How to Distinguish Between Substantive Feedback and Hate Speech

Tips for new teachers on how to deal with "one-star reviews"

Have you ever purchased a Kindle book? If so, you probably checked out the reviews. When a book has mostly four- and five-star reviews, you probably don’t pay much attention to a few one-star reviews, do you? And if you’ve ever actually read such a one-star review, the reviewer usually isn’t providing any substantive feedback. They’re usually bashing the author for having a different point of view on some trivial point. How is this related to your job as a school teacher? Well, we all have to learn to discern from the inevitable one-star review whether there’s anything substantive that can help us improve our craft. Are they solid critiques that can help us improve? Or are they just haters happy to be outraged about something? Here’s how you can tell…

Be the Most Understandable

When I was in school, I was one of the worst algebra students. I struggled to maintain C’s, sometime even dialing in a D! And now I’m a professional educator, teaching algebra!

I recently listened to a an interview with Don Miller on Michael Hyatt’s Platform University. The interview digs deep into the notion that stories are what sell a brand. Like it or not, we teachers are a brand. Brand Smith. Brand Jones. Brand Noldy. During this interview Don Miller said something that resonated with me. He said…

People don’t buy the best products. They buy products they can understand.

He continued, remarking that the reason people grew to love Apple products was that Steven Jobs was a master at making technology simple and accessible. I thought of one of iPod’s initial ad slogans: 1000 songs in your pocket. Simple. No talk of gigabytes, processor speeds, etc.

The moral of the “story” is that I realized I don’t need to be perfect as a teacher. I just need to understandable. Sometimes the smartest guy in the room is not the best at explaining complex topics. Sometimes the best guy at explaining complex topics got that way because he wasn’t the smartest guy in the room when he was learning the topics.

Are you great at explaining something that you used to not be so good at?

The Classroom of the Future

Flipped is the way to go

In this 2011 TED video, Sal Khan describes a classroom of the future wherein students and instructors collaborate on more difficult and intriguing problems. How does he propose accomplishing this? By flipping the classroom, of course.

What’s a flipped classroom?

The flipped classroom is so-called, because the learning and the doing are flipped. For example, a teacher assigns a video lecture for homework  — ostensibly one of Sal’s videos. The student watches the lecture at home, then reports to the classroom ready to tackle the tough stuff — the assignments. This allows students to engage in more challenging problems under the guidance of the content expert.

What are the benefits?

As may readers know, I flipped my Stats class — both at Sayre and at Elmira College (where I’m a freelance adjunct). Using the flipped classroom has enabled me to make extensive use of Minitab in the computer lab. Had the students not previewed the content with my curated videos, this would not have been possible. Given the “STEM” nature of students’ futures, Minitab use will be provide a leg up when entering college or the workforce.

Another advantage to the flipped classroom is that students spend more time on the task of problem-solving. In didactic learning, most of the time is spent lecturing with very little real-world problem solving.

The catch…

The caveat? Sal Khan and others take for granted that all students want to learn and will invest the time in the videos before class. Given the corporate climate of most public schools, the flipped classroom is a transitional process. The typical public school trains students to be employees, and so they do not do anything that does not count. Every successful practitioners least favorite question? “Are you collecting this?

Getting started

In the beginning, I had to “pay them” to watch the curated content. How was this accomplished? I call them Quick Quizzes, but they’re just short frequent assessments designed for student accountability. When students know they are being quizzed regularly on the content, they are forced (at first) to plug in. Then it becomes second nature. This is essential, because we all know that life doesn’t reward us for merely showing up. We have to learn how to internalize and work without oversight.

Join the nation!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week 2016

Hard to believe another school year has come and gone.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to all of my colleagues, especially to my math comrades: Derek, Kerry, Kara, and Sam.

Every teacher every day goes above and beyond the call of duty. It’s about passion!

And of course, thanks to our awesome students who only laugh at us when we do something really silly. (like dump coffee our head in the pouring rain in the parking lot)



The Way Things Ought to Be

Mrs. Cole recently shared this Key & Peele video on Facebook, and I thought it was too good not to make Planet Numeracy — especially calculus teacher Mike Yoast of Tulsa Teachers College being drafted by Central Rapids High School.

Pay attention to the details like the sidebar and the crawler. And the BMW commercial at the end is rocking. Imagine…