5 Reasons For Educators To Embrace Blogging

The internet is an amorphous blob of personal space and public domain.  Few things can be said to embody both concepts.  Upon the internet becoming the internet, conceptual understanding progressed at a snail’s pace because people were asking what the internet can do before asking what the internet was.  The same thing is happening to the blogosphere.  To steal a concept from Mark O’Donnell: people are asking what blogs can do before asking what blogs really are.

In my opinion, the two ideas, what blogs are and what blogs can do, are inseparable because embedded in the identity of blogging is what it allows you to do.  As an anology: what I do is teach, I consider my identity- what I am- a teacher.  I am what I do.

Blogs are what they allow people to do.  

The following 5 benefits refer to professional articles as a result of blogging rather than a rambling personal diary reminiscent of a Bret Easton Ellis publication- but blogs are also blogs because they allow for this as well…

The Best Advice I've Ever Received From A New Teacher

" Well, I did it!" Ms. Sims exclaimed.  She was referring to her first year as an educator and we were sitting down for the end of the year mentor-mentee meeting.  We met a frustrated Ms. Sims a couple months ago.

"  I realized that there is SO MUCH STUFF... in teaching... there is so much to do, to remember, and I realized that I couldn't do it all.  I found myself cutting back and learning everything separately."

She was truly exuberant.  I was happy for her, I wasn't sure that she would make it.

"Can you give me an example- a cutting back and learn everything separately example?" I questioned.

"I wanted to be the best teacher in the school from day one, and put everything into practice that I learned from school and student teaching.  I quickly found that to be impossible."

Ms. Sims reached into her bag and pulled out her plan book.

The Fab New COI Model Of Learning

I’ve been on a theory binge lately.  It began several weeks ago when I re-read Pragmatism by William James—what a gem.  Very few ideas are as applicable as pedagogy that is pragmatic.  I thought that I was a pragmatic teacher by nature- hence the title for this website.  Until I came across a relatively new model called the Community of Inquiry (COI).

Theory junkies hold on- this model is the real deal.

This article is about one facet of the COI model: teacher presence.  I have two goals.  First, describe teacher presence and how it has pragmatic origins.  Second, hold myself accountable for what I’ve read and hopefully learned regarding the COI model.

2 Effective Steps To Deal With A Disruptive Student

Gene Therapy is an amazing technique in biotechnology used to fix a broken gene that causes a disease (the link leads you to a story about a blind boy how can now see!).  For example, the CFTR gene is damaged in an individual suffering from the respiratory illness Cystic Fibrosis.  To help the patient utilizing gene therapy, two things must occur:

First, the damaged gene must be identified.

Second, the damaged gene must be replaced.

If they occur, the individual has the potential to see a decrease in symptoms and become healthy.

The idea of fixing broken genes through a therapeutic process is awe-inspiring, but not the subject of this article.  For more information on gene therapy, read The Forever Fix by Ricki Lewis.

Identifying a corrosive agent and fixing it by inserting the properly functioning component is a ubiquitous
concept.  This article is about applying the idea of gene therapy to classroom management.  You'll learn the two step process used by expert teachers to change the behaviors of problem students quickly and efficiently.

Technology Is Not A Teacher

I respect Cal Newport, everything he writes, and take his advice seriously.  Reading his resourceshas helped me increase my productivity immensely.  However, a recent passage in his new book, Deep Work, caught my breath and made me give the ‘wait a second’ stink-eye. 

“The complex reality of the technologies that real companies leverage to get ahead emphasizes the absurdity of the now common idea that exposure to simplistic, consumer-facing products-especially in schools- somehow prepares people to succeed in a high-tech economy.  Giving students iPads or allowing them to film homework assignments on YouTube prepares them for a high-tech economy about as much as playing with Hot Wheels would prepare them to thrive as auto mechanics.”

I heard my mental microphone yelling “Cal, wait a second, technology in schools is a good thing, iPad, Chromebooks, they all increase student learning!”

Further, he was attacking the very root of integrating technology into schools- preparing our students for a techno-based economy when they enter the workforce.

This article is not about disagreeing with Newport.  It is about me organizing my thoughts on technology’s role in education.  As someone who teaches on TV, whose room is LOADED with technology (I’m the guinea pig in our building for new tech), I need a clear standpoint regarding technology in the classroom.  

Why You Should Test Your Students Everyday

"Researchers Find That Frequent Tests Can Boost Learning"- it's a catchy line, isn't it?  But how can this be?  Every teacher website, ed-blog, expert, administrator, educator, and parent are screaming that students are being tested too much.  Right?  We are sick of tests.

I bit and read the article --and the copywriters got one more view with this super seductive headline.

The article by Annie Murphy Paul in the August edition of Scientific American was a disappointment and a surprise.  I was disappointed because I was ready for a fight and didn't receive one.  I was prepared  to start swinging with my 'kids are tested too much already' rhetoric but I didn't even get in a small shoving match.  I agreed with the arguments presented and that surprised me.  I was surprised because Annie Murphy Paul reiterated what every effective educator already understands: recall is as important as content exposure.

Evidence of memory formation comes in the form of retrieval or recall through some sort of observable behavior.  If you teach a dog to sit and you'd like to make sure they learned the behavior, ask them to sit.  It they plant their butt on the ground, they were able to retrieve the memory and you were  a successful teacher.

The same can be said in any classroom.  Teach the students content.  Follow up by engaging them in a behavior that requires them to retrieve and recall that content.

Understanding Impulsive Student Behavior

"Wasn't she a hustler?" belted the student.

"No, Mother Teresa was an extremely kind and caring person who devoted her life to helping others.  That comment was extremely inappropriate. Please step outside, I'll be out to speak to you momentarily " I, as calmly as possible, replied.

Character education in my Earth Science class is important.  Asking the students for an example of an altruistic individual resulted in "Mother Teresa" and as a follow-up I asked "who was mother Teresa" which elicited the above prostitute response.

After I got the activity underway, I cracked the door to address the comment.  I said nothing and received :

"Mr. R, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that.  Sometimes I just shout things- and when I think about what I'm saying, I don't know why I'm saying it.  I'm really sorry."

My response was simple: "take a breath next time, it may give you a chance to think" and since the student was on the brink of tears " and take a moment and collect yourself.  Join you group when you are ready."

Issue resolved and lesson learned.  But wow, the things they say...

Reflecting later about the disturbance, I was confused about what the student said.  Particularly, the part about shouting things before thinking.  We all say things sometimes without thinking and are all prone to impulsive behavior.  But teenagers seem more so.  They have their "act on impulse dial" turned up- any secondary teacher understands this and has grown to accept it.

But why?  Why are teenagers more impulsive?  Is there a psychological explanation?

Of course there is!

Teach Empathy Through Books

As the weather warms the students become restless and emotions run high at our school.  They fight each other... a lot.  Today we had three fairly violent altercations before the bell rung for the first class.  Fights are, unfortunately, a part of an educational setting.

Though Spring-time fights are often fueled by relationship issues and amplified by cabin fever, many of the conflicts arise from simple misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Communicating through electronics, I feel, has robbed children of an important set of skills: theory of mind. In other words, kids, because they rarely interact face-to-face, don't understand how to interpret the actions of others.  They fail to understand how others think and feel.
Lacking the tools necessary to make social interpretations, the actions of others are often misinterpreted and misunderstood leading to an unnecessary conflict.  Being adolescents, their  emotion trumps cognition and consequence prediction which leads to physical conflicts.

How do we teach kids to think about what others are thinking and feeling?  How do we teach empathy- the skill of viewing a situation from another point of view to understand feelings?

Regaining Control Of A Rowdy Classroom: The Broken Window Theory Of Classroom Managment

The decline of crime in the 1990s throughout New York City is attributed to a variety of exogenous causes.  The most feasible theory is described by James Wilson and George Kelling and thoughtfully articulated by Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature.  You can also find discussions in Freakonomics and The Tipping Point.
In short, NYC saw a drastic decrease in crime because they prevented windows from breaking and immediately fixed them when necessary.

I’m kidding of course, but fixing broken windows is symbolic of the major ideas discussed in Wilson and Kelling’s article called Broken WindowsFixing and controlling small and seemingly insignificant issues- petty crimes- has a trickle up effect.  Policing and enforcing littering, loitering, and graffiti crimes will eventually decrease crime overall.  Though painfully oversimplified for this discussion, there are many facets in this idea which have implications for managing your classroom.