Monday, April 27, 2015

"Never stop learning, because Life never stops teaching." - Unknown

I have been reflecting about how much I have learned, and continue to learn, in my new positions of author and educational consultant and radio co-host. In fact, I am now becoming an expert on ideas and technologies that I never even knew existed until I was thrust into these roles. Although at times my head is spinning, I have to admit, I like all of this new learning! Every day is exciting!

Some of my friends have said to me, almost in admonishment, "You are supposed to be retired!"  My answer is " Retired from what?  I am retired from teaching high school English, but I am not retired from life."  For me, life would not be very interesting if I could not continue to learn.  I also feel compelled to continue to contribute to Education. I loved school, and although I am no longer in the classroom every day, I still have 37 years of wisdom and experience to share. I am not ready for the rocking chair at 62!  I enjoy all of the jobs that I do, and they all include learning something new every single day. It is enjoyable to read the scholarly articles on Education that I need for the radio show, and to write every single day for educational magazines and my blog.  I have some upcoming speaking engagements, so I am back to speech writing, and I am planning a webinar as well, and revisiting Powerpoint. I am also learning how to do a new website on Word Press, with all the nuances and proclivities of working with a new format.  Twitter and I have become inseparable, as Twitter is helping me to make global friends and connections in Education. All of this new learning is exhilarating!  Exhausting, but exhilarating! 

I believe that teachers must be role models for students, and that a teacher who loves learning will cultivate students who love learning.  When I was in the classroom for those 37 years, I took delight in telling students when I learned something new from them!  Students love sharing information and "teaching the teacher", and a warm reception from the teacher goes a long way with promoting a student's love of learning.  I specifically remember a lesson about Latin and Greek roots, and the root "psuedo" (false, pretend, from the Greek). I am embarrassed to tell you that I was not much of a science student, and I did not remember what a psuedopod was from Biology class, so students were very interested in telling me all about pseudopods!  One student even drew a likeness of a psudeopod on the board (at least that is what he said it was-I wouldn't have known.) That vocabulary lesson turned into a true "learning across the curriculum" minute and a "teaching the teacher" lesson, and I will tell you that years later, when I encountered some students from that class, they talked about the day they taught me about pseudopods.  I liken that day to a spark of learning that turned into a fire for most of those students.  They became experts in dissecting words for roots and prefixes and suffixes to discern the meaning of words, and many of them wrote thank you notes to me for elevating their SAT verbal scores. 

Teachers, for those of you who are in the classroom, share with your students some of the learning-outside of school-that you have enjoyed.  It is a great idea to share and extol your excitement and passion for learning.  For those teachers who are retired, I recommend that you continue to share both your love and passion for learning with others, be it in a bridge club, a book club, at the local colleges, or with your grandchildren and friends.

Being a lifelong learner brings joy to every day and makes life so much fun. And as the quote at the title of this article says, "Never stop learning, because Life never stops teaching."

I hope you learn some really great "stuff" today, and that you have fun while learning!

Rittman Publishing, LLC

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Monday, April 20, 2015

“The job of an educator is to teach students to see the vitality in themselves.” -- Joseph Campbell

I was fortunate to have a radio interview on a show for authors on Friday, April 17, with POP (Power of Perception) Radio.  The interviewer's name was Scott Goldman, a wonderfully articulate young man with good questions and opinions.  He was so interesting, and we had such a good discussion, that the one hour interview felt to me to be about 10 minutes long. We had a good conversation, just like two old friends, and you know that time speeds by when the conversation and company are good. 

Scott and I formed a very quick rapport, and he revealed later in the interview that he had a special teacher influence him and make him what and who he is today.  I am a marshmallow for stories like his, because as you know, I have always been a student's best advocate as well.  I want to share his story, share what  it meant to me, and how Scott's story can apply to you as a teacher.

During our interview, Scott Goldman shared on air that he has a problem with physical limitations and a learning issue, regarding grammar and writing.  He did not identify or give any more details than that, other to say that he had an English teacher in the 1990's who treated him in a different manner than she treated the other students.  You see, Scott was the first student in his district to be mainstreamed several years before, and at the beginning of the mainstreaming process, some teachers were fearful, apprehensive, or unwilling to deal with students they perceived as "different.". Because Scott is so bright, he saw through this teacher with her "I will just pat him on the head and look through him and pretend he is not there" mentality, so he asked the principal if he could change teachers.  This question was a great move on his part, because his next English teacher was a person who saw him for what he was, a bright student.  She challenged him and treated him just like all of the other students. Scott and the teacher formed a strong bond of respect and rapport, and she advised him that since he had some limitations with physical movement and writing, that perhaps he should think about a career in television or radio.  She helped Scott to identify his strengths and abilities, rather than focusing on his disabilities.  I love that teacher, when I don't even know her, and I love what she did for this young man. She helped a student to become an articulate and well-spoken man, whose voice is clear and beautiful and rhythmic, and whose word choice is so precise and exact that it sounds to me like poetry.  This special second teacher changed one young man's life by helping him to find his confidence, his niche, and his life's work. What a wonderful success story, for both the teacher and the student.

In my 37 years of teaching, I always tried to be like Scott's second English teacher, and so did most of my colleagues. We loved guiding our students and helping them to find their strengths.  For all of us, teaching was a true calling, and our reward was helping students to be successful, one student at a time.

I know I have many readers who are teachers, and all of us enjoy stories like Scott's, and we love it when the underdog comes out on top! Teachers have great power, as Hiam Ginott said in his book Between Teacher and Child : "As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration."

Choose to be the instrument of inspiration.  Always choose to inspire every day, because you don't know just who will be inspired, and the heights he will reach.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Here is a link to the interview:

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Monday, April 13, 2015

"The main idea in golf, as in life I suppose, is to learn to accept what cannot be altered and to keep on doing one's own reasoned and resolute best whether the prospect be bleak or rosy." Bobby Jones

I had the extraordinary opportunity to attend Saturday at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, on Saturday, April 11.  A day at The Masters is a dream for every avid golfer, and although I have been lucky enough to experience many U.S. Opens, Senior Opens, and even The Byron Nelson, there is a special draw for The Masters.  If you do not already know this, Robert Tyre Jones, Jr. (1902-1971), aka Bobby Jones, the decorated amateur golfer and ambassador for the game, conceived and built Augusta National as his homage to St. Andrews in Scotland.  A great gentleman with exquisite manners, Bobby called a penalty on himself, and when a fuss was made about his honesty, he remarked "You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank as to praise him for playing by the rules."

The crowd's first-class behavior and manners at The Masters are legendary, and I experienced that firsthand on Saturday.  People place their chairs where they would like to end their day on the course, but during the interim period, anyone is welcomed to sit in the seats until the owners arrive.  The Southern hospitality from the ladies' room attendants to the state troopers and marshals was exquisite. The spectators were nicely dressed, polite, and appropriate, more so than any other spectators I have ever seen at any sporting event.  No denim, shirts tucked in, no shoving or shouting.  You might be wondering why The Masters is known to have the best behaved spectators in all of golf.  The answer is simple.  Bobby Jones made his expectations clear.  This is an excerpt from the back of Saturday's pairings sheet : "In golf, customs of etiquette and decorum are just as important as rules governing play. It is appropriate for spectators to applaud successful strokes in proportion to difficulty but excessive demonstrations by a player or his partisans are not proper because of the possible effect upon other competitions.  Most distressing to those who love the game of golf is the applauding or cheering of misplays or misfortunes of a player. Such occurrences have been rare at The Masters but we must eliminate them entirely if our patrons are to continue to merit their reputation as the most knowledgeable and considerate in the world."

How can we apply Bobby Jones and his high expectations to the classroom?  I believe that students can and will reach the height of the bar that is set for them by the teacher, whether it be in behavior, grades, homework, or honesty. Teachers must be very clear in their spoken and written expectations, and teachers must model the behavior for their students. You as a teacher must talk the talk to inspire your students, and you really must walk the walk 100 percent of the time.  It is a good idea to discuss your expectations with the students, and let them know that your goals for them are going to make them better at school and at life.  I always told my students that I would be remiss in my duties as their teacher if I did not hold them to the high level for which I felt they could and should be accountable.  I told them that I really believed in them, and that reaching expectations would help them to realize their potential. A gentle reminder rather than a harsh reprimand seemed to work best for me, as no one really wants to be embarrassed for a faux pas in front of others.

I know that teachers have so much to do, but helping students achieve their very best in terms of behavior and grades and honesty will mold them into better citizens. And isn't that our job as teachers?  Bobby Jones spoke and wrote what he believed, and he exercised his convictions every day of his life.  He influenced millions of people during his lifetime, and his influence continues today, at The Masters and beyond.  Your influence as a teacher does not end when your students leave your classroom, as you are providing life lessons for your students.  Make them the best lessons possible, and strong enough to last for a lifetime.

"The main idea in golf, as in life I suppose, is to learn to accept what cannot be altered and to keep on doing one's own reasoned and resolute best whether the prospect be bleak or rosy."  Bobby Jones 

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Monday, April 6, 2015

"What is a coach? We are teachers. Educators. We have the same obligations as all teachers, except we probably have more influence over young people than anybody but their families. And, in a lot of cases, more than their families." Joe Paterno

I absolutely love high school sports.  I coached Varsity Girls' and then Boys' Golf for 33 years, and I have worked at the football games and track meets at North Allegheny for years. I enjoy being with the kids, and helping them to learn important life lessons.

I am 62 years old, and when I was a senior, only two sports were available to girls: I could have been in either swimming or girls' basketball.  I was a terrible swimmer who had swimmer's ear, so that was out.  I liked basketball ok, but my real love was fast pitch hard baseball.  I need to interject here that I only had brothers, and there were no girls in my neighborhood until I was well into my teens, so I only had boys as friends.  My brothers both played little league baseball, but back then, I was not allowed to play, just because of my gender.  I protested, but one girl's voice did not matter, even though I played as well as my brothers.

So, not ever having a high school sport to play makes me like and enjoy high school sports even more!  All the sports- even water polo and girls' lacrosse.  I think it is so wonderful that students have so many opportunities and choices.

I was at a track meet today, working the javelin throw and shot put for both boys and girls. I liked the effort I saw on the field, but even more, I loved the interactions the students had with their coaches.  The encouraging words, the heartfelt high fives, the urging to try for a personal best, and the constant coaching were like a cacophony of happy sounds at this track meet.  Although I was not really coaching, but rather calling the event and recording the stats, I still loved being called "Coach Rittman", as I have for 33 years.  

If you are a teacher, and if you have never worked at an athletic event or coached a sport, I urge you to do so.  You do not have to be a professional player to coach at a junior high or high school.  You have to like kids- that is the most important thing- and you have to know enough to teach a bit about the sport.  You have to be  mom and a dad and a cheerleader and a negotiator and a rules maven, but most of all, you have to have a big heart and great words of encouragement. Something magical happens between a teacher and a student when they become coach and player. The relationship line changes as the team and teacher meld into a team of two or more working toward the greater good for the overall team, and raising the bar for reaching a personal best.  School classrooms become a distant memory as teachers and students work together on the field, the golf course, the volleyball court, the mats, or the swimming pool.  Students and teachers get to know each other, and an entirely new frame of respect begins to develop.  And here is something else- no matter how tired you are as a teacher at the end of the school day, when you get to practice or game time, the kids pick you right up!  Coaching golf for 33 years was one of the best parts of my 37 year career.

In closing,think about coaching.  It requires good sense, the ability to get along well with others, strong leadership qualities, good time management and people management skills, clear communication skills, some basic knowledge of the sport, and lots of encouraging words for kids.  Although I know I made a difference for lots of students during my years of coaching, I think they made a bigger difference in mine. 

Think back to some of your great coaches.  If it's not too late, give them a call or write a note to tell them what a difference they made in your life.  No coach takes the job for the pay! The hours are terrible and the pay is low, but the rewards are more than you ever thought possible, because you get to make a difference for someone every day. 

Our world would be so much worse if we did not have so many wonderful high school coaches. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC

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This week's Educational View, The Three C’s of Confidence, Communication, and Creativity by @dederittman