A gentle reminder ...

The goal of this blog initially was for Mr. Mc to show his students and friends what he doing while in Pennsylvania and DC in 2011. Now it's being used as a place for him, travelling colleagues and former students to discuss edumacation and history related "stuff" as well as ... well, anything which pops into his head. Mr. Mc would never knowingly embarrass either the school he loves or the family he is devoted to. By joining in the discussion, he expects the same of you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Podium Point Eight: The eyes have it...

Creepy, huh?!
The eighth podium point is eye contact.

Eye contact is all about balance. Too little and you seem disconnected from your audience. Too much and, well, its just skeeves everyone out.

As young speakers, my charges are slaves to their documents when they speak. It makes complete sense. They are learning how to stand, how to speak, how to sound while they speak, ... at the same time they are processing words into language. That's a lot to take in and manage.

One of the suggestions we make for them that I have taken up is writing in my speech or remarks moments where I want to intentionally look up. If I know I am going to look up there, I tend to memorize the words before and after so it looks seamless.

The value of eye contact is, well, invaluable. It shows confidence. It shows a connection to the audience. It shows that you are prepared.

The power of our eyes can't be denied. Just look at this article from Forbes magazine. Even the gaze of rabbit on a cereal box is powerful.

One of my favorite characters on television right now is Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren from Orange is the New Black. Uza Aduba, the actress who plays her completely gets how powerful one set of eyes can be. She uses her to craft a complex and fascinating character. (For the record: I would never, ever, suggest kids my student's age watch Orange is the New Black. Never. Ever. Ever.)

The Wall Street Journal reported that about a study that found that eye contact in casual conversations is on the decline as the result of SMART phones. It also has some solid metrics about how often one should look someone in the eye and for how long, as well as cultural considerations.

Source: New Yorker Magazine

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Podium Point Seven: Don't get all bent out of shape!

How many of us had a mother who cajoled us to, "Stand Up Straight!"? As a speaker, listen to your mother.

It sounds deceptively simple. And it is. However, when you look at the act of speaking, posture is central to success. Standing erect helps with presence, pace, diction and volume.

So much of what we do nowadays works against a student's posture. Looking at SMARTphones, computer desks and terminals, and backpacks, its a wonder our kids can walk upright.

With all the FitBit devices out there, it is no surprise that one of them, by Arki, analyzes posture as you walk. I hadn't thought about it, but it makes sense that posture affects how productive your steps are. There is a device you strap to your back and run via Bluetooth, but I like that the Arki device analyzes gait and suggests fixes there. (BTW-sorry about not being able to imbed the video from Arki. For some reason, videos won't upload on Blogger...working on getting that resolved.)

So, listen your mother. And it would hurt to call now and then, would it?

Monday, January 5, 2015

The private school teacher post--the reboot

It has been an interesting few days for me with the blog. The previous blog entry, has made it into my 'most read' top ten within a couple days. That has been out of more than 250 posts over three years of posting--cool.

I have had several people talk to me or email me about the post, which is also unprecedented. Most of the folks who have messaged me had pretty much the same comment, "What was it that you wished you could say that you thought was going to peeve people?" or "It felt like you stopped half way through your thought." or "What was your point?"

I went back and read it...these are fair points.

My admission is that I pulled my punches in that post. I decided this thread would take a few posts to get my thoughts out there and so decided to close that post with some baseline about private schools not being one 'thing'. Mission Accomplished. Add to that that I am an 'ice cream truck' (I want everyone to be happy) so there might have a bit of yellow streak shown, as well.

So here it goes. Here are three thoughts, not necessarily in any order. BTW-these may not be issues where you would think there would be a lot of 'pushback'. Think of these as the opening remarks of a 'yellow-bellied ice cream truck'. I'll save provocative to later.

My students are somehow 'easier to teach' than theirs--this one makes me a little crazy for a couple reasons. My student's come from such a wide range of experiences and academic abilities and learning styles and ... (You get my point, right?) They are by no means homogenous. It is true I don't have significant numbers of my kids living in poverty or in a warzone, but neither do most teachers. (One of the teachers who inspires me teaches in inner city Philly. What she does with these young women and men makes my challenges a cakewalk. The funny thing is, I have never, ever heard her compare her students to other students. That is a lesson I have tried to take to heart.) That leads me to the other reason it makes me crazy: if feels as if the teachers who say this see their students as 'less than'. That breaks my heart.

BTW-there is a strain of this that goes that my students are snooty, privileged rich kids whose tutor does their homework for them so they can fly to ... Grrrrrrrr.

My rich, elitist parents--Just because a parent sends their kids to a private school doesn't mean they are wealthy. For most of my parents, tuition is a significant sacrifice and they do without so their child can attend. I can speak as a parent of private school kids, I wouldn't be able to send them without scholarships. Do we have really wealthy parents? Yup. Do we have parents who are working two jobs to send their kids here,?  Yup. The cool part of my school is that I see parents working hard to make it about their kids and not their wealth or lack-there-of.

BTW-there is a strain on this one two that makes my parents something out of Dickens' novel. Either uninvolved and uncaring or Queen of the Tiger Moms. My parents pay cash money (above and beyond property tax) to have me educate their kids. Are they interested?  Yup. Do we always agree on best practices? No. The challenge is always how to manage that conflict in the best interest of the child.

Private school teachers are not 'real' teachers--I travel a lot during the summer with teachers and, invariably, we end up talking shop. I have found that, sometimes, my thoughts and experiences and successes are somehow 'suspect' because of where I teach. Unless you teach in an inner city or an Indian reservation or with a population with special needs, I would argue that the classroom is the classroom. I don't have little Stepford students filing into their seats. My students are kids, with all the baggage that comes from being a kid in the 21st Century. I am challenged with-just like my peers all across the country-with making sure that what I do in the classroom is both meaningful and engaging. Period.

As I said before, these are three thoughts. I have more.

As I said in the previous posts, I am not opposed to a discussion of the view of private schools. I would covet your thoughts in the comments section below. If you are a Facebook friend, don't post on Facebook, post here, okay? And leave your name, okay?