Top Ten Blog Posts of 2018

What an incredible year this has been! Reflecting through blogging has allowed me to create something I’m proud of, highlight some incredible educators and students, share about my most favorite books ever, and find my voice. I had not written in so long that I forgot how therapeutic writing is. I am grateful to anyone who has taken the time to read these posts & share your thoughts. I realize they are a bit long by blog post standards, but hey – I’ve got a lot to say. Ha!

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Here are the top ten blog posts as indicated by views during the year 2018.

10. #DBC50Summer 14/50: 140 Twitter Tips for Educators

9. #DBC50Summer 2/50: Pure Genius

8. #DBC50Summer 10/50: eXPlore Like A Pirate

7. Where Everybody Knows Your Name?

6. #DBC50Summer 1/50: Teach Like A Pirate

5. #DBCBookBlogs: Stop. Right. Now.

4. #DBC50Summer 29/50: Social LEADia

3. #DBC50Summer Explained

2. #DBC50Summer Book 1-10 Recap

1. #DBC50Summer 9/50: The Innovator’s Mindset

I wish you and yours a very Happy New Year!

2019 is sure to be a great one! Looking forward to continuing to learn and grow with you!

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*Alicia

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!

#DBCBookBlogs: Stop. Right. Now.

It’s been a minute and I have missed writing #DBCBookBlogs posts! I am so thankful that book 59 was released last week and mine came in quicker than I expected. As soon as I received my Amazon notification that it was delivered, I knew what I’d be doing tonight! Dave Burgess, President of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc, best-selling author of Teach Like A Pirate, and co-author (with his wife and fellow educator, Shelley) of P is for Pirate, tweeted earlier today:

Boy, was he right!!! My toes were stepped on, I questioned some of the things the authors suggest to stop, and I whole-heartedly agreed with others! My feathers got ruffled a few times. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t agree with every word in this book; however, I put my big girl undies on and enjoyed reading the educational conversation about each point. With that being said, you don’t have to agree with everything they share to find something that you have within your power to Stop. Right. Now. Jump in with Jimmy Casas and Jeff Zoul (co-authors of Start. Right. Now. with Todd Whitaker) to discover the 39 things they believe we should stop in order to make schools better.

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Here’s my completely raw, wide-open, honest, I-just-finished-this-book reflection. I had several moments where my toes were stepped on and I was convicted because I knew I did those things. I also had several moments where I literally said out loud, “Do whaaat? Oh, no, they didn’t!” There were moments that I would love to watch people with WAY more educational experience and research-based statistics go head to head arguing about the merit of that particular stop… all while I pull up a big bowl of kettle corn (way better than popcorn anyday) and a Big Gulp of Sprite! It would be the ultimate version of Celebrity Death Match minus the whole death part (yeah, I used to watch that on MTV – embarrassing).

With all of that bias and judgment in mind, this book was another incredible addition to the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line. Even the stops I didn’t agree with were met with valuable explanations of their opinions. I could follow their line of thought. There were some that I eventually joined their line of thought even though I was vehemently against it when I read the title of that chapter. There were FAR more stops that I agree with than those I didn’t agree with, and making those stops (ahem, right now, ahem) will certainly change education for the better!

The book is organized by stops written as chapters. I loved that each chapter was written in the same format. I knew what to expect. They started with what “it” was that we needed to stop, why we need to stop doing it, and how we can do better as educators. Each of the stops can be put into one (or more) of five areas. Each area begins with a P – Practices, Programs, Processes, Philosophies, and People. These stops are not organized in any order throughout the book, but I’m an organizer (it’s a blessing and a curse), so I created a quick graphic with the stops under the most prominent category (understanding that some stops easily lend themselves to more than one area).

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Click here for StopRightNow PDF.

A few that stood out to me were Saying I Hate Change, Preparing Students for the Next Level, and Relying on the Same People to Lead.

I am 110% guilty of saying that I hate change. The reality is that I don’t really hate change, but I hate feeling out of control. If I am in control of whatever the change is, I wonder what the problem is of those who aren’t getting on board. Ironic, right? I should know exactly what their problem is, because it’s my problem every time I’m in their shoes. I tend to get a bit bent out of shape when I don’t know what’s coming. Many times, change goes hand-in-hand with the unknown. So rather than saying I hate change, I should be confronting what’s really bothering me… a lack of control and the unknown.

I taught fifth grade for over seven years before beginning my role as a media coordinator. Every year around Christmas, I would stop checking planners for students. I expected the students to bring me notes from home if they had one. What was my defense every time a parent complained that their child didn’t have their homework written down or that I didn’t receive their note? I’m getting them ready for middle school. Looking back, what a ridiculous thought that was. They weren’t ready for me to release that responsibility to them all at once. I needed to focus on preparing them for right then.

I was reading a blog post from Dave Burgess earlier today very similar to this very thing!  In it, he says he “gets a bit confrontational when asked, ‘Don’t you worry about the fact that you are making school so engaging and fun that when they get to their college classes or to a real job they won’t be prepared?’

His response:

“So what people are saying when they ask this is basically, ‘Okay…since life is going to suck for these kids later, shouldn’t we make it suck now, too, so they’ll be ready for it?’ I don’t buy it, at all.”

My middle schoolers are middle schoolers. Just because my eighth graders will be freshmen next year doesn’t mean that I should treat them like freshmen now. They are still eighth graders! What’s ironic about this whole thing is that when our sixth graders come to us in the fall, we commonly say, “Well, they’re really still just like fifth graders”… the irony is that those fifth grade teachers have been trying to get them ready to be sixth graders (I know, because I was one of those teachers). I love Jeff & Jimmy’s thoughts on this so much that I created a graphic for it and tweeted it this evening. “Prepare them thoroughly at their current level,” they say.

There is so much truth to that! If we prepare them for RIGHT NOW, they will be prepared for the next level coming at them by default.

Finally, selecting the same people to lead stood out to me. It did so because I’ve been on both sides of this argument. I was the one who desperately wanted to go to our state technology conference. The only way we were able to attend was to be chosen by our district OR to submit a proposal and be accepted to present. Well, I wasn’t about to submit a proposal – I wanted to learn, not teach! I didn’t feel “ready” to present at a state conference when I had never even presented within my own school or district! I was never chosen by my district as it was the same people always asked to attend and I was so frustrated by that! The professional jealousy was real, y’all. Now, I’m completely on the other side; I’m asked to do so much that I’m stretched too thin as times. Thankfully my director has been preaching this exact same thing for years, so he really makes it a point to purposefully select others to step up and he builds leadership capacity in them. This has allowed me to step back into my role at my school, as well as have time to do things like #DBC50Summer and create my own professional growth opportunities. I’ve gotten over the insecurities that went with not being chosen for this conference or that event or this committee. It’s awfully nice to have that weight lifted; I’ve got to be perfectly honest about that.

My implementation? I’m going to focus on the Gots rather than the Nots! What are people doing rather than what they are not doing! It’s so easy to get pulled into the frustration and negativity when I’m busting my tail to be the very best educator I can be and do all I can do for my students and teachers while seeing others run in the school at the last minute and dash out the door the second they can leave. Instead of being aggravated, I choose to focus on the positive. I will assume the best of others and focus on what the strengths of others are, rather than breathing life into the things that drive me crazy.

There is so much to love about Stop. Right. Now! As I type, it’s the number 1 new release in Experimental Education Methods on Amazon and for good reason. Even the parts I didn’t agree with, I enjoyed reading and I love that it challenged my thinking as I read. Now I’m reconsidering some of my own philosophies, which can only strengthen my educational practices! I love books and conversations that make me do that! This was one of those books that made me wonder how I even felt about a topic so I could form an opinion before continuing the chapter. I had no idea how I felt about professional dress code; I’d never even stopped to consider it. Now, I have a philosophy on dress code (and no worries, Jeff and Jimmy – I won’t be complaining about it).

Definitely take the time to grab a copy of the latest addition to the DBC collection! Book 59 won’t disappoint! It’s a pretty quick read and is full of thought-provoking conversation starters! Be sure to hop on over the Flipgrid (it’s still available) to share your thoughts! The question relates to school calendar, but feel free to share any reflections you have on the book! Check out the amazing website for DBC to find information about each of the Pirate Authors and how to connect with them on social media. The book says to use #StopRightNow to discuss ideas from the book, but I’ve also seen (and used) #StopRightNow39 as a way to differentiate between the book and the popular phrase.

I’m so excited to see which books ends up being Book 60. Several folks are posting on social media about upcoming books with DBC including Dan Tricarico‘s Sanctuaries, Tamara Letter‘s A Passion for Kindness, and Lisa Johnson‘s book Creatively Productive. It looks like 2019 is going to be another amazing year for DBC, which means tons of #DBCBookBlogs posts! I can’t wait to see what the new year has in store for us!

Rumor has it… Teach Like A Pirate will be out on audiobook soon!!! And BONUS: it’s read by the Captain himself! <squeeee> How do I know that? Easy! I’m signed up for the DBC eNewsletter! With that I get the #SundaySeven with tidbits from DBC and their authors and a monthly newsletter that lets the DBC readers know what’s coming up soon! If you aren’t signed up, click the link here and sign up where it says Subscribe to the DBCI eNews on the side!