Monday, April 10, 2017

Mentors




How many mentors does the average person have? I am not sure what that number is, but I can think of several that have directly affected my life in a way that I would classify them as a mentor.  Personally, I categorize my mentors based upon chapters of my life.  Recently, I spoke with a mentor of mine whom worked directly with me from the end of high school into my early college years (I call this my poor choices years).  I haven't spoken to Chris Davis in over 16 years.  However, I heard some news through the grapevine of some significant life changes, thus  I felt I had to call and chat.

I called one afternoon after hearing that he was stepping down from his current position and said, "Chris Davis, it's Brandon Marolf".  His response was that of great excitement.  After exchanging the initial pleasantries we talked for about 25 minutes.  You wouldn't have guessed it had been over 16 years since we last spoke.

Chris impacted my life in a big way.  As in the case with most good mentors...they don't know they are regarded as mentors or people of special character to us.  They go about doing what they do because it is who they are.  Sometime they learn of the impact they had, but often times they have no idea of the individualized appreciation we share for them.  Chris, (if you ever read this) I can not thank you enough for the impact you had on my life specifically.  My time with you during those years directly shaped me into the man I have become.  From our countless hours playing basketball on Sunday nights to the conversations that we shared in during the (poor choices years).  Our time together is something I still reflect back on today more then you would think.  No matter the next chapter that you decide to write in your life understand that you have changed the lives of countless many and I thank you!

I share this with all of you in the hope that you will not wait to thank someone you might consider a mentor.  Share with them the joy they brought to your life.  The more often we hear this the more inspired we become.  Recently, I had a student in her statement of faith speech in church publicly thank me for helping to inspire her and the selection of her verse.  She continued to thank me for the impact that I had on her life.  I'll be honest, I had no idea!  However, this was one of the most humbling experiences ever for me.

Thank those who have inspired you!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Admitting We're Not the Best...

ARE WE THE BEST COUNTRY? 

Recently I watched a video titled "The Most Honest Three Minutes in TV History", it is a blip from the show "Newsroom".  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ML3qYHWRIZk .

This video really sparked me to contemplate on the validity to the statement, America is the best country in the world.  I've grown up in a country where I have been taught to believe we are the greatest country of all time!  We are who everyone strives to become and where all people wish they could be.  It is something that may not necessarily be true anymore.  Now, before I continue, I am not saying I wish I lived somewhere else nor am I speaking negatively about the country that I live in!  Let us be clear.  I love and cherish my country and all those who defend it!  However, many of us have grown up with a belief and somewhat, a sense of arrogance about where we live.  At what point do we pose the question to ourselves about self evaluation?  Are we truly the best or is it just self proclaimed because we were?  Do we just ignore other countries continued advancements over the years?



The video goes on and states the following rankings on America:

  • 7th in Literacy
  • 27th in Math
  • 22nd in Science
  • 1st in Defense Spending                                              Top Education Countries 2014
Now, I know these rankings are constantly changing and which governing agency is conducting these reports does cause the findings to fluctuate in each report, but the fact is we are not what what we think we are.  The first part of fixing a problem is recognizing that there is a problem.  America has become such a different place in just the 35 years that I have been on this earth.  I look at Facebook and watch the news and see a country that is being defiant for the sake of defiance.  Whether it’s rioting and protesting a new President, or disagreeing with a labor law, or violence against police officers, the defiance persists.  I see all these problems. I see all these people complaining. What I don't consistently see are people rallying around others for the greater good within disagreeing groups.  We have become a society that if we don't like something we act out.  We feel that our opinion is the most important and everyone should focus on how we hurt.  We live in a country that is providing "safe places".  Could you imagine Americans 100 years ago talking about safe places?  We continually see attacks on other groups and organizations because "people want to make a point".  

What is this place?  What happened to celebrating creativity?  What happened to wanting to have the next new idea rather then using a recycled idea. Instead of giving everyone a trophy so they feel good, how about creating environments where people have to earn things?  Competition can create work ethic and drive.  You have to work to be good at something then maybe, just maybe you'll earn a prize.  As previously stated, we're #1 in defense spending. Why?  We live in an America which attacks its own police.  I understand their are some unethical and racist police officers.  However, who are we to attack those sworn to serve and protect us and harm good ethical officers to make a point?  
We need to focus on moving forward.  We need to focus on fostering an environment for growth, ingenuity, and progressive thinking.  It is important to understand and teach that life is hard.  Sometimes we don't get what we want and we need to deal with adversity.  From an education standpoint we need to start at the ground level. We must use this opportunity to teach and build up the foundation in order to create .  To help create a new generation of people that facilitate a better tomorrow.  Instead of complaining about things we can come together to positively and creatively make a difference.  In some recent stats I found the following countries to be in the top in economy, education, and political stability.
       Country                      Education                       Political Stability               Economy

            Singapore                   1st                                   15th                                   40th
            Finland                       6th                                   9th                                    44th
            Canada                       10th                                 14th                                  10th
            Australia                    14th                                  25th                                  13th 
            Sweden                      35th                                 22nd                                  22nd
            Norway                      25th                                 19th                                   30th
            New Zealand             17th                                  2nd                                   53rd
            USA                           29th                                 64th                                   1st 
            Austria                       19th                                 8th                                     29th                            
  

Again, I state, I love my country, but instead of basking in the glory of what made it great shouldn't we look at what will make it great again?  I wonder what America we will live in 30 years from now? 15 years from nowTomorrow

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)
http://www.theglobaleconomy.com/rankings/wb_political_stability/
http://fairreporters.net/world/the-best-education-systems-in-the-world-in-2015/




Wednesday, December 14, 2016

American Education Continuing to Fall

American Education System...

According to an article out of the New York Times, the American education system continues to falter when compared to other education systems on the global front.  Every three years the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test is given to 15 year old students in approximately 69 countries.  Now there was hope with some of the standards put into our education system (NCLB 2002) that those implementations would now start to take effect and show success.  However, they did not.  Now, I understand there are flaws with any test and before people scream about biases let's perhaps "pretend" they mean something and evaluate results and potential indicators, thus learning something. 

Countries like Colombia continue to rise.  Analysts attribute this due to a higher priority in enrolling more students at a young age while also raising their standards.  Singapore continues to crush the competition with what they are doing.  One of the chief analysts of the PISA test said, "They are constantly looking outside for ways to improve, questioning the established wisdom.  That's the classic thing that Singapore has always done."  Now in evaluating math, Singapore and Taiwan lead the way with the U.S. in the bottom third.  

The only area the U.S. showed significant growth was in the 2006 socioeconomic status, which explained a 17% variance in science scores, as compared to 2015, where it dropped to 11%.  This was the biggest jump based on socioeconomic status of all countries.  One factor that the PISA team identified was that countries showing strong success make the teaching profession a profession of "prestige".  Based on that prestige and financial compensation the selection pool for teachers is filled with a higher qualified list of professionals.  In some countries such as Finland teachers are spoken of the same regard as that of medical doctors.  Thus, creating a spike in the amount of qualified people that want to join the profession.  


     "Here’s what the models show: Generally speaking, the smartest countries tend to   be those that have acted to make teaching more prestigious and selective; directed


      more resources to their neediest children; enrolled most children in high-quality 

      preschools; helped schools establish cultures of constant improvement; and 
      applied rigorous, consistent standards across all classrooms." 

     -Andreas Schleicher-
   

Standards such as Common Core have been put into place, but were only a major part of our educational system for one year.  Some states follow these standards and some don't.  There is no continuity which, was one of the main overhauling hopes by law makers when implementing this program.  They strive for a unified education system where teachers and districts across the country could effectively evaluate students.

So what do we do?  We have to demand more from our schools, students, and parents.  We need to develop a program filled with standards that make sense and are achievable.  Our society has turned into one that can only do something for 8 seconds (approximate attention span of human; goldfish is 9 seconds).  Thus creates confusion and disconnect between schools across the nation.  We must find a framework that can be our foundational piece. With this piece we can tweak elements of its underlying body, but keeping the core in tact.  Thus, allowing real production and evolution of a systematic model.

Hold your breath for a second...one part of the article discussed that the smaller classes and increase amount of tech might actually be hindering educational growth.  
     

     "Some of the other reforms Americans have attempted nationwide in past years,           including smaller class sizes and an upgrade of classroom technology, do not     

     appear on the list of things that work. In fact, there is some evidence that both 
     policies can have a negative impact on learning." (see links)
As we evaluate this test, our system, and so much more I feel that we need to start from the bottom and work our way up.  We need to stop saying we are going to "teach better" and instead put in the resources needed in the most underdeveloped areas of our country.  The gap between "good" districts and "bad" districts is widening abundantly.  Our inner city schools continue to struggle.  For example, in Baltimore 81% of students graduate in the suburbs while only 41% graduate from city schools.  New York shows a discrepancy of 83% to 54%.  Raising these rates in inner city areas I believe is objective one in strengthening the whole system from bottom to top.

Many steps must follow in the process, but until major consistently administrated reform takes place our country will continue to flow in the middle of the pack with education as compared to the world. 

Brandon Marolf



Monday, September 12, 2016

Lecture No More...

TO LECTURE OR NOT TO LECTURE...THAT IS THE QUESTION

Why do we spend countless class periods lecturing?  Is it that we enjoy the sound of our own voice?  Do we need to prove that we are masters of our subject content area?  Or do we think kids are learning something?  While I am not sure of the correct answer I do understand the answer is different depending on the educator and students listening to it.  As an educator of 11 years and basketball coach of that and then some, I feel both have given me incredible insight into how much junior high kids listen.  I can't tell you how many times I have given instruction during pre game, post game, or during a time out and can see the blank stares.  Or, non execution of what was just talked about.  Now I understand this could be due to poor communication on my part, the age group, etc.  However, I feel there is more to it than just that.
 
How many times have you taught a lesson, chapter, or unit and students did not experience the success or master you were hoping for.  Why was that?  Did they just not put in enough "effort"?  Perhaps you lost them through out your teaching due to a lot of you talking and them listening. 

In today's world studies indicate that as a society we have the average attention span as that of a goldfish.  Now, for those that don't know, a goldfish has an average attention span of 9 seconds.  Studies from "The Telegraph" (online science publication) show that humans actually demonstrate an average attention span of 8 seconds.  That means you've probably spaced out or thought of something else 3 times while reading this blog!

You may be asking what the heck am I supposed to do in order to teach kids then?  First, we must understand the lecture format is passive learning.  In order to get kids to learn we must incorporate active learning.  If you're like me you're thinking great, but what is that or how does it look?  The answer to that is elementary my dear Watson!  It's collaboration!  Now, I am not talking loads of group projects, but more project based learning.  Students learn while doing (then again don't many of us)!  We can create an ala carte format in learning where students demonstrate choice and value in their assignment selection.  We create an environment that allocates more learning time which creates a deeper value in one's education.  This can be done in all grades.  
 
We need to incorporate the 4 C's in learning:  Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity.  Creating environments utilizing these 4 C's give an educational experience that is more on par with how they will be expected to learn and work in their future.  We are facilitating for futures we know very little about.  We can't continue to teach how we were taught.  In order to facilitate the best teaching-learning relationship we need to continue to think outside the box and adapt to an ever-changing educational world.  Now, as with anything it doesn't mean stop and change everything.  Some situations warrant a lecture format.  Howeverkeep in mind: 8 seconds.  That is what you get!  Utilize that 8 seconds wisely.


Remember, without innovative learning and teaching we can't do our job, which is to prepare our students for their future, not ours!

BRANDON D. MAROLFAssistant Principal/ Athletic Director
bmarolf@zionharvester.org
636-441-7424 X215
Twitter:  @bmarolf15
WE ARE...BOBCAT NATION!


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Inspirational Starts To The Week

HAVE AN UPLIFTING WEEK!

Two SHORT videos and some pictures to uplift you this week...have an impact this week and those following! You're truly a blessing to all students and each other! 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwlhUcSGqgs&feature=youtu.be
Uplifting video for teachers...KID PRESIDENT! 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTMLzXzgB_s&feature=youtu.be
Video on what students want their teachers to know...

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--
In Christ,
BRANDON D. MAROLFAssistant Principal/ Athletic Directorbmarolf@zionharvester.org
636-441-7424 X215
Twitter:  @bmarolf15
WE ARE...BOBCAT NATION!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Top Articles of the Week

For those that don't know I enjoy highlighting articles that I read that jump out to me on twitter often.  Whether others enjoy them or read them who knows.  However, for me it's about learning and growing in what I do as a life time learner.  I hope you find something worth while!


1.  Article discussing how dyslexia affects our reading (kids perspective)
https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/10/01/understanding-dyslexia-and-the-reading-brain-in-kids/

2. Create really cool educational videos in just minutes.  Good for any classroom activity!
http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/mysimpleshow-videos/

3.  8 resources any teacher can use.  I enjoy padlet and kahoot!
https://ictevangelist.com/eight-things-teachers-learn-about-edtech/

4.  This was my favorite blog post from this week!  Tell it how it is rather then facilitate a culture of complaints.
http://adamwelcome.blogspot.com/2016/08/were-just-going-to-say-it-kidsdeserveit.html?spref=tw

5.                                                                            
6. 7.  Great story!  100 teacher surveyed and asked to put together characteristics of the ideal teacher. http://fouroclockfaculty.com/2016/08/the-ideal-teacher/
8. How much homework is enough?

9.  Things students need in order to be global citizens!  Pretty solid characteristics.
http://mrkempnz.com/2016/07/5-skills-students-need-to-be-contributing-global-citizens.html?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=socialnetwork



Thursday, July 21, 2016

ARTICLE OF THE WEEK

Below is a great article found that I just had to post and share....


BY:  Craig Vroom
@Vroom6

So Much to Learn


Later this week I head off to Boston to present at the November Learning, Building Learning Communities Conference on the invitation from Alan November. This is an amazing opportunity to share with a fresh audience of educators about my passion for teaching and learning.

I often ask myself how I have ended up in the place that I have. A kid growing up in upstate New York and having attended a small university in Ohio, I feel like I have finally found myself as an educator. I take great pride in being fully invested in my school community and that is essential for me. Also, I am fortunate to work in the school district that I do that not only embraces innovation, it demands it.

The reality is, however, I made some significant errors along the way to get where I am today. In fact, for a period of time I felt like I had mastered the art of "failing forward". Without that period in my life, however, I would not be heading off on a jet plane this morning to connect with passionate educators from across the globe to share my story.

My learning has been powerful. My story is about how I picked myself up, recognized my errors, accepted my need for growth and how I bought into the notion that I needed to increase my own learning which in turn would evolve me into a better practitioner, a better leader and a better person.

Keep the following in mind as you fail forward:

1. Embrace the uncomfortable. Just 4 years ago I was having some tough conversations with my colleagues about my direction in this field. While in my seat in, I sat and squirmed and felt like the walls were closing in. Those were some rough days in my journey. My decision that day was a simple one. Instead of running from this tough moment, I embraced it. I looked it dead in the eyes and demanded more of myself. The growth began immediately.

2. Own it. When failing forward the hardest part of the process is to own the errors. If your colleagues, community or even harder to accept your superiors are giving you the impression that you are losing your way, you can respond in one of two ways. My advice is simple. Own that there are improvements to be made and commit to seeing it through. The sooner you own it, the quicker the path to success.

3. Let down your guard.Too often when we fail we build up a wall of trust, or lack there of. That is natural and instinctive. As hard as it is, try not to leave that wall up. You can't get better on your own just as you didn't fail forward on your own. No, you were not pushed. However, at some point others may have stepped away on your journey. I understand being cautious just don't be resistant. Allow others to be a part of your improvements.

4. Have a plan. Now that you are owning your errors, moving forward to being a better educator and embracing the reality of your situation, make sure to know the direction you are heading. For me I had to reach out to my most trusted colleagues and friends. I owned my missteps and dove in to seeing my improvement. I created a plan, set some goals and put my eyes forward to the potential that was there to be had. For me, the plan is what made all the difference. Going in blindly just leads to more failing. Having a plan is essential.

I am not finished with my journey in teaching and learning and especially leading. I have more to do and there is a passion within me to share my story with each of you. We are unique. Our paths in life are independent of each other. However, at the end of the day, we have one goal in common. Simply, we want to be better today than we were yesterday. There is so much to learn.