Credit is Classy

The East Penn School District recently held its traditional, educators’ welcome back IMG_1887assembly, August 22, 2018. On the way into the auditorium greeters handed out fliers and small sticky notepads. The flier advertised $15,052 that the EPSD Education Foundation was rewarding in grant money for teachers this coming year.

“What I want to know, is what is this $52, here.” — A hoarse whisper from a gentleman right in front of me, while pointing out the last two digits of the total grant money amount to his neighbor. Good teachers and authors know the power of questioning. Causing kids to question turns teaching on its head. The educator is no longer force-feeding information to students, but providing what the students are wondering about. Personally, I figured the $52 was some monetary necessity born out of the intricacies of finance and taxes, something complicated from a world I know next to nothing about. Boy, was I wrong!

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Heather Slatoff, Vice President, tells teachers about grants available through EPSD Education Foundation

Almost before my neighboring questioner sat back in his chair, Heather Slatoff was mentioning the amounts of the grants EPSD Educational Foundation was making available this year. The very last one was $52! What? Now, I was questioning!

with kristen campbellHeather explained that one of last year’s winners, Paula Fehlinger, had her class auction artwork. When Mrs. Fehlinger asked her class what they wanted to do with the $52 that they had earned, the kids told her that they wanted to donate it to the foundation that had provided them the means to make the artwork in the first place. This was one of the classiest little stories I had heard in a long time, but it was about to get even better…

The EPSD Education Foundation took that $52 and made it its own grant! The kids from that class should feel like kings and queens. The foundation credited the class with class. It is honoring the classy decision/action that those kids made, with the help and direction of their classy teacher, Mrs. Fehlinger.

 

Later in the third grade year, I enjoy teaching multiple-meaning words. I usually couple this topic with teaching the use of context clues. Here is a word that I haven’t used in the past, but will definitely begin including in this lesson: Credit.

Surprisingly, Merriam Webster’s very first definition of the entry “Credit” has to do with

woman holding card while operating silver laptop
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

truth. The “reliance on the truth or reality of something” is the dictionary website’s initial meaning for “Credit”. The use of the EPSD Education Foundation’s donation to Mrs. Fehlinger’s class gave credit to the purpose of the grants that are meant to promote science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (Education Closet).

As I am only hours away from greeting my brand new third graders to Room 207 of Willow Lane, the first lesson of the year is consuming my thoughts. I am excited to begin the year with a lesson about “Evidence”. Here is a new concept to connect to that lesson: Proof is credit. And, the more credit you have, the more credible your fact. When your statement lacks proof, it is incredible–unbelievable–not worthy of belief or credit.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I think of a bank ledger, where on the one side you have the income (credit) and on the other you have expenses. When you make a statement, you are putting information out there for people to believe. They will believe what you say if you have proof. Sometimes it is difficult to provide concrete proof to credit a statement. In these instances, the more credible the source, the easier it is for people to believe the statement. In other words, the more credit (previously truthful statements that have been proven) a person has in his factual bank account, the more easily a statement made by said person will be accepted (believed). With each false statement a person promotes, he withdraws credibility from his factual bank account. When funds dip, people withdraw trust.

The fabulous fifty dollar grant story lends credit to the funds of these grants not only being used in creative educational ways, but inspiring some of the classiest behavior I have ever heard. It gave me goosebumps to learn about the origin of the last two digits of the total grant allotment for the 2018-19 school year. Although teachers could obviously do more with the larger grants, I, personally, am inspired to apply to win the smallest, but classiest one… $52. This one deserves the biggest “check”.

My class
Mrs. Dweck, myself, and some other Willow Lane teachers received a substantial grant from EPSD Education Foundation last year to fund the purchase of Thymio Robots and use of Techykids.com

Sources:

Credit. (n.d.). Retrieved August 25, 2018, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/credit

East Penn School District Education Foundation Announces 2017/2018 Innovator STEAM Grant Winners. (2017, October 26). Retrieved August 25, 2018, from https://www.eastpennsd.org/article/east-penn-school-district-education-foundation-announces-20172018-innovator-steam-grant-winners/

Education Closet. (n.d.). What is STEAM? Retrieved August 25, 2018, from https://educationcloset.com/steam/what-is-steam/ [The “art” of STEaM is the driving force pushing the mechanics of teaching: Innovation, creativity, taking STEM to the next level.]

7 Powerful Ways Classy People “Stand Out”

IMG_9266Page 11 within introduction to “Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today” by Thomas C. Murray and Eric C. Sheninger  (2017) discusses the typical high school diploma’s lessening value. The authors suggest that “the opportunities available for those with only a high school diploma remain in a freefall.”(Italics added IMG_9264for emphasis.) This got me thinking. First, I made a text to film connection. Just recently I had rewatched the movie “21” (Luketic, 2008) starring Jim Sturgess, Laurence Fishburne, Kevin Spacey, and Kate Bosworth, and something that stood out to me more during this second viewing than the first was the premise for the whole movie: It opens with an interviewer asking Jim Sturgess’s character what he has done that stands out. Sturgess is applying for a grant that would fund his education at Harvard Medical School. The interviewer points out all of the impressive credentials that the applicant has earned, along with powerful letters of reference… But… he tells Sturgess that there are thousands of applicants with similar qualifications. He is going to need to “dazzle”.

Then, I got to thinking: What could students do to stand out? How about class? There is no shortage of articles streaming the Internet about declining manners. And, in my own experience, students who behave in an extraordinarily polite manner stand out as noteworthy individuals. 

picked up the most debris
Portrait: Students cleaned up debris after water play.

A year ago I acquired an iPhone 8 Plus. This phone has a dual photo lense. This allows me to use a feature called Portrait. When I activate this, I can focus on something and everything else goes out of focus. My photos have gone from “very nice” to “stunning”. Classy people capture the attention of those around them by displaying behavior that stands out. Capturing the focus of powerful people through being classy is an inexpensive way to add to the high school diploma. Here are six more “P” words that “phoster” class.

  • Say, “Ma’am” and “Sir” when talking to people. Speak, publicly and privately, in a way that distinguishes you from others. Use impressive (but correct) vocabulary. Do not be profane or crass. Crass is the antithesis of class–whole separate blog on this around the corner. Pronunciation.
  • Stand/sit up tall and straight; Posture is a rare and separating phenomenon today. It shows pride and assurance. These are characteristics people gravitate toward–posture could very well be the only thing that puts some in a leadership position. Confidence is a magnet, and posture presumes it.
  • Treat others kindly/be positive. Who is drawn to the Negative Nancy or Debbie Downer? No one. Here is a whole other blog: Find and express something positive about every single thing. The most challenging things to be positive about will cause you to shine as a light in the darkness — Remember, the idea is to stand out.
  • Be polite: Display good manners. In addition to saying “Ma’am” and “Sir”, behave in ways that show “good upbringing”.
    • Put others first; This is more than The Golden Rule.
      • Hold door
      • Offer seat
      • Clean up after yourself
      • Communicate absence: “I’m going to be late.” “Sorry, I was late…” “Excuse me for a moment…”
      • Treat others even better than you would expect to be treated, raising the global politeness factor a fraction of kindness.
        • #manners has stories of guys literally standing up whenever a lady stands. Talk about “standing out”!
        • This kind of thing is chivalrous and archaic, and some women may not like inequality of being treated differently, but in general, showing extreme respect is going to make you memorable, either way. And, that is what you are going for.
        • Look up some outdated polite actions that would make you seem classier than even the classiest to standout that much more.
    • Be helpful
      • You see someone struggling; Offer a hand.
      • Does a peer need some assistance figuring something out; Help. They will remember the action, but they will also remember YOU.
    • Communicate gratitude
      • This could be through, but is not limited to, writing thank you cards.
      • Do something for someone in return.
      • Tell everyone “Thank you” for everything.
        • A week ago I was conducting a professional development course on using iPads in the classroom. At the very beginning I was rushing around trying to get everything working; projector, Apple TV, computer, etc. I bumped into an unoccupied chair and said, “Excuse me”. People laughed and commented on me talking to chairs. I overheard them and, laughing at myself, commented right back  with, “Yeah, that’s right, I apologized to a chair!” It made everything more comfortable and connected me, the frantic facilitator with my waiting audience, breaking the ice. This isn’t gratitude, but it shows behaving in a classy way, ALWAYS, even to chairs. How much more will that type of person show kindness to a peer? Thank “everything”. 
        • Be the kind of person who can’t help but be thankful.
      • When you earn something, be proud, BUT when you get something without earning it, be thankful. It is not classy (Here is a whole other blog in the making.) to act like you deserve things. Do not assume entitlements. Be grateful for everything.
  • ALWAYS be publicly presentable (Here is a bonus “P” word;) This isn’t to say that you should be dressed- or done up at all times. Simply be outwardly and inwardly prepared to speak to important people no matter where you are. If you are working in the garden, you will look messy, but your person, and even your work space, could be neat–a working neatness. If an important person were walking by, would he/she say, “Wow, impressive!” or would they look down on you and your work.
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    “Capturing the focus of powerful people through being classy is an inexpensive way to add to the high school diploma.”
    • Integrity is classy: Here is an idea for a whole other independent blog! Suffice to say, being the same person all of the time, whether you are building a sunken pirate ship, which I was working on just yesterday, or speaking in front of people, will cause others to view you as someone reliable, dependable, and consistent; someone they can count on.
    • Sometimes you must detour to class. The easiest example of this is my mom answering the phone in the middle of yelling at my sister and me. She could be mid-scream, and when the phone rang, she would instantly smile and sweetly say, “Hello” with a voice devoid of any trace of the hurricane winds blowing around her. Thank goodness for those phone calls. If we had had cell phones back then… Was she displaying integrity? Yes. We will get messy, metaphorically, but must be classy under it all. What would happen if my mom spoke to the person on the phone with the same volume and tone that she had just been using to communicate to my sister and me? Would that be more congruent with integrity?
  • Be productive. I’m not telling you to build furniture or anything. A classy person adds something to society or the world at large. Produce something of value that others can use. This is why I blog. You will have your own way of contributing; make yourself valuable to others. Don’t worry about the numbers. You can influence/do something for one person to create personal worth.
    • This could be as simple as smiling.
    • My daughter (seven years old) has begun saying nice things to service persons: “This food is delicious!” “I really like your hair.” Any person at any age can add value to the world.
    • Be dependable. Being that student in class whom a teacher can count on to do the tasks that require respect and responsibility is very valuable!

“In today’s global economy, a high school diploma is simply not enough for people to succeed” (Murray & Sheninger, 2017, p. 11) (italics added for emphasis). Thomas Murray and Sheninger’s (2017) book is for educators. It outlines things schools and teachers can do to align with the impending revolution of technology taking over the world. These ideas equip educators to provide the “more” that students receiving diplomas need to succeed. I look forward to reading the rest of the book, but I am happy to announce that just the introduction is extremely thought-provoking!

There are many other ways to stand out. You could fly to Vegas on the weekends, count cards, win tons of money, secretly live the highlife, and turn in a corrupt professor (Luketic, 2008). While that sounds exciting, I’ll at least begin with being classy.

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“Portrait” in iPhone camera helps focus on what’s most important. Be an important person.

Sources:

Crouch, M. (2011, November). How to Teach Good Manners: Raising a polite kid in a rude world isn’t as hard as it seems. Retrieved August 21, 2018, from https://www.parents.com/kids/responsibility/manners/teaching-manners-kids/ [This article breaks down what manners are best to learn at different ages.]

Luketic, R. (Director). (2008). 21 [Motion picture on DVD]. United States: Sony Pictures.[inspired by the true story of the MIT Blackjack Team as told in Bringing Down the House, the best-selling book by Ben Mezrich” (Wikipedia)]

Murray, T., & Sheninger, E. (2017). Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Pederson, T. (2016, April 25). Survey: Most Americans Think Good Manners are Declining. Retrieved August 21, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2016/04/25/survey-most-americans-think-good-manners-are-declining/102262.html [This was published before the 2016 presidential election.]

The Value of a High School Diploma. (2016, January 2). The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/03/opinion/sunday/the-value-of-a-high-school-diploma.html

Proof is Classy: A Back to School Idea

Worms make better pets
Worms are AWESOME! Fact or Opinion?

Most people have heard of the ice-breaking game, “Two Truths/One Lie.” I enjoy this little game so much that I have incorporated it in my first week of school for several years. I changed the name to “Fact vs. Falsehood” because I am a fiend for alliteration and I don’t like the idea of teaching kids to lie. Additionally, it affords me a teaching opportunity on day one: I break out the vocabulary word, EVIDENCE.

In the past, I would teach the difference between fact and false, and inevitably get things muddled with the concept of opinions. I recently saw a tweet by @tomascmurray, who will be keynoting the East Penn Back to School Assembly for teachers on Aug. 22, that gave me an awesome idea for changing my game. He suggested having interactive, thinking-oriented items on desks when students arrive on the first day of school, rather than a pile of books and papers. I loved this idea!

This year I plan to marry two games, and let kids work on figuring out the rules on their own. In addition to “Fact vs. Falsehood”, the second game is “Classmate Scavenger Hunt”. Traditionally, kids would have a piece of paper with a list on it. They would work on finding other kids who share the same experiences, opinions, and criteria from the list. They write the names of peers next to statements as they find students who fit the descriptions.

This year, however, I plan to break up the Classmate Scavenger Hunt paper list. I will make cards that contain one statement each. They will be placed in a bowl that I’ll put in the middle of each group of desks. Some example statements include:

  • I don’t have any pets.
  • I have more than one favorite color.
  • I have written a book. (Some kids love writing stories into mini booklets.)
  • I took the bus to school today.
  • I have never been to Disney World.Previous Evidence Lesson (1st day)
  • I love to swim.
  • My birthday is in the spring.
  • Summer is my favorite season.

Because there won’t be anything else on the desks, and kids can’t help but touch stuff, I expect that they will begin digging into the bowls and looking at the cards. I hope that they communicate with each other about the statements, finding out which ones they have in common. (Later on we can use the cards to make Venn diagrams, displaying similarities and differences between students.)

In the past, I taught the students in a whole group setting the difference between “facts” and “opinions”. This year, I am going to see if kids can figure out the difference by separating their cards into two different groups. I won’t tell them what the criteria is. They may decide to make a pile of things the classmates all share in common, leaving the rejected statements to their own pile. That would make sense. I’ll simply have them try to find another difference or criteria to categorize the two piles, until they realize that some statements contain phrases that make them opinions.

Eventually, I’ll bring the thinking around to noticing that some of the statements can be proven, while some are impossible to prove, even though you might feel like they are true. The ones that are “prove-able” — able to be proven — are facts. And, how can you prove their accuracy? With… drum-role… EVIDENCE.

roach
This is a roach.
Roaches make cool pets
Roaches make the best classroom pets.

My birthday is in the summer. This is a fact. What proof do I have to support this? The evidence can be found in a few places: Driver’s license, birth certificate, social security card, passport, etc.

“Summer is the best season” is an opinion. No matter how much you love it, or how many people agree with you, this is NOT a fact. You simply cannot prove that summer is better than other seasons. It might seem that way, but there isn’t any evidence to back up the statement.

Opinions are not bad or wrong to use. In “5 Classy Elements of ‘The Story of Mankind’ (1921)” I praised the author, Hendrik Van Loon, for providing his personal opinion within a history book. I enjoyed reading some of the ideas that he gleaned from his study of world history. It is helpful to let people know your likes and dislikes. Those are opinions.

baby chickens are cute
Baby chicks are soooooo cute!
baby chickens are noisy
Baby chicks are noisy and distracting.

Trouble arises when opinions are made to seem like facts. “I have a lot of homework” might seem like a fact, but in actuality, this is an opinion. When the phrase “a lot” is used, a statement that might otherwise be a fact turns into an opinion. “A lot,” compared to what? Comparing your amount of homework to what a kindergartener brings home would make it seem like a ton. But, compare your homework to what an eleventh grader might receive, and your task is minuscule! You DO have homework. That is a fact. You can prove that. Your evidence is written on your assignment book page, and you may even have physical papers that are not yet complete. So, saying “I feel like my homework will take a long time to complete” may be a more accurate statement than the one above, but until you actually complete it, there isn’t any evidence to prove just how much homework there really is.

“My homework took twenty minutes to complete, last night.” This is a fact, as long as it is true. There are parts of this statement that can be proven. Did you do it last night? Did it take twenty minutes?

Falsehood (untruth) Opinion (feelings) Fact (prove-able) Classy Fact (dressed up)
“My homework took me two hours to do!” “It felt like I would never finish my homework last night.” “It took me twenty minutes to complete my homework last night.” “I was surprised to find out that it only took me twenty minutes to do my homework last night, because it felt like it was taking forever.”

Facts can be dry and boring. That’s why we season them with opinions. “My birthday is in the best season, summer.” Your birthday may very well fall within the calendar days that land it in the season of summer, but who is to say that summer is the “best season”? That is your opinion.

Also, opinions are increasingly useful, the more they are explained. While you can’t actually prove an opinion, you CAN support it. A classy person may say, “I love summer because you can swim, there isn’t any homework, and my birthday is in August.” Now, we understand several reasons that cause you to like summer more than other seasons.

For “Fact vs. Falsehood” to work, students should write down two facts that can be proven with evidence, along with one untruth that also can be proven inaccurate with evidence (i.e. “I have three sisters” could be a falsehood if a student only has one.) After students compose their sentences, we go around the room sharing and guessing which of the three statements is false. In this way we learn a little about one another, hear each other speak, practice good listening habits, and appreciate some classroom rules.

That's a big hat
That 24″ diameter hat is rather large.

To close the entire lesson, I might display the following table, reiterating the differences.

Falsehood (hyperbole) Opinion (feelings) Fact (prove-able) Opinion/Fact (classy compound sentence)
“There were one hundred people at my house last night.” “There were too many people visiting last night.” “I had five extra people in my house last night.” “Five people probably doesn’t sound like a lot, but that more than doubled the normal number of people using the bathroom, showering, and making messes.”

Every year, just before school begins, family visits my house. It is the end of the summer for them, which is a perfect way to wrap it all up. But, it is the beginning of my preparing to start the school year! I’m happy to host, but it is not the best timing. Is that an opinion or fact?

A Classy Adventure Aboard “The Dark Frigate”: 3 Effects

One of my aims in reading the Newbery Award winners is to compare them with one another and contrast them from non-winners I’ve read in order to try and identify the characteristics that made them worthy of award.Character Dev What caused “The Dark Frigate” (1924) by Charles Hawes to rise to the top of the pile of books; best of class; from that year? I’ll be honest with you; When I first began reading the text, I was not very impressed. I shared in a previous blog, “iBooks are Classy,” that more than reading, I was laboring, trudging through vocabulary, vernacular, archaic verbiage, and technical jargon from 16th century sailing. In addition to this, the actual storyline lacked intrigue. The tale begins with the main character, Philip Marsham, wandering the countryside for a while, meeting people, experiencing peculiarities, and making plans before eventually boarding the boat. As I read, I figured these contacts and situations would probably resurface later in the book, the way they usually do in novels, with the author tying everything up tight and tidy. I was in for quite a shock.

Here “Arrr” 3 effects resulting from the classiness found in this not-quite piraty tale.

1. Romance. “The Dark Frigate” would not be considered a romance in the traditional sense of the word, but while reading it, I thought of another book that presented a unique definition of romance.

The point of view in which this tale comes under the romantic definition lies in the attempt to connect a by-gone time with the very present that is flitting away from us. It is a legend, prolonging itself, from an epoch now gray in the distance, down into our own broad day-light, and bringing along with it some of its legendary mist which the reader, according to his pleasure, may either disregard, or allow it to float almost imperceptibly about the characters and events for the sake of a picturesque effect. (from the Preface of “The House of Seven Gables” (1851) by Nathaniel Hawthorne)  House of 7.JPG

I read this ages ago, right after graduating college, and it made a profound impact on my thinking. To me, it seemed Hawthorne was suggesting that two things coming together in a beautiful and poetic fashion can be romantic, regardless of gushing feelings, kissing, or roses. “The House of the Seven Gables” (1851) marries Hawthorne’s contemporary post witch-hunting era with the murderous, land-grabbing colonists’ time. Ironically, that was a terrifically difficult read as well. Perhaps that is one of the reasons the book surfaced in my thinking.

Disappearing.jpgThrough “The Dark Frigate” (1924) Charles Hawes romanticizes eighteenth century English literature. More than it being an adventure on the high seas, it is a vernacular venture in archaic prose. It seems to promote a nautical nostalgia on the verge of disappearing. This was written during the industrial boom, when trains were rumbling through country, trucks bouncing through city, steamships cruising the seas, and planes on the verge of filling the skies. Sailing vessels were as efficient as using horoscopes to forecast the weather in an age when scientists had instruments to accurately predict tomorrow’s temperature.

2. Rub. I was enjoying the use of iBooks, leaving loads of notes in the margins while Rub.jpgreading, when I noticed the style of my writing was being affected by the text I was consuming. I laughed at myself and took a screenshot. My use of language was assimilating some of the prose from the book!

There are a variety of ways to season food. Some food needs no seasoning at all, but other dishes are enhanced by a little spice. The right combination of herbs can help bring out the natural flavors that are right there, but untapped until opened up through the chemical process an herb, combined with heat produces (Goldwyn, n.d.). The difficulty of deciphering “The Dark Frigate” (1924)’s language was working its way into my thinking. In the same way that salt penetrates a meat, opening pores, allowing subtle herbs their entrance, my struggle with comprehension forced me to dig deep into the subject of 18th century sailing speak, building brain pathways to new ways of connecting words and phrases. In short, I found my personal use of English seasoned by this saltwater excursion in literature.   

3. Realism. This book is more than realistic. Other novels fall into the genre of “realistic fiction” because they could potentially happen. Two people could meet ten years after a brief initial interchange, recognize one another, sparks fly, and everything is happy… It could happen. But seriously, how realistic is that? I don’t want to give away the end of the book, but suffice to say “The Dark Frigate” (1924) isn’t just an adventure of pirates; it is a pirate itself. This book will purloin its reader of hope and possibly happiness. However, there is value in understanding that “happily ever after” is for fairytales. Life; true, lived, experienced, trial-and-error; life almost never neatly ties its loose ends into place.

Tying it up.jpg
This dark tale kept me up at night.

The more you struggle to achieve a goal, the more you get from the journey along the way. And, I got a lot out of this read! Also, have you ever worked really hard at something, and when it was over, you thought, “This is it?” Take care to appreciate the process, because sometimes the end result is unimpressive. You train, practice, and work at preparing to hike a mountain, only to find that the cloud cover doesn’t allow you to view anything. That was “The Dark Frigate” (1924) for me. If I hadn’t been taking notes, learning iBooks, and trying to gleam as much as I could from the read, I would have been in a “dark place” after having finished it. As it is, the novel was a wild rose in the forest. I leave you with a breath of fresh air from a dark text:

Final image.jpg

 

Sources:

Goldwyn, M. (n.d.). The Science of Rubs. Retrieved August 14, 2018, from https://amazingribs.com/tested-recipes/spice-rubs-and-pastes/science-rubs

Hawes, C. (2018). The Dark Frigate. New York: Aeterna Classics. [originally published in 1924]

Hawthorne, N. (1851). The House of Seven Gables. New York: Books.

University of California – San Diego. (2016, May 26). How the brain makes, and breaks, a habit: Neuroscience study identifies brain chemicals, neural pathway involved in switching between habitual behavior, deliberate decision-making. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 14, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160526185419.htm

 

Getting to Class; Turn Day One Jitters into Day Won Class

It’s August. Back to school sales are raging. Letters are arriving that tell students who their teachers will be this fall. Nervous energy is buzzing through bodies… Not just students’. Teachers worry about the first day of school, also.

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August First, 2018 — This is what I saw when I pulled up to my building.

 

Here is a couple classy ways that I deal with the start of school jitters:

  1. I have a goalONE goal for the first day. I’ll accomplish more than the one thing, but I measure my success based on this one thing. It isn’t the same every year. Sometimes it is learning everyone’s name. Other years, all I wanted was to get everyone back home safely. Nowadays, my goal usually centers on classroom management. I like  the momentum to begin in my favor, so I establish myself as captain. The class is my crew. “Any questions? That was rhetorical. Put your hand IMG_5681.PNGdown.” I don’t just withhold my smile until Thanksgiving; I’m not even pleasant for several weeks into the year! Of course, I am kidding. The pleasantries are paired with the smile, and it is more like Christmas when they appear. It’s my Christmas present to the crew class. Oh kay, seriously… don’t make it impossible or too vague, like “I want everyone to like me,” “Everyone should have fun,” “The class should love school…” They sound good, but are disastrously defeating. Simple is always best. “Everyone will leave the first day knowing the rules of the classroom; If nothing else, they will understand my expectations, period” 
  2. Meet that first goal and your golden! There isn’t a number two. I lied when I said, “Here’s a couple things…” The whole point of the one goal is for there to only be one thing that you are concentrating on. Okay, but if you are interested, there is one other thing that I do before the school year begins that has seemed to help: I make up some sort of slogan for the year. This is something that I have never shared with anyone, so it is rather ironic that I am blogging it to the world! It began this practice when I was long-term subbing. Before the year began, I came up with a little mantra that I used to keep me pumped up. It didn’t make any pedagogical sense, but it seemed to get my blood moving. I would tell myself, “We (yes, I use the royal pronoun when referring to myself; I am not multi-personality; at least, one of my personalities does not think so;) are going to kill it this year.” (I almost typed an exclamation mark at the end of my personal rallying cry, but it was really just a small whisper that I told myself.) Last year it was something like, “Everything before now has just been practice. This year I’m going to make it happen.” Notice how the motto is generic. In this way, it is difficult to fail. If I just do something different or better, I am successful. I don’t attempt to define “It”*.

    IMG_9114.jpg
    My classroom on Aug. 1, 2018 gives me the jitters:) The castle has been “stormed”!

Remember this one last tidbit of advice: The person that you are warring against, when it comes to overcoming nervous energy is YOURSELF. Everyone experiences his/her own battles, and therefore each will need his/her own battle strategy. Win Day One, and you are on your way to a year won in more ways than… You get the idea.

back to school conceptual creativity cube
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

*This is the same “It” that defeated the Knights Who Say Ni from Monty Python’s “Search for the Holy Grail.” Or, is it the “It” described by Dean Moriarty, when he is listening to jazz in a night club in San Fransisco in “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac? I think it lies somewhere between the two.

iBooks Are Classy

A firm believer in active reading, I’ve always enjoyed writing in my books. I journal in the margins. I’ve poopooed the use of digital books for this reason.

During the summer of 2018 I began a project I’d been thinking of for a while–I set out to read every Newbery Award-winning book. I coupled this goal with an aim of blogging about each. My third book in presented a problem.
Being a proficient reader with a large-enough vocabulary, I was flabbergasted to find a plethora of words I did not recognize in “The Dark Frigate.” To begin with, what on Earth is a “frigate”? Granted, much of my missing knowledge was due to the genre of 16th century sailing vernacular, but there was plenty of simply robust verbiage I needed help with as well. So much so that a paper book was as helpful as a pile of shredded scraps, I had to stop every 5 seconds to look something up!
Thus, I decided to finally tryout iBooks.
I had dabbled before and was familiar enough with the tools. At first, it was the ease of looking up the meaning of words I didn’t know from right inside the book that sold me, but as I continued my reading, I fell in love with taking notes, highlighting with different colors, and bookmarking significant pages.Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 6.48.46 AM
It slowly dawned on me that not only would this be a helpful tool for students, but I can acquire digital books to share with groups of students to use during guided reading! I could have students stop and type notes right in the text. They could take screen shots that are instantly shared with me via airdrop. These can be added to a digital portfolio, monitoring student progress.
Another way of using this digital tool is having a class set of books for a read aloud. No longer do I have to borrow or buy 25 copies of “The Indian in the Cupboard”. All of my classroom iPads can access my copy within iBooks, through using my professional Apple ID. And, not only will kids be able to read along, but they can be asked to connect to the text by highlighting and commenting right in their own copy of the iBook!
I’m not completely done reading “The Dark Frigate” (1924) by Charles Hawes, but wanted to pause to share my thrilling revelation of the usefulness of iBooks. I look forward to blogging about this, the third ever Newbery Award winner. It took me a while to wade through the vocabulary and dialect, plus the plot was droning to begin with, but the action is picking up. Look for my classy blog about Philip Marshal and his adventures aboard the Rose of Devon, coming soon.

 

Automation Might be Convenient, But Is It Classy?

My daughter Scarlet and I visited a restaurant the other morning to purchase some bagels. I ordered a “Baker’s Dozen” of various styles; plenty of Scarlet’s favorite, the oneIMG_0519 with sugar piled on top. When I asked the person behind the counter to slice and toast two of the bagels, so we could eat them then and there, I was told that I’d have to buy two more bagels, outside of the baker’s dozen. “The Line, where they assemble sandwiches and cook things, would have to toast the bagels,” it was explained.

Rather than schooling the employee on customer-service or being difficult, I opted to have two of the baker’s dozen sliced right there and forego the toasting. I felt a little

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cheap, but it was a principle-thing. I had purchased the baker’s dozen to save money. Buying two additional bagels would have canceled that, and then we would have too many bagels to eat over the course of the next couple of days.

You should know that there were, maybe, three people sitting and eating in the restaurant, and there was one person behind me in line. In other words, it was not rush hour. It seems to me that the main reason for the toasting needing an additional purchase was because the computer didn’t have a way to send an automated message to “The Line” when a baker’s dozen was being purchased. The only way for this worker to communicate that two bagels were to be toasted was by producing a separate order… Or, she could have grabbed a couple of the thirteen and asked the people working “The Line” to toast them… verbally… perhaps with hand gestures or signs.

Empathy: This deserves a whole series of Classy Blogs, but let me start here. In every single situation, I try to empathize with each person involved, because I believe attempting understanding motives is classy. When you know where someone is coming

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from, it is easier to behave classy. In this instance, the girl taking my order could very well have been new. Perhaps she was told to only use the computer. Maybe she was specifically told to avoid extra transactions, outside of the automated system. “If a customer wants his bagel toasted, you HAVE to press the toast icon on the keypad,” a manager may have said to her right before I placed my order. It isn’t impossible for there to even be an unseen difficulty for this girl to walk the ten feet and talk to “The Line”. Her ex-boyfriend could be working over there, and they just broke up. Who knows? The one thing that I did know was that this girl could not see through the automation of the ordering system before her.

It reminded me of a movie that I do not recommend you watch. It isn’t the drug use and profanity that keep me from suggesting you see “Idiocracy”. The movie has gone from satirical comedy to frightening realism. Its preface is a world 500 years in the future that has become idiotic due to people’s intelligence devolving. While there are several ways this is depicted, one is the use of computers with nothing but icons on them. When I first saw it, I thought it funny, but watching it a year or so ago made me dangerously depressed.

Here is some more empathy: I understand why automation exists. The people at the head of companies want to make as much money as they can. This is only natural. I would like to have more money, too. By lowering the steps necessary to take care of customers,

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limiting the amount of time a living human being is needed for communicating with people, the companies can hire fewer people, thereby spending less on employment. Also, automation can lessen the amount of trivial needs that their paid employees have to deal with. When there is bad weather and I call my gym to see if it is still open, I am surprised to talk to an actual person. I apologize for simply wanting to know if it is open. “Yes, we are open,” a courteous receptionist assures me. I feel badly for how many times that person is probably going to have to deal with my question throughout the morning. An automated system could help them.

On the other hand, when I have a pressing need or question that I know won’t be

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addressed by an automated system, it is infuriating to have to jump through a million hoops to talk to a real person. Sometimes I mask myself as a person seeking to begin a new account just to get to talk to a live person. When I get “transferred” to a person who can “help with my specific issue,” my cynicism makes me wonder if my lengthy wait is just part of meeting the company’s hold-time-quota: “You’re going to wait, whether you realize/want to, or not.”

In the case of my morning bagel customer-service crisis, it was sad to see a young woman be boxed into an algorithm that didn’t allow her the ability to show the classic “customer-first” concept that makes the service industry classy. Doctors are equipped with an awesome amount of valuable information via the Internet, which can make their work of diagnosing patients’ ailments more effective. Who would be okay with the doctor texting you what they find? The 2009 movie “Up In the Air” gets it. George Clooney plays a businessman who is hired in order to fire people. When his job is threatened by an online career-termination skeem that a fresh, young mind thinks up, Clooney’s character insists that the inventor travel with him to witness the class necessary for handling this delicate procedure properly.

Fighting automation is a losing battle. “Let the robots take the jobs…” Kevin Kelly (2012) thinks robots should win the jobs that can be automated, “And let them help us dream up new work that matters.” There will be hiccups along the way, and Scarlet and I might have to eat a couple untoasted bagels, but it’s worth being able to type this on a computer instead of being busy with farm chores; one of the many ways robots have rescued Americans.

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Judge, M. (Director). (2006). Idiocracy [Motion picture on DVD]. United States: 20th Century Fox.

Kelly, K. (2012, December 24). Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs. Retrieved July 27, 2018, from https://www.wired.com/2012/12/ff-robots-will-take-our-jobs/

Reitman, J. (Director). (2009). Up in the Air [Motion picture on DVD]. United States: Paramount.