Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Dot

Yesterday I was at Saegert Elementary in Killeen ISD. I was doing a school assembly program teaching the scientific process / scientific method and the kids were loving the puppets and magic so much they had no idea they were learning all sorts of new vocabulary and important curriculum-based concepts.

Of course, because all my shows are reading motivation programs encouraging children to read, I usually perform in the library. And Jennifer Brown, the librarian at Saegert does a great job of creating an environment rich in reading possibility. Her displays of books were simple, but quite effective. Between shows I wound up reading several short books, as frequently happens when I am in the library.

On this particular morning I picked up The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.

What an amazing book! During my lunch break I skipped lunch to run to Barnes and Noble to buy my own copy of the book. When I got back to my hotel room that evening I got on-line and ordered another copy to give to my daughter's art teacher. It is such a profound book and really quite moving.

People look at children's literature and see that there are not many words and think "Oh, I could write a book like that!" But the truth is that it is MUCH harder to convey important messages with few words than it is with many words.

Peter Reynolds did a MASTERFUL job and this book is a great addition to any library. It is a perfect gift for any teacher, but if you have an art teacher you love, you are obligated to get this book for him or her. I can't believe it's been around since 2003 and won awards and I hadn't heard of it until yesterday.

Thank you Ms. Brown for having me educate, entertain and inspire your students yesterday. But I thank you even more for educating, entertaining, and inspiring me by introducing me to this book. I owe you.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm the biggest geek

It was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today. I guess it still is for another 90 minutes or so.

But unlike most people who celebrate the fact that they get the day off from work, I celebrated by reading a book. Now, granted, I'm the sort of geek that really enjoys reading and so it's probably about the equivilent of a normal person cooking barbecue and blending frozen drinks, though I like to do those things too.

Anyway, today I wanted to read something appropriate but not so blantantly obvious as a biography of MLK or a transcript of one of his speeches. Great stuff, but I wanted to step out a little.

I wound up grabbing a children's book (I'm a kid show performer and a father of a 6 year old so cut me some slack!). The book I got was an anthology of American Folklore called "From Sea to Shining Sea" compiled by Amy L. Cohn. I read a few things to my daughter and one of the stories reminded me of a video I had seen that I cannot watch without tearing up. It is really powerful.

Then I spent the rest of the day cherishing my beautiful daughter and the great weather we had here in Houston today. It was in the very high 60s and bright sunshine so we inflated an air mattress and played and napped in the back yard wearing just swim suits. I'm a little pink on my back and the top of my head.

America is great.

I can't wait to celebrate the other major holidays like Texas Public School Week, National Library Week, and Children's Book Week. Yeah, I'm a geek alright.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The 10 Types of People

There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary numbering systems and those who don't.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A new direction

Okay, so I'm a little bit hesitant to say this after all I wrote last week about the after school workshop thing. But I spent a lot of time hanging out with a mastermind group over the weekend. These are top notch professional performers from all over the country and literally from around the world.

We have members who do everything from birthday party magic puppet shows to guys who work as Upward Awards Night Celebration Speakers. These are really savvy guys and I respect their opinions about business and strategy. Anyway, after tossing the idea around all weekend and into this last week we came to the conclusion that while there were many benefits to hosting these events, that it probably was a strategic distraction.

So instead we brainstormed ways that we could really add value while keeping true to the primary objective of our business mission statement (to encourage children to self-directed learning through reading).

The idea that seemed the most congruent with this plan was the idea for offering evening programs.

Because of that, I am really promoting my Texas Family Science Math Literacy Night Programs and Activities and my good friend Kyle Terwilliger is really working hard to promote his version of the same in addition to his Arizona Reading School Assembly Programs.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Benefits of After School Programs

A few days ago I started a "Good News, Bad News" post but never did the good news! Sorry!

So here are the good things about hosting After School Magic Workshops:
  • The students learn to love the PROCESS of learning
  • They are encouraged to read and self-direct their own education
  • They develop camradarie among classmates
  • They bond with the school and the academic environment
  • They learn to stick with a task
  • They devleop confidence
  • They learn public speaking skills and presentation skills
  • They learn a craft that can become a profession!!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Year Goals

Like many people at this time of year I begin making a list of goals, resolutions, and promises. Among mine for 2009 are:

Saturday, January 03, 2009

After School Magic Workshops

Yesterday I wrote about the value of After School Magic Workshops and this morning I wanted to continue on that thread for just a quick moment before I go to the gym.

I'm not sure if I want to offer these programs or not, but I am considering it. There are pros and cons. I'll do the old "Bad News, Good News" routine and I'll start with the bad news:

Because magic workshops are held on a regular basis like a class, it would be difficult for me to perform my normal educational school assembly programs in Texas if I was booked out of town. I am usually booked a week at a time and stay in a hotel in cities like Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Beaumont, Austin, Mission, Del Rio, and so on. If I were booked in one of these cities for a week I wouldn't be able to provide the after school magic workshop.

That conflict of interest bothers me and is the only thing holding me back at this point.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Non-Paying Customers

How can you create loyalty if you are a non-profit? Just like the for profits do!

I recently encouraged public schools to offer additional services that appeal to their "free clients" (the students) as well as their "pay clients" (the taxpayers). There was a wonderful article in a recent issue of Harvard Business Review (November 2008) about the value of non-paying customers and it got me to thinking about all the various ways these things play out.

After School Magic Workshops are one way that a school can serve both the paying and non-paying clients. The students win by learning a fun new skill and the parents win because their kids are safe, engaged, learning, and most importantly growing to LOVE the learning process, which is a GREAT thing to have happen in any business.

Think about it, Starbucks (for all their current challenges) built a business around teaching their customers how to enjoy the PROCESSS of drinking coffee. It was only partly about the coffee, and mostly about the process of ordering, sitting, savoring, socializing, seeing and being seen, etc.

The same thing could happen in an after school magic workshop, too. The students would learn about the joy of the PROCESS of learning. Just my thoughts.