I once had a supervisor I disagreed with.

I’m sure you can relate.

During a performance review, my supervisor told me that my teaching style,  a fusion of storytelling and instruction, was not practical and measurable on state exams.

“You’re job is to teach reading and writing skills not to tell bedtime stories.”

At the time of our meeting, I’d been teaching for 13 years and felt I was finally forging a classroom identity.

Though I didn’t agree, like a good employee, I did what I was told.

I didn’t tell stories. I didn’t openly reflect on writing, literature, and life with my students.

To the detriment of both my professional integrity and student instruction, I tried to be someone else.

I grew lost and frustrated. I began to resent teaching. I updated my resume, created a monster.com account and begin exploring other career options.

Then, one day in a meeting with my supervisor, I snapped.

“If I don’t teach your way…what are you going to do?…Are you going to fire me?”

There was a long, trailing silence.

“I can’t compromise who I am anymore. I’m drawling a line. Feel free to cross it and fire me.”

Proudly, I’m still a teacher and though I was not fired, the meeting sprouted permanent tension between the supervisor and I.

There are many moments, especially as an employee, when you must follow orders.

However, when you’re asked to compromise your identity you must take a stand, draw a line or risk losing your integrity–which will always be more important than any job you’re paid to do.

Be well,

Jay

The Air Max 90 (Or The First Time I Learned About Envy)

This week’s publication is dedicated to my friend and fellow writer Deb Dauer, who recently passed away from complications caused by ALS. 

Although my time with Deb was brief, she taught me to live, to write with courage and spirit and that true happiness can only be found in the connections you make. 

Thank you and be well my friend. 

What I’ve found that it is connections with other people that really make me happy. And in turn time and experiences with them.—Deb Dauer 


At 10 years old I learned about envy.

It was 1990 and Nike had just released the Air Max 90 sneaker.

To the uniformed catholic school boys, sporting navy blue slacks, yellow dress shirts, navy blue ties all accented with black pleather shoes, which were sold exclusively at a local mom-and-pop shoe store that resembled a shoe museum rather then a working shoe store, fashion-wise—gym class was a big deal.

A pre-adolescent parade of parent-bought sneakers.

In a corner of the gym, a gym which was actually an oversized classroom,  stood a loose ring of cool boys— all wearing Air Max 90s.

They were fingering their soles, the soles with the little plastic window that might have been windows into their young souls because the boys were outwardly happy—laughing and smiling and worshiping the Made-in-China-Manna stitched with a Swoosh, that fell from Heaven and slid onto their feet.

Picture courtesy of soletheory.com

Across the gym/classroom I stood on my assigned red dot, alone, staring down at my  pedestrian sneakers.

I felt something sour inside. A sudden smallness. An inferiority.  A failure to appreciate what I had.

 It had nothing to do with running faster or jumping higher.

The Nike Air Max 90s were cool. And at 10 years old, I was learning the world was cruelly split into two— the cool and the uncool.

At 38, as a parent and writer I’m constantly comparing myself to others.

Which makes me feel like I’m in gym class all over again—standing outside the circle of well-laced people, hoping for inclusion.

Let me be clear—comparison is not a healthy practice. Comparison will always prevent you from discovering and maintaining lasting happiness.

I teach my children and my students that envy is a corrosive emotion. A cancer that will always lead to dissatisfaction which often trigger destructive behavior. Yet I’m guilty of envy, of comparisons.

I told you last week I meet a young woman who was an aspiring fitness blogger.

She had a defined blogging niche and a growing audience. She was 15 years younger than me, had been writing for only a few months and spoke with a confidence and coolness that I was envious of.

After she pulled from our conversation, waited at the bar for another Pinot Grigio, I couldn’t help but feeling like I was back standing on my red dot in gym class, looking down at my unbranded sneakers, feeling small again.

I know self-inflicted comparisons hurt. Yet this knowledge doesn’t stop me.

Like knowing too much tequila triggers  nuclear hangovers and liver disease and bad decisions yet still we fasten our sombrero, throw caution to the wind and drink more than we should.

A year later, in 1991, Nike released the Air Max 91. When my neighbor got the Air Max 91s, I bought his Air Max 90s for $20.

I remember how that night I went home and tried out my new/old shoes in the backyard.

The Air Maxs didn’t make me run faster or jump higher. I didn’t feel cooler or happier with them on my feet. It fact, I was uncomfortable. The shoes were a size too big and insoles were molded to the topography of my neighbor’s feet.

As a father and writing teacher, I want my children and students to be authentic and honest with themselves. Be affable to their dreams. Invest in their uniqueness and voice.

I want them to know no matter what products the world flexes on them, no matter the level of success their competition achieves, sustained happiness is purely a product of authenticity.

Now, like an adult, it’s my responsibility to heed my own advice.

Be well.

Jay

Using Your Pain to Tell Your Story: When Students Teach Teachers

This week’s post is a slight detour from my month-long research and writing about chronic illness.  Next week will be the final installment on chronic illness.


Even though Dina, the girl who always wore sleeves, has been a student in my class since September, I really meet her for the first time last week on a cold, January morning.

On January 18th I facilitated my 5th Write-a-Thon for my students. The Write-a-Thon is a voluntary, two-hour writing event where students are allowed to write on any topic, in any genre they wish.

It’s an event designed to encourage teenagers to express themselves, discover their voice and tell their story in a welcoming, enjoyable environment free of the judgments and the awkwardness that define high school.

With donations from student writers, the Write-a-Thon raised $200 for the Special Olympic athletes of our school.

Halfway through the event, during the 15 minute intermission, I like to catch up with some of the students to see how they’re doing and hear what they’re writing about.

So I started a conversation with Dina. The girl who often came into class early, reading some YA title as she waited for me to start the day’s lesson. The girl who sat in the front row and sometimes traded smiles with Paul, who sat across the room, when the lesson became boring. The girl I hardly knew.

But when my conversation with Dina was over, I was left humbled and inspired and thankful I finally got to meet her.

Write about your pain

For a long time I believed that I hadn’t suffered enough to be a writer.

I was never a drug addict, never traversed the Iditarod Trail, never abducted by aliens.

I felt I was to pedestrian to be a writer.

As twisted and as selfish as it sounds,the writer in me secretly wished something bad would happen so I had some real material worth writing about. (As if living is not suffering enough.)

Real writers, I thought, suffered romantically, cinematically. Their addictions and tribulations spawned our favorite books and movies.

I felt that until I suffered hard I would always be short on material.

Then something happened.

I got sick. And my sickness caused brain damage. And my brain damage stole my coordination and blurred my vision. I was told I would spend my life in popping steroids to temper my chronic pain. I was told my I could lose my sight, my ability to speak at any time. I was told I was destined to suffer.

Congratulations– I guess. I got what I wished for.

I, an average middle-class white kid from the sprawling lawns of suburbia, finally had something worth writing about.

A few days before the Write-a-Thon I read a personal narrative Dina wrote for a class assignment that made me want to talk to her.

So during the intermission I told her how much I enjoyed her writing. How her writing has a maturity, a grit and gravity that I rarely read in student writing. How I admired her ability to write so openly about her depression.

As the other students ate bagels and talked, Dina sat down in a chair alongside my desk. I remember it was unseasonably warm. I had my sleeves bunched about my elbows. But Dina’s sleeves were ringed around her wrists. Where they could usually be found.

I asked Dina if writing was an outlet for her. A place to go to find strength, to find peace.

She gave me a half smile, looked down and sat quietly. Then she held her index against the corner of her eye as if she was holding something in.

Then she took a deep breath, removed her finger, leveled her eyes into mine and let this out:

“I was taken from my mom when I was two. I’ve lived in seven different foster homes. I’ve seen a lot. Been through a lot. Which has made me a really distant, a really closed-off person.  When things got bad I use to self-mutilate. You know, cut myself.  But I write now. Writing takes the pain away. Writing is where I go when I want to cut myself.”

Where there’s a scar, there’s a story

Pain is a fine place to begin your writing. But you can’t end with pain. You must use your pain as a means of finding a higher purpose.

I cleared my throat, found my voice and asked Dina what her plans were after she graduated high school?

Without acknowledging the scars that run like railroad tracks underneath her sleeves, along the underside of her forearms, without considering the nights she was forced to sleep on a basement floor of drug infested foster house, without recalling the time she watched her one foster dad stab her one foster mom with a fork over and over and over again until the kitchen floor pooled with blood she smiled and said, “I want to be a social worker. I want to help foster kids the way I wished somebody would have helped me

When the students began the second writing session I felt embarrassed that it took me so long to meet Dina and hear her story.

At 17, Dina already believed in her pain. She knew it was the pain that helped her find purpose. And she knew it was her responsibility to tell her story, to share her pain so that others may find their own reasons to believe and that she could find the peace she was looking for.

As the students wrote, I began writing this story. Humbled and a bit unnerved that I, their teacher, had so much more to learn.

Be well,

Jay

(Please Note–The student’s name in this story has been changed.)

The Pilgramage (or why I really went to Atlantic City last week)

“Everything dies, baby that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies some day comes back.
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.”

Bruce Springsteen, Atlantic City

Last Friday I made the 60 mile pilgrimage from Philadelphia to the Atlantic City, New Jersey to present my writing workshop “Learn to Write like No One is Reading” at New Jersey Educators Convention.

The workshop, a culmination of strategies and experiences I’ve accumulated over the last 15 years of teaching, explores how teachers can use storytelling as an instructional practice to deepen student learning while helping students further embrace the writing process.

The workshop was well received by the audience. They actively participate, smiled, laughed at my jokes and from what I could tell, left with at least one new strategy to use in their classrooms.

For the last few months I’ve been making presentations at various professional learning seminars. And I’ve come to really enjoy talking literacy and helping educators facilitate classrooms that promote writing and storytelling so to inspire their students to become better writers.

But if I’m being purely honest — the real reason I went to Atlantic City last week to present a writing workshop was a purely selfish one.

The Real Reason

In September of 2013 an MRI revealed that I had suffered significant brain damage.

However there was no clear catalyst — a car crash or a fall — to warrant such loss of brain matter so quickly.

In October of 2013, after the Director of Neurology at Jefferson University Hospital examined my MRI he acknowledged majority of my cerebellum had died, suggested I start testing for every known debilitating and fatal disease and then asked if I had long-term disability insurance.

“No.”

“I can’t predict what will happen to your brain,” he paused and looked over at the MRI still displayed on his computer screen, “but if you can somehow acquire long-term disability insurance I think you should.”

The Silver Lining

During its annual Convention, the New Jersey Educators Association has a no-physical-required, no-questions-asked open enrollment period for its long term disability insurance.

The only caveat was you have to enroll in person at the Convention in Atlantic City.

So in November of 2013, as mom drove the 60 some miles to Atlantic City, we outlined my plan —  enroll in long-term disability insurance and brave on long enough for the paper work to process so that when I when inevitability lose the ability to speak or see or lose muscle function and can no longer work, my family would’t be so financially burdened.

When mom dropped me off outside the Convention Center, I told her to circle around the block because I wasn’t going to be long. I guess because when your life is undergoing a massive reconstruction sometimes you have no choice but to work as fast as you can.

I mazed through the Convention floor until I found the Prudential Insurance booth where I asked a few questions, looked at a few charts, enrolled in the long-term disability program, hustled back the way I came, walked out of the Convention Center, into the cold November sunlight and waited for mom to pick me up and take me home.

The purpose of a pilgrimage is about setting aside a long period of time in which the only focus is to be the matters of the soul. Many believe a pilgrimage is about going away but it isn’t; it is about coming home. Those who choose to go on pilgrimage have already ventured away from themselves; and now set out in a longing to journey back to who they are.” 

L.M. Browning, Seasons of Contemplation: A Book of Midnight Meditations

Last Friday I selfishly trekked 60 miles from the Philadelphia suburbans to the Atlantic City Convention Center.

In a way, I found something redemptive in those hard-earned miles. And though skirting pot holes and grinding through traffic can not repair the damage in my brain, it did remind me that somehow I’m still very much alive and that I still have a story to tell.

Be well,

Jay

Let’s Take a Look at My 11th Grade Report Card

On a recent cleaning binge, my mom found my 11th grade report card stuffed in a file box along with old writings, homework assignments and a certificate announcing that I had passed Drivers Education class in August of 1997.

I’m 37 years old, and a high school teacher now, and everyday I witness the enormous pressures that 11th graders (and their parents) place on their still-rounding shoulders.

High school mythology decrees that 11th grade is the Acropolis. It’s the most important 10 months of your life. The make or break year. The one that demands academic greatness. The 11th grade transcript is the one colleges scrutinize and consider the most when deciding to accept or decline your admission. According to legend,11th grade is the year where your destiny is formed and fated.

Below you will find my 11th grade year end report card.

It’s apparent that at 16 years old I wasn’t overly concerned with achieving academic greatness. To be honest, my main concern was scoring a date with the pretty girl in Spanish class. Spoiler alert….9 years later I would marry that senorita… muy suave!

My Class Ranking

If my 11th grade report card is an approximation of my destiny, I’m destined to be stunningly average.

I ranked 168 out of 337 students in the 11th grade class. If you do the math (because, clearly, my algebra grade indicates I don’t math) 337/2 = 168.5

Analysis: In high school I was absolutely, fantastically, beautifully average.

Religion 3

Final Grade: 87

Analysis: Religion was my second highest grade in my report card. I believe the grade is slightly underwhelming given the fact this was my 11th year of Catholic education.

But like a true B+ Catholic, I knew the basics of the Bible, received the required sacraments and was a semi-annual church goer (Christmas & Easter) who pretended to go every Sunday.

English 3

Final Grade: 85

Analysis: This was a massive blow to my current (and slightly bloated) ego.

I have presented at writing workshops for college professors.

 My article, “It’s called The Alchemist and you should read it”was recently retweeted by International Bestselling Author Paulo Coehlo.

I will be featured on an upcoming episode of the television show, Classroom Close-up, NJ to highlight writeonfighton.org and the writing events I host for my students.

Yet, in spite of all that, an unimpressive B in 11th grade English will forever be etched in the annals of time.

American History 3

Final Grade: 89

Analysis: Everything I know about American History I learned from watching Forrest Gump.

Algebra 2

Final Grade: 74

Analysis: In high school I clearly did not understand algebra which, interestingly was the very last time in my life I was forced to multiply numbers by letters.

Environmental Science

Final Grade: 84

Analysis: According to my teacher, Mr. Krier, I was “one of the top one of the students in the class.” I earned an 84. Either he was just being nice or I was, in fact, the one star in a constellation of street lamps.

Spanish 3

Final Grade: 77

Analysis: I blame Cindy for this one. I spent the entire year distracted by her legs and perfecting such romantic expressions as “Coma estas, chica?” and “Muy caliente” in a deep, seductive inflection.

Gym

Final Grade:99

Analysis: One of my students once told me that he was going to be an accountant because in 11th grade he did well in accounting class. If 11th grade grades are indicators of future professions I clearly should have been a professional athlete.

Conduct

Final Grade: 97

Analysis: Minus a shirttail infraction, which was sheer blasphemy in a Catholic school, I was absolute saintly.

It’s time to be serious.

I didn’t learn much in high school.

It’s nothing against my teachers but, aside from meeting Cindy and a group of friends I’m still close with, the educational experience was uninspiring.

In fact, I can’t name one high school teacher who inspired me to become a teacher.

So why did I become a high school teacher if my experience in high school was incredibly forgettable?

It’s a question I’ve tussled with lately.

Selflessly, I want to spend my days talking and teaching about reading and writing. But I also think I’m attempting to vindicate my own stale high school experience.

Work is a tricky thing. Immersing yourself in work for only a paycheck is a soul-sucking existence. Working for personal fulfillment is righteous but doesn’t pay the electric bill.

Maybe, if we look hard enough, we find work that fills a previous void.

Maybe, teaching is my attempt to provide students with experiences I never had. And maybe, selfishly, I stand and deliver in the classroom everyday attempting to fall in favor with the teacher, earn some extra credit and improve that 85.

Be well,

Jay

“Questions help us wonder”: The Educator Spotlight is on Noa Daniel

 Write on Fight on’s Educator Spotlight features insights, reflections and best practices from passionate classroom teachers and school administrators.

Meet Noa Daniel. Noa is teacher, educational consultant, and Chief Building Officer at Building Outside the Blocks. An active educational blogger, Noa believes authentic learning and effective questions are the key to inspiring students.

Check out my interview with Noa, visit her blog and enjoy!

  “Questions take us beyond the status quo and help us wonder and be thoughtful about the world.”


Besides being an educator, Noa Daniel is…

….many things to others and herself. We have three daughters who help me be a better person and educator. Raising them with my husband is the greatest challenge and reward of my life. My girls call me a meacher because I’m a very teacher-ish mom. Even though they do it to make fun of me, I know that it’s out of love and appreciation because teaching is so much more than my profession. Okay, I know that you said besides education, but that is a tough ask. Education is always on my mind and in my heart.

I am a very creative person who loves to write. I am also a connector of people and ideas, which actually helps to feed my creativity. I am a risk taker. Though I am often afraid to take risks, that has  never stopped me from trying new things. I often do it in spite of my fears and in view of the greater good. I either succeed, or I collaborate and create something totally different than what I set out to. Alternatively, I learn. All are worth the leap.

Tell us about your experience as an educator.

My experience as an educator has been an adventure. I started off as this young sit-on-the-desk, dramatic, we-can-find-a-way type of educator. Now, I am a better educated, seasoned sit-on-the-desk, dramatic, we-can-find-a-way educator who feels lucky to be able to engage in meaningful conversations about teaching and learning. I am an educational leader and change agent.

 What is the one book ever educator should read? Why?

There are so many great books out there, but if I could only pick one, I would have to say Daniel Pink’s Drive.

ASDC did a great interview with him  that articulates the key need for change in education. We must move from compliance to engagement. In order to do that, we must understand what motivates our students. This book helps the reader understand why external motivations like rewards or grades actually impede deep learning. Ultimately, the understanding the reader gets about intrinsic motivation is essential to teaching and life. The text takes the reader through autonomy, mastery and purpose. Drive helps the reader understand these fundamental aspects of education.

You have developed an educational initiative known as “Building Outside the Blocks” (BOB). A BOB approach uses personalized projects to enhance student learning. Why is autonomy such a crucial component of the learning process?

Autonomy allows students to be part of their learning equation. It is an essential ingredient in engagement and in owning their learning. Using a BOB approach, students choose their presentation dates for the projects, within the teacher-determined timelines. That helps students learn to own their calendars and organize their home time in view of this self-selected date. They backwards design the time and effort required to create and prepare to present their work.

Further, they chose the product that best suits their needs and interests or the product is something that comes from their personal lives and interests. I will co-create outlines and rubrics with them to deepen their sense of agency. In order to move students from compliance, they have to have a say in the learning journey. It is important to give students opportunities to have and use their autonomy.

What has been your biggest roadblock as an educator? And how did you overcome it? Or what are you doing now to overcome it?

My biggest road block is my greatest gift- the whole “outside the blocks” thing. I have learned that the only way to overcome it is to embrace it and let the creativity flow. It’s about autonomy and being able to use my drive to find new roads. When I am on a journey without a horizon, I stop looking for one and start constructing it. Whether through the projects that I develop or the leadership offerings that I create for students,  I respond to road blocks by making them into a foundation and building over them.

 If teachers want their students to be curious, teachers must design curious questions.Why is designing good questions so important to enhancing and improving student learning?

Besides fostering curiosity, it is the pursuit of the question more than the answer that matters. In our world, questioning skills are paramount for critical thinking, developing global connections and appreciating the power of perspectives. Questions are catalyst for inquiry. Questions take us beyond the status quo and help us wonder and be thoughtful about the world. Questions beget questions and allow people to grapple with ideas that drive deep learning. Inquiry is also a way that people can reach inside themselves and ask meaningful questions about who they are and where they are going or want to go. I am on a journey to help teachers reach and teach every child using questions that propel a personalized inquiry.

 The BOB approach relies on making real-world connections. Why are real-world connections so fundamental for creating active learners?

Real world connections are important because learning shouldn’t be an isolated experience. Beyond the classroom, there is a big, beautiful, crazy world. Teaching content and skills should enable people to be global citizens. Creating awareness of global or local issues or connecting with yourself are authentic tasks that make the learning more transferable than the alternative. When learning is oriented to reality, it becomes more meaningful.

What is the worst piece of advice you have heard given to teachers?

After a recent #ONedmentors show, I recalled that I, too, was told to be careful about how much energy and passion I put into my work because I would burn out. Not only have I not burned out after over two decades in the classroom, but I continue to improve, grow and be infused by teaching. I think that teachers have to be mindful to nourish themselves and that self-care is important in any profession, but your can’t burn out if you live every day being true to you and doing what you love.

 Who inspires you?

Many things inspire me. People fighting daily battles, facing each new sunrise with optimism amazes me. The innovators who aren’t afraid to share their ideas and keep moving forward in view of a big vision, in all areas of life, inspire me. Educators who work tirelessness to reach and teach every learner in their space are an inspiration. Kids, with all of their curiosities and wonderment amaze me. I am inspired by nature, music, art, poetry, prose, and other forms of creative expression. Grit is also a pretty incredible thing to witness, and that can be a real motivator. My daughters inspire me all the time.  As you can see, I glean inspiration from a variety of place and spaces.

What is your favorite non-teaching quote?

There are few a quotes that are exempt from a teaching application. One that keeps me moving forward, especially when I hit a road block and am creating something new, is Erin Hansen’s: “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling- what if you fly?”

Those words, as questions, become a mantra for me and are part of my mission in supporting educators. Change is scary, but with the right support, the possibilities are limitless.

Connect with Noa at…

blog: noadaniel7.wixsite.com/bobblog 

twitter: @noasboabs

podcast: VoicEd Radio 


Do you know an awesome educator dedicated to inspiring and teaching others?

If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on Write on Fight on’s Educator Spotlight Series. You can contact me at writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay

 

Asking Good Questions: Why Teachers Should Listen to the Tim Ferriss Show

I always thought I was going be a 9th grade teacher. At that age…14, 15… there seems to be a lot of important forks in the road.–Tim Ferriss from Podcast #255 How to Turn Failure into Success 

Tim Ferriss is an entrepreneur, writer, angel investor and podcaster extraordinaire. A human dynamo with a child-like curiously and Stoic self-discipline, Tim has built himself into a multi-media giant.

Each of his massively successful books Tools of Titans, The 4-Hour Chef, The 4-Hour Body, The 4-Hour Work Week scored long runs on The New York Times Bestseller List.

The Tim Ferriss Show started as an experiment in 2014. However, it’s now one of the top podcasts on iTunes, collecting over 150 million downloads to date. Tim’s purpose is to “deconstruct would class performers” attempting to learn the habits and philosophies of ultra successful people including Arnold Schwarzengger, Jamie Foxx, Seth Godin and Brene Brown.

Amazingly, despite it’s success, the podcast remains a low-budget, lightly-edited production. An undecorated classroom, if you will.

How does Tim do it? What’s his secret sauce?

Tim Ferriss, like an effective teacher, asks his guests really good questions.

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.– Tim Ferriss

Tim constructs questions that reveal the deep truths and stories of his guests. By designing, then asking well-crafted questions–the answers are authentic and rich and make for great entertainment.

For teachers, it’s imperative to understand that if you want your students to elicit meaningful responses, you have to craft meaningful questions.

When classroom questions lack quality, student responses will lack quality.

Often, the educational wheel is clogged with buzz words and en vogue practices. Progression is great but curiosity coupled with crafting and asking good, meaningful questions is the ancient foundation on which education was built.

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.–Socrates

The Open Question Effect

Asking “closed questions” or questions with finite response are good to assess comprehension and retention.

Who was the first President of the United Sates?

“Open questions” or questions with infinite response are necessary to increase engagement, encourage discussion and inspire critical thinking.

What do you think George Washington was feeling when he was nominated to be the first President of the United States?

Open questions requires students to work. To answer an open question, you may have to mine through your own contradictions to find the most honest answer. It’s from this mining where genuine and meaningful answers are discovered.

Maybe George Washington was excited at the prospect but, I have to think, he was overwhelmed, and possibly discourage, by being the first president of a new nation. 

Tim demonstrates how open questions spark honest and rich conversation. Most of his published podcast run for well over an hour. However, his unedited conversations, like two old friends just talking, last for hours. (A recent conversation with ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen lasted 3 hours.) It’s the flexibility of these open questions that propel these marathon conversations.

Listening

It’s near impossible to fake interest.

And students know when teachers are or are not interested in their ideas. When students feel this interest, they’re more willing to share themselves, become healthy risk takers and subsequently, develop into more creative and critical thinkers.

The art of listening is the most fundamental way to honor any relationship.

Tim Ferriss models that to be a good interviewer, you must be an active listener. Though many of his questions are scripted, many are not. Many questions, follow-up and clarifying questions, are spawned from the rhythms of the conversations.

As a teacher, like a good interviewer, you must invest yourself into your classroom conversation. You must listen in order to ask follow-up and clarifying questions.  By actively listening to students, teachers build and strengthen the student-teacher relationship. And even if you have 30 students in your class, if you actively listen to them, give their voice ample attention, the learning experience becomes a personal one for each student.

Vulnerability

A great interview materializes when the interviewer is willing to be expose their own vulnerabilities.

Tim Ferriss is unafraid to share with his guest (and millions of listeners) his own failures, limitations and struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. This vulnerability builds a trust with his guest (and his audience) and encourages all listeners to share their own personal struggles.

For teachers, it’s imperative that you present your vulnerability as a strength. A classroom that embraces vulnerability, fosters risk taking and supports authentic student-teacher discussions.

Our vulnerability, our imperfections, establish trust with students and creates  a positive classroom culture.

Give vulnerability a shot. Give discomfort its due. Because I think he or she who is willing to be the most uncomfortable is not only the bravest, but rises the fastest.– Tim Ferriss

Call to Action

Listening to podcasts on your commute to and from school is great way to boost creativity and cultivate new ideas.

The Tim Ferriss Show exemplifies the power of good questions. Tim demonstrates how well-crafted questions along with actively listening inspire people to share more of themselves.

In terms of education, student success often hinges on a teachers ability to construct and ask meaningful questions that encourage reflection and critical thinking– two essential practices for student growth.

Below you will find 7 of Tim’s best questions. See if you can borrow, shape and scale any of them to fit your classroom and content. Theses questions may serve as interesting writing prompts or discussion starters:

  1. Who or what is your darkest teacher?
  2. What’s one thing that you do that people think is crazy and why do you do it?”
  3. If you could relive one moment in your life, which would you choose and why?
  4. Who is the first person that you think of when you hear “success”? Why?
  5. If you could have a giant billboard with one message on it, to inspire thousands  of people, what would it say?
  6. What have you changed your mind about in the last few years and why?
  7. How has a failure set you up for future success?

Since you’re here…check out The Write on Fight on Teachers Spotlight. A monthly interview with an awesome educator who is actively shaping and inspiring young minds.

This month’s interview is with history teacher and blogger Julie Boulton.        

I love to bring stories to light that might have been forgotten otherwise.”– Julie  Boulton