We spend way too much time trying to be normal.

David Salyers, VP at Chic Fil A says,

“Normal can never be amazing.”

The truth is that normal is average. Normal is every day. It is truly not normal to be amazing.

So, from now on I want there to be nothing normal about my life or my classroom or my family or my friendships.

How about you? Who’s in for awesome?

Let’s stop being normal.

Hat tip to my former student, Carlton Brooks, for this jewel. 

“No written word

nor spoken plea

Can teach our youth

what they should be.

nor all the books

on all the shelves.

It’s what the teachers

are themselves.”

John Wooden, most winning men’s college basketball coach of all time

Remember Who We Are

We teach more with our lives than we ever could with our mouths. As teachers, we have a responsibility to not only live well but to teach well. For in living well, we do both.

I have been looking at testing the transcription of a podcast. There are services out there that will do it, but I have concerns about accuracy. So, I’m doing it manually this first time to see if people like it (or not).

After some research, I found a service called oTranscribe that is pretty nifty. So, I made a quick tutorial.

What I love about this service is both the time stamps and how it links to the audio file. I can even have my daughter help me on it and share the file with her. When I’m done, I can export it to Google Docs! Awesome!

Teacher Andrew Ward (link to Facebook) always enters class with a hearty “Buenos Dias.” Well, not always but many times. His students secretly filmed him and shared the video with him on the last day.

How do you enter class? Is it exciting? Do the kids know you’re glad to be there. Love it!

8 ways to spark problem finders

 Questions should ignite learning. Curious kids never get bored. But why do young kids ask more than 100 questions a day and by middle school, they’ve stopped asking?

Recently when I talked with George Couros, author of the Innovator’s Mindset, he said,

“Do kids see problems and see themselves as solvers of those problems?”

Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question came on my radar this past Monday, when Angela Maiers shared his book on #MatteringMonday.

As I looked at Warren’s blog, I found this conversation with Richard Saul Wurman, creator of the original TED talks:

“In school, we’re rewarded for having the answer, not for asking a good question,” Wurman pointed out. Which may explain why kids—who start off asking endless “why” and “what if” questions—gradually ask fewer and fewer of them as they progress through grade school. (emphasis mine)

In the Newsweek article, the Creativity Crisis, they grappled with why US creativity scores are declining and found,

Overwhelmed by curriculum standards, American teachers warn there’s no room in the day for a creativity class. Kids are fortunate if they get an art class once or twice a week. But to scientists, this is a non sequitur, borne out of what University of Georgia’s Mark Runco calls “art bias.” The age-old belief that the arts have a special claim to creativity is unfounded. When scholars gave creativity tasks to both engineering majors and music majors, their scores laid down on an identical spectrum, with the same high averages and standard deviations. Inside their brains, the same thing was happening—ideas were being generated and evaluated on the fly. (emphasis mine)

Quite simply, we have to help our students find questions. And asking questions belongs in EVERY SINGLE CLASS. Not just “art” class or “music” class but math and history and science and literature. ALL OF THEM.

We have to encourage students to ask novel, creative questions that they cannot answer on Google.

As Angela Maiers says, we also have to ask students questions that show that they matter.

The Questions We Must Ask

  • What if we as a human race and society are not defined by our answers but what kind of questions we ask?
  • What if the next time you show a video or have a reading assignment, you asked students to create one amazing question and turn it in?
  • What if curiosity, question asking, and question seeking became part of our daily classroom routine?
  • What would school look like then?

Feel Free to Take the 8 Ways to Spark Problem Finders and ask these questions.

I made this infographic accompanying George’s show mentioned in the opener, but I’ve started getting messages from principals and others who are printing it out and putting it in break rooms and even in bathroom stalls for teachers to see. I have been asked for the PDF as it is easier to print, and made it for you. I hope this will spark conversations not just on problem finders but also the questions we encourage students to ask.

We need to spark problem finders. We need to encourage students to ask questions.

Download the Problem Finders PDF

I Dare You to Share your Beautiful Questions, here, on Twitter and beyond. 


Should we drop grades

This graphic by Thomas Guskey Thomas Guskey is a fantastic challenge to whether we should be averaging grades — or honestly, if we shouldn’t just drop some BEFORE we average.

ONE THING I wish I could stop would be teachers who REFUSE TO DROP ANY GRADES EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Are you kidding? Who doesn’t have a bad day?

I guess it teaches “a lesson”, but I’m not sure what? A zero KILLS an average. It just KILLS it.

I’ve lived through having one of my children make all A’s and come back to school after an illness and bomb a test. The teacher wouldn’t drop the grade. She puffed up her chest when I asked and said,

“I never drop grades. It teaches responsibility. Plus, I’m a tough teacher. They need to know I mean business.”

My answer:

“My child shows by his test score that he doesn’t KNOW the material. Even if you decide to keep the grade, when are you going to TEACH it to him? Or can you give me the material so I can teach it to him?”

The answer was that it was time to move on. Are you kidding? TEACH. A zero is a battle cry to get busy and make sure they learn. Do something. But don’t just MOVE ON.

Ok, I am a teacher. I TEACH. I want kids to LEARN SOMETHING. I find that if a child makes a very low grade, I’m better off to call in the child and reteach and then do as I see fit. Sometimes I’ll give another test and average the two together. It depends on the situation.

Rae Pica said it well, and I paraphrase, We know that two snowflakes aren’t alike, then why do we think two kids will ever be alike?

Plus, if a child fails, I blame myself as much as the child.

I do tell kids I’m the scorekeeper. But I’m also the coach. I’m also the one who tells them to get back in the game and learn when they want to quit. I want to give everything I can to teach so they can learn.

But, in my opinion, letting a child just make a zero without following up, without additional teaching, without looking at the circumstances should reflect on me as a teacher. I’m not sure what you’ve seen, but in my experience, refusing to drop grades or evaluate the individual circumstances of a child makes me angry.

You can call me a softie. You can call me whatever you want. But you doggone well better call me a teacher. Because, in the end, they’ll learn what I have to teach no matter what it takes, they’ll learn. And that, to me, is what counts.

I’m a teacher.

Sometimes kids don’t need another person being harsh, what they really need is a second chance. As for me, I’m all about more chances to learn, even if it is more work on me.

As for me, I’m all about more chances to learn, even if it is more work on me.

I’m curious, what are your thoughts? If you don’t drop grades, how do you make sure that kids still learn the material? Please share. Perhaps there’s something I’m missing here.

This epic graphic was created by Thomas Guskey @tguskey and shared today on Justin Tarte’s blog(If you’re not reading Justin’s blog and following him on Twitter, you really should.)

Help students dig deep and ask their own questions.1