#DBCBookBlogs: Creatively Productive

I have a secret. One of those things that only my family knows.

When I am overwhelmed or anxious, I do two things; I react in two ways & they never fail. My telltale signs of being overwhelmed are evident only to my family (and now you, I guess).

A – I get insanely irritable. Abrupt noise bothers me, questions aggravate me, and I become quick-tempered. #truth

B – I clean & organize. By clean, I mean I deep-clean. Just last week, I was anxiously awaiting a meeting and our kitchen cabinets were the lucky recipient of that deep-clean. All of the plates and glasses were removed from the cabinets and put on the kitchen island. The insides of the cabinets were wiped with a Clorox wipe, dried, then the plates were returned and glasses/cups were inventoried. Only about two-thirds made it back into the cabinet to be used again.

These occasions are when closets are cleaned out, book shelves are reorganized, and the playroom looks like something out of a magazine.

It could be said that this is counter-productive because I’m not even working on the things that I’m anxious about or crossing off items that have me overwhelmed. I agree. But goodness, I feel so much better after a good deep-clean of just one area that I then feel more equipped to handle whatever is coming at me.

The 63rd book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line shares skills for moments like these in life. Lisa Johnson wrote Creatively Productive to share ways to “calm the chaos”, “tame time”, share “notes on note-taking”, help us set goals and track habits, provide tools for reflection, and encourage us to “read, write, review”.

creativelyproductive

I have decided that Lisa and I would be best friends in real life. I am a Xennial, sandwiched squarely between Generation X and Millennials, not identifying with either group. I enjoy organizing just a tad too much and although I am a digital learning coach (stereotyped as one who knows everything about & only values computers & devices), I have a real appreciation for all things analog. Anything in the teal family is also my favorite color! In fact, my wedding colors were a shade of teal (David’s Bridal Oasis), silver, and white.

I’ve always been a “to-do” list kind of girl! I love creating & using calendars marking time as it passes and tasks that have been accomplished. At the moment I have no less than 7 calendars I am using regularly – a mix of digital and analog. There are TWO on my fridge at home – one is a dry erase calendar that keeps our weekly plans visible, while the other is a traditional monthly calendar that gives us a long-range outlook. I am goal-driven and sometimes create goals that seem (or ARE) impossible to accomplish.

For all of these reasons, I was so eager to read Lisa’s book, Creatively Productive! Typically I can finish and blog about a DBC book in one day, but I kept getting side-tracked by all of the resources and tools that Lisa mentions and it took quite a bit longer than usual to finish this one! Her book has a theme of Alice in Wonderland and the idea that the rabbit hole can go as deep as we’re willing to dig. With some topics Lisa writes about, I dug a very, very deep rabbit hole. I also discovered that I might go broke buying new journals for myself this month… my husband thanks you, Lisa <sarcasm font activated, ha>!

There are *SO* many things I love about this book! Rather than write a 2000-word blog, I’ll just list some of the things I’m most excited about:

  • A technology base camp for our 6th graders
  • Allowing students time to organize themselves digitally after modeling it
  • Bullet journaling (Oh Em Gee, how have I never heard of this?!)
  • “The real key to success is exploration and error.”
  • Flow-charting a recurring event (Chromebook collection)
  • Productivity BINGO (My kids will be willing to do their chores with this!)
  • Note-taking templates for research
  • Goal autopsy
  • Lisa’s habit trackers (I got the pre-release goodies and whoa! Hope there’s more where these came from, Lisa!)
  • Visual goals with a muse (I have the picture of Dave Burgess & I at the second #tlap keynote I attended thumbtacked to my cork board in my office.)
  • Apps: Aging Booth, Moment, Paper by 53 (now Paper by We Transfer)
  • Year in Pixels
  • Positive procrastination
  • Doodle-A-Day
  • “There are multiple versions of you, and you must figure out which prototype fits the best.”
  • 16personalities.com (Seriously, go do this real quick!)
  • Flawd by Emily-Anne Rigal

See what I mean? To extend on each of these would take forever, and I truly want to implement every single one of these bullet points! These are ALL new ideas, or things I want to ponder from this book! You’ve got to get a copy to find out what all of these are about because they really are pretty awesome! Lisa gives tons of photos in the book so you can see where she, someone she knows, and/or her students have implemented these themselves!

Some of the super unique features of this book are the “Awesome Amulet”, “Wakeful Whimsy” and “Working Wisdom”! The Amulets are checklists written as learning targets and the Wakeful Whimsy has ideas for how to implement these targets in each core subject area (ie, think of a historical figure and determine what the folders in their Google Drive would say, etc)! Finally, the working wisdom is at the back of the book! Lisa asked dozens of successful people to complete a survey answering questions about topics relevant to her book, and we reap the benefits of seeing their answers & advice! One of my favorite questions is about the advice for the future that they would give to middle and high school students! I will be sharing this advice with my students, for sure!

There is so much to takeaway from Lisa Johnson‘s book and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did! Again, here’s a link to purchase it! All of Lisa’s contact information will be available on the stellar Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc website here. Specifically you can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and on the web. As always, there is a flipgrid available for you to share your thoughts and reflections, thanks to Andrea Paulakovich (an incredible educator in Kansas that you absolutely must follow).

Here are some tweets that highlight my takeaways as well! I can’t wait to see what you tweet out to #CreativelyProductive!

 

 

As for implementation, I was serious when I said I want to implement each of those bullet points! I can’t even pick just one or two! This book will impact both my professional and personal life! It’s just too full of terrific ideas! Lucky for me, I already have a Rocketbook Wave, so it looks like the Year in Pixels, Doodle-A-Day, and Bullet Journal already has a home! This is going to be fun!

#DBCBookBlogs: Educated By Design

In the Spring of 2017, my family and I bought a modular home about 20 minutes from where we lived at the time. Our old home was built in 1900 and we had spent more money than I’d like to think about upgrading the plumbing and electrical systems and the roof. I was ecstatic to move into a home that was built only 5 or 6 years ago. It’s a three bedroom, two bathroom home with an open concept and a playroom/office. We have between 1.5 – 2 acres of land and there was very little landscaping around the home.

Walking into a completely empty home was a bizarre feeling and one that left me a bit overwhelmed at all of the empty (mustard colored – ick) walls and windows. I have never had a knack for interior design, so seeing this blank canvas added an unwelcome layer of stress to our move. I immediately called my stepmother who is a painter and does faux finishing on any surface. She is incredibly talented. She helped us find a color scheme we liked and before placing our furniture, she painted every room in our home. My husband chose the window treatments (yes, I did say my husband) and he did an outstanding job! Next came the pictures, artwork, and decals placed on the walls. We chose our living room sectional together and our bedroom furniture was our big gift to ourselves when we moved in.

The idea of being creative and designing a space that fit our family was overwhelming for me, but with the help of others, we have been able to put together an interior design that we are all happy with. We continue to add to it, and have even taken away a few things over the past (nearly) two years. Being creative with the design process was a real struggle for me. The 61st book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line of books, Educated by Design by Michael (The Tech Rabbi) Cohen, shows us that it shouldn’t be scary.

educatedbydesign

There is so much to love about this stunning book, beginning with the beautiful cover and the square design! It is totally symbolic that this book would be shaped differently from any other book in the DBC, Inc line. It’s symbolic in that this book is all about design and creativity. Rabbi Michael Cohen (yes, he’s truly a Rabbi) does an awesome job sharing his story and showcasing his love of design, incorporating it into the field of education.

The sketchnotes in this book are remarkable! Even in grayscale, they jump off the page! These are Michael’s own sketches and they add so much depth and beauty to the book!

There are two main points that really stood out to me as I read.

Creativity must be taught in our school. We are doing a disservice to our students if we don’t give them the opportunity to showcase creative thinking on a regular basis. Students are taught that creativity belongs in their art class or their music class. This isn’t the case! Creativity belongs in ALL classes! As Michael says, “Creativity is a mindset, not an art set.” He also shares this. “Creativity comes from within. It’s not something teachers give to students – it’s something they reveal.” Are we revealing creativity in our students? Do we give them multiple opportunities to engage in the creative process? Michael speaks to the need to allow students to fail, emphasizing that failure is not a final destination, but a part of the journey. We, as people, do not fail, but our creations might. So we “stop, reflect, and pivot” to fix our next iteration. I love how Michael brings his background in design into the classroom and allows students to dig into the process!

The other main point that stood out to me was that we must connect with others. In fact, the author shares the word “connect” or some derivative of it 45 times (Thank you for checking that for me, Michael)!!! Michael shares that educators must learn from those outside of education, as well as those within education. Similar to when we bought our house and brought in an expert to help us choose a color scheme, we should be connecting our students with experts in their fields of study. I love that Michael suggests that we “diversify resources and connections when looking to hone our educational craft.” This will truly allow us to open our minds and get creative in the design of our lessons and student learning. He gives us a list of folks to follow outside of education and, of course, I went to follow each of them immediately!

Finally, I must say that once again, the DBC, Inc books are complementary of one another – building on the philosophies of others. I see many aspects of Teach Like A Pirate and The Innovator’s Mindset within the pages of Educated by Design. The idea that creativity must be something completely new is a fallacy and Michael speaks to that. He shares that creation can be the mashing together of two or more things that are already in existence, as well as the use of a tool for a reason other than what it was intended. Hearing these descriptions make me feel that, you know, maybe I am creative after all! Thanks, Rabbi!

My implementation of this book relates to the research that my students are currently doing during their media classes once a month. Throughout the next four months, students are embarking on a research project in the media center. This coincides with my implementation of the book, Launch, by John Spencer and AJ Juliani. By implementing the LAUNCH cycle in research, students are learning research skills by delving into any topic of their choosing. I have students researching anything from Fortnite to diabetes, from Greek Mythology to Holocaust, and from Imagine Dragons to traveling to Fiji. Using inspiration from Educated by Design students will be able to show their learning in any medium they choose; the only stipulation is that they create something. It can be hands-on using materials in the makerspace, or can be driven by technology using their Chromebooks. They may choose to create a poem or song, or a video and upload to YouTube, it doesn’t matter to me. We will then place their creation on display in the media center, as well as on the school’s student blog.

I highly recommend reading this book (preview it here) and using the Creativity Toolkit at the end of the book as a hook for students (and teachers) to reveal their own creative process! His emphasis on empathy as a driving force for creation is on point! If you can’t get enough, check out The Tech Rabbi’s keynote from ISTE 2018!

There is so much goodness to share and thankfully, he has a lot of it on his website! So check that out! As always, you’re invited and encouraged to check out the Flipgrid (created by the amazing Andrea Paulakovich) and add your thoughts!

I might also add that my one word for 2019 is CONNECT, which fits with this book quite perfectly! Check out my blog post about why I chose this word here! You have a part to play in helping me live out my one word, so be sure to let me know when you’re within driving distance and I’ll meet you for coffee, lunch, dinner, ice cream, whatever!

Well, what are you waiting for? Go grab your own copy of Educated by Design and start “designing the space to experiment, explore, and extract your creative potential”! Thanks for bringing us another incredible book, DBC, Inc!

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!