Monday, June 12, 2017


As I previously shared, I am attending the Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) conference here in Las Vegas this week.

Today was day one and unfortunately, I left supremely disappointed.

First, I don't disagree in any way with the ideas behind WBT.  Activating different aspects of the brain to create long term recall is splendid.  

Incorporating movement? Fantastic, especially for my wiggly ones.  

A high energy classroom with a sense of urgency for learning? Absolutely. Embedding lessons on character that go beyond "be kind"? Yes, a thousand times yes.  My job is to help mold little humans to make the world a better place.

An emphasis on these simple rules? Sounds good!

 (Especially number 5!)

However, I unfortunately left with several major issues.  

1) Time management.  The presenter spent hours going through the different variations of teacher/student points.  I zoned out on level six.  He went through at least level 16.  

It's not that complicated.  Go over the ideas, give us a list of variations, and move on.  Again, hours.

2)  The idea of unknown rewards within WBT doesn't mesh well with me.  The uncertainty of unpredictable outcomes is quite enticing to the human brain (hence, gambling) but kids who have suffered traumatic events react quite differently to the unpredictable outcomes, often shutting down.  This isn't an environment I want to create in my classroom.

3) The nearly constant interruptions.  In fifth grade (and I'm assuming third), most of my students have longer than a 60 second attention span. I get the idea of introducing one new idea at a time for younger grades, but I feel like upper elementary can handle two steps at once.

4) The overemphasis on games as a classroom management strategy.  I was left wondering when the teaching actually occurs.  

5) The location.  The long drive didn't help and our seating options (for eight hours) were metal folding chairs or gym bleachers.  Neither was particularly desirable.

6) The tone of the presenters.  The high energy was overwhelming and I felt bombarded with directions all day.  I was told this teaching method takes some getting used to, but I felt like I was being treated as a child (and not a professional).  I'm not an auditory learner, so being talked to all day at such a fast pace was overwhelming and I wanted to shut down.  There wasn't time to ask questions, which was irksome.

We will be getting a PDF of the material that I will digest in smaller chunks. I'm willing to give parts of it a try, but I won't be returning for the remaining two days of training.  I've never really quit a conference before, but my summer time is valuable and I don't want to spend it feeling that frustrated.   

However, I did leave with some take-aways. 

1) I liked the emphasis on character education as a continuous, embedded aspect of teaching.  Those simple things of making eye contact when someone is speaking, saying good morning/afternoon, please, and thank you aren't always taught or expected.  I'd like to focus on that next year.

2) Call & Response formats and catchy sayings (high five-switch, mirrors, etc).  We are adopting the Ron Clark model for next year and I'd like to continue to look for ways to incorporate joy into the classroom.

 3) More continuous review throughout the lesson. 


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