Positive Teachers Matter


LOVE! This quote from German philosopher, poet & playwright Wolfgang Goethe-

“Instruction does much, but encouragement does everything.” It doesn’t mean to lie to kids and artificially inflate their egos, it means that teachers and coaches need to be cheerleaders, we need to encourage kids- encourage them to try, encourage them to work, and yes, encourage them when they succeed, but also to encourage them to pick themselves up, dust them selves off, and keep trying and working when they fail.

Of course American poet Maya Angelou said it another way when she wrote “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Or, to be more trite, “They won’t care what you know, till they know that you care.” Or to use some teacher-jargon, “You can’t get to Bloom, till you take care of Maslow.”

#AffectiveDomainMatters #MotivationMatters #Inspire


‘Faculty Lounge’ | Teacher tagged posts


This section of this blog is dedicated to learning, education, and the glorious professionals on the front lines of facilitating learning for kids.

orange-brain-RIGHTSome of these posts, beginning in August 2017 are related to my own “Personalized PD” journey. But many before and after may have to to with teaching in general or teaching either Art or Social Studies. Thanks for visiting. Feel free to follow, share and comment.


ACEs & PBIS Resources

For out back-to-school in-services this year we screed an excellent film called ‘Paper Tigers.’ The next day we had a presentation on the dangers of human trafficking and social media. Both of these reinforced for me my contention that addressing the affective domain is vital if we’re ever going to be able to teach to the cognitive domain. In non teacher-speak; “They won’t care what we know until they know that we care.”

Since I also happen to be our districts website coordinator, I quickly put together a collection of links related to these two PD experiences so that our staff could explore these issues further on their own. Here they are.


ACEs & PBIS Resources

How can we make a positive impact on our students lives?

“Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity. As such, early experiences are an important public health issue. Much of the foundational research in this area has been referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).”

~U.S. Center For Disease Control

Adverse Childhood Experience Study

“Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a proactive approach to establishing the behavioral supports and social culture and needed for all students in a school to achieve social, emotional and academic success. Attention is focused on creating and sustaining primary (school-wide), secondary (classroom), and tertiary (individual) systems of support that improve lifestyle results (personal, health, social, family, work, recreation) for all youth by making targeted misbehavior less effective, efficient, and relevant, and desired behavior more functional.”

~San Jose Unified School District, San Jose, California

Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports

Similar/Related/Supporting Concepts

Mindset Mondays

ORANGE BRAINI haven’t blogged in quite a while and it seems like the last few times were either politics or poetry.

This year for professional development, our school is doing something called “Personalized PD.” Essentially we’ll be getting licence renewal credit for doing something I’ve been doing for years anyway; doing personal reading or research and implementing what we learn in our classrooms. Any professional educator worth their salt ought to be doing this at least casually if not deliberately and formally anyway.

Sometimes it’s a website, blogger or twitter. Sometimes it’s a professional journal or association resource. Sometimes it’s your own personal learning network (PLN). But anyone who’s serious about helping their students learn and grow is also constantly striving to learn and grow themselves.

Now that it’s becoming “institutionalized,” that is to say now that the educational-industrial-complex is finally catching on to personalized pd and to “professional learning circles (PLCs),” I worry that it will no longer be as organic and subversive as it once was. Time will tell, but in theory at least, it’s an excellent idea.

One component of our school’s Professional PD is that we need to share what we learn and implement with other educators. So, rather than create an entirely new blog, I am going to post about what I research and apply here on my existing blog under the tag “teaching” and with the spiffy “faculty lounge” banner graphic.

I may not be a professional education consultant, a TED Talks speaker, award winning administrator or YouTube or podcast host, but I am a 24 year veteran of both parochial and public schools, so I hope that my ideas and insights will be useful to whomever stumbles across them and to my colleagues at Boyer Valley and Woodbine schools.

DISCLAIMER/TRIGGER WARNING- What I write here are all my own opinions and do not represent Boyer Valley Community Schools, their Board or Administration- although

1) I will do my best to remain as positive and professional as I can at all times because

a) I like my job and want to keep it and

b) it’s the right thing to do anyway.

2) They really ought to be their ideas because it’s not like I’m a blither idiot, I try to be informed and it’s not like I haven’t got years of experience and any district ought to trust and empower their educators (whew- sorry, just putting that out there even though I recognize that it was both cynical and unprofessional, but admit it, it was at least kinda funny, right?) and

3) I forgot 3… oh yeah- any blogger ought to be able to feel comfortable being as genuine and authentic as possible without having to fear recrimination for their candor, right? Be that as it may, my goal is to share ideas, not spew opinions or vent frustrations so even if I try to use humor (or sarcasm) on future posts, please know that it’s intended to help communicate not to ruminate.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with it.

The PLC I am a part of (not to be confused with a PLN) has as a goal to increase motivation among our students. Last year we discussed using “Growth Mindset” ideas, but for whatever reason, we didn’t get all that far. That doesn’t mean that I have to give up on that concept myself in my own classroom.

One of my plans is to dedicate a portion of each Monday to addressing issues of learning attitudes. In my eighth grade Civics classes I plan on using videos from Trevor Ragan at trainugly.com. In my middle school Art classes especially, I will be working through the Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM) developed at Harvard. I will touch on these in my high school Art classes as well although in Commercial Art and Web Design , I intend to emphasize the steps in the design process more.

Later in the year, I may switch Art classes to videos from a YouTube channel called ‘The Art Assignment’ which will essentially be cycling through the studio habits in different ways. I may move Web Design to either Trevor Ragan, Simon Sinek or Steven Covey or some combination of all three.

As a Cheer coach, I’ve used John Wooden’s ‘Pyramid of Success’ for many years, but have let it go for a few years now, so I think I should bring it back.

All of these programs are intended to help develop learner’s own intrinsic motivations to desire to learn and challenge themselves rather than relaying on extrinsic motivators like grades, privileges, rewards, punishments, detentions, candy, etc. etc.

The thick, pseudo-intellectual explanation for this is that I see myself as aligning with cognitivists and existentialists in psychology rather than the behavioralists. The snarky way to say that is that I want students to be thinkers and learners rather than treating them like animals or machines.

Let’s be blunt. The trend in legislatures and state departments of education in recent years has been to focus on testing, data, and standards. But if students don’t respect the test, the results will always be skewed and therefore inaccurate. What’s more, the best tests, the best data, and the best designed standards in the world won’t mean jack if students are either unwilling or unable to learn.

Because of this, we need to direct our energy into inspiring and encouraging students to actually WANT to become life-long-learners.

Here are two trite cliche’s which I consider personal mantras and which I share as often as I can:

  • We can’t teach them Bloom till we take care of Maslow
  • If you WANT to learn, NO ONE can stop you;
    But if you DON’T want to learn, NO ONE can help you


Happy Dad’s Day

I was unfairly blessed with an incredible dad whom I always knew loved me unconditionally. I know I’m not the perfect dad, but I’ve been blessed with three amazing daughters, all of whom make me enormously proud & none of whom I could imagine life without. If you’re half as fortunate as I am, remember to count your blessings & tell your dad you love him.
Over 25 years of teaching & coaching, I’ve known too many kids who lost their dads too soon, never knew their dads, or were stuck with jerks, deadbeats or monsters instead of decent dads. 

This weekend, keep these kids in your thoughts & prayers because it can be a painful holiday. 

For me, one of the best parts of teaching & coaching has been getting to know those kids & hopefully being able to be there for them when they’ve needed it. I could never replace a real dad, but I hope I’ve been able to help.  In many ways there are a lot of kids that I’ll always have in my heart, as if they’re my own. I know a lot of teachers think of their students as “their kids.” What a blessing that can be.

All year round why not try to be a friend or mentor to children without parents (or with broken parents)? You don’t have to be a professional teacher or coach to be a reliable, stable adult appropriately available to kids who need it. 

As the saying goes, “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

Psalm 68:5-6a “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”

Artist Statement; for an example/demo assignment


Graphite & pencil on 18×24 newsprint, 2017

Students had 5 days to work on their final self portraits. Between helping them and getting piles of grading for other other classes done I had to force my self to spend a class and a half to work on one myself. I kinda like the funky angle. What did we do before cell phones? Maybe I need to back off of telling them they should use mirrors instead of phones.

Below are my responses to some of the “self-critique” reflection questions that I assigned to my students for their semester final self portraits.

PRODUCT: What do you like most about your drawing? What are you most displeased with or disappointed in about your drawing?

I like this one much more than the one I did first semester with the mirror. That one is much less realistic, not to mention more static and flat. I love the from-above angle and the 3/4 view. I think that the shading helps it have a sense of form. While I kind of like the contrast between the linear texture of the hair and the shape/pattern of the flannel shirt, I think that without legs or hands, the shirt kind of becomes just an amorphic blob holding up my head.

PROCESS: What did you enjoy most about making this drawing?What was the most difficult challenge you faced in making this drawing?

It was an escape from the pressure of entering grades at the end of the semester and the chaos of eighth graders who are so excited about the end of the school year. If anything, I wish I’d been working on this with the rest of the Drawing class for the whole five days, and not just a day and a half.

PROCESS & PRODUCT: If you were the Art teacher, what grade (A, B, C, D, F) would you give to this drawing. Please explain or defend your choice. Why does it deserve that grade? What about it earned the grade you’d give?

I guess I’d give myself an A-/B+ It’s accurate an engaging, but just imagine how much better it could’ve been had I given it my full attention and commitment.

DEVELOPMENT & GROWTH; How do you think this drawing demonstrates that your drawing skills &/or perceptual skills are improving? In what ways have your skills advances since the beginning of the year?

I’m not sure it’s fair for me to answer this question since I’m not a student and I’ve been an Art teacher for 24 years now, but I am always amazed at how I can continue to learn and improve no matter how old I get. I also think sometimes that the less I think about what I’m doing and just do it, the better my results. I’ve heard baseball/softball coaches talk about this for pitchers- some thinks are mechanical rather than cerebral and you just have to “trust the process, don’t over-think.” Obviously my expression reveals how weary and cynical I’ve become in middle age. I had hoped that the unique angle, besides being thinning, might counter the curmudgeon with dynamic, even energetic angles and eye-flow.

EXIT SURVEY: What do you think are the biggest breakthroughs in your perceptual skills this year? How did your drawing skills improve? What are some things you feel like you learned this semester or will be able to take away from this class?

While I do feel like I’ve had some breakthroughs this year, I’m having trouble putting them into words.

But I have to say that I am very grateful for my high school Drawing, Painting, and Photography classes this year. I’ve been blessed with students who engage, participate and learn- not to mention many who have enormous amounts of talent! The icing is that almost all of them are just great people that are fun to be with. I feel like they’ve allowed me not only to continue to grow as an artist along with them, but to grow as an educator. I think many of them have taught me a few things, or at least reminded me of some things that teachers need to keep in mind while they’re teaching. There have been many very difficult and discouraging things about being in this profession this year, but none of them have come from the kids in my high school Art classes.

I truly hope and pray that many of them can continue to take Art classes the next year or two. Even if they can’t, I hope to use what they’ve taught me and the momentum they’ve given me for teaching 6-12th graders NEXT year. Thanks Drawing 2 Class- have a great Summer!

I’m So Sorry

I’m so sorry
You’re dealing with so much
I feel afraid to offer any commentary
because I don’t want to risk
offending you
or say anything
that will compound your pain

I want to say things
to heal
or help

but I know
nothing can
and I don’t want
anything that could be beneficial eventually
to be trivial or superficial or even insulting
because it comes at the wrong time.

I’ve been here before
in the line
at the viewing
or the luncheon
after the entombment
not knowing what to say
or how to say it
not wanting to put you through this
not even sure
how much eye contact
to make.

But I’ve been someplace
like where you are now
I know not the same place
but someplace cold
on display
in front of
what seems like
a never ending
stream of well wishers
yet so alone
so that you just want
to be left alone
but under sedation
put into a coma
so that you
don’t have
to deal with it

I’m sorry
so sorry
not only for your loss
but because
I have no idea
what to say
or how to say it

I’m here
if you want me
but I won’t be
if you don’t
I just wish
I could tell which
it doesn’t see fair
to ask you
to have to tell me
one way or another

I’m so sorry