In the course of interviewing successful professionals in the entertainment industry, several have said at some point early in their careers, they were told, “If you can do something else, do it.” Meaning, your chances of breaking through and making a living at being a producer, director, writer, actor, comedian, singer, costume designer, editor, screenwriter, studio division president, etc., are so slim and the road there so difficult you should go another direction if you possibly can. How’s that for encouragement? Of course, many of the people I’ve interviewed didn’t listen to that advice. Some actually did listen, and subsequently changed course away from one of those slim-to-none “dream” careers toward something with better odds. And some tried and tried to become an actor or director or singer, etc., and failed. That’s right. They never achieved success in their dream job, the one they wished for as kids while blowing out the candles on every birthday cake and worked so diligently at for years. I was thinking about that while I was listening to Andy Levine, the co-founder of Sixthman, being interviewed on the NPR show, From Scratch. I had first become aware of Sixthman when I did this post on three things we can learn from Kid Rock and Snoop Dog. One of the lessons was to diversify and the example I’d given was the cruise Kid Rock was on at the time, called the “Chillin’ the Most” cruise. Kid and supporting acts with a similar demographic were aboard performing for and hanging out with 100s of their most avid fans. It wasn’t until after I put the post up and the comments started rolling in that I realized it wasn’t Kid Rock’s cruise. There was a company behind it which brings name acts onto ships to perform for, and interact with, their fans. Yes, he was actually traveling aboard ship for several days with fans willing to spend big bucks to have that semi-intimate and fully-once-in-a-lifetime fan experience. Brilliant, I thought at the time. A company called Sixthman. While I was listening to the Andy Levine interview, two things struck me: one was how fulfilled he was by doing these events. He considers these journeys sacred experiences for the guests and clearly relishes providing that experience for both fans and artists, as well as creating a company culture made up of people with a similar evangelical attitude toward what they provide. The other was that this career was his “consolation” after not having made it as a performer. From a young age, Andy loved music. He practiced guitar for hours, until his fingers bled. But, as he told the interviewer, the band he was in was so unimpressed by his playing they didn’t plug him into the sound system when they played. He didn’t realize this for over a year. He now understands that they kept him in the band because he booked all of their shows and made all of the logistical arrangements. So though it must’ve been deeply painful to give up his dreams of being a performer, especially in such a potentially-humiliating way (depending upon how he found out and what frame of mind he was in at the time), the love of music merged with his skills as a manager were a natural fit for a career he now has quasi-religious devotion to. And which is providing so much joy to so many people. Another example of failure being a gift is what has happened with Marc Maron and the WTF Podcast, of which I am a rabid fan. (And you showbiz aspirants/newbies should be too - start here or here. You’ll be hooked, too.) His is not a story of failure, per se, as he is still a standup comic. But over the years, as the comics he came up with got opportunities and went onto other things (TV sitcoms, talk shows, movie careers, SNL stardom), he did not have a “big break.” He continued to perform at a certain level, but was not taken out of standup by something else. It was that lack of being drawn away to a busier, more prosperous showbiz career that led to his creation of the WTF podcast, where he interviews stand-ups, former stand-ups, and other comedy professionals about their career paths, the good and the bad, their art and techniques, etc. It’s a genius show and I always learn something. And as for Marc, as a result of the popularity of the show, he is actually getting other showbiz opportunities. But he also speaks of the show as something more important and satisfying than a stepping stone on the way to something more. It feeds him in a way no other showbiz opportunity could, no matter how much money was attached. For myself, I wrote screenplays for many years. And a novel, too. I got attention from them, sometimes close-but-no-cigar attention, but no money. And my day job involved hiring. Lots and lots of hiring. I did not break through in writing fiction and I have no interest in it anymore, but the day job and the storytelling merged in a way that for both personal and professional reasons is perfect for me. I work one-on-one with clients doing career consulting and writing targeted resume and bios, and through this website, I help people who want to make it in showbiz figure out the best path to their desired outcome (as well as helping them figure out if it really is the right desired outcome for them). So if you are practicing until your fingers bleed and still the band is not plugging you in, or if you are doing 250 stand-up dates a year and still not getting any traction with the showbiz muckety-mucks, or if you are writing novels or screenplays that still don’t result in a paycheck, don’t despair. Not only is it not the end of the world; it may just be there is something else, something better and maybe even unimaginable at this point, out there for you. Jenny Yerrick Martin, founder of YourIndustryInsider.com, has amassed 20+ years as an entertainment industry professional including almost 15 as a hiring executive and five as a career consultant. She's become an indispensable resource for people who want to break into entertainment, as well as those in entertainment looking to reach the next level or course-correct in their already-established careers. Read more » articles by this approved career expert | Click here » if you’re a career expert Image from iQoncept/Shutterstock
As an education consultant observing instruction across content areas, grade bands, and schools, I have seen A LOT of instruction, both good and bad. While most teachers teach from a place of caring and compassion, the simple mistakes that I see teachers repeatedly making are undermining the overall impact that they could be having on learning especially when one considers the cumulative effect of poor teaching practices, across multiple teachers, on any one student.
Don’t get tangled up in this trap. Start upping your teaching game by canceling the following five teaching practices:
Using The Standard As The Lesson Objective
I sometimes see teachers using specific Common Core State Standards as the learning objective for an entire unit of study. For example, I once saw a fourth-grade teacher use “Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meaning (CCSS ELA-LITERACY L.4.5)" as the learning objective across many days of learning. This is an academically rigorous standard to be sure. However, as there are many types of figurative language, how does the teacher know they are meeting the precise intent of this standard unless they break down this standard into its component parts? Could each part then be a lesson/daily objective?
To answer, I suggest teachers draw upon the work of Larry Ainsworth in unwrapping standards. In a nutshell, Ainsworth’s model for deconstructing standards has educators identifying each concept (nouns) and skill (verbs) embedded within each standard to ensure that the complete intent of the standard is understood. More about the model can be found here.
Dumbing Down Objectives
My blood boiled over one day when a teacher told me that his students could not possibly meet learning objectives and/or success criteria that asked students to synthesize, evaluate, and/or create since his students were lower functioning. I have no doubt that this teacher was correct in saying that some of his students would, indeed, struggle in meeting higher-level success criteria. However, what then was this teacher doing to scaffold the learning so his lower-functioning students could succeed in meeting such objectives? First, develop lesson objectives with high achievement in mind so that high-performing students are not held back by low-performing students. Then, consider the scaffolds—such as one-on-one and small group direct instruction—that will be provided to lower-achieving students so they, too, can achieve rigorous objectives.
In developing rigorous learning objectives, those that place the cognitive lift on students, I recommend teachers use two tools—a Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Wheel and Hess’ Cognitive Rigor Matrix. The DOK Wheel will help educators to craft learning objectives inclusive of increasing levels of student challenge from a DOK Level One (Student Recall) through to a DOK Level Four (Extended Student Thinking). The Matrix will help teachers to compare their learning objectives, as currently written, to examples of those at varying levels of cognitive complexity so that these objectives may be rewritten to reflect higher levels of cognitive complexity. The Matrix is available for both humanities and math/science content areas.
Bonus Hack for Writing Objectives: When teachers write the learning objective into their guided practice slide decks, it is often only on the front slide. How can students refer to it/follow along if they can’t see it? Instead, include the objective on all slides or, better yet, write it on the class board.
Less is more. If a teacher’s guided practice drones on and on, as their coach, I sometimes ask if the teacher can call on a student to repeat and/or summarize what was said. Sometimes the student can but, other times, as the student begins to explain, they become confused. This is precisely why I ask this of teachers. If students are to retain information, research shows that there need to be breaks in long lectures. Chunk the learning. Allow a quick turn and talk so students can process learning before proceeding to ask students to repeat and/or summarize information.
On a related note, teachers should stop asking “Any questions?” as a matter of pro forma politeness before speeding along on the bullet train that is their lecture. Most students will not admit that they do not understand something unless it is teased from them. Instead, cold call and use other strategies such as polling, individual whiteboards, and signaling cards. And, when teachers do stop talking to ask questions of students, they can ensure that those questions are cognitively rigorous using this question stem tool.
Telling Students To Take Notes Instead Of Showing Them How
If I had a quarter for each time I heard “take notes.” What does this mean? One of the practices in which I engage when observing classes is to look over at what students are doing and the notes they are taking; the level of detail and amount of relevant information can vary widely. Instead, a good practice is to adopt a standard note-taking format like Cornell Notes. In adopting a standard format, teachers can scaffold notes, build in essential questions, and have students summarize their learning—all best practices discussed in this article. Further, students can assess the quality of not only their notes but that of peers and use these notes in the development of student-generated study guides.
One scaffolding technique that I suggest teachers use with Cornell Notes is to include unit-related vocabulary with which students may be struggling and/or may not yet have been exposed. Often, when students leave questions blank on assessments, it can be because students do not understand what is being asked of them because of the vocabulary being used. In addition to highlighting key vocabulary on Cornell Notes, consider expanding a student’s knowledge of related vocabulary through the use of varied Vocabulary CODE activities as well as tiered vocabulary in each content area.
Taking Class Time To Have Students Complete Worksheets
A standard practice that I have seen, when teachers are afraid to release control, is for students to complete worksheets independently and silently in class. First, teachers should consider if work needs to be done in class or, after modeling one or two examples of what students are to do, the rest of the worksheet can be done at home so that class time can be used for discussion of the work. Learning together builds creativity, blends individual strengths, and enhances the sense of collective ownership.
However, teachers are wise in anticipating where learning can go wrong, and there can be many reasons why students may not be focused during student-to-student-based activities. Still, the solution for most attention problems resides with the teacher. If students are unfocused and discussing unrelated matters during group work, give them the questions to discuss up front. If students can’t engage in discussions with one another appropriately, give them discussion/accountable talking stems. If some students are doing all the work while their teammates stand about idly, assign individual roles within each group as well as have students self-assess their level of contribution as well as peer assess that of their teammates. Also, provide exemplars of quality work and allow students some choice in how they demonstrate proficiency (the product) beyond that of a worksheet. There are also varied discussion protocols that can be used to differentiate the process through which students talk collaboratively about the content.
Word To The Wise
These are, without a doubt, some of the most common mistakes that I have seen educators make regardless of the amount of time that they have been in the profession. I, myself, was not immune from making these same missteps in the classroom. Still, being forewarned is forearmed and hopefully an awareness of these common pratfalls, along with a knowledge of the tools that can be used to navigate around them, will help ensure that not a moment of class time is wasted to inefficiency.
Please feel free to reach out to the author at John Schembari, Ed.D. | LinkedIn.
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