I Hate Lecturing, but I Love Lectures

I am no fan of a traditional lecture. Whether I’m presenting at a conference or teaching a class of students, my goal is never to stand there and talk without interaction from the audience for a long time.

But I love listening to lectures. I love watching them. I love podcasts that are essentially lectures. I love listening to an expert dive deep into their favorite topic.

Yes, there is a place for lectures inside and outside of our schools.

So, again, what is a lecture?  In a discussion I participated in on twitter recently, it was posed that a lecture is “one-way instruction that is at least 5 minutes in time.”  That is certainly one definition…but there are countless other definitions. My question is, so what should we call one-way instruction lasting 4 minutes, 59 seconds?  Like most aspects of education, it is quite difficult to reach consensus on a term as universal as ‘lecture’. Maybe my interpretation of the lecture is too liberal, but it is difficult for me to comprehend the disdain for this method of instruction.  I simply don’t understand how it is passive or simply creates an environment of rote-learning and memorization (By the way, what is so wrong with memorization and knowledge?). Again, this could simply come down to a misunderstanding of the basic definition.  

In Defense of Lecture in the Classroom

I don’t think anyone would argue that forcing students to focus on a single person for 45 minutes as they drone on about a topic that holds no interest for students is a bad idea.

But are there specific purposes a lecture can serve? Yep.

When considering whether a lecture might be the right choice for a particular lesson, this resource from the University of Tennessee offers some guidelines. It advises that lecture is a good fit when:

  • The background information is not available or accessible to students
  • The content may be confusing (and therefore need explanation)
  • The teacher’s expertise will help make the material more clear
  • The material needs to be delivered quickly 
10 Ways to Give a Better Lecture

How do you use lectures in your class? Or do you avoid them at all costs?

Books I Read in October 2022

Yes, I’m aware it’s mid-November as I post this. It’s been a busy month 😉

Here are the books I read, re-read, listened to, or re-read in October 2022:

The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales (Signet Classics)
  • Edgar Allan Poe (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 24 Pages – 09/23/2023 (Publication Date) – Signet (Publisher)
Boarding Party: Green Zone War, Book 0
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Jake Elwood (Author) – Johnathan McClain (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 01/19/2021 (Publication Date) – Podium Audio (Publisher)
Frankenstein: The 1818 Text (Penguin Classics)
  • Shelley, Mary (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages – 01/16/2018 (Publication Date) – Penguin Classics (Publisher)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Lovecraft, H.P. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 64 Pages – 11/05/2019 (Publication Date) – Design Studio Press (Publisher)
The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde
  • Stevenson, Robert Louis (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 113 Pages – 07/09/2022 (Publication Date) – Independently published (Publisher)
Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II
  • Hardcover Book
  • Kurson, Robert (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 375 Pages – 06/29/2004 (Publication Date) – Random House (Publisher)
Dracula: Collector’s Special Edition (Deluxe Illustrated Classics)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Stoker, Bram (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 464 Pages – 11/23/2021 (Publication Date) – Union Square & Co. (Publisher)
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
  • Irving, Washington (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 32 Pages – 02/21/2016 (Publication Date) – CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)
The Wise Mans Fear: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Book 2
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Penguin (Publisher)
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation
  • Hardcover Book
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages – 02/15/2000 (Publication Date) – Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Publisher)
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking [Hardcover]
  • Susan Cain
  • Hardcover Book
  • Cain, Susan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Robots and Roommates: Star Kingdom, Book 0
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Lindsay Buroker (Author) – Fred Berman (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 01/19/2021 (Publication Date) – Podium Audio (Publisher)

Overall, it was a very spooky month as I revisited some of my horror favorites. Hopefully, you had the chance to knock a few items from your TBR.

Advice for Brand New Teachers: You Don’t Have to Impress People

From Mastery by Robert Greene

Reflecting on my first year in the classroom, I was utterly obsessed with impressing everyone. Maybe it was because I came to teaching as a second career. Maybe it was due to my involvement at conferences and summits, even as a brand-new teacher.

Whatever my reasons for wanting to show everyone how good I was, those reasons led me down a path of exhaustion and stress that did nothing for my health and certainly didn’t help me when I wasn’t at school.

So, to help out any new teachers, I thought I’d pass on some advice I wish I’d known when I started teaching. Hopefully, you can avoid the stress, anxiety, and exhaustion I experienced and live a balanced life while still being a fantastic teacher.

You don’t need to be perfect — no one is

Perfectionism is a curse. The voice in your head tells you that you’re not good enough and that you need to try harder and do more. It’s the constant striving for an unattainable goal. And it’s exhausting.

I should know. I’m a perfectionist. I’ve always been a high achiever and always strived to be the best. And it’s taken its toll. I’ve spent hours obsessing over minor details that no one else would even notice. I’ve put immense pressure on myself to succeed, and as a result, I’ve often felt like a failure.

As a teacher, I work with perfectionists all the time — students who are afraid to make mistakes and who are afraid to take risks. And working with them has made me realize that perfectionism is a Learned Behavior — something we can unlearn.

Your students don’t need you to be perfect. They don’t need for your fantastic lesson to always happen exactly the way you envisioned. In fact, you likely already know that the perfect lesson rarely happens. If you’re like me and teach the same topic several times daily, you change something during every class period.

And sometimes, things still don’t work.

Your students need to see that you’re not afraid to fail or to try something new. They need to see you participate in the productive struggle. You don’t have to be perfect.

We can choose to let go of the need to be perfect, and in doing so, we can live happier, healthier lives.

So if you’re a perfectionist, take heart. You’re not alone. And there’s hope for us yet.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

It’s okay to ask for help

Asking for help is often seen as a sign of weakness, but it takes a lot of strength to admit that you need assistance. We all need help from time to time, whether we’re struggling with a personal issue or trying to figure out how to use a new piece of technology. Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s often the smartest thing you can do.

When it comes to asking for help in the classroom, teachers shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to their colleagues. A fresh set of eyes can make all the difference when it comes to spotting problems with a lesson plan or finding new ways to engage students.

And when it comes to assessment, colleagues can provide valuable insights that can help improve the quality of your work. So don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. It’s okay to admit that you’re not perfect — we all are.

Take time for yourself

As teachers, we often put the needs of our students above our own. We teach because we want to make a difference in the lives of others, and that means sometimes sacrificing our own time and energy.

However, it’s important to remember that we can’t pour from an empty cup. To be the best teachers we can be, we must take care of ourselves first. That means taking time for rest, relaxation, and self-care. It might mean saying no to after-school activities or planning days off with family.

Seneca said this about guarding your time:

“No person would give up even an inch of their estate, and the slightest dispute with a neighbor can mean hell to pay; yet we easily let others encroach on our lives — worse, we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passers-by, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”

The only person who will prioritize your time is you. Don’t let someone else make their time more important than yours.

Whatever form it takes, self-care is essential to being a successful teacher.

So next time you feel run down, remember to take a little time for yourself. Your students will thank you for it!

Don’t compare yourself to others

If you’re like most people, you probably compare yourself to others regularly. Whether you’re comparing your work to a colleague’s or your teaching methods to a master teacher’s, it’s easy to feel like you’re falling short.

There is always someone further along in their career than you, but don’t worry — you’re not supposed to compare yourself to them! That’s because, as anyone with imposter syndrome will tell you, everyone feels like a fraud sometimes.

The only way to become a better teacher is to gain experience and keep learning. So instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your journey and trust that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Photo by Luwadlin Bosman on Unsplash

Build relationships with your colleagues and students

There’s no denying that relationships are essential. Whether you’re trying to build relationships with your colleagues or students, it’s essential to put in the effort to create connections. After all, relationships are the foundation of any successful teaching experience. Establishing relationships with your students creates a supportive learning environment where everyone can thrive.

Don’t be the teacher who doesn’t smile until Christmas. Get to know your students. Laugh with them (not at them!), talk with them, and learn what they love about the world. It may help you connect with that student who never speaks to anyone.

And by developing relationships with your colleagues, you create a collaborative team that can work together to improve student outcomes. So if you’re looking to build relationships, remember that creating strong bonds takes time and effort. But the effort is well worth it when you see the positive impact that relationships can have on teaching and learning.

Be yourself

An old saying goes, “When in doubt, be yourself.” And while that may not be the most sage advice for every situation, it’s definitely something to keep in mind regarding your career.

After all, being authentic and genuine to yourself is one of the best ways to be successful.

Consider the classroom. As a teacher, you have the unique opportunity to connect with your students personally and help them learn in a relevant way. But to do that, you need to be genuine.

Your students will be able to sense if you’re being fake or if you’re going through the motions. Trust me; they have a BS detector that can spot a fake teacher from a hundred miles away. They’ll know if you’re doing something that is not authentic to who you are.

Don’t be that teacher who tries to do things in class so you can look cool to your students. (As a matter of fact, don’t use the word cool. I’m pretty sure it’s not cool anymore…)

But if you’re authentic, they’ll be more likely to engage with the material and learn from you.

Of course, there are times when it’s essential to put on a professional persona. But in general, it’s best to just be yourself. It might not always be easy, but it’s always worth it.

So there you have it: some advice on not being a perfect teacher and trying to impress everyone from a (spoiler alert) far-from-perfect teacher. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help, take time for yourself, don’t compare yourself to others, build relationships with your colleagues and students, and most importantly — be yourself!

As always, thanks for reading. This blog is a reader-supported publication. The best way to support it is to shop for some of my favorite stuff (I get a cut) or hire me to speak or consult with your organization.

The HyperRubric: A Rubric for the Digital Age

I’ve long been a fan of Hyperdocs; a lesson-building format that focused on providing students with the resources they need to work at their own pace throughout a lesson or unit.

Hyperdocs also gives teachers the chance to support students in a lesson exactly when they need it most. The format works well in either virtual or blended learning environments, giving students control over the pace of the lesson.

With a bit of a different twist, there’s now the HyperRubric.

Think of it as a traditional rubric super-powered with examples and supports that will give students the resources they need to complete a task.

HyperRubrics can give help students answer the “why” behind what they are doing in a lesson rather than just the what. We’ve all had great lessons that students loved, but at the end of the lesson, students can’t really express what they were supposed to be learning during the lesson, only remembering the cool stuff they did.

Image from Cult of Pedagogy

Using HyperRubrics can provide a focus for students and help teachers think critically about what support students will need to achieve outcomes.

Technology in the Classroom: Why It Matters

Technology has become ubiquitous in society, and its presence is increasingly felt in schools. Many school districts have invested significantly in hardware, software, and digital resources for teachers and students. However, some educators remain reluctant to use technology in their classrooms. This blog post will discuss four reasons students need to use technology in school.

Why is it important for students to use technology in school?

Technology allows students to engage in authentic tasks requiring them to synthesize multiple information sources and effectively communicate their findings.

In the past, many classroom tasks were limited by what materials were available in the textbook or on the library shelves. With technology, students can now access a wealth of information with a few clicks of a button.

They can also collaborate with classmates around the world on complex projects. To prepare our students for the global economy, we must provide them with opportunities to use technology authentically.

How does using technology reinforce learning and memory encoding?

Using technology also reinforces learning and memory encoding. Studies have shown that when students interact with digital content, they encode information more deeply and retain it for longer periods of time.

This is due to what cognitive scientists call “the testing effect” – the finding that retrieval practice (i.e., testing oneself on material) enhances subsequent retention.

With technology, teachers can easily create formative assessments that help students practice retrieving information from their long-term memory storage. These formative assessment activities can be games, quizzes, or other types of interactive activities that are engaging and fun for students.

What are some of the best digital tools for making meaning?

There are also many great digital tools available for helping students make meaning of complex concepts. One example is Google Earth, which allows users to explore specific locations from a bird’s eye view or even go on virtual field trips to places they would never be able to visit in person (e.g., the bottom of the ocean floor).

Another example is SketchUp Make, a free 3D modeling program that can be used to create visual representations of mathematical concepts like volume or surface area (see image below). There are literally thousands of other examples out there – the possibilities are endless!

How can teachers use technology situationally to demonstrate knowledge?

Finally, teachers can use technology situationally to demonstrate their own expertise and understanding of specific content areas. When teachers effectively integrate technology into their instruction, it sends a message to their students that they value using 21st-century skills and believe that these skills are important for all learners – not just those who are “tech savvy” or “good at computers”.

In addition, by modeling effective uses of technology, teachers can help their students see how these tools can support deep understanding and provide additional ways of knowing beyond what might be possible without technology.

Technology has become ubiquitous in society, and its presence is increasingly felt in schools. Although some educators remain reluctant to use technology in their classrooms, there are many reasons why it is important for students to have opportunities to learn with technology – including increased engagement with content, deeper learning and memory encoding, exposure to new digital tools for making meaning, and Situational demonstrations of teacher knowledge.

As school districts continue to invest in hardware, software, and digital resources, it will become increasingly important for educators to understand how they can use these tools effectively to support student learning.

Wednesday Wisdom: Don’t Let Your Emotions Overwhelm Your Choices

I read a passage from Robert Greene’s Daily Laws during my morning quiet time today. This morning’s entry dealt with a topic every educator – and person – deals with daily; handling our emotions.

Too often, we make choices based on our emotions. This is true for educators since we see the sides of society others often ignore. Hunger, abuse, indescribable home environments, and abandonment are just a few things we see as our students walk into the building.

We want to do what’s best for our kids because we love them. Too often, we become invested in their success and allow our emotions to take charge.

Of course, even if we can learn to master our emotions (something extremely difficult to do because we’re human), we can’t ever control the emotions of those around us.

The people you work with may not master their emotions. Administrators, other teachers, vital staff members, parents, and students have their own emotions to deal with, and many won’t make decisions detached from emotions. You, on the other hand, will do your best to control your emotions.

It’s not about having no emotions. That, frankly, is impossible. And utterly, completely boring. The goal is to control your emotions and choose not to let them be involved in decision-making. But perhaps even more important to this process is not getting sucked into the emotional whirlpool created by others.

Understand Wizard’s Third RulePassion Rules Reason. Most people we meet and associate with allow their emotions to guide every decision.

But not you. You remember Wizard’s Sixth RuleThe only sovereign you can allow to rule you is reason.

Stay focused, stay reasoned.

As always, thanks for reading. This newsletter is a reader-supported publication. The best way to support it is to shop for some of my favorite stuff (I get a cut) or hire me to speak or consult with your organization.