Archive for February, 2013


Today I attended a meeting today in regards to Career Tech courses and different certifications students can get to make them more marketable to employers.  One speaker was talking about Baby Boomers, those who were born between 1946 and 1964, and the fact that many are retiring or will be retiring soon and the jobs they had will need to be filled.  However, companies are having a hard time filling these positions because applicants in the workforce are not adequately prepared.

I think many schools have really messed this up!  Have we REALLY prepared our graduates for the “Real World” with actual skills that can help them be successful in a career?

The fact is that many, students today are not auto programmed to think that once they graduate from high school they will go to college, declare their major, graduate from college, and then get a good, high paying job.

Many of our students do not plan on going to college.  That is something that lawmakers in Texas seem to be beginning to understand and accept the fact that a one-size-fits-all curriculum in high schools today is not what is needed.  I am glad that these legislators are finally beginning to realize this.   We have to do whatever we can to help our students be prepared for life after high school.  This includes preparing students with higher-order thinking skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills, and collaboration skills.  Students don’t have to be in Calculus or Physics to get these.  This can be accomplished in Career Tech classes while the students, in addition to the fore-mentioned skills, also earn certifications that will help them be more marketable when they apply for a job.

We have the Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964), Generation X (born between 1965-1980), Generation Y (born between 1980-2000, and now Generation Z (born between 2000 – present).  Society today is different and ever changing, but what has not changed much is our schools.  Many of our mission statements say something about “preparing students to be productive members of society, or productive citizens, etc.”  What are we really “preparing” our students for?  Does passing 15 End-of-Course tests prepare them for real life?

I can take tests

Career Tech classes are vital for everybody.  These are the students who we will call on one day to fix our air conditioners in August or our heaters in January.  These are the students who we will need to program a certain software application that will help our business run more efficiently.  These are the students who will one day take care of you when you are sick and in the hospital.  These are the students who we will call on one day when our vehicle messes up and we need it fixed correctly so we can get back and forth to work.  These are the students who one day will be working on a pipeline running from Canada to Texas.  These are the students who will one day build you a new house. These are the students who will be working on jobs that we haven’t actually thought of yet.

Our schools can’t stay where we are right now.  We must continue to look at our courses and look for ways to meet the needs of ALL of our students — those who go to college and those who go into the workforce.  Our students deserve our best efforts.


We are already 53 days into 2013.  February is about to be over and March is right around the corner.  So is your State Assessment (especially if you are in 3rd thru 12th grade in Texas).  How do you feel? Are you FIRED UP?

Is this you?

Teacher depressed

What about this?

Ray Lewis Fired up

How do you WANT to feel?

I hope you want to feel FIRED UP.

If not, it’s time to STEP UP!

No matter how bad you feel about the current school year, it is of the utmost importance to your students, to your staff, AND to yourself that you STEP UP and get FIRED UP!!!

It may not be easy, but I know you can do it.  All you have to do is make the DECISION … make the COMMITMENT … and get FIRED UP!

I believe in you.

school design

Right now in Texas the Legislators are meeting and hashing out what changes they are going to make to public education.  We don’t know what will happen, but what we are sure of is that there will be major changes to the educational landscape in Texas.    In any case someone or some group will not be happy.   Here’s the big question, as I see it … as a result of this legislative session, will the students in the state of Texas be better off as a result of the actions of these Legislators?  That remains to be seen.

There are many arguments as to what our students really need.  Parents say one thing.  Business leaders say one thing.  Colleges and Universities say one thing.  Legislators … who knows?  See my point?

What do the students say?  That’s a great question.  Do they have a voice?  At one school in Massachusetts, they do.  In the following video, which is about 15 minutes long, we get an idea of what that answer would be.  I highly encourage you to watch it.  It really opened my eyes to the fact that, more often than not, we take our students for granted.  These students in this video could very well be representative of students in every state, and they should be given a lot of credit for taking control of their own learning.  And their principal should be given a lot of credit for having the guts to allow this project.

I would love for you to leave a comment and let me know what you think about these students and what could happen to education if we allow students to design their own schools.




Common advice from knowledgeable horse trainers includes the adage, “If the horse you’re riding dies, get off.”

Seems simple enough, yet, in the education business, we don’t always follow that advice. Instead, we often choose from an array of other alternatives which include:

1. Buying a stronger whip.

2. Trying a new bit or bridle.

3. Switching riders.

4. Moving the horse to a new location.

5. Riding the horse for longer periods of time.

6. Saying things like this … “This is the way we’ve always ridden the horse.”

7. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

8. Arranging to visit other sites where they ride dead horses more efficiently.

9. Increasing the standards for riding dead horses.

10. Creating a test for measuring our riding ability.

11. Comparing how we’re riding now with how we did ten or twenty years ago.

12. Complaining about the state of horses.

13. Coming up with new styles of riding.

14. Blaming the horse’s parents. The problem is often in the breeding.

15. Tightening the cinch.

16. Set new skill standards for dead horses.

This is not a new story. It was given to me by one of my Ag teachers who got it from a previous principal quite a few years ago.

Can you relate to any of these?

This morning I went to McDonald’s for a sausage biscuit.  As I drove up to the speaker to place my order,  a loud, very grumpy sounding voice came through the speaker.  I placed my order and drove up to the first window where the girl with the loud, grumpy sounding voice was stationed to take my money.   She gave me my change back as she was yelling in her loud, grumpy sounding voice over the speaker to the car behind me.  She didn’t say anything else to me.  I was glad!

Then I drove to the next window to get my order.  The guy working that window was totally opposite than the girl at the first window.  He said “Good Morning! ” as he handed me my sausage biscuit.  He was friendly and had a smile on his face.  Then he said, “Have a nice day!”

As I drove off, I thought to myself, “What a different experience that was!”

Can you relate to this story?

How many times do we meet someone and their actions or tone of voice sets our day in motion for either a good day or a bad day?  How about your tone of voice or your actions?  Have you ever thought about what you do or say … whether you greet someone with a smile or a frown … whether you have a loud, grumpy sounding voice …  or if you have a friendly, have-a-nice-day attitude?

We’re in the customer service business.  Our customers are our students.  They go from classroom to classroom, teacher to teacher,  instead of from window to window.  What you say and how you act toward your customers, the students, has a significant impact on whether they have a good day or a bad day.

You are in total control of your actions and your tone of voice.  So remember this … you’re in the customer service business and your students need to have a great day.


the world

Do your students want to learn?  Do they look forward to coming to your class?  Do they get a chance to create, to collaborate, to connect?  Or do they get a chance to fill in the blanks on a worksheet?  Like Will Richardson says in his book, Why School, the world has changed — and continues changing — rapidly and radically.  Technology is a huge part of our lives today.  Everybody’s lives.  Teacher’s lives and, yes, even students.  Why not harness the power of technology and its opportunities to connect and learn.  Be creative.  Make it fun.

How do you use technology in your classes?  How do you connect with the world?  How do your students connect?

Learning is Fun

Remember when you were in elementary school (for some of us, that was a very long time ago) and you actually enjoyed school and looked forward to getting up everyday and going to school to learn.  Back then, learning was fun.  Somewhere along the way, though, something happened.  I can’t say what it actually was, but it was something.  School wasn’t fun anymore.  Whatever it was, it made learning not fun anymore.

I’m not here to say that every teacher in every school has made learning not fun.  I guarantee that everyone of us can think about that one special or not-so-special teacher.  What was it about him/her that comes to mind?  Also, I’m not here to place blame on anyone.

What I would like to do, however, is to challenge you to reflect.  Reflect on your own teaching practices.  Reflect on your classes from last year and the years before.  Reflect on your classes this year.  Reflect on your subject.  Think about what you have control of …. you and your style. I understand that there are factors in every school with every child that are beyond our control.  But, there are also factors in every school that you do have control of … your attitude, your effort, your desire, and your ability to make learning fun.

Our world has changed over the years.  The standards for success have changed.  But what hasn’t changed is that students still need to learn, and we need good teachers to teach them.  How you teach these students makes a difference.

In the following video, Tyler Dewitt talks about ways to make your subject and your classes fun. And when it is fun, the students will learn.  Once again learning is fun, and It’s OK to Make Learning Fun.   He uses biology as the example, but you can do this for any subject.

What is is that you do that makes learning fun?  I hope that, as you reflect on this question, you can answer it positively.  But if you can’t, it’s not too late.  Just know that you have total control from here on out to make your class fun.

Remember, It’s OK to Make Learning Fun.