Category Archives: Teaching

Bad Business Alert

This is a warning for my fellow educators… Let me save you some frustration, aggravation, and maybe some money. Do not attempt to purchase academic software from a company called “JourneyEd.”  They also do business as Academic Super Store and perhaps several other similar names.

The process is supposed to be fairly straightforward. You place an order, then submit documentation proving you are qualified to purchase. The website says “one business day” is required.

Being a somewhat thorough person, I decided to call before ordering to get some assurance I was qualified. The customer service rep who took my call started reading to me from the website. I kept interrupting; he kept reading. I finally managed to speak to a supervisor who assured me I was qualified, so I placed the order and submitted my documentation for verification.

What followed was several days of nightmarish sorts of communication. I would email customer service–they would eventually reply assuringly that verifications are handled in the order received. I resubmitted my documentation several times, using different channels. Just about the time I was becoming suspicious, I received an email reminding me they were waiting for me to submit my documentation.  At this point I did the research I should have done at the start and discovered they’ve been getting negative reviews since at least 2003.

So I cancelled the order. I did so by emailing, faxing, and placing a phone call to a thoroughly apathetic customer service representative. Now here’s where it gets funny. This morning I had a handful of emails from them assuring me that my order was cancelled and that I would not be charged nor would the order be shipped. So we have a company that is quite adept at cancelling orders but can’t seem to process them and ship them.

The good news is that I found another supplier and placed the same basic order late yesterday afternoon. Creation Engine also emailed this morning, advising that my order has been shipped from California and is already in Louisville KY. Lessons learned:

If you are looking for academic software, do NOT order from JourneyEd. Do order from Creation Engine.

If you are considering a business relationship with an online company, google “customer reviews and the name of that company” BEFORE you go too far.

 

Grab Some Tissues…

And watch this video. Please.

http://www.flickspire.com/m/HPP/MakeADifference

All the way to the end. I’m not going to do a spoiler, but I will tell you that part-way through I found myself thinking how hard I wished people could realize that it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference in a child’s life. But in the end, that wasn’t the point.

Flipping the classroom script…

The other day I was walking a second grader back to his classroom after he’d read a couple of chapters to me. We were bemoaning the fact that we didn’t have time to finish the story. I suggested he might be able to finish it during his MIL and then tell me about it later. He was suprised that I know about MIL.

For those who don’t, the acronym stands for “Managed Independent Learning.” A third grader piqued my inerest a few years ago and explained the basic concept. There are some periods throughout the day when students are, literally, allowed to manage their own learning independently. Well, there’s some obvious supervision required, but it’s pretty awesome to watch.

A slightly older colleague provides an interesting perspective on the process and why it works. I stumbled on to this TED clip a few months ago and it’s been “bothering” me ever since. While the speaker is talking very specifically about using video, spend the twenty minutes it takes to get the concept. Then tell me it doesn’t make sense.

 

Problem-solving With Kids

Many regular readers know that I spend quite a bit of time with the kids at school… mostly as a “bookworm” meaning second and third graders get turns reading their favorite books to me. We have a lot of fun and I like to think it encourages a love of reading.  I know I enjoy their friendship and they teach me a lot.

During a recent visit a gaggle of third grade girls cornered me to announce “We have a bullying problem.” Now unless you live under a rock you know that bullying is something taken very seriously at school–volunteers are obligated to report incidents to teachers. I somewhat surprised myself when I responded by asking them, “What have you done about it?”

I was not that surprised when they gave me a fair amount of detail regarding the perpetrator, who’d they’d reported it to, and what the plan was for dealing with it. I am convinced that we often fail as adults by underestimating kids. The situation was well in hand; they just wanted me to know.

My conversation with them reminded me of an event some years ago. I was at my then chiropractor’s office and discovered that Amanda had come to work with her mom due to an accident at school the previous day. She and Tyler, another first grader, collided while playing kick ball.

She was busy managing multiple priorities: being a kid, greeting and visiting patients, entertaining herself, saying “out of the way,” creating art, practicing writing her name, and negotiating more time off rom school with her mom. I considered myself fortunate that she found time in her busy schedule to play with me. Actually, that’s not quite right. She let me play with her.

I found it difficult to “write my name” using those perfectly shaped first grade  letters. But every time I “goofed up” Amanda assured me I was doing fine. She also thought I could draw a pretty good cat.

We of course discussed her accident. When I asked her how she was going to avoid getting hurt again she didn’t hesitate with her answer. She would make sure her and Tyler were on the same team so they were always running in the same direction.

I left clutching the drawing Amanda did for me. (She drew pretty good flowers.) It still hangs in my office as a reminder of the fun we had and the fact that sometimes kids are great problem solvers. Adults are the ones who make things difficult.

 


By my estimation, Amanda is now in her early twenties. I’m sorry I’ve lost touch with her and her Mom… but I hope she’s still drawing flowers!

But Do I Have To?

Do we have to learn this?

When I’m teaching real estate courses one of the questions I get asked frequently is “Are we going to have to do this in practice/real life?”  (It might not be a surprise that it most often comes up during math exercises.)

It’s a good question, of course. It’s also a hard one to answer honestly because sometimes “it depends.” So I will often put my tongue in my cheek and reply “Yes, at least once–when you take the final exam at the end of the course.”

I recently finished reading a series of articles on student engagement and motivation that I thought created several important perspectives in relation to that frequently asked question. I was attracted to the series based on a teaser suggesting it’s important to “teach your students how to fail.” Now that’s an interesting concept–and one I’m still exploring.

But what followed was  the suggestion to “teach students to value learning, not performance.” That statement forced me to wheel my chair back and stare at the screen for a while. I admire the simple elegance of that suggestion.

For years we’ve met at the altar of an adult learning model that suggested we (educators/trainers) only have value when we are involved in “performance-based” training. Our lesson plans have to have “action words” in those behavioral objectives.  “At the completion of this course, the student will be able to…”

I remember having my cage rattled quite a few years ago by an instructor who suggested “writing behavioral learning objectives is arrogant and presumptuous–what right do you have to decide what students are going to learn in your classes?” It’s probably fair to label him an extremist, but he makes an interesting point. As if to reinforce his point, I’ve had a number of occasions when a former student has contacted me and thanked me for something he or she learned in my class–and I don’t remember teaching it.

Our obsession with performance (including how students perform on tests) may have some unintended results. I listened to a student at the start of a recent class introduce herself with the observation she “was tired of taking classes and learning.” I thought it was a very sad statement. But I also think she’s wrong. She’s not tired of learning. I think she’s tired of being taught.

Too often our systems of education remove the joy of learning. If we can’t figure out how to put it back in, we ought to at least look at some ways to allow it!

 


 

To read the articles mentioned visit Teachers Training International.