#DBC50Summer 39/50: The Limitless School

Fun fact: I’ve never been able to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Ever. I like to mess them up for others to solve though.

I have watched students take a randomized cube and get all the colors back together within a minute or two. There is clearly a pattern… one that I do not understand. Finally a student showed me a particular Rubik’s Cube Solver online & it changed my life. Okay, that may be an exaggeration. It is pretty cool though. On the site, you position the cube on a table in the same manner as the image on the screen. Then, simply fill in the colors on the digital cube to match what you see on the physical cube. Clicking solve will then show you step-by-step directions (with animation) to solve the Rubik’s Cube!

Reading Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books this summer has been like that Rubik’s Cube Solution website. This is my 13th year in education, and I’ve never felt like I had it all together. I may have felt successful in one area similar to the way we can get one side with matching colors on a Rubik’s Cube. After feeling accomplished for about 2.2 seconds, I turn the cube over and realize what a hot mess the rest of the cube is still in. This summer of growth has shown me ways to bring many of my thoughts together. It has allowed me to become grounded in who I am, both personally and professionally. It has helped me find my voice through blogging. It is helping me define my passions and my short- and long-term goals. It’s like I put the colors on a screen and clicked solve. Each book I’ve read has been a shift in the cube that further aligns my thoughts, passions, and goals.

Book 39 is no exception. The Limitless School, written by Abe Hege and Adam Dovico, uses the metaphor of a Rubik’s Cube to highlight creative ways to solve (or continue to strengthen) your school’s culture puzzle.

…Oh… and Limitless… it’s an acronym. (Of course it is!)

I have really grown to enjoy reading the forewords of these books! Beth Houf, co-author of Lead Like A Pirate, nails it in the first two pages! She says, “Culture isn’t something you do to people; it is the bedrock of any school campus…Culture first, culture next, culture always.” This is one of my favorite parts of the book written by Beth & Shelley Burgess so I was thrilled to see it here.

Typically, I do not spoil the acronyms provided in the book, but this one needs to be shared. (You can preview the first chapters here!)

  • Leader

  • Impressions

  • Marriage

  • Integrity

  • Time

  • Limelight

  • Educate Yourself

  • Success

  • Set Goals

That’s impressive, right? Abe and Adam discuss how each of these topics play a huge role in creating and strengthening a positive school culture. Trusting others, and being trustworthy yourself, are key components, both for students and staff of a school. Integrity is what you’re doing when no one else is watching. Traditions are also discussed within the book. When I started the pilot position at the STEM magnet middle school I serve, I wanted to give students a reason to come to the media center. I wanted a way to display the community effort that our school needed to be successful. Because I’ve always been a fan of puzzles (and I lucked up and found a beautiful puzzle of wild horses on Amazon for insanely cheap), I put a 1,500-piece puzzle on a table in the media center. At first, no one touched it. I put together a few pieces here and there, and a few 8th graders started venturing into the media center in the mornings to put a piece or two in. Before we knew it, the edges were complete. By then, other teachers within the school saw the puzzle at faculty meetings. They said there was no way we’d finish the puzzle with all 1,500 pieces remaining. That students would steal pieces, or pieces would drop and be sucked up by those amazing school vacuum cleaners (They pick up everything! I’d love to bring one home with me one day and see what it can do on our carpets!) I felt kind of defeated because I wanted to see the good in the students and I wanted to believe they would take pride in this puzzle that showcased their school mascot.

It took nearly 4 months. The final piece went into the puzzle and the 8th graders who had worked so hard on it looked completely…lost. They had finished the puzzle, but rather than feeling a sense of accomplishment, I believe they dreaded taking it apart to put back in the box. We devised a plan and that puzzle is now a focal point in our media center – matted by a black science fair board cut to fit the space within a stunning oversized frame that I found at 60% off one day! As for the 1,500 pieces… every single piece was there. Not one went missing over the entire 4 months!

This has become a tradition in our school. We’ve even purchased sorting trays for the pieces and I have kept one large rectangle table specifically to be the “puzzle table”. When each 8th grade finishes their puzzle, they want it on the wall immediately. I’ve already purchased the frame for this one! The 8th grade puzzle is at least 1,000 pieces and I select the image that I believe represents the 8th grade class as a whole. We just finished our second week of school and already three different 8th graders have come to me asking when the puzzle is going to be put out for them to work on! I will unveil it to our 8th graders next week and students can begin the excitement of seeing it come together the following week! I can’t wait to share it with you, as well! (Hint: It’s part of a #DBC50Summer implementation… when I saw this one, I knew I had to make a little twist to the original plan & I am so thrilled to share when it is finished!)

The section of the book that really touched my heart was Educate Yourself. Yes, it’s about lifelong learning, but also about so much more! The rural area in which I live is very much at the heart of the Bible Belt. There’s a church on every corner, and on Sunday afternoon, if you aren’t in your “Sunday best” at “the Walmart” you get the side-eye, judge-y look from others still wearing theirs with pride (some of you know exactly what I’m talking about). I will choose not to get on my soap box right now about these things, but will just suffice to say that I do not believe it is my place to judge others and I do believe it is my duty as a Christian to love my neighbor (others). That’s everyone; not just those that belief the same way I do, those that look the same way I do, those with the same lifestyle I have. Everyone. And that’s exactly what I try to do on a daily basis. (And also, at my church, we wear jeans and t-shirts. It doesn’t make me any less of a Christian. Just saying.)

Last year I conducted a survey asking for students’ honest opinion about their experiences in middle school. I was blown away by their maturity and thoughtfulness in answering the questions honestly and respectfully. A few of my students noted that the LGBTQ community was bullied, that they wished homophobic terms would be reprimanded in the same way as racial slurs, and that they would like more representation in the books available in the media center. Here is one response from a student:

“Schools need to be aware of mental health, and awareness for bullying (homophobia, transphobia, racism, fascism, sexism, etc). Teachers need to stand up for their students when they are getting bullied. For example, if a teacher hears things like “that’s gay”, “fag***” and the n word (coming from someone who is not black) they should say something. People have been fighting for rights for years now, and I want to (and others too) to come to school and feel safe and be accepted for who you are no matter your race, religion, sexuality, or gender.” -8th grader

That’s powerful, y’all. To be sure I advocate for this voice and better the experience of my students, I need to educate myself. I need to seek out books they can read and identify with the characters. I need to allow my students to connect with like-minded peers. Anytime I attend an edcamp and I see a session on equality, equity, culture responsiveness, etc I do all I can to attend that session. It is, without fail, the most open and honest conversations I’ve ever been part of. I need to provide my students the opportunity to engage in those open and honest conversations that I learn and grow from. I need to provide those books with characters they relate to, and those like-minded peers. Each student should have a positive role model that reminds them of themselves.

I LOVE this video explaining privilege! We should all check ours!

That’s where my implementation comes into play, I believe. I want to provide positive diverse role models through book selection and research in the media center. It’s a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’d rather take a multiple small steps forward than one large step too quickly and risk backward movement. I’ve mentioned an open genius hour as a #DBC50Summer implementation. (Read more here in the post about The Wild Card by Wade & Hope King) Through reading Pure Genius by Don Wettrick, I learned that modeling and structuring the first genius hour is important to the success of future genius hours. I could confine the genius hour topics to be about the qualities of a positive role model & selecting a role model with which the student can identify. These positive role models, selected by students, can then be shared via whatever platform/tool the student desires and discussed among those in attendance. Remember, it’s open to any and all, so there may be 50 or 2; I’m honestly not sure. I’m taking a risk here & building the plane as we fly it. Finally, students can determine if we have any books by or about that person, and if we need purchase some. We will find creative ways to fund these new books & offer a display of diverse positive role models when the books arrive, and make them available for circulation.

I knew this book wouldn’t steer me in the wrong direction! Abe and Adam are located only about an hour from me and I’d love to visit their schools! Watching their tweets is so inspiring and I love the energy in their schools that is evident through social media. (Side note: Abe started his journey as principal of an elementary school this year, so it’s been awesome watching him develop the culture in a new school using the same strategies outlined in his book!) You can follow along too by following Abe and Adam at @abehege and @adamdovico, respectively. Also see what others are doing with their limitless schools using the hashtag #LimitlessSchool. Adam’s website is here. Teach Me Teacher podcast interviewed Adam about The Limitless School. You can see that here in part 1 and part 2.

If you want to change the culture of your school, and want practical ways to make it happen and quantitative data to prove it’s working, you need to grab a copy of The Limitless School!

As always, feel free to add to (or start) the discussion on flipgrid! This global collaboration space for all DBC, Inc books was the brain-child of Andrea Paulakovich, who fell in love with the idea of #DBC50Summer early in the process and ran with it! I’m so thankful to be connected to her, and you should get connected, too!

Rereading book 40 tomorrow! This book was released less than 6 months ago and has taken education by storm! I mean, who doesn’t love a good protocol, right? Especially when they’re a bit silly! Can’t wait to share my favorite protocols from The EduProtocol Field Guide by Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo in the next #DBC50Summer blog post! I think the implementation will be fairly obvious…

One thought on “#DBC50Summer 39/50: The Limitless School

  1. Pingback: #DBC50Summer Book 31-40 Recap | AliciaRay.com

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