Anger

I’m no raving lunatic. Don’t get me wrong. Especially in a professional setting I can hold it together. At some point though I can feel IT overtaking me. Once that happens I find it difficult to dial it back.

I don’t know when IT is going to happen. IT just happens. I wouldn’t say there is some special trigger. It can be anything. It can be an innocent comment that just hits me the wrong way.

Unfortunately at that moment I am prone to saying things that I regret. Then, after it’s all over, the guilt washes over me.

“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control. And some things are not.” – Epictetus

How do I do better in the moment between stimulus and response? How do I stop anger from taking over me? Or how do I get better at controlling my anger and using it to my advantage?

Anger is an emotion like any other emotion. It is neither good nor bad. It can be unhealthy. It can also be unhealthy to hold it back and not express it. Anger has its place just like every other emotion.

“If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation.” – Epictetus

On The Daily Stoic podcast, Ryan Holliday interviewed the author Robert Greene. One of the topics they discussed was harnessing your anger.

Ryan Holliday used the example of coaches who get angry to invigorate their team through a difficult time in a game or season. As a former coach I have seen this done very well, and I have seen it done very poorly.

Robert Greene discussed how whether it goes well or poorly depends on if the coach has self-control and self-awareness. Can they step back and analyze their anger? Can they use it strategically to get the results they are after?

He goes on to say that only those people, that can pause in the moment between stimulus and response to analyze their emotions, are able to get the results they want. Only those that can channel their anger productively after analyzing why they’re angry will get the results they are after.

I am by no means there yet. However this is one of the things that I am really working on. I am sure if you ask my family, friends, and colleagues they may say it is not going so well, but I am a work in progress.

I must be more cognizant of the space between stimulus and response. Not everything needs an immediate reaction. I need to take the time to analyze my anger to see if it is justified and then if it is use it productively.

You can’t force children to learn.

“[Y]ou can’t force kids to learn. You can only inspire them to do so.” – David Perrell, Monday Musings, 8/17/20

Why do we continue to try to force children to learn?

We can blame state testing, but that is a cop out. It’s been going on since I was in HS. I grew up in an era where the only high stakes testing was the SAT.

I grew up hating English class. I disliked reading and writing. I came to realize that I hated reading and writing what the teacher wanted me to read and write.

I remember only one project in HS English. We had to do a poetry study. We could choose anyone we wanted. I chose Jim Morrison, partly out of being a smart ass. “I’m going to show her. No stuffy poets for me.” But also because I love music. There is not a day in my life that I don’t listen to music for at least 1 to 2 hours.

The book I used was Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison. What I realized during the project was that I really didn’t hate poetry. I hated the poets that we were required to read.

It was English for me, but it is another subject for someone else. The point is that unless we try to get students personally involved in the content they will shut us out in subjects that they don’t like.

Personalizing your course content is not easy. It requires much more planning, and is much more difficult to execute. But isn’t the payoff worth it?

We all feel our content is important, and it is. We all get upset when students blow off our work. If we want students to work within our content areas we have to help them see the usefulness of what we teach.

It is important that students learn how to think differently. Tackling a problem scientifically is different that tackling it mathematically or historically. The problems aren’t getting easier so being able to approach them from many different angles will be important to solving them.

So if students blow off your class because they are not interested then how are you helping them develop their problem solving skills?

Empowerment

All three of the ideas I have spoken about in my last three blog posts, passion, inquiry, and understanding, have brought me to this final idea of empowerment. Wouldn’t now be the right time to empower teachers and students to remake education into what it could and should be?

You might say: Now? The right time? With all the uncertainty? Well there never is a right time. We always wait until the right time, but it never comes. We push things off because it’s not the right time, and then guess what nothing ever happens. But isn’t now as good a time as any?

Uncertainty is the rule, not the exception. It’s how we respond to the uncertainty that matters. That is a major tenet of Stoicism. We need to make teachers and students feel safe in taking risks in adjusting their teaching and learning in response to this uncertainty.

Whether we are in schools or in remote learning, the only people who really know what is going on in any classroom are the teacher and the students. Shouldn’t we empower them to make the decisions that are best for them?

We must allow them to use their passions to make classrooms and learning relevant. Empower them to look at curriculum through their lens and make adjustments that personalize the learning to them.

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.” – Simon Sinek via The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros

We also must encourage our teachers and students to question everything. Powerful questions are what drives innovation in any industry. Teachers and students should be asking questions that further their own teaching and learning. They are at the ground level of what can be done to make our classrooms, either virtual or in person, better.

“You don’t have to hold a position of authority to ask a powerful question.” – Polly Le Barre via A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger

If teachers and students are encouraged to us their passions and ask their own questions, they will develop a deeper understanding of whatever they are studying. They can use that understanding to push education forward toward what we envision: equity in opportunities for all children. They will also be happier in the process. What will you do this year to empower teachers and students to make education better?

“I encourage you to commit to empowering the people you serve to be part of the process of finding and solving problems.” – George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset

Passion

I have a son, Brendon. Brendon is a curious kid and has been passionate about various things in his life. First it was the planets, then the Presidents, now it is football, specifically the NFL. He is also your typical iGen kid who only watches the occasional TV show but can’t get enough of YouTube.

Recently he has started to combine these two interests. He has created a YouTube channel where he looks at football from his own unique perspective. Below is a link to his video looking at the epic game between Miami and San Diego in 1982:

I realize that he is my son, but I was extremely impressed by the professional appearance of this video, and his knowledge of the historical significance of this game or the fact this game even existed, since it was before he was born. I think that the most impressive thing is that he did it all on his own. He didn’t learn it at school, and he certainly didn’t learn it from me.

What I am getting at is the power of passion to motivate people to learn. He spent his own time to find the programs and then to learn how to use them. He then markets himself on various social media, all on his own.

What could we get out of our students in school if we tapped into their passions? I am certain we wouldn’t hear, “Why do we have to learn this?” When we are self-motivated learning isn’t a chore. As a matter of fact we don’t even think about the fact that we are learning.

As the Director of Science and Engineering Technology, I helped create the STEM Academy. This Academy allows student who are passionate about STEM to follow those passions. Students can pick between science, engineering, mathematics, and computer science.

In their freshman and sophomore years, our teachers provide them a broad experience in STEM to refine their passions. In their junior year they refine these passions into a two-year research project. In their senior year, we will help them find an internship with a local business or research facility that will help them use their skills and passions in real world scenarios.

The STEM Academy is not for everyone. It is for those who have a passion for STEM. We do not have minimum grade requirements to enter. The only thing a student needs is to show us their passion for STEM in an essay that is included in their application. Students can come in and out of the program as their passions change. We want students who want to be there.

It is my hope that now that I have moved into a district office position that I can help create more of these academies using our STEM Academy template. I would love to see students who are passionate about the Humanities, the Arts, Business, Physical Education, etc. be able to follow those passions as well. What a glorious day it will be when students walk into school excited about learning because they care about the curriculum because the curriculum cares about them.