Yesterday I had the privilege of talking education with the amazing Bedley Brothers, Tim and Scott. Both men are amazing educators (County Teachers of the Year, Tim in 2013 and Scott in 2014), but more than that, they are incredible people and friends. If you're not yet aware of their YouTube educational talk show, it is definitely something you need to check out. Each week, Tim, Scott, and a guest talk about issues at the forefront of education. Their list of past guests includes Robert Marzano, Daniel Pink, Rick Morris, Angela Maiers, Catlin Tucker, Vicki Davis and Dave Burgess -- amazing leaders in the field of teaching and learning. Not sure how I made it on the guest list, but I was honored to be able to chat with Tim and Scott for a few minutes.
For about 20 minutes, we talked about lessons learned from our students, Common Core, EdCamps, and water bottles. What? Water bottles? Yep, water bottles. You can watch our conversation below.
UPDATE: Two days after writing this blog post, it was announced that unfortunately, Bump would be shut down effective January 31, 2014. More information can be found at here.
There are a ton of great productivity apps out there, and in this post I want to tell you about Bump, one of my favorites. Recently acquired by Google, it's free and is available for both iPhone and Android.
There are two main things Bump can do for you. First, it enables you to instantly transfer items from your phone (your contact information, other contacts, pictures, videos, and documents) to a friend’s phone. Once the Bump app is installed on both phones, you and your friend simply open the app on each of your phones, select what you want to share with your friend’s phone, and gently “bump” the phones together (they don’t even have to touch – you just simulate a bumping motion near the other phone). That’s it! You both simply tap the “Connect” button that will appear on your phone’s screen, and your contact, picture, or file is instantly transferred to your friend’s phone (or vice versa). Oh, and it’s cross-platform, meaning it works iPhone to iPhone, Android to Android, iPhone to Android, and Android to iPhone.
But it's the second feature of Bump that, in my opinion, makes this app an absolute must-have. In addition to sharing pictures with a friend's phone, you can also go to www.bu.mp and use your phone’s Bump app to transfer photos from your phone to your computer by simply bumping your phone on the space bar. No more having to email yourself photos from your phone in order to get them onto your computer! As a principal, I frequently use my phone to snap pictures of things around campus (e.g. a picture for the school website, great student artwork, a photo of an area on campus that needs repair), so using Bump in this way is a huge time saver when I need to get pictures from my phone to my computer. Watch the short video below to see how this feature works.
If you're like me and use your phone to take pictures, I highly encourage you to check out Bump to make transferring those pictures to your computer a snap (a bump actually). Again, the app is free and available for both iPhone and Android. You can go to your phone’s app store to download the app or follow the links below:
iPhone – https://itunes.apple.com/app/bump/id305479724?mt=8
Android – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bumptech.bumpga
If you've read my blog before, you know I'm a big fan of Google Forms. In this post, I want to share how I'm using this powerful tool to help me be more productive in the area of parent communication.
This year, I have created a Google Form that I use as a Parent Contact Log. Each time I speak with a parent about a student or school-related issue, whether initiated by me or the parent, I document our conversation with this online form. The fields in my form include the date, parent's name, student's name, and a section for brief notes about our conversation (the form automatically time stamps each entry, but I manually enter the date of the conversation in case I make the entry at a later time). What I love about this form is that entries are automatically populated in a Google spreadsheet attached to the form. I could document these conversations in an old-school notebook, but by having all the entries in a spreadsheet, I can then sort conversations by parent, student, or date. I speak with a lot of parents, so having an easy-to-reference log of these conversations is extremely helpful. Below is a screenshot of the form I use.
Whether you're a teacher or administrator, you know that speaking with parents is a common part of the job. If you're not already doing so, give Google Forms a try and see how they can help you be more productive. If you're not sure how to create a Google Form, you can easily learn how by watching my Google Forms tutorial videos.
Well, it’s been a while. With my new position, I’ve had little extra time to blog. Shoot, I’ve had little extra time, period. But that’s a post for another day. While I typically write about teaching and educational technology, this post will be a little different. Consider it my attempt to discuss something close to my heart, to inform others about a common misconception.
I like to be organized. For those who know me, that is not a surprising statement. A structured, organized environment contributes to my productiveness and peace of mind. My classroom was always this way. I didn’t like clutter, and everything had a spot. My bulletin boards and the student work displayed on them were always straight and level. I used to endure friendly ribbing for using a level to make sure my bulletin boards looked just right (which I thought was funny, because those who initially teased soon became the ones asking to borrow the level). Now that I’ve moved into administration, I like my office to be the same way – neat and organized, two things that help me be more productive.
Over the past several years, when commenting on my neat classroom or office, I’ve had many, many people say things to me like:
“Yeah, I have to be neat too. I’m totally OCD that way.”
“I need to clean off my desk. My OCD is kicking in.”
In our society, I think there’s a large misconception about OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). It’s a term that gets casually thrown around without much thought being given to what it actually is, because most people don’t know what it really is. On the other hand, consider mental retardation (now referred to as intellectual disability). That’s a term that doesn’t get thrown around too often, because most people have a general idea of what it means. Think of it this way…If you made a mistake while completing a task, would you say, “I’m so retarded” to those around you? I don’t think so. Why not? Because you know what intellectual disability/mental retardation is, and you know you’re not a person who has that impairment. Plus, you know (hopefully) this is a comment that would be highly offensive to those individuals who do have this impairment, as well as to their families. So why then do people off-handedly say they have OCD, when chances are, they don’t? Wouldn’t this be offensive to those affected by OCD?
So, what is OCD? Many use the term to describe people who like things neat and organized, but this is the misconception. Just because someone likes things to be tidy (even really, really tidy), it doesn’t mean he/she has OCD. OCD is an anxiety disorder. People who are affected by it are plagued by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry. They engage in repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated fear or anxiety, even when the fear, anxiety, or behavior is irrational. Having OCD means so much more than being a “neat freak.”
You see, I have a personal connection to this subject. I have a loved one who has been diagnosed with OCD. For several years, I have struggled to support this person who has suffered from crippling anxiety, fear, and worry. I’ve watched as the person’s mind gets “stuck,” obsessing about things that rationally don’t warrant that kind of worry, and feeling compelled to behave in ways that won’t take the worry away. I’ve seen how this disorder can absolutely paralyze a person. Thankfully, with prayer and the aide of family and an excellent therapist, my loved one has learned to manage OCD.
So why did I write this post? To make anyone who has ever incorrectly used the term OCD feel guilty? Absolutely not. I’ve put my foot in my mouth, made comments without having all the facts more times than I want to admit. No, my goal is simply to educate, to let others know that OCD is more than a propensity for order and neatness. It’s something individuals and their families all over the world struggle with on a daily basis. I ask simply that we grant the disorder and the people it affects the respect they deserve.
What's in a name? This is an expression we've all heard before, but what's the answer? Are names important? In this fourth video of my "What I've Learned" series, I share two of my experiences, one from a teacher's perspective and one from an administrator's point of view. Through these short stories, you'll see that a person's name isn't just important, it's powerful.
If you haven't yet watched the first three videos in the series, you can do so by visiting the "What I've Learned" page. If you've already seen them, I welcome your feedback.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the annual Computer-Using Educators (CUE) Conference in Palm Springs. While at the conference, I was able to present a short, 20-minute session on Google Forms and how school administrators can use them to increase their efficiency and productivity. I showed how these forms can be used for things like classroom walkthroughs, discipline reporting, student/teacher/parent feedback, and much more.
If you're interested in learning how to use Google forms, I've posted my presentation slides as well as a set of tutorial videos on how to use this amazingly simple yet powerful tool. I hope these resources are helpful to you!
Here's the second story in my new series "What I've Learned...Lessons from the Classroom (and Office)." In this video, I share an experience from my very first year of teaching. While it was definitely not one of my prouder moments (as you'll see in the video), I learned an extremely valuable lesson about the kind of teacher I want to be. I hope you find my story to be helpful.
If you haven't yet watched the first video in the series, you can do so by visiting the "What I've Learned..." page.
Just about everyone loves a good story. Storytelling is a powerful way to illustrate a point or convey an idea. Not convinced? Jesus Christ, in my opinion the greatest teacher ever to walk the earth, frequently chose to teach through parables. Because I believe storytelling can be an inspiring and effective way to teach, I’ve put together a presentation I’ve titled "What I’ve Learned...Lessons from the Classroom (and Office)." After 17 years as an educator (15 as classroom teacher and two as an assistant principal), I have many of stories to tell. And what’s better than a good story? A story with a message. My hope is that I can inspire other educators by transparently sharing some of my experiences (both successes and failures) in the classroom and front office, along with the invaluable lessons I’ve learned from these experiences.
Here’s one of my stories, and because most would rather watch and listen, I’ve told it on video. In this story, I share an experience that took place during my school's Literature Appreciation Day. As you'll see and hear, this story reminds us of how, as teachers, we're always being watched by our students, and therefore need to be careful of the example we're setting. Enjoy!
Ever felt like you're the only one or one of only a few trying to enforce a rule? You've been told students need to behave a certain way, you do your best to be consistent in holding them accountable, but those around you seem to "let things go?" It's frustrating. That feeling of "I can't do this alone" sets in. You think it’s impossible, like standing knee-deep in the ocean, hands stretched toward the horizon, trying to stop the tide.
I've asked myself why this happens. Why do teachers "let things go?" Why is there often a lack of consistency in enforcing rules? I think there are several reasons, but one can be summed up in the comment I've often heard -- "It's not worth the fight. I'm not going to die on that hill."
Here's my take on that mindset. First of all, it is worth the fight. Anything in the best interest of the kids we serve is always worth the effort.
Secondly, who said you have to die? If you're the only soldier fighting on the hill, yeah, chances are, you're going to die. But if everyone fights on the hill, no one has to die. If you're the only one trying to enforce a rule, the only one trying to change the culture of your work place, you're in for a tough fight. But what if others came alongside and fought with you? What if you had an army? Imagine what you could accomplish by working together.
Finally, some things are worth fighting for, and if necessary, metaphorically dying for. There are times in life, in your career, when you may feel like you're the only one who is fighting. There may be times when you feel alone, like you're the only one enforcing the rule. If this is the case, I encourage you -- don't give up! When my students had a difficult time following directions, being responsible, or behaving appropriately, and I had to constantly remind and redirect them, I would often say, "Class, it would be much easier for me to stop holding you accountable. But that wouldn't be what's best for you."
Sometimes you have to fight, because that fight is what's best for kids. But you don't have to fight alone.
Those who know me personally know that I am a rule follower. Always have been, always will be. I think rules are important. Very important. Heck, when I text, I spell out all words, use proper punctuation, and capitalize appropriately. Why? Because those are the grammatical rules I was taught. I've been teased for my firm stance on adhering to rules. I've been told, "Lighten up, Brent. Don't be such a stickler." Here are my thoughts on the subject...
Rules must be followed. When rules aren't enforced, they're not rules -- they're suggestions. If there is no consequence for not following a rule, then it's not a rule, because rules must be followed. Suggestions, on the other hand, are things we'd like people to do, not expect them to do. If you're not going to enforce a rule, get rid of it.
A good rule is not arbitrary. Rather, it is put in place for a specific reason. From the time we were small children, we've had safety rules guiding our behavior. Don't run with scissors. Look both ways before crossing the street. Don't stick objects in an electrical outlet. All common rules there for our protection.
Rules must be enforced by everyone in the organization. Inconsistent rule enforcement sends the wrong message. For example, fighting is prohibited in all schools, and I think it's pretty safe to say this is a rule that is consistently enforced. But what about, say, a "no gum" rule? If Teacher A enforces the school's "no gum" policy but Teacher B allows students to chew gum, what is the result? First, Teacher A is going to be perceived as the "bad guy" for not allowing students to chew gum. Second, students are sent the message that some rules are important (no fighting) and some aren't (no gum), and that they get to choose when and where they follow certain rules. Yes, there are major and minor categories of rules, but all rules should be important. That's why they're rules.
Beware of the danger in suspending rules. When a rule is suspended ("Today you don't have to follow the rule"), it compromises the integrity of the rule. Again, it sends the message to students that on every other day, the rule is important, but not today. This is why I never used homework passes. I didn't want to send my students the message that homework is important and must be completed unless you have a pass. I felt that suspending the rule on homework would undermine the importance of the activity.
The Three C's: Clarity, Consistency, and Consequences. Without these three things, students can't be sure of what to expect. Regardless of whether or not they'll admit it, students want (and need) rules. They want the structure and security rules provide. Clarity, consistency, and consequences are imperative, because without them, a fourth C is produced -- confusion.
So now I must ask myself this question -- "Are all of my rules, both at school and at home, good rules?" Something to think about.
Thanks for reading.
Brent has worked in the field of education as a teacher and administrator for 25 years. He is currently Principal of Alta Murrieta Elementary School in Murrieta, California. Read more about Brent here.
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