I had the pleasure of having a half-hour Skyped conversation with a group of Texas teachers earlier this month, and invited Dan Perez to write about it:

Dan Perez comes from the Lamar Consolidated ISD in Rosenberg, TX.  Dan was a 6th grade Science teacher for eight years prior to transitioning to his new adventure this year as an Instructional Technology Specialist.  

Connecting Texas to California

Two weeks ago our district hosted a week long mini technology PD conference for our teachers called INTERACT (Integrating Technology Realistically Among Classroom Teachers).  This year we included a time frame for teachers to discuss various topics of interests. Prior to the conference, teachers read snippets of an assigned book relating to their selected topic in order to prep for our conversation with various educational experts. Enter the topic of meaningful student motivation, Larry Ferlazzo, and his book, Helping Student Motivate Themselves.

Our group met for about an hour and a half, part of which would include a live conversation with Larry via Skype.  Prior to our conversation with him, we reflected on our reading assignments and came up with questions to ask.  We had questions relating to student ownership, intrinsic rewards, goal setting, dealing with disruptive students, and reassessments.

When we connected with Larry, we discussed the importance of getting to know your students’ hopes and dreams.  He mentioned we need to “lead with our ears, instead of our mouths.”  It’s difficult for students to “buy in” if we’re not listening.  We also need to be flexible with our assignments relating to their dreams. This allows their work to be more meaningful and thus keeping the students’ interests. Dreams, meaningful work, and conversations regarding second chances can also help students who are often apathetic towards school work.

Acknowledging improvements in student work is essential. Students need to see individual progress, and they need to be conversed with it as well. One teacher shared how she’s changed the way she grades assignments by pointing out what the student got correct versus what they got wrong.  Some teachers also mentioned how they don’t grade with red pens either.

In relation to goal setting, our teachers loved the concept of Daniel Pink’s One Sentence Project mentioned by Larry.  Teacher’s want to invoke this where students will write one sentence on what they hope people will say about them in the future. Our group also discussed Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, where it will take 10,000 hours of practice in order to achieve mastery.  All of this was to reinforce the topic of creating measureable realistic goals. Our teachers discussed how they respect students’ dreams, but they want them to come up with a “Plan B”.

For other questions, conversations with students seem to be the answer.  Whether it’s with the class as whole relating to classroom discipline issues or a one on one conversation with a student regarding behavior or academic concerns, heartfelt conversations are key.

Our conversation with Larry was exciting and participants enjoyed hearing his input as these opportunities don’t happen often.  Larry input was truly humble and honest. He mentioned how he was there to share, but also to learn.  He never tried to “fake” an answer and would mention if he didn’t know an answer to a question.