Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Three Reasons We Do Things The Hard Way


“When we’re accustomed to doing things the hard way it’s like being blinded by the glare coming off the water”--Greg McKeown in “Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most”

 Does the glare blind you? Do you keep up the same routine tasks because you can’t quite see the big picture?  

 As instructors responsible for teaching our youth, we want to do things the right way. Most of us have not thought about it, but in the book quoted above, the author claims that we are confusing “the hard way” with “the right way.”  

 Why do we do that?

 These three misconceptions, or illusions our brains like to believe, give us a glimpse at the underlying causes.

  1. There is a subconscious belief that doing things the right way means hard work and long work hours. Given that basic assumption, we never consider the idea that we can get the same outcome (which is the goal, right?) with much less effort.
  2. Another way the brain tricks us is the idea that “we can’t afford to” do something that would make life easier. This belief ignores the vital idea that our time is valuable. The hours we spend grinding it out week after week have a cost. Could you choose to use your budget in a way that allows you to spend where you don’t think you can? Or would it be worth going to a few local businesses and asking for help, in exchange for a sponsorship, maybe? Or even worth spending less on that daily latte? We tend to see everything as either/or, and usually, many options allow us to reach our goal.
  3. Finally, changing the way we do something requires us to learn new technology (assuming this is the opportunity to make things easier). You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. There are tons of solutions involving tech that can streamline your activities. Still, any tech we are unfamiliar with feels intimidating. However, all good apps and programs have lots of information on the web (Google?), in their knowledgebase of articles, and often have customer service that will walk you through getting past the unknowns. Good companies want to help you succeed, take advantage of the framework they make available.

If we aren’t thoughtful and purposeful, our brain will keep telling us to do things “the hard way.”


 What tasks or processes take up too much of your time that you could streamline?

Thursday, February 18, 2021

A Reading Teachers' Motivational Tool

An Interview with Tina Slater, a Special Education Teacher

Tina Slater
Position Title: Special Education Teacher
Grades: Fourth and Fifth Grades
School Name: Onsted Elementary School
Years Teaching: 27 years
Current Subjects: Reading, Math and Writing

How do you use tokens from Fitness Finders in your reading classroom?

In my reading resource classroom, students are awarded tokens after reading a leveled chapter book. Students are reading their chapter book 10-15 minutes each day so it can take 8-12 days to complete a book. During reading, the student and I talk about the text and I listen to them read. When the book is complete, we meet to talk about the book and their reading success. During this time I present a token to commemorate their accomplishment. 


How do you choose which tokens to use?

When selecting the token to award, I try to match the token with the book the student has just completed. I have a variety of animals, and objects to choose from. When students completed a book about Knights, I awarded them a key and a compass — which were two important objects from the Knights Quest. They were thrilled! Sometimes it can be more difficult to make a match - in those cases I may use the question mark token and make a connection with the predictions students made during reading or their use expression when reading aloud. 


How do you distribute tokens?

Tokens are presented by me to students in a private ceremony. I actually make a big deal when presenting the token and make a mini speech calling out the achievements the students made while reading the book and making connections between their reading success and the token. I am conferencing (video) with the student, but I am aware that others (family members) are listening. I try to call out as many positive reading behaviors as possible.


How do students display their tokens?

Students wear their tokens on lanyards during reading class (the laces from Fitness Finders). Each student selected their lanyard and the links (Lacelink) from the variety of colors and patterns Fitness Finders offers. When students aren’t wearing their necklaces they are displayed on hooks near our bookshelves. 



 Do you have a favorite token? 

I love all of the ANIMALS! Our school mascot is the wildcat — so all of the cats and paws are a hit with my students. 


 How has this changed your classroom environment or impacted student motivation? 

Rewarding tokens has brought a bit more fun and provided a visual that represents student success.  I love it when I hear a student say, “I can’t believe I have read this much,” as they are putting on their necklace before class.


Can you share any stories or quotes from students while using tokens in your class?   

5th grader Emma said, “When we get rewarded with tokens, it just makes us want to read more and work harder. It makes everything more fun!”


Do you have any plans specifically for reading month?

During Reading Month, students will be earning double tokens and we will be celebrating Wildcats Read with drawings for extra tokens. I’ll also be taking pictures of students reading while wearing their token necklaces to send home with their progress reports in mid-March.


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

❄️Treat Your Students To Their Own Run Through the Snow! ❄️

In honor of our  "Race With The Sled Dogs Program", we asked Coach White from Orion Elementary in Anchorage, what it’s like to operate a run club for students in Alaska. Here is what she said...

Do students run outside in the snow or inside the school?

We run outside in the snow. Getting fresh air is important, especially during the long, cold, dark winter months. On Dec 21st, Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day of the year, we typically only have 6 hours of daylight here in Anchorage. The sun doesn't rise until about 10am and sets by 4pm. Further north in the Arctic Circle, they have several weeks where the sun doesn't rise above the horizon at all!

How cold does it get? 

I've seen it as cold as -20 here in Anchorage. Further north in Fairbanks it is common for it to reach -40 in the winter. Our typical winter temp is about 20 degrees for a high and in the teens or single digits overnight.

Do you use EZ Scan to scan laps? Does the tablet work when it is really cold outside? 

Yes, we use EZ Scan to keep track of our mileage during the running season. We keep our iPads inside the entryway in the window sill facing out so that kids can scan through the window after each lap and the iPads stay nice and warm!"

Interview Date: 2019


Thursday, January 28, 2021

Mileage Club hits 250,000 miles!

Listen to Amy Nieuwenhuis (Teacher and Mileage Club Leader) tell us about her Mileage Club reaching a huge Milestone.

Developing a Reward System for Her Dyslexia Treatment Plan

An Interview with a Dyslexia Therapist

How a Visual Reminder of Their Accomplishments Keeps Her Students Motivated

An Interview with a Second Grade Teacher and Run Club Leader

Motivating Students to Do Their Very Best Every Day

An Interview with PE Instructors from Shady Hill Elementary in Florida