Happy Summer to you!
I hope to feed this blog more in the coming days. First up -- is a book review of Kenneth Gray's "Getting Real: Helping Teens Find Their Future."
I found this book on Amazon by chance, and I have not been able to put it down! Mind you, this is the second edition, and there are probably more updated versions. I don't think there is a page that doesn't have highlights or markings or the word "YES!!!" on the peripheries. This is one of the books I've been looking for.
It's not written specifically for students with disabilities. It is premised on the importance of career planning at the high school level. It begins with a discussion of career maturity, which I found refreshing. I think the idea of "career maturity" (i.e. a student that would like to be an NBA basketball player who has never played basketball vs a student who wants to be a veterinary technician and is involved in the veterinary science to some degree) is much more relatable than Super's concept of career development stages. It began with a conversation about the importance of teaching students to be career mature, and helping to bring this change about by the 10th grade (such an important year, I'm learning). It also has a deep discussion about the job market.
There is so much to write and so many things to celebrate about this book, but my major take away from Gray's teachings are the sentence cues to use with students who are plagued by anxiety at the thought of postsecondary transition. I'll share his 4 principles below, and I hope that they help your conversations also:
1. The goal is to make the best tentative decision now based on what you know about yourself and the labor market ahead. For most, this will be just the first decision in a process of making the final decision in the years ahead.
2. For most, the likelihood that this tentative career decision will be the final decision and you will end up pursuing this career is probably not even 50%. But if you are willing to tackle making the first tentative decision now, the next decision will be a better decision. You may end up changing college majors or even transferring to different institutions, but this will be a positive change toward a well-thought-out career goal.
3. The alternative is to do nothing, which only postpones the problem but does nothing to work toward a solution. Doing nothing is a decision.
4. The tentative decision is just the first decision. It is not irrevocable; it will not doom you. Many very successful men and women started with a different career plan and even earned degrees to do so, but successfully changed direction. But note that they did make the first decision. (Kenneth Gray)
I've often framed transition as one of the most exciting times in a young person's life, but I love these principles even more. When we are asking students "what they want to be" when they grow up, it is so hard to pick one because students see it as a marriage, or a divorce, where they have to make a choice that they will need to commit to for the rest of their life. This logic makes sense, and it retrospect, I wish I would have heard these words 10 years ago to ease my anxieties about just choosing something.
If you support students in transition and want the off-the-grid, non-college standpoint (although the college standpoint is also nurtured in this text as well), I highly recommend you pick up this book. It was enlightening, practical, and useful.
Today, I thought I'd start getting into the rhythm of doing book reviews regarding transition. I read 1-2 books a week regarding the topic, and like to check out books regarding career development, career counseling, self-advocacy for students with learning disabilities, and college success for students with learning disabilities.
This book title popped up in a suggested title, and I thought that it hit on several interesting points that I've been researching.
Overall: I felt this book was a motivating reference for parents/teachers/guidance counselors who are looking for new ways to frame college for students with learning disabilities. There was a hearty discussion about the laws that govern their college experience, and some good "real talk" advice points for students.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Adding to Transition Library? Yes
Table Of Contents:
Chapter 1 ~ Getting There (Self-Advocacy and Transition Planning for College, Things to Know Before Applying, Tips for Students, Tips for Parents, Tips for Guidance Counselors)
Chapter 2 ~ Staying There: Self-Advocacy in College (Three Things To Know, Goal Planning, Developing and Building Study Skills, Tips for Students, Tips for Parents, Tips for Guidance Counselors)
Chapter 3 ~ Making It in the World (Is Grad School in the Future? Self-Advocacy, Finding the Road to Success When You Can't Read the Directions, Accommodations in the Workplace, There's More to Life Than Work, Tips for Students, Tips for Parents, Tips for Guidance Counselors, Resources)
Quotes I loved:
- "When you leave high school and get to college, everything changes. You have rights, but you don't have entitlements. When you were in high school, you didn't really have a choice about being identified as a student with learning disabilities. The school was responsible for identifying you as a student with a specific educational diagnosis and label, for providing all necessary testing and an IEP, and for ensuring that you received the special education services specified in your IEP. Once you leave high school, you don't have to tell anyone that you're a student with learning disabilities" (136).
- "Much of formal education attempts to make students with learning disabilities less different, more like everyone else, more like the norm. I don't know about you, but I don't aspire to shooting for the middle" (III)
My favorite parts:
This book was an interesting read as a teacher, because I focus usually on work with so many of our students. This doesn't come out of principle, but more of what we've observed with many of our students who matriculate to junior colleges. Currently, several of our former students are failing at the junior college level, and we're trying to see what we can do to support students in this transition.
My major takeaway from this text was the implications of the law change from IDEA --> ADA once a student goes to college. It's a lot less hand holding, and a lot more self-advocacy. Colleges are also given the right to decide what accommodations are appropriate and what the content benchmarks are for each course.
The author has done a lot of work with encouraging students with disabilities to attend college, and he provides several useful and practical projects for students. One is for high school students to go step-by-step through their psychoevaluation reports to understand what their strengths and weaknesses are. He also discusses the importance of routine and provides a sample time management tool.
I look forward to being able to frame college in a more accurate life for our students, and to discuss the importance of self-advocacy as they make this next crucial step. I am in the midst of trying to connect with the disability resource counselors at our two closest community colleges to identify any vulnerabilities we can work on at the high school level. The work is never done, but each day I feel a little closer!
What do you do at your school to help the transition to junior college or 4 year colleges? Have you found success with anything particular? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Today's topic: "Calling in Sick."
Little did we know that today is actually National Sickie Day! The first Monday in February, historically, is the most popular day in the United States to call in sick! One news article estimated that over 40 million Americans would call in sick today.
The #1 reason why Americans call in sick is because they are recovering from Super Bowl Sunday, with the vast majority of Americans believing that Super Bowl Sunday should be a national holiday. Other ideas about why people call in sick -- it is the first Monday after January's pay check, or for people who are considering a new job for the new year -- they are at job interviews.
We began with a fun activity in which students received 10 slips of paper with excuses for calling in sick. British medical insurance agency AXA PPP Health Care recently did a study which surveyed employers as to what would be the most accepted reasons to call in sick. We scrambled up the reasons and students were asked to put them in order, with #1 being the most acceptable reason to call in sick. I got this idea from this news article.
Here is the correct scale. The percentages indicate the share of managers who found the excuse to be a "serious enough reason for an employee to be absent from work."
1. Flu (41.6%)
2. Back pain (38.5%)
3. Injury caused by accident (38.2%)
4. Stress (34.5%)
5. Elective surgery (35.2%)
6. Depression (34.5%)
7. Anxiety (25.4%)
8. Common cold (23.8%)
9. Migraine (21.7%)
10. None of the above (7.7%)
Source: Reader's Digest
Then, we did a demo of a "good" calling in sick scenario, and a "bad" calling in sick scenario.
Afterwards, we took notes on tips for calling in sick:
At the end of class, students took out their phones and we had each student role play calling in sick.
We played a YouTube sound clip of the iPhone ringing, and acted like we were managers picking up the phone, and students role played calling in sick. The students did GREAT!!!! They were nervous, but we explained to them that the more they plan out what they are going to say and practice, the easier it will be.
Topic: "Small Talk"
We listed the following list up on the board:
Then, we watched an Ellen Degeneres clip on small talk. Even celebrities struggle with small talk!
There is nothing small about small talk. It's an essential people skill. It is the first step to creating relationships, it opens opportunities and it creates self-confidence. We often are shy to engage in small talk with others, but other people are just as shy as you are. It's a great relief when someone initiates a conversation and saves you from being socially awkward.
Then, we modeled a good and bad small talk situation.
The scene that we modeled was two strangers being on an airplane. We modeled a good small talk situation and a bad small talk situation.
Then, students each had scenarios and they had 5 minutes to role play a good small talk situation.
The first scenario was two people on an elevator going up 21 floors.
The second scenario were two people who didn't know anybody at a party.
The students did very well! It was great to see their people skills come out in this exercise.
We reviewed yesterday by reading an article:"6 Reasons Small Talk Is Very Important and How to Get Better at it"
The major reasons why small talk is important:
1. Small talk is where it all begins. Everything starts with small conversations. It's a free investment that can lead to big things.
2. Studies show that small talk helps you become a creative problem solver.
3. Small talk helps you feel better. As humans, we crave connection -- so it just feels good.
4. Small talk makes you likable. People like others who engage them.
5. Small talk is a way of building trust
6. You have no choice. Small talk is a part of working and in in life. Companies want to hire people who can think on their feet.
Then, we took some notes on common Small Talk Topics:
1. Weather -- everyone always has an interest in the weather.
2. Current Events -- subjects other than politics and religion
3. Sports -- there's something for everyone to talk about
4. Compliment -- everyone loves to be paid a compliment from time to time. One of the easiest and effective compliments you can give another person is complimenting something that they are wearing.
5. Environment -- what is going on around you can be a conversational springboard.
6. General questions -- how are you? How are you doing? How was your weekend?
Gradually we moved into handshaking.
We talked about how this is a very traditional American greeting. Other countries also have different customs with handshakes and greetings. We talked about some other countries that greet with a handshake and maybe 2 kisses on each cheek. We talked about a few different countries and how they greet someone new and someone who they are close with.
We passed around some latex gloves to get started.
Then we took some notes on Handshaking tips.
Then, me and our Instructional Assistant modeled a good handshake.
It got funny when we modeled the "Handshakes to Avoid"!!!!
Students then were asked to perform one good handshake with an introduction with their table mate, and then we formed 2 lines and they shook hands both with myself and our Instructional Assistant. They did amazing!
We had a short amount of time, so we talked about PUNCTUALITY on the job.
We talked about how when you are starting a new job, you are usually under a "microscope," as your boss and coworkers will be keeping close attention on your behavior. When lateness occurs, it affects the "machine" of the workplace. When you are punctual, you show that you are committed, interested in working, and that you can handle responsibility.
Punctuality is a sign of respect.
We went over that idea several times. Employees are expected to be dependable.
Then, we took some notes on Punctuality on the workplace. We talked about punctuality being the hallmark of a professional.
Then, FUTURE PROFITS took over. They did the following activities:
Students had a guessing sheet with different brands and were asked to guess the correct price for each brand per industry (e.g. for cell phone service, there were amounts for Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Metro PCS).
Then, students were given a budget, and were asked to adjust their budget based on wanting to buy a new Toyota car. It was a very useful activity and got students thinking about sacrifice.
I had to be out, so students worked on a mini project called "Evaluating a Customer Service Model." Students think of a business that they patronize often, and are asked to evaluate the company's customer service model based on a series of questions.
Some questions that students were asked:
We revisited Self-Advocacy.
We took notes on what questions to ask when you are considering disclosing your disability.
Then, students began working on a practice written request for accommodations.
Future Profits had their 2nd weekly money lesson for students.
The coaches went through a review of the concepts we talked about last week (cash-in, cash-out, budget) and then students were given an estimation activity to do.
Students had categories like phone, PG&E, rent, etc. and with 3 price estimates for each. Students selected their best guess for what they thought these expenses cost.
The next activity they worked on I thought was very powerful. Students worked in pairs and selected a job and a monthly income. Then, they were given a monthly budget and were asked to delegate their expenses based on the given budget. At the end of the activity, students came up and talked about how they made their money decisions. This topic brought out a lot of interesting dialogue from the students, such as how they were going to compensate for not spending money on entertainment, or how they resolved to cook all of their meals at home.
The job coach summed it up beautifully at the end: "When you are budgeting, and especially when you are doing budgeting with a potential spouse one day, you will have to make choices. Sometimes these choices are contentious. It's important that you talk about your financial priorities as early as possible so that you can make those money decisions together."
Students took a quiz and then worked on missing assignments.
MONDAY - No School, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Thank you, MLK.
We reviewed Coach Carter and some of the major themes/messages. It is a local movie (based in Richmond, about an hour away from us), so there is a lot of connecting content there.
We reviewed the answers to Famous People Matching. I showed them the Powerpoint with the pictures of each of the Famous People.
Tom Cruise has been vocal about his battle with dyslexia
We had an introduction to our Self-Advocacy Unit.
I grappled with this before beginning. I feel like I struggle with how to talk about students about their own disabilities. In researching, I've learned that this is a taboo topic. Parents often have difficulty talking to students about their disabilities and have been known to avoid it. But, I'm learning that some students actually get great relief from talking about their disabilities, and to know that they are not alone in their learning challenges. It is also a great practice to work on describing their own disability, because it is not something they often have the opportunity to practice.
This is how I explained it:
"Everyone in here has an IEP. Everyone here has an exceptional way of learning. You all have strengths -- with some, insane strengths, and you all have weaknesses. All of you have something in common -- your weakness has been related to learning. That doesn't mean that you won't ever change, it means that you have to learn which things will help you learn on your journey. I gravitate towards the belief that when you have a relative weakness in something, you have a relative strength in another area. I think this is true of you all.
Studies have shown that this kind of learning -- called compensation learning -- or, figuring out to learn because you are compensating for a weakness -- is the most powerful kind of learning. Malcom Gladwell, author of The Outliers coined this phrase. He says: "People who lack certain skills — for dyslexics, the ability to read easily — make up for the weakness in other, often more important, areas." He calls this strategic disadvantage. I love Malcom Gladwell because his work personifies the advantage in being disadvantaged -- a belief I also share.
Gladwell goes on to talking about dyslexics, who see their disabilities as an advantage. He calls it "desirable difficulty." For example, just because I make a task easier doesn't mean that you learn it more fully. On the contrary, if I make a task harder, your learning of the task is more powerful. He also discusses entrepreneurs who are able to overcome their obstacles -- when they get to be successful business owners, solving major problems just becomes second nature to them.
We then went over just a brief overview of disability laws (We'll go into this more in-depth later), and some common workplace accommodations. I discussed a couple of "Did you know?" Accommodation questions.
We took some notes on what Self-Advocacy is:
The biggest takeaway I wanted students to leave with was "THIS IS YOUR LIFE." That is why self-advocacy is important. No one can make these decisions but themselves. They will have to speak up for themselves more than other people. They will have to ask for services. They will have to know what their rights are and what their responsibilities are.
Then, students had a survey titled "What do you know about yourself and your disability?"
For homework, students are working on a worksheet titled "Define Your Disability"
Students have 1 copy for themselves, and they have another copy to give to a trusted adult.
This lesson was more greater in engagement that I ever thought it would be. I have a higher functioning student in the class that sometimes appears disengaged -- I figure, she thinks that some of this stuff she "already knows". For this topic, she perked up. She was interested in accommodations, and what college would be like. She actually raised her hand and when I came over she was asking about how her IEP would work in college. She asked if there would be regular meetings with a Case Manager. Some of my other quieter students were also engaged in the Defining My Disability handout. Another one of the students wanted to give it to her mother because she was curious about what her mother would say.
Tomorrow, we will be going over the Advantages/Disadvantages of Disclosure and possible points of disclosure in the job process. We will also have a guest speaker starting tomorrow, from FutureProfits, which is a non-profit organization that teaches students about money management. I'm super excited to learn with the students!
Students took notes on Special Education laws (IDEA vs. ADA) as we continue to learn about Self-Advocacy.
Future Profits was launched today! FutureProfits is an education program that partners with local public high schools in the SF Bay Area. FutureProfits targets under-resourced high school students at-risk of being caught in generational cycles of poverty. Through this program, they teach about fundamental financial paradigms, life and job skills, and combat myths about money that can be detrimental to student's futures.
The students took a survey about their money habits, which asked questions like "do you think before you spend your money?" and asked them about money topics they would like to learn about in the semester.
They asked for a volunteer, and they asked him to think about something that he bought in the last week. He bought BEATS headphones. They diagrammed this on the board to model the "cash-in"/"cash-out" cycle.
Then, students did an activity in which they were given pretend cash and spending categories, and asked to divvy up their "cash-in" according to categories. It brought up so many good conversations about priorities.
I got the pretend money off Amazon here.
Seeing how students will have a lifelong relationship with money, and that money is the #1 thing that couples fight about, I am excited about the important conversations we will have as a classroom.
I had to be out to attend Articulation, where we begin our meetings to prepare for the incoming 9th graders.
Students worked on hand outs for good/bad reasons to call out for a job, trustworthiness on the job, and ways to call out sick.
Ask students to take out their homework assignments, an article on why Chick-fil-A makes 3 times more than KFC.
We begin with a journal: "Which business(es) do you think have the BEST customer service? What makes them so excellent? List all of the things you can remember."
This is what the students came up with:
Then, we watched a short video on Chick-fil-A, and reviewed the latest Temkin's ratings for Customer Service.
Then, we did a short note-taking activity on "The Chick-fil-A Toolkit."
I love this, because it has so many great points.
1. A baton -- "success is about succession." Chick-fil-A's CEO states that everyone needs to think about who's going to carry the baton after us.
2. Oxygen mask - "remember to put your oxygen mask on first in case of an emergency." Remember to take care of yourself. Leaders have to take care of themselves if they're going to help others be their best.
3. Jar of JIF Peanut Butter -- when you break the freshness seal in JIF peanut butter, you get a wonderful aroma. That fresh aroma emphasizes how we need to focus on staying fresh in our thinking.
4. Roll of Toilet Paper. Little things can make a big difference. Think about the toilet paper in a fancy hotel and how it's always folded up for you there on the roll. It's always such a pleasant surprise when you see that. Build your own repertoire of little surprises.
For homework, students are working on a "Second Mile Service" Handout on how they can create "little surprises" for customers in different scenarios. I think "second mile service" is such a basic, but important idea about customer service. CEO Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A said that employees are coached to go "the extra mile" for customers. Because that "extra mile" is where the magic happens.
As students walk in, I played "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" and other Disney parodies. I have some Disney stuffed animals on a desk at the front of the room.
Students begin with a journal prompt: "What makes someone a customer service superstar?"
We discussed their findings and then went over some quick background information about Disney as a company.
We listened to the 10-minute introduction to "Be Our Guest", a novel put out by the Disney Institute reviewing their method of Customer Service. It's a great read if you ever have a chance to read it. Now, I can't wait to go to Disneyland again to spot all of the details that Walt Disney imagined would make the park what it is.
We reviewed and took notes on "10 Ways to Create the Disney Experience."
1. "Always be show ready." Every day, thousands of people visit Disneyland. But Disneyland is also notable for what you don't see -- wrappers, gum, spilled popcorn, garbage. At night, custodians work meticulously to clean the park for the next morning. During the day, custodians are also hard at work. Employees are also trained to be meticulously neat.
2. "Greet and welcome very guest." Disney team members are trained to actively seek out contact with every guest. For example, they often approach guests who look confused instead of waiting for them to ask for directions. Disney also teaches its team to exercise the right tone in everything they do. A common litmus test question: "What time does the 3 o'clock parade start?" This has been such a common question. The best hire answers it proactively: "You're in luck! It should be passing by in 5 minutes! Shall I show you the best spot to watch the parade?"
3. "Customer service is a process. Everything affects the customer experience. Everything speaks." Think of process like a train engine. If one part does not work the train will still not move. Everything in your place of work is connected. What happens in one area affects every other area to some degree.
4. "Everyone's a princess." Disney personalizes each and every customer's experience at its theme park. Disney teaches its cast members to treat each customer as if they are the most important person in the world. At Disney Institute, it is rumored that each cast member must sincerely greet a customer if they are 10 feet away or less.
5. "Never say 'No.'" No matter the question, a Disney cast member is never supposed to say "No" or "I don't know" to a guest. The reason? "No" is a trigger that can create negative emotions in a customer. "No" is a hope killer.
6. "Create moments of WOW." All of the little "WOW" moments add up! Customer loyalty is consistently built on creating these "WOW" moments for your customers. If you are not memorable, customers can forget you easily and could go with another option. It is effective because it gives customer something positive to talk about to their friends. Many times, the only cost to you is kindness!
7. "Pay attention to the details." Every detail of the customer experience adds or subtracts from the Disney brand. This includes the friendliness of the employees to the cleanliness of the park, to how the physical space looks like.
8. "Treat every customer like they're a regular." Familiarity breeds business. In short, do whatever you can to make regular customers feel like family and new customers feel like regulars. We all like to be treated as if we are someone special.
9. Serve to WIN = "What's Important Now". It is easy to get caught up in task and unimportant work. Most things can wait. Customers should not wait.
10. "Never, ever argue with a customer." There is no upside to arguing with a customer. An angry customer's money is worth as much as a happy customer's money. You will definitely lose the customer and possibly your job. No one is perfect -- but the way you handle difficult situations will make or break your customer service reputation.
Students LOVE this topic! All materials, lecture notes and slides can be found here.
Students worked on a Self-Advocacy Vocabulary Sheet and Self-Advocacy Famous People Matching
Students watched clips of the movie "Coach Carter." Every year, I choose some motivational films to show clips of. I had to be out on Wednesday for professional development so the students watched some clips from Coach Carter.
Students worked on a quiz with content from the week (2 tools from Chick-fil-A) and (2 steps to create the Disney Experience). Then, we finished the clips from Coach Carter.
[Disclaimer: all activities from today can be found here]
Open with an Customer Service Agree/Disagree activity. I put up a statement on the projector and students move to the side of the room that they agree with.
I tell students. "It can be a job just to get get a job. For that reason, welcome to the first day of "JOB CLUB." Does anybody know the first rule of Job Club? You do not talk about Job Club. Do you know the second rule of Job Club? You do not talk about Job Club!"
We then do an exercise called "Moments of Truth." Jan Carlzon, a Swiss businessman and CEO of Scandinavian Airlines, published a book in 1989 about customer service that he called "Moments of Truth." He explained that every small interaction a customer had with the company was a "moment of truth." The book tells the story of the incredible turnaround of Scandinavian Airlines under the leadership of Carlzon. He took the lead of SAS following a 2-year period during which the company, once a world leader, suffered $30 million in losses. Within 2 years, under Carlzon's leadership, SAS was voted "Airline of the Year" by Air Transport World.
Carlzon found that a customer's view (positive/negative) of customer service depended on these small moments, which made up the locomotive of customer services. Customers make quick judgments on these small contacts. Even though it doesn't seem fair, it's customer logic.
To demonstrate the concept of "Moments of Truth" we do a quick group participation activity.
We write down a list on the whiteboard of every step in the customer's experience at Starbucks. This is the list the students came up with:
Then we go through each step, and we talk about what could make that step in the customer experience positive or negative. Some examples are below:
1. Drive into parking lot -- BAD = all of the parking spots are filled up.
4. Walk into Starbucks -- GOOD = greeted at the door, BAD --> not greeted, long line, trash in the lobby
It is the hope of this activity that students understand that in customer service, the details matter. Everything affects everything. Everything speaks. The real value for a business is the customer who has had a positive experience. And those employees -- who were so motivated to perform, that they interacted in such a way that the customer wants to come back a second and a third time as well.
As a class we then talk about how we can create each moment into a moment of MAGIC for the customer. For instance, for (1. Drive into parking lot), one of the students mentioned that they could stand outside of the parking lot waving with a sign trying to get customers in.
Students then do their own investigating with how they can create Moments of Magic for customers.
For homework, we ended with a journal topic on customer service -- "what do customers like?"
I love this introduction because it helps students understand customer service more as a process, and how the little things matter. Carlzon actually refers to customer service as a locomotive, where each thing is connected to create a customer experience. If just one of those things breaks down, it can adversely affect the experience of the customer. In today's global economy, employees need to think of customers as individuals and their individual experiences. They need to be customer-centric -- there really isn't another way around it. A customer's emotional experience can determine their perception of a company. Often times, it is the little "wow" factors that can make it memorable. (More on "wow" factors later)
Is there a business that demonstrates spectacular customer service? Is there an example of customer goodwill that you have encountered?
Pass out index cards/warm-up tickets.
I say: "On your index card/piece of paper, I'd like you to write down 3 words or phrases that come to mind when I say the phrase CUSTOMER SERVICE."
We do a Customer Service K-W-L Chart.
As they are working on that, I pull up a few slides to go over some customer service fundamentals.
We talk about some "Startling Statistics":
We talk about, in a general sense, why Customer Service is important:
We then transition into last night's homework, talking about "9 Things Customers Love." I play the Cheer's theme song to get us started.
Then, we go into "9 Things Customers Love." We review the student's ideas, and then we review the 9 things that customers love.
The lecture notes that go along with this, had many students nodding their heads. "That's true." They said with almost every single one.
We ended with an "All About Me" page from the Customer Service curriculum that queries students on their general interests and words that come to mind with some of the terms we'll be talking about this semester: Teams, Communication, Self-Advocacy and Work/Life Balance.
Students take a quiz on the content areas of the week.
If they finish early, students start on a rating system on Customer Service Qualities they think are most important.
We review a fact from yesterday:
We discuss a new idea:
We talk about this concept as a class.
Then, I lecture about the "6 Basic Rules" of Customer Service:
1. "Be nice."
2. Develop a goodwill mind-set
3. Attitude is everything.
4. Customer service is an acting job.
5. First impressions count.
6. Everything is built on relationships.
I gleaned the lecture notes about this from numerous texts: The Customer Rules, Customer Service for Dummies and Customer Service Training 101.
Students read an article about Chik-fil-A to preload them about our discussion next week.
Exit Ticket: What are (2) major takeaways from today?
"At sea, I learned how little a person needed. Not how much." - Robert Lee Graham
On the last day before Thanksgiving break, we took our 2nd field trip out with the Blue Ocean Whale Watching Group out of Moss Landing. If you're traveling to California and thinking about something to do along the coast, I highly, highly suggest you go to Moss Landing to see the abundance of life and to go whale watching. You won't be disappointed!
Some of the reasons why I advocate for field trips, year after year:
Back to the field trip...........
Last year, we went at the same time of year and the waters were rough. The boat was lifted up so high on the waves and dropped with such a force -- it really felt like a rollercoaster on the way out to sea. Many students and staff members got sick. I was hesitant to plan another trip, but could not allow myself to forget about the exhilaration of being on a boat on the open sea, or seeing earth's most colossal creatures in their natural habitat. It's a no brainer that this is something I wish we would do every year.
This year did not disappoint. The weather was phenomenal. The Fall is an incredible time to go along the coast. According to the crew, the visibility out on the ocean was at least 5 miles in every direction. After the 1-hour bus ride out to Moss Landing, it took another hour or so on the boat out to sea. But as soon as we got there, we could see the Santa Cruz coastline on one side, and the Monterey coastline on the other. The ocean was completely glassy and calm. Nobody got sick.
We saw about 20 humpback whales. We saw a mom humpback and her calf. At one point, we stopped to just watch the action, and we were literally surrounded by humpback whales. We also saw jelly fish (by the HUNDREDS!), harbor seals, otters, several species of birds, and a mola (ocean sunfish) even peeped its head out.
If we would have been able to stay for 1 hour longer, we could have made it out to the blue whales. Apparently, this year they are out in unprecedented numbers!
Below are some photos of the trip. Sorry I don't have more of the whales!
On the ride back to Moss Landing, it was especially wonderful. The sun was at its brightest, the water was gleaming, and we were able to reflect and pause as we all enjoyed the ocean together. We honestly could not have asked for a better day. What also made the trip was that they were doing a news story on the unprecedented numbers of whales this season. They interviewed a student, myself and my coworker Alexis. That was a fun cake topper to the day!
That's all for now. I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
"The beginning is the most important part of the work." - Plato
This past week marked my 6th year of teaching and 9th year in public education.
I was particularly ecstatic going into this year, because it is the first year that my family is not juggling one of us going to school, and it is my first year not being Department Coordinator. I can actually commit fully to teaching, which feels like a huge breath of fresh air.
This year, I am teaching Special Day Classes. I have 2 sections of English freshmen/sophomore combo, a Life Skills class and 2 sections of Study Skills.
These are my goals going into this school year:
1. Celebrate student birthdays in the summer and throughout the year. I don't know why this is such a big deal to me, but it is. One student one year told me that he went through a whole day of school and only one person told him "Happy Birthday." Now, I have a huge calendar on my wall and reminders for when it is someone's birthday. I queried students as to what their favorite candy was on the first day of school, and on their birthday, we sing and I give them their candy at the end of the song. It takes a little prep on my end, but it always results in a huge, irreplaceable grin from the student.
2. Align 2 novels with the mainstream. Teaching special day class, I work with many at-risk youth, and it's been a major challenge trying to teach The Great Gatsby or Into the Wild -- topics and characters that are far stretches for them. Most of my students are Hispanic youth and their interests and their backgrounds are much different. I am going to try to do 2 novels from the mainstream, this year, though: Macbeth and The Kite Runner. I feel like we we can find compelling interests in these two works -- wish us luck.
3. Field trips. If you work alongside me, you know that I am really, REALLY into field trips. I've received a lot of scrutiny about it in the past (surprisingly), but I'll never give up on field trips. Because we live so close to the coast, I try to do as many things as possible by the ocean, or to San Francisco. Some of our students never leave Mountain View. I cringe asking about their summer, at times, because many of them say they stay at home playing video games. It's disappointing to me, because we have an incredible natural world just an hour away. Last year we did whale watching off of Monterey Bay and kayaking the Elkhorn slough. This year, I hope to do Ano Nuevo, a drive down highway 1, and a trip to San Francisco. Places like these open my heart, and I hope they do the same -- to some degree, for our students.
4. Quick and timely assessment. Oldie but goodie.
5. Address "techuity" in the classroom. I learned about the term "tequity" during an Edtech conference this summer. This year, I'd like to familiarize students with the basic computing skills to get them up to speed with Google interfaces (on the first day of school a student asked me how to change the color of text).
6. Create "skills checklists" for each of my courses. I teach English and Life Skills. My daughter's kindergarten teachers uses skills checklists for each quarter, and that is the data that she presents to parents during parent conferences. I thought it was brilliant, and something we could adapt to the high school setting.
The first week went pretty well. I tried to heed many teachers' advice and avoid teaching intense content in the first week. Instead, we did many community building activities, reinforcement of norms, and assignments to explore the tools on Google docs and Google slides.
My favorite standard Community Builder is "I'd Like to Meet the Person Who." Students do not put their name on slips of paper with the following prompts:
"I'd Like To Meet the Person Who"
Then we shuffle 'em up, and redistribute them making sure everyone receives another person's slip of paper. I solicit a volunteer who feels like they "know" who they have. That person starts us off, saying, "I'd Like To Meet the Person Who..." and then they read off a few that they found interesting. They guess, and when they guess right, I ask the person to tell us a little more about what they wrote. It takes about 15 minutes with 8-12 students, and it's a guaranteed, un-boring, non-mushy icebreaker. With my class of 11 boys and 0 girls, it worked out well.
The first content-ish assignment we did was "Use the Keyboard like a NINJA!" and students had to fill out the keyboard shortcuts to popular commands such as "Copy" (Ctrl+C), Paste (Ctrl+V), Undo (Ctrl+Z), Zoom in (Ctrl +), etc.! It worked out well, and by the next day I saw students practicing with these keyboard commands right away.
We also completed an Intro to Google Docs assignment where students had commands like "Make this text bold, make this text 50, Make a 4X4 table, and so on.
Lastly, we did an Intro to Google Slides assignment where students had to do certain tasks like create a shape, create an animation, change the background color, change the image ordering, insert a GIF, and others.
At the end of the week, we did a Make a Meme! assignment, which is something I learned how to do at an EdTech conference. Here is our "MEME WORLD" as a student put it!
Here are more noteworthy MEMES that I just had to share:
The students really got into them and some made 4, 5, and up!!! We had so many good laughs at the end of the week and as an added bonus, students practiced using several controls and tools on Google slides...tools we will be using all year!!!
I hope you had a wonderful start to your year, wherever you may be.