The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Month: August, 2015

#DoOver My First Year of Teaching, Part 3 (or Part 2.5)

In the last part of this series, I reflected on how the best source for resources on the classroom (or at least the direction to them) come from the colleagues in the building where one teaches. Building on this, I want to bring up an additional point that hit home today.

When I was in my first year of teaching, I tended to ignore people who were not a part of the English department and/or those whose feedback I felt might be considered irrelevant. In short, I sucked as a human being.

I wish I could say I have outgrown that tendency.

But I haven’t. And an uncomfortable conversation with a colleague where he observed that I had seemed curt in conversations made me realize:

  1. Everyone’s feedback is valuable.
  2. I need all my colleagues, not just some of them.

Fortunately, the guy who brought up this point brought it up because he cares about me as a genuine human being -despite how hard it can be for me to be empathetic to others sometimes- and we were able to reconcile quickly. But still…

No one is indispensable to a team, myself included. We are all in this thing together, and that thing is making a difference in the lives of the teenagers in our school.

John C. Maxwell Takes the Reader to School.

This is a review of The Complete 101 Collection by John C. Maxwell.

Leadership. If football coach Lou Holtz wrote the playbook for how to develop an impeccable college team, then John C. Maxwell should be credited with writing the play book for how to develop impeccable leadership potential into straight up leadership awesome. Over the past twelve years, Maxwell published a series of books on different aspects of leadership (attitude, self-improvement, leadership, relationships, success, teamwork, equipping, and mentoring), each titled that trait with “101” after it. All eight of the titles have been collected in one cover, and the book is called The Complete 101 Collection.

I enjoy reading what Maxwell has to say. His works are some of the very few where I can say with honesty that the writing style almost makes up for the fact that he is not present speaking to you. The key points in his works are phrased in a way that the ideas can connect with any reader avid to the topic. This is exactly what you get regarding this book. When Maxwell discusses the importance for maintaining a positive attitude, his word choice conveys this necessity and you can detect the enthusiasm in his “voice.” When he talks about how one achieves success, the reader feels like Maxwell has been there many times before. As he describes the necessity to mentor others, the reader feels as if he or she is being taken under Maxwell’s wing, and realizes that is what Maxwell has been doing all along.

Having read most of the 101 series before, the big thing I appreciated about The Complete 101 Collection is that the book is organized not by chronological publication date, but by how well the subjects of the books logically flow into one another. If you already have most or all the “101” books, consider reading this anyway (and even buying it to have as a resource and then giving your individual 101 books to others) because the order the topics are arranged creates a new feel for each of the books separately.

The individual who is in a leadership position, may be in a leadership position later, or enjoys working alongside others should consider reading this book. Maxwell’s insights are invaluable to any individual as he or she develops quality leadership traits.

The book was provided for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for it being reviewed. I was not obligated to publish a positive review; the opinions contained are mine.

#DoOver My First Year of Teaching, Part 2

As this first week of the school year comes to a close, I think back on my real first year of teaching ever, seven years ago.  After about my first month in the classroom, a though crossed my mind which still revisits me from time to time. The thought goes something like this:

Man, all my lessons are so predictable and are a remix of the same old techniques. I am a horrible teacher. I wish I knew of some place to go where I could learn some new tricks.

A colleague of mine is a champion of incorporating the phrase “The answer is in the room” into his classroom practice. In a staff meeting yesterday (where I presented, but no big deal there…) that phrase resonated through my mind. Man! If only I had actually realized this during my first year of teaching, perhaps it could have been better.

So…as this first year is now officially under way, my takeaway is that if I feel like my classroom practice is stale in an area, I am not going to turn to the interwebs or a PD session before first talking to some of the best teachers I know: the ones I work with ever day.

#DoOver My First Year of Teaching, Part 1

Today was Lakeland HS’s first student day for the academic year. I am beginning my sixth year of teaching English there. After reading Do Over by Jon Acuff I felt inspired to do over my first year of teaching.

Since I find myself at a career ceiling, Do Over recommends focusing on skills. Since I am focusing on the first day, I turned to an article from Brillant-Insane on 14 things not to do on the first day of school. Some of the suggestions were good, but others were useless.

So my takeaway for part one is this: just because someone has some expertise in an area does not make them an expert. Thinking back, how often was I given unsolicited advice from colleagues who really did not know better?

I am a bad English teacher; or, just because you wrote one good book does not mean the rest of your works will be.

Like any other American bibliophile, I was beyond stoked to find out that after such a long period of time, a second novel from Harper Lee would be published.  And on top of that, it was slated to pick up with Jean Louise “Scout” Finch almost 20 years after the Tom Robinson/ Boo Radley/ Ewell affairs.  The question –What happens after To Kill a Mockingbird?- everyone who read Lee’s first novel wondered, would now be answered.

And then I read it.

Or tried reading it.

Or finished the first 38 pages and then couldn’t read another page because Go Set a Watchman is a book I would refer as lackluster and not very engaging.

To Kill a Mockingbird was a brilliant way to address the issue of race in America and thoughtfully critique it by putting it through the eyes of a young girl.  There was a lot going on.  And it was tense.  Go Set a Watchman is not a book I would describe as brilliant or tense.  Hence, why I couldn’t finish it.

But Lee’s new book teaches humanity a powerful lesson still (if you’ve noticed I didn’t point-by-point review GSaW, that’s because others have done so and you can find those reviews with a simple Bing or Google search).  One can never simply rest on prior accomplishments, or approach a situation believing that the past way something was done will yet again be a fail-safe and work out.  We need to always be pushing and growing as individuals, no matter how old -whether the Scout of 10 years or 26.

If the book had been more obviously been about that, maybe it might have been more engaging.

UPDATE: Summer of firsts.

Earlier this summer I wrote a blog post about how this summer was going to be a summer where I tried all sorts of things for the first time.  Here are more things to add to that list of accomplishments:

  1. Bought my first pickup truck.
  2. Bought my first compound bow.
  3. Co-facilitated a professional development session at a major national education conference.
  4. First time (expecting) father- due date is 2/21/2016* currently.
  5. Wrote my first college course syllabus.
  6. First time since 2010 that I have weighed over 220 pounds.

Obviously, #6 now gives me a new goal to work towards over the course of the school year which begins next week.  Oh well, at least it’s good to have goals.

How is your summer of firsts going?  Comment and share.



*Kudos to Caine for catching the typo in the initial post; if it had been 2015, the baby would already be here.

Tim Hawkins’s “Diary of a Jackwagon”.

This is a review of Diary of a Jackwagon by Tim Hawkins.

Jackwagon: (n.) An individual who is worthless and/or lazy.

Tim Hawkins: (n.) An American comedian.

Tim Hawkins is asynonymous with a jackwagon.

Diary of a Jackwagon is a 207 page adventure into the entertaining, witty, and (at times) creepy mind of comedia Tim Hawkins.  Setting up the overarching theme for the book at the beginning, Hawkins explains that what is contained within the covers of the book is a collection of observations over the past 20 years that he has collected.  And for the possibility of some of those musings being 20 years old, it is impressive how relevant they still are today.

This book contains 41 different humorous anecdotes from Tim Hawkins; if the potential reader has seen his stand-up routine, Hawkins tries and mostly succeeds in capturing that same energy and wit into the pages.  Admittedly, I did not find all of the stories to be over-the-top funny and at a few points was left wondering if this book was a dumping ground for things that were funny, but not entertaining enough to be told in the live setting.  But even in those chapters, Hawkins redeems the questionability of the material by providing two short Twitter musings which end the chapter on a high note.

If the reader wants a laugh -and I did laugh out loud a couple times while reading this book- Diary of a Jackwagon is a solid choice.  And do not be fooled by the title, with all the things that Hawkins has done job-wise, and all the incidents described in this book reveal that he really is not a jackwagon.

I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for reviewing it.  I was not obligated to write a positive review; the opinions expressed are my own.