Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Motivation is...?

Motivation is Intrinsic or Extrinsic?

Some students and Chad Varga, the day before we climbed #onthemap.
In Missouri, we have our MAP/EOC tests in the spring .  We prepare for this time in so many ways.  We talk about it.  We develop relationships with students.  We encourage our students to take extra effort.  We feed them.  We engage them in the planning.  We brainstorm.  We even bring in guest speakers.
Yesterday at WMS, we brought in Chad Varga (@chadvarga) to talk with students about effort, success, choices and changes.  He shared stories from his past and painted a picture of their future filled with accomplishments, benchmarks and deliberate decisions, regardless of their backgrounds.
Mr Varga reminded us of how persistence and effort determine our future, no matter what background we bring to the situation.  His life is so focused on overcoming obstacles, he devoted a book to the issue.  Bounce addresses returning to a positive attitude after a setback.  Since we all have setbacks, the important part is doing well after that! Chad encouraged us to continue and persist!
Another topic of discussion surrounded a true interpretation or definition of success.  Is true success making yourself happy or serving others?  Chad shares a story about Spain, pro-ball, commitments and distractions and true happiness.  He took us all on an imaginary adventure in our minds eye to a deck overlooking the sea, quiet and peaceful with the world as our oyster, ready to have for any purpose at all.  How many points on the court are necessary for success?  Where does it stop and where does it start?
As an adult, Chad has no problem overcoming any barriers in communication.  He connected with our students with honor and respect and expected that in return from them, winning the crowd early and keeping them engaged the entire time.  He addressed consequences and choices through a moving story about his choices and the outcome of a single positive choice made all the way back in high school!  Even our middle school students could connect with the stress of overcoming peer pressure and doing the right thing.
Finally, he addressed the thing that puts fear in everyone: change.  Ask one student who was willing to risk everything, step out of his comfort zone and take a chance!  They will both remember that day forever.  Fear of failure handcuffs many of us but facing those fears and changes is the only way to reach new goals, find unrecognized success and make authentic changes.  Regardless of history, background, what has happened in the past and how the past influences our future, Chad suggested we can break these chains, interrupt the cycle and get out of the spiral.  But we can’t do it alone!  We need caring folks to surround us and help us build those bridges.
Staff and students alike enjoyed the powerful message from Mr Varga.  His entertaining and engaging visit with our students left the entire building energized and ready to conquer.  We are all excited about the impact of this single day and what it means to the future here at WMS.  We can’t wait to be #onthemap with Chad Varga.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What would you do with 30 minutes of free time?

7-3 Reading Week April 9, 2013


An open letter to the Students of Winfield Middle School

From Mr. McCracken


In this essay, I will share some thoughts and ideas about what these upcoming tests mean.  Reasons for doing well, hints for doing well and what might help folks do better are ideas that will be addressed.  There will even be a few questions at the end to spark conversation and deeper thoughts.

Part 1:  Why try?

If you had 30 minutes of free time, what would you do?  Some would go hunting or fishing.  Others might get on the computer or play a video game.  Just about all of us would pull out our phones and check the time.  Others may call friends.  I might ride my motorcycle.  Regardless, we would all want to do something enjoyable.  This is where we run into a problem.  We all find different things enjoyable.  Getting up at 5 am to go sit in the cold would not be fun for some but waiting for a sale to begin would bore others to tears.  Nothing is enjoyed by all.

So, why can we say it is important to do well on these MAP tests, even if they are not “enjoyable?”  What will it mean if we don’t do well on the tests?  What if they are not fun?  For instance, nobody wants to go take a test.  Nobody wants to see how well they rate, especially if they are afraid of doing poorly!  We hate hearing how we don’t stack up or compare as well as another! Wouldn’t it be better to not even try, than to try and fail?

Story-time: What if your mom asks you to take out the trash?  Will you take it immediately? Will you wait until she yells at you?  Will you pretend not to hear her?  What will it take to get you to take out the trash?  Of course taking out the trash is a minor little chore, but the results make your mom so happy!  It may have taken a few minutes. You may have had to get off the phone, maybe come inside, maybe stop watching TV or get off the computer, but it made your mom so very happy!  This is a sign of maturity, finding enjoyment by making others happy.   

I know I am not your mom, but so many of you wished me happy birthday today. For you I have one simple request.   I am happy regardless but this would put me over the top.  To comply with this simple request would let me know how much you really care.  Would you try your hardest on the MAP test, for me, please?  I will still treat you well.  I will honor and respect your choices and even treat folks better than they treat others.

Part 2: Why would anyone do anything?:

This portion of this post reminds me of Green Eggs and Ham.  (Here are the words, in case you forgot.) Of course, Sam asks Grouch to try the meal over and over.  Consider the methods Sam used to get Grouch to try the meal.  No bribing, belittling or coercion is involved.  No force, pressure, ridicule or sarcasm is used while they go on their adventures together.  In fact, they almost seem to be getting along even better as they develop a relationship.  The adventures seem to be more intense, adventurous and even dangerous, but never is there talk of failure.  The relationship is solid and a failure does not put it in jeopardy.  In fact, the failure at the end where they are all in the water together is the proof that Sam does care.  Sam wants the best and is willing to fail with Grouch to prove it.  I know your teachers care, even in the midst of failure.   When Grouch finally relents and tries the concoction, of course he likes it, and is happy for the first time in the book.  This is a true relationship, that one give it all up for the other, regardless of the others response!  I believe the teachers at WMS want the best for us and are willing to go the extra mile to make that connection and reach students.

There is an old saying that relates to our lunch talk of Reluctantly Compliant.  It goes something like this:  Do what you want.  You are going to do it anyway and you might as well be happy about it.  I think, we all want to do whatever we want to do.  Sometimes we do things just because the consequences of something else are unbearable.  If we are in a relationship with another, we don’t want to upset them!  If a caring adult asks us to do something, we often times comply.  If we fail to comply, we are willing to suffer the consequences. The question becomes a matter of motivation.  Will students try because of their family, their friends, their teachers, or even their principal? Will you try because we ask you to try? Please?   A Version of Green Eggs  or Another Version a Final Version (Note the faces of Sam & Grouch)

Part 3:  What to do?

Our State of Missouri (dese) has listed a few pointers for us to consider when preparing for a test.   Reading and writing are parts of most of the Tips.  There are other practical ideas to ponder as well. Read, go slow, and all those pointers actually help.  Eating, sleeping, and skipping TV actually improve test scores.  Physical activity and playing are helpful for our brains.

Story-Time:  Does anybody have a door jamb or board on the wall at home that has tick marks or hash marks with dates and initials of your height as you are growing up?  This sort of measures your growth physically!  The MAP test sort of measures your growth academically. When they say, “stand up straight” to know how tall you really are, it matches when they repeat “do your best on the test.”  We learn what size clothes to get by your height and we learn what education is necessary by how much you know already!  Of course you can’t set a goal to grow but you can set a goal to learn.  These scores that follow along also transfer to show how much better you are doing over time.  We can make educational goals just like in Ac Lab.


            What is important?  What is valuable?  What will you remember about your future?  Will you remember things, people or actions?  Will you remember how you feel or what you did?

Student questions?

Define the following:

Coercion: ___________________________________________________________________

Belittle: ___________________________________________________________________

Comply: ___________________________________________________________________

What would you do with 30 minutes of free time? _____________________________

Do you agree with the statement, “WE ALL DO WHATEVER WE WANT, ALL THE TIME?”  Why or why not? ______________________________________________________



What would happen if we all did poorly on our MAP tests? 


What would happen if we did well?


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Reluctantly Compliant?"

“Reluctantly Compliant?”

What type of person would step off a solid platform, trusting a rope, to get down off a mountain, when walking would work just as well?
Learning, leading and guiding others through change involves similar risks, trying something new, and many unknowns.

We all have opportunities to lead others around us every day.  In education, we spend 170+ days with students, we get to know them and earn many opportunities to influence their lives directly.

Some leaders want things to run smoothly.  They want everything in order, no anomalies and people to all align.  Other leaders want to gather folks already considered leaders, building on prior successes. Finally, John Maxwell identifies another smaller group, a few select leaders look to develop others into leaders by identifying their potential and putting them in front of opportunities to lead.

It is in this third group where we often find outliers.  It is this group of people that think rules are meant for somebody else.  Sometimes, these people are in trouble frequently and misunderstood by the crowd.  It is also this group that rules are written to control or manage, even though they don't follow the rules.  Recognizing this allows the leaders of leaders to begin to lead developing leaders.  Recognizing there is a different set of self-governing parameters that guide these unique individuals is the first step for success.  Seeing the world through their eyes and from their perspective leads us to acknowledge a totally different paradigm.  (Outliers by Malcom Gladwell)

A classroom full of followers is a pleasant environment, seemingly calm and incident free.  But the phrase “reluctantly compliant” comes to mind.  Are these folks really interacting with the content?  Do they really understand what is going on?  Are they “sitting and getting?”  Can they recite as well as extrapolate?  What are their limits? Are our students reluctantly compliant or do they connect because of some intrinsic motivation?  These questions are answered over time and by connecting with students as individuals and reaching into their lives, looking to help them reach their potential.

Education is a tough business.  Helping others change works against our natural bent to maintain.  Teachers instinctively look for the best in others, look for success where others have not found it, and intend on educational adventures in every setting.

Leadership expert John Maxwell mentions:
85% of the leaders attract followers
10% of the leaders attract other leaders
5% of all leaders reproduce other leaders

What kind of leader are we?  Do we want to stretch others?  Do we desire reluctant compliance?  Do we want a challenge or the status-quo?  What do we want from our students?


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The best teacher is___?



The best teacher is the best teacher. 
Just like this view changes over time, our students change as well. 
What and how we contribute to their learning defines good teaching.*

The best way to ensure learning is to put the best teacher in the classroom as possible.  The leader of the room that is devolving leaders as not just followers, manages risk, allows failure, prevents sarcasm and inspires others to go father then they expected!

 In a master teacher’s classroom, we find students talking and interacting with each other as well as the material.  This first component of articulation and alliteration ensures the students understand the material thoroughly enough to verbally navigate through the topic, and not just provide a yes or no answer.  (Think DOK 3 or 4)

 Master teachers are not afraid of students moving, activity or even motions.  Kinesthetic learners thrive when a teacher allows them this freedom of expression. Think learning styles, auditory, verbal, written, spoken or kinesthetically.

 Scaffolding, connecting to prior knowledge and building on the familiar is another trait of the best teachers.  Building and developing these connections allows students to relate to the topic.  These teachers know about their students, their needs, wants, fears and aspirations and use each to the student’s advantage.

 The best teachers always have a positive attitude, even if they do not have a positive attitude.  The material is the most important and interesting topic, anywhere!  Regardless!  This passion to teach flows through the topic, to the students.  This positive and contagious attitude is an attribute about ourselves that we choose.  Other characteristics we are born with, but our attitude is under our control.  Think locus of control.

 Finally, the best teachers have a purpose about everything.  Thoughts, actions and activities are all intentional, deliberate and planned, even the “random” ones have an underlying objective.  Nothing is really left to chance.  The topic becomes relevant, the ideas interesting and the activities stimulating. The best teacher does a better job of helping others learn, than any other method available.  Other things teach us lessons, like experience, trial and error or even just guessing and checking?  But the best teachers ensure effective learning every time!  Take the best teacher every time.

 These thoughts, comments and notes were abridged from breakout sessions and inspired by anecdotal evidence provided while observing events and activities demonstrated by our staff at WMS.  The powerful conference provided many “take-always” and are still relevant a year later.  This author receives nothing for this endorsement.

*Effective Schools Conference, Scottsdale AZ, March 7-9, 2012
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