An Open Letter to Complaining Teachers

by @weberswords

An open letter to teachers who constantly complain:

Quit. Please. Do our entire profession a favor so that we can be considered professionals again.

Now I’m not talking about the occasional vent session. I’m talking about the teachers who do nothing but complain and blame their students’ lack of success on everything but themselves – home, administration, common core, lack of funding, poor parenting, Obama (Thanks, Obama). Teachers who fail to look in the mirror and say, “How can I improve? How can I up my game?”

Yes, teaching is hard. It’s really hard. It’s demanding and exhausting and on most Fridays you will go into a coma because of the week you’ve had and wake up somewhere around Sunday.

Students come unprepared and a good number of parents either don’t care or provide support at all for any number of reasons or hover around you expecting you to cater to their child as though he/she is the only child you support.

Unfortunately, that’s not something you can change, it’s a part of the job.

Do things need to change? Yes. But you, complaining teacher, are the rotten core of the educational apple.

In the free market you would have moved on by now. In another profession that is far more ruthless about success you would have realized you suck and found something else. Here you are though, clinging like a dingleberry to the butt of a cat. If this were medicine you would have killed someone and lost your license. If this were wall street, well you’d probably be a CEO. No, even there, you don’t work hard enough to survive your first year.

By the way, this isn’t about first or even second year teachers either. Everyone sucks at first because the majority of teacher preparation programs are abysmal. I came from (what I found out later – shout out Eastern Michigan) is an incredible program, but nothing prepares you for your first solo flight. You hit turbulence, it’s just a matter of how you deal with it.

Your plane should have crashed and burned a long time ago, but as teachers we want everyone to find success so we prop you up with support that goes above and beyond what it should. Should there be support for teachers to help them continue to succeed and grow? Yes!

However…

If you need a teacher’s manual to teach – get out.

If yelling is your classroom management plan – get out.

If you say things like, “I can’t do that,” or “That’s too much for me,” when it comes to learning new things, GET OUT.

If you don’t actively continue educating yourself by reading books or articles or taking classes, not because you need the credit to renew your license, but because you want to be a better teacher and you know you never stop learning – GET OUT.

Leave. The ship is sinking, arguably it has been for ages, but your dead weight is only making it worse.

Let It Flow, Let It Flow

by: @weberswords

I’ll spare you the “Let It Go” parody video.

workflow

Creating word art: the only thing Wordle is good for.

What is it? It’s a great buzzword, but why is it valuable?

One of the big misconceptions is that workflow requires technology. That’s not the case.

It’s simply the way in which your work……..flows. The way it progresses from one stage or process to the next.

In the classroom, writing is a great example of this. In many cases, first you prepare an outline or work in a graphic organizer, then you draft, revise, edit, and write the final draft or publish.

This can also be applied to doing tasks. For example, if I think of something I have to do I might write it down on a sticky note. After I have five (completely arbitrary number it could be three or 10 just as easily) sticky notes, I sort those tasks into categories of to do lists – errands I have to leave the house to do, professional tasks, and tasks that can be done at home. After that, I write them in my handy, dandy notebook and as I finish those tasks, I mark them off. No tech involved. Yes, AND a great example of effective workflow.

To do list workflow

To quote the late, great Stuart Scott, “BOO-YA!” workflow. No special degree required, people. You can totes do this.

Just like planning in the classroom, you have to know WHAT you want to do before you bring in any technology.

In the case of workflow, sometimes seeing what other people have done will inspire you to create a new workflow.

Just remember: The point of creating a workflow is to make things MORE streamlined, not more complicated.

If you create a new workflow and find it’s actually making work more difficult, I’m giving you permission right here and now. ABANDON SHIP! Try something new, but reflect and learn from the failure. Where did the workflow go wrong? Maybe you don’t have to abandon it entirely, just pivot. Tweak it and see if that helps.

Here are some tools and workflows (digital and analog) *I* use that will hopefully inspire you:

Bullet Journal – Webs-style (Analog)

We love journals here at Intelligent Hoodlums. It’s a bit of a love affair for some of us (*cough* @chocolateteacher *cough*). Writing things by hand helps you remember things.  I’ve adapted my bullet journal to something that works for me.

[Everything in the next paragraph is something I talk about in the video so don’t watch AND read. Save yourself some time and do one or the other. The video might clarify if you can’t visualize what I’m talking about though]

In addition to the index and summary of the month I have a summary of the week where I record events that will occur when I’m looking ahead at the week and events that do occur as things happen during the week. I also fold my pages into two columns and record one or two days worth of to dos and events in a single column. This way I can fold the page and focus on just one or two days or open up both pages and see the whole week.

Automator (OS X)

I think this is a hidden gem of OS X. If you have a Mac and you haven’t peeped this check it out. Go to spotlight and search Automator or from your Launchpad it’s in the Other folder.

Other folder

I’m pretty sure I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is possible with Automator. I use it for three major things:

  •  One double click = quitting all open programs

Quit all buttonThis sits on my desktop and all I have to do is double click to close everything that’s open on my computer.

  • I created a pseudo-program that generated a random writing prompt for my students to practice the state writing test.
  • Bulk editing photos: You know how your camera or phone names your photos IMG9829829829834928 and you have no idea those are your pictures from your 2012 trip to Tahiti? With Automator you can select a group of pictures and rename them complete with date and a numbering system in a couple clicks and a few seconds.

IFTTT (web, Android, & iOS)

Workflow screen capture

Priorities.


Similar to Workflow and Automator, IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That, takes tasks you already do and puts them together to make you MORE ALL POWERFUL (MUAHAHAHAHAAA). IFTTT is available on the web, iOS, or, if you’re so inclined, Android.

In the examples I shared, if I lose my phone and email myself with #lostphone, it will call my phone and an automated voice says Liam Neeson’s monologue from Taken.

Other things I do with IFTTT are:

  • Favorite tweets get sent to Pocket to read later
  • I can send things to Evernote and they get automatically organized by the way I hashtag them in the subject. For example, if I had an Evernote notebook for 3rd period algebra, I could email #3rdperiod and all my notes would automatically go into the right notebook.
  • I have a secondary backup of my contacts because any new contact I add gets sent to a Google Drive spreadsheet.

Workflow (iOS)

This app is pretty sweet.

Photo Jan 19, 9 44 48 AM

This is the app that prompted this post. The world is pretty much your oyster on this one (as long as you have iOS 8). You can put together as complex or as simple a workflow as you like. I have one that allows me to speed dial from my home screen. That’s one of the best features IMO. I can save workflows to my home screen for one touch access.

Hopefully this has given you some insight into the mysterious term “workflow” and shown you how you can become a productivity ninja using these concepts and tools.

Close Reading: Aesop Rock’s 9 to 5er’s Anthem

By: @weberswords

Vocabulary. Fluency. Close reading.

Not usually things you’d associate with rap or hip hop. However, there are songs and artists who are perfect for teaching just those skills.

This is a ranking of rappers by the number of unique vocabulary words they have used within their first 35,000 lyrics. A cat who goes by MF’in Daniels wrote all about it here.

The dude alllllll the way to the right is Aesop Rock, one of my favorite artists. He clocks in at 7,392 unique words. I’ve used his song No Regrets in the classroom because it tells a great story with a great theme. Also, vocabulary is a strong indicator of success for students in the future. The more words you know the more you can read and understand, the more concepts you can connect, you get where I’m going with this.

There’s another song of his I really like that I can’t use in the classroom (at least not all of it) on account of I used to teach elementary school and there are a couple curse words (which can also be insightful for learning about vocabulary acquisition but that’s another post). Still, it illustrates all the aforementioned points. Rap and hip hop are great for teaching close reading, vocabulary, and fluency.

I’ve made the case for vocabulary and close reading will be clear in the video below. Fluency: Have you ever tried to learn the words to a song? You listen to it over and over and over (repeated reading) and the faster and more complex the words, the more challenging it is to become fluent at it. People don’t naturally do repeated readings except for theatre and music. See: Let It Go. As a teacher, that’s something to note and take advantage of when trying to increase the fluency of your students.

So there you have it, vocabulary, fluency, and, as you’ll see below, close reading. I use Notability for the first reading and ThingLink for the second.

Here’s a link to my ThingLink of the first page of lyrics.

Genius.com also has essentially a close read explaining the lyrics.