How To Use Examples And Analogies To Enhance Understanding

A fantastic section heading from Why Students Don't Like School by Daniel Willingham highlights the biggest obstacle that teachers face: student understanding.
"Understanding Is Remembering In Disguise"
As you let that sink in, also reflect on the difference between remembering  and  understanding.

Remembering is the ability to recall a past experience.

Understanding is the ability to use past experiences to formulate novel connections.

A Task Management System For Teachers That Works

Mrs. Callaway (not her real name) uses more sick days than any other teacher in the building.  But she is rarely sick.

She simply has trouble getting stuff done.  She lets her to-do accumulate to an astronomical length, feels overwhelmed, and routinely thinks that the only way to cross of the list to stay home and get it done.

(However, knowing that she doesn’t have professional responsibilities for the day proceeds to rationalize her way into sleeping in, having a prolonged breakfast, and finally realizing that by 3:30 she has done nothing but wasted a day set a side to do everything)

On average, by her own account, she takes a “to-do” day about every two weeks.  She and I have been working on a system, together, to manage this issue and had seen limited success; until we implemented the system described in this article.

This article is about a to-do system that is easy and actually works.  Further, when using it, you’ll find that to-do lists not only shrink in size, but virtually disappear.

3 Tips On How To Mitigate An Extreme Classroom Management Issue

John Doyle is systems scientist at Caltech and has coined an interesting phrase: robust-yet-fragile.  I first learned of his work while reading Anderw Zolli and Ann Marie Healy's book Resilience.  (It is a good read if you like Taleb's The Black Swan or Antifragile)

Robust-yet-fragile seems counterintuitive.  From Zolli and Healy:
"( robust-yet-fragile systems are)...complex systems that are resilient in the face of anticipated dangers... but highly susceptible to unanticipated threats."
Understanding this concept will give educators an additional tool in their classroom management toolbox.

The teacher's classroom is a complex system abounding with anticipated management issues: tardiness, inattention, distracting behavior, chatting etc.

You have effectively learned to deal with these foreseen issues and have practiced solution implementation.  For example you use physical proximity to hush a a chatty student without altering your lesson.

Planning to prevent and manage small issues makes your classrooms robust: immune to small disruptions.

However, acknowledge that once in a while, you find yourself knee deep in a situation that no one could've imagined.  "Knee deep" management issues are one-of-a-kind that cause you to shake your head in disbelief.

Extreme events, if handled improperly, can derail and destroy a lesson or worse, a classroom culture and environment.

This article is about dealing with extreme, lesson ending, classroom igniting events by mitigating their impacts.

The goal is to make your classroom resilient to any and all management issues.

Kurt Vonnegut And The Genuine Educator

I’ve read everything that Kurt Vonnegut has written (except for his most recent book published posthumously called Letters, which is on my reading list after Glass Castle).  I thought I had run my eyes across every line he’s authored until I was directed, via Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings, to Shaun Usher’s Letters of Note where I found a priceless letter he wrote to his family as a deployed soldier during WWII.

Those familiar with Vonnegut’s crude and cynical style assume that his pessimistic, and often hilarious, tone is used exclusively for his novels.  His unique style is his identity as an author.  In other words, the phrases and sentence structure used in his books were purposefully adopted for dramatic effect.  He surely can’t view the world through his literary lens.

4 Maxims From William James On How To Keep A Habit

You’ll rarely hear of a teacher that has a New Year’s resolution.  Rather they adopt New School Year’s resolutions.  Just as New Year’s resolutions last as long as it takes to read this article, so do New School Year’s Resolutions.

They fade exceptionally fast.

This article is about how to develop, in yourself as an educator, a lasting habit. (though the ideas can apply to any change of habit)  New School Year’s resolutions are just dressed up goals that incorporate a habit.

The Methodology Of Mother Nature

Humans can learn.  Prior to formal education, learning was dependent on natural processes occurring within the human organism in reaction to an ever-changing environment.

Therefore, the human brain has not evolved to learn in the standardized, sterile classroom we see in our schools but rather with Mother Nature as its teacher.

This article is about how, if we consider Mother Nature the ultimate educator, we can use her methods to improve our instruction.

Let's deconstruct the pedagogy of Mother Nature.

Silence As A Pedagogical Tool Part 2

Our discomfort with silence is persistent.  The last discussion highlighted the origin of that fear.  Most relevant to our discussion is the unrelenting stimulation that we experience on a daily basis.  Overwhelmed with constant input, our brain is playing catch up with a hyperactive environment. 

Our students fear silence because they rarely experience it.

Rather than trying to beat the beast, let us tame it and use it to our advantage.  We can use silence in the classroom to improve our teaching. 

This article outlines two powerful implications brought about by appropriately using silence.