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May 1, 2017

Testing is Over...Now What (Day 1)

"Yes we will be learning today..."

Have any of you had to say that in the days and weeks after testing?


Have you ever been surprised by the number of students who are disappointed when you make that statement to them?


What about when a parent says, "we are going on a trip and we know you guys aren't doing anything anyways now that testing is over..."


Is it really over? I mean, looking at my calendar I see that we have four weeks left. That leaves a great deal of time for connections, extra opportunities and preparing for the students' upcoming transition.


Yes, I am aware there are some who have "thrown in the towel" for the year. Some classes will watch the entire Disney collection in the remaining weeks of the school year. I can assure though, that is not the norm. Many educators use this time to discuss and collaborate on great topics that may not be covered in the required standards. Others may use this time to try new innovative techniques that they have wanted to try all year. There are even some who "team-teach" with colleagues in different grade levels to mix it up a little.


Even with that, it is hard to convince people that the test does not determine the end of school. The mindset that school is over still exists but we need to change it. There could be many reasons why and some of those may be our own fault, but I like to focus on the HOW and not spend much time on the WHY.


So how do we change the mindset?


This is not necessarily going to be easy but luckily it is doable. Remember, we are battling a mindset that will be hard to change because it has been around for some time. And remember, this change will not happen overnight. You will still hear grumblings. Over time, those will be replaced with cheers of joy...ok, maybe too enthusiastic on that one.

OK, so here are some ideas on how to change the mindset...

Tell the World
Continue to tell your school's story! Make sure EVERYONE in your community knows that you and your students are still going strong and celebrate it. Let the parents and students know that learning will continue. In fact, be specific. Come up with a "schedule" that includes the time you have left with specific goals, topics and activities. Take pictures and videos and share regularly on social media. It wouldn't even hurt to invite parents and community members to come to the school and see all of the cool things going on. The bottom line, if YOU do not take charge in communicating and reinforcing that school is still going on, someone else will take that responsibility. If someone else takes charge, it will not be the story you want told.

We are all tired and that's OK.
There is NOTHING wrong with people knowing that we are all tired. Identify that early and let the kids and parents know they are not alone. We also need to be transparent and realistic about people’s stress level and fatigue but also honest about finishing strong. At this point in the game it is not about being motivated to continue but being disciplined to finish strong. Remember, enthusiasm is contagious but so is apathy. Dig deep, recognize that everyone is tired but maintain a level of enthusiasm and positivity to help keep the momentum going.

Relax...BUT Provide structure
The worst thing we can do is nothing. As much as people complain about structure, the truth is we all need it bad. We especially need it now when the mindset (hopefully changing) is one that says kids need to be free from learning. With that being said, it is also important to not burn yourself out either. Remember that more structure usually means less issues in the classroom which equals less stress which in turn helps with the relaxation. When structure is combined with relaxation, it is easier for students to be open to the continuation of learning.

Visit places - for real and virtually

Go somewhere...really. Find a museum to explore or go to the woods and do some exploration. You could get in contact with local businesses and industry and spend some time on career exploration. Also grab some VR googles or Google Cardboard and take some virtual trips. There is nothing wrong with taking some recreational trips (bowling, movies, etc) as long as the emphasis leading up to those trips is learning. Make sure your students know why you are doing this and again, let the parents and community know what you are doing.

Give the students a taste of the next level
When in doubt, collaborate with the grade level above you and work out some time to have the students talk about expectations. Although this is not necessarily academic (though you could use it for that too) it is important for students to see what they are getting into. Who best to fill them in than the students who experienced it?? Let the parents know too. Include these activities as part of your schedule. Emphasize the importance and make it something you do on a regular basis.



Like I said, it could take some time. But the key is taking steps to change that mindset. The best time is now...

In the immortal words of Jim Morrison, "the time to hesitate is through."

In the next few days, four more educators will provide their thoughts and ideas on what to do now that the test is over. I can guarantee none of them will talk about seeing how many movies they can fit in during the next four weeks. Pay attention, because these ideas will be insightful and will provide things you will be able to implement now.


Tomorrow you will get to hear from Chattanooga Ed-Tech Guru Julie Davis. It is guaranteed to be insightful and could potentially have an immediate impact on YOUR last few weeks of school. Julie has a tremendous reputation among her Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter and Facebook and is someone you need to follow TODAY. Tuesday you will find her post at Thoughts on All Things EduTechie Oriented.

Don't forget to keep the conversation going. Feel free to comment and share. We would love to hear from you!

MS



April 28, 2017

Testing is over now what...A 5 part series (PREVIEW)


Most of us our packing up our standardized tests and we will bid them adieu early next week. This definitely marks an ending in our school year but does it mark THE END??

There is an ongoing myth among parents, students, community members...heck even teachers, that once the end of the year testing is over, the school year is over. That theory was ok when the standardized test was in the last week of school. However, in the past few years our tests keep creeping further and further away from our summer vacation.

This leads to comments like...

"Testing is over, why do we need to still learn?"

"They don't do anything but watch movies anyways..."

Well, in case you are wondering, we are not singing Alice Cooper just yet...

In fact, a group of us has collaborated and decided to help others share the word that "the test" does not determine when our school year ends. We, the Masters of Pedagogy, are going provide insight, ideas, thoughts, whatever to help let ever know that WE decide when the school year ends...not "the test."



So here is what it looks like.

Starting Monday, each of the Masters of Pedagogy will provide a post on his or her respective sites to help get you going and spread the word that teaching and learning will continue and School is NOT out for summer...yet.

Monday: It is me, Mick Shuran! This focus will be on changing the mindset or culture of how it seems testing determines the end of school. No Alice Cooper, School's Not Out for Summer...yet! - http://mickshuran.com

Tuesday: My Chattanooga friend Julie Davis, ed-tech extraordinaire, will share her insight and tips on trying new things during this gray area of non-testing. http://techhelpful.blogspot.com/

Wednesday: Fellow Tullahoma City Guru (and LTL PodcasterChristopher King will share his thoughts and ideas in a different format, a VLOG for all you visual and audial learners http://firesidechats.blog/

Thursday: My fellow social studies expert Jacob Dunn will bring a current "in the classroom" perspective towards what we as educators can do after testing.  https://cultivateedu.com/

Friday: Lastly, from Cookeville, TN (home of the great University simply known as TTU) my friend Thomas Fuhrman provides his analysis and expertise when it comes to keeping the teaching momentum going.   https://tfuhrman.wordpress.com/

Please join us, provide your comments and feedback and most importantly, SHARE IT!

See you Monday!

MS

April 7, 2017

What Hawaii taught me about student leadership...


Yes I know, I was in paradise. It was a vacation for the Shuran family. However, it was not a normal vacation for us considering that we were there with around 200 students and family members from Tullahoma.

Just so you know, the Shuran's usually travel in fours and sometimes in groups as large as 12 but this is our first 200 plus.

Our Hawaii excursion included four different flight groups as well as a minimum of four charter buses in motion in Honolulu at any given time.

We traveled almost everywhere together and believe it or not, it was always a pleasurable experience. We walked everyday in mass to Hard Rock Cafe to eat breakfast and you could not walk on the beach or step in the Pacific Ocean without bumping into a fellow Tullahoman. It really seemed like we were taking over Oahu. People noticed us but in a good way. I saw a bunch of smiles from both sides. It was great!

Now to my point, student leadership...

If any organization is a blueprint for student leadership, it has to be the Tullahoma Band. I have had the opportunity to travel with the band a couple of times. Each time, I appreciate what I see even more.

The main things I notice are...


The students know how to act and recognize the fact that they are representing Tullahoma wherever they go.

If adults are around, they are going to help take care of them (including me). Simply meaning, helping load bags, helping carry the heavy stuff and on and on...

The students know they are responsible for their stuff.

Adult chaperones, teachers and leaders do not have to worry, the Tullahoma Band students know and follow the rules.

The students are respectful to the other people around them ALL of the time (we get comments all of the time).

There are several students who "earn" a spot as a Team Leader. There is a reason they earn that spot and ALL of the band members know who they are and follow their lead.

The student leaders do not expect the other band members to do something they wouldn't do with them.

The band adults give those Team Leaders extra responsibility and do not have to worry that it won't get done.


Lastly, the Band sounds amazing ALL of the time. That is a direct reflection of not only the adult leadership but the students' leadership as well.


Shout-out goes to Justin Scott, Martin McFarlane, Atticus Hensley, Doug Clark, Greg English and Michael Todd. They have faith in their kids, allow them to take on responsibility and encourage them to learn from mistakes. The ability of the adults to let go of responsibility only makes the Tullahoma Band better...and it shows.

In case you want to see proof, check out the video below.





MS


February 25, 2017

The Beauty of a Podcast...


Podcasts...producing and listening, has become a passion of mine for the past couple of years.

I have always been an avid music listener but I find myself connecting with a particular podcast or two as a replacement for my music.

Don't get me wrong, there is still a time a place for me to jam BUT there are many times where the podcast provides the entertainment I need to make it through...

a long drive
a workout
a yard mowing or even...

listening while at work (only if you are allowed too...).

I have written about this before but feel it is worthy of revisiting. If you have not tried a podcast then it is time to give it a shot. You can click on the short video below to see how to make that happen...



If you have already entered the podcast world or want to learn  more about it, good for you! Here are some of my favorites with a quick summary of each.

Education
Three guys (I am one of them) who are on a mission to help other like-minded people think about, talk about and learn about anything in regards to leadership technology and learning. Chris, Scott and Mick are long-time educators who value the importance of having fun while learning. Most of the episodes are under 15 mins and the show typically releases once a month.

This is one of my favorite ed tech podcasts. It typically comes out a couple times a month and the show notes are thorough enough that you could understand what is happening without listening (would not recommend, you SHOULD listen). Chris Nesi does a tremendous job of discussing hot topics in ed tech and has a knack for bringing in guests who are spot on with the ever-changing times.

The podcast created by Mark Barnes, the leader of the Hacking Education movement has a TON of shows that I guarantee you can find something that is relevant to you. Most of the shows are short enough to digest in one sitting but are packed full of useful information. If you aren't interested in the podcast, check out all of the Hack Learning books...there are a bunch to choose from.

This is a new one by Matt Miller and Kasey Bell. I have only been able to listen to a couple but so far it is GREAT! I really enjoy the way these two collaborate together with a common goal of sharing their Google knowledge. This is a must listen for those interested in ed tech especially all things Google.

History
If you are a Malcolm Gladwell fan then you will LOVE this show. I binged listened to all of his episodes and now cannot wait for season 2. Most are under an hour so they can be taken in on a short trip or during some treadmill time. Gladwell is a storyteller and when combined with interesting topics it can't be wrong. My favorite so far is called The Big Man Can't Shoot, Wilt Chamberlain vs. Rick Berry...do not want to miss that one.

Oh man, I just found this one and I am HOOKED! Another story teller, Dan Carlin, talks on topics typically pertaining (but not limited to) war and military history. Get ready because these shows are in the hour, two hour and five hour time range. They are like audio books but that is ok because he is always telling good stories.

Spiritual and Health
Rob Bell, one of my favorite "traveling" pastors. He has caught some criticism for his previous book Love Wins and his stance on Heaven and Hell (most people jumped to conclusions and read something completely different from what I read). Some of his shows he has guests and others he will simply talk about things that are pertinent to our world. Probably my favorite episode is number 27 with Carlton Pearson (former Oral Roberts minion). The RobCast is not for everybody but definitely one of my favorites!

Great podcast with some pretty cool guests. The main topics focus on basically taking care of yourself. Or as the creator, Jerred Moon says, "making yourself harder to kill." The podcast has a great companion website with all sorts of articles and tips, including a workout called one man one barbell as well as a DIY section for building things for your garage gym. If you want to become stronger and more mentally tough, this is one to listen to.

Fun
Great discussions on this one and most deal with manly stuff. However, I believe it is not limited to manly stuff. The topics range from building a survival fire to hosting a gentleman's dinner. Or you might get some cool topics on history, specifically C.S. Lewis or maybe Winston Churchill...too many topics to even list. 

Guy Raz from NPR hosts this show about how certain people are successful. He has interviewed Richard Branson, L.A. Reid, Jim Koch and probably my favorite, Mark Cuban. There are many more and all are very insightful and entertaining. 

This is a new podcast, just started in January. In fact, Chris Guillebeau has pledged to release one per day for the entire year. Each show is about 7-8 mins and covers topics related to every day people making money on their side hustles. What is cool about it, is that you realize any one can do this. The podcast helps get the gears going on in your head. Who knows, maybe after listening to this one we can all start lucrative side hustles. 

Super entertaining show with a wide-array of guests. So far some of my favorites include Jocko Willink (the invincible Navy Seal) and Dan Carlin (The Hardcore Historian). There are tons to choose from and most last around the hour to an hour an a half range. This show will keep you thinking an entertained the entire time. 

Ok, basically this is the show that got "my feet wet" and got me excited about podcasts. If you happen to be a Netflix or Amazon Prime binge watcher (I am too) then this is the show for you. The first season follows a case where a high school student was arrested and convicted for killing his girlfriend. I promise you, it will be difficult to turn this one off. If you do not get hooked and start binge listening, then you may need to check for a pulse. Ok...kind of harsh but really it is like an awesome, suspenseful audio book. 

To wrap it up, there is one other thing you should know. It is not necessary to listen to every single from every single podcast that you have saved. Some of them may not interest you at all and that is ok. Frequently check back with your list to see if there is one that you like.

The beauty of a podcast is that most are free. Even the ones that are not free are worth checking out. Plus, there are podcasts on EVERYTHING. Some are good, some are not but if you find one you really like and get hooked on, I promise you will never be the same.

What are some of your favorites?

Do you want to create a podcast??? We can delve into that one soon.

Good luck and happy listening!


MS

February 11, 2017

Personalizing Professional Development...for All

The big talk in education right now is the concept of personalized learning. Yes, I know, this is not new but the talk has been rejuventated and quite honestly it is spot on.

No matter what you think, kids learn differently now. Times have changed, attention-spans are shorter and innovations are coming out at an unbelievable rate (sometimes too fast).

Let's shift the conversation from personalized learning for students to personalized learning for adults. We know it is in the best interest to make learning relevant for kids...to meet them where they are. Should we not be thinking the same for adults as well??

I am not advocating the total elimination of group professional development or attending conferences because I do believe there is benefit in that.

However, what if we were able to personalize our own learning (that may include conferences and group PD) but also include ways in which we are learning what we need NOW instead of what "everybody" needs. Conferences such as the TETC and the TSIN STEM Summit and the Google Summits have been great experiences for me. The BEST things about those experiences are the contacts and connections I make that allows me to continue my learning beyond the conference.

I have a terminal degree from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga and my experience was phenomenal. The classes were great. The dissertation process was rigourous but meaningful. But, the biggest gain to this day were the connections with my professors and classmates that has allowed me to continue my learning beyond the school house doors.

In addition to the things I am required to do (for TASL credit) I am able to personalize and be intentional as to what I learn. Should that not be the same for everyone??

For some, the status quo of meetings, trainings, conferences etc is enough. For others like me (#TeamDisruption) I want to have more control over what I learn.

How do we do it?

Here is what I do...

Reading

I read constantly. You may have seen my references to books, articles and blogs. Remember, I like to share...

BTW, you can get all of the cool things I share (every Friday) by clicking HERE...

Not only do I read daily but I like to keep my phone or a notebook close by so I can jot ideas that come about while I am reading. Even the fiction books I read have the potential to give me ideas of what I what to share or what I want to learn about.

And of course when I read something I like...I share. I truly believe the act of sharing information that one has learned increases the learning of the person sharing too...WIN WIN.

The image below shows another way I share (and learn). Those shelves are right outside my office and contain books that I think can be beneficial to people in my building. 




Podcast (making and listening)

Don't get me wrong but I love music. But, most of the time when I am traveling somewhere, I have a podcast playing in the background. My podcast list includes spiritual ones, health and fitness topics, business, education, history and even humor.

Here is a screenshot of some of my favorite podcasts...by the way, I love using Overcast as my podcast player on my I Phone. There are many others but Overcast works the best for me.


In case you weren't aware, one of those is mine. Yep, the Leadership Technology Learning Podcast featuring Yours Truly, Christopher King and Scott Hargrove. We get together and produce a monthly show that provides our listeners with great topics in education. The great thing about it, we are learning a TON as we go through the process as well.  YOU should try it, it really isn't that hard.

Google Hangouts

This one is cool and not new but gaining some momentum in our school system. In March, we are doing a "edcamp" style Google Hangout involving folks in our system (and beyond) where we get together to talk about specific topics without ever leaving our buildings. The opportunities are exciting and endless. It is not uncommon for me to Google Hangout with one of my colleagues or friends when I have an idea and get stuck. It is that easy! 

Twitter
What can I say...Twitter has changed the way I do business. Not only have I been more intentional about promoting the great things going on at WMS (see #WestBobcats) but I have connected with so many like-minded people around the world. I am able to find answers to problems I may have. I am able to get some great ideas to utilize and share. And I am able to build relationships with some really cool people in the process.

If you haven't participated in a Twitter Chat, there are a bunch. Even if you feel the need to "lurk" or just watch, that is ok. You will learn pretty quickly how the process works.

Here are some of my favorites...
#tnedchat
#edtechchat
#ditchtextbook
#goopen
#piachat

Teaching and Coaching Days

I have taught for several years at the university level and the experience has been tremendous. Not because I am a great teacher or that I make some extra money but again, I meet some great, like-minded folks who are just as eager to learn as me. 

I have also added something new this year thanks to Amy Fadeji,  The Shuran Coaching Day. Every Thursday, I keep my calendar open and allow anyone in my building to schedule for a specific period of time. They can schedule me to do anything...yes anything. I regularly talk with 8th grade language arts about topics in motivation. I have worked with 6th graders on math projects. I have even led and participated in a band lesson. 

This has been one of the best things I have done since entering the admin world. By the end of the day I am exhausted so it helps remind me of how difficult teachers have it. But, it is more than that. I am still honing my craft. Teachers get to see me in action, students get to see that I am not just an a guy in an office. It truly has been life/career altering. Below is a recent coaching day where I spent a little time with 8th graders discussing technology and the Civil War.


These are just ideas of mine, I know you have some too. Share the wealth so more and more folks can get on the road to intentional, personalized learning...for themselves.


MS



February 4, 2017

When I write...


"When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth."

Kurt Vonnegut

I read this quote the other day while reading Tools of Titans (Great Book by the way) by Tim Ferris, and it stuck with me.

Just in the past couple of weeks I have talked to other bloggers (current and on sabbatical) who have said the same things...


I don't have the time to write.

People won't want to read about what I say.

I go blank when I stare at my screen.

Sound familiar??

Often I feel the same way as Kurt Vonnegut. He does a good job of capturing that frustration in one quote.

But, there is hope. Vonnegut, in a 1980 issue of Transactions on Professional Communications, talked about a few things we can do to ensure quality writing and how to "write with style."

Here are his thoughts with my commentary...

1. Find a subject you care about
If you do not like what you are researching, reading, coloring, drawing, making, writing about etc...it's going to get old quick. Find something you are passionate about and learn as much as you can about it and then...SHARE.

2. Keep it simple
The harder you make it, the less likely you are going to like it and the more likely other folks won't be able to use it. I am a fan of simple.

3. Sound like yourself
If you are a Southerner, it is ok to sound like one. But, it is also more than that. Don't try to sound like someone you are not. If it is not you, if it is not your passion, people will figure you and your readers will recognize the deception easily.

4. Say what you mean
Don't beat around the bush, say what you mean and do not worry about the fact that someone does not agree with you. Disagreement is natural and as long as it doesn't become hate-filled or personal, then it will be ok in the long run.

To add to this I would also include:

Read constantly
I read all of the time. Many times I have multiple books going. I know, I know sounds impossible for someone with focus problems like me but it is true. Good books have a way of maintaining my focus. It is like kryptonite for my adult ADD.

Pocket is my friend. I am constantly saving articles and videos to my Pocket site to not only read but share...despite what others say, I like to share. BTW, there is a great short clip on my video page that gives you the basics of Pocket.

Keep a journal or your phone near you to jot down ideas
Right now there is a tangerine Scout Book next to my bed. If I think of an idea, I jot it down. Sometimes the next day it makes no sense but at least most of the time I am able to recall the reason for jotting it down.

I am also a big fan of Field Notes and Moleskins and anything else that resembles a notebook. I have even made some out of beer...I mean Coca Cola cartons.

Oh, and if you do not use Google Keep, you are missing out! It is a great tool by Google that allows you to take notes, itemize thoughts, even add pictures...endless note-taking possibilities.

Don't worry about how many people read it.
The fact that you share it (the hard part) makes it worthwhile.

I always get that nervous feeling when I hit Publish. Don't you??

That's ok. It lets you know you are still alive.


January 27, 2017

Kindness Matters...



We have been celebrating a week of kindness this week at West Middle so I thought it would be a perfect time to share some tips on what it looks like to be kind.

So...

I talked with some students and got their feedback. This is what they said.

Helping pick things up
Volunteer work
Complimenting and caring for each other
Helping those who need it
Smiling
Holding the door
Helping with difficult tasks like when a locker is stuck
Saying good morning and good afternoon
Telling jokes, making people laugh

Here was one I loved...Kindness cards

Like this one...


Or this one...



Basically, the kids have these cards that have inspirational quotes on them. They can give them to random people or simply someone they know. They can say something to them or just hand it out and smile. One students said she liked to just hand it out and see the people's reaction.

How cool is that!

Although we strive to be kind everyday, it is also good to have reminders such as this week. It is intentional and who knows, maybe it will help form a habit of kindness.

As I thought about this, there were some others that I felt needed to be added...

1. Always be first...I read about this one in Tim Ferris' book Tools of Titans. He was speaking about Gabby Reece (famous volleyball player) and her husband Laird Hamilton and their relationship. Gabby says she likes to always be first...first hello, first smile, first hug, etc. She knows if she does it first then the kindness will get done.

2. When seeing someone, act like the young kid does when he or she sees you at the end of the day and its like she hadn't seen you in months. You know, when you walk in the door and your son or daughter screams and is all smiles. What a great feeling! Why don't we do that when our spouse or mom or dad walks in the room. We should take notes from toddlers. 

3. Free Hugs and High Fives...this is one of my favorite things we do. The first day of school, several of our kids and our teachers stand outside with inspirational signs and hand out free hugs and free high fives to any one who wants them. You should see the smiles, it really sets the tone for the day. 

4.  Say you are AWESOME - no explanation needed here. We can always say something good about someone else. 

Here's to every week being kindness week!


MS




January 24, 2017

Ol' Lazarus Lake and the idea of failure...

Have you ever heard of Lazarus Lake??

The ultra-marathoner who starts his race with the lighting of a cigarette.

Me either until just a couple of weeks ago when I was perusing my Netflix account.

Some of you may not know but I have a healthy (or unhealthy for that matter) addiction to documentaries and have watched some great ones the past month or so.

There are no boundaries to my genres of documentaries...none. I love them all! ESPN has some of the best in the 30 for 30 series and they have not let me down yet. Here are just a few of my favorites...

The Barkley Marathons - More on this one in a minute...

Anyways, back to Lazarus Lake.

Lazarus (not his real name) is a runner. He really doesn't run much anymore but has contributed greatly to the running culture for many decades. In fact, Lazarus is well known for creating several races, one in particular is called the Barkley Marathon.

Again, this popped up on my Netflix account and I had no idea what it was about. I saw Tennessee in the title and felt I needed to explore this documentary.

I am glad I did!!

Long story short...The Barkley Marathon is actually an ultra-marathon... meaning that it is super long and I will never ever run in it.  Actually, the official definition is any race that is longer than the traditional marathon length of 26 miles. The race takes place in East Tennessee in part of the Appalachian Mountains and was supposedly inspired by a prison escape (won't spoil it for you). 

Start of the Barkley Marathon

You know how these things get started, friends sitting around having a good time talking about this and that and all of a sudden an ultra marathon is born. That is not exactly how it happened but you get the idea.

I do not want to spend the entire about this documentary because that is not the point. The takeaway was something said by Lazarus Lake. He simply said, "you can't accomplish anything without the risk of failure."

Yes, an eccentric, ultra-marathoner spouts wisdom that is applicable to all aspects of life...including and especially the world of education. You see, in his world, in the world of the Barkley Marathon...most fail. In fact, only 10 in the past 25 years have actually succeeded (more since the taping, but still) in this ultra-marathon. But, the popularity is increasing year by year. I'm sure the documentary will only make it grow more.

You can't accomplish anything without the risk of failure...

In order for that to happen in a school, in the classroom, etc...these things have to be present...


  • A culture that allows people to take risks and try different things.
  • Being transparent and modeling how making mistakes and learning from them can work.
  • Continuous dialogue on how taking chances...trying new things...taking risks can be acceptable if it means that something better is going to come out of it.
  • Sharing and celebrating successes that have risen out of taking chances/risk-taking.


Too often we reward success and discourage failure. Don't get me wrong, educators are good cheerleaders but we may need to go further. Adults and kids need to see it in action. 

They need to see that something better can come out of something that did not initially work.

MS

January 20, 2017

5 Reasons to Try Something Different...

It is important for us to change. It is important for us to do different things. If not, we stand a chance to become stagnate personally and professionally.

To do something different does not mean drastically changing your thought and actions. It could simply be small changes in incremental steps. It can be methodical or spontaneous.

Although I would never recommend drastic changes without first putting some thought into it (pay attention to your Spidey-Sense).

In case you aren't sure what Spidey-Sense is, here you go...





I do think it is important to do something different every once in awhile.

Here is why:

1. It keeps people on their toes...guessing a little.
It is ok that there is wonder. If people expect the same thing every time, then after awhile do they even pay attention any more??

2. Gives you a sense of excitement/nervousness.
Every get that butterfly feeling when you do something new? That is a reminder that you are ALIVE. 

3. Leads to reflection
Doing something different allows you to look back at what you have already done. It allows you to reflect on what has worked and what has not. 

4. Starts a conversation
When you do something different people ask questions. Then, YOU get a chance to talk about the great things you are doing. 

5. Becomes contagious
When people see different things, when people see others get excited and that excitement becomes contagious. People want to be a part of something fun and meaningful. 


One word of warning, people may try to stop you because it is not "normal" or because it is different than what everyone is used to. Those distractors like the status quo and will most likely respond with statements like "it will never work" or "that's not how we do that."

Do not let that change your course of action. Push ahead and if it works, AWESOME. If it doesn't, you can always adjust.

That's the key, you can always adjust...

Go out and try something different.

MS




January 17, 2017

Day of Disruption...(Disruptor Series Part 3)

Friday, January 13th, 2017 was a day like no other at WMS.


Two other teachers and I proclaimed it "Disruption Day" for 8th grade science and social studies. We have been talking about it for awhile. Good ideas were mentioned, what ifs were brought up but we still had not pulled the trigger...until Friday.

This is what Disruption Day looked like for us:



Each class was divided into 3 groups.
The groups rotated during their science and social studies classes to three different locations.
Each location spent around 25 minutes on a specific topic.
The topic was related but it wasn't related...I know weird.
We did that for 3 class periods...9 total rotations.



I

was

EXHAUSTED!


It has been awhile since I spent a whole day as a classroom teacher and it brought back so many good memories.

On a side note, I think it is a good idea for administrators to actually take a teachers class every once in awhile...it helps bring back those teacher memories. More importantly it keeps you from forgetting where you came from. 

Back to Disruption Day

3 Rotations 3 Classes the theme was...

Fear and Uncertainty.

I know, just enough ambiguity to make the students wonder what the heck is going on. That was our goal.

The lesson all focused around fear and uncertainty in relation to the 1940s to late 1980s, basically the period of the Cold War. Mr. Epley focused on Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project. Ms. Cossey used mouse traps and ping pong balls to show reaction. And I used propaganda posters to talk about the human side of things.


Now here is the kicker...The Cold War is not in the standards for 8th grade history. Nor is there any mention of any of that in the 8th grade science standards. Oh yeah, we also did not require any assignments, worksheets or writing about your experience activities. It was simply out of the box thinking.

The feedback was great! The students enjoyed it and said they wanted to do it again!


Some things I think we would do differently...

Bring in more student driven activities (we were all tired).
Extend the lesson to multiple days so the students can identify and solve problems relating to the topics.
Make a bigger deal out of it.

If you ask the three of us it was a success. If you ask the students you hear things like...
"it was relevant"
"it was fun but and we were learning"
"that wasn't like anything we have done before"
"when are we doing it again??"

Disruption Day Part I was a big hit. It will not be the last one. We are already planning for future disruption days. Other people are getting excited about it too.



Who knows, maybe it will lead to more members of #TeamDisruption...

MS

January 12, 2017

If students could choose classes, would they choose ours?


A couple days ago during our recording of the LTL Podcast, my good friend Christopher King posed a great question.

"If students have the ability to choose the classes they go to, would they choose ours...would they choose yours?"

That is a valid question.

I remember there were times that if I asked myself the same question, I would have said no. I feel like I was a good teacher but upon reflecting on some of those classes, I would have chosen no...I'm not sure I would have taken my class.

Why?

I didn't recognize this at the time but I felt my classes were relevant...but were they relevant to me or were they relevant to the students?

Why in the world would a student not want to learn about Reconstruction? Why would they not want to sit back and read about and discuss the Gilded Age. I mean, everyone likes history right??

If I could go back this is what I would do...

Screen my students - By that, I mean give them personality inventories and check their learning modalities. I would even screen to see their reading ability. Why? It wasn't until I moved into an elementary principal job that I realized that some of my high school students couldn't read. How's that for hindsight. Believe me it is easy to do because secondary folks were all about the content and most of us had very little background on the pedagogy side of teaching kids...at least that was my experience.

Provide real world problem solving experiences - Not the problem solving experiences where I have a specific answer but one where there is no answer. The students' role is to solve it. Who knows, they may think of things from their perspective that we never thought of.

Fun and relationships - I feel I was good at this but looking back I know I could have done better. I would greet them everyday, ask them about life and spend more time getting to know my students. I have learned more than ever this past year that life is too short to worry about the little things. They are kids, they are going to make mistakes and that is ok.

Speaking of mistakes...

Encourage more risk-taking - This would be for me and the students. I liked to do different things in my classroom but I pretty much kept to the pacing guide and standards. Looking back I feel that those things are important but I could still get it done without relying on them so much. I would want to make sure that my students knew that my classroom was a place where you could make mistakes (including me) as long as you learned from them and grew.

Personalize learning - Not every kid learns the same. Not every kid can read the same passage about Teddy Roosevelt and understand the same things. Heck, I didn't even think that some of the kids couldn't read the passage at all. But now I know that some could not. With my increased knowledge of technology, I feel that I could use that to help me personalize learning, even in a high school history class.

Again, I don't think I was a bad teacher. In fact, I still get comments from former students about how they loved my class. However, I know I could have done more.

Knowing what I know now and implementing the strategies I mentioned above...I think if I were in the classroom today and I sold tickets to my class...kids might just buy them.

What about you?

MS

January 10, 2017

Why I do the things I do...

Why I do the things I do...



my wife would LOVE to know.

I am not talking about the every day crazy things I get myself into (see the above pic) but the things I am doing to help improve myself.

Such as...

Blogging

I like to share. Maybe I didn't so much as a kid but now I do. I like to share information that I feel can be helpful to someone. Blogging allows me to put thoughts down onto "electronic" paper and share them with other like-minded people. I like to believe a bunch of people read those thoughts, but in the grand scheme of things, it is ok if they do not. The process of taking thoughts and converting them into words, sentences, paragraphs, etc is an educational process for me. Plus, hitting that publish button can be somewhat exciting (and intimidating) knowing that other people can actually read my work.

That can be the tough part...hitting the publish button.

Podcasting

Again, I like to share.

I found two other guys who also like to share.

Click on the picture to listen (oh and leave a review on I Tunes)

We have common interests and a common goal to provide not only information to people but a platform for them to share what they know too. We recorded another podcast today (will be released soon) and the process is so much FUN! We get to talk about things we love, share new ideas and laugh about the crazy things going on in our world. And believe me, there are plenty of crazy things!

Twitter

Twitter is my go-to professional development tool. I know what you are thinking...Twitter can't be a PD tool...it is for funny cat videos and crazy memes like this one.

One of my favorites by the way.

No, that's Facebook (for me). I do enjoy some Facebook but usually for entertainment only.

Not a day goes by that I do not gain something from my interactions on Twitter. Every day = great tips, great articles, great followers...the list goes on.

I have connected and made new friends with people all over the world. Some are in education or leadership but others are in completely different fields.

Try it, don't give up on it...you may like it. Come find me @mickshuran

Reading

I read for knowledge but I also read for entertainment.

I read "real" books but I also read on my kindle or I Pad.

I read education and leadership books but I also love a good mystery or crime novel.

I read so I can share.

Here is what is on my night stand right now...



I do these things on a regular basis so I can not only share but grow.

The cool thing is...YOU can do this too.

Don't be afraid to hit the publish button. Don't be afraid that no one will read it.

Don't be afraid of the sound of your voice. Don't be afraid that no one will listen.

Don't be afraid to connect with people in your field or even your favorite author. You may be surprised.

Read every day, even if it is for fun.

If you struggle, ask someone to help.

I will be glad to help.

MS



January 5, 2017

Thresholds, Granny Shots and Group Think...(Disruptor Series Part 2)

In his new podcast Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell tackles the idea of thresholds.

By the way, if you have not read any of his articles or books, you are truly missing out. He is a fantastic storyteller and although sometimes controversial, has great insight as to how humans think and work. Go HERE for more info on Gladwell.

Here is the basic idea:

Wilt Chamberlain, arguably one of the greatest NBA stars of all times, the only player to record a 100 point game...was one of the WORST free throw shooters ever.




Rick Barry, another NBA great, was the best free throw shooter of all times.




Both players are ranked in the NBA's Top 50

Both players are recognizable to basketball fans throughout the world for different reasons. 

The most glaring difference probably relates to physical attributes that cannot be denied.

Wilt was a behemoth, playing at 7' 1" and dominating the inside like no one else could.

And...

Rick Barry shot free throws underhanded.

Yes, that is correct, the ole granny shot. With a 90% free throw made rate, who could argue with those stats?

Well, apparently all of basketball. Since that time, how many other folks have you seen shooting underhand? Can you count on one hand? My guess would be yes.

Why?? 

If it is effective, why do we not see more people shooting this way?

Good news! Someone is bringing it back. Chinanu Onuaku from the Houston Rockets starting shooting that way at Louisville and he says it has helped him.

Will it take root??



Probably not...

The reason Gladwell says this conflict exists is this idea of low vs. high threshold personalities. A high threshold personality is one that is dictated by what the "crowd" thinks. While the low threshold does not concern themselves with the crowd.

Wilt = high threshold = does not want to look foolish in front of the crowd
Rick = low threshold = does not give a crap about what the crowd thinks

Is this something that exists in your schools, businesses, houses etc??

Would it be beneficial to know who around might exhibit either a high or low threshold personality?? 

I believe it could make a huge impact!

Think about working on a project. If the entire group consists of high threshold personalities, there is a likelihood that group think will occur. Basically, everyone will agree and in reality, no one agrees.

Ever heard of the Abeline Paradox??


What if everyone had a low threshold personality?? There literally could be fights!

The balance is necessary. 

I visited Chattanooga STEM recently (my third or fourth visit). Each time I visit, I gain something new and interesting. Tony Donen, the principal at Chattanooga STEM, talked about how ALL of their students are given the Myers-Briggs Test. The results of that personality test are used throughout the year to help group those students on different projects.

Instead of grouping by ability, group by personality?? 

Looking at personalities and using the results may be something worthy to examine.

Back to Rick and Wilt. To this day, Rick Barry works with young players to attempt to convince them to consider his way of shooting. He believes that ALL players can be good free throw shooters, they just have to have confidence, good form and practice. I bet he even still wonders why more people do not shoot that way. I bet if Wilt were still alive, he would have that answer...

No way...it's a granny shot!

MS

January 3, 2017

One Word 2017...I may need your help!


Like most folks, I struggle with New Year's Resolutions. So much that I no longer even attempt them.

Do you ever wonder what resolutions people have or the statistics on how long they last?? Click Here for some New Year's Resolutions Statistics.

A few years ago, I was able to watch a short clip by Jon Gordon that allowed me to rethink the process. 

Here is the video in case you missed it.

ONE WORD - Jon Gordon

Basically, you choose a word which sums up what YOU want out of the new year. There is more to it than that but I will probably butcher it if I try to describe in detail, so check it out on your own. Plus, tons of people are getting into it. It is fun to see everybody's word for the year. Go to Twitter or Facebook and type #OneWord or look on your favorite blogs, you will see a bunch! 

Here are a few of my favorites so far...(check them out).

Dr. Ryan Jackson's #OneWord - Progress
Julie Davis's #OneWord - Brave
Christopher King's #OneWord - Growth


The past couple of years, I chose the same word...PRESENT. The reason...I was terrible at wrapping presents...just kidding (no really, I am bad a wrapping presents too but that's another story).

I was bad about not being PRESENT with my family and friends. I was there but I was not there...ever felt that way??

Since that time, I cannot say that I am cured but I will say that I am able to remind myself very quickly and easily when I am not being PRESENT with the people I care about most. And I will say, I have improved. I even have a daily reminder on my desk...Thanks to Kim Uselton!



The concept does work!

I will continue to use the word PRESENT because it works for me (most of the time...I still fail, but that is ok). However, it is pretty ingrained in me now so I think it is time to add another #OneWord to my repertoire.  

I know EXACTLY what I need to focus on. 

I have thought and thought and thought and the same idea has popped into my head. 

The problem, it is not #OneWord but two. 

Mental Toughness

That's it, mental toughness. I stink at it. 
What I mean by stinking at it is...

If I need to get up at 5:30am to run or workout...I stink at it.
If I need to read or write instead of watching one of my shows (see last post), I stink at it.
If I need to ignore that bag of Doritos and a cold beer...I stink at it.

I am in a constant battle with my mind. I need to be more mentally tough! 

So...this is where I may need your help. 

Do I try to find a one word solution for mental toughness (if so do you have any suggestions)? 

Or, do I simply use mental toughness as my #TwoWords mantra to define my 2017? Who knows, maybe a new trend will start...What are your #TwoWords??

The reality of it is this. I know it is more about the PROCESS. If I am thinking about what my weaknesses might be or what I need to focus on for the new year, then I am already moving in the right direction. 

So...think about what YOU want out of 2017. If you come up with that #OneWord that ultimately describes your PROCESS, that is awesome! If it happens to be two words, that will do just fine. The key is finding that word, words, mantra, whatever and use it to guide your life. You and I will improve.

MS