#DBC50Summer 5/50: Ditch That Textbook

Okay, friends. (Is it okay that I call you friends?  If you’ve stuck with me for 5 posts, I feel like we’re close enough to be friends.) I hope you’re a friend because I’m getting ready to tell you something quite embarrassing about myself… oooh goodness.

When I was hired two months after graduating from Appalachian State University with a degree in elementary education, I knew everything there was to know about teaching.  I’d had the classes, right?  I just knew I was going to be a creative teacher – you know, with projects and all.  I couldn’t wait to teach math, as that was my concentration area. I was hired to teach fifth grade students and somehow lucked up to be specialized in math!  I taught three math classes a day for 65 minutes each.  I also did read aloud with my homeroom, self-selected reading, and a teensy bit of writing (okay, let’s be honest – we did it once a quarter so they’d have a writing grade)

So there I was… a math teacher.  Twenty years old (Goodness, what a baby I was!) and getting to influence ten-, eleven-, and twelve-year old girls and boys hoping they would love math as much as I did.  What’s not to love?!  It’s logical, there is always a correct answer, and you complete the same steps over and over again.  I found out quick, fast, and in a hurry that everyone doesn’t love math! Many don’t even like it! (I know – I was shocked, too!!!) However, I was a TERRIFIC math teacher.  Do you know how I know that?  Great test scores. Every year. In fact, my very first year of teaching I had 100% of students pass the standardized math test in my state. That naturally made me an amazing teacher, right?  How did I do it??

I sat on a wooden stool at my overhead cart (yeah, true story) and using purple, hot pink, and teal blue Vis-A-Vis wet erase markers, I worked every. single. problem. in. the. math. textbook. while my students copied it in their math notebook.  We would do the odd problems together and the even problems independently.  Students sat in desks that created a 5 x 4 array (just a fancy way of saying rows and columns).  I sat at the “front” of the room.  Pencils were sharpened, notebooks were used, math procedures were learned… I was an amazing math teacher.

I am so embarrassed by that story.  Unfortunately, it’s all true. I was that teacher. Now mind you, I remember every single student I had; we built great relationships!  I went to watch them play ball games and got to know their families.  I even gave my youngest daughter the middle name of one of my students from my first year. The vast majority of that group have graduated from college and are doing their best to “adult” today.  I think back and remember them with a smile.

And I bet they hated my class!  I don’t blame them.  I did them a GREAT disservice. I was that teacher. I needed book 5 of the #DBC50 twelve years ago.  I should have made it a point to Ditch That Textbook!


Now I’ll be the first to admit when I saw this book, I thought I knew exactly what it would say.  I need to make sure I’m using resources other than the textbook. WRONG!  Matt Miller (blog and Twitter) gives us so much more than just other resources.  Now with both Teach Like A Pirate and Learn Like A Pirate, I refused to give the meaning of the acronyms away.  I believe you need to know what DITCH stands for in order to get you in the right frame of mind.

  • D – Different

  • I – Innovative

  • T – Tech-Laden

  • C – Creative

  • H – Hands-On

Contrary to belief, Matt Miller isn’t writing about throwing textbooks away.  He wants us to be more… well… pirate-y with our lessons.  He wants us to give students a chance to think critically, solve problems, communicate with others, create something!  I completely agree, even as the math teacher who gave problem after problem from the textbook. (I’m going to go ahead and complete my confession by fully disclosing that I also gave entire pages of workbook problems to complete at home each night. Y’all – I was horrible.) I didn’t intend to be “that” teacher – I had planned on doing projects and collaborating and creating data sets from experiments… then the pressure and time crunch of teaching started. I flaked. I completely abandoned those thoughts and went back to what I knew.

Matt Miller makes it crystal clear that we are providing students with a great disservice if we prepare them for our own future rather than theirs.

That is exactly what I was doing.  In fact, I was even worse than that – I was preparing them for my past!  After twelve years, I am a completely different teacher. Thankfully someone like Matt pushed me out of my comfort zone.  Someone told me that I needed to make the learning relevant to my students.  Someone forced me to incorporate technology into my lesson (If you know me and my professional passions now, that might have just made you laugh out loud… but sadly, it’s true – I had to be FORCED).  Someone finally told me to DITCH that Textbook!  The biggest question in my mind… how much damage had I done before I finally revolutionized my classroom?  For how many students did I contribute to the hatred of math?

If you are me from twelve years ago, you need to read Chapter 24 of this book.  It has over twenty-five ideas to help you think outside the textbook.  I desperately want a colored poster of these ideas (Stick figures are just fine by me, Matt!). I’m slightly ashamed to say that it took me an inordinate amount of time to realize it was an alphabetized list. It’s full of good stuff though so I’d check it out! Many of the ideas I have actually incorporated into my lessons since that horrific first year of teaching. I also loved the chapter about student blogging! In fact, all of the activity ideas that Matt shares for ways to make your classroom different, innovative, tech-laden, creative, and hands-on are spectacular! Working in a middle school, the majority of my students know how to do these activities with little to no instruction from me!  How cool is that?!

Two things really stood out to me from #DitchBook (search using the hashtag on Twitter for more inspiration and resources).

  1. Create a mission statement and/or choose a word to describe your classroom for next year.  This is similar to the activity that we did in P is for Pirate, where we chose five words to describe the learning experience. It’s powerful to choose just one word though! I have a mission statement for the media center and it has set the culture of the space since writing it.  It can be found on the back of a brochure given to parents/students and teachers at the beginning of the year. I used canva.com to create the brochure. Click here to see a PDF version.
  2. In Matt’s conclusion, he passionately urges us to put thought into action. He suggests starting with a conversation, either with him, or whomever is your Yoda (okay, so maybe he doesn’t say it like that…), then start planning!  Once you have your plan, punch fear in the face (he really does say it like that, though); don’t let fear hold you back from following through with your plan.  He got me pumped up by saying these few sentences about WHY we should follow the plans with action.

They’re the future.  Your students are worth it.  You are worth it.  Do it anyway.  Embrace the messy and the complicated.  Go out on a limb because that’s where the fruit is. Go ahead.  You know you want to.  Ditch that textbook! ~@jmattmiller

You know what I’m going to say next… go buy this book.  I highly recommend this book to middle and high school teachers.  Chances are that your textbooks are insanely outdated anyway, so go ahead – Ditch That Textbook!

Matt Miller’s Website/Blog is phenomenal!  It’s full of excellent tips, ideas, and templates to help you go paperless and infuse technology and creativity into your classroom!  Click here to check it out!  As always, here is the Flipgrid (idea from the fabulous Andrea Paulakovich) – passcode is DBCSummer!

**You know those annoying infomercials that pull you in and just when you think they’ve given you everything, they say, “But WAIT, there’s more!”  Consider me an infomercial, I’m cool with that.  You will be too when you see the “more”!

Wow – five of the #DBC50 are complete!  This has been so much fun!  I’m using Matt Miller’s philosophy and not trying to implement ALL of the ideas from ALL of the books – that isn’t possible!  I’m just trying to pick one or two things after reading each book that is actionable in 2018-2019!  A little insight into my personality (as if you didn’t have enough already – HA!)… I am a spreadsheet/table kind of girl. So as I read & blog, I’m creating a spreadsheet as I go through #DBC50summer to hold myself accountable for reading the book, reflecting and blogging about the book, and then the most important space is the action for the school year related to that book!  Do you know who else loves a good spreadsheet on Google Sheets?  The author of BOOK SIX – Alice Keeler!  I am thrilled to write about 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom, co-authored by Alice Keeler and Libbi Miller!  I use this book as a resource on the regular, so the blog for this little gem will be coming VERY soon!


12 thoughts on “#DBC50Summer 5/50: Ditch That Textbook

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