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

#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!

Stained Glass and Snowflakes

Stations. The best unkept secret in education.

Snowflakes are hexagonal… perhaps the best kept secret in advertising.

macro photography of snowflake

Photo by Egor Kamelev on Pexels.com

During #DBC50Summer, I followed every author from Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc on Twitter and love being connected to them! One of the funniest authors is easily Denis Sheeran, author of Instant Relevance. His sense of humor pulled me into his book and now I get to enjoy his wit through social media. He created a hashtag to serve as a Public Service Announcement. Snowflakes are hexagons. Really! #Snowflakesarehexagons

The poetry written to the companies along with the photos of his own version of “false advertisement” cracks me up! With those posts, do you know what he did? He made me stop and count the dang sides of every. single. snowflake. in every. single. ad. I see.

Our amazing 8th grade math teachers, Ms. Luce & Mrs. Hawks, and I had already planned to do an extension of a PBL in MinecraftEDU. The students had learned about how linear functions are used to create stained glass windows. They had a guest speaker a few weeks ago who actually showed them how she creates stained glass and students have been creating their own stained glass (by coloring) and figuring out the linear function in slope-intercept form of each line. In MinecraftEDU, students could create a stained glass of their choosing. This could be done by modifying the one they created with linear functions to be “blocky” so it could be built in the game, they could create anything from scratch, or they could look up pixel art and use stained glass blocks or wool to create it.

This gave us two stations in our classes, but we needed a third. I had just discovered that Sprite had six-pointed snowflakes on their product (thanks to Denis’s Twitter PSA) and thought students might have fun discovering which products had “the right snowflakes” on them.

Our third station was a huge hit!

First, students searched for snowflakes in advertising and shared an image they found on a Padlet. Bonus for me: I get to talk about digital citizenship next week and have students determine if this was best practice for using images! (Hint: No, no it was not.)

After finding an image, they read one of the three articles referenced in Denis’s blog post Snowflakes are Hexagons. They were to secretly tell me how many sides every snowflake has and why it has that many sides based on their research.

Upon giving me the correct answer, the students did exactly as Denis suggests in his blog… they created paper snowflakes. There were a lot of octagons, decagons, quadrilaterals, and circles, until finally someone used their resources and googled “How to make a six-sided snowflake.” HA! My principal suggested taking it up a notch further. These paper snowflakes (with the correct number of sides, of course) will be used as decorations for their Winter Dance in December.

Check out a few of their creations that I tweeted out! There are dozens and dozens of hexagonal snowflakes in our media center now!

 

Then, this morning, this kid blew me away!

The MinecraftEDU station turned out pretty fantastic, too! I am currently working to upload the file on my YouTube channel and will embed here when finished, but for now, check out this link to a walkthrough on my Google Drive. (There is no sound.) I was so impressed with what they built in the 25-30 minutes they had available to create. Several came before and after school as well as during their lunch to finish their stained glass pixel art and more have asked to return this week. Students showed one another how to “light up” their windows using glowstone, so when the world turns to night it glows in the most beautiful colors!

I am so proud of the students I serve, and the teachers were blown away by both their stained glass creations and their unique snowflakes. This was one of those times that we got it right. Thank you, Denis for inspiring a way to make learning relevant for our students! This definitely serves as one implementation (I’m sure there will be many more to come) for my #DBC50Summer post on Instant Relevance! I am honored that our 8th grade math teachers trusted me to help create this PBL extension and spur-of-the-moment lesson on snowflakes. I’m looking forward to more lessons like this!