Walk TALL and Help Others Carry their BIG Sticks

Image taken by G. McGough
Image taken by G. McGough

In the spirit of Mothers’ Day, I would like to share a small story that I witnessed a short time ago.

I was in the waiting line to pick up my daughter from her elementary school when I witnessed an inspirational moment of servant leadership. A mother was walking her son home from kindergarten, and he pulled her to a stop to pick up a fairly large branch that was protruding out into the sidewalk. She waited for him to grasp it and then she proceeded at a slower gait so that he could manage his new burden. The stick jostled as it outlined each crack and separation in the concrete. Once or twice it poked her in the back of the leg.

After the third poke to the back of her calf, I knew that this was the moment of truth. I could empathize with her frustration at being poked by such a useless object. I thought that I knew her response. She is going to grab the stick from him and launch it into the hedgerow.

Interestingly, her response was just the opposite of my expectations. She took his little hand and showed him how to hold the stick so that it would not pose a threat to either of their legs. HE was important to her…and her efforts allowed her to look past the apparently useless BIG stick. It was within only a few steps that he pulled her to a hault and launched the stick into the hedge. Unencumbered, the two walked hand-in-hand the rest of the way home from school.

There are many times in a leadership moment when those we are leading pull the organization to a hault and take up a “big stick” of their own to drag. Whether its a new program or additional job tasks. Compassionate leaders understand that the new task was undertaken because of an innate interest in the mind of the individual. An inspirational leader cares enough about those s/he leads that s/he allows them the freedom to take on new tasks. In an effort to show organizational support, the leader should help the person position him/herself and the various resources so that success can be gained. If the task proves to be too much down the road, the individual can make the choice while still feeling fully supported by the organization.

Who in your organization could use some help with a big stick problem that they are dragging along the path?

Yours in Education,

Dr. Gregg McGough, CRI Blogger/CRI Podcaster

Who Wants to Be Saved By Superman?

The image was created by sciodrivver on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/65576902@N00/451466621/
The image was created by sciondriver on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/ photos/65576902  @N00/451466621/

 

 

 

When my son was ten, he uttered the words that no father, especially one who is an English teacher, wants to hear, “Dad, I just really don’t like reading.”

I was devastated, but I decided that to try a technique that I had picked up in one of the many national ELA conferences that I have attended over the years. My son has always liked superheroes and one in particular, Superman. After a small argument concerning superheroes, we ended up at the local comic book store looking for answers. I am happy to report that my son is currently an avid reader, although it appears as if I am now the one with a serious comic book addiction.

A recent career advancement has forced me to contemplate my approach to leadership.

Just the other day I was reading one of my comics, and I started to think about how leadership is displayed in this visually stunning art form. The beautifully drawn cells of the comic book display muscle bound super humans swooping into sometimes desperate situations and rescuing a person or people in some sort of trouble. This type of narrative makes for some compelling comic books, but I fear that too many leaders adopt the superhero metaphor when determining their leadership role in a new organization.

No one wants to be saved by Superman. Think about it! Everyone wants to don the red cape and be the savior. Too many leaders have the Superman complex and want to constantly arrive quickly on the scene and make quick fixes and save everyone. The problem with this leadership style is that before Superman swoops in he is flying too far above the problem to make an accurate assessment.

The true hero is Clark Kent because, in an effort to protect his anonymity, he sometimes delays the transformation into the blue leotards, and he remains the mild-mannered Clark, who supports those around him. (Clark Kent is Superman’s human alter ego that allows him anonymity in Metropolis.)This approach inspires people to try and identify and solve their own problems. This is the type of empowerment that allows organizations to reach new heights of organizational effectiveness.

One person cannot save an organization; but s/he can truly inspire the team to realize their hidden super-potential.

 

Yours in Education

Dr. Gregg McGough, CRI Blogger/Podcaster

Industry Modeled Assessments for Authentic Learning

Image captured from the ICLE Website.
Image captured from the ICLE Website.

In these austere times, schools are feeling the effect of the slowing or stoppage of public funds. Even though there is a temporary kink in the supply chain, there is a still a societal expectation that schools must be willing to do more with less in preparing students for the advanced career skills required in the 21st century.

One direction that many schools take to implement new State standards, which are meant to increase rigor, is to purchase pre-packaged curriculum materials from commercial vendors. So often, it is expensive to purchase new pre-packaged programs/workbooks that, when used in isolation of authentic assessment practices, make learning artificial by removing it from direct applications with the real world. These “canned curriculae” promote a one-size-fits all approach that can devalue the professionalism of the teaching staff. It is not hard to see the popularity of this approach given the prevailing metaphor that public schools are tiny businesses that manufacture human capital. By creating a uniform assembly line, the raw materials all undergo a linear process of change that is easy to implement and control.

In an effort to transform educational institutions to better serve the students and faculty, it is time to adopt a new metaphor for the learning process. Schools should be viewed as a Guild of Skilled Craftspeople that serve unique geographical communities. One needs only to look at the economic landscape of of the community it serves for the answers to relevant curricular assessment. Many district’s include phrases about creating partnerships with the community in their mission statements, but I challenge districts to go deeper when forming these community relations. Invite local business, industry, and social services to participate in the assessment development process.

Teachers are professionals in the education of children and experts in their chosen academic discipline. It is important to let them have a voice in creating the learning plans of their classroom. In an effort to create small works of curricular crafts, they must be given the right inspiration and time to collaborate with the right people. Local commerce has always relied on schools to educate and train the next generation of workers. By inviting industry professionals to the table when educators are creating authentic assessments, the school and community are truly working together for the educational benefit of the young learners. It is important for both institutions to claim sponsorship for the authentic assessment materials by placing their respective logos on the document. Sharing ownership of the learning outcomes may result in industry providing “real world” materials and tools for students to use in the classroom. Cash-strapped districts can know use their new assessments and learning materials to trigger inspiration at the classroom level.

When schools can develop authentic assessments that mirror the spirit of the local cultural, learning will reach a level of relevancy that allows students to develop strong community relationships while achieving highly rigorous academic goals.

Yours in Education,

Dr. Gregg McGough, CRI Blogger/CRI Podcaster

Assignments Designed to Inspire Career Readiness Skills

The 11/3/42 Image recaptured digitally by Dr. G. McGough
The 11/3/42 Image recaptured digitally by Dr. G. McGough

“Relevance makes rigor possible.” Dr. Bill Daggett

As an ELA (English Language Arts) teacher, I am sometimes asked about how I design rigorous, standards-based lessons that are also relevant enough to inspire relevant career readiness skills. I have decided to blog about a recent lesson that I designed and implemented with my tenth graders/seniors at Penn Manor High School, a 1:1 laptop school.

At the beginning of the Spring semester, I welcomed my students with a unique Internet-based challenge. Back in the mid 1990s, my father and I along with my cousin were granted permission to explore an abandoned mansion on the outskirts of my town in Biglerville, PA. We entered the property and began looking around the empty rooms. It was obvious that at one point this was an place of opulence and the love of a family. Now, the hollow rooms played host to anything or anyone who wandered in through the cracks.

On the second floor, I found a series of random black & white photos and other various artifacts in a dusty closet. After our day of wandering and wondering, we returned to the Marion Thomas Harbaugh and thanked her for granting us permission. It was then that we showed her the small items that we found, and she was grateful to have the World War II medals back. The rest of the dust covered items were of no interest to her, so I neatly organized the items and packed them away in my attic. This small treasure chest of memories survived a move and various Spring cleanings.

For some reason, this semester I digitally archived the items using Padlet and designed a small hyperdoc lesson around the various artifacts. The students were given the simple, real world challenge of trying to determine the identity and one fact about the man pictured above. The only other piece of information that I provided was the name of the lady who granted us permission. In less than three class periods, the class had narrowed in on his identity, Charles William Harbaugh, and were able to locate various glimpses of his life that were archived on the Internet. Sadly, my students discovered that “Willy” died at the age of young age of 46, but not before dancing at the Inaugural Ball of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. This lesson allowed me to assess my students’ critical thinking skills, research skills, technology skills, reading skills, and writing skills. It was wonderful to see them hit dead ends and work around them by collaborating with others.

When I design a lesson, I try to forget that I am an ELA teacher and attempt to look beyond the classroom walls to the real world problems that build careers. I find that when a lesson is situated in a problem faced by career-focused individuals the students are actively engaged and develop valued career-ready skills.

Yours in Education,

Dr. Gregg McGough, Blogger & Podcaster

Every Child Succeeds Act: Changing the Policy of Standardization

Image captured by G. McGough
Image captured by G. McGough

As of December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Child Succeeds Act into legislation thus replacing the No Child Left Behind Act, President George W. Bush’s spin on President Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). After several decades of legislation, the federal government is finally retreating from educational policy management and is looking to States to take a more active role in the governance process of public education.

Education Week (January 4, 2016) published a wonderful article titled, Will States Swap Standards-Based Tests for SAT, ACT? One of the benefits of having a blog is the ability to take one’s musings publish them to start a virtual conversation. Take a moment to click the hyperlink and go read the article. I will wait…

Please feel free to leave comments at the end of the blog so that the conversation can continue.

The article claims that seven states are looking to abandon their current, high school standardized testing practices and sub-contract the process out to SAT or ACT, to determine college readiness. As a strong advocate for college and CAREER readiness, I wondered why states didn’t include other possible CAREER assessment measures like the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute. If states are truly been given the freedom to redefine what high-school testing looks like, why not begin to give credibility to CAREER readiness. Career assessments demonstrate student competency in the areas of job and task-based analysis.

In the hierarchy of academic disciplines, the label “career prep” has a connotation as being lesser than “college prep.” It is time to elevate “career readiness” at this critical change in educational policy.

Schools could be designed to have students demonstrate their college and/or career competencies in one of two tracks, SAT/ACT or NOCTI. This type of differentiation might trigger the type of education reform that allows all students to truly find success in the training of their vocational track.

Please leave comments, so that we can clarify our thinking about this groundbreaking topic and possibly push for reform.

Yours in Education,

Dr. Gregory M. McGough, Blogger & Podcaster

1Skill Podcast – Thru Hiker (New Year’s Series – Part 1)

Interview with Patrice Kincade, Potential Appalachian Trail Thru Hiker/Documentarian (01/02/2015)

Arts & Communications

Dr. Gregg McGough (CRI Blogger/Podcaster)

Summary: This podcast asks the vital 1Skill question, and Patrice explains how “positive thinking”

is an important characteristic/skill for a person attempting to thru hike the Appalachian Trail. We will meet up with her after her journey for Part 2 of this series.

For more information on Thru: An Appalachian Trail Documentary, please click here.

Career Ready Skills: Nature or Nurture?

Drawn and digitally photographed by Dr. G. McGough
Drawn and digitally photographed by Dr. G. McGough

Just the other day, I was discussing my podcasting project with a colleague. Our conversation focused on whether career skills are pre-programmed, genetically-inspired personality traits or abilities that can be taught and/or fostered: nature vs. nurture.

According to BusinessDictionary.com, a soft skill is…

An ability and capacity acquired through deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to smoothly and adaptively carryout complex activities or job functions involving ideas (cognitive skills), things (technical skills), and/or people (interpersonal skills).

Can school students learn to develop the “soft skills” that are called for by most businesses and industries?

In the argument of nature versus nurture, I tend to side with “nurture” because of my belief in the presence of a “hidden curriculum.” There is a stratification of learning that occurs when a concept is taught in a public space. The social piece of delivery and assessment has a very subtle yet profound impact on the learner and his/her ability to work through new learning with compassion and thoughtfulness. Those individuals who want to teach “soft skills” need to be mindful of the “hidden curriculum” of their learning space.

I would like to dedicate this blog post to taking the 1Skill mentioned in my first podcast episode and demonstrate how to teach this “soft skill” …at least one employer thinks it is important. (If you would like to hear the podcast, please click here.)

During my interview with the student services coordinator, she mentioned the importance of “teachability.” Granted, there are some students who are just better suited to be learners, but can “teachability” be nurtured into existence?

The 1Skill podcast episode defines “teachability” as the ability to learn from one’s experiences and from others within an organization. How does one design a learning plan to teach and assess the skill?

Ahhhh, it is not WHAT one teaches rather it is HOW one sets up the assessment protocol.

Take any open-ended assignment that you currently teach and allow for “radical formative assessment,” the idea that the learner continues to fine tune the assessment until s/he finds success. Literally, they are encouraged to redo any aspect of the assignment for FULL credit. The teacher should just provide side comments that “hint” at the changes that need to be made. Allowing students to return to assignments to demonstrate learning of a concept fosters the attitude that one can learn through repeated trial and error and tutoring from those who understand.

When an educator establishes an environment where learning is open-ended, the “hidden curriculum” will help learners develop the soft skill of “teachability.”

Dr. Gregg McGough, CRI Blogger & Podcaster

1Skill Podcast – Senior Director of New Media Consortium

Interview with Samantha Adams Becker, Senior Director of Publications & Communications, New Media Consortium (12/09/2015)

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Dr. Gregg McGough (CRI Blogger/Podcaster)

Summary: This podcast asks the vital 1Skill question, and Samantha explains how “resourcefulness”

is an important characteristic/skill for a person advocating for the implementation of new media into educational environments.

For more information on New Media Consortium, please click here.

Hunting for Patience

Picture captured by Dr. G. McGough
Picture captured by Dr. G. McGough

Remember now the still and quiet places. Remember that they were here long before you, and shall remain long after you are no more. That you are but a small light passing briefly through the infinite darkness.

Tweet from Musical Artist Alexi Murdoch 

My headlamp danced to the gate of my walk while the crackling leaves voiced my quietly advancing presence on a lone trail in a dark wood. My tree stand sits silently waiting as the ultimate resting place for this bleary-eyed, early morning traveler.

Ultimately, my goal was to harvest a legal buck and fill my freezer with venison for the upcoming winter. This singular goal drew me out of a warm sleeping bag and into the cold autumn morning.

Disclaimer: NON-HUNTERS and even ANTI-HUNTERS please know that no animal was harmed in the writing of this blog post.

Geographical isolation and a thick canopy of Eastern woodlands prevented all technological interference, I was just a man left alone to his thoughts for ten hours. If one were to judge the day based upon the original goal of harvesting a buck, I failed…but failing has never left me feeling this good.

After a few hours of slowly acclimating to the cold environs, I noticed movement off to my left as several doe and their fawn meandered in a zig-zagging line down the silent hill. Their journey captured my attention and focused me on the solace of this quiet place. At this point, I was living in a moment of peace. The hours ticked by leaving my freezer empty but my spirit full.

Having goals will wake one up and help guide him/her down a darkly lit path in a dark wood…but the successful person knows when to patiently stop and watch life romp and play on the side of a forgotten hill.

As the busy holiday season descend upon us all, please do not forget to disconnect and hunt for moments of silent patience.

Yours in Education,

Dr. Gregg McGough, CRI Blogger & Podcaster

R.E.A.D… It’s Your Turn.

Image taken by Dr. Gregg McGough
Image taken by Dr. Gregg McGough

Please take a moment to scroll down to the bottom of this blog post.

      I’ll wait a moment until you come back…

          Seriously, you must see what is at the bottom of this page to understand this post.

 

Did you notice that each blog post invites YOU, the reader, to interact with the text?

 

Social media and Web 2.0 tools have truly leveled the playing field and allowed educators from the field to share their thoughts and ideas with other embedded practitioners. This new electronic medium provides users with relevant content, but it comes with different expectations and responsibilities for the reader. Let’s take a look at how one should interact with a blog post.

Emerging digital platforms are changing one’s reading habits by inspiring him/her to interact during and after the reading process. Here is an acronym to remember how to R.E.A.D. a blog post:

Reflect, Engage, Apply, and Discuss

Educators, many still in the field, are taking a moment or two to share some thoughts and reflections on what works or doesn’t work in today’s classrooms. Readers should reflect upon the implications the blog has upon their own experience. Next, blog readers should use social media sites like Twitter to connect and engage in virtual conversations with the writer of the post…by the way, my Twitter name is @McGough3R.

The themes and messages of a relevant blog post should have direct applications to the daily life of a classroom teacher. The blogger is placing ideas and concepts out into the blogosphere in an effort to start a virtual conversation where both parties, author & reader, benefit from the exchange. If the reader feels like the post and the blogger have brought up a good point…PLEASE HOLD UP THE OTHER END OF THE CONVERSATION!

In an effort to prove that this blog post is effective, please reflect upon how digital reading is changing the life of a teacher.

Dr. Gregg McGough, blogger & podcaster