Picture--Maya Angelou
It's time for a mindshift. There's nothing wrong with failing a task. To FAIL is the First Attempt In Learning. As educators assessing student success only in a summative manner maintains the archiac pedagogical mentaility of sit still and drill. Really; Is this what's best for the student?

In the good ole grading scale system the range from 0-59% represents failure. All other ranges are increased at a rate of 10%; as such the greatest learning gains for students is in the "F-Range." It's our task to eliminate the connotation that failure is a bad thing. Rather it's a natural thing.

Utilization of formative assessments frequently can and will bridge mistakes with victories. Take time to conference with students and discuss learning with them in small groups or one-on-one. Have students collaborate with classmates and learn together. The best, most abundant and inexpensive student resource available are the people around us.

Are we Teachers or
Learning Inspirationalists?
Another mission that must be grasped is uncovering failure. Lets show it for what it is -- it's not success and it's okay. Students are resilient and can handle falling down. When we help students confront the fact that they made a mistake, wrote down a wrong answer or flunked a test we're supporting them to find the path towards meeting their accomplishment.

Lets not sugar coat or cover up failure. Make it an educational mission to address what's an obstacle and direct students toward success. When we help students to embrace failure is when we begin to assist them towards their own mastery of learning.

Are we Teachers or Learning Inspirationalists? Failure is the key component to Success. By emphasizing the fact that to fail is simply an act of learning will change the mindset of our students. As educators we're tasked daily with the opportunity to uplift every student after they fail; let's embrace the positive not the negative perspective of what failing really is -- it's the beginning not the end of learning.
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--Abraham Lincoln

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--Thomas Alva Edison
 
 
PictureDon instructs Kids on Alligator Behaviors
Balloons, Cake, Candles and Ice Cream, Singing Happy Birthday and playing with a Tortoise. Yep, you read it correctly; a tortoise. Recently our youngest daughter turned nine years old. My wife, and first grade teacher of 20 years, is a party planning extraordinaire. Every birthday celebration is managed to perfection; it always comes-off like a brilliant lesson because of her meticulous planning.

A point of pride in planning birthday parties has always been the infusion of learning -- imagine that from such an incredible educator (sarcasm). The educational experience for my daughter and her friends during the party on this day reached a paramount level because of Lou's Pet Shop. A visiting pet shop; at a birthday party? Yes. You read that correctly too. A traveling pet store party.

Don, the Owner of Lou's Pet Shop, transformed my youngest daughters ninth birthday party into a educational traveling zoo of sorts. As any teacher can attest; just having some animals or reptiles and showing them to some nine year old girls isn't going to keep their attention for long. Like a seasoned teacher -- Don knows his pets are simply learning tools; no different than a book, iPad or computer in the classroom. It's Don that makes learning happen. As an incredibly charismatic, caring and kid capturing kinda guy; Don blends these traits with humor to impress upon young minds his passion and knowledge for animals. In short, Don posseses all the qualities of a highly effective teacher presenting a top-notch lesson plan.


 
 
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Socratic Seminar Seating and Process; The Hot Seat Method
"Can we do this again tomorrow?" When students make a comment like this upon finishing a lesson, as an educator, you know something worked. Recently, in an effort to provoke student led discussion, I utilized a Socratic Seminar format. 
From the title, it doesn't take a genius to know where this form of discussion originates. Socrates used question based teaching as a mode for promoting higher level learning. What's good for the Greeks is good me.

The basis behind the concept of a Socratic Seminar is to create student led conversation. The meaning of a topic is analyzed, understood and retained due to direct individual involvement. Teachers, in a Socratic Seminar, must allow the process and it's participants to carry the activity.

Here's how I managed a Socratic Seminar. Arrange student/s seats in a circle(s) facing one another. Obviously the size of your class can alter the dynamic/s of this structure. This is why I needed to be a bit innovative; my class sizes are typically around thirty or more. Due to numbers I structured the seating in two circles (see diagram). A smaller circle, known as the Ring of Fire, and a larger circle around it, called the Outer Ring. In the center of both rings is one chair titled the Hot Seat. The implementation of the discussion occurs after some background work.


 
 
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Project Based Learning: Put Students at Center Stage
Traditional Learning; What is this and how would you define it? Is "traditional learning" when students work independently at their desks with a text book and a worksheet? Or is it when a teacher presents a topic to the entire class while students dutifully take notes on paper? Maybe, a better, more concise, definition is that students learn from the teacher and take a test to prove how much learning occurred? Truly, I submit, to me Traditional Learning is all of the above. Furthermore, just to be clear, in my opinion, these approaches to education are fine. Here's where the traditional methodology of learning, as well as ALL methodologies in education, falter and go wrong: not varying or changing up the teaching techniques or pedagogical styles. Project Based Learning is a tremendous form of teaching...


 
 
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Twitter: An Educational Tool
Twitter, used as an educational tool, is just starting to be realized. To write that it's use is limitless at this point in time is perhaps an understatement. While the logistics of students' being able to use their cell phones, iPads, lap top computers and even WIFI is still not accessible at the Middle School that I teach, my classes were able to interact via Twitter on a recent field trip. This blog entry is a walk through on how I recently implemented twitter into a group project-based-learning assignment...


 
 

Have you ever allowed students to choose their own seat in class? Lets generalize about the student(s) that choose or seek out the seats in the very rear of the classroom; like seat #34 out of thirty-four possible seats to choose. These are the disengaged, uninspired and/or under-achieving learners. These individuals are often enough designated as the "trouble-makers." Teachers, for the most part, are taught in college to develop lessons for students as if every occupant in class is willing and ready to learn. What a sham.

What educators need to do is create lessons aimed at those that occupy the rear of the class. Perhaps the best thing I have come to realize in 20 years of education is that learning is accidental. Allow me to explain: the likelihood that  students retain information goes up exponentially if it is presented in a fun, interactive and hands-on manner. Years ago this was an immense challenge to prepare such lessons. Today technology allows educators to stimulate students in many ways. These methods are so much more attainable in the twenty-first century...

 
 
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Twitter: An Educational Tool
In-service, staff meeting, teacher collaboration, professional development, learning community, etc. are all titles given to the time allotment for educators to perfect their craft by working together. In Michigan, where we teach, a specific amount of time to do this is required by law.  Organizing and using this time to suit the needs of all educators is a Herculean task. Honestly, it really can't be done. There have been some attempts in the past to cater to the various needs of staff. For example a couple of times our school district allowed educators to conduct seminars in their classrooms throughout the district on various topics; very informative and well received by most. However, the single most useful tool to helping us become better teachers started a year ago when we began using Twitter...


 
 
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Two Teacherz & Family
Anticipation and cheer; these are the unmistakable elements of a parade. The crowd has an overwhelming anticipation of viewing the marvel of spectacular floats and seeing famous people close-up. A sense of unity among those in the crowd exists because everyone assembled came for the same thing; cheer. Cheer brings the crowd together. When the crowd sees the floats and the celebrities a sense of euphoria overtakes them; jumping up and down, waving and some  nervousness may enshrine the overanxious bystander.   

This past February my family and I were fortunate enough to experience another parade. We had been to many parades before; the Thanksgiving Parade in downtown Detroit and Grosse Pointe are staple events in our community. It was always fun for everyone, no matter the weather. However, this particular parade was far different than any of the others. This one was at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida and our daughters, aged thirteen and six, had never been. It seemed to us that the level of excitement seemed impossible to be elevated any further; never had we been more wrong...