Monday, March 31, 2014

Pride Bombs

I read this this morning and it was like a slap in my face. I tend to add comments to things to fluff me up. It's something I struggle with. It's interesting because I know that I struggle with it, but then continue to do it. I like trying to add my connection to things. I definitely need to work on humbling my "Pride Bombs."

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.” – Proverbs 27:2
I did it again. I can’t believe I haven’t learned yet. I should know better, but it’s so hard not to do it. Everyone does it. I guess it’s considered just part of life, but I refuse to cave in and be like everyone else.
While I was talking on the phone the other day with one of my accountability partners, I got fired up because we were having an awesome conversation. For some strange reason, I felt the need to slip in a quick, small, innocent sentence. Or so I thought. We were discussing the response we received from a fellow FCA staff member, and I quickly inserted, “Yeah, and he is a GOOD friend of mine.” I wanted to make sure my accountability partner knew of my significant relationship with this staff member. I wasn’t letting him know that I was friends with him; I was implying that things worked out because of my tight relationship with him. I was making myself look good, bragging. I had dropped a Pride Bomb!
As soon as I said it, my accountability partner responded, ‘Why did you have to say that?” I didn’t respond. He then said, “Dan, if you need encouragement, just let me know, and I will give it to you.” Ouch. His accountability stung. But he was absolutely right! Not only was I praising myself, I was also fishing for praise. I wanted him to think better of me. My small, “innocent” comment screamed, “Look at me! I’m important! I’m significant!” T.S. Elliot was right when he wrote, “Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important.” Not only did my comment turn the spotlight on me, but it also removed God from the situation. I’d blown up a great, God-centered conversation with a Pride Bomb.
Pride Bombs are unnecessary statements we make that puff ourselves up. Others can hear them go off a mile away, and they produce the most awful, selfish odor. They reek of self-glorification. In the world of sports, unfortunately, they have become a natural part of the language. Athletes and coaches often aren’t even aware that they do it, and, even if they are, they brag about it.
Why do we have such a need to brag? Do we really want people to think we have a big head or are on an ego trip? Do we want to be tagged as cocky, full of self and puffed up? Why is it so hard for us to recognize it in ourselves when others can spot it a mile away? Do we feel that we need to prove something to someone? Will others like us more if they know how important we are? Is there something missing in our lives that we desire others to fill? Maybe the reason is answered by the Spanish proverb, “Tell me what you brag about, and I’ll tell you what you lack.” What’s really crazy is that while we do this so that others will like us more, it only makes them want to avoid us. That is messed up.
As Christians, God has called us to a higher standard. He does not want us to go with the flow. He wants us to be humble and to speak with words of grace and thankfulness. Our conversations should puff others up. We should look for opportunities to slip in encouragement. I think it’s safe to say that God wants us to drop Encouragement Bombs instead of Pride Bombs. The two bombs are much alike with the exception of one small distinction: the replacement of the word “I” with the word “you.” Encouragement Bombs say, “You are great.” Pride Bombs say, “I am great.” It’s that simple.
Instead of letting our comments drip with self-exhortation, we should drench them in the edification and blessing of others. I can name several people in my life that I actively seek out because of the encouragement they offer. They are gifted to build others up with authentic, genuine Encouragement Bombs. When they go off, the effect is love, joy, compassion, blessing and motivation.
If we are truly walking in accordance with the will of God, we will drop Encouragement Bombs everywhere we go, and He will use them to bring healing and restoration. May we all be committed to bringing change to our teams, homes, schools or offices through priceless bombs of encouragement. I firmly believe that everyone is under-encouraged, so there is a lot of work to be done. Today, will you blow yourself up with a Pride Bomb or fill another up with an Encouragement Bomb? The choice is yours.
1. This past week, did you drop more Pride Bombs or Encouragement Bombs?
2. Reflect on these conversations and recount the times you dropped Pride Bombs. Ask the Lord to reveal why you felt the need to do it and ask for His forgiveness.
3. In your own circle, who drops the worst Pride Bombs?
4. On the flipside, who drops the best Encouragement Bombs? What makes this person different?
5. Ask the Lord to help you identify when you drop Pride Bombs, then pray to become the world-record holder of the most Encouragement Bombs dropped in a single day!
“Lord God in Heaven, please forgive me for dropping Pride Bombs. They do not honor You or others. I know You want me to speak blessings, encouragement and love. Today, I have the opportunity to unleash favor upon others. Free up my tongue and unlock my heart, Lord. Let it flow so that others can be touched and impacted. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.”
About the Author:
Dan Britton serves as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes' Executive Vice President of International Ministry and Training at the National Support Center in Kansas City. He has been on FCA staff since 1991, first serving for 13 years in Virginia and most recently as the Executive V.P. of Ministry Programs. In high school and college, Dan was a standout lacrosse player. He continued his lacrosse career by playing professional indoor lacrosse for four years with the Baltimore Thunder. He has coauthored three books, One Word That Will Change Your LifeWisdomWalks and WisdomWalks SPORTS, and he is the author and editor of eleven FCA books. He still plays and coaches lacrosse and enjoys running marathons. He and his wife Dawn reside in Overland Park, Kansas, with their three children: Kallie, Abby and Elijah. You can e-mail Dan at
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

On Rules: Is Less More?

Every year, the administration sends out the call for changes that should be made to the student handbook for the upcoming year. I tend to not think much about it. This year, I wondered if having more rules was better. These rules that typically get changed deal with behavior and conduct and the enforcement of said behavior and conduct. (Side note - I mistyped behavior as behaviour in the last sentence. When I did, for some reason, I began reading what I was typing in a British accent. It took me until the end of the sentence to notice I was doing it. :) That's a look into my brain.) Where I see things struggle in our school is how different things might be acceptable with one teacher and not with another. From this, I wonder if it's easier to have less overarching school rules in place to allow for some creativity and autonomy in each individual classroom.

Upon graduation from high school, I attended Wabash College for about two months. I loved the school. It just wasn't the right fit for me. I had been dating my now wife since I was a freshman in high school, I am very close to my family, which leads me into feeling blue from homesickness.  Looking back, I wish I would have stayed, but I also love how my life has played out, as well. One thing that will always stick with me is this: Wabash College's all-male campus operates under one rule for conduct and behavior. One. That's it. Not two. Not an appendix of forty-five. One.
“The student is expected to conduct himself at all times, both on and off campus, as a gentleman and a responsible citizen.”
This one rule fits everything. Yes, everything.

I'd like to see rule books in schools shrink to something like this. Of course there are drawbacks. What exactly is a gentleman? This could mean 500 different things to 500 different people. How does someone interpret what being a gentleman actually mean? The major issue is it's left up to interpretation by an individual.

What does it mean to be a responsible citizen? Once again, multiple viewpoints would exist.

Let's take a step back a moment and see this through the eyes of a student. The one thing students always seem to want more of is freedom. The next thing that students always seem to want is to be trusted. Isn't this what Wabash's Gentleman's Rule accomplishes? It gives students the freedom and trust they want, but also gives them the responsibility that comes along with the freedom and being trustworthy. If a student get's in "trouble," couldn't the teacher just simply ask one of these questions and it be covered by the One Rule?

  • "Was that a gentlemanly thing to do?"
  • "Were you being a responsible citizen?"
They are really yes/no questions. Simple, yet it encompasses so much. Simple. Basic. Focused. 

How about classes that teach kids what the expectation of  being a gentleman is all about? How about classes that teach manners? How about skills-for-life classes that teach students how to cope with stress, handle issues positively, study skills, interpersonal relationships, how to offer positive feedback to others, etc? 

Of course, there would have to be consequences if you answered, "No" to the above questions. I assume that would have to be looked at on an individual basis. I also assume that the freedoms would be then be limited and trust would then have to be regained over a period of time. 

Simplifying rules lets students not live in fear of breaking a rule, but to develop trust and responsibility as freedom increases. 

I really like the last line in the article at the bottom of this post. 
The challenge is great. From the first day you step on campus, our expectation is that you will live up to the example set by generations of Wabash men who have gone before and to set examples for those who will follow you.
There is no doubt that it would be hard to live up to, especially squirrely-minded middle schoolers. What I love most is this rule is actually telling you what to do. Most rule books tell you what not to do. It's a culture shift. One that flips the negative into positive. One rule that not only could be with you during your school career, but your entire life.

Are there any schools that operate like this? Could a middle schooler handle this? I'd love to hear your thoughts below.

For more information on the Gentleman's Rule visit -

Monday, March 17, 2014

Middle Ages Madness: A Tournament of Medieval Weaponry

I really like basketball, so I decided to do a little Middle Ages Madness to coincide with the NCAA's March Madness. It is centered on Middle Ages weapons and will pit 64 weapons against each other until the ultimate Middle Ages weapon is crowned for this season. I'm totally pumped about it. I got the idea from a #tlap chat and decided to rework it for my grade level.

I plan on doing some battles every class period until an eventual winner is crowned.

Here's the lesson if you're interested

I'm excited to see how the students take control of it. They have already researched their weapons and next class period will be starting the battles (games).


Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Small Spark Has Bigger Implications Internally

I'm an Indiana University basketball fan. (I also happen to love Butler and DePauw Basketball, but I will stick to IU for this post) I have been since I grew up watching the motion offense and man-to-man defense that was taught by Coach Bob Knight. I loved it. I loved watching Coach Knight's teams play.

Zooooommm.Fast forward to this year.

The Hoosiers haven't had the season that a lot of people think they should be having (or should have had). This post is not about my feelings toward the team, or more specifically, the Hoosiers' coach: Tom Crean.

There is a lot of chatter on social media regarding the lack of the ability to get into the NCAA tournament this year, the very subpar record during the conference season, the weak non-conference schedule, the lack of advancing beyond the first game of the B1G Tournament, (That's Big Ten Tournament for you non-sports fans.) the offense, or lack of it, the inability to take care of the basketball, the youth of the team, the leaving of a player before the conference season began, and the list goes on and on.

I think it's safe to say that there are a lot of detractors out there. A lot of it comes from being in the state of Indiana where there the fans have a huge basketball IQ. It also has to do that Indiana is probably a top 5, and most definitely top 10, basketball school in the country and is always going to be under a lot of scrutiny by fans if there are not wins and banners being hung. (Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, Kentucky, Louisville, UConn, Syracuse, Michigan State being my top 10, in no particular order.)

With all the notoriety that Indiana receives, there is a significant amount directed toward the coach. The firestorm on social media from fans is centered around firing Tom Crean. I have seen the momentum on firing gain towards the end of the season. It was at it utmost high following the loss to Illinois in the conference tournament "play-in" games, as I call them.

The perspective I want to look at today is the players.' As all this chatter surrounds the program, how would you like to practice, or play a game, with all of it going on around you? I can't imagine being a player and having all this negativity surround the coach that you're supposed to be playing for. I know the old adage about not reading the press clippings and all of that. I also think today's informational world makes it really difficult to block all of that out and just focus on playing basketball. I wish all the chatter about firing coaches would just wait until the season is over. I can't imagine the pressure that the players are under to start off with, but to have your leader criticized publicly by a throng of fans and media personalities makes for an uncomfortable environment. I think the negativity would make the situation worse because the players would be hearing two different stories. The good. The bad. The first one would be to listen to your coach, to do what he asks, and to sacrifice for the team. The other side is all the "arm-chair point guards" who think they know what should happen to the program and who should coach the Hoosiers. These people have no clue to the inside workings of the organization/school and because they have a "voice" on social media think they have the right to share their opinion. Do these people who speak on social media understand the harm that negative thinking can do to a team? Do they see the implications of negative thinking that inherently damage the togetherness of the team while in the middle of their season? You know, that same team that they want to do well? The one they support game in, game out?

I think that the correct time to address any coaching changes, unless there is a situation that warrants firing midseason, is after the season is over. Changing leadership mid-season doesn't do anything positive for the coaches, players, program, school, parents of the players, or in my thinking, the fans, either. New leadership needs to be addressed after the season has came to an end. Their needs to be an assessment done by those people who are close to the program. Not Arm-Chair Joes. One thing I have particularly not liked is during the college football season when there is a firing between the end of the season and bowl season. Honestly, I think that is the most ridiculous thing a program can do. Think of the leadership implications that are involved to the minds of young men. If you do, you'll be thinking an awful long time.

I'm thankful that growing up my parents didn't ever let me quit something in the middle of it. They made me push through, press on, and give my all until something was over. Then, when something was finished, they would let me stop doing it if I didn't want to continue doing it the next season. They wouldn't let me quit in the middle of the season. If you sign up to do something, you commit to the entire thing until that thing is over.
Edit - See quitting a college here -
So fans, please commit to the coach until the season is over. The implications of not doing this brings more harm upon your team than you think. That harm is internal and the worst kind of harm because you don't want a team to crumble from the inside because they you get selfish attitudes and everyone knows how selfish attitudes ruin teams.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Guest Speaker

Over Christmas break, I bought a book: Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess and at @burgessdave . This book has changed how I look at educating students and student engagement. It has re-energized me. It has shaped how I look at presenting my lesson to my students. You should buy it and read it. You will be transformed. I guarantee it.

One of the things I picked up from the book is to have guest speakers come into your classroom. Profound, right? Well, this book talks about using yourself as the guest speaker. I created a hook (read the book for awesome hooks) for the lesson by posting an Instagram picture of a Viking helmet with the caption, "You better make sure you're in class tomorrow for this."

We're also talking a little bit about the Vikings so it worked. I borrowed the helmet from a friend and colleague...follow him here. Kids were intrigued. In the morning the next day, I told them we were having a guest speaker. I left it at that. I got asked about 25 times or more throughout the day when the guest speaker was going to be here. I told them, "Soon." I still had their attention and anticipation. 

The previous interactive notebook social studies lesson involved reading from the text book, answering some questions about the reading (right side), and then having the students write an introduction speech that would introduce Charlemagne to a large group of people (left side). Essentially, the students were writing all about Charlemagne and his accomplishments to introduce him to the people prior to him giving the speech. They were learning and then applying their learning instantly, which is what I love about the interactive notebooks. I then asked the students that wanted to share their intros to come up and read them. I let them use the class microphone. About 5 of them wanted to share. They were each about 2 paragraphs. After the last one went, I put on a tiara that I had in my closet. (I forgot to go to Burger King in the morning to get a manly crown). I stood on a chair because Charlemagne was said to stand very tall. I changed the sound of my voice a little and started off with thanking them for having me come and speak to them about my life. I was the guest speaker as Charlemagne.
I did some research the night before that went a little deeper than our textbook and then gave an interactive speech to them. Some of them just started smiling. Others laughed because they've noticed me getting more out of my shell in class, others were excited, and of course, some were skeptical, as well. They asked me questions and I answered in a way that I thought Charlemagne would answer the questions. Most, if not all of the students, were totally engaged. They asked me questions about the time period. They asked what I would do if the conquered lands wouldn't convert to Christianity. They asked me what area was the easiest to defeat. They asked me lots of questions. I told them how the Pope and I were incredibly tight-knit. It was incredibly inspiring because I could see them craving more. I thanked them for coming when I was done. Then, the students clapped. After I gave their assignment for the day, some were still talking about it. I asked some of the quieter ones what they thought of the guest speaker. They both said it was funny, fun, and that they liked it. 

I think I'll keep the lesson for next year and pull out the guest speaker again sometime. I like learning funny.