Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Most Important Trait We Must Teach Students (Or Why I Started Playing Guitar to Teach English)

One of the biggest traits I prayed… PRAYED… my students picked up from my classroom is not a trait one often associates with education. However, I find it is a trait we often forget to cultivate as teachers. We even give students a “back door” to avoid doing this trait at times. In fact, sometimes teachers even shelter specific students from this trait. Heck, some students even avoid completing certain assignments because they do not believe they have enough of this trait.

If you cannot tell, I am trying to see how many times I can use the word “trait” in this blog post.

Before I tell you the trait in question, I will let my next endeavor shed some light on how this thought about what trait I wanted my students to possess came to light. A few months ago, I had some Amazon gift cards burning a hole in my e-pocket, and I wanted to get a new tech tool to use with students. I noticed a few affordable, portable green screens for sale, so I pulled the trigger and picked up a green screen sheet, stand, and travel bag (as you can see below).

My other realization at the time revolved around my new job as a Technology Integrator. I loved my new job, but there was a large part of me that missed my old gig as an English teacher. Not only did I miss having my own students, but I missed developing unique lessons to teach the concepts of English literature, writing, grammar, and much more.

With these two discoveries in mind, I knew I wanted to keep teaching. I decided that a YouTube channel would be my medium, and iMovie combined with the green screen and other various tech tools would be my canvas for flipped English videos. But what was my hook? What was going to draw a teacher, student, or curious onlooker to my lessons? There are plenty of great flipped English videos out there, so what purpose would mine serve?

The question brought me back to the quality I wanted to instill in all of my students. Any guesses yet? This trait will be crucial in a world where innovation and imagination are driving every successful business.


I had to do something fearless with my channel. Why? Not everyone is looking for an English lesson, so what are they going to get out of seeing my video? They are going to see me play some music and connect it to an English concept - that’s my hook:

The video above is one of my first installments in my new venture: English Jams. My goal with this channel is to create innovative, flipped lessons, often using a hook like music, film, or other means to engage an audience. The common thread will be the same: doing something that takes me out of my comfort zone. In the first few cases, it will be playing my guitar in front of a large audience. Often times in education, the content is NOT the most crucial part of a lesson. Sometimes the most crucial part of a lesson is the trait you model - when students see me taking a risk and putting myself out there, I am begging them to do the same. I want students to celebrate their unique qualities and traits. I want them to be fearless.

The greatest ideas in history came from fearless people. A quote often attributed to Henry Ford claims that he said, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Sometimes an idea cannot be new versions of what has always been. Instead, the medium or the means must change. If individuals do not take a chance, we accept what has only happened thus far. For our students, this is not enough. We must teach them to take on their fears and go into the unknown.

What can you do as an educator to instill fearlessness? How can you make sure that students take risks, put themselves out there, and do not enter the world afraid to share their gifts?


  1. This is awesome! I like how you used PowToons too! Great mini lesson!

    1. Hi Susan,

      Thank you for the kind words! I had a lot of fun making it, and PowToons is a great medium to explain the concepts in the background.