One of my most (positive) vivid memories of my childhood was camping with my family. Now I’m not talking about tent camping – no, thank you! (I slept in a tent once at a birthday sleepover after a bonfire when I was almost 17… never again. Never.) No, we stayed in a fifth wheel camper set up at a campground on the mountain about an hour from our house. There were several families from our town that owned campers there and we’d spend many weekends during the summer enjoying the outdoors and community at the campground. My mom and dad were still married, so I couldn’t have been older than 10 or 11, but the memories stick with me like glue. The best part? They let me stay up until all hours of the night playing the card game called Spades with the other campers there in the campground community house.
Creating memorable experiences that stick like glue is what we want for our classrooms. Playing those games didn’t have a thing to do with school, curriculum, content… or did it? I learned critical thinking, strategy, probability, the power of failure, thrill of victory, and how to do it all while absolutely exhausted, refusing to admit it because my parents would make me go to the camper and get some sleep. Perhaps those nights are what drive my love for games now. That’s a thought for another day, though.
For now, let’s discuss book 35 in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line of incredible books. (By the way, they just released a tremendous new website for DBC, Inc! Check out the latest and greatest features here. Spoiler: features include previews of each book, how to follow along with authors/book communities in multiple social media/blog accounts, and how to purchase autographed copies of book like Teach Like A Pirate. Subscribe and be entered for a chance to win a free book each month!)
Book 35 is called The Wild Card and is co-authored by Wade & Hope King, a husband & wife team. (This is the third instance of a husband/wife collaboration in DBC, Inc. P is for Pirate co-authored by Dave & Shelley Burgess, How Much Water Do We Have? written by Pete Nunweiler with contributions from his wife, Kris were the other two.)
I’m going to admit something that many educators might find shameful. I have never read a single Ron Clark book. (I know… I know. I’ve heard.) I’ll take it one step further…I’ve never watched the movie either. (My aunt is going to be so disappointed when she finds out I never turned it on when she sent me those text messages.) I’m totally not slamming Ron Clark. I love what he has done for education, and I think The Ron Clark Academy is the bees’ knees. Can I redeem myself by saying I read this book and loved it? Not realize the connection? Hope & Wade King work at the Ron Clark Academy; Hope is a reading master educator and Wade is a social studies master educator and Director of Curriculum and Instruction. Before we dive into the book, you should know you’re going to want your own copy – I’d suggest a physical copy so you can highlight and write all over it. You’ll want to. Here’s a link. You’re welcome.
This was another of those books where I didn’t come up from air while reading. I really didn’t need to… it was an engaging read. It had a perfect mix of guide book, personal experiences, and excellent ideas to challenge you in the classroom. The book is divided into three sections – Wild Card, Creative Breakthrough, and Toolbox.
Wild Card talks about the metaphor of being the wild card for your students. Every student is dealt a different hand, and the wild card can either make or break you. Hope & Wade challenge us to be a wild card that makes the hand unbeatable. They discuss the Joker in one chapter, which totally resonated with me. I battle with self-doubt often, and I, too, have panic attacks. Like Hope, I strive for perfection and that perfectionism has been the primary source for many anxiety attacks in my life. I never want to be a disappointment; it’s one of my biggest fears. Others fear death or public speaking… my biggest fears are fire, having to choose which of my daughters to save in a catastrophe (yes, truly stresses me out), and being a disappointment to those I love and respect. So, Hope, sister… I feel you!
The second section is where the magic happens! This is the step-by-step guide that you’ve always wanted. I would highly recommend reading a chapter at a time, marinating on that one topic for a couple sleeps, then moving to the next chapter. Rinse and repeat. That will be hard to do because it’s written in a way that’s so dang easy to read that you’ll just fly through it. If that happens, go back to section two and start with the awareness chapter; take it slow. Reflect. I know I’ll be going back to this and reflecting myself.
The third section… we’ll call this one your new best friend. Did you love the section on hooks in Teach Like A Pirate? The section of mini-games at the end of Explore Like A Pirate? You’ll love this toolbox, too! Just trust me!
I feel as though I’m not giving away too much information by sharing the snappy wrap-up at the end of the book. One statement from each chapter is given by Hope & Wade. The statements in and of themselves are powerful, but please believe that the details in the book that back up these statements are astounding.
Be the wild card.
If you argue for your limitations, you get to keep them. (WOW!)
Don’t listen to the Joker.
Always know your WHY.
These things are free: a smile, passion, and enthusiasm.
Lunchtime is a creative opportunity.
Make them want to come to class.
Just do you.
Don’t stop for roadblocks.
Spread the magic.
While reading there were several things that popped out to me as possible implementation plans. A few ideas were to record myself teaching, then watch it and reflect, and rewatch it while muted focusing on my body language (Genius, right? Great idea, Kings!), continue redecorating the media center to meet my own passions because students are interested in seeing any changes happen (truth – check out phase one of the media makeover), maintaining smile, passion, and enthusiasm every single day because they are contagious, and even go see Hamilton! In all seriousness, I have seen this Broadway show advertised in more places than I can count in the past six months. It’s even coming to my state twice over the next few months, and both stints are sold out.
However, my implementation came down to one thing that I connected with as it also aligns to my school’s vision of encouraging the love of lifelong learning in our students. I’ve completed genius hour projects in the media center before, but only a class or grade level at a time and only “mini” projects. They looked like this: “Research all you can find on your chosen topic for 20 minutes, then create a 5 slide presentation to share with your friends.” While that was a great starting point (see my first ever genius hour attempt reflections here.) it wasn’t really what genius hour was intended to be. I’m looking to expand this idea of genius hour to a more open-ended platform. I’ve already committed to having an Innovation Club after school as my implementation of Pure Genius, but I want this to be open to all students. This is one of those projects that relies on student buy-in; no grade, no accountability, no assigned due date. I just want to open up the opportunity to learn about whatever they’d like to learn about and offer the media center and supplies to create something they can share with others. That may be a vlog or blog, podcast, green screen video, stop-motion animation, lego creation, coding endeavor with scratch and the Arduino or MakeyMakey. I’m not sure what they’ll come up with, but the sky is the limit. I just need to offer the space and time. I want it to be completely invitational so students don’t feel as though it’s something else they have to do, but something they get to do. I’m going to work through this in my head and will let you know how it all goes as it unfolds. I just know I want this to happen and as Hope & Wade would say, there are no excuses. If I’m considering it, I need to just do it. So… here we go.
You can find more of Hope & Wade King on their website here. You can also be inspired by them in person at the Get Your Teach On conferences. I’d love to attend the national conference in Texas next summer (fingers crossed)! Hear Wade talk with Vicki (@coolcatteacher) Davis on the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast, then listen to her chat with Hope! Don’t forget to get your copy of The Wild Card. Use the hashtag #BeTheWildCard to connect with other educators reading this book! You can also connect via flipgrid. Andrea Paulakovich had a spectacular idea at the beginning of the summer to create a virtual space for global book studies, so here it is. She and I copilot this space and would love for you to contribute as you finish books! (Also, look for something epic from us soon… just saying.) Andrea also recently wrote a blog post on The Wild Card! I love how she puts her own spin on #DBC50Summer – check it out here!
I didn’t do a lot of tweeting with this book because I was so immersed in what I was reading that I kept forgetting to stop and do a #BookSnap – oops!
— Alicia Ray (@iluveducating) August 26, 2018
— Alicia Ray (@iluveducating) August 26, 2018
Up next in #DBC50Summer is a book from an author you already know and love! Todd Nesloney (of Kids Deserve It) and the amazing educators of Webb Elementary bring us Stories from Webb! I’ve read many of the stories here, but all out of context. Sometimes I open it like the old school Chicken Soup books (Man, what a series!) and just pick a story and read it for inspiration. Now I get to read the entire thing! Looking forward to diving into book 36!