Monday, February 28, 2011

Giveaway: "Come and Take It" (Gonzales) Flag

This week I'm giving away a 3' by 5' vinyl reproduction of the "Come and Take It" Flag, famously flown at the Battle of Gonzales at the outset of the Texas War of Independence in 1835.  It's a little wrinkly, but that's easily fixed.  For all of my Texas history teachers out there, this would be an awesome addition to your classroom wall!

Just email by 11:59 CST tonight for a chance to win it.  I'll pick one winner randomly (if you've won anything from me in 2011, you're not eligible this time.  I'm just trying to spread the love.)

Good luck!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Book Giveaway: When Teachers Talk by Rosalyn S. Schnall

This week's giveaway is the sure to be controversial book When Teachers Talk: Principal Abuse of Teachers - The Untold Story by Rosalyn S. Schnall.  Schnall, a retired Chicago Public Schools teacher with thirty-five years under her belt, interviewed five hundred Chicago Public Schools teachers about their experience with principals.  The book contains the results of a survey as well as detailed interviews with many of the participants, most of which relate gruesome stories of horribly incompetent or outright abusive principals.

Schnall's conclusion is sure to stir debate: "principal abuse of power and principal abuse of teachers... may very well be the most significant underlying cause contributing to the decline of public education in America today."  That's quite a statement.

Anyone who's interested in the edreform conversations going on these days would certainly find a lot to think and talk about in this extensive book.  Here are some discussion questions I thought about as I read through it:
  1. Principal abuse of teachers (and principal quality in general) isn't a main focus of the national discussion of education reform and policy.  How do we change that?  Do we need to change that?
  2. There are a lot of good teacher suggested solutions in the book (mostly around more teacher oversight of school leaders and shared power), I'm skeptical that many of them are possible because of the kind of political will and capital that would be needed to pull them off.  How do we overcome that?
  3. Is it fair to focus only on principals?  Wouldn't you find just as much damning evidence about teachers abusing students (or colleagues) within the same group you surveyed?  What about the school district leaders who choose principals and put them in difficult situations?
  4. Is this kind of problem restricted to our profession?  If one were to survey employees in other similarly demanding professions, would we find the same kind of abuse by their superiors?
  5. In the book, Schnall argues principal abuse of teachers as perhaps the most serious issue holding back education in America.  How does this issue rank compared to others cited as serious problems?
Since this book demands discussion and debate, I'd like to give it to someone who would discuss the issues it raises with other educators--teachers, principals, school leaders, etc.  Email by 11:59 pm CST tonight and tell me who you would like to discuss this with (and why).  One lucky reader will receive the book (if you've won anything from me since giveaways started in January, you're not eligible for this one).

Good luck!

Thanks to Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for providing a review copy of this book.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Student Passions, Open High, Bring Back Gym Class & more

Showing Your Passion wiki - A entrant into this week's giveaway sent along a wiki where his students explain their passions.

Experiment: Gym Class Helps Kids Read Better [GOOD]

Open High Blazing New Path [edReformer] - If you haven't heard of this Utah virtual charter school that uses open-source platforms for everything (and makes their own materials available as such), here's your primer.

Advice to Teachers from High School Student Who Created an iPhone App On His Own [The Innovative Educator]

5 New (to me) iPod Math Apps Added [RECESS DUTY]

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book Giveaway Results: Educators Reveal Their True Passions

For this week's giveaway of Gary Vaynerchuk's book Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash in On Your Passion, I asked you to answer two questions: What is your passion?  What would you spend all of your time doing if you could only make enough money doing it?  Here are some of the best responses, including the winner:

Kate, a high school math teacher shares a perspective that I wholeheartedly agree with:
My passion is simply being with students. I am a high school mathematics teacher, but my favorite parts of the day are when students come in just to share life with me. I love connecting with my students and building relationships. It is the greatest feeling when a student feels safe enough with you to confide in you. It breaks my heart to think that some of these students do not have good home lives. Some may not have someone in their lives who cares about them or asks them about their day because they truly want to know. If I can let even just one student know that there is someone who cares about them and wants to invest in their lives, then that would make me the happiest person. Students are able to achieve so much more and have more motivation when there are people in their lives who care, and it is easy for some to fall through the cracks and go through life unnoticed.

I have no idea what the job title for this would be, but that is my passion. I do get a lot of opportunities to connect with my students since I am a first year teacher and still young enough for them to feel like I am on their level. And I love going to work to see my students. I also come home and share so many stories about my day. Life with students in it is full of joy, surprises, and very fun!
Nate, a middle school math teacher in a rural area had an interesting perspective as well:
Two years ago we adopted our son from Haiti. Traveling to this country is truly a life changing experience. My passion is trying to find ways to help the people of this country any way I can. It really is a place you have to visit to understand the challenges the people of that country face. I think what I am trying to say that I want to make people aware of others and believe that it is human nature to help people out. That is what I try to convey in my students I see everyday! COMPASSION for each other, no matter our differences.
Both of those answers were great, but the winner is Tracy, who has amazingly ambitious ideas to grow a business that's much more than just after-school tutoring:
If I could make enough money doing it I would build The Tutoring Spot into a tutoring company that serviced the high risk youth in Washoe County and beyond.  I would not just tutor them or teach them, I would work independently of any state or national agency and teach them to learn.  I would have the time and opportunity to develop comprehensive lessons that will engage even the most unengaged students.  I would develop Freedom Writers groups to help engage students in English.  I would build practical math groups that would teach students why they need to understand math and science, and would build lessons around the things they need to know.  I would be able to develop a curriculum based on each student’s need rather than on funding requirements set forth by people who have never met my students.  I would keep all my services affordable to all members of my community, and offer scholarships to needy students.  The scholarships would be offered by local businesses with a desire to see the level of education in Washoe County improve.  I would work with the school district, but not for them, to improve our educational ranking from the bottom and bring it up, slowly but steadily, until our students were performing at the levels I know they are capable of.  I would grow The Tutoring Spot to reach areas outside of our local county and touch lives of students all around.  And I would do this for all students, not just those whose parents can pay hundreds of dollars for initial tests, only to be told how many hundreds of dollars the actual tutoring would cost.  I would offer this service to all in my community.
Congratulations to Tracy.  Stop by next week for another giveaway!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Giveaway: Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk

This week's giveaway is a hardcover copy of Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash in On Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk.

I read this book with great interest recently, as I took serious stock of my career and life.  Am I really fully engaged in my passion in my current position?  Is there room for me to grow, learn, and take advantage of an entrepreneurial spirit?  Is there something else I'd rather be doing, even if it meant taking a huge pay cut?  These are the types of questions Vaynerchuk pushes you to consider.  He then lays out the simple, powerful tools and opportunities that didn't exist even a few years ago for you to turn your passion into your work.  There's no suggestion that everybody can become rich by simply following their passions, but he does make a compelling case that there's no reason you couldn't make a living doing what you love.

I hope my giveaway this week doesn't give people the idea that I'm encouraging educators to quit.  Quite the opposite: now more than ever, there are opportunities for educators to launch and partner in new schools, nonprofits and for-profits addressing the many problems holding our students back.  Of course, some of you might read this and be inspired to do something completely different, and I don't think anyone should hold that against you.

So this week I'm asking a simple question: What is your passion?  What would you spend all of your time doing if you could only make enough money doing it?  For some of you, the answer might be teaching, or whatever you're already doing.  That's great, and I encourage you to enter.  I'll pick the most compelling answer and send them the book.

Entries are due to by 11:59pm CST tonight.  Good luck!

*This book was not a review copy or freebie; I bought it from a bookstore over winter break.  Just sharing the love.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Another giveaway coming tomorrow

I'll post this week's giveaway tomorrow; I'm still catching up on work and recovering from this weekend's Teach For America 20th Anniversary Summit.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word now available on Kindle

You can now get Teaching is Not a For Letter Word: How to Stop Worrying and Love the Job on your Kindle!  It's only $6.25, less than half the price of the paperback version.  My first book has enjoyed a great run on Kindle, so this is an exciting development for me!

If you weren't one of the winners of this week's contest, here's your chance to get the book at a just-slightly-higher-than-free price.

Thank you, as always, for your generous support.

This week's Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word giveaway winners are...

It's humbling that I received more entries to win a copy of my book than any of the mainstream books and resources that I've shared since January.  Here are the three winners:
  • Gareth Davies, editor of the new South African quarterly The Business of Teaching, who will share his copy with an urban South African teacher to review for his magazine!
  • Katherine, a student teacher who will share it with six other student teachers in her cohort
  • Pat Hensley, who blogs at Successful Teaching and told me she will share the book with "entire PLN through blogging, plurk, and twitter; my graduate students (some who are already teachers and some preservice teachers)" and my favorite, "my husband who just doesn’t understand why I love teaching."
I have to admit I'm not very good at such contests, mostly because I feel bad when someone doesn't win!  Many of those who sent in a particularly compelling entry (that didn't win) received a digital copy of Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word as a consultation prize.  I'm no prize-ologist, but that sounds like a pretty good reason to enter any and all contests I run on this site!

I've got at least a couple more weeks worth of cool stuff to give away, so check back in over the next few weeks!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Giveaway: Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word

This week, I'm giving away THREE paperback copies of my book Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word: How to Stop Worrying and Love the Job.

Of everything I've done over the past three years, this book is by far the accomplishment I'm most proud of.  I really believe it can make a huge difference in the lives of teachers who are searching for inspiration and guidance.

It's very important to me that this book be shared among colleagues; there's even a section entitled "Share This Book" that's modeled after ideas I learned from Seth Godin.  So it should come as no surprise that I'm framing this week's giveaway around the idea of sharing the ideas in the book.

If you're interested in a chance to be one of the randomly chosen winners, simply email me ( and tell me who you will share the book with when you're done with it.  I'll except entries until 11:59pm CST tonight.

Thank you as always for your support of this blog, and good luck!

(As with the previous contests, anyone who's won something from me in 2011 is no longer eligible.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Virtual Cockroach, People Are Awesome & more

Orkin Interactive Virtual Cockroach - Pest control specialists Orkin have put together an interesting tool on their website, designed to be an engaging tool for teaching insect anatomy.

30 Surprising Things That U.S. High Schoolers Don’t Know - I wouldn't say that these are really too surprising!

Busting the Snoot Meter [f(t)] - Kate expertly answers the common "why on Earth did you get into teaching" question.

Kitchen. [Look at my happy rainbow!] - Kindergarteners are awesome--a great example of why unstructured play is so important for early childhood development.

People Are Awesome: Watch This Remarkable Teenager Come Out to Her Whole School on MLK Day [GOOD] - This is one of the bravest people I can think of, regardless of age.