April 24, 2009

Begging The Question Has Literally Jumped The Shark

A few additions to my Annoying Phrases List. These rank right up there with I Know Right.

Begging the question when you really mean raising the question.

Saying literally when you really mean figuratively.

Wait. What?

I Know, Right? (added here again just for good measure).

April 15, 2009

I'm The Real Facebook Narcissist

May I have your attention please? Will the real Facebook narcissist please stand up? I repeat, will the real Facebook narcissist please stand up? We're gonna have a problem here.

Have you ever noticed how almost all Facebook updates are thinly veiled attempts to broadcast and show off how awesome one's life is and make everyone else insanely jealous? Some recent examples from my own Facebook friends:
  • Is there really any chance that I will not go golfing today?
  • [name] thinks playing with seaplanes might be some of the most fun you can possibly have. Who would have thought it qualifies as work....
  • And another business takes life. I just cant get enough of this entrepreneurship stuff. Bad economy, what?!?!?
  • [name] forgot how much she loves Hong Kong
  • [name] is excited her husband is coming home! (this class of Facebook update is my personal favorite)
  • New business. My girl is here. Its going to be 60 degrees. B$s got crazy work. Drake loves the world again. Weekend of amazingness ahead. Damn, good life.

Here's what some of my updates would look like if I actually WAS the real Facebook narcissist:
  • Seventy degrees today. Took a wonderful bike ride to the high school baseball game. Chatted with some friends. Watched the team win big time. Biked home. Hit 20mph on the last hill. Awesome!
  • Met with some professional colleagues from around the state at an educator's conference yesterday. Caught up with old acquaintances and reviewed some of the latest research and trends in the field.
  • Took 30 smart and motivated business students to the state competition. Smiles all around.
  • I get to work at 7:30, come home at 2:00, go biking, and then work on starting my second software company!
  • The national DECA students are a great crew – friendly, respectful, energetic, and smart. Working with them is awesome.
  • Went flying in a Cessna 172 with an old friend. I still remember how to do crosswind landings!
  • Running an organization of 80 people. Setting goals and getting things done.
  • Teaching classes and either corrupting or inspiring young minds.

Teaching is not life. But it's a big part of a great life. To the Facebook narcissists: I'm sure your life is great and all, and no offense, but I think mine is even better. Be a teacher.

And there's a million of us just like me, who cuss like me; who just don't give a flub like me, who dress like me; walk, talk and act like me, and just might be the next best thing but not quite me!

Because I'm the Facebook narcissist, yes I'm the real Facebook narcissist, all you other Facebook narcissists are just imitating. So won't the real Facebook narcissist please stand up? Please stand up? Please stand up?

I'm totally serial.

April 14, 2009

Dancing Bunnies Or Videos For Your Classroom

Whenever someone tells me, "Hey, check this out!", I usually just ignore them. It's usually another useless website that I'll immediately forget about, or a clever email forward that's only funny to people who are obsessed with cats, or a cute picture of a dancing bunny.

This picture is only funny to people who like cats.

The people who send these websites and emails my way have good intentions, and sometimes their recommendations are genuinely useful. But we're living in an era of complete information overload. We can't keep track of all of these great websites for teachers and funny cat pictures and dancing bunnies. In the 21st century, learning how to effectively ignore information is actually more important than learning how to find it.

Hey, Check This Out!

There is one great resource that you should definitely not ignore:

TED: Technology, Entertainment, and Design

This annual conference is held in California, and many of the speeches are available as free streaming video online. The conference includes such notable thinkers as: Burt Rutan, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Al Gore, Malcolm Gladwell, Chris Anderson, Dan Ariely, Seth Godin, Richard Branson, and Stephen Hawking. The topics range from business and marketing to technology to sustainability to physics to psychology to economics, and of course, entertainment and design.

This is a chance to stream world-renowned thinkers, authors, and doers right into your classrooms. All of the talks are profound and will get you thinking about things in ways that you never have. There is sure to be a video you can use regardless of which subject you teach. I recently showed the following three videos in marketing class, and the students were hooked.

Malcolm Gladwell on Spaghetti Sauce
Seth Godin: Sliced Bread and Other Marketing Delights
Chris Anderson: Technology's Long Tail

Another great resource is Google Tech Talks. Google invites leaders in business and academia to speak at its Googleplex campus. These videos usually run an hour in length, and I've found several relevant talks here for my business classes, too. There are many videos of authors summarizing their new books. One particularly interesting video is this one of Barry Schwartz discussing the Paradox of Choice.

So – check out these great resources! And don't put them into your dancing bunnies folder.

April 6, 2009

Are You Going Through A Rough Spot?

There has been recent activity in the edublosophere on the subject of teaching with depression. I'd like to throw in my own two cents based on personal experience. I'll start with a question: what would happen if these air traffic controllers thought about their personal problems at their jobs?

Probably something like this:

What happens to our professional lives when there is overwhelming stress in our personal lives? This issue is important for all professionals, but I'd say it's especially important for teachers. Teachers can not bring their students down with them. When we're physically in the classroom, we need to be 100% mentally in the classroom. I'm not an advocate of putting a brick wall between your personal and professional lives; in fact, I believe that the two are intimately related. However, we have a professional duty, maybe even a fiduciary duty, to our students. They deserve the best education they can get regardless of what's happening in the teachers' personal life.

I was going through a pretty stressful episode about this time last year, and this is what I wrote then:

The reason I got into teaching is for the students and that has never changed, even through all of this. My focus as a teacher is 100% on them. I am completely dedicated to providing a high quality education to them. That's always been my reason for entering this field and it's now my reason for staying. I really do get positive energy from this job. I come into work in the morning, start my first class, and think about how fortunate I am to be doing something like this. Every day I still think about it. The rewards from this job are immeasurable. Students first. That's my plan for the next three months.

I ended up following my own advice, and what happened was surprising. First, my teaching improved dramatically – my teaching during this time was even better than it was at the beginning of the year. Secondly, I became quite happy. I began living in the present, focusing on others, and having gratitude. It works. Who knew?

Here's what I would say to a teacher who is going through a rough spot:

  • It's not about you. Focus on the students.

  • Live in the here and now (especially when you're in the classroom!)

  • Maybe you're not responsible for sorting out air traffic, but what you do in the classroom is still more important than your own petty problems.

  • Your job is awesome. Live with gratitude.

April 5, 2009

LAX Fun!

Guess where I get to go?

This is the approach procedure that pilots follow when landing on runway 25L using ILS (Instrument Landing System) technology at LAX. How sad is it that I actually know what all of this means? I earned an instrument rating for my pilot's license about five years ago, but I haven't done a lot of flying lately, preferring to spend my teacher's salary on food instead of 100 octane avgas.

Our outstanding DECA students earned a trip to the national conference this year, so I'll be taking the group out there. We'll take in some of the local touristy stuff, maybe do some surfing, and oh, and we'll be competing at the DECA conference, too. All in a day's work for a business teacher. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

And we get to fly on an A320! This might be the best part for me, being the geeky pilot that I am.

April 4, 2009

The Best Way To Improve Your Teaching

Diet and exercise. Wait, that's two things. Okay then, just exercise.

You've heard this millions of times before. Here's the thing though: just knowing it won't help. You have to actually DO IT. Just do something for 30 minutes a day: take a walk, go for a run, or spend some time at the gym.

Actually you should stop reading this and do it right now. Reading about it won't help. And if your excuse is that you don't have time, just go do it now. What you actually don't have time for is reading blogs on the internet. You'll see how much better you feel and then you'll think, "gee, I should do this more often."

Honestly, you don't know how much this can improve your life until you've tried it yourself. You'll obviously have more physical energy and stamina, which will help you in the classroom. But possibly the most beneficial thing about exercise is that it actually makes your thinking much clearer. You can think better and concentrate longer.

Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.
- John F. Kennedy

That's all I'll say because honestly, you won't get it just by reading about it. Just go for a jog or something right now.

Diet is important too. Eating a lot of fat and sugar makes you sluggish. I have mixed feelings about caffeine. It definitely boosts energy and concentration in the short term, but destroys those things in the long term.


In the dead of winter, I'm much less disciplined about my workout routine. Going to a gym and mindlessly trudging along on a machine is pretty boring. But in the past few weeks, it's gotten warm enough for me to get out on my bike, which is really fun. You know, the fresh air, the birds, the lakes, the smells, the sunsets, all that stuff.

I guarantee that your teaching will improve when you're physically active and eat healthy foods. Every other part of your life will improve as well.