Saturday, August 3, 2013

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."

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