Elevator Pitch

What would I tell someone that I just met if they wanted to know about me?  I’ve read about “elevator pitches” many times before.  I think I even have some written down.  But, I constantly find myself changing.  My interests vary constantly.  Some days I enjoy teaching.  Others, I find it draining.  What I want is an overarching goal to work towards.  Last night I was thinking about one as it turns out.

I want to help prepare humanity to go to Mars.  In my current position, I want to teach problem solving through science education.  I envision building classrooms that are led by the students.  Students will learn leadership skills by taking turns leading the class during our explorations of the material.  I want to help students develop the ability to, as Bill Nye says, Change the world!

This was another post inspired by the Live Your Legend Blog Challenge.

Cold Calling – Teach Like a Champion

A low level student transforms much like a caterpillar to a butterfly before your eyes.  This is a sight every teacher would love to see.  We want to see our students grow and blossom.  But, this isn’t what I am experiencing.  Too many of my students seem to afraid to engage the challenges.  Too afraid to come out of their cocoon.

A technique called Cold Calling may help the students transform.  Cold calling plays off of two natural human tendencies.  One, we all love showing off.  Two, we fear dropping in social status.  When a teacher Cold Calls, he controls which students are responding.  There are no volunteers.  This encourages students to pay attention in order to not look silly in front of their peers.

I saw great things in the two days that I’ve used the technique.  I had far more students looking at me throughout the lesson.  Also, more students participated.  I heard from more students because I was able to choose instead of relying on the regular volunteers.  A third benefit was the increased pace of the lesson.  I think by not having to wait for volunteers, students felt as if the class was progressing.  When people feel progress, they are much less likely to disengage.

A good goal to add would be to videotape an example of me cold calling.  This will help keep it in the forefront of my mind.  Plus, if the students are aware of my videotaping my attempt at growing, then they will likely respect the class more.  Being a model of growth is something all educators should do for their students.

Building Rapport

There must be a way to turn relationships around.  This year I have run into a few very defiant students.  I’ve done quite a bit of disciplining: reminders of the class rules, asking them how they aren’t showing respect, and calls home.  Yet, behavior has not changed.  In fact, I almost feel like it is getting worse.  A possible case of anti-authority-itis.

Here’s my action plan for building rapport.  What I love about it is how simple it is.

BE POSITIVE AND GIVE GIVE COMPLIMENTS.

One thing I realized is my current trouble students love their shoes.  I’m predicting that once I start taking an interest in their shoes and other belongings which they associate with themselves, then their behavior will begin to fit within my standards.

Here’s to the experiment!

We are All Scientists

What is this?

My friend Gus exclaimed this question once.  We were excitedly discussing curiosity and the “purpose” of life.  He concluded it simply: to answer that question.  From the moment a human has consciousness, he is attempting to answer that question.  Watch a baby.  A toddler is better.  The curiosity is so easy to spot!

Sadly, many people lose their curiosity.  We can change that.  I have a simple solution and it is simply to ask a question over and over…

What happens if…?

This question guides our life without our knowing.  In social situations, we constantly test our ideas by talking.  In other words, we are asking, “What happens if I say this?”  If others respond nicely, then we will continue to talk about whatever it was we were talking about.  This explains why kittens are all over the internet.  Everyone loves kittens.  However, this also explains why we avoid topics such as politics and religion because those can steer us into a heated debate.

We also use this question in personal situations, such as how much our body can withstand.  Running the Bix 7 is an example.  Many people see if they can beat their old time.  So, they are asking, “What happens to my Bix 7 time if I train a little harder?”  I set little challenges quite often, such as biking 45 miles to my Dad’s house — the farthest I’ve biked before was around 15 miles.

By asking the question repeatedly, we can get our curiosity back.  And being curious is the first step to being a scientist.  Great.  You are a scientist.  So, what do you create as a scientist?

Models – The Products of Science

Above is the model of the solar system (credit: Nassam Haramein).  Scientists have continuously modified the model to better fit the collected data.  We’ve gone from Earth-centered to Sun-centered, to Sun-moving models of the solar system in order for it to better reflect reality.  Note the fact that it changed in order to better reflect reality.

We all have our own models of how the universe works.  We begin developing our model at an early age.  For example, we might conclude that rocks sink in water.  Or, the closer we get to a heat source, the warmer we are.  Also, we may learn to beware of strangers.  But, do our models reflect reality?

Do rocks always sink?  I was surprised to find a rock, which I believe is limestone, floating when I placed it in water.  Not until the gaps filled with water did it sink.

Is the temperature higher every time we are closer to a heat source?  Our winters occur when we are closest to the Sun — I live in the Northern Hemisphere.

Should we beware of strangers?  I’m not sure on this one.  I know I don’t pursue random conversations in part because of this piece of my model.  Though, when I do talk to random people I have always come away alive and well.

We should spend time evaluating our models of reality.  Like the model of the solar system has changed, our models will likely require changes to best reflect reality.  The one good thing about being a scientists is that it is okay to be wrong as long as you correct your model!

Reflecting on the School Year

1.  What are some things you accomplished this year that you are proud of?

  • Science fair
  • 8th grade projects
  • Overall better rapport with students
  • 6th grade flood projects
  • Began thinking of ways for my students to impact the community

2.  What is something you tried in your classroom this year for the first time? How did it go?

Large scale 8th grade project –

Overall, it went quite well.  The students were able to research something which they were passionate about.  Learning happens willingly when personal interest is involved.  The organization of the project was poor.  I set a goal to make it happen without planning how it would happen.  But, we got it done!

3.  What is something you found particularly frustrating this year?

My “it could always be better” attitude.  I struggled at staying happy throughout the year.

4.  Which student in your class do you think showed the most improvement? Why do you think this student did so well?

V. L. had motivation issues at the beginning of the year and had to be forced to come in by her parents.  By the end of the year, she was willing to attempt the assignments, but she still struggled.  I think the support she received both at home and from me helped.

5.  What is something you would change about this year if you could?

My classroom management is not consistent.  I want to have boundaries set and spend more time with the students which disrupt the learning.

6.  What is one way that you grew professionally this year?

I focus more on organization and planning.  Huge differences stemmed from it, including lower stress!

7.  Who among your colleagues was the most helpful to you?

K. D-J.  She would always lend her ear to me and make suggestions.  She even met with me over winter break to discuss teaching.

8.  What has caused you the most stress this year?

The feeling that the students didn’t appreciate my lessons.  I must remember that as students, school is not normally their highest priority.

9.  When was a time this year when you felt joyful and/or inspired about the work that you do?

Many students would trust me to know the problems which are occurring to them.  Having that type of bond caused me to believe I was making a positive impact on these students.

10.  What do you hope your students remember most about you as a teacher?

I hope they remember my attempts at acting compassionately and the struggles at living that way.

11.  In what ways were you helpful to your colleagues this year?

I was the recorder on our data team.  I also participated in staff development and shared my lessons with the other 8th grade science teacher.  I also greeted most everyone with a smile, which is always a plus!

12.  What was the most valuable thing you learned this year?

Start with “Why.”  Why should the students learn this?  What impact will it make?  Without a reason, there will be lack of effort.

13.  What was the biggest mistake you made this year? How can you avoid making the same mistake in the future?

Letting up on my classroom management.  I must set a system up.  A good place to start would be brainstorming ways the students disrupted the learning in my classroom this year.

14.  What is something you did this year that went better than you thought it would?

The 8th grade poster project in the library went much better than expected.

15.  What part of the school day is your favorite? Why?

My 6th period class was my favorite class.  The students were kind, fun, and willing to work.  We had fun together.

16.  What were your biggest organizational challenges this year?

The 8th grade project.  I must begin putting things on a calendar to help plan out large projects.

17.  Who was your most challenging student? Why?

J. G. constantly pushed my buttons.  She would show up late from lunch, talk back, and copy other students’ work.  I think a lack of support all around has caused her to act very selfishly.

18.  In what ways did you change the lives of your students this year?

I was told my class had great hands-on activities.  Hooray!  Students were generally excited to be in my class and I was able to model how to be yourself.

19.  Pretend that you get to set your own salary for this past year based on the job that you did. How much do you feel that you earned (the number you come up with should be in no way based on your current salary – rather, come up with a number that truly reflects how you should be compensated for your work this year)?

45,000

20.  Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to be a teacher if you could go back in time and make the choice again? If the answer is “no,” is there a way for you to choose a different path now?

I think I am starting to like teaching more and more.  There are more positive memories than negative now.  I thnk I would like to stay a teacher.