Tag Archives: education

Making a Change — Flipping Out, Flipping In

“You have to promise me something…” requested a real estate student a few years ago. I remember smiling when he finished, “You can’t retire until I’ve completed all three licensing courses.

Some quick math at the time suggested I would be making at least a four-year commitment. It was tempting. I do enjoy teaching and really had no firm retirement plans but still managed to avoid the promise. After all, life happens.

I’m not sure it counts as a testimonial, but I did consider it a compliment. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept the data, but I do know there are many real estate licensees who’ve taken the three licensing courses with me. There are times when it makes me feel old. But it always makes me feel good.

So, if he’s reading this and hasn’t finished his journey, I’d like to assure him I’m not retiring. A few years ago, I did announce that I was giving up teaching because it’s supposed to be about learning. While I am not retiring I am taking another step in the direction of making it more about learning than it is about teaching.

Starting in 2018, I will become an adjunct instructor with The Real Estate Learning Group. I do so with eager anticipation of teaching “differently” using some exciting technology and what are commonly referred to as “blended” courses. These courses reflect the Kahn Academy model sometimes described as “flipping the classroom.”

Wikipedia describes the flipped classroom: “Flipped classroom is an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom. It moves activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, into the classroom.”

Don’t get me started or we’ll also have to discuss the Learning for Mastery (LFM) model—not often easily applied in required learning situations such as pre-licensing courses. We could stay up late discussing that one! In the simplest form, LFM is about student-centered instruction that’s more about learning than teaching.

From a practical perspective, joining The Real Estate Learning Group also means some new course locations and schedules. Stay tuned! I’m currently scheduled to teach the blended “fast track” Sales Agent Course in the Augusta area in January and the blended version of the Associate Broker Course in Bangor starting in January. Click the links for additional information and to register.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know. Many things will not change, including my commitment to helping students learn and master in a positive, enjoyable way. You can still find “brain leaks and musings” on my blog. I will also continue to publish the occasional issue of my Learning Opportunities E-newsletter.


“Thanks for another successful class! All three licenses have been garnered under your careful educational care!”

Recent Broker Student


Upcoming Courses:

  • Associate Broker in Bangor, January 2018
  • Sales Agent in Augusta, February 2018

Preventing Suicides in School

University of Maine journalism student Kendra Caruso recently joined us for a Suicide Prevention Workshop both to learn about suicide and to gather information for a journalism assignment.  We’re pleased she decided to share her work with us!


Preventing Suicides in School–
Highlighting a growing problem prevalent in Maine schools.

by Kendra Caruso

Walter Boomsma is a substitute teacher for the Piscataquis Community Elementary School.  He has experienced firsthand the reality of suicide among the adolescent in the state of Maine, it’s why he teaches the Suicide Awareness and Prevention workshop that’s free for the public to attend but required for all school personnel.

LD 609 was enacted into law on April 25, 2013 and requires anyone who works for a school system in the state of Maine to receive comprehensive training on suicide prevention that’s research based, from bus drivers to teachers.  Boomsma’s two-hour class meets the state mandate.  The course he uses is a collaboration between the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

In Maine suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 34 year olds and 16.14 people die per 100000 residents compared to the national average of 13.26 in 2015 according to the CDC.

Boomsma talks about bullying as one of the leading causes of suicide among adolescents in his workshop and social media has made it easier for bullies to access their victims.  Boomsma talks about how to address a suicidal child being bullied.  Victims of bullying are two to nine times more likely to be suicidal than people who don’t experience bullying, according to a study by Yale University.

Hailey Cipullo of Abbot is an eighth grader at the Piscataquis Community Elementary School and has been the victim of bullying herself. She never experienced suicidal thoughts but lost a friend she went to a summer camp with to suicide because of bullying.  She didn’t even know her friend was experiencing suicidal thoughts.  Cipullo doesn’t blame herself for not realizing what her friend was going through.  Boomsma teaches not to self-blame for losing someone to suicide.

The LGBTQ community had a much higher risk for suicide ideation, 50 percent of bisexual youth experienced ideation and 25 percent attempted suicide, 40 percent of gay or lesbian youth experienced ideation and 21 percent attempted suicide, according to the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey in 2013.  Youth in the LGBTQ community are more likely to become suicidal if they are rejected by family.

Men are more likely to die from suicide but women experience ideation more, for one male attempt there are three female attempts.  Men are more likely to kill themselves using violent means where women tend to us less violent acts such as taking pills according to the NAMI and CDC course collaboration.

Native American youth are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts with an average of 17 per 100000 residents compared to 12.1 for the whole US according to the NAMI and CDC course collaboration.

Boomsma experienced the tragedy of suicide first hand when his brother ended his own life but that’s not why he teaches this class.  He teaches this class because of the affect suicide has on Maine’s youth.

Boomsma spends a few minutes after class when he gets home and thinks about how he may have trained someone who will save a life, “I think to myself, I may have saved a life tonight.”

Welcome, New Subs!

ZIPNON / Pixabay

The recent Substitute Teacher Workshop sponsored by MSAD 53 in Pittsfield included a nice mix of people who are already subbing and some who will be subbing for the first time. One of my favorite comments on the evaluation was “The class taught that being a substitute was far more than a fill-in babysitter in a classroom.

Okay, so my ego also liked the comment, “Mr. Boomsma is an excellent teacher!

Folks who’ve participated in the workshop know that my bias is that we can worry less about classroom management if we keep a laser focus on teaching and learning. In an engaged and energetic classroom, there simply isn’t time for disruption.

It’s always exciting to welcome new substitutes to what can be an enjoyable and rewarding job. Remember, Mr. Boomsma’s “rule number two” is “we will enjoy learning!

For the benefit of all those who are embarking on substituting, I’ve recently created a one-page Getting Started (fingerprinting) guide. It will remain available on the Substitute Teacher Resources Page for future downloading.

 

Substitute Teachers and Fingerprinting

Robin Higgins / Pixabay

Bizzare! That’s one word used to describe a “rule change” made by the Department of Education that affects substitute teachers. I will attempt to sort this out for you.  You don’t have to understand the why, but you will need to understand the what and how.

When you first become a sub, fingerprinting is a requirement. The process is relatively uncomplicated. Information is typically available from the superintendant’s office of the district where you plan to work. You are fingerprinted and so state in an application to the DOE (Department of Education). The fingerprinting includes a background check. In short, you will ultimately be issued a “certificate” indicating you are “approved” to work with children in public schools. The certificate is good for five years.

You will not be reminded of the expiration date by the DOE. When the time comes, if you apply logic, you will likely attempt “renew” your approval, ideally before expiration. Well, under current rules you can’t.

I recently discovered that subs and mentors do not have that option… even though you’ve worked consistently during the past five years. (Other employees who have worked during those five years can simply renew.) You are going to have to start over.  In other words, the process is the same for first-time substitutes and those who have been fingerprinted in the past.

The”why” ultimately doesn’t matter, although we could probably have some fun speculating. You’ll need to make an appointment to be fingerprinted, complete and submit an application to the DOE, much the same as you did the first time!

As I often tell students, you don’t have to like it, but you do have to do it.

Maine Department of Education Approval Instructions

Maine Department of Education Application Form

Identogo Site to make an appointment to be fingerprinted

 

 

Focusing on Solutions

“Did you know that eating mashed potatoes causes Alzheimer’s?” During one of my annual checkups I told my doctor this–he looked at me in disbelief and asked why I thought that. I replied, “Well, everyone I know with Alzheimer’s has eaten mashed potatoes.”

He laughed and called me a statistical nihilist. I replied that I was merely trying to distinguish between “cause and correlation” since he had been citing some statistical risk factors I have. (This was, by the way, a very friendly conversation.)

With that background, I offer some statistics recently published by NAMI. With the notation that all statistics have limitations, I have confidence in their accuracy.


I do not “enjoy” publishing statistics like this and I confess I find myself sometimes wondering if their publication accomplishes the intent. If it’s not clear, the intent of this infographic is to encourage people to sign up for a Youth Mental First Aid Course.

I’ve taken it; it’s a good course and I highly recommend it. I truly believe, as the infographic suggests, it can help those who take it start a conversation that could save a life. Make no mistake, I’m not at all critical of the course or its intent. But if  I’m going to be totally honest, I firmly believe more is needed.

Without opening a debate about the causes of mental illness, what we are looking at here is identifying a high-risk population. The question that is not being asked is “Why?” and “Are there are actions we could be taking that will reduce that high-risk population?”

I’m a bit troubled by the medical community’s increasing reliance on statistics. The conversation I cited at the beginning took place in part because my doctor was assessing my risk factors for certain health issues. Because data is so readily available, it’s in danger of becoming the holy grail. What happened to science and simple logic?

But I digress, probably because I don’t fully understand our approach to suicide prevention. We are very focused on crisis intervention.  Again, that’s not a bad thing. But I see it as comparable to sending someone to the dentist when they have a toothache. Not a bad idea, certainly, but let’s not omit the importance of oral hygiene–aka brushing and flossing.

So why aren’t we teaching kids (and adults) how to “brush and floss” their minds? If we truly are committed to preventing suicide, can we back up and prevent the crisis?  In much the same way we can avoid trips to the dentist with good oral hygiene, we just might avoid some of those 5,240 attempts in grades 7 – 12 every year by teaching and encouraging good mental hygiene starting at a very early age.

I’ll repeat–crisis intervention is valid and important.  I’m simply using the occasion of “mental health month” to suggest we might be a bit more passionate, excited, and enthusiastic in some positive ways. If kids can learn how to take care of their teeth, they can learn how to take care of their minds.

Perhaps the bigger question is, “Can we teach them how?”