Tuesday, December 30, 2014

This Poem was written by John Wooden and shared with me.

At times when I am feeling low,
I hear from a friend and then,
My worries start to go away,
And I am on the mend.

No matter what the doctors say,
And their studies never end,
The best cure of all,
When spirits fall,
Is a kind word from a friend.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Magical Door at My School

The Magical Door at My School

Swen Nater



Let nobody hear this, but here’s something cool.

There’s a magical door, right here at my school.

Every time I walk in, I can’t possibly leave,

For I’ve witnessed some things that you would not believe.  


I entered last Monday; ‘twas right around three,

And a tall dinosaur began charging at me.

Every stomp of each step made a thunderous sound.

So I shook and I shivered and so did the ground.


But on Tuesday I walked through that magical door,

And I heard a bat crack and a deafening roar.

The slide and the throw toward the homeward route;

Through the dust I could hear the ump screaming, “You’re out!”

Revisiting Wednesday, I flew through the air,

In a rocket ship powered by flame-flying flare.

I then visited Venus and sailed past the sun,

And I galloped through galaxies. Man that was fun.


And on Thursday, I walked through that magical door,

And an earthquake was shaking—more and then more.

So I tilted and toppled and staggered and stumbled,

And the whole place just rattled and rippled and rumbled.  


Returning on Friday, I searched undersea,

I flew with the falcon and buzzed with the bee.

I went down the Grand Canyon while riding a mule,

Through that magical door that’s right here at my school.


You want to go too? Well then here is a game.

This magical door has a sign with its name.

And the letters that make up the name of the door,

You will find in this poem if you dare to explore.


Monday, December 1, 2014

The Glass Half-Filled  


The optimist says the glass is half full.

The pessimist says the glass is half empty.

The project manager says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

The cynic wonders who drank the other half.

The worrier frets that the remaining half will evaporate by next morning.

The entrepreneur sees the glass as undervalued by half its potential.

The first engineer says the glass is over-designed for the quantity of water.

The man at the bar wonders who is paying for the next round.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Coach Wooden and the Perfect Lesson Plan

Coach John Wooden and the Perfect Lesson Plan

Swen Nater

From 1964 to 1975 Coach John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team accomplished the following:
10 national championships, 7 in a row
88 consecutive wins
38 consecutive playoff wins
4 perfect seasons

That is “sustained success.” Many coaches have won championships but few have won two in a row. Still fewer won three in a row. And no coach in men’s basketball has ever won ten consecutive titles. How did this happen? How was one man, who had various assistant coaches and players, accomplish that? Did he have the best talent in the country every year? No. I suggest, the secret may lie in his teaching, particularly the daily lesson plan.

Those who know Coach Wooden know he was obsessed with reaching perfection in every part of his life. Two of his most-known quotes are,

Make each day your masterpiece.


You haven’t lived a perfect day until you have done something for someone without the slightest thought of receiving anything in return.

As a coach, he was internally-driven to produce the “perfect lesson plan,” obsessed with the illusive objective of making the plan for the day’s practice session a masterpiece to equal Rembrandt’s Night Watch. But he knew it could never be done. Yet, when he sat down every morning to create that minute-by-minute plan, he jettisoned the demons telling him of his certain failure and commenced to draw on the plans and notes of the past. As he continued, his heart leapt with excitement and anticipation. Was this the day he would finally do it? Was this the day he would come home to Nelly after practice and tell her he had reached perfection? That plan looked like it was the one he had been waiting for.

Every day he would try and every day he would fail. How could his mind take it? How could he remain sane, knowing at the end of practice he would drop his head once more, knowing the next day he must start from scratch? As Harriet Braiker wrote,

Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.

In his heart he knew it, yet he could not imagine a day without the drive to reach the top. He could not possibly conjure up the vision of making a practice plan that was a copy of another or something he casually put together. John Wooden was not capable of saying, “That’s good enough.”

Was Coach Wooden insane? Was the effort to get something he would never be able to get mentally destructive? There are some who would think, never being satisfied is not good, William Shakespeare, in King Lear, being one.

Striving to be better, oft we mar what’s well.

What if The Bard told Wooden this very thing to his face? What would Coach do? I think he would say, “Yes, it’s OK to, in my quest for perfection, stop and see how far I’ve come, but I’m afraid to because I may become satisfied and the smallest degree of complacency can retard my momentum toward the goal.”
Many joke about perfection. Wilt Chamberlain, NBA great, wrote,

They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they’d made up their minds.

An unknown author wrote,

 The most difficult part of attaining perfection is finding something to do for an encore.
Coach Wooden didn’t think the quest for perfection was a joke at all; he was extremely serious about it. And somehow, in his soberness and his daily failure, he remained a person of great balance, character, and sanity. Perhaps what Vince Lombardi wrote helped him.
 Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.

The result for Wooden was, sustained success at the highest level. He once said,

It takes talent to get to the top. It takes character to stay there.

 Coach Wooden’s character was demonstrated in his drive to make the perfect lesson plan. All the successes I wrote about at the beginning, are a byproduct of just that.


The closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out a job application form. Stanly J. Randall


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Gravy 101

We've all been there. The turkey is done, resting on the cutting board and begging to be divided up and devoured. (by the way, don't you dare tent that thing with foil or the skin will turn soft like a wet microfiber rag.) Now it's time for the gravy. And somehow it turns out to be bland and lumpy. Not to worry my fellow cook; Swen to the rescue. This is Gravy 101 so come on in and take a groovy gravy lesson. You're going to walk out of here with your head up high, struttin' like you just won the lottery, and saying, "Dang! I'm the gravy master. I master that gravy."

The first thing you need to remember is the formula and you won't go wrong. Follow the formula and you will have basic gravy. From there, depending on how much adventure is in your soul, you can make it a smackin' work of art. I'll give you some ideas later but now for the formula.

The formula is 2-2-1. Two Tablespoons of butter, Two Tablespoons of Flour, 1 Cup broth. This will give you one cup of simple gravy. If you need more, double it. Now, get your apron on and come here to the stove.

In a skillet or saucepan, heat the butter until the foaming begins to slow down. That means it's hot. Keep the burner just below Medium or you'll burn the butter.
Sprinkle some flour into the skillet and whisk it into the butter. Then, add some more, about half a teaspoon at a time until it's all used up. Keep whisking, baby. The butter will absorb the flour and, PRESTO; no clumps of flour. Want to learn some French? OK. You are making a Roux (pronounced Roo, rhymes with Shoe). Roux is fat and flour mixed in just about equal amounts, depending on how thick you want what you are making. OK. Back to the gravy.

Keep whisking and, when the Roux (I capitalize it because I love it. Maybe some French guy, Pierre Roux invented this. Thanks, Roux.) starts to turn toasty brown, start adding the broth, a little at a time (a couple of table spoons at a time) and keep whisking. You're going to be a whisk master. Have fun with it; go clockwise, counterclockwise, right to left, and left to right. Whatever, but whisk, baby, whisk or that gravy is going to lump up like milk left outside on a Kansas summer day.

At first when you add broth, it will seem like all the liquid will steam away. Not to worry. Just keep going and, at some point, it will start turning to liquid. When it does, add the rest of the broth and whisk baby, whisk.

Now here's a key point. Turn up the heat a little to bring the gravy to simmer (little bubbles, not boiling). Gravy will only thicken at the simmer point. Keep whisking baby, ......

"When do I stop?" you ask. You stop when the gravy is a little thinner than you want to serve it. Why? Because it will cool down when you put it on the table and it will get thicker. Salt and pepper to taste and you have simple gravy. Nice? Nice!

OK. Do you want to kick this up a notch? Here are some ideas.
Add a sache (mesh bag with fresh thyme, bay leaf, and parsley stems) and let the flavors go in.
Add a touch of white wine or sherry for depth.
Add pan drippings (maybe half a cup) but remember to discard the fat. Do you have a fat separator? Shame on you! Get one. They are cool and will impress your guests. "What is that thing?" "It's my fat separator, dude. Don't worry about it." Use the wine to mix up the drippings so that all those brown bits are saved; they have all the flavor. Or, use apple cider instead of wine. Mmmmmmm.

You have graduated from Gravy 101. Remember 2-2-1 or 4-4-2 if you have more guests.
Go get 'em and happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Grantland Rice was a sportswriter during the Great Depression.

The Great Competitor
Grantland Rice

Beyond the winning and the goal,
Beyond the glory or the fame,
He finds a flame within his soul,
Born of the spirit of the game.

And where the barriers may wait,
Built up by the opposing gods,
He finds a thrill in bucking fate,
And riding down the endless odds.

Where others wither in the fire,
Or fall below some raw mishap,
Where others lag behind and tire,
And break beneath the handicap,

He finds a new and deeper thrill,
To take him on the uphill spin,
Because the test is greater still,
And something he can revel in.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Maria's Birthday

It's just another school day, or is it? Maria, a fifth grader, is having a birthday. She received a special greetings this morning from her family at breakfast. That felt good. But school had just started and Maria is about to experience something that will change her life. 

She's normally very quiet and reserved, raising her hand barely above shoulder level when she knows and answer, unlike some of the others who shoot their fingers to the ceiling and raise up in their seats as high and tall as possible to get noticed. Maria just can't do that. And she's not very outgoing at recess and lunch, staying pretty much to herself. She's OK with who she is because she can't imagine being like some of the other more gregarious types. She's fine although sometimes she wishes the teacher would give her equal attention. But, even if she doesn't, Marian won't change. She'll remain with herself and that's OK.

It's 8 in the morning now and roll has been taken. The teacher speaks, "Class, I'm handing out the Language Quizzes you too Friday so you can see how you did. Maria, will you please help me hand these out?"

Maria sat frozen in shock. The teacher had never asked her to do anything, much less do something that would create direct contact with half her classmates. She got up slowly and the teacher said, "Come on Maria! I need your help." She shifted into second gear and handed out half the quizzes. It wasn't as difficult as she thought it would be although she received some weird, perhaps envious, looks from some of her classmates.

Then it happened. As Maria started back for her seat (and she was very anxious to get there), the teacher said, "Maria. Please stay up here. Class, may I ask you what day this is today? The entire class burst into a very good rendition of "Happy Birthday," complete with "Maria." She turned red but somehow she began to focus on each singing face. They were OK even though she had not liked some of them. They were OK.

For that moment, for that day, for that school year, and for that lifetime, Maria was OK too. She began to believe, even though she reserved and shy, she was "somebody," somebody with a birthday. That class taught her, they believed she belonged in this world and it made all the difference.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Four Ways to Engage Students, From the Students

Four Ways to Engage Students, From the Students

Since the day the first student was noticed to be uninterested in the subject matter, looking around the room for something more interesting like the radiator popping as it warmed up, teachers have been asking, "How can we get students eagerly-engaged?" I taught college Algebra so I understand.

Do remember a boring class? Do you remember a teacher who made a subject, which by nature was not interesting, appetizing? My English teacher was a magician. She actually got me so excited about conjugating sentences, I found myself doing it to Kennedy's, "Ask not what your country can do for you." This is TMI, but I also did it once with something someone wrote on the bathroom wall.

How do they do it? How do those teachers make class so cool, you can't wait to get there and when the bell rings, you say, "Oh no!"? I'm not a researcher so I don't have a paper on the subject, complete with "researchy" words, but, from experience, I can tell you, there are four things you can start doing right now that will begin to change things. How do I know those four things? All three come right out of the mouths of students. I've heard them talk. 

Before I list them, let me make one thing clear. The answer has little to do with you uncomfortable-morphing into a flailing clown who thinks he has to entertain to be heard.

One: "Class was fun."

Two: "The teacher showed me how to do things."

Three: "The teacher never gave up and kept telling me how I was doing."  

Four: "I got to use my talents in class."

How you pull this off is up to you; I'm just saying.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Multiplication Mania

I call the method, "Multiplication Mania (MM)," because it's wild and crazy and puts healthy pressure on students of one elementary school classroom, to learn the multiplication problems they have trouble with. In a nutshell, it is one hour of drill but it is much more than that. In MM, I break the times table into two parts (1-6 and 7-12) and work on them separately. With the problems and answers written on the board, the children chant them in unison, along with me. Then, they write the complete problem and answer on paper, saying the numbers as they write. We chant and write/say two or three times, depending on how well the class knows the table.

Then we do a mixed test, where the problems are not in order. I say a problem (e.g., 7x3), and the students write the problem and answer down (no chanting). We do all six of the subset (entire table). I will ask one student to tell us his or her answers, students check to see how many they got right. I will ask some of the students if they missed one and to tell me so I can help them.

The help comes through the "30 Second Sweat Competition."  For thirty seconds, students write down, as many times as they can, the one problem (and answer) that is giving them the most trouble. I always know what students are working on what problem. When the drill is over, students count how many times they were able to write the problem and answer and we declare a winner. But they all know, success is doing a little better than the last time.

I will also do the Mixed Test with the students writing down only the answers, not the problem. At this stage, they are really working hard to remember because I will do this drill several times, picking up speed as I see they can handle it.

So, for about 15 minutes, we chant, write and say, do mixed tests, and 30 second drills. We then go on to the seconds subset and do that for about 15 minutes. We always have extra pencils and paper available for they will go through them quickly.

We then do the same for the entire table, with the exception of the 30 second drill. This will take 10 minutes.

The final part of MM is  the Game. It's a Mixed Test for the entire table with students writing down the answer only. After a test, students exchange papers, someone calls out the answers, and the papers are graded. I start out giving the problems slowly, three seconds apart or even more, depending on the class and the students who are having trouble; I want them all to get a perfect score on this first test. Then I pick up the speed as we do more tests. If a student misses one problem he or she is out of the competition. We eventually end up with one winner.

But I have conducted a different version of the Game, where no one is eliminated. I do go faster and faster however, putting pressure on their recall. For this version, we pre and post test and the winners are those who improved and those who got a perfect score. Of course, I don't tell them this until just before the Post Test.

There's more to MM but you would have to see me perform to understand. For example, I offer little tricks to help the students remember a problem/answer some are having difficulty with. On one occasion, the teacher told me, "I always had trouble with 7  x 8." From that point, during mixed tests, when I got to that problem, I said, "the teachers." This association helped many of them learn.

After a drill, I might point at a student who, for example, was having trouble with 7 x 9 = 63 and ask, "7 x 9 equal what?" I may do this for two or three students, bam bam bam. This component is essential for success. Please don't forget about it.

Lastly, we always have fun. It's not drill,  drill, drill. It's a blast. I even hold a box of Kleenex, offering one to a student and saying, "If you are going to fold to the pressure, take one." I know exactly which students can handle this teasing and which can't. I may tell a joke (why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate 9. Ha Ha).

Have fun running MM and let me know if you have any questions at s.naterwa@gmail.com


Friday, October 10, 2014

Jonn Wooden and Details

The Difference is in the Details

Coach Wooden told me, "The difference between the champion and the runner up is often found in the details." Everyone who knows Coach, knows he was a stickler for detail. He had a nauseating contempt for sloppiness and a failure to execute anything "properly." For example, after releasing the basketball for the jump shot, the hand and arm must come back down the same way they went up. In other words, if the shot was filmed and then run backwards from the point of release, this is exactly how it should look. And he always had reasons for his details. The reason for this one was, bringing the hand and arm back in this way ensured the elbow would continue to elevate throughout the shot, a major factor for effective shooting.

In this blog posting, I want to share with you another detail of his that few know about. Adidas came out with it's first basketball shoe in the late 60s. Up to that point, Converse had dominated the market; almost every basketball player in the world was wearing the Chuck Taylor Converse shoe. It was heavy but no one paid attention to that because we didn't know the difference. The Adidas shoe was half the weight. Most of this was due to the invention of the polyurethane sole. It was an amazing shoe; it felt like you weren't wearing anything at all. The only problem with the sole was that it came with a coating on it and was a bit slippery until it was worn and used for some time.

When the shoe came out, Coach Wooden immediately saw the advantage but knew he had to do something about that slippery bottom. He solved the problem. Personally, he rubbed the sole of every shoe with steel wool. 

This blog would be ten pages long if I were to share with you all the details I remember. Suffice it to say, Coach Wooden addressed every single detail. I'll share a few more but there are many.

While most teams used nylon, sleeveless, practice shirts, Coach had us wear cotton T-shirts because they absorbed and disseminated perspiration much better and kept us dryer during the workout.

Pre-game meals consisted of a 16 oz New York steak, baked potato with one TBS butter, peas, melba toast, a mixed fruit cup, and hot tea.

Coach showed us how to put our socks on properly to avoid blisters. If the sock is pulled, it is stretched. A stretched sock will clump in a stretched area and that ball of sock will rub against the foot, causing a blister.

The difference is often in the details.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Math "Aha" Moments

In fifth grade, to teach multiplication, my teacher used "of" instead of "times." In other words, he said, "4 of 6 equals 24." All of a sudden, I understood multiplication. He also used "fit" instead of "divide." "How many 6s fit into 24?" Again, suddenly, I "got" division. Those were two "aha moments" for me.

Good teachers find ways to make difficult things seem a lot more simple.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Answer to Math Problem

Answer to Math Problem about Three Ladies and the $30 room (previous Posting)

Few have been able to provide the answer to the question, “Where is the missing dollar?” 

The $2 the bellman put in his pocket is not part of 3 X $9. The $3 he kept in his pocket is part of that equation. The $2 is part of the equation, $2 plus the $3 the bellman gave the ladies, plus $25 equals $30.  

Math Puzzle

The Three that Checked into the Motel

Three women came to town to attend a friend’s wedding. They found a motel and walked in to get checked in. They wanted to share one room to save cost. The clerk told them, “The room is $30.” All three women paid the clerk $10, received their room keys, and went up to their room. 

Moments later, the clerk realized he had overcharged the women for the room. It’s was actually $25. So he gave the bellman five, one-dollar bills, and instructed him to reimburse the tenants. 

As the bellman climbed the stairs, he realized it was going to be impossible to divide $5 three ways. So, he put two of the dollars in his pocket. He knocked on the door, told the ladies they had been overcharged, and gave each a dollar. 

Now let’s do the math. Each lady originally paid $10 but, after receiving the dollar, ended up paying $9. There were three women. So, 

3 X $9 = $27, plus the $2 the bellman put in his pocket, equals $29. Where is the missing dollar? 

(Answer coming soon)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Big Things, Little Things



“Daddy, come and play with me.”

He begged with outstretched hand.

He was so small—below my knee.

He didn’t understand.


I had far bigger things to do

Like further my career.

Instead of him, I chose to view

The corporate frontier.


“Later, son, I’ll be there soon,”

I hoped that would appease.

I had a meeting right at noon,

But I heard, “Daddy, please!”


“The babysitter’s waiting, son,”

I said, with plastic smile.

“She’ll read you books and let you run.”

“Dad, just a little while?” 


I tied my shoes and tied my tie,

And draped my suit coat on.

While, from the floor, he caught my eye:

My one and only son.


“The Army guys in red are bad,

And the good guys are in blue.

I’ll let you be the good guys, Dad.

I’ll let you beat me too.”


“Rrrunga rrrunga rrrunga rrrung,

The bad guys tanks did blare,

And toward the good guys troops they sprung,

Who had no leader there.


Five or ten were counted dead;

The siege was under way,

Until the good guys’ general said,

“I’d better sit and play.”


The battle waged and fierce it was;

Both sides were holding fast.

There was no stop; there was no pause,

Just guns and tanks and blast.

I saw my watch and I was late,

“Son, cease this army brawl.”

I jumped up, and said, “Son, please wait!

I’ve got to make one call.”


I dialed the phone; he looked so sad.

I said, “It’s Larry Burr.

You know that twelve o’clock I had?

Well, I can’t make it sir.


“Yes, sir, I understand the cost.

Yes, sir, I’ll be surpassed.

But I’ll be poor if I have lost

A son who’s growing fast.


“I’ll see you in the morning, sir.

When day defeats the night.

But now, will you excuse me, sir?

I’ve got a war to fight.”

                        Swen Nater

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Miracle at Jefferson Junior High

The Miracle at Jefferson Junior High


I learned to fight at an early age. Born in Holland in 1950, I was one of three children, the middle one. At age three I remember my parents divorcing and my older sister and I moving in with a friend of the family. My little brother stayed with my mother. In time, she found a husband and the three of them left for the US, promising to bring my sister and I over soon.


Five years later, a nationally-televised program brought my sister and I to America, surprising my mother and stepfather on national television. It was one week from the start of fourth grade at Roosevelt Elementary School in Long Beach, California.


My fighting started a few years before that, in Holland. I don’t remember exactly when I began to want to fight every boy in the school, but I do remember, at recess, every recess, fighting six or seven kids at the same time, almost every day. They hated me and I hated them.


I remember being taken to visit a man in an office, who had me play with toys and asked me strange questions like, “Why did you get mad at that wooden train? Do you hate trains?” I don’t think it did any good because the fighting continued and got worse. Luckily I went to America, away from all those bad boys, right? Wrong.


I loved Roy Rogers. His show was on TV every Wednesday in Holland and all the kids in the neighborhood (we lived in Foster Homes for three years) gathered at the one home with the TV and watched that show, with eyes wide open, everyone wishing he was a cowboy. So, on the first day of school in America, I wore my little brother’s revolvers and holster (he warned me not to) and walked onto the campus thinking I was cool. About twenty kids saw me coming and began to point and laugh hysterically. Lucky for me, the vice-principal saw me and redirected me to his office where I lost the firearms and went to class.


But the damage was done; I hated those kids as much, or more, than the ones in Holland. They began to pick on me during recess and lunch because I was different. That’s when the fighting began again, every day.  


This continued into junior high school. I didn’t fight every day there, just once in a while, because there were some pretty tough kids there and I knew I would lose. But, at the beginning of ninth grade (three year junior high school), I was bigger than anyone and fought for fifteen days in a row. In one of those fights, I got my rear end kicked all the way down the hall by a kid I never thought could fight so well. Both of us were sent to the office.


There (I know now), the decision was made, Washington Junior High was not the place for me. I was transferred to Jefferson Junior High and, in early October of 1965 I walked into my new school.


I was met by the principal who introduced himself and told me he was glad I was there and that I was going to do just fine. He introduced me to a wonderful lady who was going to help me make the transition. She was a certified counselor. Every morning for thirty minutes, for the entire school year, she and I talked. She helped me talk through my issues and it really helped. I didn’t have one fight the entire year and my grades went from a C average to almost straight As.


The only class I earned a B in was Poetry and Journalism, taught by my favorite teacher, Mrs. Rochte. When she introduced the class to “Richard Cory,” I fell in love with rhyme, rhythm, and generating emotion. One class, when we were focusing on Journalism, the hour started with a fellow male teacher storming in the room and yelling at Mrs. Rochte about something. He threw chalk at the board and smashed an eraser on the floor, then angrily left the room, slamming the door behind him. We were stunned with mouths wide open.


As soon as he left, Mrs.  Rochte quickly, and with a smirk on her face, moved in front of us and said, “Take out a piece of paper and a pencil and write down everything you heard, smelled, and saw. I want details down to the color of his shoelaces.” We moaned to show our disapproval of how we were not given pre-warning but she said, “If you’re going to be a journalist, you have to learn how to observe.” Many of Mrs. Rochte’s class sessions were like that.


I’m pretty sure the principal told all of my teachers about me and my issues. They all paid special attention to me, acknowledging my effort and encouraging me in many ways.


As I said, I didn’t have one fight at Jefferson and that continued until my senior year at Wilson High School. I had one fight there, when a huge football player “chose me off” in front of the entire school at lunch. I was 6’4” by then, but skinny as a rail. I was so thin, when taking a shower after PE, I almost slipped through the drain. He was about 250 pounds. Unfortunately for him however, he didn’t know I had been taking boxing lessons.


I thank everyone at Jefferson Junior High for what they did for me. It was quite the turnaround for me and truly changed my life.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Seven Needs of a Student

The Seven Needs of a Student


There are basic essentials a laborer needs to be successful at his or her job such as the proper tools in working condition, good training, perhaps attire, and a safe workplace. Likewise, a student has basic needs that are foundational to success. One might actually call them “rights.” Whatever they are called, when a teacher provides all of these needs consistently, the student’s chance for success has been greatly increased.


One: To Know the Rules

Clear boundaries and consequences, in addition to known expectations are important to establish the culture of the class.


“We are a family. Everything we say and do in this room is to help each other.”


Two: Challenging Achievement Expectations

Tough but reasonable expectations for all students that prevent them from selling themselves short.


“Don’t compare yourself to someone else but never cease trying to become the best you can be. You are you. You will always be a second-best somebody else. What is your potential?”


Three: Thoughtful but Sustained Pressure to Meet Expectations

Persistent and incessant monitoring of student progress and reminders to keep striving for the goals. Don’t let them give up. Keep refueling in whatever way necessary.


“We both know this last paper was not your best. You are way better than this. Please take the time to check your work, polish it up, and bring it up to your standards. If you need help, ask me or another student. Don’t let yourself down. Come on.”


Four: A Safe Environment for Expressing Opinions and Ideas

Freedom to contribute verbally. Don’t tolerate suppressive comments about what someone has said.


“Class, a big part of gaining knowledge in this world is hearing what others have to say. That’s what we do here in this class. If you have something you want to contribute, everyone here, including me, wants to hear it and it won’t be judged negatively by anyone. Keep ideas flowing.” 


Five: A Feeling of Belonging to the Group

Students need to know they are important to the class. Being able to contribute is important. Recognize effort every time you see it.


“We missed you yesterday.”

“Yes, Andrea. Thank you for saying that because I would have forgotten.”


Six: A Legitimate Chance to Earn More Responsibility

Give students jobs but make them earn them. Provide a way for a student to earn the right to a more difficult and, perhaps more important job.


“If you have perfect attendance this month, you’ll have earned the right to take roll for me.”

“When these problems get easy for you, I have some more challenging ones and we’ll consider them extra credit.”


Seven: A Exemplary Role Model

A teacher whose ethics are above reproach, has deep subject knowledge, and loves students as well as the subject being taught.


(Appreciation to Wendy Ghiora, Ronald Gallimore, and Brad Ermeling

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Second-Hand Shoes Poem

Second-Hand Shoes
Swen Nater

I bought a pair of brown walking shoes,
At the second hand store today. 
I rushed them home, sat down in my easy chair,
And anxiously put them on, 
With closed eyes and head back thinking away,
Searching for answers and clues.
To what man did they belong?
What does he look like and what else does he wear?
Is his name Ralph or Mike or Don? 
Is he a happy man? Did he take the shoes to happy places?
Or were they present during a sad song,
That dropped him to the floor? 
Why are they scuffed a bit, in places?
Did he not need them anymore?
Did he get a brand new pair with better form?

Does he miss them at all for they feel so comfortable and warm?

The AD as an Instructional Leader

The AD as an Instructional Leader

Would we all agree, the most important hat a school principal wears is the hat of “Instructional Leader?” If the function of a school is to educate young people, and education primarily takes place in the classroom, and the principal is the school leader, should not the principal be actively-engaged in the educational process by visiting classrooms, evaluating teacher performance, and helping them improve their instructional methods through whatever means necessary, including new resources? And shouldn’t the principal do that for all teachers? And shouldn’t all that effort be part of a plan that will improve learning and test scores toward some measurable goal? 

If you don’t agree, please abort now. If you do agree, I’m going to throw something at you that is a huge challenge for schools. I’m going to suggest, as the principal is the instructional leader for classroom teachers, the athletic director is the instructional leader for coaches. I’m going to suggest, the AD should be actively-involved in the improvement of every coach, for every sport. The AD should be out there observing practice sessions, using some sort of evaluation form used to grade the coach in several areas, some of which are: 

What is the ratio of time on task vs standing around?
How long did it take to teach something new and did it stick?
Was error correction quick?
Was practice organized? Was there wasted time?
Did practice start on time? Did it end on time?
Was there a lesson plan? If so, was there a goal and was that goal met? And were the players informed of the goal?
Did the coach change the lesson plan during practice?
Was practice enjoyable for the players? 

Do you agree? Easier said than done isn’t it? It’s difficult enough for a school principal to make the time to be the instructional leader (and I mean BE the instructional leader, not hit a classroom once a week or so). And they do it during the school day. But if the AD is going to do the same, he or she must work late afternoons and even into the evenings because that’s when practices take place. That’s family time. 

Is this too much to ask? Is it too time consuming for an AD to coach every coach? In a small high school, it’s very possible for the principal to observe and coach every teacher, and it’s being done all the time. In larger high schools, that responsibility is shared with a vice-principal. The same can be done for the athletic director. 

We are assuming, the AD was a master teacher before becoming AD. This is not always the case. So how can we expect an athletic director, who knows little about real effective teaching that gets results, to instantly morph in to an expert? There is only one way that works. The principal calls that AD into the office and says, “Your primary job is to evaluate and improve your coaches, particularly in the teaching area in practice session. When you help them become master teachers, the results, like winning, will take care of themselves. Now get out there and do it. If you need anything to make that happen, let me know and I’ll get you the help you need. Come into my office, every Monday morning, and give me a detailed written report on what you have done and the results.”

Necessity is the mother of invention. That AD will make it happen because the expectations are clear, resources are available, and there is monitoring and followup. Yes, the AD has many responsibilities such as budget and scheduling, but the primary one is training coaches how to teach, run very productive practices that result in improved game performance, and here’s my last point, the game is fun for the players. 

Do I need to give you links to remind you of all the coaches in recent history that have made the sport a bummer for the players? One was throwing basketballs at his players and kicking them. We’ve got coaches getting in players’ faces, belittling them during practices and games. Sports should be fun and the AD needs to make sure the coaches are not only becoming skilled master teachers, but the players are having a good time and want to come back the next day. 


Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Definition of Success

From “You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned”

The definition of success:

When the great John Wooden (UCLA basketball coach) first coached, he also taught a full load of high school English. During his first year he came to the realization, all the parents expected their children to get an A in his class. They  believed their children were capable of obtaining the highest grade. 

But Wooden knew, God in his infinite wisdom did not make all of us the same and while some of his student were rather gifted in English, others struggled greatly to spell and write. For some, a C grade would have been a great accomplishment. He continually tried to get across to those students, doing one’s best is success no matter what the outcome, but he saw it didn’t really register. So he came up with a definition for success to help them. 

His definition was influenced by two people—his father and a Major League Umpire. His father had always told his children, “Never try to be better than someone else but never cease trying to become the best you can be.” That had a great impact on the young John Wooden. When he was on his own he ran across a poem by George Moriarty, “The Road Ahead and the Road Behind,” which said in part, 

For who can ask more of a man,
Than giving all within his span.
Giving all, it seems to me,
Is not so far from victory.

He then penned his definition of success:

‘Success is the peace of mind, which is a direct result of the self-satisfaction in knowing, you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.’

It is human nature to compare oneself to another person. When at UCLA, I played behind the great Bill Walton and so in practice every day, I played against him. For two years, that was frustrating. He was such a good defensive player, I could hardly get a good shot. After practice, I often hung my head is depression, knowing I would never be able to compete against Bill. So I know exactly how some of Coach Wooden’s English students felt when writing a simple paragraph was a daunting struggle while the person next to them made it look so easy. 

But John Wooden, seeing my despair, talked to me one day in his office and told me exactly what he told his high school English students. He told me, while I may never be as great as Bill, I had talents of my own. I was very strong and extremely skilled at rebounding (getting the ball when a someone missed a shot). He encouraged me to look at my own talents and work at becoming the best Swen Nater there is. in parting, he gave me a quote that helped me,

“I am me. I am the best me there is. I will always be a second-best somebody else.”

So, I stopped trying to become a second-best Bill Walton and focused on improving myself. I liked the results. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to Memorize Almost Anything: Spelling Words

How to Memorize Anything, Spelling Words

The system works very well for spelling words. 
First, the teacher and students analyze the word to see how it’s dressed. It may have a double consonant or even two. It may have a strange spelling for a sound. For example, “Lieutenant.” has a unique spelling for the sound /oo/, “ieu.”  I employed a trick for this word by imagining a band of ten ants with a Lieutenant. The band was supposed to get up early and build a tunnel but they slept in. When the Lieutenant showed up and asked one of them why they were only half way done, I (because I like the ants) tell them, “Lie You Ten Ants.” 

In the classroom, the procedure is the same as mentioned in the previous posting or tweet. Let me review for those who did not read that one.
First step is to have students look at the word carefully and even find a trick if you need to. Then the word is taken away and they are told, “In thirty seconds, I will ask you  to spell the word again.” 
Thirty seconds later the teacher says, “Spell the word.” Every student writes it on a paper. Teacher checks to see if anyone needs help and provides. it Then students are told, “In one minute, I will ask you again.” The class is distracted with something else and, in one minute, teacher asks again.
The next time it’s five minutes, then ten, then thirty , then one hour and then end of the class day. 

To learn a spelling word yourself, be creative as to how you will give yourself the periodic notifications to spell the new word. I work behind a computer all day so I have entered meeting requests in my calendar so I get pop ups that say, “Spell the word.” It works. 

Why does this work? When you resurface something that’s sinking out of recall, every time you bring it back up, it stays up a little longer. That’s the best way I can explain it. It also works because, when you tell someone, “In one minute……,” they are going to think about that and keep, whatever is to be memorized, in the front of their mind. 

The value if the exercise goes beyond learning a spelling word, which they will. You are teaching students how to memorize (or how to fish so to speak). Soon, they will create their own tricks and use the system. Or, they may create another system that works for them. 


Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to Memorize Almost Anything in One Day

If you follow this formula (or teach others), you will be able to memorize almost anything. This is simple and, when you read it, it will make perfect sense. I'm going to give you an example first.
Early in the morning, while my wife was still asleep, I was reading about canning and the "Mason Jar" was mentioned. Interested why it was called that, I googled the origin. It was invented and patented by John Landis Mason in 1858.  I went to another webpage but while there I realized I didn't remember Mason's first and last name. I went back to the site and saw his name.
My wife is always interested in the origin of things so I told myself to remember the man's name so I could tell here when she woke up. But I was afraid I would forget it again. Then I remembered a memory trick I learned years ago. Here's the trick in steps.
Turn away  from the name and say it.
Thirty Seconds Later:Say it again
One Minute: Again
Five Minutes: Again
Thirty Minutes: Again
One Hour: Again
Next Day: Again
It works for anything as long as it's not too complicated.
Application for School:
Another simple thing to remember is a multiplication problem some students may be having  difficulty with like 6 X 8 = 48.
We put it on the board and tell students, "Look at it because I'm going to erase it and ask you in thirty seconds."
We distract them for thirty seconds and ask again. We tell them we will ask again in one minute.
After that, you start teaching something else but you do tell the students you will ask in five minutes. You get the idea. It's fun and works.
And here is one more tool that will drill it in. Give students a paper that has the problem on it. They are to give it to their parents and have them the ask them. Parents are to sign the paper and students bring them back to school the next day.

More complex things to memorize. These will have to be taught in more detail first before applying this memory system
Nursery Rhymes
Pledge of Allegiance.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rebounding in Life

When in the ABA and NBA, I scored 12.5 points a game but my real strength was rebounding. For those who don't know what rebounding is, it's simple. When a shot is taken and it misses, that's called a "rebound." When it misses, somebody grabs it. That person is the rebounder. I absolutely loved rebounding. I was a rebounder and I have records to prove it. I won't bore you with that.

The person who takes a shot and misses is sad because he (could be she) didn't get the two or three points. People who shoot a lot like points because, when you get a lot of points, you get your picture in the next morning's paper. But the rebounder (his teammate) is happy when he sees a ball about to clank off the rim. He's happy because now he gets a chance to score by grabbing the rebound and putting the ball in the basket. While the shooter stands there, with a long face because he didn't get his points, the rebounder is happy because he helped his team. I can say this because it's been 40 years since I played; it's also kinda cool to get the points and wink at the shooter who didn't get them.

Keith Erickson, member of 1964 UCLA championship team, who played with two ball-hogs Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich, told me he once kindly asked Gail to pass him the ball once in a while. Gail told him, "If you want the ball, go rebound." There you go.

OK. This is getting too long. I have lots of stories but I'll get to the point.

We can learn about rebounding in life, by analyzing rebounding on the basketball court. We can learn how to make good out of bad in our daily lives, just like the rebound in basketball is turning something seemingly bad (the missed shot) into something good (a score). Here's how.

There are three steps to basketball rebounding:
One: Assume Every Shot is Missed
Two: Get in Position for the Rebound
Three: Go Get the Ball

Great rebounders know this formula and that's why they are great rebounders.  Those who stand there and assume the ball is going in, are in a dream world. The ball will go in less than half the time. Yet they dream on. If you don't get position, when the shot is taken, you'll also be away from where the ball will go. When you don't go after the rebound competitively, you'll lose the race. Somebody else will get it.

There are three steps to rebounding in life:
One: Assume Things Are  Not Always Going to Go Right (The Miss)
Two: Get Prepared for Possible  Change (Getting Position)
Three: Go After the New Opportunity (Going After It)

In basketball, the missed shot is nothing more than change. We thought the ball was going in but it did not.  That's change. In life, those who anticipate change (the rebounders) are already one step toward being prepared. Those who make plans for change (i.e., Learning another skill incase you loose your job) are ready. And, with every closed door another one opens. The Rebounder in Life sees the open door and goes through it.

Those of you who read my tweet, "My Story," know that I know change. I'm a rebounder and that's why I was able to move on, even when things looked the worst.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin

Keep Rebounding, Friends,

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Teachers September Prayer

The Teacher’s September Prayer
Swen Nater


Dear sovereign loving God, I beg Thee, please;

September sends me to my humble knees.

I love my students and I gravely plead,

That this year, Thou wouldst meet their every need.


I pray that in the homes where they belong,

They get the nourishment to make them strong,

And proper garments made from woven wool,

So they can come in warmth and bellies full.


Oh gracious, kind, and caring God above,

Make every home a place of living love.

And may that love cause them to weigh their worth,

And know they have a right to be on earth.


And then, my God, I beg Thee and beseech,

Empow’r me with the proper skill to teach.

And let them learn success is not a grade;

It’s in the try and if the price was paid.


And when that joyous June bell finally rings,

I pray, I woke their wills to spread their wings,

And spawned a spark to know, inside each heart,

So what they learned from me was just the start.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, lived a near-perfect example in front of me for three years. Years later, he gave me this poem. Now it all makes sense.

No written word, no spoken plea,
Can teach our youth what they should be,
Not all the books on all the shelves;
it's what the teachers are themselves.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Game of Life

Swen Nater


The Little League game was about to begin,

On a perfectly, wonderful day.

One team sprinted out

With a spirited shout,

For the boys were excited to play.  


As their coach saw the field, with his players in place,

A vision took over his sight.

Each Little League lad

Grew the age of a dad,

Complete with the beard and the height.


His pitcher, an artist, composed to create

On a canvas awaiting and bare.

His stroke on the ball

Made it spin and then fall

When it curved and it carved through the air. 


His catcher, a general, positioned in place,

Was leading the rest of the pack.

On his signal and sign,

They joined to combine,

With a quick and successful attack.


His shortstop, a surgeon, whose quickness and skill,

When it seemed as though death cast its fate,

On the double, he caught,

What the grave almost got,

And threw lifelessness out at the plate. 


His outfield consisted of no lesser men:

Three statesmen with not one reproach.

On third was a preacher,

And on second, a teacher,

On first was a Little League coach. 


As the vision grew fainter, the coach stopped and thought.

The epiphany cut like a knife.

Baseball was more

Than a game and a score;

It was practice for the game of life.   

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Story

My name is Swen Nater. I am known for being a UCLA, ABA, and NBA basketball player in the 70s and 80s.

I was born in The Netherlands in 1950. My parents divorced when I was three. My stepfather, mother, and little brother left for the US, leaving my sister and I in Holland, promising to bring us over in a couple of years. Six years went by where we lived in several foster homes and finally ended up in a home for orphans. We received letters from my mother and rarely saw our father.

In September 1959, we flew to the US through a miracle. Friends of my parents in Arizona asked the television show, "It Could Be You" (like This is Your Life), to bring us over and surprise our parents. They agreed and on a Hollywood stage, on national TV, our parents, who thought they were there because they got free tickets, were brought on stage. The curtain opened and they saw a miniature windmill in which my sister and I were hiding. On the cue, we leaped out and embraced our parents.

But my stepfather was angry because his plan was for us to never come to the US. So, for the next ten years, from age 9-19, he made life miserable for me. He beat me on the lower back regularly to where there were whelps, made me stand in the bathroom for hours with my hands up (the pain), didn't allow me to make friends, made me come home after school and get in my room, didn't allow anything but cold showers (and he would check because he took the lock off the bathroom door), and even though four of my molars were decayed to the root, didn't send me to a dentist. Some nights I just couldn't fall asleep.

I tried out for my high school basketball team but was cut. He would not have allowed me to play anyway. At Cypress Junior College, now 18, I tried out for the team and made it because I was six feet nine inches. I was not very good at all. The assistant coach had to sweet talk my stepfather into letting me on the team. It worked. At the end of the year I started to improve and got my chance. I was put in the game and I excelled. The next game, last of the season, I scored 20 points.

That summer, the assistant coach sweet talked my stepfather into letting him take me to LA to play in the Ghettos. We went almost every Saturday. At first, I got my butt kicked but soon they were asking me to be on their teams. I improve rapidly.

During pre-season the next year, my stepfather told to quit basketball and concentrate on my studies. The next mooring, I packed up extra clothes, left home, and moved in with a teammate and his family.

I was All-America that year, MVP of my team, and scored 26 points per game and pulled down over 16 rebounds per game, best in the nation. I was recruited by many top schools and chose UCLA where I played for John Wooden. However, I sat the bench for two years, behind the great Bill Walton.

I had two opportunities to prove I could play. The first was after my junior year at the Olympic trials. Coach Wooden asked the committee to let me play since Walton did not accept. As an unknown, I led the camp in scoring. The second was after I graduated at the Pizza Hut All Star game in Las Vegas. Again, Coach Wooden got me in because Bill didn't want to participate. I was MVP of the game which resulted in me being the 16th player picked int the first round of the NBA draft.

I chose the ABA however and was Rookie of the Year and second team All Star. I also led the league in field goal percentage. The second year I was also All Star and led the ABA in rebounds.

When the ABA merged with the NBA, I went to the Milwaukee Bucks where I shattered Kareem Abdul Jabbar's singe game rebound record (I had 33) and set an NBA record for defensive rebounds in a half (18) which still stands. I also became a member of the all-time 30/30 club, thirty or more points and thirty or more rebounds in the same game. There are only six members.

I was traded to the Buffalo Braves which moved to San Diego to become the Clippers. There I led the NBA in rebounds and set a franchise record for double doubles (points and rebounds) in a season.

I was traded to the Lakers where we played in the NBA finals against the Celtics. My last year, I went to Italy and played. It was a great experience.

When retired, I helped start an athletic program at San Diego Christian College. I was head coach and we won a national championship.

I went to work for Costco where I am now employed. I have written five books, mostly to do with teaching, which is my passion. You see, I was coached by John Wooden, the greatest teacher I have personally witnessed. Together with Ron Gallimore, I wrote You Haven't Taught Until They Have Learned, a study of his teaching methods.

I have recovered from what my stepfather did to me. My passion is to help children learn by helping teachers become great, like John Wooden.


PS please excuse typos. I just wanted to write this from the heart without going back to edit.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Five Things I Learned About Children by Taking My Grandson to Disneyland

Last week, we flew from Seattle to Long Beach to take my grandson to Disneyland. He had never been on an airplane before and this was his first trip to Disneyland. Here are five things I learned about children through the experience.

One: Children Need Their Curiosity Satisfied, not Quenched.

Children are naturally curious and the only way for them to satisfy that curiosity is to ask questions. At the Seattle airport and on the plane, some of his questions (that he asked many times) were: “Are we getting on that plane?” “Are we going way up in the sky?” “Are we going to Disneyland?” “Are we taking off?” “Are we up in the air yet?” “What is that mountain down there?” “Are we landing?” “Did we land?” “Where are we going now?” And you can imagine all the questions he had when we were renting a car, checking into the hotel, driving to Disneyland, taking the Disney bus to the park, and when we were at Disneyland.

We answered all of his questions, every time, not matter how many times he asked the same one. Sometimes, we stopped, picked him up or dropped down to his level, to explain things in detail. Had I asked him to not ask the same question twice or ignored him, he would have eventually stopped the questions and learning would also have ceased.  

Two: Children Want to Know What is Coming Up.

When we landed in Long Beach, he wanted to know exactly what was going to happen. We told him, we were going to get a car, then drive it to the hotel, and then go to In and Out Burger (the best burger in the world, and where he ate a whole burger for the first time). Of course, he wanted to know if we were going to Disneyland after that. We told him, we would go tomorrow, when we woke up. At least ten times, he asked us to give him the schedule again and we did. That made a big difference for him.

Three: Children Want to Understand the Reasons for Rules.

Disneyland has many rules. Some of them are: Wait your turn, keep your hands inside the boat at Pirates and Small World, stay behind the chains, and don’t stand on the walls. The great thing is; all the rules have very good reasons, such as consideration for others and especially safety.  The number of times we had to remind him of the rules are too many to count, but each time, when we gave him the reason for the rule, he was OK with it.

Four: Children Need Balance Between Free Choice and Following a Schedule.

We had a two day pass. The first half of the first day, we determined the schedule because we knew what attractions and rides to visit. My grandson quickly picked out his favorites (Buz Lightyear, Pirates, Lightning McQueen racecars, Splash Mountain, and he let us know he wanted to do those things more than once. We did Buz Lightyear four times and Pirates two times. Splash Mountain and Lightning McQeeen’s lines were too long, which leads me to another very important point: Explain when things change. When arriving at Splash Mountain for a second ride, the line was over an hour long. We explained it to him, he was fine with it, and asked if he could go on Buz Lightyear again.

Five: Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep.

When he asked if he could go on Splash Mountain again, we told him, “We will go there and see if we can get on.” Had we promised him he could go on, and backed out, something terrible would have happened; he would have been disappointed in us. Disappointments like that damage relationships because they are built on trust.