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!

The Secret Behind My Smile

Humble honey

If you’ve been with me for long, you know that I typically blog about books I’ve read and how I implement them in my role as an educator. However, this one is a bit different. I have a secret to share with you.

Smiles do not always equal happiness.

On a typical day, you can find me surrounded by kids, books, technology, and loving every minute. Most who know me personally would describe me as a very enthusiastic, energetic, fun-loving person. It’s rare to see me without a smile. I give those out freely and often.

The other side of that sometimes obnoxious positivity is a very real and constant struggle with depression and anxiety. A struggle that very few know about (until now, I guess). I’ve always been “on edge” and a bit of a “worry wart,” even as a child. I worry about ridiculous things that statistically would never happen. I don’t relax much; I find that I just can’t. After I was finally able to carry a child to term – our daughter, Bailey – I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. With the exception of short period of time, I have been on antidepressants since then.

She will be 10 years old next month.

There are times that I wonder if I could stop taking the meds. If I stopped, could I tell that the meds were even doing anything? Then, there are times like this weekend. Times that I’m not sure I would make it out if I stopped taking the medication. I’m still clawing my way out from this weekend.

I’ve heard it referred to as a spiraling depression. Something hits me wrong, then something else, and something else, and then it just kind of gets out of control. Before I know it, there’s some form of unintended self-destructive behavior. I’ve lashed out at those who don’t deserve it; I find fault with things I normally would enjoy; I sleep… a lot. I am much more short-tempered. I don’t feel like myself and don’t want to do things I enjoy (even things I enjoyed last week). Things that I’ve worked so hard to accomplish suddenly don’t result in satisfaction. Minor setbacks feel more like epic failures.

It’s like an implosion, collapsing in on myself.

The secret behind the smile is sometimes you won’t find that happiness is what put the smile there. The smile is just a facade, a protectant. It keeps people from asking what’s wrong. How can you answer that when you aren’t even sure? There is no “one thing” that’s wrong and no one can “fix” it. What’s wrong just leads to tears. Tears can be perceived as weakness.

I am not weak; I’m engaged in a battle every day.

The end of a school year can be tough on everyone, learners and educators alike. The bittersweet accomplishment of completing another year. Evidence of the passing of time. High-stakes assessments looming. For those like me, it can be a trigger. It can start a spiral. Instead of asking “what’s wrong,” just be supportive. When you see a smile, just smile back.

Give grace.

The number of people in the United States alone that battle depression and/or anxiety is staggering. So I don’t share this post for pity. I share it because there are others who are struggling right now; there has to be based on the statistics alone. Others who are smiling to keep from answering “what’s wrong”. They are smiling on the outside, but they may be spiraling on the inside. Be kind to others. We never know what the secret behind their smile is.