My Five-Word GPS

FIVE-Word GPS

During #DBC50Summer last year, I chose to implement (at least) one thing from each of the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books. I continue that practice now through #DBCBookBlogs; some thing are able to be implemented immediately, while some take time. Some haven’t been finished while some haven’t even started. Last summer, I read P is for Pirate, the third book in the DBC, Inc line co-authored by Dave and Shelley Burgess. To implement this adorable alphabetical picture book for adults, I chose to select five words that I hope students will use when describing my class environment. In Teach Like a PIRATE, Dave touches on this idea with a letter-writing exercise (see tweet below), and the Burgesses continue this idea making the 5-word GPS as the letter G in P is for Pirate.

My five words for 2018-2019 were:

  • Welcoming
  • Safe
  • Exciting
  • Memorable
  • Uncommon

You can find more on why I chose each word here.

At the end of each quarter, I had students give me a grade based on how they felt I did with each of these areas. This grade was given on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. I was hoping for 4s and 5s from every student. Here’s what I received this year, and it was an eye-opener for sure!

Welcoming

1st Quarter: 97.4%

2nd Quarter: 98.2%

3rd Quarter: 90.5%

4th Quarter: 92.5%

Safe

1st Quarter: 93.7%

2nd Quarter: 91.6%

3rd Quarter: 88.3%

4th Quarter: 85.3%

Exciting

1st Quarter: 85.8%

2nd Quarter: 84.4%

3rd Quarter: 80.2%

4th Quarter: 78.5%

Memorable

1st Quarter: 73.3%

2nd Quarter: 69.5%

3rd Quarter: 57.8%

4th Quarter: 56.9% (ouch)

Uncommon

1st Quarter: 82.2%

2nd Quarter: 84.1%

3rd Quarter: 78.3%

4th Quarter: 71.9%

Students were also given the option to anonymously submit comments. Here are some of the comments I received (with no edits).

  • Keep doing what you’re doing it’s great I would just add a couple of actives with what were doing in your class.
  • You should get some last kids on earth books
  • we should have more time in here cause we only see you 1 a mouth
  • I think you should get more have everyone doing something in class.
  • I think that the media class is like other classes but it is made fun.
  • that i reall love her class
  • To have one day when we go to our classes like normal but just play on our phones or do whatever.
  • I love her class and I always get excited when we get to come to the Media Center
  • i love coming to the media center
  • I don’t feel very safe cause there are so many windows.
  • you should let us have free time
  • No because if someone dont feel comfortable about being here she has to change something.
  • Through out the whole year media has been fun ❤
  • I think we should come at least twice a month so I can remember things better.
  • i really think we should have more exciting activitys
  • Do more games that are educational
  • i dont like this class!!!!!!>
  • better time mangagement
  • I want to do something else than what we do already like instead of typing we should do more interactive things like vr and stuff
  • i feel save and welcome its just not that exciting
  • thanks for making your classes fun but serious at the same time
  • I don’t feel as safe because of the class windows, and how easily someone could break in.

So what do I do with this next year? I continue to make students feel welcome in the space, while also pushing to make sure I make our experiences in media more memorable and more uncommon than ever before. I completely agree with the student who mentions “better time management”. Because the majority of my time is co-teaching in other subject areas, I only get 57 minutes per month with students in media classes (which is what this survey is about). I cram as much into those 57 minutes as I can 10 times per year. I realize it can definitely be hard to remember what we did the month before, but I’m going to work even harder to make that happen.

As for the window comment, we are in the front of the school with a large wall of windows and two doors (which remain locked) that lead outside. Our media center feels very open, and for some that openness may feel unsafe. I can’t move windows, but I can provide several areas where those students feel more secure.

I don’t see this as a failure, by any stretch. If 7 out of 10 kids feel that their time in the media center is uncommon and exciting, I’m on the right track! Also worth mentioning, we spent the majority of our time together this year learning research skills, copyright laws, and digital citizenship.

School-Wide Implementation

Finally, I had teachers do this exercise at the beginning of the school year last year. Students then chose words from a drop-down list to see if they could identify which words their teachers used to describe their class. Check out the results here! It was pretty neat to see if students matched their teachers. I found it interesting that our encore teachers showed the same pattern across grade levels! 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students found their classes to be fun, welcoming, creative, challenging, and exciting overall!

What are your five words and how will you determine if your students are buying what you’re selling them?

Innovation Engineers

As part of #DBC50Summer journey, I chose to implement at least one thing from each of the first 50 books in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line of professional development books for teachers. When I read the second book, Pure Genius by Don Wettrick, I was blown away by the Innovation Course he taught at the high school level and I wanted to replicate something similar in the middle school I serve. I just wasn’t exactly sure how to make that happen. You can read more about his book in my #DBC50Summer blog post here!

By the time I reached book 35, The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King, I knew I had to create an opportunity for any student to dive into their interests at school, outside of the curriculum they were learning in the classroom. With our tight schedule and limited availability, I was unsure about how I was going to make this implementation work, but I knew that I had to work within the hand I was dealt to still be the wild card! Check out the #DBC50Summer blog post for The Kings’ book here.

Prior to the 2018-19 school year, I “hired” Makerspace Managers to lead the way in our school makerspace. These students filled out an application and Makerspace Mentors, students who had served as previous managers, selected the best from the applicant pool. (Names were hidden on the form responses.) I had also worked in the opportunity for future Makerspace Advisors who had served as managers and mentors, and wanted more responsibility. For the past two years, I had a ton of responses, but in the 18-19 school year, I only had 9 students respond. Each of them appeared to be great candidates, so we selected all nine to join our team. Then… school happened. There was too much going on and the meetings of Makerspace Managers just got lost in the shuffle. What ended up happening was so much cooler than I imagined though!

It’s funny how unintended success can arise from what others might consider to be an epic failure.

Upon seeing that the Makerspace Managers weren’t going to serve in the same capacity as they had in the past, I recalled my implementation plans for Pure Genius and The Wild Card. Talking with the students, I found that their schedules were so packed, they didn’t feel as though they could commit to a year-long once-per-week meeting and they wanted more flexibility.

Thus… Innovation Engineers. This group, which was not a “group” at all, would meet whenever students needed to meet. It could be a small group of students, a partnership, or an individual who wanted to learn more about something they were passionate about. They might stick with I.E. the entire year, or maybe just long enough to complete a project and move on. Some took time off during athletic seasons. Some were there every morning, while others were there every other afternoon. Some stopped by during their lunch, and some popped in during class change to check on their creations. There was a constant flow of students learning about things that they were interested in!  My only requirements…

  1. You must check with me before coming before school or after school to be sure the space is available.
  2. You must have something to show what you’ve done with your time.

It was incredible! In a given week, I’d have a variety of students come by at various times to work on projects. I just opened the space and was the adult in the room. They didn’t need me to do anything but be a listening ear & provider of materials (and in some cases, they didn’t even need that). Here’s some of the projects that came from the Innovation Engineers:

  • A sister duo (6th grader & 8th grader) authored and illustrated a children’s book about fish that blew bubbles of various shapes.
  • Two 8th grade girls wanted to do more about preventing and reporting bullying in our school so they created Safe Haven, a google form created by students for other students to report bullying anonymously. The responses were to go to our principal and school counselor.
  • A 6th grade partnership created an Animation Club. They developed their plan, pitched it to our administration by requesting a formal meeting with a prepared presentation, and successfully held 4 or 5 meetings throughout the spring semester, teaching students how to create animations on iPads, iPhones, and Chromebooks.
  • A 7th grade boy created stop-motion animation videos with Lego bricks.
  • A group of students created YouTube playlists sharing what we have available in the makerspace and how to use it (still working to get these edited and put on the school YouTube channel).
  • A group of students met in the mornings to play chess and discuss the Hamilton musical, learning the words to every song (yes, even the rap in Guns and Ships!!!)
  • A quiet 6th grade girl worked outside of school to create an amazing graphic novel called Wolf Stone!

Check out some of the pictures I was able to grab of students learning more about their own interests or click the links for examples and more information!

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There were many projects that blew me away, but one student in particular worked at least three mornings per week learning a new skill! He spent hours upon hours measuring, cutting, and sewing together fabric for a quilt! His mom’s favorite holiday is Halloween and he wanted to surprise her with a Halloween-themed lap quilt. He worked from October until March proudly showing me when he had another row done each time! He learned the ins-and-outs of our sewing machine in the makerspace. When he realized that our little sewing machine would not be powerful enough to stitch through two layers of fabric and the batting that was placed between it, we were both a bit heartbroken that he likely would not be able to finish it at school. I contacted a community member (my mother) who brought her heavy-duty Husqvarna sewing machine to the school! The student’s teachers allowed him to miss a day of class to work with the seamstress as he finished the quilt! He did every single stitch on his own, learning how to center a quilt and how to finish with the details around the edges! I am so proud of him and can’t wait to see what he does next year! He started knitting at the end of the year and suggested that a friend of his created sketches of clothing design and he’d like to make those designs come to life! It’s going to be so exciting to see what comes next for this amazing young man!

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What I learned through this implementation of Pure Genius and The Wild Card was so much more than I ever dreamed. I knew that the interests of our students are wide and varied, however this experience showed me exactly what our students are capable of when we get out of their way and allow them to dig into their passions!

These students learned so much more than curriculum; they went above and beyond and each student created something they are so proud of! Not a single grade was given. With the exception of the one day with the seamstress, very little was done during the instructional day.

If students are interested and passionate about their learning, they will knock down doors to get in to learn more!

I will definitely be continuing Innovation Engineers in the 2019-2020 school year; it required very little planning on my part & minimal time commitment as I was already at the school for the majority of the time students spent working.

All I did was open the space, gave them ‘supervision’ (as if they needed it, they were engaged and excited the entire time), and got out of their way.

And look what they created! Wow!

Definitely check out the books Pure Genius and The Wild Card and see how you can implement something from each in your own environment!

*It also should be mentioned that every student in our school participated in a Passion Project during their media time with me during this school year, so the opportunity to explore their passions was open to every student. The blog about the Passion Projects will be linked here when it is published!

What Exactly Do Great Educators Do Differently?

April 1, 2019

I woke up ready to find out the answer to this question…exactly what great educators do differently?! I anxiously packed for a trip to Houston, Texas where I’d find out the answer! I was anxious because, although I’d been on a plane before, I had never navigated an airport alone and would be going the furthest west I’d ever been.

Maybe you just learned something new about me. I’m not exactly a world traveler (yet). I was pretty worried about this trip. I checked off a lot of “firsts” while finding out what great educators do differently… first solo airport navigation (including security, where I learned that multiple Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books stacked at the bottom of my carry-on looks suspicious enough to merit a bag search), first flight alone, first time renting a car, first time being in Texas (I’d only visited TX long enough to stop at the welcome center when I was a teenager visiting friends in Louisiana), first time driving in the city, first time driving through a toll (yes, seriously), first time attending a conference alone, etc, etc. You get the point. For someone with generalized anxiety disorder (ahem, me), this was a HUGE undertaking.

I made it to the Texas airport, and as I was approaching the line to get my rental car, I hear my name. Nervously I looked around and (insert squeal of delight) THE Pirate Captain is coming down the escalator! I’ve never been so happy to see a friendly face in my life! That might be a slight exaggeration, but not by much.

That evening I had the privilege of meeting & chatting with several of the speakers for the Houston 2019 What Great Educators Do Differently conference – David Geurin, Jimmy Casas, Amy Fast, Katie Martin, Jeff Zoul and I got to reconnect with my dear friend, Derek McCoy and my awesome publisher, Dave Burgess! Heading to bed early, I was ready for the upcoming fast-paced day of learning!

April 2, 2019

As always, Dave lit the room on fire with his Teach Like A Pirate keynote. It reminded me that this month is ONE YEAR since I experienced his keynote for the first time. I wrote a blog about it here. (Spoiler: It changed my life; literally a Life-Changing Lesson, or LCL as it’s referenced in the book.) I saw it again in June 2018 in Florence, SC, so I was pumped to take it all in again. This was the perfect way to start the day. From Dave’s keynote, I got that great educators create experiences, not just mere lessons; for “lessons are easily forgotten, but experiences live forever!”

Following up on this idea was Jeff Zoul‘s session on classroom management. It is unrealistic to expect every student to be engaged every second of the day. It had been a long time since I’d engaged in a best practices session on classroom management, so I was excited to hear what Jeff had to say. I was affirmed in this session because many of the management strategies I already use, Jeff shared. What I learned about great educators in Jeff’s session is summed up in this tweet. Don’t copy someone else’s management techniques… they have to be YOU!

Perhaps one of the sessions I was most excited about was Jimmy Casas’s session. I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t care what the author of Culturize (and more) presented on… it could have been oompa-loompas, fairies, or proper techniques to watch paint dry… I just couldn’t wait to hear from him! (Culturize left me in pieces – read more about that in my #DBC50Summer blog post.) He did NOT disappoint. His session on addressing underperformance was a clear reflection of his passion and purpose in developing a strong culture in schools. I learned from Jimmy that great educators don’t shy away from the difficult conversations. Great educators have the conversations and offer help, not just in that moment, but checking in & following up with those who are struggling.

As if the day couldn’t get any better, it was time for our lunch keynote from Rick Wormeli. Yep… THE Rick Wormeli, one of the first National Board Certified Teachers, international speaker extraordinaire, and the man who made me realize that traditional grading practices are asinine during his #HiveSummit interview with Michael Matera (author of Explore Like A Pirate) this summer. Lunch was delicious, I met Aaron Hogan (author of Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth & a new book coming soon – so excited), AND Rick owned the keynote and taught me that great educators “never sacrifice sound pedagogy because someone above [them] isn’t there yet.”

It was time for the final session and I wanted to see David Geurin, Derek McCoy, Amy Fast, AND Katie Martin speak! I would have LOVED to clone myself in that moment. I split my time between Katie Martin and Derek McCoy. Katie’s story about her own child’s struggle in school reminded me that great educators know their learners. Great educators focus on the strengths of their learners and grow them from where they are. Derek got me when he said, “we can’t spend any more time building schools based on what adults need!” From him, I learned that great educators are focused on the students.

By the end of the day, I had chatted and learned from these phenomenal educators and several of the participants!

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(Left to Right and Top to Bottom) David Geurin, Dave Burgess, Jimmy Casas, Amy Fast, Aaron Hogan, Jeff Zoul, Katie Martin, Rick Wormeli, Derek McCoy

April 3, 2019

As I confidently (because hey, I survived so many “firsts”) packed up my suitcase, careful to separate the books this time to get through security faster, I reflected on my time at the What Great Educators Do Differently conference. I wondered, if I were to sum up what I learned in one or two sentences, what would I say?

I spent the majority of my flight home considering that, and came to this…

Great educators are willing to take risks in the best interest of their students. They are willingly to relentlessly learn and grow, seeking the very best way to teach every learner.

And I realized in a VERY humbling moment… I did just that. I took a huge risk, investing time, money, and a tremendous amount of anxiety to attend a conference to better myself and my practices for every learner I have, both adult and middle school learners. Flying halfway across the country to attend a conference alone, meeting and reconnecting with several educators I admire and respect, was something many around me could not understand. (Trust me, they asked why I was doing this multiple times.) I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend #WGEDD and I highly recommend going to one if you have the chance. I will definitely seek it out again!

**I believe this qualifies as my #DBC50Summer implementation of Ditch that Textbook by Matt Miller and serves as a piece of my implementation of Lead Like A Pirate by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf. I had no idea about this conference during the writing of those blogs, but it certainly fits the implementations of letting go of fear and being relentless, don’t you think?