Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Writing a book....

Never in a million years did I think I would write a book...
Heck...growing up I didn't even like reading books! I was a big "BOOK IT!" person, but I only did that for the pizza.

My book "LESSON 1" was published on August 12, 2021. What an excellent experience! 

Here's the story behind the story.

Starting to Read: I would occasionally read a book in my adulthood. The first full book I remember reading was, "Rainbow Six" by Tom Clancy. I was in my 20s and had many more exciting things to do than read books. Even in college, I would do the absolute minimum amount of reading. I would lose focus, get to the bottom of a page, and have no idea what I had read.

I really started reading a lot when I was working full time for the Army in 2014-2016 because I found myself on an airplane every other week going to a conference, recon, or training event. I decided that because I spent so much seat time, I would become a reader.

I started with hard-copy books and found a few that I really enjoyed. Then I moved to digital books using my tablet and found it awesome that I could carry an infinite amount of books with me and read whatever I felt like. Sometimes I wanted to dig into the genius of Nick Saban or some other football coach while other times I just wanted a good Dan Brown story. I didn't read at home, only on the plane, so when I stopped flying all the time, I really stopped reading.

I go through phases of reading. For months at a time, I will read in the morning before I go to the gym. Then for months at a time, I won't. 

Writing down angry notes
: While at those conferences, recons, and training events, I found myself interacting with several different organizations, both military, and civilian. I found that many civilian organizations had much more efficient ways of doing things than we did in the Army. I would take those lessons back to my organization and implement what I could. I really enjoyed seeing how other organizations did the same things that we did. I enjoyed seeing how other organizations developed their task organizations, task management systems, and their ability to communicate laterally and vertically. Some of those things were able to fit into the Army, and others did not. Some of those things worked really well, and others made things worse.

I would take a few minutes after each trip to reflect on what went well and what I didn't like. I had a word document on my desktop and I would simply open it up, take a few minutes to type out some notes, then close it and wait until my next trip. There was no real format, organization, or thought behind my notes. Some of them were rants, and some of them looked like praise pieces. 

Forgotten: In the fall of 2016, I transitioned from working full-time for the National Guard back into the classroom. I moved back to my hometown, was teaching a new subject, and my world was moving very fast! I had forgotten about my comments for months at a time. Once and a while I would be cleaning out my Google Drive and would say, "I remember this" and open up the document and reminisce about the great times I had in the Army. I would close it and move on to the next thing I had on my agenda, forgetting about my future book for another few months.

Kyle Anderson: I met Kyle during my first week of college and we became friends right away. He is still one of my very best friends over 20 years later. He published a book, "
To The Edge: Successes & Failures Through Risk-Taking" on March 7, 2020.
Kyle was the first person I had ever met that wrote a book. That was cool!

A week later our school shut down for the rest of the year due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. There I was, sitting in my upstairs bedroom, waiting for my students to log in to Google Classroom. It was a crazy time. I had a lot of time sitting. Waiting.

One morning I opened up that old document with my notes and started organizing it. I had 12 single-spaced pages of rants and rabble. I thought to myself, holy smokes...this could be a book! I started expanding on some of the topics, linking them to classroom and locker room issues and it started looking like a book. The title was a struggle- to learn more...buy the book. 

Rejection: I talked with Kyle and he linked me up with his publisher. I sent my (VERY) rough draft to them and waited. They got back to me and said that due to the pandemic, they were understaffed and not taking on new authors, but encouraged me to try again.

Forgotten Part II
: I had a fairly solid rough draft, but now it was summer and I was basically back to "normal" with my activities of fishing, four-wheeling, and preparing for my first year as a head coach for the freshman football team with all the intricacies of being a head coach combined with all of the external COVID-19 policies. School went back to in-person and combined with everything else, I was also prepping for hunting season.  

In the fall of 2020, another book hit Amazon. "Daily STEM: How to Create a STEM Culture in Your Classrooms & Communities" by a friend of mine, Chris Woods. Chirs was the second person I had known to write a book. That was cool!

After football season, I talked with Chris and he linked me up with his publisher. They got back to me fairly quickly stating that they loved my book idea, but because they were in Canada, they felt it would be a better fit for a new publisher, "Road to Awesome."

BOOK: I had a conversation with Darrin M Peppard and he loved the idea of my book. Through several zoom calls, cover renditions, and grammatical editing, my book, "LESSON 1" was published and available on AMAZON on August 12, 2021. What an incredible experience!

Since then there have been some great conversations about my book and the leadership lessons contained within it. A huge thank you to Kyle and Chris for the motivation and to Darrin for taking a chance on me and my idea. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

When I ask- "What do you think?"

 Picture this- My 8th-grade classroom. Full of young teenagers. Full of awkward hormones. Full of wonder, but also want to look cool, and TERRIFIED of being embarrassed in front of their classmates.

The topic is irrelevant- Here's the question:
"What do you think?"


I talk with my students about three types of questions. 

Informational: These questions have exactly one right answer. For example, if the question is, "Who was the third president of the United States?" There is exactly one answer and if you know it you know it and if you don't you don't. A lot of math problems are informational. There is exactly one right answer and you can be right or wrong- there is no in-between. 

Opinion: These questions can have multiple right answers. The catch is that there needs to be some evidence backing your opinion. Opinions vary and this can lead to some GREAT discussion as long as there are some guardrails in place to prevent arguments from getting out of hand.
"What type of speech should be abridged and is not protected by the first amendment?"
As long as you bring some evidence backing your opinion, you are right! These are my favorite types of questions to ask. It forces students to establish an opinion based on facts. This will be a great practice for them as they transition to adulthood.

What do you think: I try very hard to express to my students that when I ask, "What do you think?" you can't be wrong. Most of the time these are hypothetical and so far beyond logic that it would be impossible to have an analytical answer. Something like, "If you were to take a trip to Mars, what would you want to do first?" or "If you just cut a deal with the French to buy the Louisiana territory, how do you start that conversation with President Jefferson?"  

It's interesting to see these types of questions play out in my classroom. When I ask an informational question, hands shoot up from the students who are sure of their answer. No one else moves, fearful of giving a wrong answer. That's understandable. Giving a wrong answer would mean embarrassment.

When I ask an opinion question, I have a lot of hands go up! Amazingly enough, middle school students are HIGHLY opinionated!  (I'll give you a moment to collect yourself from the shock of that last statement!) The best part of opinion questions is that students can be right as long as they justify their answers. Sometimes these justifications are pretty sketchy, but at least they are putting some thought into them. These questions generate the most discussion and are typically the most fun! These questions are great practice for students to explore their thoughts, beliefs, and motivations. When done correctly, it also opens them up to differing opinions and facts they may have missed due to personal bias.

When I ask, what do you think...you can't be wrong. The problem is that it takes a great amount of thinking. When I ask these questions, I am usually looking out over a vast landscape of confused faces. Sometimes we will get some good discussion, but for whatever reason, it's difficult to get students to engage with these types of questions.

But why? They can't be wrong...but they can't make certain that they are right either.
...and if they aren't right- they must be wrong...and that's embarrassing.

Maybe because some students believe that they HAVE to be right. There is no option to fail...at anything...ever. (I wrote a blog post when I was a STEM teacher talking about failure. Read it HERE!) I have students all the time who miss one question on a quiz or worksheet and are at my desk asking for extra credit. 

Maybe it has something to do with our EITHER-OR society. You are either 110% for something or you are 110% against it. There is very little room for anything in the middle. Stating one opinion on one topic can place people into an ideological box that's almost impossible to get out of. That's not good for free thinking or the expression of thoughts.

I'm going to keep asking these questions and I'm going to continue to remind my students that they can't be wrong. Maybe I can help them expand their brains into being able to think a little better.

What do you think?
Leave me a comment!

Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Emotional Wheel isn't spinning- You are.

 In middle school, there are a lot of emotions and hormones flying around. Sometimes a student will be so upset they can't even tell you what's wrong. Now what? 
"Are you angry?"  "I'M NOT ANGRY I'M SCARED!"
"Why are you scared?" I'M NOT! I'M JUST SAD!"
The emotions are spinning- so which one is it?

I think it's important to be able to place a name on an emotion. It's important because once we can name an emotion, then we can work toward bringing us back to the center. Enter- The Emotion Wheel. There is a full-sized Emotion Wheel at the bottom of this post and there are thousands of different versions of them for various ages. They are all basically the same in that the core emotion is in the center and more detailed emotions radiate from that central point.

The younger the person, the closer to the center you will be in describing your emotion. A younger student may only be able to express that they are, ANGRY whereas an older student/adult will be able to move further out and describe that they feel HURT or even further out describing their emotion as EMBARRASSED.
Being able to process an event and identify the emotions attached to that event can be very helpful. For example, if a middle school student is not invited to a birthday party, they could feel several things from EMBARRASSED, INSECURE, etc. These emotions all point back to the fact that they are ANGRY. They could also be experiencing the core emotion of SAD, depending on their reaction.

You can also work the wheel from the outside working in toward the core emotion. Perhaps a student feels very INADEQUATE after failing a test when most of their classmates did well. That can be traced toward the center as either REJECTED or INSECURE, and they both share the core value of FEAR. So why are they scared? Are they scared that they will get in trouble at home? Are they scared that their friends will think they are stupid? These are questions that are one step removed from, "what's wrong?" and questions that can start to have reasonable answers when the world seems unreasonable. 

After a student can name the emotion, then they can get to work swinging the emotional pendulum back to the center by answering those questions.

"Will I get in trouble at home?"
"Well- Last time I had to sit in my room without my phone and study what I messed up so I could get points back on test corrections."

"Will my friends think I'm stupid?"
"They never have before, so they probably won't this time."

Deescalating emotions starts with being able to even know what they are. Simply knowing that they are feeling something like FEAR, SUPRISE, or ANGER can help them start to manage their emotion. 

So how do they manage their emotions?
That's a topic for another day...
Share your thoughts and resources in the comments below!