Mustang Madness

Teaching to an empty room

This quote is at the heart of the book Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess. (Shoutout to Shelley Burgess for creating this beautiful graphic!)

When I read about Ryan McLane‘s Teach Like A Pirate Day, inspired by this quote, in the book he and Eric Lowe co-authored, Your School Rocks, I knew I had to figure out a way to make it happen! It quickly became one of my implementations for #DBC50Summer even though I had no idea how I was ever going to convince the teachers I serve to give up a day in their already busy calendar.

The Plan

In early August, I met with my principal and explained this day centered around celebrating a love of learning. The more we discussed it, the more her eyes lit up. (Side note: I love that she is constantly finding ways to let me lead & grow. This was just one example of that. She rocks.) We discussed that this would need to be brought to the School Improvement Team (SIT), so we made a plan for me to pitch it to them at the next meeting. Little did I know that I would be elected to serve on SIT just a few weeks later.

Every month we have a Mustang Madness Day built into our schedule. These days are usually held on dates with early release schedules or at the end of the quarter when we’d be holding our awards programs for academics and athletics. The members of SIT seemed eager to develop this idea further, so we preemptively looked for holes and concerns our teachers might have. We scheduled the first attempt at a #tlap day for the Mustang Madness day before Christmas vacation. Then… life happened.

In late November, I sent our SIT chair and principal an email asking if we were still moving forward with the date as scheduled. Getting the green light from them, I began organizing the day with as much structure as possible, as suggested by SIT.

Here’s how it went down…

Every teacher in the school shared their activity on a Google Sheet. Using that sheet, I created a form for students in each grade level to rank their interest in the activities (1st choice, 2nd choice, and so on). Here’s an example of a form.

*We decided to keep students with their grade levels to streamline the process this time.*

During media classes in early December, students completed the form. It took about 5-7 minutes in each class. Using those responses, I created schedules for every student (yes… every. student.) making sure to respect their 1st and 2nd choices in the core classes and 1st choice in their encore classes. No child ended up with anything less than their 5th or 6th choice!

On Wednesday, two days before our Mustang Madness date, I printed a copy of each teacher’s class lists for each class. Teachers still had their planning period in tact and would be going to lunch at the same time. On Thursday afternoon, I emailed every student their schedule for the day.

Let me just tell you, the hype was REAL! Kids were pumped to be at school the next day! I could hear them discussing which classes they had and trying to figure out who they would be in class with!

*When students completed the form, they did not know which teacher would be doing which activity – I wanted them to choose based on activities only to eliminate any preconceived notions about their own interest level. When they received their schedule, they only got the name of the teacher! So there will still so much suspense around what they’d be doing the next day. It was so much fun to listen to them guess which teacher was going to do which activity.*

Then… it was time.

Signs were placed at classroom doors with the name of the activity and the teacher’s name. I hung up poster-sized schedules with 1st period locations to prevent confusion among students, especially our 6th grade students. The bell rang and the excitement in the halls was palpable. By the end of the day, I was so exhausted, but in the best way! I had FUN teaching! To my knowledge, there wasn’t a single behavior issue the entire day. I asked students and teachers to complete a survey at the end of the day and responses are still coming in. This is the preliminary data.

That’s HUGE! Do you SEE that? From what I’m seeing, 62.5% of students CAME TO SCHOOL (on a snow make-up day, no less) because they were excited about Mustang Madness! Yep – that’s making kids want to tear down the walls to get INTO school, rather than to get out! In my eyes, that statistic alone makes the day a huge success.

Here’s some other feedback I received:

From students

What did you love about today?

“it was funner than school has ever been”

“having teachers i don’t normally have”

“I loved the fact that we could do what we chose and that we could choose our own schedules.”

“everythang”

What would you change?

“nothing”

“make it longer”

“If i could change anything i would make the option for the students to have more access to which students there going to be placed with in there classes because some people may have got no classes with there friends and people that may have really wanted to have this day together couldn’t so i would love to see more accessibility towards that part.”

“Today everything was fun and we don’t need to change anything today.”

From teachers

What did you enjoy about today?

“Getting to do lessons that we are really passionate about, and being able to meet new students that we normally do not see.”

“The vibe of the school is so much fun.”

“How much the students engaged in something that was an “out of the ordinary” experience.”

“Getting to have fun with the kids and see them at their best.”

What would you change?

“Not much, the schedule worked great but having a little more input or access to the sign-up process would be nice.”

“Do it on a full school day; may need more time with some activities”

“Let kids sign up during homeroom so we can catch the ones that are absent.”

*It is worth noting that 100% of teachers said this is something they want to do again!*

So… what’s next?

I would love to see this run like Ryan did his. Students report to first period for attendance and announcements, then disperse throughout the school for classes. I think that once a class is full, the teacher will shut their door and any remaining students who wanted that class can go to their next choice and try to attend the class they missed in the next block of time. I’m excited to see our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students mixed up within the classes. This was something our teachers were very hesitant about; I mixed grade levels in the media center with no trouble, and am hoping that will serve as a model for the next iteration. I believe that allowing free movement and not having a “schedule” ahead of time will give students the ability to have more classes with their friends. Also, if we have it on a regular school day (not an early release) students and teachers will have more time in each class.

Some of the best feedback I received from this day came from three different people.

One teacher said, “You didn’t know it, but I needed this day so bad. It reminded me why I love teaching. I had forgotten.”

One of our custodians said, “My favorite part about today was seeing teaching today. Every time I walked by <his/her> classroom, <he/she> was so excited! I’ve never seen <him/her> teach like that.”

My administration said (and this meant so much to me), “Today was the very best, smoothest last day of school before a break that I’ve ever experienced in my 17 years of education. Thank you!”

As kids were leaving the school, the halls were vibrating again. It wasn’t necessarily from excitement to leave. It was from students yelling their “see you laters” and “Merry Christmases” to new friends. I believe they will be excited to be back on January 2nd, and that they will be looking forward to our next Mustang Madness.

Enjoy a few of the pictures of our day celebrating a love of learning! This is just a sample of what our incredible teachers and students enjoyed. Thank you for this incredible idea Ryan, and for sharing it in Your School Rocks! Just another example of how #DBC50Summer is changing my world, one book and one implementation at a time.

For more on this idea of #tlap day, check out Ryan’s blog! He has so many resources and has done this many times! It’s a wealth of knowledge and he’s super helpful if you need anything that you can’t find there!

Stained Glass and Snowflakes

Stations. The best unkept secret in education.

Snowflakes are hexagonal… perhaps the best kept secret in advertising.

macro photography of snowflake

Photo by Egor Kamelev on Pexels.com

During #DBC50Summer, I followed every author from Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc on Twitter and love being connected to them! One of the funniest authors is easily Denis Sheeran, author of Instant Relevance. His sense of humor pulled me into his book and now I get to enjoy his wit through social media. He created a hashtag to serve as a Public Service Announcement. Snowflakes are hexagons. Really! #Snowflakesarehexagons

The poetry written to the companies along with the photos of his own version of “false advertisement” cracks me up! With those posts, do you know what he did? He made me stop and count the dang sides of every. single. snowflake. in every. single. ad. I see.

Our amazing 8th grade math teachers, Ms. Luce & Mrs. Hawks, and I had already planned to do an extension of a PBL in MinecraftEDU. The students had learned about how linear functions are used to create stained glass windows. They had a guest speaker a few weeks ago who actually showed them how she creates stained glass and students have been creating their own stained glass (by coloring) and figuring out the linear function in slope-intercept form of each line. In MinecraftEDU, students could create a stained glass of their choosing. This could be done by modifying the one they created with linear functions to be “blocky” so it could be built in the game, they could create anything from scratch, or they could look up pixel art and use stained glass blocks or wool to create it.

This gave us two stations in our classes, but we needed a third. I had just discovered that Sprite had six-pointed snowflakes on their product (thanks to Denis’s Twitter PSA) and thought students might have fun discovering which products had “the right snowflakes” on them.

Our third station was a huge hit!

First, students searched for snowflakes in advertising and shared an image they found on a Padlet. Bonus for me: I get to talk about digital citizenship next week and have students determine if this was best practice for using images! (Hint: No, no it was not.)

After finding an image, they read one of the three articles referenced in Denis’s blog post Snowflakes are Hexagons. They were to secretly tell me how many sides every snowflake has and why it has that many sides based on their research.

Upon giving me the correct answer, the students did exactly as Denis suggests in his blog… they created paper snowflakes. There were a lot of octagons, decagons, quadrilaterals, and circles, until finally someone used their resources and googled “How to make a six-sided snowflake.” HA! My principal suggested taking it up a notch further. These paper snowflakes (with the correct number of sides, of course) will be used as decorations for their Winter Dance in December.

Check out a few of their creations that I tweeted out! There are dozens and dozens of hexagonal snowflakes in our media center now!

 

Then, this morning, this kid blew me away!

The MinecraftEDU station turned out pretty fantastic, too! I am currently working to upload the file on my YouTube channel and will embed here when finished, but for now, check out this link to a walkthrough on my Google Drive. (There is no sound.) I was so impressed with what they built in the 25-30 minutes they had available to create. Several came before and after school as well as during their lunch to finish their stained glass pixel art and more have asked to return this week. Students showed one another how to “light up” their windows using glowstone, so when the world turns to night it glows in the most beautiful colors!

I am so proud of the students I serve, and the teachers were blown away by both their stained glass creations and their unique snowflakes. This was one of those times that we got it right. Thank you, Denis for inspiring a way to make learning relevant for our students! This definitely serves as one implementation (I’m sure there will be many more to come) for my #DBC50Summer post on Instant Relevance! I am honored that our 8th grade math teachers trusted me to help create this PBL extension and spur-of-the-moment lesson on snowflakes. I’m looking forward to more lessons like this!

#DBCBookBlogs: Run Like A Pirate

This girl doesn’t run. I don’t mind a swift walk. But run? No. Thank. You. I will cheer my heart out for you and encourage you the whole way, but I won’t be running beside you.

So why in the world would I be pumped up to read Adam Welcome’s book, Run Like A Pirate? It’s obviously about running. Adam set an outrageous goal to run a marathon each month in 2017… yes, as in 26.2 miles. That kind of marathon. Not a watch every episode of The Office marathon (those are my kind of marathons). Adam talks about his journey through these marathons in the entire book. So, it’s a running book, right?

Wrong! So, so wrong! This book is about digging deep within yourself to achieve the seemingly impossible. If you want a swift kick in the rear, I’m going to recommend you go right to this link… go ahead… here it is again… click Buy Now. Get a copy of Adam Welcome‘s Run Like A Pirate and dig in. Good luck putting it down once you start!

runlap

“When you want something bad enough, and you set the goals high enough, you’re bound to transform into something you’ve never been before.”

“When you wait,  you find reasons why you can’t. Why you won’t. Why you shouldn’t. We need to just do.”

“Remember your dreams and forget what other people say about them.”

“…the only person able to stop me was me. Don’t call me crazy. I just happen to like bold ideas.”

“I believe in you. I know you can do it. I know you will be successful. I know you will figure it out. If you start.”

“Do something that’s hard, something you never thought you could finish, and see what happens.”

“No more excuses and forget about your fear.”

“Many before you have done it. Now it’s your turn.”

Does any of that sound like a running book to you? Well, good… because it’s not. just. about. running.

This book is about setting goals, putting in the work, and achieving your dreams. It’s about the struggle. This book shows us that it is about the journey and not the destination. If nothing else, the quotes referenced above, Adam’s words in the book, are enough to make you think you’re the Kool-Aid man. You know what I’m talking about… the big red jug of Kool-Aid personified that runs through brick walls and says, “oh yeah” in the commercials. Yep, that’s pretty much how I felt the entire time I read the book.

What I love about this book the most is that I can relate to Adam’s commitment to a goal that others thought was crazy. My journey through #DBC50Summer this year was crazy according to others. Heck, there were times it was crazy according to me! Like Adam, there were times I thought about quitting, times I sacrificed sleep, times I wondered if the end would ever come. But then, like Adam… when the end came, I was emotional. So incredibly emotional. As I finished the 50th book, Jennifer Burdis‘s The EduNinja Mindset, I cried. I just let the tears flow. I’m not sure why I was so emotional, but it was one of those I really did this moments. Mentally, it was simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating to read 50 books in 101 days. But like Adam says,

“People are in charge of their lives and in charge of what they do with their time. Nobody is dictating how you spend your time, how often you do something, with what regularity, with whom, or when and where. If you’re pointing a finger and it’s not at yourself then something needs to change.”

The challenge here is the implementation. See, in Ditch that Textbook by Matt Miller, I said that I would let go of fear and just do it. In Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess, I took away his quote, “It’s not supposed to be easy; it’s supposed to be worth it.” In Lead Like A Pirate by Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess, my implementation is to be relentless. For Stories from Webb by Todd Nesloney, I put my biggest dreams out there – I want to write a book. My plan was to wait until I finished each of the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books for #DBCBookBlogs, as well as the IMpress book blogs to begin writing.

Adam has convinced me… there is no more waiting. I can’t keep putting this off. Ultimately, I’d love to have it published. But for now, it’s for me. I am going to tell my story. Adam shares with us that saying we’re going to do something means nothing until we have the actions to go along with it. Anyone can say they’re going to run a marathon every month, but not very many actually do it. Adam followed through. He inspired me. I am going to follow through. I’ve talked and talked about this dang book. Now it’s time to write it. I’ve slept with the handwritten outline on the nightstand beside my bed since late May. It’s almost November. It’s time. No more finding excuses.

Thank you, Adam, for kicking my tail. Thank you for writing a book that is not just about running, but about the journey. You are 100% right when you said it’s not about the finish line. It’s about all the times between the start and the finish. For me, that means it’s not about a contract or a publisher. It’s about writing my story. Thinking about it that way takes the [majority of] the fear out of the equation. It’s still scary, but now I’m refocused and writing for me.

I’m going to do something big, something that makes me nervous. And I’m going to start now. Well…after these final two current DBC, Inc books are completed this weekend. Share what your big goals are in the flipgrid designed by Andrea Paulakovich! She and I copilot this space for the purpose of global collaboration on all DBC books! Find an accountability partner there! Follow along with the journey of others using the hashtag #RunLAP. Check out Adam’s website here and subscribe to his YouTube channel here. If you want a dose of Adam’s incredibly inspiring tweets, follow him on Twitter at @mradamwelcome! Here are some of my tweets about #RunLAP:

You know how I said a long time ago that I’ve read (or reread) the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books in the order they were released… well, I may have made one small exception… book 56 is nothing like any other book ever put out by the incredible powerhouse that is Dave and Shelley Burgess and I just couldn’t wait to read this book when it was released in July. The teacher in me is kicking in hardcore and getting ready to have so much fun with Dolphins in Trees by Aaron Polansky.