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!

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(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?

5 Things I Love About Google

This is a bit unorthodox for me lately. I used to blog more about ed tech tools, tips, and ideas, but since #DBC50Summer, it’s become more about reflection and professional growth. However, the only way I could see sharing my implementations of several books from #DBC50Summer is a list of all things Google! So… let’s go.

  1. Google Sheets: Seriously, friends, if you aren’t using Sheets, you’re missing out! I took a Go Slow course on Sheets from Alice Keeler in the Fall and was blown away by all the things Sheets can do that have nothing to do with formulas and data. From this, I have two suggestions… 1) Take an Alice Keeler course. Any of them. Really. I learned *SO* much! 2) Use Alice Keeler’s Template Tab. This was my #DBC50Summer implementation for Google Apps for Littles and I loved it so much that I shared it with teachers and administration in a PD session this year. It’s amazing. For more info on how it works, check out Alice’s blog post!
  2. Google Keep: It’s sticky notes with all the GAfE functionality that we know and love! We have used this to communicate classwork with homebound students and their parents. Teacher creates to-do list, shares with student & caregivers, and as work is completed it is checked off. I use it at conferences to create a list of sessions I’d like to attend, then create another note with sessions I actually attended for CEU credit. Check it out at keep.google.com! You’re going to love it! One student emailed me after I introduced it as the month’s tech tool, saying, “Google Keep is the best!!!! I can now remember what exactly I have for homework and other things! Thanks so much for introducing us to this!” Using Keep was my part of my #DBC50Summer implementation for Shake Up Learning and Be The One For Kids!
  3. Google Certified Teacher: It’s a thing! I took both of the Google Certified Teacher Exams this winter and learned so much about the functionality of Google and many of the apps I wasn’t aware of! I’m very interested in the next levels, which are Certified Trainer and Certified Innovator! This also completed my #DBC50Summer implementation of Shake Up Learning! If you’re a bit uneasy about attempting these, check out Kasey Bell’s resources here & her reasons why you should get Google Certified hereGoogle Certified Level 1 and 2
  4. Google Classroom: I use Google Classroom as my primary method for delivery of instruction for media classes. Each month’s media class is given a topic (month and year) so students can easily find our activities for the day and reference them as needed. As my #DBC50Summer implementation of Alice Keeler & Libbi Miller‘s 50 Things To Go Further with Google Classroom, I had planned to number my assignments as suggested in the book. However, I found that simply using the topic feature to put assignments and activities had the same results. If I had my own classroom however, I would definitely be numbering assignments!
  5. Google Forms: I have a problem. I’m obsessed with surveys. I teach the entire school, nearly 400 middle school students, and I cannot possibly remember all the feedback I’m given verbally. Enter Google Forms. I create surveys and collect information using Forms all the time! I get information from students and teachers. I ask for feedback on lessons, students give me a numerical grade (1-5) each quarter, and I collect responses to hold students accountable for goal setting and research topics. I also used Forms to collect responses for a bulletin board matching game in which students had to match teachers with their favorite book! Google Forms are quick and easy to make, and the responses tab creates quick charts for you so you can see certain data visually! Recently, Matt Miller created an epic blog post highlighting 40 Innovative Ideas for Using Google Forms in Your Classroom.

So there you have it! Five things I love about Google (and several #DBC50Summer implementations)! If you’re ever wanting to know more about Google Apps for Education, Chrome Extensions, etc, your GO-TO websites belong to (in no particular order) Alice Keeler, Matt Miller, and Kasey Bell!

 

**Helpful Hint: Did you know that you can open a new tab in Chrome and (when logged into your google account) simply type forms.new, slides.new, docs.new, sheets.new to get a new Form, Slides Presentation, Doc, or Sheet respectively?! Yep! Go try it. Mind. Blown.

#DBCBookBlogs: A Passion for Kindness

Holding open a door. Saying hello to a stranger. Stopping by a fellow teacher’s classroom during your planning period to see if they need anything. Offering to cover recess or lunch or car or bus duty for someone who seems a bit overwhelmed this week.

All free. All require very little effort. All require 25(ish) minutes or less of your time. All are amazing acts of kindness that we can do for others. All sound like exactly the kind of thing Tamara Letter, author of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc book 65 – A Passion for Kindness, would do!

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Having been a huge fan and follower of Tamara for a while, I was so excited to see her book released on Valentine’s Day. Her tweets and Instagram feed scream positivity, kindness, and compassion for others and I just couldn’t wait to get into her book and learn more about her. Through DMs on Twitter, I knew we shared similar struggles. Sure enough, as I read through her experiences of miscarriages and the loss of friends way too early, I sat with tears streaming down my face. Then, as I read about the kind acts that promoted healing and the compassion she was shown and the families of the lost loved ones were shown, the tears came again. This book is beautifully penned and oh-so-touching. One doesn’t have to be an educator to appreciate Tamara’s stories; one only needs to be human.

When I was a sophomore in high school, one of my sweet friends, Brittany, was killed in a car accident. We played softball together, we were cheerleaders, we were both going to be teachers. She was a year older than me in school, her mother worked in our front office, and her younger cousin and I were in the same grade and were best of friends. I will never forget that day; it was like a bad dream that I will relive over and over again. Every February 15 I wake up filled with dread knowing that something isn’t right, then I see a calendar. This year, on February 15, my copy of A Passion for Kindness arrived at my front door.

Like every other DBC book I’ve read, it was exactly the right book at exactly the right time. You see, every year on February 15, I have sent Brittany’s mother a message on facebook letting her know that I was thinking of her, I loved her, and share a happy memory of Britt. This is the first year I wasn’t able to do that. Brittany’s mother passed away unexpectedly in November. I was lost. I didn’t know how to handle my grief this year because sending Brittany’s mom a message was a way to grieve, and her mom had shared that it was a way for her to heal as well. Midmorning, I decided to message her younger sister: “Hey P – usually I send your sweet mama a message today to tell her that I’m thinking about you all and that I love y’all so much and today I feel a little lost because I can’t send your mama a message. Your family has always meant so much to me. I remember cheerleading practice with Britt, throwing you up in different stunts with her while your mama would just shake her head at us. I love you to pieces sweet girl. You & your daddy are in my thoughts and prayers today & every day. Brittany certainly isn’t forgotten, and your mom won’t ever be either. Both of them live in your sweet smile and beautiful spirit. Love you!”

I wasn’t sure how it would be received. P was so young when Britt passed and her mom’s passing is still so raw and new that I was worried I may have upset her.  Late that afternoon I received back, “Oh thank you so very for sending me this!! Britt touched so many people, and loved everyone! Her and mom are in a wonderful place and I know they are both watching over us all! And one day we all will be reunited together!”

Throughout her book, Tamara speaks about wanting to be certain that those who hear the stories know she is never trying to put the spotlight on herself, but on kindness because she has a real PASSION for Kindness! I believe her wholeheartedly! I share that story, not because I ever want anyone to say anything positive about me, but because someone may be in a similar situation and have the same worries I did about how a message would be received, or how to grieve, and maybe even is it still okay to grieve all these years later. Tamara shares story after story of kindness, and highlights so many others throughout her book in sections of Kindness Cultivators! She truly makes the world a better place to Lead, Love, and Learn and gives her readers the tools (garden tools even) to create the same environments in their own classrooms, schools, and communities. Please do yourself a favor and get this book! It’s heartwarming, beautiful, and inspiring!

Implementation

So…. I may, or may not, have already implemented this book… okay… I did.

Back in early January, Karen Caswell (@kcasw1) sent me a message about being a host class for a Kindness Read Aloud in February called #KindnessCrewCRSS. My students were so excited to join in and eventually we chose The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig. We implemented this Kindness Read Aloud this past week and had a blast reading answers from around the world; schools from Canada, Australia, and the United States joined in to answer our questions, and all of our students also answered the questions via Google Form. It was great to have time to discuss acts of kindness. Finally, each student was tasked with thinking of one act of kindness they had witnessed someone else do (adult or student) or completed themselves while on school campus. They wrote them on index cards and turned them in. On Monday, I will finish our newly decorated bulletin board by putting these examples of acts of kindness on the board as a constant reminder to Be The Good! This intentional focus on kindness throughout the remainder of the school year and beyond will be our continued implementation of Tamara’s book.

Tamara’s heart is good as gold. Everyone has rough days and I am sure she is no different. I feel certain that those closest to her know that there are days that she gets down and out, frustrated with the system and all the things that frustrate the rest of us. What I love most about her is that she doesn’t let it keep her down and that’s not what she chooses to share publicly. She is clearly compassionate, kind, generous, loving, and always doing what she can to make the world a better, more positive place to be. I can’t wait to give her a big hug for that! By the way – if you do nothing else… check out this precious video of her getting to hold her book for the first time… you see her joy coming through and it’ll make you want to rush out and buy your own copy! Trust!

One of my favorite things from the book is the sketchnotes from, not only Tamara herself (you should see the tomato, y’all – it’s precious), but also from THE Julie Woodard! I have been a fan of Julie’s work for a LONG time – you’ve seen it all over Twitter; she did a beautiful job taking Tamara’s words and bringing them to life in the book! If you want more from Tamara, check out her website here! As always, you’re welcome to contribute to the flipgrid, which the amazing Andrea Paulakovich allows me to co-pilot with her. This was her incredible idea when #DBC50Summer started back in June 2018, a space for global reflection for every DBC book. There will be a prompt, but you certainly don’t have to stick to it! Just share something awesome you got from the book!

Below are tweets, tweets, and more tweets from the book. I made myself quit tweeting about halfway through the book so I could finish it. HA! You’ll have the same problem; I promise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See what I mean… I had to MAKE myself stop tweeting about the book! So so so good! Go grab your copy so you aren’t missing out! A Passion for Kindness is the perfect 65th book!