Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Just Imagine

I sure hope someone is still reading this blog, even though it's summer. Because all the sudden, I was stricken with the feeling that I needed to tell you all that you can be anything you want to be, and you can do anything you want to do. Point:

When I was a kid, there was a basketball player who played for N.C. State and eventually for the Atlanta Hawks (this is mostly where I remember him from) and then the Kings for awhile, whose name was Spud Webb. Webb was five foot seven. In the NBA. If you can imagine that. Whenever I've met a player from the NBA, or even walked by one in the airport, I feel like a midget, and you all know how tall I am. Six foot two. I'm guessing Dylan ended this school year at about five foot seven, if not taller, and this is the size Spud Webb was. (Dylan, of course, will get much taller in his lifetime, I'm just using him as a point of reference.) Webb was cut from his high school varsity basketball team because he was too short.

By the time he got to college, he started scoring ten points a game, and when he got to the NBA, he won the Slam Dunk Contest. He had all kinds of special trick dunks that were amazing. At five foot 7 inches tall. Against giants. There were all kinds of David and Goliath references when he played, and I think they were true, but I'm sure that's not what he dwelled on. He made the most of his talents. He wouldn't listen to anyone when they told him he couldn't make it as an NBA player. Just think if he'd listened to the coach who cut him for the varsity team, and given up. What would have happened?

Let's take George Washington Carver. I read you guys his story. He was born a slave. When the Civil War was over, he watched the rest of his family as they were dragged off and killed by the Ku Klux Klan. He wasn't going to stay a slave. He went and became a botanist, which is a scientist who studies plants. When his peanut farmer friends suddenly found themselves with too many peanuts--so many more than people were asking for, what did he do? He went and found more uses for peanuts. Over two-hundred of them. Shampoo, glue, stain-remover, you name it. Made from peanuts. He even invented peanut butter. Suddenly there was more demand for peanuts.

What if his friends had been cotton farmers, or squash farmers? Then we'd have hundreds of uses for those things. Honestly, his story just goes to show that there is still so much untapped potential out there.

Do you guys understand this?

Anyone can do anything.

There are thousands of other stories like this in the world. Many of them we don't know anything about.

Become one of them. I assure you, all of you can do it. I know that first hand. Now prove it to the rest of the world.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Lessons Learned in the Past Ten Months

I wanted to say a few things after having just closed out this last school year. If any of you are still reading, I'm going to talk about the mistakes I made and how I plan to fix them. This was the first class I've had that was not a gifted students class. This is not a bad thing, but it is definitely a different thing.
  1. The first thing I learned about the "regular" (how I hate that word! I was one of them when I was a kid!) kids is that they don't love to read right off the bat. By the end of my school year, I had readers. Sure, I still had a few who would just look at the pictures in my giant DK books, or magazines, or whatever. However, the majority of my kids had found a series or an author or a genre that they enjoyed reading. However, it truly took some cultivating. One way I plan to turn this page with them* earlier is to be more proactive in showing them the books that thrilled me as a kid, the kids books that I find exciting now, and the books I enjoy reading as an adult. I did this last year, but I need to be more consistent in sharing to try to keep the kids pumped up.
  2. One thing I've learned from teaching karate is that I need to "give candy" to the kids who need it. Some kids are going to get bored while you're teaching to a lower common denominator. Those are the kids you need to show something cool. In karate, this means showing a little something extra--why you do a certain move in a kata, a little something cooler than the standard fare on a certain move, a special fighting technique. Now that I'm allowed to teach Social Studies again, I'm so looking forward to doing this with certain kids. One of my favorite moments in this past school year was watching my students' eyes light up when I gave the ideas for their research projects (all of which had to be over a historical event). This time I'm the teacher for everything. I can't wait.
  3. I need to make plans for the entire year ahead of time. I have the time in the summer, I don't have them in the fall. Of course I'll be flexible, but I have to have plans laid out, instead of just taking everything as it comes. Because my experience thus far has been that I don't get it all fit in if I don't work it out. This is not particular to the regular class, but to all classes thus far.
  4. For Math, I have to train them to utilize their book earlier in the year. I talked before about how, in the movie Finding Nemo, the theme was that kids need to learn how to do things and learn things for themselves, otherwise they never will. If the grown-ups bail them out every time, they'll continue to be dependent for the rest of their lives. I suppose we can do this for just about everything, and not just Math, right?
  5. That I never know how I've affected them, and so when I wonder if I'm making a difference, I need to just hush up and not worry about it. I am affecting them, even if it isn't always apparent right at first. I need to keep in mind how much I realized when the kids were singing their song for me, or when all the boys were huddled in a massive group hug full of tears on the last day of school. I need to keep this in mind. I need to keep this focus throughout the entire year. My mid-year declaration to amp up my teaching served as something of a tent pole for the year in terms of kid-respect and parent-respect, but I really need to be a lot better about having more tent poles throughout the year. It will make for a more even "roof" for the school year.
Those are the biggies. If I think of more, I'll post them here.