Monday, October 7, 2013

Teach Like a PIRATE Week 4: Transformation and Enthusiasm

This week we read the chapters "Transformation" and "Enthusiasm." Dave asks a couple of tough questions in this chapter: "If your students didn't have to be there, would you be teaching in an empty room?" and "Do you have any lessons that you could sell tickets to?" So I'll ask you to share the answer to one of these -- do you have any lessons for which you could sell tickets? Have you thought about how you could transform your classroom so you can answer yes to one (or maybe both) of those questions. How do you show and spread enthusiasm in your classroom? How do you fight the tendency to dwell on the negative or to be too tough on yourself?

Next week we will jump into part 2 of the book, "Crafting Engaging Lessons." We will discuss the sections "The Third Circle," "A Crash Course in Presentational Hooks," "'I Like to Move It, Move It,'" "Long Live the Arts," and "What's in it For Me?"

26 comments:

  1. This is painful!! Seriously painful! I think, even if my students wouldn't have to be in class, I THINK I could get most to come because they wanted to. I did have one student say once to his mom that he didn't know how I did it, but I made him WANT to learn. That was a compliment I treasure, especially coming from him. But... I don't think I could charge for any of my lessons, I'm sorry to have to admit. Sigh...

    I did love the idea of writing how you would want your students to write about your class. That's a great idea I wish I'd done years and years ago. I'm going to share that idea with our student teacher, so she'll hit the ground running on that one. It would be such a motivator. I'm going to do it now anyway. Never too late, right?

    As for the Enthusiasm chapter... Check! I do have enthusiasm, and I've learned to fake it like an expert! I've faked it so long that I actually AM enthusiastic about everything! I would have made a great actress, let me tell you... ;-)

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    1. I agree with you about acting. There is an actor inside any teacher; just think about the times that we have acted fine when we were sick or had a headache!

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    2. Every day in front of a classroom is a performance! I don't understand why so few teacher prep programs require some acting lessons. The school I went to did and it really freed any inhibitions I may have had about letting loose and "playing" in front of my classroom audience.

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    3. I definitely wish that I had taken an acting course is college. I have developed my acting abilities through teaching but more preparation in that area would have been great!

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  2. The timing on this section was interesting as I have been pushing myself through fall allergies, deadlines, and teacher evaluation requirements. I needed this section to help me put focus back on to what is truly important.

    Yes, I have lessons that are amazing; even though my natural tendency is to focus on what I do not do well. Once when I taught iambic pentameter to a group of sophomores, one of my students said, "Why haven't we learned this before? This is important!" I need to remember these moments and not let myself get bogged down by the weight of the job.

    I need to remember that I am an enthusiastic and effective teacher. There have been graduates from my school who have made an effort to contact me and tell me that my teaching made a difference to them. I think in the demands on teachers imposed by our current culture, it is far too easy to forget.

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    1. Classic line by that kid!! It's definitely a challenge to push through those long stretches...especially when we're not completely healthy. You make a huge difference...those students who came back are just the tip of the iceberg.

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  3. I know that I would not be teaching to an empty room. Would they all return...no... and those are the ones I am trying to reach. My choral students are always trying to come in during the last part of their lunch to help, to sing along with the other choirs, to share with the other choirs, etc. You name it and they want to be there. They would love for me to allow them in my room during our homeroom time and the question is "Well, why don't you fix it so we can come in?" I do allow part of the 8th graders in during the last half of their lunch, but that is my prep and I don't seem to be able to get my work done. I hate to say no, but I do need a break so that I can finish the day enthusiastic.
    My general music classes are patiently waiting (most of the students) on the day that I will hand out the guitars and they will get to use them. That is the pull I have with them, first the mechanics then the fun part. I am exhausted after each class. I try to keep the momentum going all day.

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  4. There were some challenging questions in this section! I'm pretty sure I don't have any lessons I could sell tickets for. And while I have some students I think might come to class even if they didn't have to, a lot of them probably wouldn't. These chapters really challenged me to see how I can make lessons fun and entertaining for the students. I'm excited to get into the different types of lesson hooks, and to see how I can use my training in theatre to my advantage.
    I really liked the idea of writing out what you want your classroom to be like and what kind of experience you want to create for the students. I definitely plan to do that for my student teaching placement and for my future classroom.

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  5. When I was a math teacher, I am not confident that I had any lessons for which I could have sold tickets. This is hard to admit, but it does feel better to read others' responses and know we are in the same place. As a technology integration specialist, I want to help teachers create engaging lessons that make the kids want to come back for more. Using students' interests, giving them choice, providing fun, hands-on ways for them to learn are all ways to engage students. I think teachers just find it difficult to do that and ensure the students are learning all of the standards, too. However, by incorporating more engaging, student-centered techniques, I think we can find ways to incorporate many standards into one great lesson or unit.
    I think it is difficult to find enthusiasm every day and every class period. While I think it is important to show a desire to be here and to teach the students and be with them, I also think it is important for them to understand and see us as real people, and real people are not cheerful and pumped up 100% of the time. Now, I am not saying that I was grumpy or standoffish to my students, I don't think I was at all. I feel good about the relationships I had with them because I was a real person with them. If something was on my mind, I sometimes was honest with my students and said, "I'm a bit distracted today," and maybe even told them why. Once class was under way, my students were a great distraction. They could take my mind off the other things that were bothering me, and it was a great relief to just be in the flow with them. Again, this is not something that happened every day, and I am a generally happy person, but sometimes I get annoyed when the smiles and enthusiasm are obviously fake.

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  6. We'll maybe one or two. My passion in language teaching is where language comes from, discovering cognates...so, when kids ask why French seems so much like Spanish I tell them and they help me act out the story of Roman Dude and Local Chick that turned Latin into 2000 year old messed up Latin...that is, the modern Romance languages. So...one day a year...more generally I get grouchy when the kids don't share my fascination with languages and how they work. (Romanian is a Romance language that still had cases.)

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  7. The questions Dave presented made me really examine my teaching techniques with the classroom. The first question, “If your students didn’t have to be there, would you be teaching in an empty room?” To this question, I can honestly answer, “No.” I take pride in having an excellent climate in my room where students feel safe to ask and answer questions and I have a positive relationship with them.

    However relating to the other question, “Do you have any lessons that you could sell tickets to,” I struggle here. My lessons are always stands based, I am a drama queen when I teach them, and my student data looks great! However with that being said, I think I could still ramp up my lessons to be more memorable. I don’t think I really have many lessons students will always remember. When students reflect back to my class, I believe they will have positive memories and know they learned a lot but as far as remembering specific lessons, I cannot honestly say that will happen.

    The two questions are very related but also both examine different aspects of teaching techniques. These chapters have been very motivating to help motivate me to continue to add elements of surprise, drama and entertainment in my classroom!

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  8. I feel that I would not be teaching to an empty room. I do have a few students who would rather be doing anything else but being in school, but I feel like my classes are fun and that the students enjoy their time that they spend in my class. We like to have a good time and try balance hard work with fun.

    As far as selling tickets, I have to say I don't think that I have any lessons like that. My lessons are fun more because of a personal connection between the members of the class. I don't really get very dramatic about the content. I am often teaching reading fluency or basic comprehension skills. I read the chapter thinking it would be fun to be a history or science teacher and dress up or be really dramatic about the concepts I am teaching.

    I admit to saying (or thinking) on more than one occasion "It is easy for you because you are creative" I agree with what Dave had to say on this topic that it does come across as dismissive of a lot of hard work that a person has put in to developing a lesson. At the same time though, I do believe that there are people who have gifts in different areas and can excel in areas. I know that I too can be creative, but it is harder work for me to do so than it may be for other people.

    I learned that I need to keep working at being creative and dramatic even though I don't feel gifted in those areas. I can empathize with students who struggle with a skill when others around them are more easily able to do something.

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  10. These are tough questions to think about but essential in the process of growing as an educator. Reflection has been key in my professional growth as a teacher. In the first couple years of my teaching career, I would have to admit that the answer to the question "If your students didn't have to be there, would you be teaching in an empty room?" would have probably been “yes.” I was teaching with the textbook and just trying to survive. A change was needed. I have been very fortunate to work in the school system (Perry Central) that I do though. My administrators support us and help us become reflective, forward thinking educators. I was presented with the opportunity a couple of summers ago to attend a PBL (Project Based Learning) Institute and really liked the ideas behind PBL and we were getting ready to go 1:1 so I thought it would be a great fit. I attended the conference and it has really transformed my teaching career. I no longer teach to the textbook, rather it is just another resource. Being free from the textbook has been a wonderful experience and I wish I would have done it sooner. With the wealth of resources available to “steal” it’s easy to find more engaging content. Using PBL, students are more engaged in their learning, have a purpose for learning, and are making real world connections.

    One of my new passions, in the last year or so, is to incorporate more literacy standards and content area reading strategies into my classes (Social Studies). Again, with help from my administrators, I have a lot of good resources about how to make reading and writing in my content area engaging. I am still in the early phases of incorporating this into my classroom and still have a lot to learn but I have had great experiences with it so far. I have found that students really can enjoy and be engaged in reading in the content areas if the right strategies are used. Now, I can honestly say that the answer to the question "If your students didn't have to be there, would you be teaching in an empty room?" would be “no.” Letting students take charge of their own learning and me serving as a facilitator of that learning has been a wonderful experience for me.

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  11. This assignment again proved thought provoking. If I did sell tickets for my class, yes, they would attend. The In House Vernon Manor Classroom seems to be the place our students want to be. Yes, the activities and choices are limited here, but now even the Vernon Manor Staff wants their residents to attend class. Evidence proving this happened occurred last Wednesday. We came to work and the main water main had broken and we couldn't have the morning class sessions. At noon, a call was made, and the water was fixed and running, so we returned back to the building. When class commenced one cna brought four of our students down to the room at one time!!!

    The author had us rereading the Chapter on enthusiasm. He encouraged us that even when we feel we need to fake it, the true enthusiasm will emerge. My father gave me a card with a saying from Dr. Heartsill Wilson's "A New Day". Here it is...

    This is the beginning of a new day. I can waste it or use it for good, but what I do today is important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something that I have traded for it. I want to be gain, and not loss, good and not evil, success and not failure, in that order that I shall not forget the price that I have paid for it."

    Let us not forget, that our own students are trading hours of their lives' in our class. This is very true in my class due to my student's fragile medical conditions. This assignment alone adjusted my own paradigm. I've known all along it is about the kids; let's not waste a precious moment.

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  12. Thanks for sharing this. I also like to remind myself that although it may be my 30+ year in middle school, for my students, it's their only 5th, 6th, etc. grade year. I appreciate that our chat has brought together educators in so many different situations.

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  13. One of the things I miss most about teaching science is the "Aha" and "Ooh" moments the students had during some demonstrations, especially discrepant events. Of course, now I realize that I should have made these more participatory. (Then again, passing out pieces of dry ice to everyone on Halloween did have its pitfalls, even with gloves)

    I love the idea of "selling" tickets to see if anyone would attend. I think our MediaPlex is the single best room in the entire school, and I want the kids to think of it that way, too. I want them to think of it as the place where they get to create, discover, collaborate, and simply enjoy themselves. When I create a program, or book club, or other activity where students elect to come, it is sort of like selling tickets. With all of the great YA books being made into movies these days, I hope to create some book clubs, both online and in person, for students to be enthused about joining.

    It's not always true, but if the students see that we are enjoying ourselves, I think they are more likely to enjoy it. Of course, the key is not enjoyment, but achievement (not tests) or learning. Even if I am explaining citations, or databases, or our online calendar for the upteenth time, if I make it seem like the best thing ever, the students are more likely to participate.

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  14. Oops, that would be "online catalog".

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  15. I don't think I could sell any tickets to any specific lesson, but I think most of my students enjoy my class. I like to tell stories and jokes. I truly enjoy teaching and laughing and try to do it at the same time! I know that I am enthusiastic most days about most subjects but sometimes its easy to just get in a rut. With some instructional programs we are required to teach and its almost like reading a script. This can make it hard to be excited about teaching. I am rethinking about how I view my lessons and how I can make something that seems mundane a little more exciting!

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  16. When I taught math, I remembered teaching one lesson that was totally "whack." It was a very tough year as 5 of my 6 classes I was slated to teach were "repeat" classes with predominantly struggling students, academically, socially, and behavior-wise. I remember I was teaching about slopes of parallel, perpendicular, and same lines in algebra 1. I drew upon inspiration from an old SNL skit from the 70s: John Belushi as the "samarai delicatessen." I started out by showing my class a skit on youtube so they would get the context. While they watched, I dressed up in a robe, headband, and plastic swords (which were actually bubble-wands). I then proceeded to teach and present the lesson in the same manner of the character they had just viewed. I did not speak, rather, I just snarled and 'grunted' in the same manner that Belushi did, pointing to the board to present the lesson and somehow "checking for understanding" so that the kids would understand what I was trying to teach without actually speaking in the normal 'teacher' way. The lesson concluded by me removing the swords and creating a ginormous bubble from the bubble-wand-swords I was using to teach and direct from. After that I received an ovation from my class which I had never received before or since. It was silly, risky, but paid off in the end and I will never forget that.

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    1. Too bad it's not on youtube. Reenactment?

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  17. These are definitely tough questions to ponder. If my students weren't required to be in my class, I don't think my room would be empty, but I also don't think it would be full. I am lucky to be teaching 4th grade where many of the students still like school and think their teacher is one of the best people pretty much no matter what you do. On flip side, I think fourth grade is a major transitional year for students and is when many of them start to fall of the "School is cool" band wagon. I feel it is my challenge to keep them on the wagon and to make them excited to wake up and come to school each day. I haven't figured out the best ways to do this yet, and am grateful for the ideas that TLAP has provided. I am hoping I can make a change to both my students and my own attitude on a daily basis.

    When I try to think of lesson that my students would pay to see, I am struggling to come up with many. They may pay to participate in activities where I provide food to enhance the lesson. Some students may have paid to do my Angry Verbs writing lesson. They loved incorporating Angry Birds into school. I had never seem them all start writing so quickly!
    It's time for me to start putting on more of a show!

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  18. I'm really pleased that the questions in the Transformation chapter sparked so many interesting and reflective responses!!! I call those bar-raising questions..the kind of questions that make us reflect on what is truly possible in the classroom. I have to admit that I don't have a "ticket-worthy" lesson everyday but when that's where I set the bar, I think it helps me fly higher than would have. It's all about taking that "good" lesson and turning into something amazing...turning it into an "experience."

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  19. Like many other teachers, my class would not be empty, but it would not be full either. I need to spend more focus on preparing lessons that will be "big ticket sellers". I do think it is a little trickier in a self-contained elementary classroom (that is a lot of different exciting lessons every day!), but I can certainly step up my game!

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  20. Most of the time my Current Events class goes well and is a bright spot in my day. It has become one of the most popular electives in my school, and I have had to remake the class from top to bottom when we became a 1:1 school. The class is fast-paced and ever changing which keeps the students interested. Many students have told me my class helped them with other classes, especially Government.

    Another teacher in my school has made a recurring comment to me that kids take my Current Events class because they think it is going to be an easy class. Since I consider the other teacher a friend, this comment really bothered me. After thinking about it, I know it isn't accurate. The grades in this class range from A's to F's with every grade in between, and I know it is not an easy class. The teacher who made the comment teaches elective classes and tends to give much higher grades than I do and would probably like more students. I work very hard for this class, and it is one that requires constant preparation since the news is unpredictable and fluid. Because I am an English teacher as well, I emphasize speaking and writing in this class. I have seen students' English skills improve, and I love hearing their thoughts on issues they will be dealing with as young adults. I have improved the way I teach this class, and I think sometimes other teachers say negative things when they are frustrated themselves. It isn't always easy, but I am getting better at realizing I don't have to take comments personally. Following the news has toughened me to these criticisms. Even people who are trying to do good things get criticized. My enthusiasm is encouraged when students in the halls randomly ask me, "Hey, did you hear about such and such in the news?"

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