It is Personal -John Spencer (@edrethink) #AIMS Teachers Retreat Keynote

AIMS Teachers Retreat 2014
Day #1 Keynote – Session Notes

As a teacher, never think: don’t take it personally. That denies us the chance for a personal connection. You never know what’s going on in somebody else’s life, don’t assume.

(pictures) Perception of Phoenix = cactus; Reality of Phoenix = traffic

What is a rockstar teacher? he asks twitter…

(discussion) If teachers were rockstars, we would:
be richer
be more respected
have music videos once a month
have someone to do all grading for them
only hear positive feedback
be more spontaneous
unlimited travel budget
drive cars nicer than their students
have paparazzi following them around everywhere
backstage passes to the faculty lounge
drop the mic at the end of an assembly
handouts, aka: merchandise

In the private school, we sometimes have this customer service mentality, marketing viewpoint
We project an image as a place, sacrifice some of the human connection
Students don’t need rockstar teachers,they need personal connections

Humor increases student engagement and forces you to stay alert in the classroom. adds joy to the learning experience, increases critical thinking
Humor builds trust. We take a risk when we use humor. We are modeling risk-taking and vulnerability.

Revise! Do you ‘force’ revision? Do you hand back paper, marked up in red, and not require revision? So important to guide students and ‘force them to get past “good enough”

Growth vs fixed mindset — what are true of each?
Growth mindset = hungry to learn, willing to fail, willing to explore, risk-taker, curious, open to improvement, creative, process-based, hopeful
Fixed mindset = afraid of new things, wanting to stick with things he/she knows, safety>exploration, right vs wrong / black vs white mentality, cautious, closed off, your abilities are out of your control, inflexible, static

“In the process of becoming a teacher, I forgot why I became a teacher”
Easy to get so wrapped up in classroom management and wanting validation from admins
Are you teaching to the middle? Are the highest students bored?

What is the goal of differentiated instruction?
(discussion) To reach/engage/spark the curiosity/connect with each student in your room

Why does differentiated instruction fail?
We feel pressured by curriculum

“Learning that fits each student’s identity, inters and skill set.”

“The sweetest metaphor ever” for differentiated instruction:
Baskin Robbins = 31 flavors
Yogurtini <-less flavor choices & less topping choices than baskin robbins, but you actually have more options here

Remember: choice ≠ freedom. And having options isn’t enough if students never have the chance to create the options
Students might choose: the format, the topic, the standards, the skills to practice
Remember: it’s often our highest level students who are most fearful of choice. Imp to push them past that comfort zone
Bring students into the lesson planning process. Idea: have students help develop the essential questions.

Ask yourself: what am I doing for them that they could do on their own?
Ask students: What are you working on that you already know how to do? And what are you working on that you don’t already know how to do?

(discussion) What motivates students to work harder?
When they’re curious
When they feel the work is worthwhile, it matters
When they have choice
When it’s hard enough
Peer pressure
Personal connection
Classroom culture / School culture

Get students asking questions. Idea: use 101questions:

Make student conferences —
Week 1: coaching conferences: ask students to tell you where they are in their learning; opportunity to talk about where you think they are vs where they think they are; very reflective process (teacher ≠ expert)
Week 2: consulting conferences: student comes to teacher with questions and teacher will guide them through the learning process (teacher = expert)


Presenter style notes: John used a lot of humor throughout his keynote. Not showy humor, but he was certainly fun and engaging. The images he created for the presentation were original and funny. His keynote was genuine; you can tell he cares deeply. Very talented guy!



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