Truth or Triumph: why the classic 'debate' activity deserves an update

pedagogy Mar 11, 2019

Just as you can count on fireworks on the 4th of July or leftovers on Boxing Day, you can expect a good ol' fashioned debate in the high school classroom.

Whether it take the form of a single-day activity or a weeks-long research project, many of us rely on the classic 'Debate' activity as a means for scaffolding the writing process, teaching students about the importance of research, and helping them hone the craft of public speaking.

But perhaps one of the best things about running a debate is the engagement it inspires. Suddenly, students who've never said *boo* during class discussion are on their feet, arms flailing, pens scribbling, whispering feverishly with their partners as they hastily prepare what they're going to say on behalf of the team.

And much of this magical behavior has to do with the interest teens take in winning. They enjoy a challenge, and they're motivated to be on-point as a reflection of their own, personal best.

What's more (they don't even...

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Shift Happens: 4 mindset shifts for teaching in the 21st century

pedagogy Feb 12, 2019

According to Forbes magazine, freelancers are expected to become the workforce majority by 2027, in large part, due to the perks of a digital era.

Things like automation, video conferencing, document sharing, and infinite digital reach are opening doors to freedom, flexibility, and the chance to work from *virtually* anywhere but an office cubicle.

With the growth of freelance apparently dancing triples around the traditional workforce, the 'Gig Economy' is on the rise, with nearly half the Millennial population already on board.

What used to be the 'fallback' for those who lost a job, freelancing is stepping into the lime-light as the legit standard in pursuing a professional career.

So...what does this mean for our students?

Well, as an entry point, this means that if they're moving into a world where freelancing is the new cubicle, our students will need to know how to self-direct.

(Long-gone are the days of someone looming over their personal space demanding TPS...

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Our students are learning without us + how passion projects can fix that

pedagogy Jan 14, 2019

If you're not learning with intention, then why are you learning at all?

I remember sitting in our high school’s auditorium waiting for--what I expected to be--the usual, run-of-the-mill assembly to start.  (You know, the well-meaning kind that still manages to derail entirely my neatly-timed lesson plans. Sigh...)

But this assembly was different.  Way different.

In lieu of the usual, hackneyed modicum of topics scaring-or-shaming high schoolers away from (or toward) a given behavior, the audience was being offered something entirely unique this time around.

There before us was the AP Language teacher, Mrs. Garofalo, holding in her hand a DVD.  In her small but mighty voice, she told us we’d be taking part in a school-wide documentary viewing.  

Now, you would think that such an event might give some 3,000+ teenagers a shot at the Guiness Book of World Records for ‘most young adults napping in the same room’, but instead, it...

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Mastering the basics: foundational elements of an essay

pedagogy Jan 07, 2019

If there’s one thing I know about mastery, it’s that experts master the basics first before building upon them...

Some of the finest athletic coaches will agree--including Vince Lombardi, former head coach of the Green Bay Packers and arguably one of the greatest football coaches of all time:

‘become the best in the league at the basics everyone else takes for granted.’

Homeboy won 5 NFL championships in the span of 5 years, 3 of those apparently in a row...and I’m no football fan-freak; but as a teacher, I do consider ‘coach’ as one of my many hats, so yeah, that’s pretty impressive.

Or as Pablo Picasso apparently saw it (you can’t trust these ‘quote’ websites for nothing):

‘Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.’

Long story short, a focus on the fundamentals can be a game-changer because it’s been known to drive results, and build the shoulders from...

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Why I left the classroom (+ how I'm a better teacher because of it)

pedagogy Aug 29, 2018

I've been doing a lot of thinking about our learners these days.  As teachers, we strive to make an impact on their lives by pointing them in the direction of their future.  Now maybe it's just me, but the more I think and the more I dig, I'm beginning to feel like we're failing to hit this mark in the traditional classroom setting.

(Like, yo...something's got to give type-of-feels.)

In the days leading up to my decision to leave the classroom (AKA '2nd biggest heartbreak of my life'), I felt like I could’ve taught writing until my face turned blue, but it wouldn't necessarily mean that my students were going to apply these principles beyond the paper-pencil exam we were prepping for...or past the handful of college essays they'd go on to write for the application process or as part of their 'intro to comp' classes.

...and I definitely didn't like that feeling...

That my blood, sweat and tears would only carry them as far as a lifeless essay lost on the collegiate...

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