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The Calendar.

June 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Opening thoughts:
“You’re in the wrong business, man. You need to be in planning” -fellow teacher
“You had to have been in a frat[ernity] in college. You don’t just pick up skills like that on the street.” -Colleague at Teach for America

Over the past several months, Teach for America has bestowed upon me many wonderful strategies associated with highly effective teachers. As a part of my journey with TFA, I have been exposed heavily to Teaching as Leadership. The TAL rubric, one of TAL’s most powerful documents, can be used to help teachers run their classrooms in a very purposeful and efficient manner. Teaching as Leadership emphasizes that excellent instruction can be achieved through setting big goals, investing students and their families, planning purposefully (which is always done backwards, instead of forward), executing effectively [best achieved with moderate (not excessive) amounts of caffeine],  continually increasing effectiveness (CIE), and working relentlessly. The TAL rubric is lovely in the classroom (although it is quite a bit of work to accomplish, trust me). However, I have learned that the TAL rubric can be slightly modified and adapted for everyday use outside of the classroom as well. Consider the following two examples:

Daily summer planning

Big goal: Begin planning for the upcoming Mock Trial season, run errands (drop off dry-cleaning, return items at Target, grocery shopping), continue working on new mentor program, etc…
Investment: I will not waste today. Additionally, if I succeed in completing these tasks before the sun sets, I can enjoy the pool (delayed gratification)
Planning: Create a list of all items that need to be completed. Split items into categories for easy organization. Make separate Post-It notes or Remember the Milk lists for each category.
Execution: GO! (Check items off list as they are completed)
CIE: Milk will spoil if I go to Trader Joe’s first. Postpone and go to Target to exchange bicycle pump first.
Working relentlessly: GO, GO, GO!

Bank of America 500/Coca-Cola 600

Big goal: Enjoy one of the greatest ‘Murican traditions ever to the fullest extent possible.
Investment: Skip this step since investment is not needed for NASCAR (it only comes around twice per year).
Planning: Create list of essential NASCAR items [tickets, chariot, epic campground space, American beer, sunglasses, sunscreen (optional), plywood, designated drivers (or tents), spare cash for funnel cakes, Five-hour energy shots, obnoxious wig(s), redneck accent, camera for documentation, cell phone, etc…]
Execution: Once at NASCAR camp site, open first beer. Consume. Recycle can. Repeat.
CIE: Beer remains in oversized cooler at campground site (fail). Find soft cooler and carry into race (winning).
Working relentlessly: Don’t stop believing.

 A dear friend and legendary teacher (I would say legendary human but the general consensus is that he is actually superhuman) took on the challenge of increasing the Teach for America corps member happiness quotient in Charlotte (CIE-ing, if you will). I have been fortunate to experience and benefit from the epic events that have occurred over the last calendar year. As a result, a few other 2nd year corps members and I have committed ourselves to CIE-ing (note: CIE can and oftentimes should be used in verb form) the mission to improve the Charlotte corps member happiness quotient, especially for incoming corps members. In doing so, an internal social calendar has been created. While working on this calendar, the TAL rubric was really put to the test. The big goal is obvious. Investment is easy. Long-term planning has occurred but event and daily action plans still need to be generated (e-mail lists work wonders for event planning). Execution will be glamorous. Events will be CIE’d as they are in progress and second (and third) year corps members will work relentlessly towards the big goal. Throughout the year, this magical calendar will be released to the necessary individuals to make sure that each event can be a huge success. Consider the social calendar for 2012-2013 CIE’d.

Closing thoughts:
A teacher at my school posted this as her Facebook status yesterday: “Balance is my new goal.” Using the summer to plan out social events for the next school year is the ultimate way to achieve a work/life balance throughout the school year. A better work/life balance will lead to increasing the corps member happiness quotient. In turn, this will result in successful corps members  who can lead their students to success. Let’s close the gap.

-2nd year.

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The things that matter

May 6, 2012 1 comment

I visited a student at his home today (yes, on a Sunday) with another teacher. His home was pieced together with random bits of furniture that created the bare necessities of a “home.” This student, whom I shall refer to as “Elmo” (one of his nicknames) does not live with his parents. In fact, Elmo’s parents live in Mexico. Elmo lives with a legal guardian. Clearly, as we all do, Elmo has his own set of problems.

Elmo is able to sort of escape reality because he really enjoys working on his car and making sure it is in tip-top shape (by the way, the car was paid for entirely by Elmo, who is still in high school). Just before I left, I talked to Elmo a bit about his car. The things that matter to a 16 year old child are quite interesting. Elmo has not yet been introduced to the concept of waxing cars. Today, I told him about it. He was very curious and asked several questions. I made a deal with Elmo today. I told him that I would teach him how to wax his car if he got an A in my class. Although I didn’t think it was a big deal, Elmo was thrilled and his face glowed with excitement. He doesn’t know it (yet), but Elmo taught me something today.

One must remember in life that each human being is unique. What matters to one person may or may not matter to you or to any other person. Choose carefully which stories you tell to each person, and the questions and responses that you provide. Be respectful of every person’s history, traditions, culture, and background. Be kind to the things that matter.

Hi, I am a hippie (Seth and Josh, don’t worry – I’m only occasionally a hippie).

April 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Today’s blog post is certainly a result of the content I teach in the classroom; Earth & Environmental Science. Due to the topics I cover in class, I have become a lot more environmentally conscious in many aspects of my life. The image below is from one of my favorite websites, the GOOD website. In conjunction with a book that I have been reading by Thomas Friedman (Hot, Flat, and Crowded), the infographic below has sparked what may be the next project that my students work on in class.

Sure, a few Americans recycle. In the process, they do good for the environment. However, for various reasons (see infographic below – click image for original), a good number Americans do not recycle. A mini-project I am considering implementing after Spring Break in my classroom involves this nifty diagram. After printing several copies of this infographic and laminating them (so that the diagrams can be reused – practicing what I preach), I’m going to have my students try to describe simple ways in which they can use the information from this image to help foster a culture of recycling at our school. As an educator, I find that having students educate others is one of the best ways of learning and sparking passion. I’m hoping that a healthy discussion can also be had during class, centering around the issue of a lack of urgency towards recycling in general (and how to fix that). This project (too soon to call it a movement?) will hopefully help supplement the recent initiative to refurbish and maintain our own greenhouse on campus (started by one of Garinger’s finest, Ms. Hendee!). My school is truly beginning to answering Thomas Friedman’s call to create a greener America (‘Merica)

 

A GOOD.is Transparency