Silence As A Pedagogical Tool Part 1

Cole destroyed his basal ganglia, the cells in his brain responsible for many important fundamental operations when he was crushed under a 4-wheeler.

18 months later and after intensive therapy, Cole entered his sophomore year of high school and is dependent on an adult for his daily needs.  He came back to school because he missed his friends and is determined to walk across the stage during graduation.

It is truly enjoyable spending time with Cole and I sincerely look forward to it. The last time he stopped by my classroom, he named my new turtle "Ricky".

As a result of his brain injury, there is a delay in communication which makes interacting very uncomfortable.

After his last visit, I began feeling poorly about myself because I felt uneasy around Cole.  It is the delay that I’m struggling with.

The delay translates to a silence lasting, what seems like, eons.  In reality, the time between exchanges is only about 20 seconds.

Why am I uncomfortable with delays between spoken exchanges?

Why are we so impatient to receive responses when in conversation?

Why are silent pauses so awkward?

As with every perplexing question, The Pragmatic TV Teacher dove into the realm of literature to find an answer.

There is an answer, and also a way to use silent pauses to our advantage while teaching.

This article describes why silent, extended pauses are uncomfortable.  The second part to the article discusses how we can use silence during lesson implementation.

6 Tips On Managing Your Classroom From A Venture Capitalist

Guidance in education can come from unique sources.  Ben Horowitz is a venture capitalist and successful technology entrepreneur.  The Hard Things About Hard Things is his contribution to the entrepreneur business community on how to develop and manage a successful business.

He also has an awesome blog.  Business person or not, he has a lot to offer.

Being a CEO is not an easy job, and Horowitz doesn't sugar coat the details.  Why are we discussing him here?  Because he offers pragmatic advice.

An area of guidance that struck me was his advice on how to fire people.  As a business ebbs and flows, it is an unfortunate inevitability.

Considering the unfortunate inevitabilities in education, one corollary came to mind: classroom management.

Just as a CEO doesn't want to deal with staffing cuts, an instructor does not want to deal with issues in a classroom that extend beyond typical management.

No teacher wants them, but every teacher has them: the issues that demand immediate attention because the behavior is effecting others in the class.

The bad kid.

I'm going to use the advice Horowitz gives future business leaders on the proper way to fire people as a framework for effective classroom management.

Relevant Reading List: Encouraging Correct Decisions

Encouraging Correct Decisions

A unique occupation like teaching requires unconventional preparation.  The Relevant Reading Lists are a series of books that when read together convey a similar message imperative to teaching.  The books listed are not included in typical teacher preparation programs. The Pragmatic TV Teacher feels they should be.  Reading these will make you a better educator.

Your classroom is a social landscape.  As a landscape it needs to be be maintained.  Proper care ensures an environment where your students are encouraged to make correct decisions.  The following resources will help you understand the process of decision making and how to manipulate a situation to facilitate healthy choices.  I consider social psychology one of the most underutilized sciences when addressing education.

Influence by Robert Cialdini
Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstien
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Start with Thinking Fast and Slow.

Claiming The Classroom Territory

Mentoring is a lost art. (more here about mentoring and keeping exceptional young teachers.)

Mentoring is reassuring for the mentee and rejuvenating for the mentor.

Most new teachers are mentored.  Mentors should have timeless advice and pragmatic best practices.

How do you give advice to a young struggling teacher?

How do you craft phrases that are both meaningful and memorable?  A mentor's words need to pack a punch.  Where is one to start?

This article has been developing as a witches brew in many ways, and the thought process was finally solidified as I was re-reading Steven Pressfield's The War of Art; an awesome resource for igniting your creative self.

This article is not about the importance or role of a mentor.  This article is not about how best to be a mentor or the logistics of the mentor mentee relationship.

This article is about the best advice I was given when developing as a teacher from my mentor.

I'll never forget it: "Your classroom is your territory, and no one messes with your territory."

Typing it makes it appear less aggressive and assertive as the lines pour through my mind.

It's an "in your face" philosophy for gaining control of your craft.  Territory implies something personal, protected, and cherished.  I love the lines and still value it's meaning.

This article is about heeding the advice of my mentor and making your classroom your territory.

13 Ways That Expert and Novice Teachers Think Differently

An age old question still lacks an answer: what makes a good teacher good and a bad teacher bad?
When trying to identify the characteristics between novice and expert educators, we often look at instructor behaviors.  What do expert teachers DO that novice teachers don't, or vice versa.

Rarely considered is the way expert teachers THINK differently than novice teachers.  How do expert teachers mentally represent common classroom issues and occurrences?

When training new teachers, it would be helpful to not only tell them what to do, but also how to think.

Tracy Hogan and Mitchell Ravinowitz reviewed a ton of literature looking to see if expert teachers mentally represent components of education differently than novice teachers.

This article will describe 13 differences between the way novice and expert teachers think.  Though some can be interpreted as behaviors, I encourage you to read them considering the cognitive thought processes that underlie each one.

Go strait to the source, their article is incredibly thorough and very readable.

The Important Research Most Teachers Have Forgotten

Teachers are often lied to.  Most of the time by students trying to sneak out of a missing homework assignment, but in some cases by research scientists.

Before you get mad and swear off academic literature as a professional development resource, know that the findings will not only help you as a teacher, but also increase the IQ of your students.

18 classroom teachers gave the TOGA IQ test to their students at the start of the school year.  The teachers were told that the test was used to discover "bloomers", or students primed that year to excel.

With the scores calculated, the researchers gave a list to each teacher of who, in their class, was ready to explode intellectually.

But they lied.

7 Tips To New Teachers On How To Be Visible

"I'd love to stay and chat more, but I have a quick meeting with Stacy" I innocently commented to a colleague

"I'm sorry, with who?" I was asked.

"Stacy, the living environment teacher, her room is actually right around the corner from you."

"Oh, her.  I thought there was a new teacher in that room but I never see her."

You'd think that this conversation occurred in September, at the start of a school year.  I'm sorry to say that his occurred last week, in late-June.

During the short walk to Stacy's room, an often quoted phrased jumped in my head normally reserved for celebrities:
"Invisibility is a fate worse than failure."
Stacy had become invisible.  Further, if she had become invisible to her colleagues, how visible was she to her students?

This article is about pragmatic steps to make yourself visible without adding additional work.

Educators who are visible, "get" education.

How To Deal With Rejection In Education

"I feel like I'm sinking..." my mentee squeaked.  " I don't know if I can do this again next year."

The sink or swim conversation is often referenced in education, especially in relation to first year teachers.  Being honest with ourselves, we must admit that there are times when all of us feel like we are sinking.

We sink the fastest after rejection.

Rejection in education comes in many forms: disrespect from a student, a stalled initiative, or a conflict with a coworker.

How we bounce back is important.  Resiliency is a strong personality trait.

This article is about how to bounce back from rejection in education. For guidance, we turn to a book about...selling (?!?).