It's easy to hide from progress and avoid change.
It's easy to deny that which is good for you.
It's easy to call into question the intentions, background, and knowledge of those willing to support you.
It is much harder; however, to peer inward and accept that which needs to change.
Vince Lombardi once said, "The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand."
Let's do the hard work.
"The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score." — Unknown
Goals are important. But too often we get caught up in being "SMART" and creating goals designed to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. We often forget about the single, most important factor: setting a purpose. We focus all of our attention on the who, what, where, when, and how, and lose sight of the why.
Simon Sinek has made a career out of pushing people to "Start With Why," but what he is really talking about is focusing on the fundamental and self-evident concept of purpose.
Every thought and every action has a purpose. And humans need purpose. Focusing on asking the right questions helps lead us to finding purpose in what we do any why we do it.
Frequently, I hear teachers wrestling over questions like, "What chapter are you on?", "Where are you in this unit?", "How long did it take to get through this chapter?", and "What do I do with this student?"
Students, on the other hand, tend to be laser-focused on finding purpose in nearly everything, asking questions like, "Why do I need to learn this?", "How does this benefit me?", and "Why are we doing this?"
In this regard, we could learn a lot from our students.
I know it's a bit late for "Free Resource Friday," but a simple tool I use to help ensure I focus on finding purpose is called Momentum. Momentum is a free Chrome extension, which hijacks (in a good way) my homepage and presents me with a beautiful landscape, a simple clock, and a prompt asking, "What is your main focus for today?" Whatever I type into the prompt becomes my checklist and disappears when I complete it.
Teachers (or students) can use this to set a focus for each day or each class and help develop their purpose.
Let me know your thoughts and if you find Momentum helpful in improving your focus and setting a purpose, in your classroom or life.
If you are from the Northeastern United States, last night was probably pretty exciting. You may be aware that on Sunday, 1/21/2018, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles battled two incredibly strong NFL teams and arose victorious; capturing the titles of AFC and NFC champions (respectively) and transforming their dreams of attending this year's Super Bowl into a reality.
In Philadelphia, celebrations received national attention, even before they began. Police, fire, and paramedic teams were on high alert, dispersed throughout the city to deal with raucous revelers. Teams of city workers were instructed to coat light poles with Crisco-brand shortening, to inhibit climbing. The workers referred to themselves as Crisco Cops, with an all-too-obvious trending hashtag: #CriscoCops.
Now I don't bring up the game to brag about the Eagles, my hometown team, nor to insult the Vikings or their fans. Instead, I bring up the game to discuss the topic of "shared experiences."
Whether we choose to follow football or not, as educators we cannot avoid the limitless opportunities a shared experience, like a playoff or championship game, brings to our classrooms.
From graphing wins and losses to calculating probability, math lessons can be enriched with a simple nod to this, or virtually any, sport.
In ELA, students can explore tone, structure, audience, as it relates to advertising. They can dive deep into controversies surrounding the marketing of potentially unhealthy products to younger viewers.
Students can draw similarities between current sports and ancient ones or determine what forces are acting on a football, or a player, during a game. They can also be challenged to create their own music or artwork to communicate a particular feeling or emotion, on the field.
We have limitless ways to embrace shared experiences and a countless number of shared experiences we can leverage in our classrooms, with or without professional sports.
And if you can't come up with a shared experience to use in your classroom, find a way to create your own.
In his book, Teach Like a Pirate, Dave Burgess poses the questions, "Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets to?" These lessons include Dave's complete transformation of his classroom into a speakeasy—including a secret password to enter class—which, ultimately, helped his students learn about prohibition.
With a little bit of creativity and planning, we can create shared experiences students will remember for years, even decades. But you have to ask yourself the ultimate question: Would you want to be a student in your own classroom? If the answer is no, pick up Teach Like a Pirate and reach out for support and suggestions.
“At some point in your career you have to decide if you care more about teaching to tests or teaching kids. My decision was made a long time ago. I teach kids.”—Dave Burgess
Orr, Conor. “Against the Odds, Eagles Are Going to Super Bowl LII.” SI.com, www.si.com/nfl/2018/01/22/eagles-vikings-nfc-championship-super-bowl-52.
P.S. Go Eagles!
Create, in your mind, an image of a robot.
What does it look like? R2-D2? WALL-E? The Terminator? Something else?
What might it sound like? Mechanical? Emotionless? Cold?
Now picture yourself in a classroom. You are a student. What do you hear?
Do you hear the teacher? What is she (or he) saying?
Is she reading from a textbook? A website? Is she giving directions? Or disciplining?
Robotic or unemotional, like Ferris Bueller's Economics teacher? Is she stiff or mechanical, like Charlie Brown's teacher?
Is she filled with passion, like Rita Pierson? Exciting, fun, and engaging, like Joe Dombrowski? Courageous and strong, like Sakena Yacoobi?
When you begin to feel drained, depleted, robotic—don't think you won't; you will—find a mentor. If not physically, then virtually. If not for hours, then minutes. Find an inspirational video. Read a great book. Connect with an educational thought leader, on Twitter.
Then, connect with yourself. Allow your passion to be ignited. Do something different; do anything different.
When you feel your passion growing, when the fun returns, be courageous. Be strong. And share.
Share your journey on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. Become a mentor, an inspiration, for someone who really, really needs it. Alfred Mercier once said, “What we learn with pleasure we never forget." I believe this statement is no more true for students, as it can be for educators.