Thursday, December 29, 2016

Reflections on 2016, Part II: Running

People kept telling me that I ran a lot this year. Like a lot a lot. Upon reflecting, it is probably an accurate statement. I completed 16 different events this year: Rocks and Roots 10k, Brokeman’s Winter Warm up half marathon, Rocks and Roots 20k, Possum 30k, The ORRRC Xenia ½ marathon, Glass City Toledo Marathon, ORRRC Tie Dye 32 miler, Columbus Zoo 5k, Brokemans Wild Things 4 miler, Not Your Momma’s 50 km, Running with Scissors double marathon, Hot Chocolate 15km, New Albany 4 miler, Run Santa Run 5k, Big Foot 10 miler, and the Yeti Run.

They were all my favorite. Especially Yeti. 

Looking at that list I’m pretty much in awe - It was about 3 years ago that I ran my second half marathon and swore I would never run that distance again. It was just over a year ago I finished my first marathon. I found a picture of my 2014 bibs (EDIT: it was actually my bibs from 2013 AND 2014) on facebook and in the comments section I was ecstatic that it had four 5k bibs, a 10k bib and 2 half marathon bibs. Now I have run a marathon distance or more six different times (four of those times in 2016.)

Not Yo Momma's 50k - the most difficult 50k I've run to date.

Oddly enough I became friends with Erika in 2014. Pure coincidence I’m sure. Sidenote, Erika is running the Pistol Ultra 100 miler on New Years eve/day - so proud of her! You can read about her adventure here.

Still, the year was not ‘perfect.’ I had two did not finish results (DNF) this year: The first was at the January Rocks and Roots which was supposed to be a 20k but due to the fact I could not feel my feet (literally) after the first 10k, I chose to stop. The second was the Scissors double marathon where I “only” ran moved forward 41.1 (66km) of the 52.4 miles. You can read more about that here. 

I still gave myself a present.

However, I also fell in love with pacing this year, leading the 11 minute pace group during the Columbus Hot Chocolate 15k. It was great helping people achieve their goals since so many people had helped me achieve mine over the past year. Case in point, I ended the year with my fastest 5k ever thanks to my great friends Becky and Erika. It would have been an even faster time if I could have kept up with them past mile 2.5.

All in all I have logged over 1360 miles (about 2200 km) of running this year. For some perspective, that is about the distance from Cleveland to Denver. Looking forward, I have a number of activities and events in 2017. So far I have at least three half marathons, one full marathon, and two 50 kilometer runs on my calendar by the first week of June. Yes I said at least.

Here we go again.

A big thank you to all of my friends and family that supported me with encouragement, candy, a sarcastic comment, or all of the above. My wife and two daughters are just brilliant.  They push me, encourage me, cheer me on, and fully support me in all of this.  I truly would not be able to do this without them.

I love all of my running buddies and I'm proud of every mile we logged together! I will need all of your support, encouragement, and more in the coming weeks!

I’m looking to share many more miles and stories with all of you in 2017!

Happy Running :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Reflections on 2016, Part I: Teaching

Sorry I have been gone - about a month ago I decided to take a break from blogging. There were so many things coming up - our school was moving, holidays were coming up, and then when I was going to get back into it we had a death in my family. Blogging became the item that fell off my plate as I just didn’t feel up to the task.

Since then I’ve done quite a bit of reflecting. I have a two-part blog coming up: one for teaching and one on my running. Today we focus on the teaching!

I had two goals for the first half of my 2016-17 school year: Integrate cross-curricular lessons into as many of my own lessons as I could and gamify my seventh grade math classroom.

I’m really happy how well I’ve done with that first goal. Working with my co-teacher I have managed to put both language arts and social studies into my science lessons. During math we have talked about how math has evolved through time, how Romans used math, and how Rome fell because they didn’t have the number zero in their system. More directly, I tied my rates and ratios unit to maps for scaling and we were able to integrate lots of the social studies standards into the math curriculum.

Riots erupt when plebeians use exact change and see a balance due.

I also got to focus on argumentative writing in math to help language arts. Shelby introduced me to Which One Doesn't Belong at AMLE 2016. This became a focus in my class as it hit MANY of the Standards of Mathematical Practices. Students had to choose an item and write to defend why their answer was correct. From there they had to write counter-arguments as well.

Of course we also went to the math art gallery!

My second goal took on a life of its own. Students fell in love with the gamification process. They were in guilds which competed to help save Mathemagicland. Classes had individual and group awards, followed the leader board, and were rewarded with spells and items which gave advantages to their group. What I really loved is that some students found pretty wicked combinations with the game cards - ones that I didn’t see until they put them into play!

You never know if you are light or dark side until you play a game.

My gamification took a break the same time my blogging did, but the students are excited to return to Mathemagicland in January.

I had a number of other highlights throughout the first half of the school year, but my biggest was going to and presenting at the AMLE 2016 National conference in Austin, Texas. While there I met so many amazing educators. These people are not only passionate about education, but also about middle grades. It was wonderful putting a face and having a meal with people I have interacted with over twitter for the past year or more. I got to watch these people present their knowledge, and many of the ideas I saw I am using in my classrooms now! I’m proud to say that a number of them came to see me present as well (despite the fact I was in the same time slot as educational gurus such as Dru Tomlin, Dave Burgess, and Rick Wormeli.)

Apparently Rick was nervous about me. 

I’m excited to get back to school in January. For those that don’t know, we’re moving into a new building (as in newly built) in January. We have taken a few tours of the building, but have yet to see the space with amenities such as furniture, paint, or in some cases, walls.

I also promise to be back blogging and sharing some of my great and not-so-great ideas in 2017. I hope everyone is having a relaxing and recharging holiday break. Look for my running recap blog on Thursday!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Celebrating My Failure

As most of you know, I've become a pretty avid runner.  About four months ago I signed up for a double marathon (52.4 miles.)    When I first signed up for this event, pretty much everyone asked one question: Why???? (usually with expletives.) I joked about the rabbit hole of running, the peer pressure, or just because I was bored, but the real reason was a bit different. 

As a classroom teacher I ask my students to push themselves in so many ways - they have to do work they don't want to do, set short and long term goals, attempt subjects they don't enjoy and/or are not intrinsically good at learning... basically they are forced to get out of their comfort zone. I decided making them do this without being willing to do it myself was not the message I wanted to send them. I had signed up for marathons and 50 km runs (31 miles) and completed them before. These were definitely NOT in my comfort zone, but since I had successfully completed them I felt I needed to step it up further.  So on June 30th I registered for the Run With Scissors double marathon.

Yes, you get scissors 

I started the day with a 3 am wake up call. Ironically I actually woke up a bit before my alarm -not uncommon considering how excited I was about today. I left my airbnb with a great note from my hosts Kevin and Carolyn hanging on the front door wishing me luck. Arriving at Cuyahoga National Park at about 3:40 am, I got my gear ready, set up my drop bag, and at 4 in the morning I started off on my first of two 26 mile laps. I'll spare you the mile-by-mile play by play -  the first 15 miles were great, but I was definitely feeling the distance by mile 23.  I finished lap one in about six-and-a-half hours.  

At the start/finish aid station I changed my shirt, socks, and got some food.  I wasn't feeling optimal, but I still went off for lap two. Things didn't improve much from there. Physically I felt fine - my nutrition was where it needed to be, nothing was cramping, hydration was solid... but my body was just not responding well. Come mile 30 I was walking way more than I was running. I was having serious discussions with my body: 

"OK, this part is slightly down hill and seems like a beautiful time to run!"
"But it ..."

I did feel better than this guy. 

I arrived at an aid station at mile 36 and had to sit down for nearly 5 minutes. The crew there was AMAZING - they asked me questions, gave me suggestions, provided aid, and really motivated me to keep going.

After leaving that station I had to follow a five mile loop before I returned back to that same aid station. It was during this loop I realized I was not going to finish this run. I needed to average about 18 minute miles during the last half marathon of the run and I was nowhere near that, coming in closer to 22 minutes per mile. My legs just did not want to go anymore. After some really tough reflection I decided I was going to drop when I returned to the aid station. This would give me about 41 total miles.  I slowed down and really started to enjoy the run - taking pictures and admiring the sights and sounds. It took nearly 2 hours for me to get those 5 miles done.

Gorgeous scenery! 

By the time I got back to the aid station it was 3 in the afternoon and I'd been moving for 11 hours. The crew there was once again amazing. They celebrated my success as did I. They took care of me wonderfully and gave me a ride back to the start/finish line. My run was over about 11 miles short of the finish. 

My goal was to get out of my comfort zone and really push to see what my body could do. I learned that my limit for today was about 41 miles. There are dozens and dozens of possible reasons that I topped out there today. Maybe it won't be my limit next time, but that's not for me to decide now.

It is also a great reminder to all of us to celebrate successes even when goals are not reached.  Celebrate the student that gets a 55% on a quiz, a student that gets one out of ten free throws, or just the student that came to school that day.  For them, this might be their own personal success.

We're still not really talking to each other...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Who Killed Mr. Xavier Pression?

I just got back from AMLE 2016, and what an amazing experience.  I met some amazing people, including many that I've been talking to during #MSCHAT and #TLAP talks.  I know many of you want to hear all about it, but honestly this graphic kind of explains where I am currently at:

I think I need to install some new RAM.

So for now you'll have to read about my latest activity.  

This year my 7th grade math class has been immersed in a game world.  They are in guilds named after mathematicians (Kepler, Nother, Euler, and Brahmagupta), exploring a world, and helping to bring together two nations.  They were introduced to Mr. Xavier Pression, the main diplomat brokering the truce between the nations of Gunthar and Sancrist.  Last week they received a message that Mr. Pression has gone missing.  They completed a series of quests to find him, which all four guilds did successfully.  

Unfortunately at the end of the last quest they found this on the screen at the end of the period:

It took a minute, but they eventually got the pun.

There was shock on everyone's face.  He was dead? How could that be?  They did everything they could to find him.  The next morning they walked in determined to find his killer.  

I purchased this activity from Teachers Pay Teachers.  It is a clue-based activity to have students write algebraic sentences as expressions.  In fact the whole game is set up like the boardgame Clue.  Here is the link to the product - I highly recommend it: Who Killed Mr. X. Pression

Now here is where Dave Burgess would say it is time to kick it up a notch.  They could have just come in and done the activity. I could have had the worksheets with the clues out and they could have just completed them and discovered the person, place, and thing.  However, this was a murder mystery. This was drama.  This was a crime investigation.  So instead of coming in to a worksheet laden room, they came in to this:

SO much positive feedback about the atmosphere.

Dark room, chilling music, the only thing out was the title.  By the way, students were actually working when I shot this video - that's the murmuring you hear in the background.  There was so much excitement and chatter.  They wanted to finish this assignment.  They learned that their sponsors were offering rewards including kingdom points, renown points, and new items to anyone that correctly completes the problems and solves the mystery.  They begged to get it started. 

How often can you say that has happened while teaching writing algebraic expressions?  

Saturday, October 8, 2016

It's So EASY When You Put It That Way

My 6th grade math class isn't as ready to be fully entrenched in the #gamification, but we still play plenty of games.  We just don't do the leaderboard, experience, or player character aspects - there are no NPCs (Non-player characters), and they don't collect items.

I haven't ruled out doing this later in the year, however.  In fact I have penciled in a quest where the 7th graders have to rely on sixth graders for important information.

Today I introduced the concept of combining integers.  Amazingly, I did it with a game.  Shocking, I know.   Students logged on to an interactive number line maker (there are many, I used this one) and let students play around for a bit.  After they became comfortable using the page I instructed them to create a number line from -20 to 20 that counted by ones.  I then had them move their circles to zero.

Students were organized into teams and they saw that I had spread out a deck of cards on the front table.  I explained that I removed the face cards from this deck, and so that the card values of two through ten were available.

I then explained the rules of the game.  Each student would be chosen, one at a time, to pick a face card.  Black cards represented positive numbers and red cards represented negative numbers.  We reviewed that positive numbers were on the right and negative were to the left.  They quickly made the connection that if they pick a black card, the number would move right, and a red card would move them left.

The first team to positive 20 points wins the game.

Students came up one at a time, picking their team's starting card.  From there they moved their virtual number line to their starting place.  As more cards were picked students realized black cards were always good and red cards were always bad (in this game anyway. I hinted in a future game they may want the negative cards!)

What they didn't realize is they were learning how to add integers.  I specifically instructed them to not use words like "adding" and "subtracting."   Later in the week when I introduced the vocabulary and concept, they were blown away how easy adding integers was.  We talked about how this was addition (even though negative cards "subtracted" the value" because we were always adding cards to their collection.  Later in the week I gave students a check-out (formative) assignment and nearly the whole class scored 85% or higher.

When I get back from AMLE 2016, I plan on introducing subtracting integers with a similar game - students will start with cards and get to discard to get to a target number.

I'm off to Austin tomorrow for AMLE!  'll be arriving on Sunday and my session, Building Simultaneous Engagement, will be on Wednesday at 11:30 am!  Hope to see many of you there!

Monday, September 26, 2016

There is Nothing Worse Than Being John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt'ed

Finding the greatest common factor of two monomials... can you think of a more thrilling, exciting, topic in any subject?  I mean having a teacher give you 14x3 and 20x2y and finding 2x2.  THRILLING, right?

About as thrilling as teaching commas in grammar I'd imagine.

This year I have taken Michael Matera's writings from Explore Like a Pirate to Gamify my classroom.  I have used games in my classroom before, but this is the first time I'm fully integrating gaming into the classroom.

During the week we have been working on factoring monomials. Students did this in small groups, individually, and in whole group games.  They included playing Clue, higher/lower, and hot seat.

It culminated with a game of Magic Card.  Here is how we played:

All 52 cards of one deck were laid out on a table:

Didn't take pictures, sorry...

From there I explained the rules:

I would post a problem and give 30 seconds to work it.  After 30 seconds I will use the random name generator (found here)  to pick a name. A new name would be picked every 10 seconds until a correct answer is given.

If you have a correct answer, you can go to the table and pick any playing card.

The more questions you get correct, the more playing cards your team will have at the end of the game.

Once the game is over, I will draw a card from a second deck.  That is the magic card.

Here is the scoring for this game:

Really should have taken some pictures. Sorry.

So that means if the winning card is the 3 of clubs, you get 2 points for each black card in your deck, 4 points for each club, 10 points for each '3', and 25 points if you have the 3 of clubs.  I gave them a moment to calculate how many points the winning card is worth.  At first they said 25 points, then a few realized the winning card would match the color, suit and value as well, so the winning card is actually worth 41 points.

As part of my gamification, students also have game cards available.  These are kept in their binder in a plastic card holder.  If you are curious, I made these cards on the Magic: The Gathering Cardsmith Website. It is an easy site to navigate and saves up to 1000 cards! Here are a few that were used during this game:

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmit: This card allows you to take a turn when it is someone else's turn.  Know the right answer, but were not selected?  Play this card! It's your turn now and not theirs!

Twinning: When someone is chosen, you may play this card and get full benefits of being called upon. Have the right answer? You get a playing card! Have the wrong answer? No card and you've used this card's power for the day.

Shield: Use this card when you are targeted.  You are protected and are not targeted anymore.  Great for countering Twinning and John Jacob.

It was so wonderful watching students collaborate in their teams, hope their name got called, and then strategize when to use cards.  One group realized that if a teammate got selected, they should twin their teammate so that they can get double (or triple) cards that round.

I gave multiple bonuses out for good team work, showing good processes, and good sportsmanship.  When it was said and done over 2 dozen of the 52 cards had been selected.  Later in the year I plan on expanding this part to have them write some probability examples from the game data.

When it was all done, Team Emmy Noether had 9 cards, Johann Kepler had 7 cards, Leonhard Euler had 6 cards, and Brahmagupta had 5 cards (my students are on teams named after mathematicians.)  Each team had their own strategies; Emmy went for a good variety of cards while Brahmagupta went for only cards with hearts on them.

Tension built as I was getting ready to reveal the winning card.  Of course it didn't happen right away - we had to get our homework copied,  get our work in our notebook, and close up a bit...

Then I went to the deck and pulled the 9 of clubs.  The girls immediately cheer as they realized they had the winning card and at least 41 points.  Brahmagupta's members groaned as they saw they had no clubs and no 9.  Zero game points.

Overall this was a crazy loud, fun, and fully engaging way of teaching what is otherwise a rather dull topic. Students were authentically excited to solve for the greatest common factor of monomials.  Emmy Noether was also excited because they had fallen to 2nd overall in the team points, but knew today's domination would put them back on top.

Best of all?  Students were leaving the classroom saying "Factoring monomials is fun!" Seriously.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Go To the Mirror!

Those who are longer-term readers know that I am very into protocols, routines, and procedures.  The students at my school have many executive function difficulties and the more consistent and familiar the classroom schedule is, the more success they generally have during that class.

However protocols, routines, and procedures do not have to be boring and dull.  Take reflection.  This is one of the most important parts of my lesson, and there is some form of reflection integrated into all my my activities.  This is also a place where I have the ability of having lots of fun.

It is also important for students to reflect on all aspects of the classroom, not just the 'academic learning targets.'  How are students feeling about the class? How did they like a lesson?  Do they have a suggestion for the improvement of the class?

SOAPBOX DISCLAIMER: Reflection is very personal.  It allows students to think about what they have learned and to process that learning.  It is also a great tool for me as the teacher; if the student didn't write the 'correct' information about what was learned, it is an indicator to me that my method, presentation, or delivery didn't have the intended effect.  I don't 'grade' reflections for content (thought I tell them grammar rules always apply), and I never tell someone they did not reflect correctly (unless, of course, they don't answer the prompt given.)

Sometimes reflection doesn't connect to reality. Use that information! 

Today's reflection: Mystery bag. 

For this reflection I gather students into a circle.  This is another procedure we have practiced many times throughout the year.  I've outlined this in my previous blog.

Once there I held an old lunch box up and shake it up a bit.  The students make some guesses as to what might be in the bag.  Then I dump the contents right in the center of the circle:

Well that was unexpected...

After the circle is ready, I pose the question.  For example, the first time we did this activity I simply asked "Which of these objects remind you of math?"  I explain that there are no 'wrong' answers, as long as you can make a connection to math.  I give them 2 minutes of think time and at the end ask them to put a thumbs up if they have an object and reason.  Most, but not all, usually will be ready.

I explain that we're going to go around the circle.  Each person in turn will pick up the object, explain why they chose it, then return it.  This means there is no worry about someone else 'taking' your item.  I also explain that if someone picks your object and has the same reason, that is fine.  You will just pick the same object and say your reason in your own words, even if it sounds like someone else's response.

I then address the students that are not ready.  This is a VERY abstract concept and not all students will be able to connect an answer.  I tell them that their job is to listen to everyone else's response and I will be calling on them to make a connection (or agree) with someone's reasoning.

I love doing this activity for a number of reasons.  First, it is completely unexpected.  Students have never walked into a math classroom and seen something like this.  It let's them know that "we'll have routines, expectations, and protocols, but don't expect it to be dull."

Second, I LOVE the responses I get.  It allows me to get some insight into the thought process of my students as well as their abstract reasoning ability.  Here is a smattering of thoughts that came out from the first week of school:

  • Math is like the dice because it has numbers (very concrete thinker.)
  • Math is like the battery because it has positive and negative signs. (attention to detail!)
  • Math is like the turtle because you have to just keep swimming (movie connection!)
  • Math is like the multi-colored pen because there are lots of different ways to solve problems (are you kidding me?)
Reflection does not always have to be exit tickets, written statements of what I've learned, and 3-2-1 cards.  Feel free to mix it up, but always get them reflecting!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Welcome back!

Welcome back, everyone!  I'm so excited to start a new school year, and hope you are too!

Much like your classroom, I'm sure there are many different readers here; some of you might be reading my blog for the first time, others are returning readers.  Welcome, all!

Like many of you I've been actively returning to the hustle and bustle of school, classes, meetings,  rosters, parent e-mails, meetings, lesson plans, and meetings.

Throughout it all, there seems to be something consistent with the first day of school: Building culture. Here is the phrase I see floating around the interwebs:

"Day one is for culture and team building! Save content for day two!"

Unfortunately what this means, intentionally or unintentionally, is "We need to build our culture, but then get on to more important things. One day of team building is plenty!"

Here's my question: Why do team building activities have to be a SEPARATE component from content?  I'd argue that if you are doing true team building and experiential learning these concepts are one and the same.

What do I mean?  Here is one of my day one activities. I introduce the lesson something like this:

OK, I want to get to know each other and for each of you to get to know each other as well.  Many times during the year we will be making a circle with our chairs.  A proficient group can do this in 30 seconds, but this is our first go, so I'm certainly not expecting 30 seconds today.  Let's see what our baseline time is.  Any predictions?"

Generally, I'll get times from 15 seconds to 4 minutes.  I then say time will start when I say go, but we have to be in ready position (a common vocabulary phrase for our school) for me to say go.

This year my first block's time was 1 minute 48 seconds, and my second block's time was 1 minute and 4 seconds.

We do a few other activities (which I will outline in future blogs!) to help build the classroom atmosphere.

The next day I tell them we will make a circle again, and I review and post their time from yesterday on the board.  I have them think and plan in their table groups for a few moments, get them in ready position, and then say go.  Here were the times from day two:

Block one: 49 seconds, block two: 32 seconds

We then process this activity.  I have them turn and talk about why so much time came off the clock.  After some discussion, they share their thoughts. Here are three words that invariably come up in the conversation:

  • Communication
  • Planning
  • Practice

I wrote these words on chart paper and put this in the center of the circle.  We discuss how these words helped us get closer to that 30-second goal.  It leads to a great discussion about what these words mean.

From there I asked them if these words applied to being a math student, then had them turn and talk again.  They were able to make many connections between this activity and the classroom.  Students talked about how they will have to communicate during work time, but also communicate if they are struggling.  They talked about planning out problems instead of just diving in.  They talked about how the more they practice, the better they will get.

These words become the mantra (rules) of our classroom.  When we're struggling, we go back to these words.  This team building activity isn't just a one-and-done; it becomes a central theme of the year.  Team building isn't something to do, but like all of your other lessons requires thought, planning, and purpose.

How do you use team building? How can you integrate it into your curriculum?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

If The Piece Doesn't Fit, You MUST Acquit!

In math class we have started investigating triangles.  My good friend, running coach, and teaching partner, Erika, suggested to give them a bunch of straws, some vocabulary, and let them go off and running.

Who am I to say no to such a wonderful structure?

We reviewed some geometric terms: Acute, right, obtuse, scalene, isosceles, and equilateral.  Then we gave them a challenge: create a triangle with each of the vocabulary terms: one for sides and one for angles.  They realized that they had to create nine total triangles.

Students got started by building an equilateral acute triangle.  It was a solid beginning with students easily conquering that task:

Many thought they'd finish all of them inside of 10 minutes... then they tried the next one.

Feeling confident, they went on to another triangle on their list: equilateral right.  Students used the straws and tried to build it, but no matter how they arranged the straws they just couldn't manage:

If the piece doesn't fit, you must acquit!

Students became frustrated and annoyed. There was some fantastic and frank mathematical discussion amongst themselves. They discussed lots of options.  Some said it was impossible, others argued that can't be the case, but then had second thoughts... Is it possible?  After conferring and discussion, they decided such a shape was not possible to build because "there will always be a little piece of triangle missing on one side, and that side will always be longer."

Why do these teachers constantly try to trick us?

Students continued on to build the other triangles, obtuse scalene, isosceles right, but then  got stumped with 'obtuse equilateral'.  The students went back to their previous thoughts and ideas that were built from 'right equilateral' and concluded that such a triangle could not be built.  Students also made amazing observations:

"...when I built an isosceles triangle, it looks like there are two angles that are always the same too.... So maybe when sides are the same length the angle is the same degrees?"

Those two acute angles look eerily similar

We followed this lesson up with one that used protractors.  Students have begun to confirm similar thoughts and hypotheses, as well as showed that the angles of triangles "always seem to add up to about 180 degrees."

I loved all of the discussion and discovery this lesson gave the students.  Erika and I facilitated discussion, but we never clued them into the 'impossibility' of building a right equilateral triangle.  They came to this conclusion on their own and were successfully able to argue (in a middle school way) why it wasn't possible to build such a shape.

I'm excited to see how they apply this knowledge to the rest of our geometry unit!
Collaboration for the win!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Miyagi or Cobra Kai?

I now take you to your regularly scheduled movie, already in progress:

Daniel: No the problem is, I'm getting my ass kicked every other day, that's the problem.
Miyagi: Hai, because boys have bad attitude. Karate for defense only.
Daniel: That's not what these guys are taught.
Miyagi: Hai - can see. No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do.

And so begins an epic relationship between student and teacher.  When reflecting upon my own teaching, I often find I'm in the Miyagi dojo, as opposed to Cobra Kai.

In the Cobra Kai dojo, there is one master.  The sensei is all knowing and all controlling.  He snaps orders and the students complete the drill in unison.  When he asks a question they answer together, "Yes, sensei!" There is no questioning, no deviation, no discussion.

Students are given very straight forward workouts - practice the jab, practice the round kick.  There is no doubt these students are learning karate. When anyone walks into their dojo they are surrounded by awards, trophies, and other accolades.  The students of this dojo pass all of their tests.  The students win for their sensei and their dojo.

Does your classroom intimidate or inspire?

On the other side of town, Daniel is training with Mr. Miyagi.  Daniel is washing cars, painting fences, sanding floors, and feeling like he's Mr. Miyagi's personal servant... and he tells Miyagi such.  He doesn't see the connection between waxing cars and defeating his enemies.

When he questions Mr. Miyagi about this, Miyagi shows him the connection between painting the fence and defending himself against an attack.  "Show me wax on, wax off." To his surprise, Daniel defends himself against Mr. Miyagi's attack.  He was learning karate the whole time without even knowing it.

Sometimes 'math' lessons don't have to look like math

Curriculum is just that - curriculum.  It is a series of standards or studies that a teacher must impart onto the students. It is a collection of facts.  Pedagogy is how to best implement those standards, how best to teach the lessons. That is the art of education.

In education there are multiple ways to teach. Pre-service teachers are introduced to Gardner, Montessori, Piaget, and others. Yet I would argue that many teachers and schools model the Cobra Kai style of teaching and development. One teacher, the sage on the stage, preaching a skill with students practicing: I do, we do, you do.  Students in this model get really good at drills.  They pass the tests. They win awards for their teachers and school.

But what else do students in this system learn - or more importantly what do they not learn?  Students learn to be uncreative and unimaginative  They learn to not try alternative methods. They learn to say "the teacher told me to do this way, so I must do it this way." Teacher say, student do.

Many websites (such as AACU) talk about how employers are looking for creative thinkers, problem solvers, and other 'outside the box' innovators.  Miyagi helped produce such a student, and hopefully my classroom will as well.

Yes, sensei