When a Student Yells "Santa is Satan" ... Other Holiday Fun (Episode 62)

      Today, we’re gonna talk about When Your Student Yells, “Santa is Satan!” and Other Holiday Respect Conversations.

       Watch the YouTube video here >>> https://youtu.be/MBUodyYaCG0
Today, we’re gonna talk about When Your Student Yells, “Santa is Satan!” and Other Holiday Respect Conversations. How do we teachers successfully and sanely navigate the complex holiday environment with all the various religions and holiday traditions?
       Christmas time! Yay!
       No … it’s Happy Holiday time.
       But what if it isn’t “happy” for me?
       What’s not happy about snow days?
       I grew up in California where there isn’t really “winter” and we never got any of your stupid snow days.”
       Oh, as teachers how do we handle this?! We are going to share some of our thoughts and experiences from holidays in the classroom. The hope with this is not to tell you what you should be doing in the classroom but to get you thinking about how you handle the holidays and the effect it has on your students and the classroom environment as a whole.
       This topic can get heated because there are some strong beliefs involved with the “Holiday Season” and when it comes down to it causes us to question our own personal truth about our existence. If we let it.
       Let’s not get that deep right now. Let’s just focus on some basics. We as teachers get to decide how we want to direct our classroom environment to be.
       The decision is affected by whether you teach at a public or private school. If you teach at a religious private school the decision may be easier for you. If you are at a public school that doesn’t have administrative restrictions, you get to decide if you are going to try to represent all holiday traditions in your classroom or are you going to avoid teaching about any holiday themes. 
       In elementary school we are often with the same group of kids so you might have time to integrate themes into your classroom more extensively.
       With secondary I had lots of students for a shorter periods of time.
       I’m the type of person that tends to be hyper-sensitive to the complexities of situations or possible complexities. So for my peace of mind and attempt to decrease my stress, I chose not to teach holiday traditions.
       So what complexities do you identify with the holiday season?
       Identifying all the holiday traditions that my students could possibly celebrate while not unintentionally offending anyone with how they are represented.
       I can think of: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christian Christmas with Jesus, secular Christmas with Santa, a mixture of both, people that don’t celebrate anything, and people that don’t celebrate things, like Jehovah’s Witnesses.
       I avoided all that stress on myself and just kept my classroom winter-themed with snowmen and snowflakes. I like snowmen.
       Snowmen or snowpeople?
       Ok, snowpeople.

       Anyway, I taught first and second grade and even though I just integrated fun winter themes into our classroom activities, holiday always came up when kids talked about life. So during casual student discourse things always came up:
  • there was always some variation of a conversation about Santa not being real, that is often debated in the lower grades,
  • or even if a child believed in Santa, another student told them, “You’re going to Hell!” . . . yes, more than once that was said.
  • Talks about Jesus being real
  • Whatever the variation of the conversation, these were distressing to the students involved in the conversation.
       Usually I only needed to address it with the small group of students that were involved in the discussions. I think one year I needed to address it as a whole class because there was a particularly passionate and vocal student about their personal worldview being right.
       I would love to hear other teachers’ stories of how they handle these situations. I tried to model listening that showed people were heard and respected.
       Don’t take sides! You are the mediator.
       You are the teacher, you are neutral (unless you are at a private school where your beliefs are accepted as the dominant belief).
       In this world lots of people believe different things and celebrate differently. It’s interesting to learn about each other and how we live life. We want to remember to always show respect to each other. I would ask them if they wanted the other student to make them feel bad for what they believe, they would say no. So I reminded them to treat each other the way they wanted to be treated.
       The possibly more distressing example, “Santa is Satan!” (In secondary grades, this morphs to “Santa anagrams to Satan … they have all the same letters” to which I would answer, “Yes, and Britney Spears anagrams to Presbyterian! Is that supposed to mean something?”) To which they reply, “Who’s that?” “Wait, is she that crazy old mom lady who shaved her hair?”
       I’d leave the Santa is Satan situation to a one-on-one conversation with the student.
       When I was asked bluntly by students during school hours, I tried to switch to questions about their beliefs. I used redirection. Example: Is Santa real? Me: Do you celebrate Santa? Does Santa bring you gifts? Etc. Most students didn’t realize I didn’t answer. Or I would just say those are conversations they can have with their parents.
  • Identify that they have different views or experiences.
  • Tell them it is important to show kindness and respect.
       Basically I taught them to either respectfully ask each other about what they believe OR agree to disagree and change the subject.
       Always remember there are most likely parents or guardians represented by each of these students and imagine they are hearing what you are saying to their children and whether they will approve. I often told students to talk to their parents about whatever topic distressed the student.
       Can you defend your approach to how you addressed the disagreement in a way that will be acceptable to the parents and your administration?
       If you need a quick out, you can redirect students to what they should be focused on but log the disagreement in your mind because things can brew from strong feelings from opposing views that aren’t talked through.
Conversation of the Day: Share a funny or cute or difficult holiday story that you had to work through.
       Hop on over to watch the video and share your thoughts in the conversation.
Today, we’re gonna talk about When Your Student Yells, “Santa is Satan!” and Other Holiday Respect Conversations. How do we teachers successfully and sanely navigate the complex holiday environment with all the various religions and holiday traditions?

Should Students Use Wikipedia? (Episode 61)

      Today, we’re gonna discuss whether students should use Wikipedia and what teachers should do about it. Consider the can of worms opened...
       Watch the YouTube video here >>> https://youtu.be/3sfPCHcvrlY
Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?
       Just Google “Teachers + Wikipedia,” and you’ll find plenty of comical graphs showing how much teachers hate Wikipedia more than ...
  • Bad behavior
  • Sloppy handwriting
  • Spelling errors
  • Cheating
  • Late work
  • Tardiness
  • People who don’t try

Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?

Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?

Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?

       Ask teachers, and you’ll hear reasons like ...
  1. It’s unreliable.
  2. Anybody can edit it.

       Ask students, and they’ll say teachers don’t like Wikipedia because ...
  • It makes our work too easy.”

       So should teachers hate Wikipedia? And should students be allowed to use it? Or both? Or neither? Let’s dive in and talk about this juicy controversy.
       Wikipedia was founded in January of 2001 with the vision of being a completely crowd-created, collaborative encyclopedia. In in its first 15 years of existence, it has become the largest encyclopedia in world history, currently home to over 16 million articles in many languages. Currently the 6th most trafficked website on the Internet, it is one of the most successful crowd-sourcing projects in history. It has put many of the long-time encyclopedias out of business and has changed the world of learning.
       I don’t think the question is whether Wikipedia is large and making an impact … it’s whether students should use it. 
       So let’s tackle the big reasons teachers give.
(REASON #1) It’s unreliable.
Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?       The claim is that while Wikipedia has good information on it, there is lots of incorrect info too. Which is true. Let’s start there. (List of Wikipedia hoaxes) It’s also no different than the alternative. Are we going to send students to the library to find accurate information in those 20 year old encyclopedia sets? Does our school have a paid subscription to a formal encyclopedia like Britannica?
Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?       Isn’t this one of the reasons we complain about our textbooks: they’re too old and out-of-date? It’s kind of contradictory to then turn around and take a stance in favor of old encyclopedias, right?
       It’s a balancing act. Would we rather have students using a 20-year-old inaccurate encyclopedia or an up-to-date inaccurate one? 
       We’ve gotta remember the role of encyclopedias in research. They are a starting point. They are tertiary research. Whether using Britannica or Wikipedia, students are only supposed to start with them to know what to research further. And if that’s the role, then shouldn’t we use the one that has the most current research?
Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?
       Some examples: 
       At my last school, I had a comical feud going with a couple of teachers about Wikipedia. So during their research projects on diseases, I threw the gauntlet down. I found out one of their diseases from the list and decided to compare the research. My school library had 2 encyclopedia sets. I found the disease in each. Both had the same common info and 2 bibliography sources. On Wikipedia, I found a lot more information, much of it much more recent. And then at the bottom, I found 67 links to academic research articles. Many were recent, even in the past couple of weeks, and the 2 from the other encyclopedias were there in the list. So Wikipedia had everything the others did + 65 more academic links.
       When our daughter was born, she was diagnosed with a metabolic disorder that we’d never heard anything about -- Carnitine palmitoyltransferase II deficiency (CPT-II). There were only a few doctors in the U.S. who specialized in it, and one was in our Kaiser network. Besides talking with the doctor, Wikipedia was an amazing resource. 7 pages of scientific information with genetic graphs and 20 scientific study articles for us to start our research. No book in the world or encyclopedia anywhere would have had the information we needed.
       So is Wikipedia unreliable? VERDICT: Not any more than any other encyclopedia.(REASON #2) Anybody can edit it.
       This is also true. Read more by the BBC. 
       Just before filming this, I made an edit to the page on “Student.” And it’s still there. It’s a good edit that should probably stay included.
       Many ago, I made an edit to the page for the town of Ferndale, CA, because my grandma was a local painter who sold her paintings in that town. That edit was up for a week, then was removed, probably because it broke the self-promotion rule.
       Though, instead of it being viewed as a negative, Wikipedia holds that as its cornerstone value. This is what makes it so amazing. Instead of being limited to a few paid geek researchers whose research is out-of-date the moment they send it to their publishing editors for review, Wikipedia relies on a multitude of free geek editors who are avid about informational accuracy. Let’s be honest, if you’ve volunteered your time as a Wikipedia curator of any info area, then you care deeply and probably know your stuff. Sure, there are the occasional vandalizer adults or punk kids, and at any random moment in time you could access a page that has just been defaced.
       But let me quote Wikipedia here:
       Wikipedia's primary editorial control, that ensures the bulk of its quality, is simply the sheer volume of well-intentioned editors who regularly and constantly watch over its articles. At any given time, a large number of the thousands of active Wikipedians will be using, checking, or editing the articles held. Each of these has their own watchlist, a special page that lists changes to the articles they have worked on or are otherwise choosing to watch. Hundreds of Wikipedians use automated software tools (described below) to watch edits en masse. On average, only a few minutes lie between a blatantly bad or harmful edit, and some editor noticing and acting on it. Repeated edits tend to lead rapidly to escalation of the process, further safeguards and actions, and the involvement of others, including possible use of administrator powers or dispute resolution depending on the situation.
       The reality is that the Wikipedia leaders care deeply about the accuracy of the information found there, and so do all the volunteer geeks who curate their info kingdoms. (Wikipedia Editorial Oversight and Control article) 
       THE BIG QUESTION IS: “SHOULD STUDENTS BE ALLOWED TO USE IT?”
       Let’s start with what they should NOT DO.
NOT Quote from it in their papers. Not giant paragraphs. Not single sentences. No quoting. No copying.
       Again, encyclopedias are starting points. They should treated as such … hubs of information from which to do more research. And as far as hubs of information go … Wikipedia is, hands down and unquestionably, better than any print encyclopedia. 
NOT Use it in their Works Cited or Bibliographies. Because … you know … they shouldn’t be quoting from it in their papers. :)


So what SHOULD THEY USE it for?
Initial Learning
       If you don’t know anything about a topic or need a refresher, it’s a superb source to learn what you need to learn.
Research
       Unlike print encyclopedias, Wikipedia articles have hyperlinks embedded in the articles that allow you to do research on any term in the article that you don’t know what it means. This research method is how today’s students’ brains work, and they’re way more likely to look something up that they don’t know.
Further Research
       At the bottom of each Wikipedia article, you’ll find a list of academic sources to do further research. Direct your students to use this list. These are the sources they should read, study, and cite in their essays. This are the gold mines of info. And other people collected them all in one spot for you. I’ve never heard a teacher give any reason why a student shouldn’t use this list.
       So should students be allowed to use Wikipedia? 
       VERDICT: We think … absolutely.
       But only if these things happen first:
  • You stop being a fuddy duddy. For a long time, common teacher opinion has been to shun and ban Wikipedia, and your feelings are very wrapped up in this.
  • You train your students how to use it. No wonder our students have been using it incorrectly, we’ve refused to train them. As with any powerful tool, users should be trained. So train them. Stop being afraid of it, and teach them how to use it. Teach them where it fits within the process of researching and learning. Include it in your discussions about how to find reputable sources online that you can trust.
  • Inform them of the consequences for incorrect use of the site in their essays.
  • Protect your reputation. We wouldn’t say this out loud, but for those of us who have been very vocal against Wikipedia, we probably need a game plan to save face. How do you shift over to using Wikipedia in front of your students if you’ve been against it for so long? It’s easy … you ready? … You admit you were wrong. Like any good learner, you did some more research into it, and you learned some things you didn’t know before, and now you’re going to teach them how to use it the right way. Tada!!! :)
Conversation of the Day: What other drawbacks do you see to teaching students to use Wikipedia?
       Hop on over to watch the video and share your thoughts in the conversation.
Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?

Sick Days, Mental Health Days, and Making Life Easier (Episode 60)

      Today, we’re back with our series How to Leave on Time and NEVER Take Papers Home Again gonna crack open the topic of Pre-Sick Days and discuss how teachers should use them.
       Watch the YouTube video here >>> https://youtu.be/62HXRz_L8xA
Today, we’re back with our series How to Leave on Time and NEVER Take Papers Home Again gonna crack open the topic of Pre-Sick Days and discuss how teachers should use them.       How many sick days does your school give you this year?
       How many personal days?
       How many do they make you pay for?
       How many have you used?
       How many did you use last year?
       What did you use them for?
       Are you saving them all up for the end of your teaching career and retirement?
       Of course, they're called sick days for a reason, so you want to make sure you have enough of those when you need them. But we want to add a layer of ideas to the topic of sick days.
       My thoughts on this started one day when someone cracked a joke and said she was going to take a “mental health day.” I laughed, of course, but then got to thinking how great an idea that sounded.
       This idea might be something you already think about or it might be brand new. What do you think about using your sick days before you actually get sick so that maybe you won't get sick or worn down?
       1st, let's get all the talk about retirement and maternity leave out of the way.
       In some states, you're unused sick days add up, and there's an incentive to not use them so they add up as paid retirement days or extra years on your years of service. If that's your goal, that totally makes sense. In this increasingly tough national teaching environment, we would ask you to consider if feeling less stressed and more rested might actually prevent burnout and get you closer to retirement?
       And if you're planning on having a child, take that into consideration for maternity or paternity leave.
       And now that you've thought about all that, then let's dive in.  
PLANNING
       Ever feel like you're behind on your planning and it's wearing down your soul? Before you get actually sick, why not take a day every other month to plan ahead. Take 1-2 hours and reflect on the past weeks and how effective they've been. Make notes for next year. Take 1-2 hours to plan the upcoming months. Or if you did this last year, you get to upgrade last year’s plan. You might even pick some strategic spots in the year schedule for this planning day, so it can get you through the next part of the year. 
GRADING       ...the never-ending monster! What if you planned 1 day a quarter for catching up on and organizing your grading and grades? Think about what that would do for your mental health and stress. But seriously, can we zoom out for a second on that? We're learning more and more that mental health is not just mental … IT IS physical health. No longer do we have to smirk and crack a joke about “mental health days” or “mental sick days.” Mental health and sick = health and sick. So if we're stressed over how far behind we are, we aren't well. For reals! So don't feel bad about getting healthy and getting caught up.  
R & R
       Invest 1-2 days a year into preventative health. Relax. Explore. Adventure. Connect. Go to the beach, mountains, mall, lake, amusement park. If you have personal days too, combine them together next to a 4-day weekend and take a trip. We took a whole week off at the end of Christmas and went to China for 2 weeks. Sure, I had to talk with my principal, make sure it was a good time of year, assure them I had great lesson plans and a solid sub, but then they were fine with it and I came back rejuvenated instead of exhausted. And sure, you've gotta really make sure those bases are covered so they'll say yes again next time, but don't be afraid to stand up for your health and use those days.
LESSON PLANS
       And for those 1-day absences, now that we're thinking strategic about our health days, here are 2 ideas:
  1. Develop purposeful, helpful activities that fit into your standards and can be executed by any substitute teacher. Then you don't have to feel bad or fearful that your absence will be wasted.
  2. Purchase some useful lesson plans and resources that would fit those spots in your curriculum. Websites like www.TeachersPayTeachers.com can be super helpful for this.
       Hopefully this helps take you further into the conversation of how to keep yourselves healthy and peaceful in the long term. Now go take some practical steps toward using your Pre-Sick Days, so you can work toward health and balance.
       Hop on over to watch the video and share your thoughts in the conversation.
Today, we're gonna crack open the topic of Pre-Sick Days and discuss how teachers should use them.

Rethink Your Commute for Peace & Efficiency (Episode 59)

      Today, we’re back with our series How to Leave on Time and NEVER Take Papers Home Again going to get real practical about using our commute time to make our day more peaceful and efficient.
       Watch the YouTube video here >>> https://youtu.be/62HXRz_L8xA
Today, we’re going to get real practical about using our commute time to make our day more peaceful and efficient.
       I know mornings can feel rough. Many days, our hugest success feels like simply leaving the house with all our clothes on. But once we're in the car, we’ve got a chunk of time to do something with. Let’s talk about how to use that time to really make an impact on the rest of our day.
       You gotta get to work somehow: car, train, subway, bus, bike, walk, carpool. You have some amount of time it takes to commute. Don't underestimate the value of this time. And don't think it's not enough time to really make an impact. It can be huge.
       Instead of just vegging out or letting that time happen to us, let's talk about ways to repurpose our commutes for peace and efficiency.
  • Pensieve & efficiency planning
  • Soul Care, meditation, music, & Audiobooks
  • Relational phone calls … Phone Errands
       Everyone is going to use this time. But now you're going to repurpose it to make a difference.
       Your 1st step might be to use your next drive to brainstorm ideas that you could use your drive for. Get them all out. Then next drive come up with a plan. Put it in order, then hold loosely to it. Write it on a notecard and keep it visible in your car, so you see it every drive. Be interruptible for life, of course, but now that you have a plan, you’ll know what to do next each day.
       Then put it into plan and get started reclaiming this time to have more peace and efficiency.
       Conversation of the Day: What is something you could do during your drive to work that could make your day more peaceful or efficient?
       Hop on over to watch the video and share your thoughts in the conversation.
Today, we’re going to get real practical about using our commute time to make our day more peaceful and efficient.

Use the Element of Surprise and FOMO to Help Your Classroom Management (Episode 57)

      Today, we’re back with our series How to Leave on Time and NEVER Take Papers Home Again, and we're going to explore how using the Element of Surprise … and the Fear of Missing Out … can help your classroom management.
       Watch the YouTube video here >>> https://youtu.be/RoNGrAal77I
Today, we’re going to explore how using the Element of Surprise … and the Fear of Missing Out … can help your classroom management.
       Classroom management … it’s kind of this nebulous thing, right? Let’s break it down real quick. What goes into managing our classrooms?
  • Getting our students learning.
  • Engaging their minds and passions
  • Running things efficiently
  • Keeping them out of trouble
       So of course our students need to feel comfortable with lots of our consistent procedures. Those are vital. But then there’s all the ways we engage their minds in the midst of all those classroom systems. That’s where we either get creative or get boring.
       So our topic today helps with all four of these. We want to explore how to be predictably unpredictable ... NOT predictably predictable.
       Sounds confusing … predictably unpredictable. Let’s go deeper. There are a couple of levels to this.
  1. Our students know what to expect from ANY ordinary classroom lesson. They’ve seen a lot of them.
  2. They know what to expect from YOUR ordinary classroom lesson.
  3. The question is … What do they expect from yours?
       Think of it this way … Imagine you walk into class tomorrow and tell your students you are going to learn about nouns. Then ask them how they think you’ll teach it. What tools will you use? What methods? That’s the default you’ve been creating. That’s what they expect.
       Then ask yourself … are they ever expecting anything surprising from you? Any spontaneity? Do they have to pay attention for fear they’ll miss out on something interesting?
       Some TV examples, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert are masters at this. There’s a huge element to their shows that you never know what you’re going to get next. But you know that every time you watch them you’re going to not know what will happen. You know that at a couple of key moments they’ll be unpredictable. It’s predictable that they’ll be unpredictable.
       And you don’t want to miss out. They have our attention. We can build that element into our classroom environments. Not only can our content be surprising (e.g. Grammar Ninja) but so can the delivery.
       Students will be engaged, and even the troublemakers won’t feel as much desire to cause trouble. This will help things go more efficiently and will create an environment more passionate about learning. It helps with all 4 areas of classroom management.
       So let’s look at some real classroom examples … let’s take a few standards and brainstorm how to be unpredictable and surprising.
       How about in grammar? Nouns. We all know how to teach a predictable lesson on nouns. The students know exactly what that looks like. So what if you started out with the expected worksheet, bookwork, or PowerPoints … whatever they expect from you.
       Then give them a surprising location or situation and have them brainstorm interesting nouns in that place.
       Or take them safely outside and have them find the most interesting nouns of each category.
       All students are likely to be more engaged and processing what they already learned.
       We could be similarly unpredictable while teaching Prepositions. What if instead of describing what prepositions are, you acted them out. And not just acting them out with an object and an object. You put yourself in the locations compared to something. And what if you planned ahead and didn’t just compare your location to a desk, which is predictable. What if you busted out a beach chair? Or a giant stuffed animal from the county fair? Or a big trash can (use a clean one!)? Take every element of the lesson and make it surprising. The students won’t want to miss out.
Use the Element of Surprise and FOMO to Help Your Classroom Management (Episode 57)Use the Element of Surprise and FOMO to Help Your Classroom Management (Episode 57)Use the Element of Surprise and FOMO to Help Your Classroom Management (Episode 57)Use the Element of Surprise and FOMO to Help Your Classroom Management (Episode 57)

       Or what if you’re teaching shapes? You could bring in surprising objects that have shapes. You could take pictures of surprising objects all around your local town that students will recognize. You could even have them with an assignment to take their own pictures of surprising objects around their neighborhood or at school that have all the shapes they’re learning. This could be for young learners or even in secondary level Geometry as they’re learning the different proofs for circles and rhombuses and all that.
       I love what our friend Luke at Students of History is doing. He’s taking his own fun field trips on weekends and filming himself at various historical landmarks and battlefields and giving tours for his students. Then as they learn those topics year after year, it’s surprising and cool to see those locations with, not some random outside person, but with their very own teacher! This is riveting, engaging, and surprising. It shows his street cred and is a creative way to deliver the content instead of him just talking about it that day.
Use the Element of Surprise and FOMO to Help Your Classroom Management (Episode 57)
       And as he does that enough in various different ways, he builds a classroom environment where his students can predict that he’ll be unpredictable.
       Conversation of the Day: Take a second look at a topic you’re teaching this week and share a way you can teach an element of that lesson in an unpredictable way.
       Hop on over to watch the video and share your thoughts in the conversation.
Today, we’re going to explore how using the Element of Surprise … and the Fear of Missing Out … can help your classroom management.

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