#DBC50Summer 2/50: Pure Genius

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that prior to this #DBC50Summer blog series, Pure Genius by Don Wettrick  (website, Twitter) was one of the few books published by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc (DBC) that I did not own.  I had heard wonderful things about it and had watched the TEDx video; I just had not read it.  I’ll be honest… I couldn’t see enough relevance in my current role to purchase this book as I do not have a class of students anymore. (Don, I’m so sorry I doubted it!  I should’ve known better! I sure do feel better getting that off my conscience though!) One of the reasons I want to read the #DBC50 in order is to uncover jewels like this one that I may not have felt a connection to otherwise!  I had no idea that when I started reading, I wouldn’t be able to put it down.


After an exciting evening spent working with fantastic educators from across North Carolina to plan Digital Learning sessions for summer professional development, I hustled back to my hotel room to start reading.  Before I knew it the clock said it was after 1:00 in the morning, and I had finished the book.  I literally could. not. put. it. down. And the entire time, my wheels were turning and I was thinking of ways to recreate this in my school, even without having students of my own.

What’s It About?!

Pure Genius is about creating a culture of innovation and allowing students to explore their own passions.  It’s about moving beyond the idea of dedicating the typical 20% of your class time to allow for this exploration and passion projects.  Don upped the bar by creating an ENTIRE CLASS devoted to this idea of Genius Hour/Passion Projects and allowing the students to really own the class.  He truly became the facilitator; he asks questions of the students and helps them manage their time.  Every single year is different because every group of students in the class has different passions.

The struggle was real with the pink highlighter I used.  The poor thing just couldn’t quite make it through all of the awesome that Don shares within the book’s 150 pages.  I actually had to cut back on my highlighting toward the end.  RIP, Pink Highlighter.

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

One of my favorite things about Don’s book is he starts with the WHY!  The very first chapter “WHY INNOVATE” hit home.  I love that he immediately addresses that “innovation”  has become so overused and cliché.  This is so greatly appreciated because the list of educational buzzwords continues to get longer and longer.  It’s unfortunate because many of these buzzwords once started as something powerful, but has lost it’s luster.  My job title as Lead Digital Learning & Media Innovation Facilitator needs to be shortened; it’s a mouthful.  My directors and I had discussed various possibilities to condense it, and one option was Innovation Facilitator.  Y’all… I can’t handle that kind of pressure.  If “Innovation Facilitator” is a stand-alone title, that’s some serious standards to live up to, in my opinion.  It doesn’t bother me within the insanely long title because by the time we get to “innovation” people have tuned out anyway.  But if I say, “Hi, I’m Alicia Ray, Innovation Facilitator at a STEM Magnet Middle School”… I better be ready to back that up with some innovative experiences for students! Otherwise, I’m contributing to the buzzword factory.

Anyhow, continuing through Don’s book, I found myself nodding the entire time.  Don’s father gave him advice before his first year teaching and it’s certainly words for us to live by!  “(Insert your name here), I don’t care if you teach for the next twenty years; just don’t teach one year twenty times.”  Let that sink in… if you have a filing cabinet FULL of old worksheets; do students, and yourself, a favor this summer.  Clean that thing out.  There’s nothing wrong with choosing a few amazing lessons and repeating them, with tweaks, to the next class of students if it will engage them.  However, doing the same thing year after year makes your teaching irrelevant – yup, I said that. Feelings may be hurt. My blog though, so I get to freely share my opinions.  Instead, hop on Twitter and ask your #PLN for ideas when planning for that standard/unit.  You’ll be amazed at the facelift your lessons receive.  It will keep your classroom fresh, engaging, and constantly changing.  Basically, Don’s dad is a genius (see what I did there…)

Don does an amazing job speaking to readers about how to create a culture that not only allows failure, but encourages and supports it as a necessary piece of the learning puzzle.  The blueprint for an Innovation Class is easy to follow and replicable in any grade level.  In fact, he gives examples of the concept of Genius Hour at an elementary, a middle, and a high school!  Spoiler alert: Future DBC author is featured here! (Yes, I totally geeked out with that realization, sure did!)

There are chapters devoted to using social media as a platform for sharing with the world.  He speaks to connecting with others, and the opportunities these connections have given his students.  Another quote to live by (it totally inspired and motivated me) is featured in this #BookSnaps tweet – note that it was tweeted shortly before 1:00 AM!

Are you looking for opportunities? Are you actively seeking out opportunities that will enhance your own professional development, which enhances your students’ learning experience? Networking is the key to success today.  Do you know the right people?  Do you even realize that you’re already connected to everyone in some way?

Ever heard of a Bacon Number?  This is not the number of bacon strips you can eat in one sitting (mmmmm, bacon).  It’s basically how far removed actors/actresses are from Kevin Bacon.  Check it out here.  This principle can be applied to anyone really.  We all know somebody who knows somebody.  Take the opportunities that are presented to you and make the most of them!

There is so much about Don Wettrick’s Pure Genius that I love – quotes, student voice, digital citizenship, MacGyver, grading negotiations (yes, that’s a thing – and it’s incredible)… I can’t possibly write about it all.  Just trust that you need to get this book.  Don’t be like me; don’t think it’s not applicable to you.  It is!  In fact, Don says, “You don’t really need a formal classroom to change the world. Create your own path.”

My Bright Idea for Implementing

That’s exactly what I’m doing when we return to school.  I accept applications for Makerspace Managers.  These students are in charge of the makerspace in our media center.  When I say they’re in charge, I literally don’t know where things are located sometimes because the students run the space.  I love it!  These Makerspace Managers may be promoted after one successful year to Makerspace Mentors.  They then help me select the new Managers from the applications.  After three years, they have the opportunity to be promoted to Makerspace Advisors.  They work with me directly to advise the mentors and managers – doing the communication, making sure mentors are following through, and then following up with projects.  While this group is amazing, I’ve been trying to think of something fresh (my filing cabinet is empty, by the way).  See where I’m going here?  These students will lead the way for implementing a before-and/or after-school Innovation Club.  Clubs are always a safe place to start, so we’ll see what happens.  I’ve got to speak with the Managers and Mentors to outline all the details; once it’s hashed out a bit more, I can blog about it – hold me accountable for that.  I’m creating my own path, as Don suggests!

Did you know that this book was released by DBC almost two years after Teach Like A Pirate? That would make Don Wettrick the “First Follower” of DBC! Check out this video which explains how important this book really is within the DBC line up!  The first follower is everything!  Without the first follower, there would have never been a second, third, fiftieth follower… imagine a world with no DBC books (GASP!).

I can’t encourage readers enough to grab a copy of Don’s book.  It was informational, conversational, inspiring, and packed full of everything that can be right with education, if we will just be bold and take a leap of faith.  There is so much depth to Book 2/50 and is well-worth the read!  I’d love for you to share your favorite take-aways from Don’s book!  How are you implementing Genius Hour in your class/school?

Update: June 22, 2018…The creative genius that is Andrea Paulakovich (blog and Twitter), an instructional coach and educator from the great state of Kansas, contacted me via Twitter to co-pilot a Flipgrid for readers to respond and connect as they embark on this #DBC50Summer journey!  I am so excited to have educators take hold of this crazy idea of mine to commit to reading every DBC book, and thrilled that Andrea has taken on the challenge and wants to take it a step further in collaborating!  This is just another example of how, as educators, we are #BetterTogether!  I am thrilled to edit this post to add the option of a Flipgrid response! You may use the question prompts available, but please do not feel restricted by those!  Share your thoughts on the book!  The password for each topic on the Grid is DBCSummer – looking forward to watching these videos as they roll in!  You may respond using this link.

While you’re waiting for your copy to come in, check out these videos and podcasts!

YouTube Videos: TEDxBallStateUniversity, Sparks Tech, Subscribe to Don’s YouTube Channel

Podcasts: The Principal Center, Don’s StartEdUp podcast

Next on the #DBC50Summer list… none other than P is for Pirate by Dave & Shelley Burgess (told you that you’d hear from her again soon).  This little ABC picture book is not for the kids!  It’s for YOU! Prepare for a picture book of inspiration, mixed in with a little game of I SPY where “X marks the spot”?!?! Hmmm…. what’s that about? More on that coming in the next post!

12 thoughts on “#DBC50Summer 2/50: Pure Genius

  1. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 4/50: Learn Like A Pirate | AliciaRay.com

  2. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 8/50: The Zen Teacher | AliciaRay.com

  3. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 9/50: The Innovator’s Mindset | AliciaRay.com

  4. Pingback: #DBC50Summer Book 1-10 Recap | AliciaRay.com

  5. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 15/50: The Classroom Chef | AliciaRay.com

  6. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 34/50: Code Breaker | AliciaRay.com

  7. Pingback: #DBC50Summer: The Wild Card | AliciaRay.com

  8. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 35/50: The Wild Card | AliciaRay.com

  9. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 38/50: Google Apps for Littles | AliciaRay.com

  10. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 39/50: The Limitless School | AliciaRay.com

  11. Pingback: Top Ten Blog Posts of 2018 | Educational Hindsight

  12. Pingback: Innovation Engineers | Educational Hindsight

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s