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!

Where Everybody Knows Your Name?

My family and I just returned from a week of luxury aboard the Disney Fantasy, a cruise ship with the Disney Cruise Line. We were thrilled to be able to spend time as a family, completely removed from work, social media, and the stress of day-to-day life.

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Disney Fantasy in port in Cozumel, Mexico

From the moment we stepped off the airplane and into the Disney transportation portion of Orlando International Airport, we were treated to the Disney experience. Because it’s just the way I am, I couldn’t ignore the connections between the Disney experience and the experience I try to give students at school each day.

Of course, the customer service was superb and the amenities were outstanding. Disney pulled out all the stops; they went all out to ensure that our experience made our family feel special and made us want to come back. Our schools should be like Disney for our students. Every child, yes, even those children, should feel special, cared for, and like we want them to come back.

What stood out the most to me was the relationships formed while on the ship. In just seven nights, we formed bonds with other families that will last a lifetime. My children were devastated to leave the characters and the fun, but they were also sad to leave our stateroom host and servers! How does Disney form these relationships so quickly?! Two big things stood out to me!

§- The Power of A Name -§

It started from the moment we embarked on the ship. We were greeted instantly and were asked our family name. Upon entering the ship’s atrium for the first time, we were introduced to the cast members and crew of the Disney Fantasy and were met with applause. A crew member took us to the side and gave us a quick rundown of logistical information and invited us to the Sail Away Party later that afternoon. After asking if we had any questions (we did not), she encouraged us to explore the ship and shared where to go if questions should arise later. What a greeting!

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Our amazing stateroom host, Narciso

If you ever doubt the power of learning names, let me share this short story…

Narciso was our stateroom host. Every time we ran into him in the hallway, our conversation went something like this:

Narciso: Good morning, Alicia! How did you sleep?

Alicia: Great, thank you! How was your evening?

N: It was good! Are you planning to visit the island today?

A: We’re hoping to. We didn’t plan an excursion but we hope to check out the shops nearby.

N: Sounds great! I hope you and your family have a great day. Is there anything I can do to make your stay more comfortable?

A: No, thank you.

N: Will Bailey or Sophie be on the top bunk tonight? (He placed the stuffed animals they sleep with on the bed when he turned them down each night.)

And the conversation would continue. He was exceptional! On a ship full of strangers, it felt like home because someone knew our name, and greeted us by name. It had a calming effect that I wasn’t expecting. I realize that if I feel more comfortable in a space upon hearing my name, our students likely do as well.

§- Likes and Dislikes -§

At our first dinner our server and assistant server introduced themselves and called us by name, asking what we preferred to be called. They already knew our names because they had taken the time to view our information before we joined them. Our servers had between 24-30 people to attend to throughout the cruise during our seating, with another 24-30 at the other dinner seating. They had our names memorized and quickly learned what we liked and disliked in meal preferences.

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Danijel (server), the Faulkners, the Rays, and Clifton (assistant server)

Now I don’t, for even a second, believe Clifton just remembered that my oldest daughter wanted Sprite and my youngest daughter wanted water with extra ice nor do I believe that Danijel remembered that I like my sirloin cooked medium and my husband is an adventurous eater. They took the time to write it down, jotting a note in their record so they could refer to it the next night. How often do we do that with our students? If you are a classroom teacher, I encourage you to make a list of your students and write as much as you can about each one from memory, and add to it as the year progresses. Because I fully believe Dave Burgess‘s quote “Inspiration without implementation is a waste,” I will use a <large> notebook (I serve approximately 400 students and 30 educators) and create a page for each one, adding notes about their likes and dislikes as our relationships continue to form. Is that going to take time? Of course! Will it be worth it? I believe so.

Why do I think it’ll be worth it? I just experienced 7 nights with people I’ve never met before who took the time to pay attention to the little things and get to know me as a person. I never felt like just another family on vacation. I never want my students to feel as if they’re “just another student.” I want each one to feel special. That starts with knowing their name, pronouncing it correctly, and taking the time to learn their likes and dislikes to make a genuine connection as quickly as possible.

 

#DBCBookBlogs: Balance Like A Pirate

I was intimidated when I started this book. I know I’m imbalanced; I can feel it. I think you can feel it too, when you’re out of balance. If not, take some time to listen to your body.

My shoulders and neck are stiff. My head hurts. I’m not sleeping well. I eat more junk food. My house becomes cluttered. My kids argue with one another and I become very short-tempered. I find myself planning for the next day rather than the next week. Have you been there? Of course you have. If you’ve not, you’re lying. Yep – I just called you out.

We’re educators; imbalance is a way of life. Thankfully, Jessica Cabeen, Jessica Johnson, and Sarah Johnson share their stories in the third Lead Like a Pirate guide book, Balance Like A Pirate.

I knew going into this book that it would be conviction central, and sure enough… I’m riddled with guilt right now. Jessica-squared (this is really how I remember them) and Sarah share stories of their own imbalances, which help with the guilt. They assure us that we will never be at a mathematical balance, where we are exhibiting a 50-50 relationship balance between work and home. In fact, the authors contend that there aren’t only two areas in which to focus. There are four. These are as follows:

  • Personal – Who are you? Outside of your job, what titles do you hold?
  • Positional – What is your role at your job? What pays the bills?
  • Professional – How do you continue to grow and learn your job?
  • Passions – What gets you out of bed?

I took time while reading to dive into these quadrants and define them in my own life. There are some excellent activities the authors share to help us think through where we currently are in our balance, and where each piece of ourselves fits in the quadrants.

Personally, I am a wife, mother, caregiver of a child with Type 1 Diabetes and high functioning autism, daughter, sister, aunt, granddaughter, niece, cousin, Christian, nursery worker, and friend. Positionally, I am a digital learning coach and a media coordinator. I work with teachers and students in my school, as well as partnering with administration to bring about meaningful and sustainable change in our school. I also lead district and state level professional development. I serve on our ISTE state affiliate board of directors and am a Future Ready Thought Leader in Instructional Coaching. Professionally, I read books and connect with my PLN to provide my own growth. #DBC50Summer and #DBCBookBlogs have been the main instrument for growth, in addition to Twitter chats. I enjoy attending edcamps. I attend state level conferences and would like to attend a national or international conference in the near future. Finally, my passions include reading and writing, watching football, and connecting with others.

Like many of you, I’ve got a lot on my plate, so to speak. I drop the ball every day on at least one of these quadrants. I’ve got to get better at this balancing act, and this book was exactly what I needed to help me make small steps to see big changes in each of these areas.

There is so much I enjoyed about reading Balance Like A Pirate. The practical advice at the end was definitely the highlight for me. As a believer in the quote from the Captain himself, “Inspiration without implementation is a waste,” I was thrilled to see the final section devoted to ways to readily implement the ideals and philosophies held within the pages of the book. I will be implementing many of these in the near future. My official implementation plan for this one is a bit different from the ideas given at the end of the book.

When I started my weight-loss journey over a year ago, the first thing my doctor suggested that I do was write down everything I put into my body. If I drank water, write it down; if I put barbecue sauce on my chicken tenders, write that down, etc. I thought this was lame, but realized that I weighed more than I had when I was 9 months pregnant with my youngest daughter and I knew I was in a spiral into depression. So… I documented it all with my FitBit app. What I quickly realized was that I was gaining weight because I was eating nothing but junk. I wasn’t eating much at all, but when I did it was a Snickers bar and Mountain Dew. I was drinking nearly a liter of Mountain Dew every day and absolutely no water. We would go out to eat every night and I would load up on all the starchy vegetables and leave the good stuff out. I would eat a half of a bag of Doritos at 8:00 at night, then wonder why I couldn’t rest well. It was bad, y’all. If I hadn’t written it all down, if I hadn’t taken that step to become aware of what I was doing to myself, I’m not sure that I would be able to tell you that my weight-loss journey has been a huge success. I have lost over 40 pounds in a year and feel better than I’ve felt in a long time. Granted, I’ve gained some of it back in the past few weeks due to excessive amounts of time reading and blogging (ahem, imbalanced much?!), but as part of my EduNinja Mindset implementation plan, I will be getting up early at least 3 days a week to exercise in the mornings. (This hasn’t gone so well yet, but I will get better.)

With this in mind, my implementation for Balance Like A Pirate will be very similar. I will take a pulse of my commitments and my time in each quadrant by writing down what I am doing each day. Every 30-60 minutes, I will take a short pause for reflection writing down which quadrant I have been focused on. If there have been multiple quadrants addressed during that specified time, I will note that. I will do this for at least one week, possibly longer, until I see a clear picture of where I currently stand in the quadrants. I’m not sure which quadrant I’m spending the most time in right now, but it is clear that my personal quadrant is being neglected the most.

If you’re a parent and an educator, you likely feel the same convictions I do when it comes to our own children. My daughters get the worst version of me.  They unwillingly make so many sacrifices because their mom is a committed educator. They need me to be a committed mom. I come home exhausted from answering a million questions, dealing with middle school drama, and pouring my heart out for my students, and there’s just not a lot left when we get home. After working until 4:30-5:00 every evening, we come home to quickly do homework, grab something quick to eat, go to whatever ball practice/game is on the schedule for the night, then come home for showers and bedtime. They deserve better from me. This much is evident without even taking a pulse on where I currently am in my imbalance. Once I see where the majority of my time is being spent, I can better adjust using ANCHOR Goals (described in this book, it’s the equivalent of a SMART goal for balancing our lives) without eliminating my time in the quadrants altogether. I look forward to seeing what comes from my time with this book. I am excited to spend more time with my family, but fearful of what that will do to my professional growth. I’m not going to lie, I’m looking forward to sleeping again, ha!

Also… that freaking out chart… that thing is on point! You’ve got to see this thing in the book! It’s pretty much perfect!

Head on over to the Dave Burgess Consulting website to preview this book! You can follow along with others going on this journey working toward achieving a better balance using the hashtag #BalanceLAP and following Jessica, Jessica, and Sarah. You may also check out their websites! Jessica Cabeen’s is here, Jessica Johnson’s is here, and Sarah’s can be found here. Jessica Johnson’s website has a list of podcasts she has appeared on, as well as her own podcast, Principal PLN. Sarah also includes podcasts and publications here. I highly recommend purchasing this book for yourself and for a friend. Being sure that both of you have a copy gives you the opportunity for immediate accountability partners who will speak the same language. Oddly enough, my accountability partners are people I’ve never even met; you all. You are my accountability partners in that you pushed me to finish #DBC50Summer, and you are currently encouraging me to follow through on the implementation plans I created for that, and the rest of the #DBCBookBlogs and you may not even be aware that you’re inspiring me to complete this journey. But you are. And I appreciate that. Continue to follow along with me. There are only a few books left (I’m sure more will be coming very soon, but at least for now I’ll be caught up).

As always, Andrea Paulakovich (creator of the flipgrid for all DBC, Inc books) and I invite you to share your thoughts on the flipgrid for Balance Like A Pirate.

The next book is Kim Bearden‘s Talk to Me. I’m beyond excited about this one. I have heard that I’m going to love it, so I’m eager to see if it will live up to the hype from my dear friend who suggested it. Also – there’s a special something in store for this blog!!! Stay tuned!