#DBC50Summer 50/50: The EduNinja Mindset

No clever anecdote tonight. Just want to share the awesome from book 50. And I do mean AWESOME.  This book was the PERFECT book to end #DBC50Summer with; it was totally worth the wait! The 50th book from Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc was released on June 10, 2018 and sparked a Twitter celebration among the Pirate crew! All 50 books were given to one lucky winner – Mike Mohammad! (He’s a super awesome guy and you should go follow him!) The fiftieth book in the DBC dynasty is The EduNinja Mindset by Jennifer Burdis.

Jen Burdis created a masterpiece with The EduNinja Mindset; she really did. This book is inspiring, authentic, and paradigm shifting; it’s exceptional. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I cracked the cover. I thought it would be a book on exercise and taking care of yourself physically and mentally. It’s so much more, y’all… It’s about goal-setting, perseverance, grit, determination, and doing amazing things despite your fears, setbacks, and insecurities. Each chapter was so powerful that I’m literally going to share chapter-by-chapter my takeaways. This format is a bit different for #DBC50Summer posts, but if I don’t do this – I’ll literally write another book reflecting on what I have gained from this book.

Chapter 1: An EduNinja Overcomes Obstacles

Amazing Quote: “Would we really wish for an easy life when our greatest learning comes through overcoming obstacles?”

Connection/Reflection: Give all students an environment to shine. Jen shares with us her struggles through school with undiagnosed dyslexia. Her story breaks my heart and makes me want to attack my lessons again to be sure all 400(ish) of my students can be successful with any experiences their teachers and I co-create! It’s also important to note that “extracurricular” activities aren’t always “extra”! For some of our students, it’s everything. It’s their reason for staying in school and the only place they feel success. We should be encouraging extracurriculars (like sports, clubs, academic teams, etc) for students who struggle to perform in school, not punishing them by taking it away. Finally, being first feels good. Jen’s grandma and dad helped her understand that “being the first to do something – even something others say is crazy or impossible – should be celebrated.” This seems exceptionally fitting given the fact that this is the final book of #DBC50Summer. I’m not the first to read the first 50 DBC, Inc books, but I am the first that I know of to commit to reading, reflecting, blogging, and implementing at least one thing from each book. And it feels good.

Chapter 2: An EduNinja is Reflective and Protective

Amazing Quote: “Journaling helps you look for patterns in your life and behaviors, strengthen your ideas, and develop new ones so you can learn more about yourself and the world around you.”

Connection/Reflection: Be reflective, every single day. These last few days of #DBC50Summer have created the most growth for me. Through reflecting and blogging every day, I have learned more about myself, my inner voice, than ever before. Now that #DBC50Summer is coming to an end, I intend to do something for me! Jen says it’s ok! In fact, she encourages scheduling time every day for myself! That’s tough to think about with so many demands, but we have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. (In case you didn’t realize it, as educators, we spend a lot of time taking care of others. Which means we need to spend a lot of time taking care of ourselves.)

Chapter 3: An EduNinja Sets Goals with Soul

Amazing Quote: “You don’t have to love the work you put into achieving a goal, but you do have to be passionate about your goal is you want to be successful. Goals with soul are the ones giving you purpose, the ones you stay focused on, the ones giving you vision even when things get tough.”

Connection/Reflection: #DBC50Summer was definitely a Goal with Soul! However, I enjoyed every minute of the work I put into achieving this goal. I have been insanely passionate about this journey and am so thrilled to see it through! I mentioned in Allyson Apsey‘s The Path to Serendipity that I struggle with my own insecurities. Jen gives an example of the perfect solution – affirmations. If we say kind things to ourselves enough, we will start to believe them. These affirmations lead to our setting bigger goals for ourselves. Some of my biggest core values are drive and determination. I’ve always been one that will push the envelope. I like to do what’s impossible. It’s fun! (That’s what Walt Disney says, too!) Finally, turn your struggles into strengths! I struggle with overanalyzing every conversation I have and every decision I make. Turning this struggle into a strength, I can say that I am “detail-oriented and focused on making the best decision for all involved.”

Chapter 5: An EduNinja Lives on Purpose

Amazing Quote: “What are you training for?”

Connection/Reflection: One of my implementation plans for this book comes from this chapter. I will be creating a personal, professional, and familial mission statement like Jen has done. This will better aid my decision-making and eliminate things that do not agree with my core values included within my mission statements. I love what Todd Whitaker says (as quoted in The EduNinja Mindset), “Don’t tell the world your mission statement. Show the world you’re on a mission.”

Chapter 5: An EduNinja Embraces Imperfection

Amazing Quote: “Our goals aren’t big enough if we reach all of them.”

Connection/Reflection: Jen shares her thinking as she reflects on the painful failure of her performance on the seventh season of American Ninja Warrior. She writes, “Shouldn’t all of our goals be just out of reach?” That’s big stuff! If we can achieve them all, they aren’t really goals, are they? Reaching for goals that are out of reach will sometimes result in failure. And that’s ok. Failure gives us the opportunity to learn. If we succeed at everything we do, we’ve just got a lot of success, but no life lessons learned. I love the quote that I’ve seen around the big box stores on home decor lately, inspired by John Maxwell’s book of a similar name – Sometimes I win, sometimes I learn. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Vulnerability is valued and asking for help is not failure. Asking for help is a stepping stone to success.

 Chapter 6: An EduNinja Overcomes Fear

Amazing Quote: “When your purpose is stronger than your fear, you won’t give up.”

Connection/Reflection: Jen asks a hard question in this chapter. “What holds you back from setting bigger goals?” I had an insane fear (nearly paralyzing at times) of public speaking. Notice I said “had”. I overcame this fear by presenting… over and over again. I have never presented at a national conference, but it’s on my list of things to do in 2019. That’s one of my “bigger goals” that Jen refers to in her question. I have been a featured workshop presenter at my state’s ISTE affiliate, North Carolina Technology in Education Society, for the past 3 years. Before each session, my skin is clammy, I am a ball of nerves, and my stomach rolls. I can’t sleep for several days before the session because I have nightmares of all that could go wrong. If the nightmares don’t show up, I’m tossing and turning with my brain overanalyzing the imaginative play-by-play of the session. Once I start, I feel much better. However, as soon as I finish, I retreat to a quiet space (usually back to my hotel room) and decompress. Setting bigger goals scares me; the idea of speaking at a national conference terrifies me. However, my purpose is stronger than my fears.

Chapter 7: An EduNinja Fuels with Good Nutrition

Amazing Quote: “Eating healthier has changed my life.”

Connection/Reflection: That quote is so powerful to me because I’ve just spent the last year on a journey to change my lifestyle. After our youngest daughter was born and spent the first 9-10 months of her life crying, I struggled with depression and anxiety. This led to intense weight gain. A year ago I was the heaviest I had ever been, including throughout my pregnancies. My doctor did blood work at my annual physical which showed elevated LDLs (the bad cholesterol) and said I was pre-diabetic. I did not want to have to change my lifestyle involuntarily due to diabetes, so I voluntarily changed my lifestyle to prevent diabetes. (Ironic because our youngest was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes less than 6 weeks ago) I cut out all Mountain Dew (this was monumental), eliminated all sweets, and began eating healthier. At the grocery store, I focused on the outer rim – the foods that are best for you are typically on the outer rim of your grocery store (fruits, veggies, meats, eggs, milk, cheese, etc). It’s been 13 months since that doctor appointment and I am now 40 pounds lighter and healthier than ever. I pay attention to food labels and keep track of what I put into my body. Now that our youngest is diabetic, our entire family is on the same journey with a lifestyle change and we are excited to see the transformation for all of us by keeping healthy foods inside the house to prevent succumbing to the triggers that Jen speaks of in this chapter!

Chapter 8: An EduNinja Moves

Amazing Quote: “Look at your current lessons and ask how you could make them more movement based.”

Connection/Reflection: My second implementation comes from Chapter 8. It hurts my heart. Remember my favorite quote in chapter 3? Well, it applies here. I’m not at all excited about it, but I know that it’s going to be beneficial. I am committing to morning workouts 3-4 days each week. Y’all… I love sleep. It’s honestly my hobby. Sounds insanely lazy, but it’s not meant to be that way. I love dreaming. I love that we have no limits when we dream. I can exist in a whole new reality while I’m sleeping. To me, sleeping is magic. Also – I’m a thread-count snob. I don’t splurge on much – I prefer Sheetz chai tea to Starbucks every day of the week. I eat generic brands and am not embarrassed to say that many of my favorite outfits are thrift store finds. However… I will empty my purse to get 1200 thread-count king-sized sheets for our bed. It’s a big deal. Usually hotels disappoint me because their sheets and bed are not as comfortable. There are only a couple of occasions where I’ve been satisfied with the sheets and beds in a hotel. With that in mind, getting out of said bed is going to be difficult. However, Jen makes perfect sense in her reasoning behind working out in the morning, so I’m going to try it and see how it goes.

Chapter 9: An EduNinja Practices Mindfulness

Amazing Quote: “Paying attention on purpose”

Connection/Reflection: My brain is always on overload. It’s a frightening place to be sometimes. I can have a dozen thoughts floating at any given moment. I have squirrel moments on the regular. I lose track of what I’m saying mid-sentence sometimes because I’m having a whole different conversation with myself in my head, which is 95% of the time completely unrelated to what I’m doing at the moment. I’ve got to work on being fully present in the moment. (In fact, immersion is the most difficult aspect of Teach Like A Pirate for me because of this. It’s rare to have my undivided attention.) Because of this chapter, I will work to pay attention on purpose. I will be more intentional about being fully present, especially at home where there are a million things I need to do.

Chapter 10: An EduNinja Embodies Grit

Amazing Quote: “Don’t stop until you’re proud.”

Connection/Reflection: I wrote so many notes in the margins of this chapter. Grit, to me, is drive. Drive is one of my core values. I loved this chapter. From this I am reminded to always come back to my why, reward efforts and not outcome, and I love the idea of a highlight reel. Our student blog for my school can easily feature a highlight reel of awesome stuff that’s happened each month! Finally, my favorite concept from this chapter is the idea of becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable!

Chapter 11: An EduNinja Leaves A Legacy

Amazing Quote: “We all have these influencers who have left us a legacy. Now it’s our turn to be like them for someone else.”

Connection/Reflection: This chapter encourages me to reflect on the legacy I am leaving as my students spend 3 years with me at the middle school. This is a huge chunk of their lives, a formative time when they are discovering who they are as people. Because they are highly impressionable during this time, I should constantly wonder about the impression I am leaving on them. Believing that every single one of my students can achieve greatness is my biggest reflection for this chapter.

See… I told you that Jen brought it in this book! The EduNinja Mindset is powerful and I highly suggest it to anyone both in and out of education! Honestly, I wouldn’t be against putting it in students hands and seeing what they get out of it! As I said earlier, this book is about so much more than being physically and mentally fit. It’s about being the best version of yourself that you can be! Jennifer Burdis pushes us to strive for greatness! Follow the hashtag #EduNinjaMindset on social media and check out Jen’s incredible websites here and here! Sign up for her newsletter to get fantastic resources! Check out the Watson Unplugged podcast where Jen was a guest! Share how you will incorporate movement in your life and your classroom on the flipgrid here. I am so blessed to have met Andrea Paulakovich through this #DBC50Summer journey and she had an incredible idea earlier in the summer to create a space for global collaboration for all DBC, Inc books!

We’re not done with #DBC50Summer yet as I have two more posts coming tonight, but this concludes the blog posts about each book and I now have created an implementation plan to improve my teaching practice for every single one… the time is 9:25 pm EST and I have successfully completed my #DBC50Summer! As is tradition, after every ten books we stop and recap, so stay tuned for #DBC50Summer Recap 5. There will also be another post with a special announcement later tonight! Happy Fall, y’all!




#DBC50Summer 34/50: Code Breaker

My first experience with coding? High school. Computer Applications 3. We were told to open Notepad on our Dell Optiplex GX110s (yep – big, white computers complete with driver for a 3.5″ diskette). After we were given a sheet with various html codes using angle brackets, we set to creating our own websites. As a junior in high school, I was able to create my first website using code like <h1> and </h1>. My favorite part? I distinctly remember when Mrs. Burgess (Yes, that is really her name! No, the irony of that is not lost on me!) gave us the “cheat codes” to different colored backgrounds and colored text. As soon as I could make my page hot pink and purple, I had succeeded. (Y’all, it was a horrific design. HA!)

Book 34 is a super short, super fast read full of ways to get started with coding in your own classroom/school! Brian Aspinall brings us Code Breaker as book 34 in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line up.

Brian is quick to explain that computer science is not only coding. It’s a way of thinking. He speaks to learning about coding as a language that our students should know, even if they are not planning to become professional programmers. Thinking through the process of writing code is about more than just creating a website or app. It’s about the critical thinking and problem-solving that is put into practice while writing the code. It’s about perseverance and finding those tiny mistakes that can negate an entire block of code. I love his analogy of coding being a part of computer science as biology is a part of natural sciences. That’s when the distinction really clicked for me in a way that I could share with others.

Even if I weren’t already an advocate for teaching students how to code, I would be after reading Code Breaker!

When I became a media coordinator at an elementary school in 2014, I heard about this idea of “Hour of Code” that was taking off in schools across the world. I knew my students needed in on this, so I partnered with our computer teacher and we created a schedule in which every student in our school (yes, even the pre-kindergarten students) would engage in coding within one day. It was fast and furious and so much fun! Our pre-k and kindergarten students enjoyed playing a game of Simon Says and following the tiles along the hallways of our school. They were learning the fundamentals of coding through playing a game they were already familiar with. They learned how the computer only does what the human tells it to do just as they only do what Simon says to do in the game. We then moved from analog coding (unplugged activities) to using code.org for our emerging readers. This is a great place to go for coding instruction, allowing learners (even you!) to move through a curriculum designed for any age group. Even though I’ve moved to a middle school, the Hour of Code has not only continued in that elementary school, but has spread throughout my district.

If you’ve participated in the Hour of Code and are ready to move to the next thing in coding, check out Brian’s book! He gives many ways to integrate coding into multiple subject areas at a variety of ages. There are QR codes linked throughout the book to blog posts to further your learning, as well as examples and resources. At the end of the book there are several more resources, and educators to follow are listed throughout the pages of Code Breaker.

I have some of my favorite resources to share with you as well.

There are several unplugged games to get you started, too!

Earlier this year, I facilitated a session on Coding Camps and shared our activities in a five day summer camp. That slide deck can be accessed here.

With the strides we’ve already made to include coding across our district, I was a bit apprehensive about how I could implement Code Breaker in the new school year. Luckily Brian provides to many new ideas that finding something to implement was incredibly easy! For this book, I will be working with my math team to use MinecraftEDU to show patterns in both constant rate of change and growing patterns as he describes in chapter 4! This experience fits perfectly in our curriculum and we already use Minecraft to do multiple lessons, so students will be excited to see it implemented in patterns as well!

Brian provides excellent resources on his website. Brian has three TEDx Talks! Click for access to Hacking the Classroom, Education Reform, and Beyond Rote Learning. Don Wettrick (remember Pure Genius – such a good book!) interviewed Brian in his StartEdUp podcast. MindShare Learning did a video podcast with Brian, and The Ed Podcast just released a podcast with Brian earlier this summer about coding and why it isn’t necessarily the most important thing being learned (LOVE THIS!). As always, Andrea Paulakovich and I are copiloting a flipgrid which allows for collaboration on a global scale reflecting on each DBC, Inc book. Andrea had this incredible idea of using flipgrid at the beginning of the summer, and I was fortunate enough to get to be part of it! Feel free to share your thoughts with the community here; if no one has posted, be bold and start the conversation! The Twitter community uses the hashtag #CodeBreaker to discuss the ideas in this book. Speaking of Twitter, here are a couple of my reflective tweets while reading the book. Brian speaks so much truth in so few pages! Be sure to grab your copy now!



I was excited to finally be able to read book 34 and am equally pumped to get to read book 35! If you’ve heard of The Ron Clark Academy and believe in what the educators there in Atlanta are doing for their students, you will also be excited about book 35! It was written by the husband-wife team of Wade & Hope King, educators at The Ron Clark Academy and is called The Wild Card. Prepare to be inspired to get creative with book 35!

First Genius Hour Attempt

I was in a great session about Problem-Based and Project-Based Learning at NCTIES when the presenters mentioned Genius Hour. So, I go to all these EdCamps and NCTIES conference and participate in Twitter chats and constantly hear about this thing called “Genius Hour”.  I always thought it would be cool to try, but it always seemed so difficult to manage on such a large scale in the media center so I had avoided it.  Well, this session made it sound so incredibly easy that I finally decided to try it out with my 4th and 5th grade students.  My district uses the FINDS method for research in the media center, so I was able to incorporate the research method and plug in NCWiseOwl as a resource, and as a bonus, was able to pull in Google Slides as all students have Gmail accounts in our district.  Here a quick list of my epic wins and epic fails of my first attempt at Genius Hour.

Genius Hour.JPG

Step 1:  Focus – I explained to my students (two 4th grade classes of approximately 25 students each and two 5th grade classes of approximately 15 students each) that Genius Hour was a time for them to research a topic that interested them with (almost) no restrictions.  Each student wrote down 10 things they loved, 10 things they were good at, and 10 things they wondered about.  From those lists, they looked for a common theme and chose a topic to research.  Some students really struggled with listing what they were good at, which was interesting to me.  Those that finished quickly were able to write some questions they had about their topic.  I had to narrow down some of the topics as a few were not really appropriate for school-based research.

Step 2: Investigate & Note-Taking – After allowing the students to choose their own topic (with some redirection in a few cases), I began a teacher research frenzy.  I took to the internet to find diversified, kid-friendly, elementary school appropriate websites with minimal ads on each topic… yes, each… all 75-80 projects.  Luckily a few overlapped, and a few wanted to research their family tree or interview a community member, so I was able to duplicate some sites and rely on personal interviews for others.  Overall, I found 3-4 good websites each for about 65 students.  Students were also able to use NCWiseOwl, PebbleGo, Trueflix and Freedomflix to research.  If I were in a middle or high school, I would have likely let students just run with it, but since I work with elementary students, I felt the need to really narrow down safe sites for them.  Prior to allowing them to access their chosen websites, we discussed the difference between a website with valid information and invalid information.  We talked about verifying sources and plagiarism and copyright laws.  This step took three class periods, which totally about 2 hours of true research time.

Step 3:  Develop – Students have worked this year on accessing Google Drive and using it for collaboration and creation.  My 4th and 5th graders logged into their Google Drive, created a new Google Slides presentation, and organized their information onto the slides as they deemed appropriate.  This allowed for a great discussion on a “good” slide and what is appropriate in a presentation (ie, appropriate font and font size, color selection, amount of words on the slide, etc).  Students input pictures by adding images from our school server that I had previously uploaded.  We discussed the importance of citing our sources and giving credit where it is due.  This step took approximately one hour of class time, and some are still working on their presentations from home.

Step 4:  Share & Score – Finally, students shared their presentation with me for editing and with a friend for viewing.  I feel it is important for the students to understand the difference between the functions of sharing documents in Google; they need to know that ‘can edit’, ‘can comment’, and ‘can view’ mean very different things when sharing through Google.  I scored using a very simple rubric, giving a score of 1-4 (4 being highest) on components such as work ethic, conventions, information given, sources cited, and overall impressions.

I learned so much about my students, their interests and personalities while working with them on their Genius Hour projects.  Chosen research topics ranged from famous people in pop culture, evolution of libraries (one of my personal favorites from a student who wants to be a media coordinator), how the brain works, what animals think about, sports of all varieties, using video games like Minecraft in education (another favorite of mine), family history, and how much sleep we need.  As a media coordinator, I wanted my students to learn how to use Google Drive, to research appropriately, to collect information by note-taking, and to have fun with it.  It took 5-6 sessions to complete these projects.  I think that in a classroom situation, this would be more feasible than in the media center.  I had to be very organized with the students’ notes and websites as I did not let them take home any of their work until the project was completed.  Overall I feel that it was a success, and I will certainly do it again next year.

Example:  Sleep

Example: Walt Disney

Example: Dragons