A Quick Word On Opportunity

A speaker at a conference once held up a one hundred dollar bill and asked the crowd if anyone would come to the stage to give him ten dollar bill in exchange for his one hundred dollar bill. He continued to beg several times for someone to come up and do this until finally one man came running from the back of the room, climbed onto the stage and handed him a ten dollar bill.

The speaker thanked him and said, “You know I actually brought several one hundred dollar bills just in case several people came up but since no one else did I will give you the other nine.” And with that, the speaker handed the man $900 more dollars to make total of $1000.

Some people never act on an opportunity because (1) they are waiting for someone else to go first (2) they are too focused on what someone else will think (3) they don’t have the resources to obtain the opportunity. But the one reason that kills more dreams than anything else is when people do not recognize the value of an opportunity. People fight for what they value. So what are you fighting for?

I Just Did TEDx!!!

I’m still on cloud nine and I don’t really have any desire to come down. The energy of a TED or TEDx stage is empowering, majestic, and awe-inspiring. This year 16 presenters were selected out of 170 nominations to bring to life some of the most innovative and thought provoking ideas in Greenville–and I was one of them!!! See here for the TEDx selfie page (http://tedxgreenville.com/conference2016/nixon/)

My talk was on Gamification which is a fancy way for saying that I like to add game elements to the learning process. It’s something that I did for years, but for a long time I didn’t even know that it was an actual application like a game-design theory. In otherwords, I was doing it because (1) my students were learning more (2) having fun learning (3) and I hate boring lectures.

So here are my top three reasons why you should try gamification, encourage your teachers to use gamification, and fight for more gamification in schools:

(1) Gamification makes you more receptive to learning: The U.S. currently ranks 17th in science scores and 25th in math scores when compared to the top 31 developed countries in the world. Talk about being low on the totem pole! We used to be number one, now we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. Ask any student if they are bored in class, and the answer is probably ‘yes’. Scientists say that the happier we are, the more we learn. So why not play to learn and enjoy doing it?

(2) Gamification can let everyone learn at their own pace: It’s difficult to teach 25 people who all learn at a different speed. As an educator, you realize that regardless of the political phrase somebody is gonna get left behind. But when the goal is to focus on acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of each student and allowing them to work an hour where they are and not their neighbor, everyone can finally learn without the stress of comparison.

(3) Gamification motivates you to learn: When I learned about www.raise.me I was amazed. High school students can log into the website, load their weekly accomplishments and make cash for college. You can make $200 for taking AP Biology, or $250 for visiting a local university, or being a leader on their sports team, or perfect attendance, and more. So, yeah, if you start passing out the Benjamin’s and making it rain then of course I’m gonna work hard to achieve more. But then again, why not?!?

Gamification has more benefits than these, but the three that I mentioned should get anyone started. One of my favorite gamification items to use is when I teach the anatomy of the human heart. I select 8 students to represent 8 parts of the heart. I have them create a Soul Train line, then I show them hand movements that simulate the functions of each part while red blood cells dance down the Soul Train line! It might be a little crazy, but it works like a charm because Gamification really is the game in which everybody wins.

And You Wonder Why I Hate You: A Talk About Trust

This has been a rather difficult first quarter for me. The year of 2015 ended with an extra helping of awesome while 2016 began with an extra large order of screw-you. Now don’t get me wrong, my life looks alot like an undefeated season of your favorite college football team right now. I just did a national conference, I’m working with a nationally known educational organization and I will be presenting on the TEDx stage in one week. So what exactly is my issue?

I’ve experienced a few incidents in the past few months that really hit me hard–like, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out hard. As a matter of fact, I’m still dealing with some of it right now. I know that there is purpose within my trials and tribulations but I am being reminded of how difficult it can be to make it through a struggle when you are uncertain as to whom you can trust. The incidents themselves are not the reasons for my lack of sleep last month, or my bloodshot eyes, or my random dizzy spells. It was really about the people who were involved. It was more about being strategically wounded while your assassin wore a mask to hide their identity from everyone else. Now I understand why some people are afraid of clowns.

The masks that we wear can either bring a smile to faces or great disappointment.
The masks that we wear can either bring a smile to faces or great disappointment.

It isn’t the clown’s antics that have them afraid, but it’s the mask. As long as the mask is there, you have no idea who is actually BEHIND the mask. The person behind the mask actually controls the mask itself so it gets kind of creepy. Now I understand why some students have a difficult time trusting teachers. If that student reads the Facebook page of that teacher, or goes to ratemyprofessor.com and sees spooky things that don’t match what they get in class the student is then left to wonder if they are getting taught by the teacher or getting taught by the mask.

As I move forward within the classroom, I am making it my goal to get back to the basics of relationships with my students. I want to make sure that there is integrity in my classroom and that the ‘real me’ is showing up each day. When students can count on the ‘real teacher’ showing up it brings a bit of stability to the classroom. I mean, a 3-ring circus in the middle of class can make things alot more interesting. However, if that’s not the show that I paid for, then might be looking for a refund from my experience–and that can kill a learning environment faster than an apocalyptic virus.

I Don’t Hate You, I Just Hate You

Every semester without fail, a student somewhere in the world will meet a teacher that they hate. And somewhere else in the world a teacher will meet a student that they hate. But what’s really a barrel full of drunk monkeys is when the student and teacher in these two scenarios are sharing the same classroom.

One of my co-workers told me that “You can’t please everybody”, and she is right. Sometimes you simply just don’t get along with a person, and you don’t have a lifetime and a deserted island to help you to gain that better relationship. So what do you do when you have a student/teacher that you just don’t like? Try this:

  1. Change Why You Are There: I had a teacher tell me that they were in the classroom to help students learn, but I soon learned that this was not the real reason. The classroom had become a boxing ring where they could come to let off steam–and the students were their sparring partners. I once had a student who had no control over anything in their life: no freedom at home, no freedom in their relationships, and no freedom in their mind. So they decided to exercise their verbal protests and fight for freedom in my classroom. Both of these examples led to a tremendous amount of conflict and both of them claimed that their reason for being in the classroom was for education. You have to get honest with why you are really in the classroom and here are a few reasons that students/teachers have given me after they finally got honest:
    1. “My husband/wife doesn’t let me make any decisions at home
    2. “My loved one is in the hospital and it has been very stressful on me so I needed something to take my mind off of it”
    3. “I just went through a divorce and my parents said that this would be a good idea”
    4. “I just had a kid and I gotta get a job that pays”
    5. “It’s the only thing that I could think to do other than go into the military”
    6. “If I stay home with the kids it will drive me crazy”
    7. “I hate corporate America so I chose to do this instead”
    8. “The benefits are better than my last job”
    9. “I’m in control”
  2. Why Do You Need This Class?: Yeah, I already know that you need this class for your major but do you even know why your college is making you take this class? Have you spoken to anyone else who has already gotten a  job with your major to find out if they are using this class? Dealing with people that you don’t like in a space that has no purpose creates anxiety, and that anxiety leads to frustration and anger very quickly. I know a student who is graduating with an Accounting degree and for each of his classes he speaks with professionals about what skills they gained from those classes. It gives him alot of drive to succeed, and this drive has been praised by one of the Vice Presidents at his college. He certainly doesn’t love every class, but now the classes have purpose. You can’t let the purpose of taking every class to be simply graduation. If you are not taking classes to reach a greater end result, then every class becomes an aggravating wall between you and your goal.
  3. Personalities: If the teacher/student has a personality that is polar opposite to yours then you already have the perfect environment for someone to become offended. However, the offense occurs next because of selfishness and not just the environment. Forget about trying to change for the other person, focus on changing for the environment. Whether you are the student or the teacher both of you will have alot of pride so here are a few quick points:
    1. If you are the student then you must remember that the classroom is not yours and it is not your responsibility. Your personal space is your responsibility as well as your words and actions.
    2. If you are the teacher, then remember that your responsibility is delivery of the material and the classroom environment.
    3. As long as both of you focus on your defined responsibilities and not attempting to critique the other you will avoid initial conflict.
    4. Begin each class respecting the others role. For the teacher, the student is here to learn and receive, so make sure that the student has an excellent learning environment and receives from a good instructional method. For the student, you must submit to the authority of the teacher or friction is guaranteed to happen. The student isn’t giving up their rights, but they are giving the teacher permission to do their job.

You can use these tips before an offense occurs or after–but the effects of these tips will be weakened a great deal if you purposely and ignorantly offend the other person. If things have gotten to this point then you might want to meet with them outside of the classroom to have open discussion about the situation. A great way to deal with this is to request a mediator, a third person who is neutral that can listen to what both sides are saying and guide the argument. At the end of the day everyone wants to be respected and everyone wants to be treated fairly. If you cannot provide that for others within the classroom, then you are bound to find yourself in a world of trouble.

Make The Time To Make The Grade

Happy New Year!!! If your life is like mine, then you are already busier than most. I am writing this blog post while scrambling to get an outfit ready for a business meeting. I had this nagging thought that I wanted to share with you, and so here it is: no matter what you do this year, make sure that you make time.

What I mean is that if there is something that you hope to achieve this year that you did not achieve last year, it will require the very finite resource known as time. Time management is nothing more than time accounting, time auditing, and time banking. Think of your time like money–oh, and by the way…if you are bad with money, then you are probably bad with time too.

Just like you seek to get the most for every dollar that you spend, you should work hard to obtain the most for every minute that you spend. Every successful student requires time to become successful. Heck, even students who cheat require time to be successful in cheating. I once met a student who created an extremely unique method of cheating. When she was caught I was shocked at how much time she had to dedicate in order to pull it off. It was just as much time that would have been required to have studied for the same test and passed it.

Begin doing an assessment of your time–don’t just admit that you ‘you don’t have any’, but actually fill out a daily schedule to see where your time is going. Some successes come from small alterations. For example: look at what you do for the last 15 minutes before you go to bed…look at the last 15 minutes before you go to class…what do you do for the first hour after you arrive home from work…These are important periods of time and what you do with them directly influence the other hours of your day. In 2014, stop looking at the large amounts of millionaire time that you don’t have and start looking at the pocket change time that you are dismissing and throwing away. Now, where did I put that tie…