Judgement isn’t just about making a good decision in the moment for the moment; although this is often how judgement is measured. The truth is judgement is about a “good” decision for the individual or group, but also about evaluating the risks associated with that decision overtime and weighing possible consequences.


While we live in a society that is defined as “fast paced”, rarely are we pressed for an immediate decision by anyone but ourselves. For most, we are afforded the time to stop and think about the ramifications of a decision for a moment if we just give ourselves permission to take that moment. This goes against the grain for many of us, so you may need to practice taking a moment. It is worth practicing.

I once heard that Paul Petzoldt (the founder of NOLS) said “the first step in dealing with a crisis is to smoke a cigarette”. Context is important, Petzoldt didn’t get a kick back from Phillip Morris, the point was pause and evaluate before acting. I have since modified this to have a cup of tea, you make you’re own choice.

So… go forth leaders of life, and education and claim that moment (be sure to extend the learning process by telling your students/ teammates that you are claiming a moment and why, because you are a role model whether you like it or not – might as well bring them in the loop). Make judgments and evaluate your decisions based on the good/bad scale  and the time factor.

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A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles roll
ed into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed..

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—-your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—-and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.. The sand is everything else—-the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

Take care of the golf balls first—-the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.


(This story is great for opening a discussion on priorities, one of my favorite. Expand the activity by breaking up a small group and asking them to label what their golf balls are, and so forth) 

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What Students Really Need to Hear

In many ways this post reminded me of “Dumbing is Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling” by John Taylor Gatto. Also, while Mielke has some strong language I need to believe, as an educator, that there are reasons to study my chosen discipline. Not conveying those true reasons is an embarrassment to education.

All that being said, this is a great post for teachers to read. The challenge of the quitter mind set is one that we must tackle head on.

Chase Mielke

It’s 4 a.m.  I’ve struggled for the last hour to go to sleep.  But, I can’t.  Yet again, I am tossing and turning, unable to shut down my brain.  Why?  Because I am stressed about my students.  Really stressed.  I’m so stressed that I can only think to write down what I really want to say — the real truth I’ve been needing to say — and vow to myself that I will let my students hear what I really think tomorrow.

This is what students really need to hear:

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. In fact, I care about you more than you may care about yourself.  And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you. Do I have permission to be…

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Oldie but a goodie

Let’s be honest movies like Dead Poets Society and School Ties have a special place in the hearts of educators, and why not? On a personal note, I love the setting in both films. A boarding school nestled somewhere in New England in the middle of the century. When I watch them I am sucked in by romantic images, like students working diligently next to a crackling fire, and teachers impacting students lives. Admittedly, I also see things that make me cringe, like the use of corporal punishment in an educational environment.

I mention this because I worry that when we look to the past we allow the memories of things like corporal punishment to disproportionately skew our thinking of the future. This thinking supports a pervasive feeling in education that the old stuff can’t possibly be the best stuff. If we’re talking about paddling students for information, I’m with you! However, I feel that as academics we have a responsibility to assess the old stuff through a modern lens and evaluate.

Hnor code

For example: a major issue at play in School Ties is the violation of an honor code, which is signed at the start of an examination. This example raises a question: Students know there is an expectation not to cheat, so why have them sign it at the start of an exam? A more relevant question might be: What would we gain by having students continue this practice?

I know what you’re thinking, I remind my students about the consequences of cheating each time we have an assessment – that’s really good enough. Well, maybe. We know that students absorb information differently; hence the push on differentiated instruction (I know the link is Wiki, but in the moment I just want you to have an easy definition). So why not present information about cheating differently?

Furthermore, we know now that the way a person interacts with a potential behavior can impact the behavior itself. For example if you are trying to manage your diet and on the way to the lunchroom you say to yourself aloud “I will eat vegetables not cookies” you significantly increase the chances of asserting self-control. (This happens because the part of your brain that manages self-control receives additional stimulation – I’ll save the rest of the explanation for another post). So why not force them to look a temptation squarely in the face and choose a better behavior BEFORE the exam? Could that impact academic dishonestly?

So if we know students receive and process information differently, and we know that dealing with a behavior immediately before can impact performance, why don’t we try it? The reality is some are, like my colleague who inspired this post by actually having students sign an honor code before exams.

However the true question behind this post is: In the change of educational tides, are we doing a good job of keeping the good stuff and shaking off the cobwebs? I submit that before we toss aside an “ancient practice” we discipline ourselves enough to evaluate its merit using current knowledge.

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Plug in leadership


In a world where plugging in and interactions are often limited by an interface, leadership education has only become more important.

By definition, leadership demands the connection to others. Leadership is defined by service, relationships, and problem solving. In teaching leadership we are effectively arming students with the tools they need to engage with the digital world they have inherited through the lens of humanity.


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Flip Teaching: a video

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Take what you need


While a little juvenile, this game is a fun way to learn about the people in a group. All you need is a roll of toilet paper.

Start in a circle (business as usual), and hand the roll of toilet paper to someone in the group. Instruct them to take what they need, they pass the roll to the next person. Each time a group member asks what they are taking toilet paper for reply (take what you need).

Once everyone has what they need ask everyone to count the number of squares they have taken. The number of squares represents how many facts about themselves that they must now share with the group.

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Marshmallow Challenge

Marshmallow1How do you get the most bang for our buck? A question that virtually drives the American experience. We have a tendency to think that quality initiatives need to take hours – from scratch they do, but if you have an established group this is a great initiative that can be done in under and hour with processing!

While the Marshmallow Challenge isn’t a new idea, it has gained recent notoriety in certain circles and for good reason. Here’s how you do can run the challenge.


What you’ll need (per group)

  • 20 pieces of uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 yard of string and a method of cutting the string
  • 1 yard of masking tape
  • 1 standard size marshmallow

Keep all materials in a paper bag that is handed out to all groups a the same time (builds suspense)

The Rules

  • The group that builds the tallest freestanding structure wins
  • The marshmallow must be on top
  • They have 18 minutes to complete the task

Processing is always at the discretion of the facilitator. Good luck and feel free to let us know how it goes.

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When leadership happens

The story never mentions who came up with the idea, because in the end it doesn’t matter. The purpose of leadership is to implement change – well done.

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Arguably one of the best reasons for having an iPad in the teacher’s hand in the classroom is the versatility of the device. The simple fact that the iPad is so easily used while standing and moving around, makes it a unique teaching tool. Naturally, I have a few go to apps that I use more than any others, but I try to test new apps for education when I can. My most recent app exploit has me moving my grade book to the iPad.

When I first became a teacher the maroon gradebook truly embodied the symbol of authority. Within those pages, was a comprehensive log of all student performance – a chronicle of successes and failures. Thinking philosophically, it really is amazing how much power the gradebook embodies. Yet, while this simple system has worked for generations of educators it also suffers from limitations.

whaley gradebook

For starters a gradebook has no backup. If the gradebook suffers a number of serious coffee spill incidents – lives could be ruined (or saved depending on perspective). Also the gradebook is not a teaching tool, nor was never meant to be. The reality is that gradebooks are really just bound spreadsheets – they don’t even calculate averages for you (inconceivable).

While I have used the iPad as a teaching tool, I have been reluctant to fully commit to a grade book until now. Part of my was hesitation was because I was waiting for an app that did everything I needed it to do, part of me just loved the maroon gradebook. Regardless, I now stand a changed man.

Things I really like about iPad as a gradebook:

  • Grading in real time – when walking around the room and checking work, I can have my grade book on me (same as before), but now when finished I can roll straight into my lesson. I waste less time.
  • Assignments/ test/ whatever is weighted and calculated accurately.
  • If a student asks to see his/her grade, I can email him/her a complete records in less than 10 seconds.
  • I can attach notes to student’s profiles or specific assignments, which cuts down on the “but Mr. Sullivan when we talked about this last time you said _____” game.
  • Pulling up class reports are intuitive.
  • Everything is automatically backed up.
  • It was free!

Bottom line. If you are already teaching with an iPad and feel comfortable playing around with apps, check out some gradebook apps – they may be worth it.

Before you fully commit you may want to think about managing duel systems for a while. Play with gradebook apps in addition to your current system. While this is more initial work it would avoid the worst case scenario (fully committing to a gradebook app only to have the app fail, or decide you didn’t like it – a fate worse than spilled coffee).

Recommended gradebook app: Teach Aide teachaide

  • Yet to fail
  • Backups are easy
  • All features mentioned about have worked without trouble
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