Sunday, July 28, 2013

10 Useful Leadership Tips as Demonstrated by 80’s Sitcom Icons

Yes, I am a child of the 80’s, and I watched a lot of television back then.  I had no idea that the characters I grew up watching would offer insight into well, anything.  In an effort to justify the endless hours I spent in front of the television, I’ve come up with 10 examples of leadership traits found in some iconic characters from a time when skinny ties were in and every kid had a Rubik’s Cube.
  • Be the voice of reason
Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) from Happy Days may not have gotten the attention that the Fonz did, but at the end of the day, it was his level headed nature that was the moral compass for the rest of the characters.

  • Display a caring nature
Edna Garret (Charlotte Rae) was more than just a housemother at a boarding school on The Facts of Life, she was also everyone’s friend, confidant, and role model.

  • Show common sense when making decisions
Judge Harold T. Stone (Harry Anderson) was faced with many ridiculous cases as he presided over his Night Court, but always seemed to weigh all the factors and make the best decision.

  • Tell a story to make your point
The highlight of almost any episode of Golden Girls was when Rose Nylund (Betty White) told one of her stories, something many effective leaders are adept at doing to illustrate a point or create a mood

  • Be confident
ALF, or Gordon Shumway as he was known on Melmac, owned whatever room he entered, whether on his planet or ours.

  • Collaboration is essential
Laverne DaFazio (Penny Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) from Laverne & Shirley were nothing alike, but each week they managed to get into and out of trouble by working together.

  • Think outside the box
Bosom Buddies was only on the air for 37 episodes, but  Kip (Tom Hanks) and  Henry (Peter Scolari) spent most of them in women’s clothes in order to live in an affordable apartment, be close to the woman of his dreams, and gather material for a book.

  • Be personable and quick witted
Who could ever forget when Norm Peterson (George Wendt) entered Cheers?  He was greeted with a chorus of “Norm” and answered with a clever retort before taking his corner seat at the bar.

  • Set goals
Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) knew what he wanted from the moment he was born, wealth, and spent every minute trying to get it on Family Ties

  • Lead ethically
Governor Eugene Xavier Gatling (James Noble)from Benson may not have been the most conventional governor, and perhaps he was even a bit dimwitted, but he lead with his heart in the right place.

Did I miss any of your favorites?  What decade did you grow up in and what did you learn from those characters?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Vending Machine Education: 10 Selections that will help reach all learners

Taking courses this summer has been rewarding but not without its challenges.  The classes are longer and meet more frequently, my family is out doing “summer” things, and the hours unfortunately overlap with what is usually dinnertime.  My classmates are too polite to say anything but I know they hear my stomach growling.  At a break during a recent class I stood before the vending machine trying to decide what would subdue the monster in my belly.  Crunchy?  Chewy?  Salty?  Sweet?   All I had to do was push a letter followed by a number and I would be given exactly what I needed.  I imagined the implications for education if we could do the same for our students. Then it hit me, in some ways we do have that ability.  Through differentiated instruction practices and by tapping into student’s multiple intelligences we support their growth every day.  Of course choosing and providing the means to do it is not that convenient, but what if it were?  Here is what my vending machine would look like.

  • C-1 Cooperative Learning: The perfect snack for those who can share their treats with others
  • T-2 Technology: A taste so great it is sure to go viral
  • I-3 Independent Work: Sometime you just want to be alone and indulge in a decadent treat   
  • A-4 Arts:  A creative delight sure to be one of a kind
  • S-5 Sports/Movement:  This healthy bite will give you a boost of energy and get you moving
  • L-6 Listening:  Bite into this crispy bar and you will hear that delicious crunch even before you taste it
  • P-7 Performing:  Feel like a star when you pop these creamy morsels into your mouth
  • W-8 Writing: Rich, milky, delicious, mouthwatering, and scrumptious are just a few words to describe this goody
  • R-9 Research:  Made from an array of mystery ingredients that will leave you searching for the answers
  • E-10 Experimentation:   A “make your own” snack full of surprises and discovery

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reflective Questions for Consideration: Part II – Summer Edition

Back in March I posted a list of reflective questions meant to generate thinking about decisions teachers make on a daily basis ( With summer upon us, now is the time to pose questions that provoke action and will build upon last year’s experiences.   The truth is that it’s much easier to ask these questions than answer them, but with one more check of the rear view mirror you will be ready to set your sights on next year.

  • Are there any technologies I need to become familiar with?
  • How were my relationships with parents?
  • Have I reviewed the standards that will be used for my evaluations?
  • Are there any professional development opportunities that I need to take advantage of?
  • Does my room (the physical space) need to be changed to better suit the needs of my students?
  • Has my district adopted any new initiatives I need to familiarize myself with?
  • Do I need to make any changes to how I began my school year?
  • Were my classroom policies and procedure in line with the school’s overall vision? 
  • What was by biggest hurdle last year and how will I overcome it?
  • What professional resource will help improve my practice?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

10 Educational Doctrines Likely to Never Change

I was recently on a bus trip to New York with some childhood friends, a few of which I hadn’t seen in over 25 years and none of whom are teachers.  During the three hour ride we of course reminisced about our time with Mrs. Goodwin in fourth grade and Mrs. Cunningham in fifth.  We surprised one another by throwing out names we hadn’t spoken in decades and shared what we knew about where they were today.  The more we talked about our school lives in the 1970’s and 80’s the more I realized that our teachers hadn’t the faintest clue about what the world they were preparing us for would be like.  As educators, we are now charged with the same responsibility.  How will we do?  I like to think that we are more informed and better prepared having been a part of this incredible time of change we are living in.  Our world is smaller, the stakes are higher, and I chose to believe that our future is brighter than ever.  No matter what happens, there are some things that will never change.

10 Educational Doctrines
Likely to Never Change

  • When students are engaged in learning, discipline problems disappear
  • Motivation increases when learning is authentic
  • The harder you work for students, the harder the students will work you
  • Asking for the specific behaviors you desire is more effective than admonishing the behaviors you want to eliminate
  • Proving students with clear and specific feedback will help guide them to success
  • Children are more likely to believe in themselves when they know someone else believes in them
  • Every learner is capable of at least one thing, trying their best
  • Mistakes don’t exist if we learn from them
  • Modeling is the most powerful tool accessible to us at any time
  • We learn and are able to think more when we are happy and feel safe