Bear Down!


Got a favorite college team? If you went to a state university — or even if you know someone who did — I’ll bet you do.

This is my University of Arizona Wildcats baseball cap. If you know anything about college sports, they aren’t exactly the team to beat. But I do have one reason to wear it…

I attended UofA for one year.

Yup, just my freshman year. But I fell in love with the school, so I eventually bought this cap and have been wearing it for years. (not too easy to find a UofA cap outside of Arizona!)

Now, all of a sudden, I am halfway across the country from dusty Tucson, AZ, and I have had a ton of comments on this cap. From a stranger standing in line at a coffee shop in Fort Worth to a swim mom at the Texas State Champs in Austin, I get a Bear Down! comment out of the blue. I turn around to find a smiling alum nodding to my cap, followed by a conversation that takes me back 13(ish) years to being fresh out of high school and moving out of my parents’ house.

Why does alma mater… um, matter?

It makes me wonder, though:

What’s so special about this school? or any school? What draws people together like that? I wear a pair of New Balance shoes, but I don’t get comments from fellow New Balancers. No nostalgia there. So what’s so special?

I could point to a lot of things, but with education on my mind, let me try to connect that one. If you’ve been to any educator’s professional development training, you have definitely been given the assignment to reflect on your favorite teachers. Even if you haven’t, do it now.

  • What makes her your favorite?
  • What makes him memorable?
  • Even now, can you name the teacher and the impact they had?

So it seems education — and particularly educators — have a profound influence on their students at any and every age. And college — especially when one leaves home to attend — strikes at a formative and impressionable point in life.

…every word that comes out of my mouth, every look I give my students and every inflection in my tone has the potential to last a lifetime. That’s intimidating.

This makes the college educator’s impact all the more important.

While I consider my cap, I am struck by the fact that, as a teacher, every word that comes out of my mouth, every look I give my students and every inflection in my tone has the potential to last a lifetime. That’s intimidating.

Just as I still wear my apparel from a single 10-month period of my life, I still carry something of every teacher I have ever sat under; as will my future students.

Get a cap!

So I want to be an educator.

I want to be the one who must stand up and carefully craft my words, my reactions, my tone, my personal interactions and my mental discipline.

I want to be the one who controls the potentially life-long effects my teaching will carry.

I think it’s worth the extra responsibility.

I think it’s worth the risk.

I don’t have any snappy quotes or tweetable anecdotes, but every time I get a comment on my cap, I commit myself to be an educator all over again.

Do you have a cap? Do you have a trigger to bring you back to center when center seems like a long way off? If not, go buy your alma mater’s best cap and flaunt it!

Bear Down!

Meet Homo Economicus: Your Econ Students Need to be Introduced

One of my favorite economics websites for ideas, info and entertainment is Freakonomics. Hosted by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, you may have seen their documentary, Freakonomics The Movie, or caught their podcast, Freakonomics Radio. Their slogan is “The Hidden Side of Everything”, and they use economics, or at least economic thinking, to examine everything you can think of.

Freakonomics LogoTheir recent podcast, Should We Really Behave Like Economists Say We Do? talks about a familiar yet intriguing character in economics: homo economicus. This is the hypothetical character that plays the part of you and me, but behaves, well, economically. Perfectly economically. But none of us behave this way, and would it be a good thing if we did?

There are some fascinating, practical topics for the classroom in this podcast, and I’ve included a link to the transcript as well. If you teach business, econ or math, you have to check this out. If not…check it out anyway. It’ll do your economic mindset good.

Meet Homo Economicus: Your Econ Students Need to be Introduced

Are Your Students Growing Beards?

Why on earth would I grow a beard? This thought struck me today, and I think I’ve come to some sort of realization here.

Now, I started the summer clean shaven, hoping for a job interview and wanting to look neat and clean. Several weeks in and one certification class later, I now have a (somewhat) substantial beard. What in the world is going on?

So what?

Okay, Okay. I know you care about my facial hair hygiene about as much as I care about your teeth-brushing routine, but hang on a second. If you suddenly change something you’ve been doing for years, months, weeks, with no real reason, isn’t there something to that?

For me, I finally discovered, it’s my way of coping with this enormous change I’m in the middle of. I am switching careers, drastically! Retail management, minister, law enforcement – to high school teacher — and I just finished taking a semester’s worth of material in four weeks! Yeah. A little change. And the beard is my way of saying, “Yes, I’m a little stressed by the way!”

But here’s where it’s useful: Stress in the classroom can be debilitating for middle and high school students. Continue reading “Are Your Students Growing Beards?”

Are Your Students Growing Beards?

Observing Your Students’ Hidden Rules: A Recommended Article

Ruby K. Payne’s book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty (aha, Process, Inc. 2005), has officially blown my mind! I thought I was fairly open-minded — you know, “understanding of others” and all — but Payne’s easy reader floored me.

Here’s a little summary of the book:

Poverty, middle class and wealth are universes apart in so many ways. Why do we assume we can teach everyone with the same strategies, vocabulary, cognition and syntax if we come from different worlds?

Here’s one example that I knew, but I didn’t know. New-Framework-Cover-Golden-LampLanguage has five registers, two of which are common: formal and casual.

Formal register is used by teachers in school, and casual register is the common, everyday language used between friends. We expect all students to use formal register when they are in school, but students in generational poverty do not have access to this speech pattern at home. They cannot simply switch over to something they do not have. They must be taught this register first.

Now, what Payne is focusing on is the contrast between poverty and the other classes.  She uses the additive model throughout the book as the tool to address the gap. She points out the lack of necessary resources available to members of generational poverty. They do not always have access to resources which Payne defines as financial, emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, support systems, relationships/role models and knowledge of hidden rules.

As teachers, it is our job to bridge the chasm between poverty and middle class for our students. We must teach students the hidden rules of the middle or wealth classes to provide them the opportunity to break the cycle of generational poverty.

Poverty in the Classroom

I searched out Payne’s website after being assigned to read her book in my teacher certification course. If you haven’t had a chance to read the book, it is definitely worth the time. It’s not just for teachers; it’s for anyone who is responsible for employing, supervising, counseling or interacting with individuals from different socio-economic classes.

Ruby Payne’s aha! Processing, Inc has a fantastic article on students’ hidden rules in the classroom. The short article by Judy Weber,is titled “As the School Year Begins, Observe the Hidden Rules of Your New Students“. Weber challenges teachers to think hard about the why behind students’ actions before responding or assuming.

Start with the article, then get the book. Understanding poverty and its hidden rules is essential to bridging the gap between poverty and middle class. And our students need that bridge.

Observing Your Students’ Hidden Rules: A Recommended Article

My Top 10 Education Sites for Technology Resources

Dick Tracy Tweets, after Chester GouldEveryone needs some good technology now and then, but it can be a challenge to integrate it into the classroom.

Thankfully, there are some educators who are using technology tools and ideas with huge success, and we can definitely learn from them.

To keep myself up to date — and hopefully give you a good place to start if you are looking to expand your educational technology prowess — I have put together a few of my favorite go-to sites for classroom technology tools, ideas and inspirations.

  1. Khan Academy

Khan Academy has great resources for how to teach a lesson, but the way in which they present the information makes it perfect for recreating in a slide show or on an ELMO. Also, just assigning students to watch a Khan video is a great resource to introduce a topic or follow up a lesson.

  1. Career and Technical Education University of North Texas

This site has PowerPoint presentations, handouts, activities and lesson plans for most TEKS in most CTE courses (Texas curriculum requirements). There is a current blog that covers technology ideas for the classroom along with a ton of other information and resources.

  1. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

The subtitle for this site is “A resource of educational web tools and mobile apps for teachers and educators”. It is basically a blog with reviews and discussions of the latest, greatest technology breakthroughs geared toward educators.

  1. MindShift

“How we will learn” is the subtitle of this website, and it is affiliated with KQED, which is the public media outlet for Northern California. I love this site because it discusses what the next step, breakthrough, technique will be for our constantly changing generations.

  1. Free Technology for Teachers

Richard Byrne’s website is just what it says it is: “Free tech resources for teachers in all disciplines”. He provides reviews, suggestions and links to a wide variety of tech topics and resources.

  1. eLearning Industry

While this site is not specifically made for educators, it would be especially helpful for Career and Technical Education courses. It is focused on e-learning in the population as a whole, whether that’s business skills, home efficiency, education or environmental aspects. These are practical, real world applications.

  1. Brilliant or Insane

A great collection of cutting edge education topics, techniques and technology, this website has some really good articles and links to other good stuff. It’s slogan, “Education on the Edge”, sums up the forward thinking attitude of this site.

  1. The Innovative Educator

Lisa Nielson created this fascinating and informative blog to help educators make learning more fun for students. The top blogs are often about technology as it appeals to the students’ sense of fun in the classroom quite a bit.

  1. Tech & Learning

This site offers tips on district-level and campus-level technology applications including hardware, software, apps and more. It’s a great resource for more in-depth technology aspects than just the latest, greatest new educator app.

  1. Fractus Learning

Well written and very applicable, this site has a ton of information on new and old teaching strategies as well as tech reviews and professional development.

Image: Dick Tracy Tweets, after Chester Gould by Mike Licht. Used without modification. CC license.  
My Top 10 Education Sites for Technology Resources

First Week of Certification Classes…whew!

RaleighRemember learning to ride a bicycle? Remember the sheer terror and rampant maiming that your bike seemed ready to dish out with every tremble, shake and bounce? Remember the constantly growing, never-ending list of “riding etiquette” explained and then later shouted at you by your well-meaning cycling instructor (mom, dad, grandma, brother…)? But once you got it, you got it. It’ll always be “like riding a bike”: you’ll never forget it, and it will always be a skill you own.

Well, if you might not have guessed, I just started my first Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities course Continue reading “First Week of Certification Classes…whew!”

First Week of Certification Classes…whew!

My Top Secret Evil Spreadsheet

14413763223_7ebf91c8c4_oTop Secret Mastermind kinda stuff. I kept a top secret spreadsheet during this last school year — well, a lot of secret spreadsheets, but this one was the most fun!

I had compiled a list of “Life Events”, decisions and consequences, for nearly 25 different scenarios. I had sat down, thought through my life, my friends’ lives, my parents’ lives — anything and everything that could happen in life — and listed it all out. Then, I would open the spreadsheet periodically during the year and dump a catastrophic life event in the lap of all my high schoolers! I definitely had more fun than Continue reading “My Top Secret Evil Spreadsheet”

My Top Secret Evil Spreadsheet