rise in the morning - thanks for the light (1)
When you rise, be thankful!

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.

Tecumseh

Will you scream or enjoy the ride?

These days since October 10 when Hurricane Michael hit have been a challenge. Not just because of roof problems or the lack of central heating and air. Pretty much everyone down here in South Georgia has troubles. And pretty much everyone else in the rest of the country is shocked to find out that piles of trees still line the roads, homes are still damaged, and people are struggling and will be for months to come.

While the news cycle makes most disasters seem like a week or so long, that isn’t reality. Those impacted by disasters have long battles to fight and stresses that those not in the messes cannot comprehend.

And yet, even in the storm there is joy. Joy to teach. Joy to laugh. Joy to giggle over something with a friend.

I go in the teacher’s lounge and people are bringing awesome snacks for Christmas. Kids are excited about their performances. Today, some of my students were literally squealing over their newfound ability to edit in Adobe Premiere on the Mac.

Perhaps I’ve not been willing to write so much because of the microscope. While to my friends around the world, many wouldn’t know I had changed schools – people near me do. Sometimes it has felt as if every tweet or social media post was hyper-analyzed for meaning or reading things into it. So, perhaps I’ve been reticent to post or write much.

But my calling is to encourage — even when I’m struggling. Sometimes it does get to me when I get emails from people wanting a response within hours who perhaps don’t know I teach much less don’t know (or care) that my front yard looks like a construction site.

And other things in life could weigh me down. But in the end, for me, I serve an awesome God and these things shall also pass.

And along with these things… so will pass the time.

As I get older, I realize just how precious and sweet each day is in life and am eager to get the most out of each of them.

Nowadays, I get up and wash my face and brush my teeth and thank God for running water. I flip on the light in the den and thank God for electricity. Even tonight as I blog this, I’m not cold because Kip has a roaring fire in the den and I am warm.

Tomorrow is not always better than today. And yesterday is not always better than tomorrow. We cannot judge our days by our circumstances but rather, we should judge them by our joy amidst any circumstances.

For truly, life is short and the ability to find joy in the rollercoaster of life is a measure of the awesomeness of the ride.

Life is so short, so, dear friends, hold up your hands, feel the wind in your hair and decide that you’re going to let out a big old “Yaaaaaahoooooo!” for a change, will you?

John Wooden’s Poem about Teachers

“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.

The truth may set you free, but it will probably tick you off first.
The truth may set you free, but it will probably tick you off first. – Vicki Davis

When I share this at conferences, it gets tweeted a lot.

When we connect our students with the world, we are building bridges today that tomorrow will walk across. Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
8 ways to spark problem finders
FREE PDF: 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
Should we be averaging grades? Picture by Thomas Guskey

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
Help Students Dig Deep and Answer Their Own Questions
technology will never replace teachers
Will technology replace teachers? @gcouros @sylviaduckworth

“Technology will never replace great teachers, But technology in the hands of a great teacher can be transformational.” George Corous (sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth)

NOTE: This was incorrectly attributed to Erin Klein, thanks to Erin for clarifying this so we could attribute this to the correct author and to Sylvia for updating the sketchnote. Sorry, George – I’ll be retweeting it now! — Vicki 11/7/2015 

Will Technology Replace Teachers?

Technology is not your competition UNLESS…

  • Technology can easily replace a teacher who only uses worksheets.
  • Technology can easily replace a teacher who only gives multiple choice tests.
  • Technology can easily replace a teacher who only shows videos.
  • Technology can easily replace a teacher who follows a rote, conventional system of fill in the blank, drill and kill, and take a test.
  • Technology can easily replace a teacher whose students just read the book, memorize and watch a video.
So, are you replaceable? Are you stuck in a rut of rote, routine boredom or do you do things that matter to kids? Teaching is so much more than drill and kill and worksheets. We can be more.

Technology cannot replace a teacher IF…

  • Technology can never replace a teacher who knows and relates to every child as an individual and helps them find their strengths.
  • Technology can never replace a teacher who encourages students in design thinking to create unique projects.
  • Technology can never replace a teacher who helps kids do things that matter in the world.
  • Technology can never replace a teacher who teaches with a flourish, encourages with a smile, and busts routine with powerful learning experiences.
  • Technology can never replace a teacher who helps students do new, novel things to create and invent.
  • Technology can never replace a teacher who looks kids in the eye, understands their heartache, and flips that kid!
Are you getting to know each child? We can flip a kid with encouragement. We can tell parents about the unique strengths of each student. We can give kids a reason for wanting to come to school. We can engage them in unique, fun experiences that also teach. 

Technology can make you an even greater teacher IF…

  • Technology can make you a better teacher if you let students create unique things that matter to them and the world.
  • Technology can make you a better teacher if you harness it to do what it does well (like grading multiple choice), and you focus on doing unique things that make a difference (like coaching individual kids).
  • Technology can make you a better teacher if you connect kids with a global audience using it.
  • Technology can make you a better teacher if you find unique ways and tools to engage kids in learning.
  • Technology can make you a better teacher if you are open-minded enough to try new things.
  • Technology can make you a better teacher if you let it connect you with other teachers in your field who have great ideas.
Are you choosing to let technology make you a better teacher? Are you letting technology do what it does best? Are you unleashing your students or putting them on a leash? 

So, remember who you are. You are unique. You, dear teachers, are precious. You might be working harder than a one-legged cat in a sandbox, but if you’re doing work worth doing — in ways worth doing them — (unlike the cat), you’re making progress.

We all have the seeds of greatness inside us. You can reboot any day you choose. You can start over. Plan something epic and be the incredible teacher you can be.

Get your rest then be your best. Be that irreplaceable you! We can do this.

10 Ways to Improve Your Sketchbook
10 Ways to Improve Your Sketchbook

Sketchnoting is big. Why not encourage students to have their sketchbook for your class? This teacher did. In fact, this teacher is inspiring a growth mindset and curiosity with all he/she is saying about having a sketchbook.

Annotation, reflection, research! Look at the subtle cues for learning built into this graphic drawn by the teacher.

I love how the kids are inspired to be curious and investigate.

We don’t just need genius hour. Sketchbooks can become the journals and curiosity cabinets of today’s generation.

For more on Sketchnoting:

Source: The twenty-something wanderer on Tumblr posted this graphic in 2012 that his/her teacher had drawn and put on the wall. This poster is awesome.