Wednesday, August 7, 2013

SKILL: How to Interview a mentor

One of great skills is "interviewing a mentor."  

a)  many mentors are too busy doing their life work to take time to think about and go "step by step" to explain how they do their work.   
b) if a young person takes time to listen to a mentor in a video recording, then that recording can be heard by other youjng people (increasing the spread of the mentor's message)

Here are some tips.

1.  Focus on the mentor.  In the photo below, half of the video shows the interviewer.  Please think about the audience.   The person asking the questions can be invisible.  the focus is on the mentor.

2.  If the mentor is shy, focus on the mentor's work.    Get the voice.  Point the camera at the work and ask about the work (the painting, book, whatever the mentor does.   

3.  Keep asking questions.  Interrupt the mentor with questions to get details about how the creative process works.

4.  Keep the questions short.   If you want to comment about how important the work of the mentor is, then write about the importance later.  

You are a curator of a museum.   You have decided that this mentor is important.   

Sunday, August 4, 2013

SKILL: Write some sentences that you want to share with other people. Select a song with an attractive melody. Then fit the ideas of the sentences that you wrote into the rhythm of the song. SONGS REACH PEOPLE... The "Guide on the Side Song (Time Is A Variable)" came from this desire to communicate through music

People usually remember a key fact better if we can sing it.
(1) In fourteen hundred ninety two
C_______ s____led the ocean blue... 
Many students of the 1960s can complete that sentence.

(2) The alphabet song  A B C D E ...

(3) My friend's phone number  6 8 3  __ ___ __ __  ... I heard my friend sing that phrase (seven digits) to her child in 1997 and I still carry that number in my head.   Why?   I sang with her after she sang the seven numbers and I took time to say, "I want to remember that."

Perhaps you have similar examples.

(4) Broadway tunes:  I know more about the American Revolutionary war than about most other moments in history because I played (and memorized) nearly a dozen songs from 1776.

__ Mama, hey Mama...  Lyrics      Musical
__ Is Anybody There?  Song  
__ The Lees of Virginia  F F V...   Song
__ But Mr. Adams  Lyrics   Musical   
__ It's hot as h____ in Phila DELL phia!  ("Someone's gotta open up the window!"  "No, no, no!  Too many flies!"  Will someone shut that man up?)
__ Saltpeter... Pins, Abigail...  Yours Yours Yours
__ Cool, conservative men...  song
__ Oh what a beautiful waltz!  Molasses, rums and slaves
__ The egg that England laid...  "and just as Tom here has written, though the egg may belong to Great Britain, the eagle inside belongs to us"
__ He plays the violin... and I get this feeling within...  and I sigh...  loving life...    Song           Miss Broadway sings the song        Questions to the singer

Each of these phrases has a link in my head to a song and key ideas from the 1770s.

Here are the steps to getting the GUIDE ON THE SIDE song ready for you.
(a) Write some sentences that you want to share with other pepole. 
(b) Select a song with an attractive melody.  
(c) Then fit the ideas of the sentences that you wrote into the rhythm of the song.  
SONGS REACH PEOPLE...  The "Guide on the Side Song" came from this desire to communicate through music

Guide on the Side (Time is a Variable) song with Personal Learning Plans, Portfolios and Projects

Here are the lyrics of the song  (sung to the tune of YOU HAVE A FRIEND by Carol King)

When you are bored, distracted 
and you want to change the world
and nothing seems to be fun to do
This Cover Song with new lyrics was uploaded
on 20 July 2013 and it
was removed by YouTube

Send a text and ask for time
and soon we will reply.
to listen to whatever is on your mind.

You type GUIDE on the SIDE
and you know wherever you are
You'll get an answer:  "Hey, what's up?"
and a line to your future.

Phone call, Skype, email or Tweet,
Take a breath and tell us your needs
and you'll find your passion soon.

You've got a guide... on the side.
Yeah, Guide on the Side....


Note:  if we use a song without permission of the author, YouTube might remove the video.

I found this notice:

ouch...  is the video removed?  Well, I'll try uploading it by speaking the song instead
of using the melody of the Carol King song...


SKILL: Carry a "design trap" -- a notebook to capture the designs that catch your attention. What items from yesterday will you display in your "museum of what's important to me"? We are all curators (collectors and editors) -- we select "things, people and ideas that we want to remember"

What words and images will inspire us to look for
something positive to write about today?

What can we put in front of us to move us to
record something for later use?

What words can shift how we look at the world?

What images can push us to tell others about
something?  What is interesting in the images
that attract us?   What can we put into our work
that will make the work attractive?

Do you like simple words or words with layers of meanings?
What communicates better to you?
What words appear to move your friends and family to act?

When we choose words to put on our design notebook, we can influence how we approach the day and how we create a "mindset" for doing this work of "curating."  We are in charge of much of what goes into our minds.  
We can design how loud a noise is by covering our ears or by getting closer to the sound.
We can close our eyes to reduce the impact of an image.
We can look at an image again and take a photo for later review.
We can decide how much we remember about many things.  

Dan Pink recommends that we carry a notebook to "capture designs."  It is a "design trap" that allows us to be curators.   What items do you want to highlight in your day?  

If people could see what you saw yesterday, what would you display most prominently?  What items would you put on the first floor and in the first room of your museum?

The small notebook that I made has a "laminated cover" (I put two-inch-wide tape over the cover, both sides).  

Your book (notebook) can inspire people from other countries and other classes.   

SKILL: School redesign. What can we learn from Albany High School in New Zealand? Posters and "the Project Day"

What can we learn from other schools?
(1) Posters
(2) Project Day

Albany High School puts posters on the walls of its staff room

Learn more:

Skill: Can we redesign a school? Can we adopt procedures from other schools? What can we learn from other schools?

Here are some procedures that Dennis Littky describes in an article on his organization's website

What are some effective schools?  What schools do you admire?
What are some procedures that they use in those schools?
What are effective procedures that you have heard about?

Write to me at

Build a collection of photos and videos that tell your life story. GOAL: The Tenth-Grade Autobiography and "Tracing My Roots" Project that every student at the Met Center completes

The Big Picture school in Providence, R.I. uses the following idea to build confidence in students.

(a) Write about something you know.
(b) Become an expert about that subject
(c) Write the way you talk.
(d) Take an inventory of your talents and potential support.  Find out what tools are inside you and what potentials are waiting to be developed.
The topic:  your family and where you came from.

Tracing My Roots" is one possible title.  It is called the Gateway Project because the students are ready to enter the "community of young adults."   We become part of the community as an agent of good and of positive force when we know what "good actions" our parents have taken.  When we know about the good actions that our mentors have taken in the past, we can prepare our minds for taking action and becoming "agents of good."

EXAMPLE:  I remember that my grandfather told me stories.  Perhaps I can develop that ability to tell stories.  "If my grandfather did it, maybe I have that ability in me" is the powerful thought that pushes me to improve my storytelling.

KEY POINT:  I ask students to do this exercise ONLY because I have taken time to attempt the same exercise.  If it is valuable for students to do, the best way for me to demonstrate that value is to invest time in the procedure myself.  (I'm going to do 20 sit-ups right now ...        .... okay, I'm back.)

I'll start by showing you some photos and telling you some stories about my parents, grandparents, uncle, and ancestors.  Then you can start interviewing your parents, their friends, your grandparents, their friends....

Part 1
What did you want to do when you were a teenager?
What were your first jobs?
What do you remember doing well when you were young?
What did you enjoy reading?
What did you enjoy talking about?
What inspired you when you were younger?
What attracted your attention?
What major obstacles did you meet when you were younger?
What did you have to overcome?

These questions help you find out "the emotional and intellectual DNA" of your family.  What did you inherit from your family?  What is the culture in your family tree and in your roots?

I ask each of my students to start asking the members of their extended family many questions about their abilities.

Then you can also add these questions

Part 2
What do you remember about me when I was younger?
What did I say that you remember as unusual?
What did I do that showed part of my unique personality?
What talent did you see in me?
What do you see in me now?

Part 1 is to find the talents of your family (and perhaps you have some of those talents in you).
You certainly have experts in experience in your family tree and you can call on those people to help you when you need guidance and tips.

Part 2 is to find out what people see in you.  These questions can guide you in learning about yourself.


Here are some of the answers that I received from my father
"I was a traveling salesman in Texas.  I went from town to town trying to get people interested in a new type of airplane."
KEY POINT:  My dad supported innovation.  He liked meeting people and sharing his enthusiasm about a product and an idea that he believed in.

Grandfather Brooks
He met a classmate at Princeton University who was from Japan.  Instead of making fun of his eyes and appearance and accent, my grandfather became friends and eventually visited the Japanese guy 17 years later.  (Hmmm, let's do the math:  My grandfather was at university from 1920-24 ... when did he visit his classmate?   Hmmm... what great events were happening in the world at that time....?)
KEY POINT: I can call on my grandfather's ability to overcome stereotypes.  He pressed himself into the other person's point of view and looked at the USA through the eyes of his classmate.  I can learn from that ability to see the world through another person's eyes.

Grandfather Arthur
My grandfather retired early and used to spend time visiting a local school.  He
KEY POINT:  I have patience in my family tree.   I can learn how to be a mentor by thinking about my grandfather.  What does a mentor do?  He listens, he waits for the mentee to ask a question, he shows a procedure and then he lets the mentee try it.   My grandfather was adept at using hands-on learning to guide his students.

Uncle Steve (my father's brother)
My uncle studied sailing at a school in Florida when he was in his teens.  He left a boarding school in New Jersey and went to the school in Florida.  Perhaps he was a bit "adventurous" and he might have interpreted some school rules differently than the principal.  That might have been a reason why my uncle went to Florida....
KEY POINT:  I have "rambunctious" in my family tree.   Flexibility is also in my genes.

My mother
After a year in a college in Vermont, my mom moved to Winter Park, Florida and enjoyed three years in that school.  She says that she thrived in the sunshine and clean air of Central Florida.
KEY POINT:  My mother thrives in sunny climates.  I do, too.  I have "seasonal affective disorder" or SAD, which I like to call  "Sunny Attitude in Sunny Places" (SAISP).

My grandmother
My mother told me that her mother liked to read Kahlil Gibran.  "Awake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving."
KEY POINT:  I can reach into my DNA and call on gratitude.  I have "grateful" in my blood.

I can look at older photos...  What was I thinking in that moment?

I'm holding a certificate for my student Claudia in 2001.
Two of my colleagues, Krista and Paul, are behind us.
I was a teacher at a language academy.  I was happy to see
Claudia grow in her confidence as a speaker of English.

Now it's your turn.  You can sit with a pad of paper or record the answers from your relatives.   Ask the questions Part 1 and Part 2.  Share the positive moments and think, "What can I learn from this person?"

Saturday, August 3, 2013

I want my students to make a presentation as adeptly and with as much confidence as this young man. Message to students: How would you change the presentation? Would you use a lower voice, a slower delivery, or more eye contact? What would improve this presentation?

Click here
I hope you will take time to learn about scanning in your future.  However the focus of this post is "How can we improve this presentation?"  

What do you admire in this person?
What annoys you?
What procedure or method does he use to convey information?
How is the information reinforced and explained?

Write to me with your suggestion.

ACTION:  Make a video presentation.
a) explain a feature of a product that you admire
b) move me to change my behavior
c) bring the heart of a poem or song to life.  Tell me why I should click on a video and why I should memorize some lyrics.   "You're on the phone with your girlfirend, she's upset..." or "Is anybody there?  Does anybody care?  Does anybody see what I see?"  click here

I hope you will LIKE this presentation and SUBSCRIBE (there are only 2 subscribes when I visited this video).  You can make a difference because you have "net impact" on the web.  You have the power of one.  The power of one click, one view, one like, one follow, one comment and one subscribe.

Send me the link to your presentation.  I want to click "LIKE"...

What is Scannx?  What is five-second digital scanning?
I'm looking forward to talking with you about how to include 

I like how he is excited about this product

So many choices!

...notice how the red book's cover is protected from being
squashed and pressed down

How many subscribes?  How many likes?  We can increase those numbers.   Get into your YouTube account and leave a comment

The spin of the book won't be hurt (like this)

He has an active style for demonstrating a product

You can select a portion of the scan to use

The scanner develops a QR code on the screen

The document is on the tablet

What's in this blog? What can readers expect to gain from this blog? "Can I get a higher grade by reading this blog?" (No.)

Here's what I originally wrote to describe this blog:

Tony Wagner, George Will, John Corlette, Will Sutherland and Daniel H. Pink have written extensively about the skills that young people need in the workplace.  Interviews with business CEOs reveal "survival skills" that are not practiced in traditional schools (where teachers talk and students take notes using "one size fits all" approaches of delivering content).  Dennis Littky, Enrique Gonzalez, Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski have advocated "school redesign" to allow students to learn and master skills that relate to their individual interests.  This blog collects the procedures that students can review to personalize their mastery of "soft skills" (including "soft social skills" that many academic programs ignore, such as "how to alter your mood with a poem" and "how to sell an idea  using techniques from Dan Pink's book, To Sell Is Human."     This blog starts with Dan H. Pink's books as part of the core curriculum that students need to understand before they leave high school.  The articles in this blog will not be presented in math class.  You can call (954) 646 8246 to ask about the items or write to  Please send suggestions for articles and procedures to add to this list of skills.   No academic credit is offered for these activities.  This blog is edited by a person who endured planned temporary hardships and delayed gratification in a boarding school.  Many of the procedures (such as "Thought for the Day" and "Use less so that we have options") came from and  

See also

I had to cut down the wording to 500 characters, so please refer to this page when you say, "I learned this procedure at Skills in Miami" and people ask, "What is the philosophy behind this blog?  Who decides what skills will be described?"

I teach test prep skills and I get bored with showing kids some skills that they will use twice in their life:  (1) as teenagers to get through a test and (2) as adults (parents, uncles, caring adults in the lives of teenagers) when they help young people prepare for similar tests.  I also teach middle school and high school and I don't like making kids bored.  Instead of asking them to fill their heads with information that will be flushed out after the end-of-term final exam, I prefer to focus on asking my students to develop personal learning plans.  Those plans determine what they will study and how they spend their time in my class.  

I expect that my principal and others will walk into the class and wonder, What's happening here?"  I expect taxpayers to walk into my classrom and demand, "How are you spending my tax dollars?   How do you justify this procedure?  Why are students doing different things?  Why are you talking to a group of three students and the rest of the class is ignoring what you are saying?"   This blog contains life skills that are not part of the math curriculum.  If I talk about these subjects in math class, I can rightly be accused of reducing the time spent teaching math.   I want my students to be able to say that "Mr. Steve's lectures are about math."  

So how can I make sure that kids are getting the life skills and procedures that they need?  

How can I set up the class to make them 

Follow the blog at Math For Artists to see the homework and classwork that I expect students to complete.

In order for students to personalize their learning, they need to have time to discover what THEY want to do.  Some of that time has to be created during the day in a safe place where they can explore the world and imagine possible futures.   Can they take an hour once a week to do whatever they want?

See the advantages of the "unrestricted time" spent by students at Albany High School in New Zealand.   Look at the "20% Day" at Google and a company called Atlassian.  How can we include those procedures in my class?  

The blog MathForArtists aims to design a class where students practice the mechanics in class, receive the content outside the class, and view over 600 SAT-style math problems in under six months.   That's the goal.  I know the value of also delivering a high standard through my example as an adult.  If I follow the example of my first math-teacher mentor, I would focus all of my time on academic issues.  This blog, "Skills in Miami," is my attempt to deliver the mentoring and "pastoral care" that I experienced from my teachers who also took me on expeditions in the mountains near our school.  They ate meals with us and led conversations that guided how my pre-frontal cortex developed.  

I recommend the works of Daniel Amen and James Zull about the use of conversation as a way to "change the brain."  I look forward to talking with parents and students about these procedures ... and I hope you will send suggestions about other skills that can be added to the list of "What I Could Have Practiced While I Was in High School."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The skill of soliciting a new mentor: Please click on John Lovett's website and youtube channel to thank him for access to his PDFs

Here's the lettet that I sent to John Lovett (who posted an EXCELLENT summary of Principles and Elements of Design)

Mr. Lovett,
I'm a math teacher.   I was looking for a description of the principles of design and the search "elements of design" brought me to your page
Nice page!
(a) I'd like to show your page to my class.
(b) I'd like to show them pieces of your page (screen shots from your webpage) printed on paper.
(c) Then I'd like to make a pdf of the page and give it to them on a USB (Many of my students have access to a computer but they don't have internet service in their homes -- and we lack an internet connection in many of our classrooms).

If some of the students want to learn about "what it's like to be an artist" who has made art a real job, would you mind if they wrote to you?   

Do you have a description about what it took for you to create your "splashing paint" book and disk?   
What inspired you to take time to develop a course?
How much time did it take you to learn how to create uyour website?  (or did you design the site and then someone else put it up and manages it?)
I'm teaching students the skills for the global economy (search "seven survival skills") and it will be helpful to hear what you learned on your own to move ahead in your life.   Some students think that success comes out of textbooks and other students think that they won't have to read much after they leave high school.  "That's the last book I'll ever have to read!"

I enclose my Virtual Mentor book and invite you to become a mentor or at least reply to some of the email messages that you receive.


Steve Happy Math Teacher

Steve Math Teacher
Steve McCrea
Editor, Building More-Responsive Schools by Abraham S. Fischler, Ed.D.  
Mobile  +1 954 646 8246

Why not visit the web book?

Mr. Lovett wrote the following reply:

Hi Steve,
Thanks for your email.
I'm happy for you to use information from my website as you described.
Unfortunately I will not be able to answer your students questions at the moment. I am committed to launching two new websites before heading off to Europe to conduct workshops in September.
I have attached a couple of pdf's that might answer some of their questions.

Good luck with your class

Kind Regards,
John Lovett - artist

Here are the PDFs that Mr. Lovett has shared with us.

PDF link

PDF link

PDF link

YOUR net Impact:  You can have "net impact" by doing the following:
Get permission from your parents to set up a "John Smith" facebook page profile
and a Youtube profile
and a Gmail or address without revealing any personal data or posting any photos that link to you.

DO NOT INCLUDE personal data.
A student at a school in California posted home address and a

(1) click LIKE on his Youtube channel's 4 videos (as of August 2013)
(2) click SUBSCRIBE on his YouTube channel
(3) visit his ELEMENT and PRINCIPLES page

(4) leave a comment on at least one of his youtube

You can add to this list by finding his Twitter and Facebook pages...

Why not visit and find some more activities?
My reaction:  Mr. Lovett's casual and "aggressive" style reminds me of the splashes of ink spots found in the "artist associated with Hunter S. Thompson" (the "gonzo" journalist)...  Ralph Steadman


Here is the comment that I left.   With your "official student identity" on Youtube, you can leave a comment, too.

Try this Liink to Mr. Lovett's youtube channel

Here is another one..   Join the hundreds of thousands.... click.

Here's the LINK


Click here to help this video reach 300,000