Month: November 2018

Great Teachers Conference: Collective Wisdom Session

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On 11/10/18 at 8:00pm, I attended the Great Teacher’s Conference  Session at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, NC presented by Wake Technical Community College

We ended the conference with a Q&A session with the youngest teachers as the audience, and all of us as the experts. We were asked to give advice for the first day.

Don’t make it too fun, but let them know things are serious.

Tell a funny story about yourself to put people at ease.

Be drawn in as a student. If it isn’t fun to be there, why bother to show up.

smile on the first day so people know you are happy.

why i love this subject, why I teach, why I am at wake tech

I know you’ve seen my ratemyprofessor ratings, make the expectations clear and how you will succeed in this course. Understand that each teacher has to teach to the slowest learner.

Tell them about your past, personal and professional- so you are relate-able.

Let them know that you are human. What are the expectations, and what is your educational experience. I’m thankful they are sitting in my class.

This subject is something I absolutely love. Here is a short survey including a small question such as “what is the purpose of music”. And it gets down to the basics of their thoughts and pre-suppositions

Validate that you know the subject matter, and ask if there is something you can do to make this class better

Talk about how great the day is and discuss how wonderful hot water, water, travel, freedom, etc. How many days would I have to teach without students

Don’t forget to move around the room. get to know people

There are alpha talkers. Monitor the alphas and let the betas come through.

Get students to move and get around with an icebreaker.

Keep track of who’s using the resources

Tell the students that they will all think they are your favorites by the end of the semester. Tell them that you’re human. They really will think it too.

Give 1 copy of the syllabus, and set up teams. Winner of the cahoot challenge gets an NQA pass on attendance.

Tell a story about being a student. I did not like this… I did not like that… explain it because this is why we’ll do things in this class.

Instead of something that you like, tell them to talk about something they hate and can share mutually.

Be friendly, tell jokes, talk about negative experiences, and relieve that baggage.

Do icebreakers such as 2 truths one lie, and decide what might be a lie. Its loud, rowdy, and get them in a fun space.

What name would you like to go by? Students are scared and intimidated, especially in remedial classes. What are you scared of

Tell some great stories about your kids or something you’re really happy about

make the opening speech about the appropriate subject- passion vs. professionality.

Do anything you can do to keep their attention just a few seconds longer. Make noises, jump around

Talk about things they like or hate in their classes, and by the end they’ll be really ready for the class

make a talk about practice and sweating and bleeding and put in the time. You cannot watch to get better. You have to work to get better.


How can we find time to grade. A teacher cannot focus on grading after lecture, and they are fresh in the morning. However the lectures are in the morning? Go when you’re fresh. Break it up into sections, do what you can to work in sections. Give answers in points and use the rubric, giving the answers to the rubric as a question response.

If you did not read the syllabus, what would you talk about to keep them interested? Personalize the experience of the class.

In challenging times of high stress, how do you keep the love of your field and student success. Keep a printed folder of positive comments and nice emails you received. In a seated class, walk around the class playing follow the leader- it breaks the tension. Keep a folder of letters of recommendations for your students to showcase how they’ve been successful and who you’ve helped. Keep the funny answers you get on tests and things. You aren’t just a teacher, but a teacher and coach at the same time. things won’t get better every day- there will be down days, but make sure you end well and begin well. Ride the wave. Its OK to back away. If you’re feeling poorly, just back away. Find students who you’re really happy to have in your class. Email that student a very positive response.

Take this with you: talk to the people around you. Don’t go office to classroom to car. Stop in other people’s audience. Collaborate. Most teachers miss the collaboration

Great Teacher’s Innovations Session

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On 11/10/18 at 8:55am, I attended the Great Teacher’s Conference Innovation Session at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, NC presented by Wake Technical Community College

Our team joined up in a group of 4 individuals and a facilitator. We began the session by revisiting a sheet of materials sent to us: Outlining a success we’ve achieved through innovation in the classroom, and a problem we’re facing in the classroom.

I started the session off with my innovation.

I had found problems in the past because several students had found themselves withdrawing from classes because they felt “alone and cut off from others.” Based on this qualitative data from students, I implemented several changes in 2017 across my online courses.

Introduction discussion boards were created where students were asked to share their preferred activities and photos of themselves. This encouraged personal connections in online courses, and allowed students to recognize those people they had in previous classes or who they knew from seated courses.

To seem more available, I began calling each student prior to the first week of class to let them know that I will be their teacher and they can contact me with any problems they have during the semester

To encourage more discussion, I also implemented a mandatory discussion feature into my courses in at least 9 out of 16 weeks, requiring a 50+ word minimum original post, and 3 student responses with 50+ words for credit. This encourages deeper thinking about our work, more in-depth responses about other students’ work, and more constructive criticism.

Mark Monsky went next. The Innovation that made the biggest difference in classroom was making a connection with students early. In seated sections, he found that students were not engaged. Learning names early makes the biggest innovations. Going out of his way, Mark found that students really like it. The problem here was one with numbers of impressions. Students only have to remember the name of a single teacher. Teachers have to remember the names and faces of 20-40 students.

Leighton Ford Went third. His Innovation was to include a review session and do problems on the white board in hopes that his students would learn. Students however, did not learn. PD suggests that the use of video media and screen captures would garner attention. He segmented questions in video files- concentrating on frequently missed questions with timestamps. Very few students clicked on the material and very few bothered to use the jump links. He went back to the in-class review, and had students instruct one another in a flipped classroom style. This was well received, and he is pursuing this to see how he might split up the questions and hyperlink each question to get immediate feedback.

Exams are taken seated in class, and 15 minutes set aside afterwards to revisit the most frequently missed questions. At first, reviewing the classes in person was a drain. Good students would tune out, and the energy in the room would be sapped. Leighton noted that he goes over every question as soon as the test is returned. Instead, he opted to move the review until the week of the final exam. All 4 tests were covered in a single day prior to the final exam. All students who showed up were engaged. After the test people may have had too many other things to do, and not paying attention. Before the final exam, students very helped. Striking while the iron is hot is the best way to keep them interested. Right after the test they are tired and burned out, however, talking to partners is always a great idea.

Leighton teaches a Gateway course in math. Most people are not ready, and failure rate is really, really high. Students show up in math and act like its a regular class requiring they listen and give a small effort, but math doesn’t really work like that. Very few students ask questions: they are not comfortable, and don’t want to show they don’t know the required knowledge. So he, breaks his class into groups. He starts his class with a quiz of basic skills and uses this quiz to organize the class. His top 8 students start the groups, with next 8 grades distributed, and so on until there are 4 people in each group. They practice in groups during class time, and this allows students to work the problems together. As a teacher, he is in class moving around to help, but will only assist students after they have asked everyone in the group and one person from another group. Environment is really a friendly room, and questions in class are low. But requiring students to ask questions before moving on allows for a more collaborative environment. You have to talk in class. This is a nice way to get confident in class, especially math. Gradewise there are improvements showing in the class and retention rates are higher. Student withdrawals are not so much about lazy students, but now more about personal issues. His division is looking to redesign this class in 2019, so he is hoping this idea will catch on. Is there lecture? Yes, some. Most info is online, and standard lecture that allows students to take notes and explain concepts. However, if he does 100 problems in 1 hour as a teacher, you  will learn very little. If students do the classwork, the retention of ideas is better and understanding is higher. Seats are permanent seats. How do they like it? Students choose the seats when they sit down. Have a perm group seat is the same as a standard perm seat. In classes without groups, they are forced to move so they can connect with one another. I applaud him for question method. They work together. Some students who come in shy end up being talkative, competitive, working together.

Steven Hill went last. “I love my discipline,” he noted, “and history can bore students. I go into character to deliver speeches and talks from moments in history”. He does impressions on day one: Winston Churchill doing a speech. They may start serious and end funny, but will always be fact. “Mr. Hill makes those dead people sound interesting!” a student remarks. He tries to make things as interesting as possible for students. Another thing is he uses is props. A stereooptic to show what 3D was like in the past, for example. In the classes, reviews are mostly positive. he mention that on the first day: “I do not give A’s in this class. You may want to drop this, but I don’t give A’s in the class.” after a long pause, a student will ask “You mean we’ll have to earn them?” “Of course,” he will reply, “But I don’t give F’s either”. Enthusiasm builds the class. Monotone is too boring and the student is encouraged and emphasized to learn on their own. A seated class should not force students to find their own focus. A teacher is only a click away. He sets it the first day- enthusiasm, expectations, I manage them all every day. Leighton related that students do not react in monotone classes, do not care. However, laughing, joking in the class, allows us all to find things lighter and more exciting. Steven suggests that high energy and positive expectations make for an excellent class and great set of materials. The least little thing can bring you down. Struggle to ensure that you are upholding that level of energy and enthusiasm. You’ll have to overlook and combat the idea that students may try to bring down the energy level in the class.

From this point on, we talked about issues and joys we face in the classroom.

If facing numerous ringtones in the class, I suggested grabbing the BBC ringtone “Sound 30yr olds cannot hear”. if nobody knows- who’s got the cellphone out? look it up! For the most part, students wish to succeed, and keep cell phones out of the way. was discussed.

Cell phone policies: what is the policy, what should we do when its out of policy? Discussing this in class keeps stress off teacher and requires buy-in from students.

Rather than having serious homework, offer 10 topics due on the day before test. If you finish 8, you get full credit. Still you may face students who never enter the course materials in the seated classroom. Its real bad in math 171. Not as bad in 153 taught in computer lab.

All in all, it was nice to hear about the level of accomplishment in the classroom. A lot of these points can have bearing for later in the session and when talking with other teachers.

Great Teachers Conference Session 1 and 2

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On 11/10/18 at 7:00pm, I attended the Great Teacher’s Conference presentation Skills, Skills, Skills Session at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, NC presented by Wake Technical Community College

Skills Skills Skills

Study skills

Study skills are an integral part of teaching and learning. In this session, we covered ways in which we could encourage students to work hard, study hard, and improve their study skills.

Birds of A Feather

Grouping people together allow study skills and results to move together. Students can teach one another, pointing out flaws in thinking and expanding knowledge with examples which make sense to other students. You will find that students almost always cluster together, but that can be hurtful.

Some people take the limelight or try to remove themselves from the group, or will work alone. Try to combat this by assigning groups or by building in a contract. Prior to assigning groups, have your students take a free DISC assessment or Myers-Briggs Personality Test. Use the scores from the test first to talk about what the students learned and how accurate it was, and last to use it to help put your groups together. Just like you wouldn’t want a group of all followers, you don’t want a group of all leaders either. You know your students, so split them into groups with at least one strong leader and don’t double up if you have students who drag behind. Use a contract to clearly point out who will be doing what jobs. There is not a question as to who is responsible for what items, and encourage your students to help one another or “vote a member off the island”. Make it known that a member voted off the island by their teammates can make a maximum of 70%. Many will step up their game.

Last Minute Mastery?

Cramming in some courses is a really big problem. If this continues to be an issue, consider watching the videos by Dr. Chew about using metacognition. Integrating these into your classes can be a one-shot assignment or it can be part of your course resources section and available to all students.

Guided questions are very helpful as a reflective assignment. Asking students what they’ve learned, and what was difficult is fairly boilerplate. That doesn’t leave you without other solid questions like: How will you adjust your plan to avoid this next time? How can you do better? What study methods will you use to do better next time?

Consider using scaffolding. Rather than a single paper worth 30% of their grade, break it into sections under review. Also revisiting the study habits about a week after the exam— what did you do to study for the exam, how long did you study, and based on your grade, did it help you? Mixing this with Metacognition will be a strong asset for you.

Quizzes are used to gauge student understanding. Consider a consistent delivery methods, such as having a quiz every Friday, and always over the same material— things covered in the class that week. With 10% of your final grade based on homework and another 10% set for quizzes, students are not engaged to push themselves. Failing these, a student can always get a B- or pass. Consider bumping up these items. Often, its great to point out that 3-4 hours of study time over the semester will save you 4 months of your time by not having to take the whole class again. Sometimes you can revisit the idea that low stakes doesn’t exactly mean “low stakes”. Every missed item is like a missing block in a jenga tower. (It could end up getting you right in the face, see below).

Soft skills

Many people in the business industries we serve feel that students are missing soft skills— the unspoken items and ideas which are part of every person’s working world. What do our students know? What don’t they know? What do they know they don’t quite know well enough? What do then not know that they don’t know? It is often the Unknown Unknowns that bite us the hardest, because we cannot conceive that we have a gap in our knowledge.

What do they need to know?

What’s the workplace-appropriate attire for the industry and for the workplace? Are they the same? What soft skills will be appropriate for students to have? Career Services are called in to assist students when writing cover letters, conducting mock interviews in later classes, working with us on online and hardcopy portfolios. What does a designer or worker do in the classroom, and how can we work in those preparations in our own classrooms?

What About in YOUR Classes?

For students in my classes personally, they are pushed very hard. Their work needs to include technical mastery as well as strong conceptual work, a high attention to detail, and an excellent understanding of how these things are done. Many students consider me to be an arch-nemesis in early classes, and when they notice their level of control and understanding in later classes, consider me to have been right on schedule. In my mind, if a student is pushed to the brink, but delivers… they’re exactly in the right spot. If the workplace is as bad as a “bad day in a Dockery Class”… for them its just another day on the job. On the other hand, when an employer expects some good work, but they consistently provide above-excellent level care and performance… you have an employee who’ll be moving up in the world.

How Can We Be More Helpful?

Sometimes failure is the best thing that we can do for our students—we need to value these items more in the classroom. Business Administration has a course called “People Skills”. (in discussing this with Mark Monsky later, that program had already been discontinued). English 114 has a business writing class which can be used to enrich our students’ business vocabulary. Culinary has an etiquette class that outlines how to talk to others and clients, etc. Consider mock interviews with clients, and how do you phrase questions and things to help clients be clearer without overdoing it and upsetting people. Communicating clearly in collegiate environment is key. Speaking to them about emails titled “Question, Um…” are not appropriately, and materials need to be easy to read and very easy to communicate the materials. If you’re squinting at your own notes, you have some serious problems. We can stress the importance of writing and readable notes. One teacher noted that in low-stakes assignment she clearly says that “any pieces not using common writing conventions will lose AT LEAST half credit. Its a good wake up call in a low-stakes environment.

Rapid Fire Session

At this point, we had to break through with a rapid-fire session. The rapid-fire session went over some of the minor points while empowering teachers. I was talking and listening, and failed to take accurate notes, but we touched on:

  • success skills


  • student respect issues


  • instructor boredom
  • death by powerpoint
  • games

Can you hear me now?

  • collaboration
  • lack of community

Techie-tech at Wake TEch

  • teaching with video
  • tech tricks


Walk the line


How can you manage the amount of work coming home? Use the leeway the school has given you to ensure the amount of work you do.

You Lost Me

This was very vague. One of these items: Use the leeway the school gives us really seems to have missed the mark. Many of us teach 5+ classes in a semester, and have contracts with high numbers. Mine has 52 contact hours on the schedule and I’m not the only one maxed out in our department. We are paid for 5 office hours, but required to have many more which are unpaid.  We attend some school events as a courtesy and others as a volunteer and are required to attend other events annually (such as recruiting efforts, open houses, booths, and industry events). We undertake involved benchmarking projects, go to several conventions each year, and take well over 100 hours of professional development hours. Our classes take time, prepping old classes to reflect new software and new trends in the industry takes time, committee work takes time, answering email takes time, and we’re forced to work nights and weekends.

When I see that the school is giving us leeway, but I see that the school is really trying to have us seated 30 hours a week in our office, taking away our vacation and break days, it seems like you’re talking about something which isn’t accurate. This might be like saying “Eat all the cake your students bring you.” If there is no cake coming in, it doesn’t make much sense…

Back On Target

Use the time you need. Email is a rabbit hole, but it can easily be a problem. If you schedule the grading and email to certain times of the day, you may find you have more time than you thought. Consider not even looking at email until 3pm (cannot happen as I know it). Consider turning things off as soon as you walk out the door.

One Person noted (name redacted): Its in the policy that you do not have to contact with students on the weekend.

Multiple People responded: Evenings and weekends are par for the course in online classes. Weekend and night emails or often appeals and questions. If those go unanswered, its a complaint to the dean, and so should be answered. Online students with problems and blackboard issues are not easy to answer. Ensure students that you will address the issue after you have talked with IT or BB and give us the trouble ticket and response.

Another responder: If students cannot go on board with solving the problem themselves, why should we look into these issues.

Should we have 2 due dates per week or 1 due date per week? There is no standard. Many people find that emailing at a certain time is healthy and sets a good balance. Students must have concise efforts. Anything which is too drastic gets pushed off too late, and has a chance of failing.

Be Open and Honest About Responsivitiy— Especially with yourself.

Perhaps taking a 10 minute walk every 50 minutes can reset your productivity. Don’t be afraid to tell students that you will not be responding. Share and be open. Students will be available and open to give you some space. After all, that’s what they want too!

Great Teacher’s Conference Book Discussion

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On 11/10/18 at 8:55am, I attended the Great Teacher’s Conference after-lunch session at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, NC presented by Alison Consol of Wake Technical Community College.

Get In The Mood

We started the session off with a stretching session and some breathing and visaullization exercises. This was great.  🙂

Phase One: Book Discussions

Phase one started on a brief discussion regarding the books we’ve brought. I thought this was great, because I had only had a chance to look at three of the books, and once while I was taking some notes on one, I had to hustle to the next meeting, so it was nice to have some show and tell.

We were asked to discuss the books and why we brought them, specifically, what someone could find from that material.

Option B by Sheryl Sandburg and Adam Grant was the first book discussed, so I’ll give it a little bit of extra space and wording for being first. It gave plenty of options on how to talk to someone who is having a hard time and talk to someone who’s going though a traumatic event. This can be very useful to teachers who are also advisors. For example: What basic things can you say or do to lead them through their troubles or encourage them to seek counsellors if needed?

At this point, we discussed several great books, and quite a few stood out.

1,001 Great Thoughts On Teaching- This was a book that one teacher kept in their work area, and on “down” days, she used 1-2 to get herself up for the classroom.

How the Brain Works- studies and practical suggestions on how to approach the classroom to help students drink in the materials and retain it. The teacher mentioned that they used this to double-check themselves with new material: AM I being realistic? How can they use the time?

Teaching STEM- The point of a great teacher is not to lift the D and F students, it is to convert the C students to B and A students. You will always have D and F students. Studies inside this book were very helpful. Learning off a screen for students was deeply preferred, but written materials are retained more readily. Writing is more important than typing.

Six Easy Pieces- by Richard Feynman. It teaches physics easily without watering down the content.

The English Book- This was a nice amalgam book, with teachers from across the country each showcasing their compositions and describes their lessons as well as how it was approached in literature. As it was described by the teacher: “We are all taught english, but we are expected to know how to teach items in practice while focusing on the mechanics of the situation. Everyone communicates if you connect- direct connection to why the world needs to communicate. IF they are quiet, nothing good comes in the teaching environment, especially speaking between the lines- they may not ask the right questions because the quiestion could be “not right” and pares down the fluff of the questions and pieces how to get directly involved with communications.”

How To Be A Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul- This book was one I brought. It had sections from different famous graphic designers that talked about how important it was to bring the important things into account when discussing your job in the workplace. It isn’t all about the money, it can’t be, or you’ll leave everything you value behind.

Before Phase two, we noted that the classes were funded by whiting turner. We were told if we’d like, we can write letters, and we’ll have them delivered together. Or we can think on it for a while, and have the materials delivered at a later date.

Phase Two: Discussing Our Problems

Phase two was talking about our solutions. Just to reiterate Our rules:

  1. Define the problem briefly.
  2. Do not justify it. If its a problem, its legit.
  3. No problem can be solved with the thinking that created it.
  4. If it is said here, it needs to stay here.
  5. Define what cannot be changed.
  6. Reality is real. We are here to solve some problems, but not all problems should be solved. THink about the problem with the priest, drunkard, and engineer.

    A priest, a drunkard, and an engineer are taken to the guillotine…

    On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the midst of the French Revolution the revolting citizens led a priest, a drunkard and an engineer to the guillotine. They ask the priest if he wants to face up or down when he meets his fate. The priest says he would like to face up so he will be looking towards heaven when he dies. They raise the blade of the guillotine and release it. It comes speeding down and suddenly stops just inches from his neck. The authorities take this as divine intervention and release the priest.

    The drunkard comes to the guillotine next. He also decides to die face up, hoping that he will be as fortunate as the priest. They raise the blade of the guillotine and release it. It comes speeding down and suddenly stops just inches from his neck. Again, the authorities take this as a sign of divine intervention, and they release the drunkard as well.

    Next is the engineer. He, too, decides to die facing up. As they slowly raise the blade of the guillotine, the engineer suddenly says, “Hey, I see what your problem is …”


We’ll use the same format as before, and continuing around in a circle, responding more than once if time allows. We use the same rules with whining, griping, and telling war stories. Add to this that all parties are involved, but we should keep the arguments from back and forth between 2 parties.

This part of the process is really covered by part 4 in our discussion rules: If it is said here, it needs to stay here. I won’t be writing any of these issues or solutions down…

Great Teacher’s Conference Keynote

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On 11/10/18 at 8:55am, I attended the Great Teacher’s Conference Opening Keynote at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, NC presented by Wake Technical Community College

Great Teacher’s Conference Keynote

3rd annual Kelly markson, caralyn house, meghan macintyre, alison consol,  lead coordinator from RTP Campus.

After a short Intro with our group facilitators and team members, we began the discovery process. We paired up with one another based on our years of experience. We began by creating a line with members at one end (half a year) and in the other end with the longest teachers (27.5 years!). We then paired up. Rather than folding the line in half, in a method similar to DNA replication, the line split and moved in opposite directions around the room, meeting again on the far side of the room. Both halves of the line met in a handshake, reconnecting to learn about one another. My partner was Mark DeCain.

Mark DeCain, Assistant Professor at Wake Technical Community College
Mark DeCain

After getting to know one another, we then had to introduce each other in a fashion similar to a tweet format in 160 characters.

Mark has my same birthday. His tweet intro was “Tinkerer, Father, Insatiably Curious.” My introduction was “Father, Standard Nerd, No Hobbies”. We later Learned that our partners would then be our lunch dates.


We are a very diverse group on individuals, and have a lot to learn about one another over the next two days. We were encouraged to turn off and put away our cell phones, and to visit the reading library at the back of the classroom. We were also further encouraged to take notes between sessions in addition to the materials in session.

Learn from one another.

We’ll have a final examination at the end, and we’ll want to jot down “which things make a great teacher” so you can use that to complete your final exam

Great Teachers

David Godfrey started in the 1970. He did not know how to teach effectively and he has built a program like this to learn more. It is all over the nation, and has been adapted to an international movement. The Council of Excellence was charged by Bryan Ryan to “increase excellence” at the college. The Great Teachers Conference was an existing item that they visited in 2016 and found how excellent the idea was. This is the third annual seminar, and is funded moving forward for several years. This “energizes faculty” as noted by dr. Gayle Green.

Teaching is difficult and you’ll only learn as set of working best practices from one another. This conference is for teachers only, those down in the trenches. Experts are not invited. They are not welcome here. The keynote today is not a single idea. The power is in diversity. We’ll be kicking around outside of our departments. We have Professional Development to learn different ideas, but we can use this opportunity to get to know a larger more diverse group of people within the school, and get to know them better.

You Are Encouraged To Write Thank You Letters.

While we are here, we have been encouraged to think deeply about our situation, our performance in the classroom, what we’ve learned while we’re here, and what we’ll be able to bring back to the classroom. We are also encouraged- if we feel the spirit- to write letters if we like it. It can be forwarded on, compiled, etc. to the powers that be which make this a reality. They appreciate the feedback and this really keeps the conference going.

Less is more.

The following was given to us from Jason Whitehead

“There is no pre-planned agenda. It is made as simple as possible so that we can have a flowing agenda. There is no “this is what you need” keynote. It has to be uncovered as you go. We’ll let you know where to go and what you’ll do. Food is here, rooms are here. How can we teach a little bit made well? If we all increase a small amount each week, we’ll do better.

“This seminar is about you, and every one of us has their own flavors. Pick and choose. Today we’ll share our innovations, lunch will follow at 11:30 in Debose Hall, and then back here at 12:30pm. Tonight we’ll be working on tricks of the trade, but for now, lets live in the moment.

We come from different parts of the college, but we can share ideas, stealing like a ninja. Adjust ideas to share in your class. There is NO need for humble apologies. We’ll run in 10 minute increments, so be ready to talk and listen.”


Our Commandments:

  • Thou shalt provide equal time- if you drone on, shut up. You can always continue conversations with others. Talk often, but do not dominate.
  • No whining, griping, or telling war stories. Whining is complaining, griping is when two people are complaining together. War Stories are told trying to outdo one another.
  • Thou shalt mutually enforce these commandments. We police ourselves. Don’t take things personally.


Remember, this conference is about you. Our facilitators will be doing the listening and not talking. You cannot listen and talk at the same time. They are listening, teachers should be talking and discussing. Don’t engage the facilitators, focus on the groups and group members.

Great Teachers Conference: Tricks of the Trade

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On 11/10/18 at 7:00pm, I attended the Great Teacher’s Conference presentation: Tricks of the Trade Session at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, NC presented by Wake Technical Community College

Great Teachers Conference Tricks of the Trade

Discussions on teaching tricks are often best in the dark, moonlight, or other times when people gather together, so we’re having this session in the evening. It will be a nice chance to expand on what we’ve done, and allow people to talk later in the evening together if they so feel.

Don’t go where the path may lead, but where you are called and leave a trail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Our Tricks Of The Trade

Here are the items in no particular order

  • Call Students by their name when grading. While this is nice in a seated class, its very easy to get lost online. By adding the students name to your replies every so often in a discussion board, you enforce that they are important and important to you as a teacher.
  • Have a quick brain teaser to get students thinking and ready to think. Student want to be ready for the course, and they’re ready to start right away. Get them on board with a short brain teaser.
  • Have a “Saying of the Day” and put it on board. At first, this might seem a bit corny, but they will miss it when its gone.
  • Give anxiety breathing exercises before tests. Often, listening to your heart rate will make it slow down. Not everyone tests well, and in fact its very anxiety-causing to sit in a room (even one you’re familiar with) to take a test which determines a large portion of your grade for a class
  • Think, Pair, Share prompts allow students to work together, get feedback from another who might know the answers they need. Some student are afraid to tell you, but they aren’t afraid of telling their neighbor. They can hear from another student a what works in a way they can understand.
  • Chapter 1 lecture 1 is the scientific method. Master this in any class- Consider it relative to writing notes, etc. walk them through it. Help them to understand it and how it affects our daily lives.
  • Consider answering most answers with “You’re right, but why?” It encourages the student and requires them to build on their thoughts. Many students will not be prepared for this kind of answer, but knowing that they are correct will embolden them to discuss their findings.
  • That’s a right answer, but what’s the other right answer? Students like it that its ok to be right or fail. Many students fink that they are under pressure to perform and under pressure to give the best answers they can. Encouraging them to boost their answers with more lateral thinking can be very enlightening.
  • When students are lost to faculty in the classroom (not paying attention), give them jeopardy answers for vocabulary. Students can walk to the front, getting comments from others on the way. Students are competitive and they love to win. Sometimes its nice to have a breather and break the tension
  • In classes, find items that are unique to the time period and include them in the lecture- for music, this might be something such as a record, and describe what a record was and how it was used. One suggestion often used is a roll of player-piano paper.
  • Lecture from the back of the room. Introverts are often in the back of the room. By delivering the lecture from the back of the room, you might be more likely to get their attention and answers. You also can see all the monitors in the room, and stop some students from being so lost.
  • In the Statistics classroom, you cannot sit in the same place twice, and cannot sit next to the same person in the back row. This encourages students to move around, and get to know one another.
  • Give extra points for getting to know one another. In the same classroom noted above, there is a quiz on fridays. It offers extra credit where students must name the first and last name of everyone in the classroom
  • Use a folder to write names of students on it, and flap it over your desk. It forces students to communicate with one another, and get used to moving and working with others. It also allows teachers to know the students better.
  • You cannot say that you are here. Other students in the class must say that you are there. Its a great way to get each student to know one another. When your name comes up, you must be silent.
  • Fun Photos. Every Friday, a meme related to the topic is shown on the board. This is a nice way to get students to enjoy the class
  • Evaluations are tough to get. What has helped you the most, hindered you the most, what could be improved are all posted mid-semester on a google form. this can then be used to improve or update the class.
  • Ask at the midterm for suggestions. What the most valuable thing you’ve learned, what do you want to see in 2nd half. These questions are gathered from a google document or online form and then implemented
  • Using reflective journals in your online classroom. In the beginning all students are asked- “where will this class take you?” At the midterm students are asked “How close you are to your solutions?”, and at the end of the semester they are asked “Did you get to the place you wanted to get to?” These journals are locked to everyone but the teacher, and this is a safe space for personal conversations in the online classroom.
  • Shake the hand of students as they enter the classroom. This allows me to start my classes by easily getting many students names associated with a face.
  • Use a music jukebox in the class. Playlist allowed students to keep rocking and know big issues because at those times, the music had to be turned down.
  • Build stops into the lecture to really, really look at the  expressions of the class. Breaking into groups in the class, one teacher found that students give a deer in headlight look.
  • Sitting down in the classroom is a great way to get on the same level. Students no longer felt intimidated by the teacher when they wheeled around person to person to discuss issues and problems with students directly. Rather than looking down on them, meetings were eye-to-eye with equals.
  • Take A Break, Play A Game. Immune response playing cards allow students to break problems in to group activities that are fun. Games which build upon the materials covered in the class are very helpful to break the tension and use enrichment for activities.
  • Get to know the students and their names. One teacher puts a sticky note with their preferred nickname on the seating chart. Its much easier to use those names.
  • Use NQA – no questions asked- for homework passed. Allow students to earn a homework pass. Go to an event or watch a livestream to get to a homework pass for those students who wish it. One student in their class learned their passion could be used and applied to win an applied benchmarking award for students.
  • Silent reviews. Put the exam on overhead with answers to questions. Allow students to revisit their problems (this set off some problems for me because it could bring a great deal of cheating)
  • using 3D props to help students come to understand the names of each item. In one example of how students could learn the names of the foot and ankle bones, students were allowed their own props. They got to take them home, paint the bones, make their own keys, and learn the bones on their own.
  • Use google voice to call students outside of office hours. They didn’t elaborate on this much. I think the point of this was using this service to send text messages (like but perhaps it was used to ring all their phones at once? It wasn’t as clear as I was hoping it would be.
  • Every morning, thank students for coming- even those in the hallway! Our students have things going on in their lives, but without them, we don’t have jobs. Its important to acknowledge how hard it may be for them to make the decisions to come to class or to school
  • Journal about what students have learned during the week. What did they like, what did they fail to enjoy? It gives each teacher a lot of information. 13 weeks of entries will earn you  100%, and anything over that amount is extra credit. This can give them 2-3 extra points on your final grade. As a public item, all student responses are open to read, and it helps everyone.
  • Use to give students information directly to their phone. Students may not read their email, but many are not farther from their phone than when they are in the shower. sends them a text, and they ALWAYS have their phones right there with them.
  • Notify students that due to the freedom of information act, the school requires us to use the school email. We use that instead of phone or texting.
  •  “Spot the mistake” puzzles allow us to keep the student’s mind sharp. The most important attribute an accountant can have is attention to detail.
  • On the first day of class, talk to your neighbor. Have the neighbor introduce you. In that way, students are not lost in the shadows.