Don’t be a Goob!

img_0468

What’s a goob? We all probably know at least one! You might even have another name for them. They are the negative ones who can and do ruin the possibility of something good just by their comments and reactions. They are the elephant in the room. If you aren’t a goob, you might get trapped in their web of negativity. You start to become goob like! If you are a goob, please stop because you are ruining it for others. Hmmm…the more I think about it, there probably aren’t many goobs reading this blog post ūüôā

I write this post with the thought that we can’t just ignore this elephant in the room. Change is needed in schools and we can’t afford to let a small group (hopefully) of people distract us from sharing and implementing these necessary improvements. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not talking about the teachers or administrators who have legitimate disagreements with specific improvements. We need a variety of research based opinions on our quest for a better education system! Goobs are those who will fight anything that is different just simply because…not because of any research.

It is uncomfortable to face the goob and, as a result, many times we just simply try to ignore them. I want to suggest a different approach. Why not talk about the goob, not as an individual, but as a group? What if we acknowledge the elephant in the room?¬†The best outcome would see the goob change and be an open and a willing participant in the improvement process.¬†¬†The worst case scenario would be that they do not change their minds and start to grumble to themselves, but at least they won’t poison the proverbial watering hole! What if school districts¬†used a hashtag like #dontbeagoob as a way of putting them on notice that we won’t allow the goobs to bring others down? Planning a different kind of professional development activity? Use this new hashtag along with the “legitimate” ones to silence the goobs. Would this acknowledgment of the elephant in the room help to change the culture of a school? I don’t know, but I am willing to try it and see what happens.

Don Sturm

Choices, Choices, Choices

6352390786_a6db3c669a_b

Today started as a normal weekend morning…get up, drink some coffee, look at Twitter, read a few blogs. The blogs I read always make me think, but my problem is that I can’t stop thinking about them. What I really thought (and thought, and thought) about this morning was how two very different blogs were actually related. The first ¬†blog¬†I read was by Starr Sackstein and¬†focused on the idea that students don’t really know how to make choices because others regularly make decisions for them.

“Children start out naturally curious, asking a lot of questions and engaging with their environment as soon as they are aware of it and have the ability to do so. Then they enter the school systems and almost immediately have that autonomy taken away. It’s a slow, insidious process that systematically strips students of their ability to understand their own interests in academic or even purely passionate way, especially as it pertains to school.”

The next¬†blog¬†I read was by ¬†Kenneth McKee. While his main focus was how instructional coaches can build relationships, one suggestion was to provide teachers a menu of services that instructional coaches can provide. This menu “forces” teachers to pick from a limited list of services. I assume that Kenneth’s decision to provide a menu stems from the fact that not providing any choices would be overwhelming to teachers. I should point out that he did include an “other” choice.

What these two blogs share is the idea that choices are something that many in the field of education have trouble making.  Why is that? Is it because both students and teachers are conditioned to having choice made for them by others? Is it a societal thing? Are we just presented with so many choices in our daily life that we actually like it when others make decisions for us? Does having someone else make decisions for us lessen our responsibility for the final outcome?

It seems¬†that those who have been in a school setting for a long period of time are conditioned to do what others have told/ask us to do. The student is “told” what to read, write, draw, etc. While most teachers are probably not told how to teach, many are told what to teach as well as how long to teach (fill in the blank). We need to start consciously moving toward allowing/expecting students and teachers to make more choices. Making choices is a life skill? If you always have people making decisions for you, how will you ever learn to make them on your own? It would seem wise to allow students the ability to practice in a safe environment like school rather having have to make those choices¬†out in the “real world” without the necessary skills to weigh options, which is necessary for any well thought out decision.

Building in more choice in our schools is imperative. Teachers will need to decide what areas choice can be provided to the student. For example, many schools have a set curriculum outlining what books must be read. If you are in a school like this, the choice may be focused around how the understanding of the book will be shown. When I was a classroom teacher, my colleague and I would provide four or five different modes that could be used for presentations. Students would randomly be assigned to one of these modes. The next project would involve jigsawing students so that there was at least one representative of each mode in the new group. These groups would then choose which mode was best for the new project.  Eventually students could use any mode that they thought would best meet the requirements of the assignment. This was our way of providing some guidance to students on how to make good choices.

Approaching the issue of choice with teachers¬†is a bit more challenging. When presented with so many choices of how and what to teach, and ultimately assess, it is very easy for teachers to choose the way that it has always been done. This is the “safest” choice and requires the least amount of work. The life of a teacher can be a very demanding one. As a result, when trying to reduce workload, the easiest choice is sometimes seen as the “best” choice. Having access to instructional coaches is one way of helping. These coaches can and should start by providing some options from which the teacher can choose. Doing this will hopefully open doors for the teacher to feel comfortable exploring other ways of presenting and assessing their students.

Choice must become more a part of the education process. It allows both students and teachers to feel more of a sense of ownership.  This feeling of ownership has the potential to lead to great things within the education setting. What can you do to encourage more choice?

Don Sturm

There is no time!

110859301_5cc01c7ed5

Time is on my side.

Rolling Stones

Don’t you wish these song lyrics were true? Wouldn’t (fill in the blank) be better if I just had more time! Personally I could generate a LONG list of words to fill in that blank. The problem with this way of thinking is that you will NEVER have more time. Time will never been on our side. There needs to be more focus on what we do with our time rather than thinking about what would be possible with more time.

From a professional standpoint, time is what is needed to read about new research and ways of teaching, observe other teachers, reflect on your teaching practices, and on and on and on. I would argue that you need to step back and figure out how you can build in time for those professional aspects that are important. If you aren’t happy with how your students are responding to how you grade and/or teach, you NEED to take time to figure out what can be done differently. Think about the cycle if you don’t. You teach a unit…your students don’t seem to be enjoying it…you get frustrated…they test over the unit…the grades aren’t great…the students take 2 seconds to look over comments that you took hours making…you start the next unit upset… and the cycle continues. Imagine doing this for years! You must find the time to change things up.

But how? I wish I had an easy answer to this question, but it boils down to what many have told me, “you will make time for things that are important.” I say this not trying to offend or upset anyone, but it is true. It has been true for me, and I think it is true for everyone. If you want to lose weight, you’ll find the time. If you want to spend more time with your family, you’ll find the time. If you want to reconnect with your significant other, you’ll find the time. The same goes for your professional life. If it is important you MUST find the time or you will burnout and get frustrated. Neither of these are good for you, your students, your district, or your family!

Look at what/how you teach and ask yourself what you would most want to change. Pick up a book that helps offer alternatives and take the time to read it. Jump on Twitter and follow people who have fresh ideas. Search for blogs from teachers who have new ideas and are willing to share their experiences. Your first reaction will be that you don’t have time…make time! For years I have read every night before I go to bed. Most nights I was reading material that I could use to help make my classroom a better place. If you choose to read books, the reading list doesn’t have to be research heavy. In fact, I would recommend that your reading list include books that will help to inspire you to be a better teacher, not put you to sleep! This is my way of making a little time for professional growth.

Don Sturm

Recommended books: