So I’ve had a lot going on lately, with a lot of activity resulting in very little blog output, so I thought that I’d provide some information for the nosiest people among us.
Phan Summer Tour 2017
I’m kidding around. I am doing no such thing. That being said, I will be doing a little bit of speaking at some Google Summits and things about Classcraft and Hip Hop Ed. I may vlog it. I may even vlog it and edit it, who knows? A lot of this year has been new experiences in networking, classroom implementation, and in professional projects. Most of this activity will be as part of the wonderful Classcraft Ambassador program, which has plunged me headfirst into gamification and engagement strategies, not to mention reignited some of my passion for teaching. This is also rather alarming because I didn’t really need reigniting, so the enthusiasm level right now is real. Yes, that’s right, I’m using real the way some people use unreal or even intense. Or hardcore. You just have to say it right. Get a little of that Logan growl in there when you say real.
Nice, good job.
Some passion projects have included:
Using Classcraft has transformed my classroom! A lot of time and energy has also gone into making the MOST out of the benefits it has provided. This has trickled into other parts of the profession, of course, but it has also put my brain into more of a “teaching” gear. As a result, the blog also seems to have gained a focus on education, rather than scattered topics. Never fear, I shall continue to write unrestrained, as the initial idea was to write about all aspects of being a teacher – including the parts that people don’t want to talk about. Like what being a teacher does to your work-life balance. Or your finances. Or your relationship. Or your gaming hobby. Or your consumption of media. Or your rule about using fragments.
Podcast: Phan’s Homework
I actually started this with my wife. She’s helping me organize the huge gaggle of content that is my brain. I have a passion for speaking that I can’t quite capture in the written word. Also, I think I’m funny, and I need you to check my ego. After all, who needs self-esteem?
The appeal of a Podcast to me is that when I talk about things, the content tends to arrive organically in a way that mirrors how I – and hopefully by extension, some other humans – actually think. This makes the consumption of the content easy to follow and intimate. I don’t think I’m some masterful guru with wisdom to share, but I do think that I’m learning every day, and I do think that the way I tend to reflect and connect events in my life is possibly useful to other people. Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher, or maybe it’s why I’m a teacher: they way I talk tends to provoke thought, and the process itself along with the result is more often than not an amusing one. Hence: Phan’s Homework – a teacher’s Podcast about school, home, and the limbo between. Please, if you join my audience, do write me with feedback. I want to commiserate, provide catharsis, and spark inspiration. I want more teachers listening to podcasts and less teachers burning out and thinking nobody understands the struggle.
The struggle is real. (Don’t forget the growl. Good.)
I am unsure about some the logistics of putting the podcast out; I have released it on Google Play Music, and I’m in the process of iTunes… I suppose I can have the feed run in a sidebar on this site, or simply link to it above. I could have used a feed from a category on this site, but I gave it its own site in case people still want to consume this content without having to see my podcast.
Some other things you may hear about in the days to come include but are not limited to my YouTube channel, reading Oathbringer when it’s finally released sometime this year, playing Injustice 2 over the summer, trying to get my exercising back on point, and other things that come up when you’re an English Teacher and a gamer.
A lot of young people like to make the excuse that they “don’t read.”
Reading books and writing are among brain-stimulating activities shown to slow down cognitive decline in old age, with people who participated in more mentally stimulating activities over their lifetimes having a slower rate of decline in memory and other mental capacities.
Translation: How do you not read? It’s literally the other way to communicate.
“No, no, I don’t read for fun.”
That’s like saying I’m bad at math because I don’t spend my evenings graphing parabolas. Like mathematicians are at home begging, “Mom, after dinner can I recite the quadratic formula? I love the way that everything divides by 2a!”
Even so, if you know that not reading is the reason you’re awful, then doesn’t it make sense to start now?
Here’s the thing; there’s some guff on the internet that says something about how “you don’t even use what you learn in school, anyway” or something like that. That’s complete malarkey – a successful person will figure out how to use most of what they learn in high school to some degree. But even if you accept that flawed premise, here’s a stone cold truth: Reading and writing are NOT on the list of things you won’t need.
I tell this story to everyone who tells me they won’t need reading and writing skills. In my first job at a bowling alley, I worked with a coworker/supervisor (I’m not telling which because that’s too specific for creepy internet stalkers) who wanted to advertise a special deal: Pepperoni pizza for $1.00 a slice. He had the bright idea of making this special appear on the score screens of all 32 lanes in large letters that would march across the screen.
“Peperroni Piza, $1.OO per slise – munday thru thirsday!!!”
Not only is every word except “per” and “thru,” (an acceptable abbreviation) misspelled, but he even had a typo on the part with “$1.00,” because he used O’s instead of zeroes. Yes – dude misspelled a number. I was mortified and had to fix it immediately, and of course, anyone who saw it was probably similarly mortified.
I’m not stopping the story here, though, as a cautionary tale where all listeners go “Well, I’m not THAT bad!”
The reason I tell that story is to deliver a message: If you write without capitalizing, it’s exactly as noticeable as this situation. If you can’t write three sentences without showing why you didn’t get a diploma, it will look exactly the same as if you had written that pizza sign. If you can’t read in the work world, it will be noticed and seen in exactly the same way as I, and now you, look at this guy. There is no way to reveal a lack of reading and writing skill that isn’t embarrassing, except in school.
In my head, I feel like even youths caught up in gang activity might even be like “I’m gonna trust you to have my back? I’m gonna trust you with a gun? You didn’t even pass English 1, man.” After all, if you can’t sit still long enough to learn how to read with people paid to help you, how are you going to fend for your life in this world?
I’m not saying people not good at these things have no value; I’m saying that there’s no way to hide it or ignore it. It’s not like a scar you can conceal. In most cases, within minutes of knowing you and hearing you talk, reading your texts, or viewing your Snapchat, employers, friends, enemies, and everyone else will know whether you would sell “piza” or “pizza.”
Here’s the kicker: Even people with similarly bad or worse spelling and grammar can tell when someone can’t write.
“I never read when I was young, Mr. Phan, so it’s too late for me.”
A lot of people seem to think that if you don’t start reading at a young age, then you’ll never become good at it. And I see why they might think that.
According to studies done by the University of Oxford, “Young brains do tend to be able to absorb new information better than old ones, although not necessarily to integrate it as well with what has been learned previously.”
That’s why little kids can’t take over the world. Little kids can learn faster, but older people use what they learn better.
That’s why I’m better at arguing than you are.
However, learning how to read at an earlier age doesn’t mean a rooster’s crow.
“Being taught to read at an early age (such as five years old) does not ultimately result in better reading skills, and if it replaces more developmentally appropriate activities, then it may cause other harms.”
Studies conducted in 2015 indicate that
“there is no evidence to support a widespread belief in the United States that children must read in prekindergarten or kindergarten to become strong readers and achieve academic success.”
You can start NOW! So what if it’s harder for your mind to absorb? You’re also older – perhaps more mature now, and better able to suck it up and do the work. It’s never too late to improve your reading skill. Gorillas are doing sign language, man!
“Mr. Phan, I don’t have any books!”
Get a library card, homey! Plus, I’ve got some more tips and tricks for you:
1: Borrow books from people.
The reason you want to do this is because, for many people, reading isn’t attractive because it’s a solitary activity, and we like to be social. If you borrow a book from someone, you instantly have someone else who also read the book, so you can talk about that one epic scene where the warrior slapped the king in the face. For bonus points, ask teachers! They’ll probably let you borrow some stuff! You also will make more friends who also read, a really important thing that can help if you need to be surrounded by a positive atmosphere.
2. Read your interests.
Don’t be afraid to re-tread some of your old interests. See a movie recently? Read the book. Reading a book of a story you already know lets you not stress out about understanding the plot and instead can let you focus on other things – like the differences between the two. Find the sequels. Find other books by authors of books you already read.
3. Watch all of your movies with subtitles.
Even if you think you’re ignoring them, your brain will actually do a lot of work without you knowing. Also when you don’t hear something, you’ll instinctively look at the subtitles before bothering anybody with questions. Lastly, hearing the words being used will help expand your vocabulary and also help you recognize difficult words. That’s right, you can watch Terminator 2 and still increase your reading level. Arnold definitely taught some people how to say “cybernetic organism.” Netflix offers captions for almost everything. This is great for rewatching movies that you’ve already seen.
4. Pronounce long words.
Sound that stuff out! I can’t stand it when someone’s reading in my class and they get to a word longer than two syllables and stop dead. Everyone in my class now knows what I want them to do: Be brave. Sound it out, say it the best you can. If you say it wrong, say it wrong forever until someone teaches you the right way. You gotta keep a growth mindset. You’re not going to learn how letters work in the awful, complicated world of English unless you’re wrong first.
This will also help you if you learned to read by sight (memorizing words) vs phonetically (sounding them out.) Reading by sight with memorized words leads to students being stopped in their tracks at even the most rudimentary words. It’s like teaching someone to skate and then expecting them to be able to dance – and then finding out they never learned to walk. Sound out the words. Do that old-fashioned thing in Sesame Street where they combine two signs into one word.
5. Google stuff.
Google is a verb here, but it works as an adjective too. Ask Google what stuff means. Most devices will allow you to do this in seconds. “Okay Google, define equilibrium.” It’s over. There was a time when if you had questions about something you read, it meant consulting this:
Those days are gone. In seconds you’ll know that equilibrium means “a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced,” AND is also an underrated action movie with Christian Bale and Sean Bean about a dystopian world that destroys books and drugs people into happy submission. How can encyclopedias compete? The only possible answer is: by looking so wonderfully photogenic.
It’s never too late to learn to read skillfully… until you embarrass yourself. Blogs are a great start. So I suppose, while you’re increasing your reading level, enjoy your stay, and feel free to click around!