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Posts published in “Strickland”

A remarkable teaching year

strickland

Michael Strickland of Pocatello teaches for Boise State University and is a visiting scholar at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity and Justice at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education.

In “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, Santiago is a shepherd boy who travels in search of extravagant treasures. He journeys to the markets of Tangiers and across the Egyptian desert. The story teaches us about listening to our hearts and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path. With each passing obstacle and hurdle that the young boy encounters, there is a lesson to learn.

As this school year draws to an end, I reflect on the many false starts and frustrations. Troubleshooting technology glitches was a constant. Months of uncertainty, long hours, and juggling personal and work responsibilities piled up. Many teachers told me they had reached a breaking point. Since last fall, they tried and often failed to motivate students to speak through the tiny windows of Zoom. On the flip side, it was a year of tremendous growth. Teachers became virtual alchemists — people who transform or create things through a seemingly magical process.

Unfortunately, we had little foresight of the many changes the pandemic would bring to the classroom. Do we even know the scale and range of what is to come? The discussion has been driven in wildly different directions. There has been a plethora of ideas about what sort of knowledge, outcomes, and ends we are now supposed to produce.

The worldwide pandemic threw complex curveballs, speed bumps and barriers to teaching and learning. Many traditional methods became temporarily impossible or seriously limited. However, the situation is revealing new and more creative ways of discussion, engagement, assessment and delivery of learning materials. The art of teaching is increasing in power and enthusiasm. Like the alchemists of old, teachers and students have shared hundreds of stories of transformation in this brave new world of distance classrooms.

As students have spent countless hours engaged in online learning, officials at all levels have expressed concerns about the wellbeing of young learners. We debated the path for getting kids back into school buildings. Through all the uncertainty over the best steps for returning to hybrid or in-person learning, students have continued to do their best despite the disruption, isolation, and challenges they face on a daily basis.

In alchemy, there existed power to transform things for the better — real or imagined. Teaching during a pandemic is like working in a parallel universe, another world. Many of us expended excessive amounts of our energy adjusting to this new environment. The lines between what seemed to be happening and what was really going on became blurred. “We became inventors because our survival as teachers depended on our ability to adapt: we didn’t have a choice,” wrote Serena Morales and Dev Bose of Boise State University.

In their essay, “10 Reasons to Look in the Mirror: Reflecting and Learning from Pandemic Teaching,” Morales and Bose continued:

“Circumstances shoved us through a mirror: we overhauled courses, learned technologies, shifted our teaching to unfamiliar settings, rewrote assessments, changed feedback processes, and shifted learning expectations. There are things we did because we had to and which we would not have considered otherwise.”

At the highest level, a shift in mindset was required. Crucial emotional and psychological scaffolds were needed to teach in this new paradigm.

“In the past, we might have been so tied to traditional approaches that it took a pandemic to open our eyes,” said Dieter Uchtdorf. “Perhaps we were still building with sandstone when granite was already available. Of necessity, we are now learning how to use a variety of methods, including technology, to invite people — in normal and natural ways — to come and see, come and help, and come and belong.”

There will be more health emergencies and natural disasters in the future. We are now more aware of how students and teachers need to be prepared for learning continuity. Online synchronous and asynchronous, in-person, and hybrid modalities all came to the forefront during the national health crisis. We figured out how to adapt and adjust, to-and-between all of them, at a moment’s notice.

For some students, virtual school has been a blessing. They feel less anxious, have more quiet time to work and reflect, and are empowered to design their own schedules. Online learning has freed many to contribute their voices in new ways. Teacher efficiency has improved. Some blocks were previously dead time, in-between learning tasks. Now they are free spaces where students exercise enhanced choice, bolstering creativity.

Other students lost family members or friends to COVID-19. Many are experiencing economic instability. Now that they have lived through this, we can’t stop having conversations about those challenges. Loss, grief and societal issues such as inequality, oppression and poverty need to remain at the forefront of the classroom and community discussion. We have an opportunity to use this openness to heal. Build community. Move through adversity and come out the other side, together.

To understand the complexity of the challenges ahead, we need to be acutely conscious of the history. As we ponder the overwhelming reality of what still needs to be done, I’m optimistic that positive change will happen. In “The Alchemist,” Coelho makes clear that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of. We can create ideal school environments where all students can learn.
 

Strategies for school

by Michael Strickland

Pandemic-related restrictions have had wide-ranging effects for Idaho teachers as well as those around the nation. Teachers I have spoken to report conditions from being rattled, to completely unsupported, to finally settling in to both hybrid and fully online instruction.

With Covid-19 lasting far longer than most people seem to have expected, many parents also find themselves in unchartered territory: teaching their children from home. Positive parent involvement is easier said than done. This is especially true for parents who were used to having full-time staff and facilities to aid their children's learning every day.

What strategies are best to navigate this brave new world?

Many parents feel as though they are not up to the demand of teaching their children from home. They may also be entering the unknown for themselves: working from home for the first time. Luckily, we are in an era in which technology is up for the challenge, with many sites and tools ready for parents to utilize. This article is designed to help parents by giving them resources to start their new journey. This is not an exhaustive list. It is merely a good place to start.

Sometimes, within all the turmoil, the best tools are right in front of us. Take a deeper look at your child’s school website. In my years of teaching secondary English, I was often surprised at how many parents don't take advantage of this. Many schools have subscriptions to various learning sites and libraries which are available to parents, and these are usually designed for the grade levels of the students at the school. If you’ve never really investigated your school’s website for online resources, check it out.

One site I suggest is We are Teachers. It has a multitude of free “teach at home” tools for parents and teachers alike. These resources are great for children in grade school as well as for those in middle and high school, and the site has recently been revamped specifically for parents who are teaching their children from home due to Covid-19. In addition, many resources that usually charge for access currently offer free access to schools and parents suffering hardships at this time. Here are some of best resources according to grade level:

Grade School Students (grades K-5)

• Scholastic at Home. This is a wonderful site that gives parents roughly 20 days of lessons consisting of approximately three-hour-a-day learning journeys across various subjects.
• Reading IQ. This expansive digital book and magazine resource serves ages 2-12. It is a great substitute for the school or public library, and it also allows parents to monitor what their child is reading.
• Adventure Academy. This educational multiplayer role game is geared for students up to 13 years old. It is an adventure which not only teaches children new things but also gives them a sense of community.
• Headsprout. This K-5 online reading program is currently offering a free subscription to their service that will take students through the end of the traditional school year.
• Curriculum Associates. If your child doesn’t always have computer access for his lessons, this site is for you. Curriculum Associates offers activities in both reading and math that are printable so your child can do them anytime and anywhere.

Middle and High School Students (grades 6-12)
• Science News. This site provides experiments and over 200 STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math) experiments and activities for upper-grade students.
• UWorld. This resource offers practice tests for high-stakes academic tests including the PSAT, AP, SAT, and ACT.
• Read to Lead. This self-directed learning portal serves upper grades to engage in reading. It offers “episodes” which are all roughly 500 words of reading with comprehension and vocabulary exercises included.
• iCulture. If your child has been learning or is interested in learning another language, this may be the perfect way. iCulture offers whole-language immersion classes and resources for students in French, German, and Spanish.
• Mangahigh. This game-based site is filled with online learning resources for math. Its tools are robust and they adapt to students' levels. The games help students retain what they've learned and the dashboards track progress.

There are many tools for parents to make it through this trying time. All you need to do is get on your computer, put in your search parameters, and look. Finally, check your district website for an educational roadmap, support, health and wellness suggestions, remote learning tips, links to resources, and more. You will be excited with what you find.

Michael Strickland teaches at Boise State University.
 

More online possibilities

by Michael Strickland

Higher tuition, budget cuts, course shortages and parking problems are merely the beginning of a long list. Daunting challenges face many Idaho students who want to attend traditional colleges and universities. In October 2016, the State Board of Education reported that the percentage of Idaho students continuing their education after high school dropped for the second year in a row, dipping below 50 percent.

How can we reverse this trend? Connie Malamed of the eLearning Coach website reminds us that “one of the most important areas we can develop as professionals is competence in accessing and sharing knowledge.” Nationally, 3 million students are enrolled in fully online degree programs and 6 million (one in four) take at least one online course, according to Babson Survey Research Group. Online education has become one of the most popular alternatives. In our state, it opens doors to thousands of Idahoans who live and work in rural areas as well as others who face social and economic hurdles.

Significant skepticism still runs through some academic circles regarding measurable learning outcomes in online courses. However, I’ve been fortunate to benefit from years of consultations, training and faculty learning communities. These experiences have demonstrated to me that when best practices are implemented, online learning can be just as effective as face-to-face education.

“For example, what do you do if your current job suddenly requires a college degree?” wrote Boise State President Bob Kustra in a recent letter to the community. “This happened for thousands of nurses across the region ... Demands of work and family left many facing impossible scheduling challenges, and those working in remote areas couldn’t travel the distance. … By May of 2017, more than 1,000 registered nurses from all over the country will have completed their bachelor’s degree through Boise State’s RN-BS online program.”

I have been able to greatly enhance my online and hybrid courses with my faculty and staff cohorts from BSU’s eCampus as well as our Instructional Design and Educational Assessment (IDEA Shop). The eCampus Center is dedicated to expanding the programs and offerings beyond traditional borders to meet the academic needs of students anytime, anywhere. In the IDEA Shop, high-tech tools, research-based practices, innovation and experimentation all combine to make learning happen.

With such tools in hand, online programs can be a more affordable option than traditional course offerings. For example, there are no commuting costs. In 2012, the State Board of Education launched a goal to have 60 percent of Idahoans ages 25 to 34 earn a post-secondary degree or certificate by the year 2020. The Complete College Idaho initiative is significantly enabled by online offerings. No matter what students wish to study, from nursing to neuroscience, they can find online the courses or degree programs they need. In our Gem State, students can also earn every academic degree online, from a career certificate all the way to a doctorate.

Online learning has the potential to revolutionize higher education. We must continue to make such access a priority for the future of our state and its citizens.

Michael Strickland teaches literacy education at Boise State University.
 

Making good, giving back

A guest opinion by Michael Stricland of Boise State University.

"I teach from the Harvard Business School cases; they're not as exciting as what's on 'The Apprentice,' " said Beth Goldstein, an adjunct professor at Brandeis University's International Business School, who used the show in her consulting class. "If there (was) a lesson on (the Donald Trump show), it can become integrated in the whole learning opportunity." There has been an entire management class at the University of Washington in Seattle that is devoted to 'The Apprentice,'. From Georgetown to Harvard Business school, the DVD from that first season is still discussed.

Fortunately that magic extends, in an even more special way, to Idaho …

I first met Troy McClain a month ago and can safely say that I am amazed at an opportunity I have to work with him on some writing. With Trump's popularity booming, it is fascinating to take a look at this Idaho legend who first rose to the big stage on one of Trump's reality TV shows.

"Who would have thought a country boy from Idaho could go on national television, be seen by 28 million Americans every week and still appreciate the simple things like fly fishing on a backcountry stream?" Troy's official website reads. "That is Troy McClain. Troy’s rise to prominence happened as he climbed Donald Trump’s ladder on NBC’s 'The Apprentice,' advancing all the way to the finals."

Called a “Living Energy Drink” by the Idaho Press Tribune, Troy is a ball of energy and enthusiasm who seeks to utilize his success to Give First to his community and to those who need help the most. Beating all odds, Troy rose to the top from the original 250,000 contestants, landing second only to Harvard MBA Kwame Jackson.

Starting from a challenging, low-income country upbringing, Troy's philosophy is: The best way to get ahead is to give back. A classic rags to riches story, he has collaborated with the top names in business, including Warren Buffet, and has shared the stage with with Tony Robbins, Mark Victor Hansen (of Chicken Soup for the Soul) and many other influential leaders, athletes and entertainers. He’s served and been honored by Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, the Kellogg Innovation Network, Special Olympics International and a long list of others.

Troy has been outspoken about literacy and what he says educators and businesses need to do to improve the country. "We're neutering the American entrepreneur because we don't nurture innovation. Success leaves tracks. So follow them."

The Gem State was not only Troy’s springboard, but the place to which he returned. Shortly after the Apprentice, he received scores of offers from all of the big cities. "Most people in business will tell you you've got to have your Ph.D., you've got to have an MBA. I tell everybody, I got my Ph.D. a long time ago. I was Poor, Hungry and Driven. That's my Ph.D. Today, what I'm working on is my MBA. My Massive Bank Account. ... But I'm going to give back. Why Idaho vs. LA or New York? The answer is that Idaho took care of me. Idaho embraced me and my family."

Even before The Apprentice, Troy was a successful business man having owned, operated and sold his companies, from health clubs to lending institutes. Today, he is a sought after consultant, investor and mentor for business men and women looking to accomplish what he has done. He invests in Idaho and innovation and currently runs an online success club. Since the Apprentice, Troy has built up and invested in two Idaho companies.

I love the fact that he spends so much time working to pass the American Dream that he is living, on to others.

Effective resignation letters

Michael Strickland teaches literacy education at Boise State University. He consults about writing, publishing and social media. Join the discussion and for free tips and resources.

An employee baked a cake with her resignation letter written on top. A marching band accompanied one guy with his announcement. The worker threw a brick through the window with the words “I quit” written on it. An employee left a sticky note explaining he was quitting. The individual sent an email blast to all staff.

These examples, from real cases, are from an article called “The Worst Ways To Quit A Job” written by The Office Team. As the above scenarios illustrate, moving on from a job can be fraught with emotion and a wide variety of potential perils. Sometimes it is clinical exercise. Other times it’s as messy as breaking up with a lover.

A well-written resignation letter is crucial to setting the tone for a positive transition. The business world is surprisingly small and word-of-mouth travels like wildfire. In the future, you may find yourself working with a previous co-worker or boss. You may need to request a letter of recommendation from such a person. A professional reputation is a priceless commodity that is yours to own and protect. Here are tips to keep your resignation letter safe and effective.

Since the official document you submit will set the tone for your relationships throughout the rest of your career, a good resignation letter sets you up to leverage your former position and relationships. Your writing style should be formal and friendly. Whenever possible, schedule a meeting to hand the letter to your supervisor in person. If you feel inclined to, you could offer to help make your resignation easier for the organization. For example, include a sentence or two that offers to train another person to do your job.

If a future employer calls to verify your employment, you want them to see that the last thing you said was “positive, uplifting and thankful,” according to Jacob Young, a small-business consultant and Web developer. “Even if there are marks on your file, the human spirit will take over and pause on the side of caution if you look nice and non-threatening on paper.”

Include the reason for your resignation if it is due to positive circumstances such as relocating or going back to school. In negative situations, spare the details. Instead, focus on the date of departure. Senior executives should give more than two-weeks notice. Use the length of your vacation as a good measure of the amount of time before the final day, since vacation time is typically a measure of seniority. Thus, if you have six weeks’ vacation, offer a minimum of six weeks’ notice. If there are specific terms in your contract, follow those.

Avoid negative criticism. No one will appreciate being blindsided by information that reflects poorly on their managerial or work skills, especially in a document that others will read. Avoid silly grandstanding, as in another case from the Office Team article in which a woman created a music video to explain she was leaving. This letter will be part of your permanent employment file so it's important that it doesn't contain much more than the basics.

Several samples of good resignation letters can be found in the web article “How to Write a Resignation Letter” on WikiHow.com. Jobsearch.about.com has several samples, too, including Professional Resignation Letter, Independent Contractor Resignation Letter and Maternity Leave Resignation Letter.

Finally, close on a warm note and show gratitude. It’s always good business etiquette to thank your employer for the privilege of working with him or her.

Have you written – or received – a resignation letter? Do you have suggestions for doing it right? Please share them in the comments section..

Love and leftovers

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

Anyone interested in the world generally can't help being interested in young adult culture - in the music, the bands, the books, the fashions, and the way in which the young adult community develops its own language. - Margaret Mahy

Romantic and bittersweet, Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay captures one girl's experience with family, friends, and love. I first met Sarah at an author signing at The Cabin in Boise. After perusing her work, I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in some of the books I saw.

In this debut novel in verse, Marcie is dragged to New Hampshire for the summer and soon realizes that her mom has no plans for them to return to Marcie's father in Idaho. As Marcie starts at a new school, without her ragtag group of friends called the Leftovers, a new romance heats up, but she struggles to understand what love really means.

Tregay, who I lives in Eagle, Idaho -- “with my husband, two Boston Terriers, and an appaloosa named Mr. Pots” (according to her website) -- effectively captures the angsty life of a 16-year-old. Booklist said “after her father leaves her mother for a 27-year-old man, Marcie and her depressed mom move from Idaho to a family summer home in New Hampshire.”

The protagonist falls for J. D., a boy who is an irresistible cross between Prince Harry (his hair) and David Beckham (his abs), writes reviewer Ann Kelley. Only problem: Linus, her emo-rocker boyfriend 2,000 miles away. Seven months later, Marcie moves back to Idaho with her father, confesses to Linus, and has to deal with the fallout. Marcie funnels her pain into writing poetry— “there is no three strikes / when it comes to dating. / One heartbreak and that’s it.”—and her poems, which vary in form, are what compose this verse novel.

While the subjects cover typical teenage problems, including breakups, friendships, and parental issues, Tregay adds depth with her ability, in just a few words, to palpably express both the emotions of love and the physical longings that go along with it, the Booklist review says. This first novel may make teenage readers’ hearts beat a bit faster.

The poetry in the books is used skillfully and enhances a plot that keeps the reader engaged. Filled with the turbulent emotion of teen years, IM conversations, and emo love songs, Love and Leftovers is great for reluctant readers and poetic souls alike.

Love and Leftovers is an ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults title. Kirkus Reviews said that Tregay’s choice to write in verse works well, her spare but effective language artfully evoking what otherwise might be a conventional high-school romance.

Perfect for fans of romances like Anna and the French Kiss and those by Sarah Dessen as well as readers of poetry, Love and Leftovers is a beautiful and fresh take on love.

An effective business report

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

Effective decision making is vital in the business world. Companies require access to information that is concise, easy to interpret and clearly presented. Many decision makers refuse to deal with reports or proposals that are over specified lengths. Reports must be useful to accurately assess situations, solve problems, and meet goals.
Imagine that one of your managers at work has given you an assignment to write a professional report. What should you do first? A good framework for how to proceed is found in the outcomes of Boise State’s English 101. In that course, students apply strategies for generating ideas for writing. They deal with planning and organizing material, illustrating their awareness of a writer’s relationship to the subject, context, purpose, and audience. In the BSU First-Year Writing program, students produce writing in non-fiction, inquiry-based genres, and use an academic documentation style. They use a variety of strategies to integrate evidence gathered from experience, reading, observations, and/or other forms of research.

With this in mind, you should begin by identifying clearly what you are writing about. A client or your supervisor may request a written document from you in the following way:

Our organization is interested in receiving a proposal that shows how we can lower our security costs with sustainable sources from our current base of employees, especially our essential personnel.

Once you have clearly identified your topic, explore its scope. What is “inside” and “outside” of the main idea? A good way to determine the boundaries of your topic is to create a concept map. Write your topic in the middle of your computer screen or a sheet of paper. Circle it, and then write down everything connected with it that comes to mind.

Good reports feature carefully constructed introductions, detailed bodies and logical conclusions. You need to clearly state your purpose. Workplace documents tend to be written for two primary reasons: to inform or persuade.

Write specifically for your audience. Who are your readers? Are they familiar with your topic or completely new to it? What are their needs and expectations? Will they be reading at their desks, in a meeting, on an airplane? Will they read your report from a printed page, a computer screen, tablets or smartphones? (more…)

Poetic end to a toxic relationship

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

A poetic journey through the emotions we endure at the end of a toxic relationship, Through the Trees: The poetic end to a toxic relationship uses nature and metaphor to express each stage of grief.

I first met author Nina C.Palmer at a group signing run by the Idaho Authors Community. Immediately striking was her passion for poetry and a particular cohesiveness between her presence, our chat and her work.

Each chapter of her book is a stage, each poem a part of a the journey taking you through denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance.

Written from personal experiences, it truly captures the occurrence of verbal and emotional abuse experienced in a toxic relationship. Whether your loss is a friend, husband or wife, a brother or sister, mother or father, these writings will hit home with all. A truly inspired collection of work, it relates with the heartache of the loss but also uplifts and inspires. This poetry acts as an emotional guide leading you through each stage and leaves you at the end with the courage and strength to move on.

I sat down with Nina in December at a coffee shop in Boise, to learn more about this intriguing journey. (more…)

The Idaho winemaking tale

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

The Idaho winemaking tale is ripe and ready for picking. It all starts with the grapes, according to the Idaho State Historical Society.

Peppershock Media Productions of Nampa, Idaho has adopted this story and developed an outstanding new film. The feature length Idaho Wine From Bud to Taste Bud is ideal for introducing students to documentaries and media literacy. The work also promotes local business in order to increase economic viability and to highlight Idaho’s vineyards and wineries in the national arena. It has uses for teachers and learners across the curriculum.

The video will explore from bud to tastebud–including culinary features. It will highlight the past and fruitful future, as well as educate and explore modern agricultural, specifically viticultural, practices by seamlessly blending the voices of those whose lives are impacted by the Idaho wine industry.

Idaho is considered, by some, part of the new frontier of grape-growing areas in the United States. The first grapes planted in Idaho were actually grown in Lewiston in 1864, according to an official state website, wine.idaho.gov.

“In Idaho we're the oft-forgotten 'other' state in the Pacific Northwest, said John H. Thorngate Ph.D., formerly a professor at the University of Idaho, now Applications Chemist, Research & Development, Constellation Wines U.S. “Which is rather ironic, considering that the first wineries in the Pacific Northwest were located in Idaho, and that Idaho had a nationally renowned wine industry until Prohibition, as in other regions, closed the industry down.”

Students will benefit from classroom explorations of many such little known gems of Idaho history. An article dated September 5, 1865 in the Idaho Statesman reported that a vineyard of Royal Muscadine cuttings had been planted early in the spring of the previous year (1864) and it had survived the winter well and was beginning to produce grapes.

Economics and business classes can learn more about Idaho’s fruitful future. Wine.idaho.gov says that the Idaho wine industry has been a steadily growing community for the last 30 years with remarkable growth in the past decade. With 11 wineries in 2002, Idaho is now home to more than 50, with over 1,200 acres of grapes planted. In order to see the impact Idaho wine industry is having, the Idaho Wine Commission completed an Economic Impact Study in 2014. The results were startling. It was concluded that the Idaho wine industry had a $169.3 million dollar impact in 2013 and created nearly 1,250 jobs. This growth led to an increase in visibility, more tourism, an enhanced reputation, and has created tremendous opportunity for expansion. (more…)