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!

IMG_6253

(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?

#DBCBookBlogs: They Call Me “Mr. De”

Cassie Bernall, Steve Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matt Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Daniel Rohrbough, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren Townsend, Kyle Velasquez, Coach Dave Sanders

The names of those murdered by two students at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. Frank DeAngelis was the principal at Columbine that day and he remained principal for the following 15 years. This may go on record as the shortest #DBCBookBlog to date as I feel that anything I would say would diminish the power of this book. This book left me speechless. I cried. I mourned the loss of those lives. I felt the Rebel Pride of Columbine as I read about the recovery, the hope, and love of the community through Frank’s eyes. This is a must-read book.

TheyCallMeMrDe

There are certain events that have occurred in which I remember exactly where I was and how I felt. The mass tragedy at Columbine was one of those times. I was in middle school and as news didn’t spread quite as quickly as it does today, I found out about the shooting on the evening news. There wasn’t a lot of information available, but I remember feeling stunned that this could happen. The community of Columbine seemed so much like my own community – supportive, vibrant, and loving.

To say that anything “good” came from that day must feel like a slap in the face to those who experienced the horror. With that in mind, I will just say that I am thankful for the efforts of Frank and so many others to protect students across the country from these senseless tragedies. At my school, we now have locks on our doors that lock from the inside, a full-time School Resource Officer (SRO), video surveillance across our entire campus, a front-door buzzer, panic buttons, badges for volunteers and visitors, and more. We practice two lockdowns per year in conjunction with our Sheriff’s Department. However, with all of these safety protocols in place, these tragedies continue to occur.

While I feel as though I’m powerless to prevent this from happening to anyone else, I can be certain to be more involved in the lives of my own children. By my children, I mean both my biological daughters and the thousands of students whom I consider to be my children. I struggle to believe that children are born evil. I’m not sure what changed the two gunmen from silly little boys to murderous young men, but I can be sure to be proactive as a parent and an educator. No one knows what tomorrow holds. We can only spread kindness, hope, and love, just like Frank DeAngelis.

One of the things that stood out to me the most from reading this book is the effort Frank put in to include the names of every single person who was instrumental in the recovery and resiliency of the community. He honors the students who lost their lives by sharing their stories and being involved in countless charities and organizations. He speaks across the world and reaches out to those who have been affected by similar tragedies. Lean on others when you need support. Like Frank, it’s important to seek treatment by a professional and show your emotions. Grieve together. Share positive memories with one another. Check up on each other. If you are a spiritual person, dive into your faith like never before. These are some of the keys to Columbine’s hope, recovery, and resiliency.

Thank you, Frank DeAngelis, for sharing your story. Thank you for being raw, honest, and vulnerable. Thank you for allowing us to see you. I imagine writing this story was part of your own recovery and I appreciate your heart. Because of you, the lives of the Beloved Thirteen will continue to be remembered. Never Forgotten.

∞∞∞

No matter what your profession, no matter your political affiliation, your spiritual beliefs, every person should read this book. It’s important that the truth is shared and that these lives are remembered. Read a free preview, then order your hardcover copy here.

#DBCBookBlogs: The Revolution

“If you want to have students in your classroom, then keep teaching models from the twentieth century. If you want to have learners in your classroom, then keep reading…”

~Darren Ellwein & Derek McCoy

I spent ten years in the elementary setting. Even in my undergraduate courses, when I met middle school education majors, I would shake my head wondering what they were thinking. Why would they want to teach hormonally imbalanced children who were bigger than they were?! Those kids who were stuck between being a child and becoming an adult. I equated middle school to that incredibly awkward time in my life when I quit being “one of the guys” and became a cheerleader. This was a time before makeup and braces, a time of bangs, acne, thin, unkept hair… it was not. pretty. y’all. (And before you ask, no; there will absolutely NOT be a picture of this anywhere in this post)

So why in the world would I want to re-enter that world of awkwardness and getting picked on? When my Superintendent shared a job description with me that pretty much came straight from a dream world, he had me hooked. Then he informed me… “I’ll need you to move to a middle school”

…say what?!…

So for the past three years, I have been back in the world of middle school. Just like the authors of The Revolution (book 67 for Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc), I now believe middle school is THE place to be! I can’t imagine teaching at any other level but middle school! I love every second with these kids. They are truly going to change the world; heck, many of them are already changing the world… and they are somewhere between 11-15 years old. Darren Ellwein and Derek McCoy are both middle school principals who are revolutionizing education. But they don’t just talk the talk, they are walking the walk and they share their stories in their book!

TheRevolution

Throughout the entire book I was nodding my head, highlighting, and writing notes in the margin (by the way, I’d suggest a print copy so you can do the same). This is yet another book that I could write a few thousand words for a reflection; I’m going to try NOT to do that, though. No promises… I may get pumped up and not be able to help myself.

Darren & Derek talk about it all in The Revolution, calling those who are doing the hard work and changing education from the industrial age “Revolution@ries”! Some of the topics discussed are:

  • Classroom Management
  • Growth Mindset
  • Culture
  • Learning Spaces
  • Funding (Friendraising – oh em gee, I love this)
  • Empowerment
  • Collaboration
  • Global Learning
  • Empathy
  • Design Thinking
  • Makerspace & the Maker Culture
  • Learners as Revolution@ries
  • Revolution@ry Leaders
  • Personalized Learning (this example is on point, by the way)

When I say there’s something for everyone in this book, it’s easy to see why that’s not an exaggeration. Even though Derek & Darren are middle school principals and discuss their experiences as middle school educators, make no mistake – this is not a middle school ONLY book! This is for ALL levels of education!

Reflections & Connections

As I was reading, I made many connections. I immediately identified with the section about learning spaces. Upon arriving at the middle school, I wanted to change up the layout of the media center immediately. It screamed “old school” and I wanted to bring new life to it. I wrote a blog post about the Media Makeover a while back. It’s important to know that this space still isn’t complete! It never will be complete. As long as new students are coming into the space, things will change. Why? I get their input. Former students come in and see the changes, usually responding with “Mrs. Ray, why did you wait until I left to get the cool stuff?!” Ha! It’s ironic because every group says that, which must mean we’re doing something right! The space continues to improve and students still want to come back and visit. Even now, our space has changed drastically from the images in the Media Makeover blog. Here’s a tweet highlighting some of the changes.

Another BIG a-ha for me was the compliance –> engagement –> empowerment theme in the book! I was privileged to guest moderate a #champforkids chat (founded by Kelly Hoggard, a phenomenal educator and friend from Virginia) in September 2018. Our topic was “Engagement or Compliance” and we discussed this very idea. The idea that engagement surpasses compliance. Compliant students aren’t necessarily learning anything; they’re just playing the game well. They are answering the questions and doing what’s asked of them. There is no passion behind their eyes, no enthusiasm for learning. Engaged students are sitting on the edge of their seats practically begging for more. I don’t know about you, but when given the choice, I’ll take an engaged student any day! Then Darren & Derek throw in empowered students and I’m over here, like, “I want those kids now! As in right now!”

Part of my passion as a media coordinator is teaching students to be lifelong learners who are knowledgeable about finding relevant, reliable, safe, and accurate information in both digital and print formats. We have really dug into teaching research skills using the LAUNCH method (more on that in a later post) based on AJ Juliani and John Spencer’s book, Launch. Rather than requiring a certain topic to be researched, students have chosen their own topic and were required to find three sources that were relevant, reliable, safe, and accurate, summarize and paraphrase the information contained within those sources and have learned the basics of citing sources using APA or MLA format (and where to create those online). Yes, there are currently over 350 research projects going on at the same time right now and it’s an incredible feeling!

Implementation

This leads me to the implementation plan. In the chapter “A Final Call to Action” Darren & Derek share “It’s exciting to talk about revolution, but a revolt against the status quo doesn’t happen without action. The words on these pages have no meaning unless you put them into practice.” Sounds a lot like my favorite quote from Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess.

“Inspiration without implementation is a waste.”

This quote has guided all of #DBC50Summer and #DBCBookBlogs as I am trying to implement at least one thing from each book. I’m getting the point in the school year that I’m going to need to begin thinking about the 2019-2020 school year as the year for implementations. This year is rapidly coming to a close. I believe I can squeak this one in though, because it correlates with an idea I was already trying to work out in my head.

I wanted students to be able to share the information gathered from their research with their peers but wasn’t sure how to have them present it. That’s just the problem; I was trying to put them in a box and tell them how I wanted it presented. Ugh! I know better than that! Now I’m getting out of their way and allowing them to decide how they want to showcase what they learned in their research. The sky is the limit. We have an incredible makerspace, virtual reality, Merge cubes, and we’re 1:1 with Chromebooks and Bring Your Own Device. These students can literally do whatever they want to share their information with their peers. I’m excited to see what they come up with.

Two other implementations…

I’m going to finally make myself sit down and create a list of all the items we have available in our makerspace and devise a plan for teachers to get in the space and put their hands on the materials to connect it to their curriculum. (Fit the curriculum into the learning rather than fit the learning into the curriculum, as suggested in The Revolution)

I want to create a #RevoltLAP playlist that will get me amped before going to work! Songs like Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” Imagine Dragons’ “Whatever It Takes,” and others will certainly be in the mix. Share what revolution song gets you pumped to revolt against the status quo in the comments below! I’ll create a playlist of these songs and share via Twitter. I’ll also link it here!

#RevoltLAP

Be sure to follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #RevoltLAP! I’m expecting great things to come from this book and I know you’ll want to be part of it! I’ve known Derek for years and can personally attest to him being the real deal! I look forward to meeting Darren and loved reading all about his own revolution@ry journey! Soon, you will be able to find out more about Darren and Derek on the Where are the PIRATES section of the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc website. For now, check out Derek’s website here and Darren’s website here. I’d also suggest subscribing to both of their YouTube channels! Derek is here and Darren is here. Finally, go check out the Flipgrid space and leave words of inspiration for other Revolution@ries! We are all in this together, and we need support! A huge shoutout to Andrea Paulakovich for allowing me to copilot this space. It was her incredible idea to brought the Flipgrid to life!