Expect it? … Model it!

As a father of four children, I find myself in paradoxical situations. I want them to know the ill effects of drinking soda. I crack open a Diet Pepsi, my youngest says, “Dad, why do YOU drink so much soda? You know YOU can get cavities too.” Oh sweet child, do as I say, not as I do.

I want them to value organization. I yank a wrinkled shirt from the bottom of the laundry basketbasket, socks and softener sheets cascading out onto the floor, my oldest comments, “You’re not wearing THAT shirt to school, are you? So, like, why don’t YOU have to put your laundry away? That’s not fair….” Oh, I love you teenage daughter, do as I say, not as I do.

This theory, “do as I say, not as I do”, is an ineffective parenting strategy, isn’t it? My children learn more about hygiene and organization by observing how Desiree and I live. They learn more about relationships – intimate, social, and collegial – by watching Desiree and I interact with each other, friends, and colleagues.

Similarly, this theory doesn’t work in education. Perhaps the more appropriate theory to embrace is, “actions speak louder than words.”

As a professional educator, I find myself in situations incongruent with this theory. During professional development, whether delivered by administrators or the world’s revolutionary educators, we are taught to use best practice in our classrooms, yet the method of professional development is in direct contrast to best practice. We are a profession of collaboration, yet so many of us shut our classroom doors as the school day begins, isolating ourselves, protecting ourselves.

Teaching is challenging, important work. We want our students to succeed, we want them to become the best version of themselves. For this to happen, we must take action and not just deliver words.

If we want students to make eye contact as they discuss Juliet’s forbidden love for Romeo, 6399089089_4c194c9e0c_zthen we must show them exactly what this looks like. With the class observing, sit down, across from a student, and show how this discussion looks.

If we want students to annotate their questions and connections while reading a nonfiction article on ecosystems, we must use our document camera to project a similar article that we read aloud, think aloud, and annotate.

We all know what best practice looks like in education. And, yes, actions DO speak louder than words.

This week, let’s avoid the temptation to just tell our students what to do. Instead, let’s model how to learn; what students perceive as important to us, they will emulate. With modeling and guided practice, students will gain skills to widen their understanding, engage in collaboration, and manage their own learning.

Rather than soda, I will drink more water this week. I will take the time to hang my shirts in the closet and place my socks in the drawer this week. Consequently, I am most certain, this latter goal will bolster my relationship with Desiree this week.

Posted in Education, Education Administration, Educational Leadership, Literacy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to the New

First point: I am making a promise to myself (and anyone who might stumble across my blog and actually read it) to keep each post to 500 words or less. Won’t be easy for me, but I must be more efficient and make a commitment to blogging more often. Naturally, this will force me to edit more as well.

IMG_3487Point number two: Earlier today we were reflecting on our summer. Certainly we have been blessed with time in the presence of friends and family, beautiful weather, and much needed time on the water with the boat. I came to the conclusion, though, that the best night of summer for me was July 7th.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The Next 20…

IMG_3407I have spent my entire career as a professional educator at one school. In June 1996 I was hired to teach English-Language Arts at Seymour Community High School in Seymour, Wisconsin. During those 20 years I have had the opportunity to meet and work alongside amazing educators, students, and families, taught freshmen through seniors, and coached basketball and football.

As a lifelong learner, I continued to pursue professional development and experience to become better at my craft as a professional educator. Most recently, I have earned my reading teacher certification and will soon (December 2016) earn my literacy specialist certification. I am passionate about helping students become engaged in literacy, particularly reading.

In August I will officially begin a new role as literacy coach at the DePere High School in DePere, Wisconsin. I am extremely grateful for this new opportunity and eagerlyIMG_3566 anticipating the start of school in the Fall. Swirling around this change is excitement, apprehension, and fear of the unknown.

I truly love the extraordinary colleagues, students, and families I leave behind; they have helped shape who I am as a professional educator throughout the first 20.

The next 20 begins with learning from my new colleagues, students, and families in DePere. I truly look forward to this new venture where I will become a part of a new school community and where I get the opportunity every day to share my passion for literacy.

Posted in Education, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Protected: Literacy Needs Assessment

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Posted in #edchat, #elachat, Education, Literacy | Tagged , ,

My Heart’s Delight

I have been working on more education…yes, I am a life-long learner and have discovered that my life is driven by learning. I will soon be a certified Reading Teacher and Literacy Specialist.

The crescendo slowly rising in my heart for the past decade I finally recognized as this increscendocredible symphony; I longed for a part in this amazing orchestra.  I was disappointed in myself as an English language arts teacher when a senior once told me, “I have never read a book.”, or “Never have I had the experience where I didn’t want to put a book down.”

Sadness.

That was the turning point for me. I began questioning other students with similar results. Those who enjoyed reading were not always willing to admit it, and, without a doubt were in the minority.

My questions led to more questions which led me to where I am today. I still have more questions, but have now surrounded myself with people who have felt a similar crescendo in their professional lives. I want to help children read to comprehend. I want to help children read to enjoy. I want to help children write for themsstudents readingelves and write to move people. Literacy is the key that unlocks every opportunity. With it, literacy brings competence, confidence, and collaboration. Mostly, though, literacy fills our lives with goodness.

Joy!

 

 

 

Google Images:
piano.about.com
bookemnashville.wordpress.com
Posted in #edchat, Education, Literacy | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Coming Back

So, I need to make a comeback of sorts. Without going into too much garbage about where I have been or what I have doing, I need to get back to writing and sharing in this space.

For those of you who have been following this blog, SURPRISE, you just received a notification!

It’s not a mistake. It’s time for a comeback.

John, The Comeback Kid (for today).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Students Create Instagram of Hamlet – #MaximumShakespeare

The New York Times sponsored a Hamlet Instagram contest (a 15 second video using lines from Hamlet) this fall.  An ELA colleague of mine at Seymour Community High School had her College Credit seniors enter the contest.  Authentic, 21st Century, editing, revising, and publishing learning opportunity!  Indeed, a fantastic example of best practice in education.

One of the student groups was recently declared a finalist and the video and an interview appeared in The New York Times.  Ryan Krahn, Clayton Skogman (in the pool as Ophelia) and Phil Michaelson are mentioned in the article and Ryan is quoted!

I am honored and blessed to work with amazing, compassionate educators and driven, creative students.

Take a look at the 15 second video and, if you feel so inclined, leave a comment on their Instagram.

Young Souls Portray the Wit of ‘Hamlet’, With Brevity, NYTimes-December 20, 2013

Posted in #edchat, Education, Reading, Teaching, technology | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lightning Thief As Difficult As The Odyssey…#Truth

Conducted an interesting experiment in my advance English 9 class recently.

We are currently reading The Odyssey, Robert Fagles translation.  When asked after the first eight books of the epic, The most confusing part of The Odyssey so far is ______ because _______, the most common response is the vocabulary is too difficult and/or the names are impossible.

Okay.

As part of a 1-minute read I was doing in class one day, I used Rick Riordan’s Lighting Thief.  Middle school and high school students have been highly engaged in Riordan’s books, The Lightning Thief being Book One of the Percy Jackson and The Olympians series.  I read the first page and a half.  As I was reading, I suddenly wondered, What about this book attracts so many young adult readers?  Why is this text so much more approachable than Fagles’ translation of The Odyssey?

Finally, I asked these questions out loud to my group of ninth graders.  One student said he liked Riordan’s first person narrative.  Another student said the idea of a ‘half-blood’ hooked her.  Finally, another student said the vocabulary in Riordan’s book was much easier to understand and more recognizable.

Interesting.

So, I fired up the doc camera and we examined the first 193 words of The Lightning Thief and the first 201 words of Book Eight of The Odyssey.  First, we looked at Riordan’s novel.  We went word for word to identify which words, if any, caused confusion and which words were recognizable.  Of the first 193 words of this book, we identified six unrecognizable words.  Therefore, we understood 97% of the words we read.  This should result in deeper reading and comprehension.

We then did the same examination with The Odyssey.  Of the first 201 words of Book Eight, we identified 11 unrecognizable words or names.  Therefore, we understood 95% of the words we read.  Whoa…only 2% less than The Lightning Thief.  This should result in deeper reading and comprehension.

However, the students still felt more attracted to The Lightning Thief rather than The Odyssey.  We did acknowledge that word order and more sophisticated literary elements used in The Odyssey has a strong impact on student engagement and comfort level.

Because of this little examination, I do believe students may not so readily say the most confusing part of The Odyssey is the vocabulary.  They may say word choice, line structure, or use of extended metaphors cause them confusion, but at least now my students have a better idea of how to articulate what exactly causes discomfort as they read The Odyssey and other complex texts.

Posted in Books, students, Teaching | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Disciplinary Literacy

Disciplinary Literacy was a focus of a recent staff development in our district.  The high school English-Language Arts team partnered with two members of our middle school ELA team to model reading strategies for our colleagues in disciplines outside ELA.  Teaming up with my colleagues to prepare and then teaching alongside them, teaching our peers in our own school district, was a rich learning experience.

Our presentation was driven by thinking strategies and reading purposes as outlined by Cris Tovani, a reading specialist and high school English teacher.  We added a few reading strategies used in our classrooms from Kelly Gallagher’s book Deeper Reading and we created an engaging presentation.

We broke up into three different groups, presenters and learners.  My colleague and I presented to our colleagues from the Science department.  We modeled several different learning strategies in a variety of situations.

First, we modeled how we utilize the strategies as teachers.  Next, we gave our learners the opportunity to apply reading strategies to a short excerpt from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations; we modeled how to use multiple draft reads, sharpening focus with each read.  Finally, my colleague took on the role of student and modeled what it would look like for a reader of an unfamiliar text — in this case a section of a Biology textbook — to apply the reading strategies we had been modeling.

Our colleagues from the Science department were intrigued by the reading strategies and recognized the significance of Disciplinary Literacy.  Every member of the high school Science department agreed to try a reading strategy and invited my colleague and I in to observe and provide feedback.  The department leader went so far as to get permission from administration to have substitutes available for my colleague and I so we would be free for an entire school day to observe and follow-up with feed back.

This was a tremendous learning experience for me.  The first time in 18 years of teaching where I have spent engaging, educational time in a classroom of another discipline.  The observation and follow-up conversations were eye opening for everyone and we all benefited deeply.

My ELA colleagues and I have invited our science colleagues into our classrooms to observe us, how we apply reading strategies, and provide feedback to us.  A few have taken us up on this so far and I have a feeling it will happen again.

Our district Curriculum Coordinator provided the encouragement, time, and space to make this happen.  As I told one of the science teachers, if other disciplines can spend 10 minutes a class period on a reading strategy, four times a week, what a difference this would make in school-wide literacy.  Just think of the confidence and competence our students would be equipped with as they left our high schools for work or further education.

I admire my colleagues and am grateful to work with many educators who are driven to do what’s best for kids.  We continue to find ways to give all of our students the best opportunities to be successful now and tomorrow.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Reading List for Engaged Educators

I participated in my first Twitter #Sunchat on Sunday November 10, 2013.  I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in this one-hour chat. I have gained a list of 20 titles I would have otherwise not been exposed to without the generous sharing of so many educators via Twitter.

Here is the list of titles for professional development:

  1. Literacy with an Attitude, by Patrick J. Finn
  2. Book Love, by Penny Kittle
  3. The Trouble with Black Boys and other Reflections on Race, Equity, and the Future of Public Education, by Pedro Noguera
  4. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweckreading in the wild
  5. Change by Design, by Tim Brown
  6. Strengthsfinder, by Tom Rath
  7. Embedded Formative Assessment, by Dylan Wiliam
  8. Reading in the Wild, by Donalyn Miller
  9. The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
  10. Good to Great, by Jim Collins
  11. Quiet, by Susan Cain
  12. Teach Like a Pirate, by Steve Burgess

For Entertainment Purposes (Potential SHS Faculty/Staff Book Club Books):

  1. The Help, by Katheryn Stockett
  2. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
  3. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee BenderMs. Peregrines School for Peculiar Children1
  4. Come Back to Me, by Melissa Foster
  5. Still Alice, by Lisa Genova
  6. The Reason I Jump, by Naoki Higashida
  7. Ms. Peregrines School for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
  8. I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai

Happy Reading !!

#Sunchat happens every Sunday morning @ 8am CST.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment