31 December 2012

If Life Were A Notebook...

I hope you had to resort to writing on the back cover of yours to record those memories.

Happy New Year! Be the change you seek.

30 December 2012

Not Just a Math Teacher - You Know, (Insert Subject Here) Is Everyone's Job

The title is in jest - there really are so many aspects of education and learning in a high school that really are everyone's job. We have reading specialists, but we should all have our students reading subject appropriate texts and writing. I'm a math teacher, but I know the science teachers upstairs are teaching a whole lot of mathematics (and its always funny when we get together and share many of the same frustrations - they always think they're alone). We have business classes and personal finance, but every subject should be in the business of advertising real-world applications.

This op-ed from HuffPost jogged my memory tonight. ("Battle Unemployment By Focusing On Youth Career Education") This is where I'm at right now - many of my students will inevitably work their way through college, which means they're going to need marketable skills the day they receive their diploma, and I wonder how many of them will get it?

Here's the irony: the hard-working kid who's always had it tough and knows if they're going to college, it'll largely be on their own dime - those kids are the ones I see most motivated by tech school and getting in our co-op and CLP (Community Learning Program) courses. These kids get real job taste and always seem most ready for adulthood. The kids who slip through the job-skill cracks, who may potentially benefit most from every course integrating career readiness skills and discussing the very-near future are the "academic" kids who plan on just going to a university, but then have their plans foiled by life. Lost scholarships, chronic illness, family unrest, one or two poor decisions - these hit the "academic" kid hard, because he is thrust into the workforce competing with not only adults, but kids his own age who've been focusing on job skills for years by that point.

As the brick and mortar university dies, more students will be pulling double duty, which requires that we prepare students for the workforce in ways the American system probably hasn't for a couple of generations.

My district has a great career and technical ed program (as I'm sure others do), but the prevailing attitude right now is that the brightest kids go to the college-track courses and ambitious (but not bright) students take the career courses.

I'll leave you with a couple of graphics our Career and Technical Ed Coordinator, Jay Boleach, uses in his crusade to change the perception of these highly technical, fantastic programs.

This graphic most highlights a deficiency is skills that we ALL can work on in our courses - technology, interpersonal communication, and real writing. (More info on the STL State of the Workforce)
From St. Louis Community College State of the STL Workforce, 2012 New hires are frequently deficient in people and organizational skills 
From the MO Dept of Economic Development - The news here is obvious and doesn't really come as a surprise. As baby boomers age, they need more caretakers!
From 2008 MO Dept of Econ. Development: Healthcare is BIG in the future!
So what's the reaction? Do we dial back our school system to churn out vocations instead of students?

29 December 2012

"Save to Google Drive" Extension - It's Not Going to Replace Your Social Bookmark Service

Mashable ran a post Dec. 12th about a new Chrome extension called "Save to Google Drive" (Chrome web store), but the service doesn't quite fulfill as advertised. ("New Chrome Extension Lets You Save Web Content to Google Drive")

As I was drafting this post in my head throughout the day, thinking of possibilities, I was hoping "Save to Google Drive" was going to replace Evernote or Diigo as my web-clipping/bookmarking utilities and integrate seamlessly for anyone running Google Drive.

I had visions of my students browsing in Chrome, saving their bookmarks in Drive, and sharing that folder with me and others in work groups.  Here's what I found out.

This extenstion is fantastic for syncing photos to Google Drive to save within my organization or classroom, but do I even want it there?

Why Does This Even Matter For My Classroom?

Sadly, I'd say it really doesn't. Bo.lt is a good service for anyone that wants a reliable backup to pages they archive or create (which sounds like every teacher who has EVER made a webquest), but its not even that great as a social bookmarker for students because it gives me a link I would still need to paste to Evernote or Diigo. I also continue to favor these two options over this new extension because both work well with iPads (Evernote app, Diigo app). Sure, Drive is cloud storage, and has its own app, but I feel let down by the Google Apps experience for my students on the iPad more often than I'm satisfied.

Google Certified Teacher, +Molly Schroeder wrote about it here on Chromebook Classroom, so perhaps she has a different take. Her environment is certainly different (Chromebook v. iPad), and sometimes in technology, that's all the difference.

27 December 2012

Is Learning Invisible in My Classroom or Does It Just Not Exist? A Rationale for Data Team Analysis

"We don't know one percent of one millionth about anything" - Thomas Edison

Teachers are paid to see what no one else can, you know? All of the learning and growth our students (hopefully) gain for the time they're in our classrooms - you can't SEE it. Not even on tests or projects. Like many of the forces and ideas John Lloyd mentions in this TED_Ed animation, learning and knowledge are also invisible. We only see the effects of the two.

Painting an image around the data you garner in your classroom is can help you see those effects. In the same way you feel a gust more than a breeze, more assessments give you more data (and more effect to see).  Sitting down with student examples in your PLC or data teams and making inferences about learning, mistakes, and building blocks and then making hypotheses are the educational equivalent of laboratory trials.

I don't intend to be hyperbolic, but when we make purely inferential decisions based on the population of students in our own classes for our instructional design, we place ourselves somewhere on the scientific spectrum usually reserved for bloodletting or other medieval medicines - you're doing things because they seem to make sense. Yes, a veteran teachers can draw upon their years of experience to increase sample size to an extent, but they aren't doing their colleagues any favors, and there are two possible final outcomes: (1) they retire and no one around and most of their knowledge and expertise leaves with them, (2) they burn out and cannot change when they day (inevitably) comes.

My encouragement to anyone who feels like their team or department doesn't willingly want to engage in common assessments, data analysis, or other research/scientific methods is to start with something simple. We have a data team meeting template from Lead and Learn in our district that is OVERWHELMING if you've not scaffolded your team with supports and celebrations up to it.

Here are some of the ideas and principles that have worked on our team.
7 Helpful ideas for getting a data team started

If I were having this conversation with people in my building right now, some one would be thinking (or saying) right about now,
"I don't need a data team or a PLC to know what my kids know and don't know."
Perhaps that's true.  My carrot for that teacher (since we all ultimately want to know what's in it for us) is to suggest that even if your class is learning at or above grade level and you have all of the tools and techniques, when you share that expertise with others, you'll end up improving the quality of the students who come to you. Who doesn't want a leg up?

My summary question:
When you look deeper into your students, do you see more or nothing?

26 December 2012

Kickstart Your New Semester Resolutions With Unstuck

I found Unstuck as a genius recommendation in the iOS App Store in November and it helped me though a lot of frustration I was having over my students' (lack of and organization of) notes in their notebooks and folders.

Unstuck's purpose is very straightforward; to get you past your obstacles, unstuck, and back to productivity. Initial workflow is intuitive, but the further I got through the process, I felt a little lost in menus. It must take a lot of work to get unstuck, 'cause I felt like I was answering questions longer than I expected to. :)

Another strength of the app are the tangents you can follow like historical/contemporary figures who have been similarly stuck, tips for getting started, and several thought-organizing tools for you to work through if you are still not appropriately inspired. Here are my results:

I guess questions are good; this page told me a lot about myself.

To wrap up the story, going through my stuck moment did help me to clear the clutter. The lesson I took from my report was that I needed to be more clear in my intentions for note-taking, and less vague on what things I want me students to be focusing on. I went to an adapted Cornell Notes style (here's a great C-Notes in math class how-to from Blogger Druin) that I'd used with some success in the past, and several students responded very positively. At the very least, when looking at their notebook while offering help, I (and the student) could quickly flip back through their pages and sort through pages that were homework and those that were in-class notes because I had a clearer idea of what that page should look like in the notebook.

Everyone's a winner.


  • New lesson ideas
  • Problem solving for leadership teams, committees, PLC or data teams
  • Goal setting for students
  • Team/ community building
  • Intervention strategy brainstorming

More resources:
Unstuck Community on Tumblr

25 December 2012

New Semester Resolution #1: Innovate Like Its 1992 (or, Do Your Students Still Make Graphs By Hand?)

  1. Raise your hand if your students love making graphs by hand.
  2. Keep your hand up if all of your students are proficient at producing graphs of equations (especially anything past linear functions)
Still have your hand up? Okay... Maybe this post isn't for you. Just kidding - universal appeal here. Several years ago I picked up the 1992 NCTM Yearbook at a massive used book sale held yearly in St. Louis. Every archived article in this yearbook was concentrated on using the power of calculator technology to enhance students' understanding of numbers, operations, and functions, and moving instruction beyond simply replicating graphs. Yearly we have conversations in my Algebra 2 PLC over how we're going to get our kids graphing quadratics and describing transformations of the accompanying graphs and equations.

As you may have also experienced, students often get caught up in making the graphs and sometimes never even make it to the transformations (which puts a wrench in the cogs of your lesson). Do your state standards say anything about students constructing graphs by hand from tables? Do the CCSS imply any graphing by hand? (In fact, Mathematical Practice Standard #5, Use appropriate tools strategically specifically expects that students will use technology for their graphing.)

Graphing by hand - right up there with top hats, saloons, and spitoons.
Being able to sketch a graph after using a graphing calculator or spreadsheet program is different work than what my students usually do with functions. Using technology to grab a graph and then use it in modeling doesn't eliminate necessity of my students' knowledge of the graphing, and it probably demands more.

When my students graph by hand, I usually...
  • Pick "easy" equations that have as many integers as possible in the features
  • Use "small" numbers
  • Don't require students to manipulate the scales on their axes.
  • May or may not know who actually has an understanding of "rate of change" on that function they just graphed beyond the fact that they used "rise-over-run"

When we use technology to generate graphs, students must...
  • Trace graphs to find features (intercepts, zeros, maxima, minima)
  • Have an awareness of the domain and range the want for their function ("I didn't get anything on my graph when a put in the equation")
  • Know the scale of their axes in order to judge reasonableness of their graph to the situation they are attempting to model (A strangely high/low y-intercept of a linear function over time when students input "1999" instead of years after *)
So why do we still so often require that students are able to construct graphs by hand? Is it a filter for straining the "good" students from the "poor"? Is it "good to know?" I don't know that many people could legitimately give me a case for the necessity of a student being able to make a graph by hand without any assistance from a calculator, software, or web-based utility, like the Desmos calculator (of which I recently blogged about if you didn't catch it.).

More than TWENTY YEARS later... we're still having this discussion. In fact, one of my favorite Google+/Twitter follows, +David Wees also blogged about it earlier this year and made some valid points in favor and opposition. Is one barrier to education reform/relevance that we're holding onto too many they-should-know-this-because-we-did skills in our curricula? Will this be the year you finally give in to technology's relentless march? :)

It will take some editing of my assessments, but I am going to allow (and encourage) my students to use technology to graph EVERY instance it arises this coming semester.

Are you ready for 1992? I encourage you to join me in this challenge!

13 December 2012

Need a EdTech Graduate Program? Go Mizzou, Go Online.

This reflection piece was a part of my grad school portfolio in 2011. The portfolio was hosted on Mizzou Bengal servers and has since been wiped, but the knowledge lives on... this Mizzou Online program was seriously, GREAT.

picture of a tiger. slogan: be a tiger... ...in your own lair.
Image and Slogan Copyright Chuck Baker, 2012
I entered the Educational Technology program at Mizzou with a good level of confidence in my ability to find and use technology resources for myself and my classroom, and a desire to build my leadership potential with my colleagues in integrating technology in their classrooms.  Bad technology is almost worst than dust-collecting technology.  I wrote this reflection in August 2010 after reading the first chapter in textbook for my first course, Intro to Technology in Schools.

“I begin this EdTech journey feeling like I already know a lot about integrating technology into my business as a teacher, and I even feel like a leader; at least at my own school.  I know full well, however, that my "knowledge" could very well be a level of ignorance over not even knowing how much I have yet to learn through this book and this entire Master's Program.  If all else fails, at least I'm going to commit to having an attitude of humbleness and to take each lesson with a fresh mindset.”
I’d venture to say that my predictions were largely spot-on about what I knew and did not know.  As I began interacting with my classmates on the Blackboard discussion forums I found that there were many who were a little intimidated by technology and had never taken a course online, and there were still others who had designed courses online and had great experience in web design and training in the private sector.  So, the former encouraged my confidence, and the latter reminded me that there was much I could learn from my classmates and this program.  

So what did I learn?

My best lessons learned can all be summarized in this - educational technology is about way more than flashy new gadgets or expensive computer labs.  At its focus is the cornerstone of all teaching; changing the lives of our schoolchildren and growing the next generation.  Educational technology is just the (powerful) tool we choose to use.

The first way technology can change lives is in the way it changes how we work.  Technology makes lesson planning and grading dramatically more efficient and effective for the teacher, leaving him or her more time to focus on the kids.  In the teacher technical interview, I found an experience similar to mine.  My interviewee knows she can plan and teach without technology, but she wouldn't want to!  Technology changes her lessons through presentation (and quick retrieval) of past lessons on her SMARTboard, communication is more efficient and frequent thanks to email, and her schedule is more in order because she uses electronic calendars to keep everything together.  This truth is also evident in the way classrooms can operate.  Sure, teachers using right pedagogy that were already great teachers can still teach, but why would they want to stay with the "old" ways?  As I showed in the intervention strategy to spice up a barren e-learning course for kids needing extra help, the web gives us many, many tools to support and differentiate for learners to develop environments best suited for their individual needs. Maturing multimedia production tools allow teachers to create their own online, digital content for students to access for their homework so teachers can give the help kids need while they are at school.  Who wouldn't love to kill the "my teacher never helps me" excuse?

Ironically, technology also changes our expectations for excellence.  When we know (and see for ourselves that we can!) do more than just worksheets and lectures, how can anyone settle for anything less for their curricula, classrooms, and learners?  But here's the caveat - excellence and optimal uses are unattainable, which is why we have to mitigate the inevitable snags through planning, research, and reflection.  When I performed the concerns-based adoption model of my school network of standards-based grading, I found that almost everyone I studied was at a different level of implementation, each for their own, usually valid reason.  Even the teacher who had led multiple trainings on standards-based grading was not through the stages of adoption; she was still synthesizing what she had learned with her own experiences to make the grading work for her.  In Instructional Systems Design, we performed learner, task, and contextual analyses, trying to allow and adapt for every possible scenario, which was a big help in completing my Learning with the Internet project.  But no matter how many variables I tried to account for in the lesson plan, my students still found new ways to foil my lesson plans.

Image Copyright Chuck Baker, 2012
That need for constant adaption to continuously work toward addressing instructional and learning problems is the force behind action research, and the last thing I learned.  If we settle consistently into patterns of just using technology for novelty's sake, then the technology begins to trump pedagogy in our instructional methods, and it actually impedes learning.  Several of the studies I reviewed in my action research plan confirmed this from feedback of students during experiments.  What I found as I began to implement my own research plan, was that sometimes we will continue to use technology without proven results of effectiveness, if only because we know we "should" be using it in our lessons.  I learned in reflection of an adaptation of my technology integrated learning plan, that if a technology is superseding the real learning, sometimes you just have to let it go.

What’s next for me?  

What I’ve liked best about the Technology in Schools program is not that it fulfilled my every professional desire and dream, but that it gave me new ones.  The program has built my capacity for leadership in the school beyond just technology, but in any reforms and changes we make to curriculum or procedures.  Beyond knowing what the best website is for learning x, y, or z, the program has given me the confidence to evaluate resources and hardware, by broadening my frame of reference. Through discussion board forums and group projects with heterogeneous backgrounds, I have a better idea of how administrators or other teachers in the building approach the same technology purchases or integration that I had seen as a black-and-white issue.  Ultimately, I hope what’s next for me is to use my new knowledge (and degree) by moving into a new role in the district of technology coach for my colleagues, and teacher-liaison to the district technology department. 


You've probably felt it, too, so I'm sure you know that school district budgets have gotten tighter and tighter since I wrote this originally. Thus, "new role in the district" has happened, but it has come with little extra pay, like I'd hoped. It is responsible for the iPad cart in my room, the eInstruction clickers I am currently piloting, near-monthly PD leading responsibilities in the building, and a great eval from my principal last week. 

11 December 2012

The (Math Teacher's) Student Holiday Gift Guide

If I had my druthers, here's what I'd love for all of my Algebra 2 students to have under the tree on December 25th, (or some other time this holiday season) separated into categories:

STOCKING STUFFERS (Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Friends)
  • Highlighters
    • Great for placing emphasis on steps, color coding elements of formulas, or triggering reminders of side-notes the student took during class
  • Grid paper notebooks
    • I had my students purchase grid paper composition books (or notebooks) this year, and it changed my teaching to be able to have them sketch (appropriately neat) graphs in their notes without having to have coordinate grid squares handy every day. Also, the students didn't have to tape/staple said squares into their "regular" notebook. Graphs, equations, and charts are all right next to each other, all in context.
  • Personalized pencils
    • My mom bought me 2 pencils when I went off to college that had "Charles" written on the side of them, and I cherished them so much I couldn't bear to sharpen one until this past summer. They sat in my desk waiting for that right moment for about 10 years. So.... having a lot of personalized pencils would have softened the blow of using them the first time. As far as my students, I've kept track of the pencils alright, and my students need some help in that department.
  • Zebra mechanical pencils
    • These metal pencils have a feel similar to using a pen, and for reasons similar to the pencils listed above, your student will probably keep track of this longer (and feel more important). I hunted a Zebra ballpoint down for a week once in high school.
  • Erasers (Magic Rub)
    • Mathematics and problem solving can be messy work - I always feel more ready to make mistakes and try a ton of different approaches when I'm working in pencil with a great eraser, than with ink. Finality is fantastic, but kids need to be okay with starting over sometimes.

UNDER THE TREE (Brother, Sister, Close Friends, Mom, Dad, Grandparents)

If the only place my students ever read about math is in their textbook, they're always going to think no one really does anything with math.
  • TI - 36X Pro ($18.97) or Casio FX-300ESPLUS ($12.99)
    • These beefy scientific calculators are closer to what scientific calculators in 2012 should be. Can do most statistics, trigonometry, and functions work a graphing calculator can besides the graphing, yet comes in under $20, probably less than you might spend on some of those books.
  • Casio Prizm FX-CG10 Color Graphing Calculator ($108.35)
    • I've said before, I'd rather students not have to carry a dedicated calculator, but I beg of you, save $40 and buy the top of the line Casio graphing calculator instead of the Texas Instruments. This Prizm has the same functionality as the TI NSpire CX, at a fraction of the cost. 
    • I would buy my own children a Casio for literacy reasons, as well. Most math teachers are still largely unfamiliar with how the menus on Casios function and are organized, so a student with a Casio has to be skilled at reading and following manuals. I've seen some kids sink because of this, but it wasn't because they couldn't, but because they wouldn't. I like knowing I'm nurturing young technical readers.
  • Livescribe Echo Smartpen ($75.99)
    • Not just a pen, the Livescribe will record audio, and track pen movements when used with the dedicated notebooks (yes, I know, another investment). 
    • Livescribe pencasts are the selling point for me. You could use anything to record audio, but the pencasts can be replayed on a phone, tablet, laptop, or PC and students have their very own Khan Academy-style videos.
  • Apple iPad Mini ($458) or Amazon Kindle Fire ($199)
    • Everyone knows that tablets put learning in the palm of your hands. I may not be reading books all the time, but I'm definitely reading more content (blogs, professional websites) since my school district gave me an iPad last September, and students are going to need them in college, anyway.
  • Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook ($24.95)
    • Evernote is fantastic for curate material and easily search text and notes later on, but not everyone wants to take notes on a tablet or laptop all the time. This notebook has special paper and tagging stickers that, when paired with a tablet or smartphone, allow you to upload those handwritten notes into your Evernote account and search/catalog however you please. 

Tech Tip: Search Google for PowerPoint Files (or anything else)

NETS-S STANDARDS in this post:
3a.plan strategies to guide inquiry.
3b.locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... which also means its beginning to look a lot like review season as finals approach. Who doesn't love a good Jeopardy-style review game?

Anyone who's ever had to make one, as far as I'm concerned. :)

But hey, this is the internet. You probably don't have to make something from scratch. Even better than search blindly for "jeopardy powerpoints," you can use Google Advanced Search to exclude anything from the results that isn't a .ppt file (or 9 others formats).
I'm reviewing for a quadratics exam tomorrow, and rather than only using keywords in my search (quadratics+jeopardy+powerpoint), and scrolling through, selecting only the ones that linked to .ppt files already, if I go into advanced search, this is done for me.
 Power your students' research (and your own) by using Advanced Search tools like filetype, usage rights, or reading level.

Enter a search query first, OR go directly to google.com/advanced_search

or select for reading level... or drill down to creative commons fair-use only... or by language... the possibilities are larger than you think.

My lesson plan is complete. 

Adaptations for YOU:

I've used this feature extensively since I learned about while doing research for grad school or grant writing to find PDFs after my searches in Ebsco and Google Scholar had been exhausted. More important than filetype for your students will be usage rights (keeping their projects copyright friendly) and reading level (because I know you've seen that shut-down look when they come to a webpage and the reading level is inappropriate)

10 December 2012

Tech Tip: Forgive Yourself When Tech Fails

Here's my #1 tip to anyone looking to integrate more technology into the instruction and assessment in their classroom and curriculum.
Forgive yourself.

 No matter how many times you dry run through your lesson, double-check your setup, or go through the steps in your process, things may go wrong. The uncertainty of the technology factor is most intimidating to the slow adopters among us, but that's the most promising to me. 

I don't have to worry about having a perfect lesson because we work in environments that are rarely ideal, and "clients" that often don't want to be served. 

When using technology in our classroom is the ordinary, not the extraordinary, if a tech-related issue arises, we should shrug it off as simply as any other variable that derails any given lesson on any given day.

05 December 2012

Skitch + Evernote Interactive Notebooks - Your Students as Curators

ISTE NETS-S Standards:
2b - Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats
3b - Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media
3c- Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks
4b - Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project

Apps required:
Evernote, Skitch (iOS and Android)

Maybe you're always crafty feeling, I don't know, but something I rarely enjoy is printing out media designed for the web and pasting it into a notebook, or taking text designed for print and digitizing all of it.

I personally encounter this most when I'm at PD trainings or meetings and the presenter passes put handouts (best practice, right?) that I then either have to keep track of, or take a quick snapshot of. I also like to quickly jump to webpages that are shared in the training so I can't preview while its fresh on my mind.

For my students, this digital/print dichotomy is between the omnipresent notebook, and the omniscient power of the Internet. I want my students to be good note takers, but not at the expense of ME being their only source of info. Also I (and they) don't like to copy text straight from a web page. It's tedious, and pointless.

Enter Skitch's webpage snap and Evernote's shareable, searchable notebooks. Students can use the browser inside Skitch to navigate the web to sites of your choosing, analyze them, curate their favorites, annotate all over them, and then sync them with their Evernote accounts (which they're already sharing with you, of course)

Not only is Skitch great for incorporating annotations into your digital interactive notebooks, but students can still type into Evernote directly, or take a photo of notes they've previously written by hand.

Here's my simple example notebook. https://www.evernote.com/pub/belnoreducator/StudentInteractiveNotebook

04 December 2012

What I Learned from Sam Gordon, the 9 Yr Old Girl Football Phenom

This girl is great!

Unfortunately, as she gets older, she'll face increasing gender discrimination and/or decreased physical advantage. Will she keep playing? There are too many variables at hand to answer that question, but we can take some lessons from Sam (and her family).

1. "Don't tell me what I can't do." 

For Sam, I'm sure there's a long line of people waiting to tell her she can't play football with the boys. What's yours? Budget constraints? Troubleshooting hardware? Feeling stuck instructionally or with reaching a student?

2. Do what you love.

Having passion for a project keeps more on task longer, helps me persevere through obstacles, helps me return when I'm discouraged, and allows me to set priorities for my time and efforts.

I had an awful PD session last week - most everyone had to share a computer, of people that were logged on, half couldn't get Google to communicate with them, my document on the presenting machine froze too... an impossible setting for a "how-to" session, and a difficult session for even familiarisation. Most of the environment was out of my control, my response wasn't, but I'll regroup for next time around because I know I want to help my building toward positive, meaningful attitudes toward our district technology.

3. Have a plan and make it yours.

The reality of Sam's football career is that it may at best end in a female semi-pro league after high school. She'll have to decide what to do next. I think many veteran teachers get stuck in what we do because its easier to keep the blinders on the present and what we currently do instructionally or with technology, while ignoring what's on the horizon. When that next disruptor comes, they choose to ignore it in favor of what they're comfortable with. People who don't plan get left behind and irrelevant.

4. Be awesome.

Sam obviously has a gift of athleticism, but its about more than that. With all the talent in the world, Sam still needs an attitude (and will need it even more as she gets older) that risk is not something to be avoided, but rather, embraced. 

You're not a great teacher because you have a ton of content knowledge, or show up every day and do the expected. You're great because you do extra research, are willing to try new things, and will put yourself out there in hopes of acheiving something great.