Archive for January, 2010

Follow this train of thought briefly: The other evening I was with several other teachers. Eventually I grew tired of the subject at hand and my ADD kicked in. In a few seconds I found myself piddling with something on a shelf and realized I had simply wandered off in the middle of the conversation. Realizing this, I slowly returned to the group. This caused me to think about my own ADD students. Once one of them said to me “I can take my pill and I’m like another person, all focused and smart!”  Wouldn’t that be great? I thought. Just take a pill and become another person–maybe the person you want to be?

Then BAM! (apologies to Emeril…) I caught myself in the thought: What kind of person would I want to be? If I could do it that easily, what changes would other people see in me? Complete this sentence: “Oh I would be _____________ !” Now don’t misunderstand. I didn’t ask what kinds of things would you have/possess. I asked what kind of person you would be. There is a difference.

Something about asking the pill question gets right to the point. Some students have no idea how to answer the question, while others will give you a knee-jerk response (some of which are quite insightful, I might add!) But the question remains, What kind of person would you become? When you can honestly answer that question, make becoming that person a goal. Do something everyday that brings you one step (even a baby step) closer to it. Keep the image of that person in your mind and imagine yourself already there. Don’t worry about your progress–just be.

Then model that behavior for your students.


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Years ago I came across a communication technique called the “equity model.”  It was a framework for scaffolding conversations in the professional world. We can have productive interactions as long as we adhere to the model and remain at the same communicative level. If, for instance, I want chit-chat, but you want meaningful exchange, there will be some friction. If you want constructive criticism but I want to offer angry accusation there is friction. We must operate at the same level or little true communication will take place.

There is a spiritual equity model as well. We naturally gravitate toward those with interests similar to, and at the same level, as ours. But we also seek out those with spiritual maturity for inspiration and guidance. Sometimes our students do the same. They perceive us, at some spiritual level, as more experienced and seasoned than themselves, but at a level at which they aspire to be.

We must step up and take that responsibility and live out our knowledge and wisdom as best we know how. We can not hide in the shadows and hope no one notices us. We must want to be good in our content area, in our pedagogical practices, and in our ability to mentor students to desire to become both human and spiritual beings.

As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. –Marianne Williamson

When we excel at our calling, we show them that it’s o.k. to succeed. Don’t be afraid to show them how good you are at what you do.

Inspire them to model equity.

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I once heard a teacher describe a test as “an opportunity to demonstrate mastery.” I really like that description. In fact I’m looking for ways to change, or redescribe, many of the things I do in the teaching/evaluation process.

The most immediate thing I can do is increase the number of opportunities for celebrating achievement, for instance, by teaching in smaller, more digestible segments. I can teach a new concept and immediately give a pop quiz, or give a short test at the beginning of the next session. I can try to think of alternative response methods. I can include game-like ideas, or some technique which offers immediate reward.

Moreover, I want these opportunities to be easily evaluated, not difficult to grade and hence simply stacked up in my avoidance pile. Enthusiasm is a function of momentum and you want to be able to give fast and positive feedback whenever possible. Yes, it starts off slow, but it picks up speed as you get better at it. These small successes build up and become the norm, excellence is expected, mastery becomes a habit, and achievement becomes a way of life.

What a great gift.

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