10 Questions for Educator and Author Paul Solarz

10 Questions for Educator and Author Paul Solarz

10 Questions for Educator and Author Paul Solarz

Educator Paul Solarz has been making a big impact in education with his popular book Learn Like a Pirate: Empower Your Students to Collaborate, Lead, and Succeed. He advocates for student-centered teaching practices and a focus on twenty-first century skills. On Monday, he’ll be moderating #TynkerChat (join here) on Twitter, and guiding our community with strategies and inspiration.

This week, the award-winning educator and author answers our questions:

1. What are your media habits? Besides, Twitter, where do you like to go to get fresh news and ideas?  

I imagine that some people think I’m one of those who are addicted to their laptop or phone, but in reality I try to live my life first and fill in the gaps looking at Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. I love learning on YouTube, reading blogs and columns online, and by clicking on links on Facebook and Twitter.

2. Education is constantly evolving. What are some methods or strategies that you’ve retired over the years? 

Lecture has been cut by about 80% in our classroom, and completing worksheets is nearly non-existent. Now, I give directions online and go over them with the class, then I get my students into partnerships and they start working immediately. I circulate and give feedback as needed. Students post all products and reflections on their ePortfolios for further revision and an authentic audience.

3. Who is your favorite author, education or not? 

My favorite educational publisher is my own publisher, Dave Burgess, who is churning out 5-star books by authors I truly respect all the time! I read educational books all the time and there are none better than the ones being produced by Dave Burgess Publishing! I also enjoy reading John Grisham and Stephen King when I’m looking for something non-educational to read.

4. Favorite TED Talk? 

“The Power of Introverts” by Susan Cain. I teach a unique class where the students are expected to run the classroom, often needing to be active leaders and collaborative students. I’ve used a lot of Cain’s ideas to ensure that my shy and/or introverted students’ needs are being met, while still asking them to be important leaders in the classroom!
 

5. How do you keep your lessons fresh and new?

I’m constantly experimenting in my classroom! Spring is often the time when I ramp up efforts to try even more new things in my classroom. I try out new programs, web tools, teaching strategies, etc. Those that seem to be an upgrade from the previous way of doing things make it into the next year’s plans. Everything else gets tossed aside until I learn new information that will make me reconsider it again!

6. Is there a view in education that you don’t agree with?  

I think the best way I can answer this question is by saying that everyone’s in a different situation and what’s best for one teacher is not always best for all. Anyone who says, NEVER do this, or ALWAYS do that, I start to wonder if that advice would work in my situation, in the inner-city, in a multi-age classroom, in high school, in kindergarten, etc. Rather than assuming they’re right, try to decide if that claim works in YOUR situation!

7. Who influences you the most? 

My students definitely influence me more than anyone else. I read so many experts’ books and blog posts, but nothing matters more than what my current students need from me this year. I am constantly making adjustments based on my students’ interests and needs. Some groups of students need more of the basics, while others need more enrichment. Obviously, it’s important to differentiate for each student, but whole class differentiation happens each year as well.

8. Is there enough discourse in education? Or is there too much agreement? 

I think it’s easy for us to agree with educational experts and jump onto some bandwagons when we see ideas trending and see how popular each idea becomes. In my opinion, this isn’t a terrible thing because if nothing else, it may cause teachers to try new ideas in their classrooms and see how they work in their situation. I feel that the worse option is to say “I disagree because I’ve always done it this other way,” or to make excuses why new ideas “can’t work.” Being open-minded should lead to progress!

9.  What was one of your worst educational moments? 

I’m not sure I have any “worst educational moments,” but I’ve certainly had memorable moments and those that I wish didn’t happen! Most of them have been learning opportunities for me, and opportunities for me to explain to my students that I have a plenty of areas where I’m always trying to improve. I really wish I could maintain my patience, avoid showing frustration, and always keep my cool, but unfortunately, I’m pretty much an open book who is constantly sharing my thoughts with my students! But I’m working on it! 🙂

10.  What was one of your best?

Some of my favorite moments are when we’re in non-academic settings, like the bus or a field trip or recess or classroom parties! I feel like I really get to know my students as individuals during those non-academic times and these are the moments when they get to see the real me, as well! I’ve also enjoyed sharing my personal experiences and proud moments with my students. I really want them to see me as a person more than as a teacher.

 

 

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Daniel Rezac is the Education Community Manager at Tynker. He's been a science teacher, a technology coach, STEAM Coordinator, and school Tech Director working with students from Pre-K to adults. Feel free to reach out to him at daniel [at] tynker.com.

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