12MonthlyHabits – January Update Completed

January’s monthly habit is complete, and I can speak for both Caroline and me when I say that “no screens once your head hits the pillow” is the best thing!  We could not have chosen a better habit to pick up for January.  We both agree that we are sleeping better and feel more rested once the day gets moving.  But you could have probably concluded that based on my last post so let’s move on.

Caroline’s biggest complaint was that she couldn’t watch “big games” in bed, which she loves – and it’s one of many reasons I asked her to marry me.  We were “forced” to watch State games, Panther games, and other must-see sporting events downstairs on our 70 inch HDTV in my leather man’s chair (emphasis on manliest of men) and plush, comfortable couch. Seeing as how this is an honest place — sometimes being downstairs until 11 to finish a game was brutal and we wanted nothing more than to lay in bed and watch the game. #FirstWorldProblem

The Verdict: We have decided to continue this practice with one exception.  We will continue the no screens habit for the foreseeable future, but we will permit the TV to be turned on to a game that specifically interests us.  We will never use phones again.  I might also pick my kindle back up (remember we had to read actual books for January), but it’s not the fancy kind so I can only read on it.

12MonthlyHabits – January Update #TrueLove

My wife told me to update the blog so I am because that’s what you do when your wife tells you to do something.  #TrueLove

As you know, our focus this month has been no screens while we are in bed.  Just to recap, my wife loves to watch TV in bed and because I want to support her in all that she does, I would also watch TV in bed.  It’s how marriage works…google it.  This month we decided to cut out all screen time once our heads hit the pillow.  We had two options:

  1. Go to sleep – easier said than done when your mind has been running all day. #WeAreEducators and #ToddlerParents
  2. Read a book – both of us have taken to this more often than not.

The biggest issue at first was finding the correct wattage bulb for our lamps.  We never really used our lamps previously because our 35 inch HD TV was plenty bright, but on January 1, we quickly realized that my 1,000 watt, flourescent bulb was too much and Caroline’s didn’t even work.  I bought a three-way bulb for my lamp and the light is perfect at 30 watts.  I bought Caroline the same bulb and of course it didn’t fit.  Naturally, I could only find a 5 watt bulb to fit Caroline’s lamp so we hooked that bad boy up, and God said, “let there be very minimal light that makes it very difficult to read.”  So like true millennial Americans, we just don’t use Caroline’s lamp.

Now for the successes —

I just recently finished a book entitled, The Simple Path to Wealth by J.L. Collins.  I highly recommend this book for anyone wondering what to do with their money.  It’s fantastic and very well-written.  With its easy-to-read style, Collins is able to explain a lot of complex money issues in lamens terms.  If you are trying to determine what to do with a little bit of money you have saved, then look no further than J.L. Collins’ book.  Here’s the gist: contribute as much as you can to a total stock market index fund (not individual stocks), do not hire a financial advisor, and stay the course because the stock market is a roller coaster ride. I would even recommend following his blog: http://jlcollinsnh.com/.

While we are talking about money, I also recommend you check out YNAB and Mr. Money Mustache.  I highly recommend both for teachers especially but also for anyone looking to find peace with their finances.

Back to January’s Monthly Habit…

After finishing my first book, I’ve started Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.  I highly recommend the movie as well, but as always, the book is better.  For me, it’s been years since I’ve read books that I’ve wanted to read – mostly due to my graduate work – and I love it.  I find that after about 20 minutes of reading my mind is relaxed, and I fall asleep much quicker than I did before.

Ok so we are educators so what about the data? Well thankfully, I wear a Fitbit Blaze that tracks my sleeping.  Since January 1 (the first night of no screens), the number of times my Fitbit considers me restless during my sleeping time is down by 18%.  In fact, on January 7 and January 9, Fitbit did not register me waking up even once during the night.  I’d say I’m definitely sleeping better according to the data, and anecdotally, I feel more rested when I wake up.

More to come as the month progresses.  Maybe I can ever get Caroline to write an update!  Sleep well because I know we are!

A change of pace for this space

Sometimes I miss writing on my blog, but a 2-year-old is one of the best time sucks I could ask for. This month my wife got me motivated to write again when she challenged our family to complete 12 new habits for the upcoming year.  We have created a list of 12 new things we are going to do each month (one per month) for 2017.  The list is subject to change at any point if we get better ideas along the way, and we still have 1 month open at this point so feel free to offer up ideas.

So here’s the list…

  1. January – No screens before bed and we must read a book (the paperbound kind, not of the kindle variety) each night.
  2. February – Make our bed every day.  We don’t do this at all unless people are coming over (as if we think everyone who comes over wants to see our bedroom).  I think our parents made us do it so much as kids that Caroline and I agreed (telepathically, never out loud) to never make our bed for the last 6 years of our marriage.
  3. March – We will cook 2 new recipes each week. #LetsBeHonest, if it can be cooked in Pampered Chef’s microwave cooker (seriously…check it out) or the crockpot then it doesn’t usually get cooked in our house.  Obviously, this one will be a challenge.
  4. April – 25 push ups every day. Pretty explanatory. #swole
  5. May – Take a walk every day.
  6. June – No fried foods. This will truly be difficult because we love french fries, but lately we’ve been diggin’ sweet potato fries so losing those will be devastating as well.
  7. July – We will complete one house improvement each week.  These improvements can be decorative, enhancements, or anything the wifey deems need to be done.
  8. August – Looking for recommendations
  9. September – Caroline has been pushing this one on me for years, but I’m a red-blooded, meat-loving American. However, because my wife is persistently loving, we will eat two vegetarian meals each week.
  10. October – Our goal is to run FOUR 5Ks in a month.  This may be moved to another month depending on 5k availability.
  11. November – During this month, Caroline and I will sit down for 20 minutes at the end of every day and talk to each other. No screens, no distractions, no baby, just talk.
  12. December – Complete an advent devotion every day as a family.

There you have it.  Our 2017 Monthly Habits list.  Remember we are still taking recommendations so please leave a few in the comments.

Siemens and the Flipped Classroom

2014-06-24 11.39.17During my trip to Germany with The Center for International Understanding (@GlobalCIU) and 32 other educators, we had the opportunity to visit the Siemens (@Siemens) Professional Education Center in Berlin, Germany.

Before I really sell home my idea…here is a rundown of what you could expect as a teacher or student in the Siemens Professional Education Center.

  • The average age of the first year student seemed to be around 20, but I met some 18 years old and some 25 year olds who were just getting started.
  • The Siemens Professional Education Center is a cross-over between a trade school, a community college, and a 4-year college.  Students have completed high school (and some even college) and they are learning a unique skill set (electrical engineering, mechanics, etc.).
  • These students are being trained to join the Siemens workforce, but theoretically, their training would allow them to work for any company offering the same job they are being trained for.  Their education is highly specified for Siemens, but the core principals can be applied in any similar setting.  As a Siemens’ teacher pointed out, his students should be able to walk into any factory and identify and fix any problem with a production assembly line.
  • Lecture/lessons is always accompanied by intensive, collaborative, problem-based learning projects.
  • Team work is a STRONG focus at Siemens.
  • They have just started an international program, but you are expected to learn German within two months.
  • Teachers are very highly respected and the environment appeared more relaxed than traditional American schools.
  • Many of the teachers (if not all) were products of the same school.
  • Siemens spends millions of dollars on their professional training center in Berlin.  When asked, “what is their monetary return for their company on this huge financial investment?,” the director of the Siemens Educational Department replied, “our future.”
  • Knowledge is important at Siemens, but the vast majority of the knowledge is obtained through practice and real-life application, which leads me to my overall point…

I noticed more and more that what Siemens prides itself on about its Professional Education Center are the same principals that are rooted in the flipped classroom.  The flipped classroom – if done correctly – works so well because of the focus on real-life application.  Students are provided with a small amount of basic content via videos, VoiceThread, or any other multimedia.  Then the students are asked to investigate a topic even further and deeper and apply what they learn through that investigation to a larger, more applicable problem.  A flipped classroom allows for a problem-based learning environment that many teachers say they do not have time for, and Siemens also recognizes the value in a similar approach.

Siemens incorporates the flipped classroom ideals (minus the videos) in an effort to help their students become highly successful and knowledgeable employees.  Flipped classroom teachers incorporate the videos, the investigation, and the application in an effort to help their students become highly successful and knowledgeable citizens (assuming we never mention standardized testing).  Slightly different outcomes with very similar processes.

***The picture above features a once gas-powered car that was converted to an electrical-powered car by students at Siemens.

Germany Blogposts

2014-06-23 08.31.21I was fortunate enough to spend roughly 9 days traveling throughout Germany with 34 other amazing North Carolina educators as we studied the German education system.  The trip was sponsored by The Center for International Understanding (@GlobalCIU), and they did a great job of putting together an exhausting but incredibly informative trip.  I learned so much about what the German education system has to offer its students, teachers, and communities.  The next few blogposts are dedicated to what I learned in Germany – both red flags and achievements.

Just a few highlights…

~We heard many times that Germany could not depend on itself to produce much due to its lack of renewable resources.  The energy sources are just not available in their country to produce at a high volume unless they depended on an alternate source.  This meant that the German education system prided itself on helping students think creatively and independently to solve this issue.  Their renewable resources are the minds of their people.

~Some students have the opportunity to work directly with companies like Siemens and participate in a company internship along with their regular class studies.  In a nutshell, they went to school at work and went to work at school.  Companies like Siemens spends billions of dollars on their education department to allow for students to apply what they know.  When asked, “what is their monetary return on this huge financial investment?,” the director of the Siemens Educational Department replied, “our future.”

~In Baden-Württemberg, Germany, which is a federal state similar in population size to North Carolina, the spending budget for education is $40 billion.  Do I even need to mention how much North Carolina spends? (this year’s proposal is around $8 billion)

~Germany has an entire branch of their educational system dedicated to helping students develop a tradecraft.  What a novel idea?  However, their system isn’t perfect, and I will explain in later posts.

~Germany values conservative teaching methods and pedagogy.

~”Handlungskompetenz” is a common buzz word throughout many German schools that means having a well-rounded competence of a variety of skills.  This concept applies to students and teachers.

~Personal responsibility is huge in Germany. You are expected to rise to the occassion, and if you don’t, then you suffer the consequences.  This idea is noticeable throughout all of Germany, but I want to visit what this looked like in schools.

Needless to say, I have a lot to write…stay tuned!