Maybe it was my first copy of Entrepreneur Magazine. Maybe it was listening to the Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford University. Perhaps it was the first time I listened to This Week in Startups. Somewhere I had a fundamental change in how I approached teaching.
As a middle school math teacher I have sat through my share of professional development.The result was very little developing as a professional. In almost every situation I left feeling like I just wasted a day of my life.One year we were pulled out of the classroom for 8 days which resulted in a binder that I tossed in my desk – never to be used. (I did actually throw out the papers and use the binder for other things so I guess it wasn’t a total loss).
As I began to discover the entrepreneurial world my teaching mindset began to dramatically change. In the world of the entrepreneur was exciting, fast paced and constant change.The world of education was generally boring and slow to evolve.I wanted my educational and entrepreneurial world’s to collide.
Below are some of the different lessons I have adapted from entrepreneur world to the educationalworld.Many are not Earth shaking, but it is amazing how little of this is done in education.
Beginwith the end user in mind
The summer is wrapping up and the school year is about ready to kick off in full force.This is the time of the year that is filled with optimism and excitement. Everything starts over. Students get to meet new teachers, teachers get a new batch of students and parents get a chance to regain their sanity.
Despite all these warm and cuddly feelings that surround the start of school I am dreading another yearly tradition: parents buying their kids crappy pencils.
Don’t get me wrong, I to have been seduced by the allure of the 1 cent pack of pencils at Staples (or Wal-Mart, Kmart, etc.). As a parent you feel good about making such a wise purchase. After all a pencil is just a pencil.
“No so fast my friend,” to quote Lee Corso, the legendary football analyst from College Game Day (and Director of Business Development for Dixon Ticonderoga pencil company).Pencils are NOT all the same and it DOES make a difference.
The trouble begins moments after the first bell.The students complain that they can’t get their pencil to sharpen. Why? Because the quality of wood and lead is inferior and it is next to impossible to get many of these pencils sharpened. Many pencils are never able to be sharpened because the lead just falls out as you sharpen it. In addition, students are constantly getting up because their lead keeps breaking because of the poor quality.
In our never ending quest to improve as math teachers and help make math enjoyable for students (or at least less painful) we slapped together a few goals for the upcoming school year.
INCREASE TEACHER MATH KNOWLEDGE
We have spent a boatload of time this summer tearing apart the math common core standards. Not just our grade (7th), but all grade levels from k to 8. As we enter the school year we feel as prepared as any school year. We want continue adding to math knowledge as the year progresses. We are currently taking the Stanford math class with Jo Boaler which has been very enjoyable.
INCREASE STUDENTS INTERST IN MATH
Loyola Marymount hoops
In the early 1990’s I coached basketball at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon for the legendary Bob Gaillard.Coach Gaillard was a former head coach at the University of San Francisco when they were a major power house. He had numerous teams qualify for the NCAA tournament and in 1977 he was selected the National Coach of the Year(UPI).Needless to say the man knew hoops.
During this time Loyola Marymount (Los Angeles) was the talk of the college basketball world. They had a Run-and-Gun style that rack up huge point totals (122 points per game). They were led by stars Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble.The team had a simple motto: Run the System.
As a young coach I loved their system.I watched games on television, attended a game at the University of Portland and attended a coaching clinic with Paul Westhead, LMU’s head coach.
It is a beautiful day outside.The temperature is in the mid 80’s; it’s sunny, low humidity, peaceful with a light breeze.Most people would probably agree that this sounds like a very pleasant day.
Most of us could agree on the key factors that make up a beautiful day, but there would be a lot of debate on how to assign a value to each.
It is impossible to assign a value to every element that makes up a beautiful day.Each part of the day is important and relies on the other elements to make up the day.If just one of these elements is off (no sunshine, high humidity, etc.) the quality of the day suffers.
As silly as it is to say that a light breeze makes up 10% of a great day it’s equally silly to give different teachers a percent of a student’s success or failure.