Don’t assume

Why I ask my students “How are you doing” they immediately start to deliver a rundown of how much, or how little, work they have completed on the current assignment or that classes daily work. I often have to stop them and say “I’m sorry, I really meant how are you doing today, as a person?”

They always assume that because I am their teacher I must want to know about their work. This highlights a danger that I am reading about in Malcolm Gladwells “David and Goliath”. He posits that “David and Goliath” is not about a weak guy vs a strong guy. Its about a strong guy who assumed he would fight another strong guy, but was faced by a fast guy with good aim. David, and God, thought to themselves “I see your muscles and can not beat them, so we will beat you a different way.

Saul assumed that someone would have to meet Goliath head on. Instead of assuming he should have asked “How can we beat him”. Which is how we need to see our own problems.

Every day I go to work without strengths that most teachers are assumed to have. I am disorganized, I don’t teach from the front of the room, I rarely talk about grades, I don’t often know the details of the material I am teaching. I actually am not capable of teaching the way most people assume teachers do. But I still get results. I still motivate, My students grow.

If I were to try and meet the teaching profession on its own terms I would fail, hard. I would look awful and my students would be stupid. They wouldn’t grown. But we need to meet any challenge with the skills we have been given, not the ones we, and others, assume we should have.

 

“When you are surrounded by people who share the same set of assumptions as you, you start to think that’s reality” – Emily Levine

 

Coach K

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Preparing them for University

University prep and learning are not the same thing.  Allowing each student to grow in their strengths, try new things and become a better person who is ready for a diverse, ever changing world is a very different process than preparing them for university.

Each students university experience is different… especially once they get past the first year. But when we prep them for university we aren’t really willing to prepare them for the unknown, which would be a vague and messy process of self improvement (for both students and teachers)… what we do is prepare them for the known.  All we know that they WILL encounter in university is lectures and exams. Because of this we take every student (regardless of where they are headed after high school), and lecture them (which doesn’t do much to help them grown) and we test them (which doesn’t really show what each student can do, and we don’t have time to mark adequately). And sadly this process kills our “worst” students, and it breaks our “best” students.

This needs to stop. Subjects are background with very little essential knowledge. We do need to make sure that we cover the essentials. However, any subject can be used to teach decision making skills, teamwork, leadership, creativity and a host of other soft skills which will prepare them infinitely better for life (which includes university).

 

“Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes”  – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

Coach K

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New Years Resolutions

This is later than usual but its still that time of year when some people make resolutions, and I tell you why I don’t make them. Usually I tell people I don’t make them because self improvement is a constant goal of mine. I plan, and do… rather than resolve to do. But this year is different. I am not making resolutions, or plans to improve myself this year because I am tired.

I feel like I need a break. I need to reevaluate. I need to try something new. But i don’t think this new thing can be in addition to what I already do, or who I already am. I think the change needs to eliminate the old, and be completely new. I don’t know what that will look like… or even if I will go ahead with it. Right now I just want to go fishing.

“I feel thin, sort of stretched, iuke butter scraped over too much bread” – Bilbo Baggins

Coach K

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Star Wars: An old hope

Over the Christmas break I watched the new Star Wars movie. It was decent. Certainly a better movie than the prequels. But like the prequels it felt empty of the wonder and grandeur of the originals….despite being a pretty close remake of A New Hope. So what was wrong?

The Force Awakens attempted to recapture and old feeling by copying the details, rather than the big picture. The originals were edgy and risky because they combined genres (fantasy and sci-fi) with a “go big or go home attitude” that didn’t guarantee any success. The new movie took the, now familiar, trappings of the original movie in an attempt to recreate the feeling. However you can’t create the feeling of weirdness, awe, and risk of something by copying it. you can only do that by taking another risk. and that is where the prequels beat this sequel.

As awful as the prequels were, they also took risks, did weird things and tried to go BIG. They failed. Despite having a decent story, in terms of the big picture, Lucas went big… and went bust. But the sequel, The Force Awakens, never gave itself the chance to go big. It went safe.

 

And the really sad part is, The Force Awakens mirrors our societies stagnance. We rehash old movies… with huge economic success while we sacrifice creativity. We bailed out an auto industry which was dying while sacrificing all the new innovative ideas that we could have put that money into. Just looking at how western Christianity is going we can see this as well. The number of western believers is shrinking and to combat this church hasn’t changed, we just do what we always did, call it a mega church and keep ourselves in the 50s, while stagnance permeate and calling it success.

We are dying… its slow, we know its happening. We are trying to fix it by looking back  at what used to work…. art, business, religion, and trying to recreate it. But what we have forgotten is that those things were successful in the first place because we risked it all and went big on some new ideas, methods, and inventions. Innovation and Creativity will move us forward, not regeneration.

“When you are through changing, you are through.”    –Bruce Barton

 

 

Coach K

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Middle School!

I work at the high school level, and i often hear many complaints about how useless students are when they get out of middle school. these complaints revolve around a few things:

1) Students can not do the work expected of them in high school.

2)students previous marks do not reflect their actual ability and middle school teachers must give marks for “being nice”.

3) middle school is a wasteland of low standards and wild behavior.

I am tired of these complaints. Middle school teachers have a hard job. Students are biologically messed up and are still, intellectually, little kids. Middle schools don’t have lower standards than high schools, they have different standards that revolve mostly around soft skills, while using concrete subject matter as a background.

Middle school has a flexible structure and ideology that allows for awesome projects and field trips, team work, and creativity. Which is all thrown to the wolves when the students hit high school.

What I see in middle schools is a program that is dedicated to more widely applicable skills, and group roles that allow everyone to work within their own strengths.

High schools are programs that believe that the most important thing we can do is get students to learn specific concrete knowledge, and some specialized skills they will see in the next step of their education… if they happen to go to university (and hoping that the flood of knowledge doesn’t hide which subjects, topics, and skills they are truly good at).

I like middle schools. it doesn’t get them ready for the next step… it just makes them better.

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking” -George S. Patton
Coach K

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