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

Month: October, 2015

Pyropedagogy; or, an alternate reading of an image making the educational rounds.

Perhaps you have seen this image on the social media account of someone you know who is somehow involved in education:

This use of this image supposed to imply that in the traditional, public school model, that students all come out forced into one specific, unified shape, that traditional education removes a student’s ability to think, and that it makes no room for one’s identity. The user of this image also tends to tout endorse another method of pedagogy besides the traditional model.

I contend that this is also a viable image to use:


Before I go any further, allow me to share a couple things about myself:

  1. I am a New Tech Network Certified Teacher.
  2. I am an academic coach for a school and work with teachers on the principles of project-based learning.

With that said, by changing the label on the black box, this graphic is still accurate- either with a positive or negative connotation.

Depending on the facilitator (teacher), the rubric, and the project, it is just as possible in the PBL setting to take a bunch of rebels and try to pack them into Storm Trooper molds where they lose their individuality, excitement, and their ability to learn deeply.

But of course, depending on those same three aspects (facilitator, rubric, project), students can also learn how to shake their individual identities to become a member of a unified, collaborative group. These same learners can also learn how to think critically and apply approaches that work in a way that they become almost automatons and the practice is second nature.

The PBL antagonist could contend that the same interpretations I applied to the “Project-Based Learning” image could be applied to the “Traditional Education” model. And I would agree. Perhaps.

But what I see in the PBL school where I teach is students given the chance to approach projects from different angles and place their stamp of individuality on them. I see students actively involved in the messy work of learning how to play nice together in a learning community. I see mess, chaos, and I see learning where what underlies all the correct answers is the unifying idea or theme, not necessarily what words the students say and in which method. And when they figure these things out for themselves…

The Force is strong with those ones…

My apologies to Star Wars in the Classroom for the blatant knock-off of one of their works of art.

Study at “The School of Greatness”.

This is a review of the newly released book The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes.

Earlier this summer while reading through my Twitter feed, a writer I respect and admire mentioned that he had been featured on the “School of Greatness” podcast, hosted by Lewis Howes. Since listening to that episode, I have become a regular listener to “The School of Greatness” podcast. Every edition is nothing but quality tips and principles which I have been able to apply to my classroom practice.

And then I found out Lewis Howes wrote a book.

The School of Greatness is like a condensing of eight common threads which have emerged over the past few years of Howes’s podcast. And while at first one might think, “Well, I listen to the podcast and have heard it all; why should I read this book?”, the answer is simple: the themes get a slightly different theme and the personal narratives attached to each one connect the reader to the theme in a way that just listening would not do.

Throughout the book, Howes challenges the reader to become great by: creating a vision, leveraging adversity, cultivating a champion’s mind-set, developing the talent of hustle, mastering the body, practicing positive habits, building a winning team, and being of service to others. How Lewis presents these principles and the practice ways which they can be applied are the true magic of the book.

If the potential reader has a desire AT ALL to improve any aspect of his or her life, this book is a great place to start. It is also a good introduction to an individual who has taken the steps to build himself up from failure and has been an initial student of “The School of Greatness.”

As a member of Launch Team for this book, I received a copy of this book for free in hopes of helping promote it. I was not obligated to write a positive review if I did not agree with it; the opinions expressed are mine.

A great post on greatness and mentors for a chilly Thursday.

This morning on his blog, Jon Acuff published a guest post from motivational-everything guy Lewis Howes on the importance of mentors and networking. The post is definitely worth the read, and Howes’s writing fits appropriately in the project of Acuff’s blog and its audience.

If you like what Howes has to say on the topic, you can find more in-depth treatment of the topic, as well as seven other topics which he skillfully tackles, in his book which just came out: The School of Greatness. I cannot say enough good stuff about this book- though I will try on this blog later today- and I encourage you the reader to check it out.

#DoOver My First Year of Teaching Part 6; or, Relationships with parents are vital.

Earlier today the phone in my classroom rang. The caller ID panel indicated that the call originated from the Main Office. I picked it up and said:

“Robertson and Geurs Travel Agency. What’s your destination? This is Agent Geurs speaking.”

“Hello, Mr. Geurs. This is ######; I am #######’s dad calling to ask about this unexcused absence my ###### in your class.”

In that moment, I realized that if this had been a parent I did not know, and/or he was angry instead of curious, the conversation could have been awkward. But instead, I apologized quickly and explained that I had thought it had been the Office secretaries on the other end of the line, expressed I was happy to talk to him briefly, but then passed the phone to my co-teacher because the student in question was actually in a class that I wasn’t teaching.

Parents are supposed to be the number one ally of a teacher, but often times, it can seem like the opposite. If I had realized this truth in my first year of teaching, maybe things would have been a little easier for me in the early years.

Just a thought…

A quick question for the working professionals, teachers especially.

I am a 30-year-old know-nothing who happens to teaching English at a local high school as a way to fulfill purpose and eke out a living. My wife and I are expecting our first child in February. This means that I have 21/29 odds of Sarah going in to labor during the school day. I am trying to create a contingency plan for my classroom and for the house too so that if I receive a phone call in the middle of class that it is go time, I’ll…well…be good to go.

I’m curious from the blog/Twitter-sphere:

Aside from the obvious, what are some planning steps I can make ahead of time for my classroom and home to be ready at the drop of a hat?

#DoOver My First Year of Teaching, Part 5; or, I choose to be the center of peace or chaos.

Last week, the stuff hit the fan in my classroom. I almost felt like getting a t-shirt printed that said, “I went to a brawl and an English class broke out.” Admittedly, it wasn’t a brawl. It was hardly a disturbance. Two students caused interpersonal friction with each other and that friction exploded. But in the moment, it felt crazy.

But in that moment of crazy, I wasn’t.

Over the weekend, I was thinking about my first year(s) of teaching and how I might have handled things differently. In my younger days, I cannot honestly say that my presence would have done good because if an incident occurred I would probably be just as on edge as my students and that may have not had the desired effect in pacifying the situation. I wish younger me could have been able to walk quickly, speak firmly, but convey myself calmly like the me on Friday did.

As I continue in doing over my first year of teaching, the lesson is that a calm yet firm demeanor will always prevail against an overly aggressive and tense response. Because no one likes a grammar lesson in the middle of a brawl.

A review of “Man Enough”.

This is a review of the book Manly Enough by Nate Pyle.

As a Christian man interested in self-improvement, a book with a title like Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood would seem to be an engaging topic for a book. Admittedly, I was anticipating a 21st century rendition of John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart. While that is not exactly what I got in this book, I still found a challenging, engaging read on the topic of what it means to be a Christian and a man in today’s society.

Nate Pyle sets forth the thesis that the modern man is mistaken if being a man means being stoic, aloof, or overly macho and brutish. While he acknowledges that these are aspects of manhood, these are not all there is. In Man Enough, Pyle challenges men to accept those parts of themselves if they are there, but not at forsaking the other parts of being human: servitude, emotions, compassion, authenticity, and vulnerability. Pyle’s whole book could even be encapsulated in one quote: “If men are to fight, then we need to be clear what it is we fight for. Peace. Reconciliation. Grace. Justice. But let’s be clear: We are mad not for conflict but for action” (Man Enough, p. 76).

Though this is a book intended for a manly audience, Pyle does spend moments throughout the book acknowledging a potential female readership of Man Enough. Throughout, when he brings up points for how men should live in the light of the example of the human Jesus, he also brings up that these principles are not isolated to the Y chromosome set and that in reality all humans should step up to the challenge of doing things like standing for justice or for being a servant of others.

Man Enough is the addition to the conversation of what masculinity could/should look like in the modern Church. If I have one critique, it is that Pyle brings up the notion that there should be something specific that the word ‘masculinity’ denotes, otherwise the word is meaningless. And while Pyle does put forth a good argument for why men should emulate certain characteristics of Christ, Pyle never comes back to what gravitas ‘masculinity’ carries. Unless that is the point.

I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for publishing a review of it. I was not obligated to publish a positive review; the opinions contained are mine.

That joke isn’t funny anymore.

Maybe I’m getting older- I turned 30 this year. Maybe I’m just just getting tired of it all. But some things just don’t carry the same level of humor they used to have.

When I was 11, Weird Al released an album titled Bad Hair Day. The closeout track for the album is a song called, “The Night Santa Went Crazy.” The basic premise of the song is that Santa reaches the point of snapping, goes on a rampage, elves and reindeer do not make it out alive, and Mrs. Claus sells the story to the highest bidder. And that’s even the less gory version.

When I was 11, I thought the song was brilliant. A stylistically quaint, tranquil song about a violent act involving a beloved holiday figure, in short a juxtaposition of two unalike things, was pure genius. And funny!

But that joke isn’t funny anymore.

There have been too many deaths cause by people who have had it. Thursday’s shooting at UCC runs the risk of ringing hollow in our ears because it’s another one in a long list of ones that have already happened this year. The joke is always funny until it becomes reality. Then it sucks.

As a country, is it possible that we are about to see a major shift in perception towards media that glorifies senseless violence? We’ve experienced similar things in the past:

1. Blackface was a popular until it was deemed offensive by a large enough group of U.S. citizens. Other ethnic minorities who were the comic relief are now seeing their race portrayed with much more dignity than in the past.

2. In entertainment, the homosexual character received the brunt of jokes until the audience knew enough closeted gay people who were hurt by those stereotypes that the practice shifted.

Something has to change in America. I don’t know what it is. I just know that I am tired of turning on the news and hearing about another tragedy that could have been prevented if something were different in this country.

#DoOver My First Year of Teaching, Part 4; or, Now What?

As I am going through my “first year” of school, I took a moment today to think about some situations which have risen lately that bring me to the reality that since this “ain’t my first goat or my first rodeo”, it is going to be impossible to instinctively view some scenarios through the eyes of a new teacher in the moment. This doesn’t mean, however, that after the fact I can’t think about how I might have reacted when I was younger.

When I was younger, I used to think that the way to command the direction of a room was to demand the attention of the room (see what I did there?). A student texting would immediately have his/her phone confiscated with most likely a referral attached to it. Or, if I heard a student swear, it would be an instant referral and a trip to the office until the student understood what proper classroom conduct was.

Let me pause for a moment and acknowledge that both of those issues mentioned previously are disruptions to the productive classroom and I am not trying to minimize the negative effect these things can have on academic progress. Let’s take both of these as examples as things understood.

Thinking back on these types of situations though, my attempt to fix the problem like that only created more problems as students would repeat the behavior to try and get me to enter into a power struggle. This is not healthy for the classroom. If I could go back seven years ago and help first-year me out, I would point out that patience, grace, and kindness work more effectively at fixing classroom issues. Applying this approach now creates a more positive, productive environment, and cuts down on the number of issues for later.

Or at least it feels like it. For now.