‘Bull’ An Unexpected Literary Treat

For those who know me you might be able to envision my reaction when I read the opening line from David Elliot’s book, Bull. Sorry Mom, I am just quoting here.

”Whaddup, bitches?”

I literally set the book down.

But like a curious cat the intrigue of why a book would start in this way got the best of me so I reread the preface and started again.

I quickly understood this would be a unique read for me. I seem to stay in the non-fiction genre most of the time and this verse-novel version of the Minotaur tale from Greek mythology piqued my interest early.

With some thematic elements and some literary imagery fit for HBO the story reads quickly and presents the epic in an engaging way. Each of the seven characters communicates through their own poetic form. Another bonus in my mind is given the short stanzas of poetry, the story reads quickly. Continue reading

Are You Listening?

A soft, steady click. Not more than the light click of a spacebar.

This little click is all it took to cause a week-long headache of a recurring battery failure on our Ford Explorer. A headache that peaked when the dead battery caused our son to be late for his first day of pre-school.

The issue in diagnosing the problem was the battery was fine to drive from Grand Rapids to North of Detroit, then the next morning it was dead. After recharging it was fine for a day. Then dead again. After recharging again we drove back to Grand Rapids with no trouble. Finally, another full day later the battery was dead on pre-school day #1. Continue reading

These 6 Things

This post is geared to the educators out there, so if you know a teacher pass this along! I have been blessed to teach with some great educators. Not just people good at their job, but individuals who are constantly pushing themselves to be even better. One of these individuals is Mr. Dave Stuart.

Several times a year students will comment about how great Mr. Stuart is and stir up a little bit of teacher envy inside my teacher soul. To a high school student some teachers are “great” because they allow cell phones, or give open note tests, or don’t keep track of tardies. The more I have gotten to know Mr. Stuart, and how his class functions, the more I have realized he probably expects more from his students than the average teacher.

During the second year at my current school I became more interested in finding out what makes Mr. Stuart such a great teacher in the minds of so many students. I asked students, positioned our instructional rounds group so we would see Mr. Stuart in action, asked colleagues, and even asked Dave for bit of advice.

Through these observations and conversations I learned a lot about things Mr. Stuart’s class does but I was missing the real difference that helps students key in to his instruction. It is not some trendy pedagogy that helps students enjoy Mr. Stuart’s class. Sure, students frequently share about a good Pop-Up Debate, or how the Article of the Week is relevant in their life.  What underscores all of these activities is a set of beliefs students share in that class.

The Five Beliefs are:

  1. Credibility: I believe in my teacher.
  2. Belonging: I belong in this classroom.
  3. Effort: I can improve through my effort.
  4. Efficacy: I can succeed at this.
  5. Value: This work has value for me.

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I have the benefit of being in the same building as Dave and can pick his brain if I am looking to try something from his class in my own room. I have even tried resources on his website. If you are anything like me, I like to have a physical copy as a guide when trying something new that has some type of format involved. As a college student I remember having Harry Wong’s First Days of School, and once I started my current assignment a colleague handed me Teach Like a Champion 2.0. Both of these were great resources to help build a skill-set as a teacher.

Lucky for anyone looking to build classroom culture, Long-Term Flourishing in their students, or looking for a guide to using Pop-Up Debates Dave has just published his second book. This one is simply title These 6 Things.

I know my copy will be nearby as I plan throughout the year. I am sure it will be a much loved resource as I continue to build my skill-set and get students more involved with reading, writing, and using meaningful argument.

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So aren’t Reading, Writing, and Speaking things that should be left to ELA and the Social Studies departments? Not at all, especially with the Next Gen Science Standards and the increased emphasis on students modeling their understanding of science concepts.

A key piece of developing science-minded students revolves around what NGSS refers to as the Science and Engineering Practices. There are eight practices, but let’s connect dots between three of these standards and These 6 Things.

  1. Analyzing and Interpreting Data- Reading
  2. Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information- Reading, Writing, Speaking
  3. Engaging in Argument from Evidence- Speaking/Listening

Our biology classes have dabbled with using news articles as source documents. We have also increased the amount of modeling as part of our investigations. Having These 6 Things as a guide for Pop-Up Debate is the piece I am most excited about having this physical copy.

There are so many topics in science that will lend themselves nicely to Pop-Up Debate. Climate Change, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), safe dieting, stem cell research, and how about the granddaddy of them all, Evolution.

Dave’s writing is conversational, yet informative. He is authentic and it comes through in his teaching and in his book. Whether on a personal, department, building, or district level there is value in getting this book into teacher’s hands. Almost all of us who are teachers chose this career to make a meaningful impact in the lives of others. Not just to help boost standardized test scores or get into a college, but to really help students become successful individuals as they head out into life after school.

This book helps focus on 6 things to streamline meaningful instruction. This helps students flourish in the long-term and will help teachers find balance between school and life. I know this book will be a great resource for Professional Development. I am curious to see how long it will be before this book is on a college syllabus for new teachers. First Days of School was a good preview to essential classroom management. These 6 Things will be a great resource for helping develop meaningful, life-long skills in our students. I hope you have a great year! Peace.

 

 

PFAS Aren’t the Problem

Anyone who has been paying any attention to local news in west Michigan knows that PFAS are a group of chemicals that have contaminated local water sources. PFAS are a known carcinogen and the area of PFAS contamination seems to just keep growing. Initially, Wolverine World Wide in Rockford was being singled out as the source of all the local contamination from poor storage of waste product. The scenario in Rockford is not playing out very well. Home values have dropped, complex filtration systems need to be installed, and local fishing now has a “Do Not Eat” designation. Upon further testing it appears PFAS are found throughout the state.

PFAS are a problem, but I contend that PFAS are not THE problem.

The problem is a disregard for nature and the human desire for quick results rather than using sustainable practices. Continue reading

Looking Up

Spending time camping with family is an perennial gift I am blessed to experience. The separation from the daily grind at home truly helps with recharging the emotional batteries. Once again this year our family has spent a week at Aloha State Park in Mullet Lake in northern Michigan.

Similar to several other state parks in Michigan Aloha offers campsites, bath houses, a nice little beach with a great lake view, access to a rail-trail, and as a nice bonus a camp store with donuts and ice cream! Much like other great camping locations the real benefit to camping here is the time spent with family and friends.

Moreso than in years past, our camp has spent some quality time around the campfire looking up at the stars. It has been a nightly goal to spot a satellite and catch a shooting star as it streaks across the sky. Continue reading

Self Discovery

This past school year I started posting a weekly Quote of the Week to accompany a Video of the Week. The goal being to start each week with some thought provoking material for students to ponder. Ideas which had very little to do with content and very much to do with self discovery. Most weeks I matched the quote with the content of the video, but sometimes mixed up topics for extra connections/conversation.

If this sounds interesting, I made a “40 Week Deep Thinking” document. Currently, all videos work but they are mostly YouTube links and have broken in the past.

40 Week Deep Thinking Quote and Video Continue reading

Unique Life Feels- ULFs

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” -Helen Keller

I am thankful for feelings. The ability to feel happiness, sadness, frustration, relief, contentment, discomfort; all of these feelings remind me I am Alive. I believe in life there is a balance to emotions. For each high there is a low, for every ebb there is a flow. It has not always felt this way.

In high school I worked at Chuck E. Cheese and really enjoyed that job. One day at work I was in a particularly cheerful mood and I remember a team-member asking me “What are you on?” and I honestly replied, Continue reading

On Target, but No Bullseye… Yet…

In this clip from CNBC Tony Dwyer is credited with making a prediction on January 25 that the stock market would pull back. My Rhino Market  post was on January 17… There are a couple key differences between myself and Mr. Dwyer.

  1. I believe I saw a trend and took a chance, Mr. Dwyer has years of experience and credentials in the financial world.
  2. I am a public school teacher and probably make 1/10th (if I’m lucky) of what Mr. Dwyer does.

Continue reading

A Rhino Market. Beyond the Bull.

It has been awhile since my last post so I am going to dive right in head first. This post is going to branch out from the rest the blog in several ways. The first way is the topic, The Stock Market. The second way is I am going to propose a way to save some people over $100,000… Here it goes.

The stock market is typically referred to as a bull or bear market. The bull being growth, fueled by optimism. The bear, decline being fueled by pessimism. This past week the Dow Jones Industrial Average (in the US usually just called the stock market) surpassed 26,000 points for the first time in history, after passing the 25,000 points just seven trading days prior. Since the presidential election of Donald Trump the market has risen 40% in one year! Continue reading