The power of belief may be a stronger influence than you think.
Entering the field of education, I always expected there to be a wide range of personalities throughout the job landscape. Optimists, pessimists, visionaries, workhorses, complainers....they all exist in every industry. The one dynamic that I did not anticipate was the impact these people could have on my own teaching personality and professional outlook.
It was only over the last couple of years that I began to see this impact in effect. In my own building, and through social media I began establishing my Personal Learning Network (PLN). In my PLN were teachers, principals, technology coordinators, etc. The one thing that set these people apart from others was their relentless passion and drive to do great things for students. To constantly step up their game. To get better everyday. To never take the easy way out.
As I interacted more and more with these people, I listened to the great lessons they were teaching in their classrooms. I heard about the amazing things going on at their school. Bit by bit, my perspective that I was doing "enough" started to morph into "I can do more". Complacency went out the window, replaced with a drive to be more effective each and every day. What I found was that...
"TO BE PHENOMENAL YOU MUST SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PHENOMENAL".
I feel lucky that I came to realize this early on in my career. Keeping this simple idea in mind has led me to be involved in some amazing things, with some incredible people. People, that in my perspective, are far out of my league. That being said, they had no problem sharing ideas, discussing best practices, giving advice, or providing tips.
Its the kind of idea that you have to "take on faith" because in the moment, its much harder to see the finish line. In the end, if you continue to make the decision to put yourself out there, to surround yourself with phenomenal people, there's only one likely outcome....you'll become phenomenal.
Much like football or soccer, Educators would benefit from an end of summer "training camp" before heading back to the classroom
Before entering the world of education, I was enrolled at St. Joseph's College as a student-athlete. I was a Child Study major and a NCAA men's soccer player. I took pride in both, but knew that education would be my real future. What I did not realize is that I would take much of what I learned as a player to my future profession.
Every summer, after sleeping in, staying up late, and enjoying the lessened level of responsibility, August would hit, and the feeling that "next year" was only a month away would set in. Yes, for everyone younger than 18, and educators, September mine as well be January, because it is our "new year".
That being said, August would hit, and as an athlete, I knew it was time to start getting ready for the upcoming season. Luckily, at this point of my life, I stayed in pretty good shape, but starting in August I would be sure I was engaging in sport-focused activities and exercises 3 to 4 times a week. It wasn't all day long, and it wasn't always intense, but it started getting me back into the routine of what was ahead. As August progressed, I would increase the intensity leading up to "Preseason". Preseason is where we pushed ourselves twice a day, 6 times a week, to be sure we were ready for the season ahead. How else could a thick-framed guy like me run 2 miles in 11 minutes and 43 seconds? As they say, Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
So how does this relate to education? During my 3rd summer of teaching, I felt a bit nostalgic, missing the days of soccer preseason training. This is when it hit me that I need to reignite my routine, but rather apply it to my professional field instead of the athletic one. So how do you set up your own "Education Preseason Training Camp" ?
1. Get Up Early. When out of routine, getting up early enough to get yourself to work on time can feel dreadful. Start re-training your body to roll out of bed at the time you will during the school year.
2. Two-A-Days. Start putting yourself through Two-A-Day "practices" 3-5 times per week for the two weeks prior to school starting. Each practice lasts about 1 1/2 hours, for a total of 3 hours per day. The relatively short span should help you keep from burning out during too long of a session. Just taking the time to engage with the curriculum, develop new projects, create new classroom activities, and prepare for the year ahead will do you wonders when the school year hits. It will also get you back into the routine of the work cycle.
3. Create A Goal. Much like running 2 miles in under 12 minutes, nothing good comes without some hard work. Pick one new classroom initiative, technique, or model to implement and prepare for it as much as you possibly can during your preseason. Trying to implement new ideas on the fly can be extremely overwhelming early in the year....problem is that early in the year is the best time to acclimate the students to such items. Prepare ahead of time.
4. Develop Your Game. Much of preseason goes towards addressing what aspects of your game needs work. Teachers should do the same. Do you hate ed-tech? Pick a web-tool to master for the upcoming year. Do you want decrease your lecture time? Do some research on student-centered teaching techniques. Do you want to spice up motivation and engagement in your room? Look at possibilities for classroom gamification. Whether it is literacy goals, math application stations, classroom management, or any other aspect of teaching, reflect on where you can step up your game, and work to do so.
5. Enjoy The Down Time. Yes, it may seem like I'm suggesting you do a lot, but hey, preseason is tough. But with your preseason training camp still comes plenty of down time. The plan would call for 9-15 hours per week of professional engagement. That's out of 168 hours in a week. So enjoy, relax, and soak in the sun with the rest of your hours.....September is just around the corner.
“College and career ready”...This ubiquitous statement has been barraging the ears of educators throughout the U.S. education landscape since the widespread adoption of the Common Core Standards. It is an idea, that in its foundation, I agree with, along with raising the bar and rigor for our students. That being said, there are significant holes we are failing to reconcile regarding the “career and job landscape" that is ahead for our students.
The gaping hole left out of student learning? Computer Science. Even with the ever-growing job landscape in IT, programming, software engineering, and data systems, the world of education still treats Computer Science as a second tier science. The “traditional” sciences, such as Chemistry and Biology, are mandated by most states, but lack the job opportunities that would allow students to actually utilize the learned content.
In recent projections, by 2020, there will be $20 billion in open jobs and salary in the computer sciences that will go unfilled and unclaimed by the American educated job force. Programming is offered in only 10% of American schools, and in 41 out of 50 states, Computer Science is not considered a math or science course, but rather an elective comparable to Woodshop.
We may be attempting to get our students “college and career ready”, but I must ask, for what careers are we readying them for?
Yes, many students will not head into the Computer Science field, but are we handcuffing every student that might? Are we closing the door for them before even providing the opportunity to explore the possibilities? In most instances, it seems so. There are school districts out there taking it upon themselves to push for increased course offerings in this field, and to them I say, kudos! But until there are large-scale changes in National and State education policies regarding Computer Science, we are never going to see the outcomes and student opportunities we are looking for.
I write this as an educator with an optimistic outlook for the route education is taking. There are many great teachers out there trying to embrace increased STEM education initiatives, provide opportunities for programming and coding, and attempting to build in technology education as often as possible. Whether it is the use of basic Ipad apps like Kodable or Cargo Bot, which facilitate a very basic understanding sequencing, logic, and coding via games to elementary aged students, or a course offering in Java to high school seniors, both schools and educators need to a find a way to increase the prevalence of Computer Science in our schools.
Looking for more information and resources? Check out the Computing In The Core website here.
Original piece written for Next Stop Magazine (www.nextstopmagazine.com)
Parents and teachers alike have been on a never-ending search for what it is that will make their children and students successful. The problem is, pinpointing that characteristic has been much harder than one would think.
Although it seems instinctively obvious, the truth is that intelligence is actually a poor predictor of performance and overall future success. Your brightest child may not perform particularly well, meanwhile the average child may grind through every project or assessment until they have once again found themselves near the top of the class.
What is it that creates this dynamic? ...... Grit.
Grit may be synonymous with perseverance in regards to definition, but it holds greater meaning because of the feeling it inspires; hard-work, pushing through challenges, learning from failure, relentless work ethic, and toughness. It is this singular characteristic that consistently determines which children (and adults) will be successful. Children need to push through difficult scenarios and gain the understanding that the greatest learning comes out of the greatest challenges. All too often, children and adults are too quick to come to the conclusion that a task is beyond them, too difficult, too confusing, or something not worth their effort. This is a mindset that needs to be explicitly discussed with children in order to move them past a fixed idea of what they can do, and into a growth-mindset where they can persevere when things get tough.
Reframing failure for children is key in this process of fostering grit and perseverance. Actively creating a new idea of failure as opportunity may not be easy, but it sets the foundation for the development of grit from a very early age. Not sure where to start? Attempt to build a Rube Goldberg machine with your students or children. Success will grow out of failures… if you’re gritty.
Check out Angela Lee Duckworth discussing the idea of grit and growth-mindset below.
Scott Garofola. 5th Grade Teacher. Special Education Teacher. Co-Founder EdCamp Long Island. Co-Founder EdCamp Leadership New York. Google Certified Educator. Ed-Tech Enthusiast. Husband To My Amazing Wife. Father to the coolest kid in town. Wanna-Be Superhero.