Sunday, October 25, 2009

Your Teaching Weaknesses versus Strengths

No matter how long you've been teaching and no matter the level (K-12 or college), we ALL have professional weaknesses to deal with. Here's one of my many flaws...

LESSON: Figure out how to compensate for your weaknesses

One of my glaring weaknesses as a professor is an inability to remember student names or recognize their faces outside of class. One time in class, a student walked up to me and said: “I saw you on campus yesterday, and you didn’t even say ‘hi’. That was rude!” I desperately tried to explain that names and faces are hard for me to recall on a huge campus.

So now, when I walk around a campus of 30,000 students, I’m compelled to wave hello to everyone I make contact with. “Hi, how goes it?!” or “Hope you’re doing well.” Four out of five of them are looking at me, like: “Do I know you?” or “Who the heck are you!?” But that fifth person, the one I should know, appreciates the hello. So I’m walking, smiling, waving, and babbling. All over campus. It’s either that, or stare at my feet as I plow towards the lecture hall.

Take Away: You know you’re imperfect - learn how to compensate.

LESSON: In stressful moments, lean on your strengths

I learned this lesson in the first class I ever taught, Introduction to American Government. I thought that we should begin at the very beginning of the text, with a discussion of the Founding Fathers and the Federalist Papers. As I started talking, I repeatedly said to myself: “You don’t know anything about this topic beyond what you read last night.” After forty five minutes of panic, sweat, and utter confusion, we took a 10 minute break. In that time, I decided to go straight to the Bill of Rights, a topic of strength. The rest of the session went very smoothly.

Take Away: Students crave value – give them your unique perspective on what you know best, not a mere recap of yesterday’s homework reading.

Excerpts from: Unlocking Your Rubber Room: 44 Off-the-Wall Lessons to Lighten and Transform Everyday Life
© 2009 Perry Binder, LLC

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Are You a "Touch Wet Paint" Person?

What kind of child were you growing up? The kind that respected a wet paint sign, or one that found it so irresistible that you had to touch it? The decision to touch or not touch
highlights whether you are a curious person or someone who believes everything you read. Or someone who just acts on impulse.

I was showing a video in class and the students wanted me to turn out the lights in the front. Not knowing how to work the lights, I hit all of the switch buttons. Nothing worked. I
had no clue. Finally, I saw a switch which was covered over in white adhesive tape, with the obvious implied message that cried out: “Don’t touch this, you idiot!” I did. The overhead
projector and everything else electric in the room suddenly went dead.

Take Away: Curiosity will liven up the class and shut it down at the same time!

Lesson Excerpt from my book:
Unlocking Your Rubber Room: 44 Off-the-Wall Lessons to Lighten and Transform Everyday Life

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Writer Within You

I was on and read so many incredible postings today. It then dawned on me how many teachers must be in the process of publishing books or thinking of publishing books with real classroom stories or fiction.

The October 2009 issue of Writer's Digest has a good feature (in its print edition only for now, posted online down the road) entitled "First Impressions," where writers discuss their breakthrough novel or non-fiction book. I particularly like Stephen Jay Schwartz's response to SECRET TO SUCCESS:

There's no secret to success. Success cannot be defined by one single event. The secret is in loving the process. Writers have no choice but to write, so when they are writing they are a success.
Write on, Mr. Schwartz.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Who Is The Best Teacher You Ever Had?

This post is a reminder of how many lives you touch every day, every year!

I found this link (under the topic "HEROES") with several posts on Daryn Kagan's blog - she is the former CNN anchor who set out to provide inspiring news stories.

Sample posting:

I have had many fine teachers. I don't think I could pick just one. One thing I did findout in school was that when I liked the teacher I usually did very well. And when I didn't,I usually underperformed. I had one teacher at the University of Dayton that said I scoredthe highest out of anyone on his final. Then the next semester, in a related class, Istruggled just to pass. Good teachers have a way of inspiring us to want to learn.And I think they are one of the most underpaid professions.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Everyday Heroes

Make sure to check out New York Teacher, which features Everyday Teacher Heroes

This week - Master of the universe
He’s the Captain Kirk of public education, running a tight ship from the control console so kids in the school system can take a virtual trip through the solar system.

Astronomy teacher creates Murrow planetarium to beam light on science education

Friday, October 16, 2009

Teachers - Exaggerate to Illustrate!

Learning and retaining dense information isn’t all about laughter, though it helps. For class, I comb the internet each day for wacky law cases. After a while, I can sense which stuff gets the best laughs. Like a comic working in a club testing out new material, I constantly work on delivery, timing, and audience engagement. However, the use of exaggeration in a classroom or boardroom is not about telling jokes. In fact, I can recall telling only one joke in class:

“What’s the only thing worse than biting into an apple and finding a worm?”
“Finding half a worm!”
And that’s why I stay away from joke telling.

Exaggeration is the secret to effective learning. It requires me to plant a picture so implausible and outlandish in the learners’ minds, that they can’t help but remembering the concept. For example, I use this hypothetical to discuss the legal concept of self defense:

You: Well hello there, Mr. Limping Crazy Man wielding a lumberman’s
axe. Your blade looks mighty sharp and shiny, even from 100 yards away.
Him: Why yes, better to slice you to ribbons.
You: Hang on a second as I record this scenario on my video cell phone.
Him: Did they give you a rebate on that phone? Hey, by the way, my name
is Johnny. Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny!
You: Great. Come a step closer. And by the way, say hello to my little semiautomatic

Take Away: I believe that storytelling is a learnable skill, as demonstrated in the movie, Reservoir Dogs. In a few scenes, an undercover detective tirelessly trains a colleague on the fine art of spinning a tale. The key, he explains, is in remembering and exploiting the story’s rich details.

© 2009 Perry Binder, J.D. This passage contains excerpts from the book:
Unlocking Your Rubber Room: 44 Off-the-Wall Lessons to Lighten and Transform Everyday Life

Monday, October 12, 2009

Q&A on Teacher Participation in Social Media and Blogging

To Blog or not to Blog - Isn't that the question?

I sat down with Andy Payment, Director of New Media at William Mills Agency (and a superstar former student) and we discussed the following topic as it relates to companies - but there are clear analogies which may be drawn for Teacher/Employees:

Q&A on Employee Participation in Social Media and Blogging