Monday, March 31, 2014

Motivation Monday #13 - Be Phenomenal {March 31, 2014}

Every Monday I post quotes and/or videos to inspire and motivate you through your week. Get ready for a great week! 

The video below is so motivating! After you watch it, I would love for you to let me know which words motivate you!

Here are two quotes that stuck with me long after the video ended. 

Remember to let me know your favorite part! Have a great week!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

When We Need to Take Our Own Advice

Last week was a tough week for me both personally and professionally. As one of the two assistant principals responsible for freshmen discipline, I found myself counseling several girls last week as they had been in conflicts with each other on different occasions.

With ninth grade girls, they often find themselves in situations where one girl says something to another girl that is rude, untrue, or mean. Sometimes this is based on assumptions about what the other girls are thinking or doing. It often results from judging intentions of the other person instead of only their actions. 

What I told the girls is that they can only control what they can control. They can control their own behavior and how they respond to another person's behavior, but they can't control the other person's response or the other person's actions.  For example, one young lady was willing to apologize for her negative behavior towards another student. I praised her for taking ownership of her behavior and reminded her that she cannot control how the other student would respond to her. She needed to accept that the only part she had any control over was her apology.

I also reminded her that sometimes we just have to let things go. If another person says something about her that is untrue or just plain mean, we have to LET GO of those things. I also urged the girls that if they get frustrated or angry to come and see me or their counselor. We would be there to listen, advise, support, and intervene if we needed to.

Last week, I found myself needing to take my own advice. I had to remind myself that I can only control what I can control. Like the suggestion I gave to the girls, I reached out to others for advice and support. I even reached out to members of my PLN, drawing strength from friends like Jimmy Casas, Daisy Dyer Duerr, and Becky Ince.

The following two suggestions are valuable in most tough situations, not just the ones in which I found my freshmen.

All of the girls that I met with left my office with a positive mindset and with the promise to remind themselves that they can only control what they can control. I set a reminder on my calendar to "check in" with them after we return from Spring Break this week to see how they are doing. To see if they have let things go. To check their mindset. To say, “I'm here for you.”

What other suggestions would make to someone in a tough situation?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Motivation Monday #12 - Why Be Normal? {March 24, 2014}

Every Monday I post quotes and/or videos to inspire and motivate you through your week. Get ready for a great week! 

Why be normal

when you can be amazing?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The One Thing We All Need to Be

When working with students, building a positive relationship is imperative by the teacher. Notice I didn't say by the student. I believe that the teacher, the responsible adult in the relationship, is responsible for crafting and nurturing a positive relationship. The key to doing this is through empathy.

Why empathy?
  • You will better understand those around you
  • You will better deal with interpersonal conflict
  • You can better deal with negative people and their motivations
  • You will better understand the perceptions you create in others and the role of your actions and words

How to practice empathy:
  • Listen. Really listen. Consider the other person's point of view. Their life experiences and motivations that have led them to their particular view.
  • When responding, begin with "I understand," "I agree," or "I appreciate."
  • Assume the best in others. Intentions included.
  • Open the two-way street. Share experiences, beliefs, and feelings.
  • Look for commonalities. "We are more alike than different" becomes your new mantra. 

What empathy does not look like:
  • Lecture
  • Explanation
  • "Yes, but...."
  • Interruption
  • Tune out
  • Change the subject

Opportunities to practice:
  • When the student says, "This is stupid." In front of the class.
  • A student comes to class looking sad and doesn't participate in the class discussion
  • When the student comes to class and says, "I hate my _________ teacher," and slams his books on his desk.
  • When the student doesn't have her homework and says that her dog was put to sleep the previous afternoon.

What does empathy look like where you are?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Motivation Monday #11 - Winning is a Habit by Vince Lombardi {March 17, 2014}

Every Monday I post quotes and/or videos to inspire and motivate you through your week. Get ready for a great week! 

I've always loved Vince Lombardi quotes, and it's probably because of my background in athletics and coaching. However, I tend to take his words as well as the words of other coaches and athletes that I've heard over the years and apply them to all aspects of my life.

And, since it's St. Patrick's Day, I thought I'd toast the day with the quote below.

Get after it this week!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How to Help Struggling Readers

**Today's post is based on a presentation by Kylene Beers. It was an eye-opening experience and impacted me greatly. If you would like a copy of the entire Powerpoint presentation I created, feel free to email me.

So let's just jump right in…. Read the slide to yourself. Out loud if you like. Then see if you can answer the questions below the passage.

I bet you can answer them can’t you?

How many students do this… they pick out the answers to the questions but still don’t have a clue what it means?


What if I told you what just ONE word meant?
Think it would be that big of a difference?

Let’s try it.

What if I told you that Marsden = birthday? Try reading it again.

Were you able to use context clues to figure out more words?
How does this apply to teaching vocabulary in your content area?

How about another one….

Do you know what these words mean?

Heard the words before?

Try reading this….

Here’s the point…

Anyone can struggle given the right text.

The struggle isn’t the issue.

The issue is what the reader does when the text gets tough.

The KEY PREDICTOR of reading success is the student’s background knowledge.

The brain searches for familiar patterns in new information.

The brain only pays attention to meaningless information for a short time; if it cannot make sense out of it, it will not process the information further.

Try it...

How’d you do?

What did your background experience tell you that needed to go in the blanks? (The answers are at the end of the post)

How to help students…

Below is some information sent to me by one of our district's Chief Academic Officers, Cindy Adams:

Kylene Beers and Bob Propst, respected secondary literacy leaders in the country, recently completed a survey across the US.  They found that 75% of secondary students are assigned less than 30 minutes a week of reading per week and that 85% report reading for 10 minutes or less a day (either in the classroom or outside the classroom).  I think today was the first day they released the results of the survey. One of her conclusions was that the US will never be a “nation of readers” if we don’t give students time to read.   

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Importance of Variety and Planning in a Secondary Classroom

Today's guest post is by Hoover High School biology teacher, Paul McEwan. Paul has been "stepping outside of his comfort zone" this year and trying lots of new activities with his students. 
The verdict? They love it!

In a flipped classroom, it’s all about using class time to help students apply and interact with the information they have read or heard the night before. I spend a good bit of time coming up with a variety of “activities” to keep the students engaged in learning biology during a 48-minute class period.  It’s not about using technology for the sake of technology, or even using a hands-on activity for the sake of a hands-on activity.  It’s about selecting, planning, and implementing meaningful learning experiences that will facilitate our students’ learning, and that takes a lot of thought, preparation, and organization.

In biology we’re learning about classification right now so the students had to read information about “Dichotomous Keys” outside of class. The next day, we began class by briefly discussing and defining “di- and dichotomous.”

Then the students played the “Guess the Person” game, a free app downloaded on their iPads, for about 8-10 minutes. I reminded the students why they were playing the game, which was to reinforce dichotomous classification or the presence of one characteristic (e.g. blue eyes) versus the absence of the same characteristics (e.g. “non-blue eyes).  

Then we worked together to create a dichotomous key using the students’ shoes!  I drew the key on the board as students provided input on the groupings until one or two shoes were classified down to a group of one. 

Next, the students worked in pairs to use a dichotomous key, referring to their biology textbook. To provide independent practice, I sent them home with a dichotomous key worksheet on sharks.

On another evening, the students read information on the “Methods of Classification” and completed a simulation about whales

When they came into class the next day, the students answered four questions that were listed on the board and we discussed them.

Then I showed two short clips from the movie, Fly Away Home (1996) to illustrate “imprinting” and the “migration of birds.” I thought this was a more engaging way of covering the behavioral method of classification than simply lecturing about it.

Finally, we completed a small group activity called “Classification of Candy.” This activity was used to reinforce the whale simulation. Using paper plates, plastic knives, and one baggie of mini candy bars per group, the students first classified the candy by external physical traits or morphology and then by internal structure or characteristics that may not be immediately evident.

 In this way, we were able to learn about “cladogram classification.”  We used the information from the cladogram classification to create phylogenetic trees; thus, simulating the evolutionary history or “speciation” of their candy “over time.”

In each 48-minute class session I use a variety of pedagogical techniques, including but not limited to questioning, discussion, demonstration, technology-aided simulations, hands-on activities, games, audio-visual reinforcement, small group work, labs, and mini-lectures.  The amount of activities is not what’s important, and quite honestly, the type of activities can be tailored to the needs of the students or to what equipment and materials the teacher has available.  The important thing is to think ahead, to collaborate and share ideas with others, and to plan, plan, plan.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Motivation Monday #10 - 20 Things We Should Say More Often {March 10, 2014}

Every Monday I post quotes and/or videos to inspire and motivate you through your week. Get ready for a great week! 

Today I'm sharing Kid President's "Twenty Things We Should Say More Often"

Who doesn't love Kid President?!

Which of the "Twenty Things" have you said recently?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Motivation Monday #9 - Shakira meets Muhammad Ali {March 3, 2014}

We had an incredible TED event this past weekend in Birmingham. The video below was shown to us at TEDxBirmingham, and I knew I had to share with you as part of the Motivation Monday series!!

It's longer than most videos for MM, but it is hilarious and touching and inspiring. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

My Reflections on TEDxBirmingham

"Rediscover the Magic"

Wow. Wow. Wow.

Attending the TEDxBirmingham event was an amazing experience, and I hope to share my take-aways with you and convey my deep sense of awe, appreciation, and inspiration from the day.

For the event, we had to choose to either sit in the balcony so that we could use a phone, iPad, or other device to tweet and blog. If we sat in the orchestra section, we weren't allowed to use our devices because the backlights would cause a distraction in the video recording. I chose to sit close by. I missed sending out tweets during the talks, but I took tons of notes that I want to share with you!

The theme for the day was "Rediscover the Magic." For those of you not from Birmingham, the city's nickname is "The Magic City" (because of its rapid growth during the manufacturing age). The event organizers assembled a diverse group to give the TEDx talks, and they didn't disappoint! The topics ranged from education reform to fighting prejudice to bravery to failure to crowdfunding to a sustainable healthy food supply. Whew!

The notes I'm going to share with you are the things I heard that were impactful for me. I encourage you to check out the twitter stream for the event (#TEDxBham) and/or follow @TEDxBirmingham. You can learn more about all the speakers HERE

My takeaways:

1. We can all be inspired by each other. Period. Malik Kofi, a nationally recognized cellist who is 12 years old said, "I'm only 12, but I believe that everyone here can inspire another with their strengths and talents."

2. We can all be brave. Jen Barnett lives her life by asking, "What could happen?" (She says, if you won't go to jail or die, try it!) When was the last time you tried something that scared you? (I'm asking this of myself.) AND she said, "You have to be brave enough to ask for what you want."

3. Protect art education. "The legacy of a civilization is its art." Shared by Theresa Bruno. She shared success story after success story of how the arts have changed lives - from access to art education in schools to art therapy for ill hospital patients.

4. Make every moment count. Jim Cavale reminded us that we don't know how much time we have on Earth. We must pour ourselves into others and allow others to pour themselves into us. Our legacy will come from this.

5. Food is the problem and the solution. We need a healthy sustainable food supply. We suffer from obesity and illnesses because our food supply is contaminated. We need to protect our future by finding ways to protect our food supply. Chris Hastings, renowned chef and owner of Hot and Hot Fish Club believes that every Alabamian should have access to healthy food.

6. Don't stop being a beginner at something. Dr. Pat Hymel said these words. He also said, "Be intimate with failure and the negative inner voice." This is how we get better. And, he reminded us, "Innovations cannot occur without failure."

7. Keep fighting the good fight. I love the following quote from fellow educator Victoria Hollis, "Our city can't reach it's full potential if its future inhabitants can't reach theirs."

There was SO much MORE to TEDxBirmingham! I couldn't possibly capture it all here. (I strongly encourage you to check out the hashtag #TEDxBham on Twitter.)

In closing, to repeat the words of organizer Matthew Hamilton,
"Ideas mystify, words evoke, and actions transform."

What will you do to transform your school, business, community, world?