Fear seeks safety. Love seeks Truth. Please read and enjoy. Productive, truthful feedback welcome.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Learning by Playing Games

According to Albert Einstein, “Games are the most elevated form of investigation”.

Anecdotally, this seems to be true. Have you ever watched children play? They can play for hours on end. They are content, self-motivated, and if that play involves others, extremely cooperative. But ask them to do something and their interest and energy suddenly drops. For example, have you ever seen your 16 year old shovel the entire driveway? The only time I have is when I made a game of it. And consider your own experience? Has there been a time when you were so immersed in what you were doing you lost track of time? Doing what we want is entirely different from doing what we are told.

Admittedly, these are examples of how games elevate engagement, but can investigation be far behind? Games, even cooperative games, tend to bring out our competitive nature, or at least our desire to create something better; a better sandcastle, a better strategy, a better outcome. To do that requires investigation of what we are doing and what we want accomplished. The outcome may be uncertain, but we have investment, we have autonomy, we have a hand in achieving it. We have doing what we want. Absent of games, we have chores, duties, a check list not of our own making. We have doing what we’re told.

Does this apply to the classroom? Must we tell them what to do or can we trust them to investigate by incorporating games into learning? Which is of greater benefit to them, doing what they are told based on strict expectations or doing what they want within a defined structure of games?  After watching two thought provoking TED Conference presentations, one by Ali Carr-Chellman and one by Jane McGonigal, I am convinced the latter is true in both questions. What I don’t know is how to go about it.

How have you used games to elevate investigation in your classroom or in your workplace? What has worked? What hasn’t?

Thank you for reading and commenting.
 Fear seeks safety, Love seeks Truth*.  Love fearlessly. Teach Fearlessly.

*Wm. Sloane Coffin

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Favorite Teachers

I learned throughout my life there is more than one way to skin a cat, and the other way is usually more fun. This was borne out for me in a variety of places; home, friends' houses, sports, and school.  Mostly in school since I was subject to over 40 teachers K-12. Of these 40 I had more teachers than I can remember whom I can't remember. I am convinced this is because they skinned the cat traditionally. I came, I listened, I repeated, I passed. However, the classes I do remember all had one thing in common: I was wrong a whole lot more often than I was right. I came, I puzzled, I guessed, I puzzled some more and eventually I got it, and I passed.  Same cat, same result, different way. These were my favorite classes. These were my favorite teachers.

Who was your favorite and why?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Opposite of Love

The name of this blog site is “Teach Fearlessly”.  What does that mean? By the word “teach” I simply mean to create an environment of opportunities to foster a change in knowledge or behavior based on some predetermined (or not) content. The word ‘fearlessly’, however, deserves and requires a more thorough discussion.

In The Heart is a Little to the Left, Wm. Sloane Coffin writes, “The opposite of love is not hate. It is fear. Love seeks truth, fear seeks safety.” Love also seeks the best interest of others. Fear, at best, seeks only to preserve the status quo. In its worst form it seeks the destruction of others. It never seeks to create, only to protect.

So what do fear and love have to do with teaching? Let me ask another question: Is teaching more about creating or more about protecting, more about possibilities or more about problems? Teaching is really about both. It shouldn’t be. We have all shared the joy when a student gets it, when their eyes light up with understanding and their face beams with an uncontrolled smile, when we revel in that moment when we have truly created something new in that student’s life. We have likewise each known those times when we have chosen a safe route to guard against our potential embarrassment, when we have exchanged their chance at joy for a little piece of our safety. Perhaps it was in a meeting when we didn’t speak up against a bad idea. Or perhaps, we stuck with an established curriculum so we could get along with other teachers, even though in our heart and mind we knew there had to be a better way. Perhaps . . . fill in your own story here. . .  But know for every ‘perhaps’ we step behind, for every piece of safety we acquire, the student loses a piece of love, a genuine chance at truth.

Picture yourself in the state of fear. Your heartbeat quickens, your senses are heightened, you are reacting to a threat and your posture and energy reflect that. Your self-interest is the most important priority. You are in protect mode. Now picture yourself the state of love. Your heartbeat quickens, your senses are heightened, you are responding to opportunity and your posture and energy reflect that. The wellbeing of another is your most important priority.

Which state would you rather base your life upon? Which state would you rather create for your students?

Thank you for reading. Keep teaching fearlessly.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Have you ever had a wedgie?

This week's topic is Teacher Application Letters. You can go on-line and find any number of generic templates that, oddly enough, claim to have the application to make you STAND OUT. Well, if thousands of people are using the same out-standing templates, how likely is it they will stand out at all? I am asking for your unique letters of application, letters that you believe truly set you apart from the other applicants, your competitors, if you will. These letters may not have gotten you the job, but you were proud of them.  They presented and represented what YOU stood for, not what THEY wanted.
Here's my application letter ushering me into teaching:

  Ever had a wedgie?  Most everyone has.  You can live with it but you’d rather not.  To correct it in public risks embarrassment.  To let it ride means continued discomfort.  No one knows for sure you have one, but they may suspect.  Perhaps your gait is somehow different, or you fidget, or your focus is a bit off.  But you know.  While you can usually still function quite well, all is not right with  the world . . . until it is fixed.

 Business is my wedgie.  Teaching is the fix.  I consistently performed well—even frequently quite well—but for years I knew all was not right with my world.  My soul, my inner being—call it what you like—was in disharmony with my vocation.  It was drawing me to teaching.  I was chasing the money.  For years, I found myself incorporating teaching into my profession; as a programmer I tutored others in programming; when in PC support I conducted one-on-one and group computer learning sessions; as an independent consultant I presented information to sales groups of up to 150 people.  These were times I felt completely in sync with my gift.  I was providing something of value, something that benefited another in a meaningful way.  However, a much different feeling persistently dogged me when I was working to sell another bottle of pop to an obese society, or convince the consumer that a new brand of biscuit was better than their old.  I don’t intend to minimize business’ important role in our society.  In fact, I merely better understand my role in business.  I am an educator.

 For years I had ignored the obvious.  I was a little afraid to correct the problem in public.  Afraid of what people might think.  Afraid of what it might say.  All of that is irrelevant now.  I now know that for me teaching is what is right with the world.  Teaching uses my gift.  Teaching is my gift.  I ask you for the opportunity to nurture and use it professionally.

Please send your unique application in. Or as another option, please send in your own wedgie story.  Thank you and keep teaching fearlessly.