Monday, October 2, 2017

Quick: Join the Innovative Teaching Academy

Dear FutureMe,1. I joined to push myself. To connect with others. 2. To network and get ideas and share ideas. To learn more PBL. 3. Time will hold me back. 4. In 6 months, be more comfortable in the classroom. Make transition to PBL? Update lesson plans.

6 Months is Up. My time in the Innovative Teaching Academy has been phenomenal. I got the above email in my inbox the other day from I filled it out at the beginning of the course on what I wanted to accomplish when my time in the Academy was over. Looking back, I can definitely say that it was totally worth it. I had been in a rut. I needed more. I wanted to SAIL this coming year and I was determined to do so. 

Through AJ Juliani's and all the guests' guidance and coaching, the topics really pushed me, not only as a teacher, but as an individual as well. I learned a ton and really feel that everyone will benefit from joining the class. I've always thought that professional development should be tailored individually and this course was definitely for me. The thing is, I think it's tailored for everyone, as well. You will get out what you put in. The bonuses and add-ons are worth the price of the course by itself, in my opinion. 

I have been to one-day and two-day conferences that have cost the same or more than this 6 month course. It also has the benefit of networking with other members of the class to share the experience and learn from them, as well. 

I suggest signing up before the window closes on October 8th. That's in 6 Days!!

Here's some more information from A.J....

A year ago at this time I had the idea for a different type of learning experience after listening to Seth Godin talk about his AltMBA program. Seth said that people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of their life at graduate school receiving an MBA. Then they get into the world and realize they need to continually be learning, and need a network that supports and shares both the best (and the next) practices in their field.
I had a conversation with my colleagues in my district and around the country about a new way to do professional learning for teachers, instructional coaches, and leaders. One that would take way less time (only 6 months), cost way less money, and provide ongoing support and guidance for a much longer time. These conversations led to creating the Innovative Teaching Academy and bring on our first cohort of 612 teachers, coaches, and leaders last March.
You see, I struggled for years to start a blog. I would have a new idea, start posting blog posts, and never get anywhere, before giving up. Then I found a community of bloggers that held each other accountable, and things dramatically changed.

I spent so much time looking for strategies and projects that would engage and empower my students. Until I found research backed practices that made innovation a reality in my classroom.
I made so mistakes as a leader (and still do) but have been supported by other experts in different areas who spend the time I don't have to show us what works (and what doesn't) in schools...instead of talking in theory.
This is why I felt so strongly about creating the Innovative Teaching Academy. I've learned first hand that you need specific resources, people, systems, and community to make spark innovation in any classroom or school.
The Innovative Teaching Academy is a six-month online learning experience that gives you the tools, resources, and community needed to break the mold of traditional schooling (whether as a teacher, instructional coach, or school leader).
The Innovative Teaching Academy isn’t just a course. It’s a master class and coaching system designed to take you through step-by-step lessons and teach you the principles and strategies needed to make a greater impact in education and reach more people.

And to provide the accountability and support system we all need to thrive.
  • Easy-to-follow lessons? YES
  • Monthly courses on design thinking, project-based learning, learning space design, habit building for productivity, social media, and blogging? YES
  • Supportive community of education leaders? YES
  • Built-in accountability? YES
  • Unlimited personal coaching with the Academy Team? YES
The academy is grounded in proven principles and strategies that work. It’s broken down into simple, step-by-step lessons that allow you to walk through each of the six phases of innovative teaching and learning.

Each lesson will leave you with an easy-to-follow action item and schedule so you can methodically implement what you’ve learned
No guesswork.
No reverse engineering.
No more hours or searching the internet for something that makes sense.
Come check it out here.

What is inside the Innovative Teaching Academy?

Each Month of the Academy has a different focus. At the beginning of the month you’ll receive a full course on topics such as Building a Better Blog, Social Media with Purpose, Design Thinking, Learning Space Design, Project-Based Learning, and Authentic Work.

Each week you’ll also receive a new article, video, and resource to prompt discussion in our private group and also help you complete the action items for the month.

You’ll also get access to live interviews with experts and leaders in each field, being able to ask them your questions and dive deep into each area with their guidance.
During all of this, you’ll have access to our Private Facebook Community and online coaching for support, guidance, and the community we all need to thrive!

The Innovative Teaching Academy Isn’t
For Everyone

Do not join the academy if you are looking for a quick-fix to innovation and creativity in the classroom.

This course takes work.

If you’re just hunting around for another blog post or podcast episode where you can pick up a random strategy to “try out,” you will HATE this experience.

But if you’re sick and tired of not being able to turn your ideas into real innovative change, and you’re ready to follow a proven system to fix that, you’ll love it.
If you’ve always wanted time-tested courses, an accountability system, a coach and a supportive community to walk with you as you grow, you’ll love the Innovative Teaching Academy.

It is exactly what I wish I had much earlier in my education career. That's why we built this academy and are excited to share it with you!

The Academy is open for enrollment from September 28-October 8th only. Let's do this together!
Thanks as always,


Thursday, August 3, 2017

2017-2018 One Word: SAIL

Every year, I choose One Word to be my driving force. Some make resolutions, some choose three things. I typically choose one that can encompass a lot. It's me trying to make things more simpler.


Here are some from the previous years. 

 Pursue things that matter. 
 Be present in each moment. 
Be joyful.
 Shift my thinking. 

Building off of the previous years, I'd like to take what I have learned these past couple of years and SAIL. 

The Word: Sail

The Quote: "A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for." John A. Shedd

The Verse: "Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go." James 3:4

The Logo: It's a boat made out of the letters in Sail. S for the bottom. A is a sail. I is a pole. L is another sail.

The Meaning at School: Over the past couple of years, I've really been able to change the way that I taught. I've placed more emphasis on creating and innovating and less on content. I've been blessed with a position that lets me do this. While reading and diving deeper into how students learn today and presumably in the future, those that merely know content are going to be left behind. No more is the go to college, get a great job, have a great pension, retire with a lot of money the norm. There are young entrepreneurs making a lot more money than I am. I was listening to Tim Elmore on the EntreLeadership podcast the other day and he always blows me away with insight into the young generations and how they learn, communicate, and are successful. It's time I embraced more of that mindset in my teaching. I'm going to do a little more PBL this year. I read Hacking PBL over the summer to get a better idea of PBL.  Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy do a great job of breaking it down into 10 hacks to help you on your journey. I do some already, but I'd like to incorporate more of that into my current things. I want my students to sail. I have always thought that it's interesting that a very small rudder can steer a huge ship. (I've also watched Moana a ton this summer. So that may have influenced the word Sail.) I'm just a mere rudder. A catalyst. Showing the way. Aligning my students to the path. Take risks. Go deeper. Innovate. Create. Do stuff that really matters.

The Meaning at Home: The OneWord is geared to encompass all your walks of life. SAIL will be used in the same format in my personal life. I need to sail in my marriage, with my own kids, and in learning personally.

The Meaning while Coaching. I'm already looking at ways to help my basketball team come this winter. How can I tailor my system to meet the needs of my players for this year? How can I mold leaders? How can I help my team SAIL?

The Meaning while Designing: This past year, I started working doing a lot of sports graphics in Photoshop. I'd like to continue that. I come alive with that. I'd also like to combine my sports photography and design work a little more this year as well.

We can get by and play it safe while just being mediocre, or I can choose to SAIL and make a huge impact on others.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Examples of Empowerment

My friend, A.J. Juliani, with the help of other educators, has published a great blog post detailing many examples of empowering students. I'm pretty sure that everyone can find one important piece that will help them become a better teacher.

I contributed one of my favorite Renaissance lessons to the list as well if you want to check it out.

Sharing and helping equals learning. I learn the most by seeing the process of what others have went through. I then take things that I think are relevant to my class, subject, and students and then put them in place into my teaching. I really enjoy tweaking and making lessons better to meet the needs of my students. I have found that the teacher community is one of great sharing and A.J.'s post about the examples is something that can help many teachers (and students) in the classroom.

I can remember early on in my teaching career, that I made teaching more about me. Not as someone who needs a pedestal, but as more of the work side of things. I had to do this. I had to do that. I had to prepare this. I. I. I. I. I. I. I. I. That's a lot of eyes on me. :) I thought it was more about what I was doing and not what students were doing. Over the years, I have seen the value of empowering students. I now offer more choice. A lot of the time, I'll put this phrase into a project: "Do you have any better ideas for this ______?" My favorite thing to do is then share their idea of amazingness with the class. Usually when that happens, another student will have a better idea that stems from it. It's a nice little spark of creativity.

Be sure to check out A.J.'s post and then check out A.J's and John Spencer's new book, Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Cut the Fat. Be more Simple.

Go! Go! Go! That's what it always seems like around here. For all the awesome things we're doing, it always feel like too much.  My family's just as busy as everyone else's I'm sure. Over the past couple of years, I have decided to simplify a lot of things. Not because it's easier. But for the fact that less is indeed, more. Less time on some things, leads to more time on things that really matter. 

Watch this intro video to Rend Collective's album entitled Campfire II. If you're not familiar with Rend Collective, I suggest you give them a listen. I added the whole playlist, so you can listen if you'd like. I've found that it's really good background music. It keeps me energized and it's almost impossible to not tap your foot. You can't go wrong with banjo music. 

Whether you believe in the same religion as this band is non-important. What they are championing is a return to what really matters. To fellowship. To community. To connections. 

Some thoughts from the intro video.

"Simplicity is the art of restoring a clear and unobstructed view of the things that really matter. Unplugging ourselves...Our lives are so full, distracted and stretched. Learn to clear away the clutter and detox our hearts." 

We've got to realize that we are crazy busy. We need a return to simplicity. We, as people, are busier than ever. We're also filling our spiritual voids with busy-ness. We have to come to terms with this notion. 

"Authenticity is not a style. It's a state of the heart. It's about substance."

We have to be intentional about simplicity. I had to learn to say, "No." to some things. I've turned down some pretty good things and opportunities. But what would I have gained? I'm not sure. I said, "No." to basically say, "Yes." to something better. In most instances, time with my family. Being authentic is saying, "No." and not feeling guilty. Say, "Yes" to what really matters. I've spent a lot more time with my family over the past couple of years. I've hugged more. I've still got a long way to go, of course, but I try to make it a point.

In the realm of the classroom, we can do way too much. We can over teach. Over prepare. Over plan. Over (insert anything here). We're teachers. We know we answered a calling to help and serve others. However, we can't help and serve if we're not taking care of ourselves first. That brings to mind an airplane flight attendant.  In the advent of an emergency, they always tell you to put your mask on first before assisting others. Why? Because you can't help others, if you don't help yourself first.

Maybe this means, doing less grading and giving more feedback. Plan for student inquiry instead of you being the "sage on the stage" all the time. Only grade meaningful things vs practice assignments. Come to school one hour early instead of leaving one hour after school. Really use your prep time to complete tasks. (That's something I struggle with big time by the way.) I've developed a really good format for what is important to my classroom. I try to keep on those things. It centers on consuming to create and innovate. If it doesn't align with those things, then why am I having my students do it. Cut the fat. Be more simple.  Almost every day I do these things: Pun of the day, quote of the day, read to my students, consume, and then create. That's it. Be clear. Be concise. Be simple.

Focus on three things. Read this about how to be more productive. Choose one word to represent your entire year or better yet, your entire life.  After almost 15 years of coaching basketball, I haven't gotten more complex. I've went the other way. I keep things extremely simple. The more you have to think, the slower your feet get. I find pleasure in keeping things as simple as possible. My teams build off of things I teach early on in the season. My communication has sharpened because of trying to think of the end first. You have to know where you're going.

Make meaningful experiences instead of have them complete a checklist. Some might gasp as this next one. My favorite days of teaching are when I have planned a great project, where the students are deeply engaged and they really don't need me besides for clarification. I can sit around the room and just chill with my students. This is when I really get to know them. To swap stories. To share my life and for them to share theirs with each other. Which leads us into...

"Share our real selves and our stories. Our deepest fears yield our deepest connections. That is how true communities are forged. Our testimonies, no matter how dark, are powerful weapons of light."

Over the past couple of years, I have really started to put an emphasis of relationships. You know, because that's what really matters ;) I've reached out to some people and we meet regularly. We use voxer. We meet at the local diner. We share life together. Every year one of the last things I have my students do is to write their favorite memory of my class. I'd say 95% of the time, it involves at least one other person and something funny. No one says things like the Rome test, the feudal pyramid, or latitude and longitude. Why? Because none of that stuff really matters. What matters and is the most memorable is the connection they made with others. The friendships. What are you doing to share your story with someone else? Better yet, whose stories are you listening to? Find a trust-worthy friend.

"Calling us to risk and danger, so we might change the world... Our God loves us too deeply to smother us with safety. He knows we don't combat our fears by living sheltered lives we fight fear by developing courage."

I remember a couple years ago, I joined into a Voxer group of some pretty awesome guys. They run in some pretty big circles. I run in such small circles that they are more like little dots. I was nervous. When I say nervous. I mean I didn't say anything. At all. I just listened. I eventually said stuff. I eventually had dinner with a lot of them. I worked on some projects with them. One of which was way out of my comfort zone. I have designed logos for some of them for their awesome projects. (Here's my design portfolio) I shared my life. I listen to their stories. I now consider some of them my best friends and mainly because I talk to them the most besides my family.

Courage takes time. The only way to be brave, is to well, be brave. My son, who just turned 5, has had a really big fear of heights. When I say fear, it is a legit fear. I mean terrified. Over about a year, he has developed confidence in himself to tackle playground equipment. It's taken time. He's taken baby steps. Literally. Lol. But he has gotten to places high up off the ground this summer that were not possible last year.

In the classroom, what are you waiting for? Try that new thing. Never tried Genius Hour? Do it. Thinking about a shift to Project Based Learning? Do it. Try it for one unit or lesson. Get out there. Dance in the street. Watch out for cars, of course! Seriously. Ships weren't meant to stay in the harbor. They were meant to sail. No one ever changed the world sitting in their living room twiddling their thumbs. Being safe is okay. But okay is just, okay. Don't be okay. Be great.

"No longer want to be half-alive."

This goes along with the last quote. A couple years ago, I felt like I was in a funk. I needed more. I was so engaged with school, that I was missing out on other things. Those things were the things that really matter. Marjorie Pay Hinckley says is pretty well, “I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbors children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden. I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”

"Mission is the ignition."

You have to make a decision to live with simplicity. To focus on what matters. To give up things that are meaningless. What is your mission? If it's getting your kids "As" that's not a mission statement, that's an endpoint. When students leave your classroom, are they just going to remember a letter on a report card? I hope it's more. I hope it's way more. Your mission has to transcend today.

For some more ideas on this topic -

Minimalism Documentary - I watched it on Netflix. We have too much stuff.
The Kindness Diaries - a man travels around the world based on the generosity of others. Thanks to Dean Shareski, who is always full of joy and really gets life, for the tip on this one.
Happy - I watched on Netflix.
Platon : From the Abstract Series on Netflix. I love the opening about how he can tell a story through the picture.
Tales By Light Series on Netflix - Himalayas and Life and Death are really good on culture
72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life


Friday, May 26, 2017

Learning is a Conversation #ITA17

I'm currently in the Innovative Teaching Academy ran by AJ Juliani. This is a blog post in relation to the class. Sidenote: AJ and John Spencer are getting ready to release a new book titled: Empower. I'm super pumped for it. 
Has technology made us learn new things in new ways, or are we just learning the same old things in new ways?
When answering this question above, I can't help but think that learning doesn't happen in a vacuum. It used to be, but things have changed. Learning is a culture in itself. We have to think of the culture of learning that extends far beyond how technology has helped us learn. 
Being a social studies teacher, I tend to think in terms of cultures: the ebb and flow of life and how things interact with others. Learning has now changed beyond the school walls. 
When getting students to learn today, teachers have to look beyond the walls and think about where this learning might take them. We have to think of the audience. Large audience? Small audience? Does it need to stay within the classroom? Are we learning to create for a global audience? 
Wait. Global audience? That didn't use to be an option. 
Everything stayed within the four walls of the classroom. Students created for the teacher. Sometimes, they might have created for other students. This is where technology has changed everything. 
In regards to learning, we used to learn by reading. Now we're learning from videos, blogs, websites, online classes, MOOCs, PLB, YouTube channels, Twitter, Voxer, Google Hangouts, Skype, YouTube Live, Facebook groups or Facebook Live, and on and on. You can now pick the brain of an expert "in person." We have so many avenues of obtaining information. 
Learning is now a conversation. 
Where I think technology has changed learning is that learning can now be a conversation and not not just a "read and get" one-way conversation. It's interactive. It let's the learner dive deeper than just a textbook. 
I mentioned that I think learning is an element of culture. I'd argue that classroom cultures shift from classroom to classroom. Schools even have their own culture. Each team, whether it be a teacher team, a sports team, a business team, or whatever has a separate culture about it. The leader of that environment has to embrace what learning is today. You can't limit yourself, or others under your leadership, to what has always been. You have to embrace it. Maybe that leader is a teacher. Maybe it's "Mary, the Mom" who is trying to plant cucumbers and has sought the help of a master gardener through Google Hangouts. Maybe it's a boy that has a love of dinosaurs and his parents have found documentaries on Netflix/YouTube to watch and obtain information. Maybe it's me, the "Un-Handy Man," that calls on YouTube, watches a video, reads through all the comments, and double checks links and resources for validity in order to help myself replace the flapper in my toilet. I then went to the hardware store, engaged in personal and professional dialogue about what I needed, the specifics of my toilet and unique problem, and then we were able to find what I needed. 


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Simplest Definition of Innovation in Schools

I'm currently in the Innovative Teaching Academy. It's a class put on by my friend, AJ Juliani. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this great class and learn from so many awesome people. 

"What is innovation?" is the topic of the week. We had to answer that question by creating a meme. (Sidenote - George Couros' book, "The Innovator's Mindset" is a fantastic read on the topic. It affirmed many of my beliefs about what being an innovator truly is. I suggest you give it a read.)

This is my meme. 


I imagine someone a lot smarter than I did came up with some grand definition of what innovation in schools really is. Problem is, I probably couldn't understand it because there would be big words. So, how about we keep it really easy. 

The quick answer to this is that if students are truly engaged, it's probably innovative. If students don't want to leave your room to go to the restroom, it's innovative. They'll hold it. They'll do the pee-pee dance while working. Their eyes will start to have a yellow tint. They'll do whatever it takes to stay in the room. My best lessons are like this. I can see it happening. There is a certain energy during this type of learning. I also have a ton of dud lessons. Hopefully, I can eventually make all of them innovative. It takes time. 

The simplest definition of what innovation is in schools is if your students are doing the pee-pee dance while creating then it must be innovation. 

It takes courage, a huge amount of bravery, a willingness to leave your comfort zone, and to ultimately let go of the fear of failing. I had to get over myself for real innovation to take place. I had to release control, release the "I'm the most important person in the room" mode, and release the "Learning Isn't About the Teachers" role. Get over yourself. 

I remember the first time that I tried Genius Hour / Passion Projects four years ago. I had no idea what I was really doing. I pitched it as a do anything you want and just show us what you learned by creating something that you present. Pretty sure no one left to use the bathroom that day. 

Trust. I had administrators that ok'd my adventure. They trusted that I knew what I was doing and knew it was what was best for kids. They were also there to check-in and bounce ideas off of. 

Just do it. Yes, that's Nike's slogan, but for crying out loud, do something. 

Get out there and do something. Push yourself. Put yourself in your learners' shoes. Would they really want to be in your class if you said it was optional? 


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

7 Things I Can't Do for Students (and 7 Things I Can)

The best way for me to vent is to write. I have found that I need to blog to get my mind off of things. So, today, I write.

At the end of every school year, I end up turning into someone not myself. It’s really someone that I don’t want to be, but it’s like it just comes out. I can’t help it. My main reason is that I’m tired. Tired of a lot of the antics from students, tired of policing the same students to somehow behave appropriately day after day, after day, after day. Tired of harping on the same students to turn their work in even though I have reminded them to the umpteenth power already. Tired of saying, “Be prepared by doing _______.” and kids not doing said thing, but then upset at the consequences from not doing said thing. I might and probably some of my students that I routinely get on might even consider me a jerk. As we end the year, I wonder if that’s how they’ll remember me? Some cantankerous, crotchety guy. I don’t mean to be that way. I was raised to work extremely hard in the classroom, to not do dumb things, and that I could be guilty by association. I can’t, for the life of me understand why some students just want to simply exist. I just don’t get it. Wouldn’t it be more boring to just do nothing in school than do the assignment.

So, because of these things here’s a list of the Top Seven Things I Can’t Do For Students...followed by things I can and already do do. (Saying do twice in a row always makes me giggle)  

  1. I can’t make kids care about school. Let’s be honest. Not everyone likes “school.” There are things that I don’t like about school. There are things that happen that I don’t think are very beneficial to a learner. What I can do is that I can try and make students look toward the future and see how the long term effects of their actions today influence the future.
  2. I can’t consistently engage kids better than electronics. There is a difference between being entertained and being engaged. Being entertained is like watching a movie. It’s more one way. Being engaged is two-way. Being engaged in today’s culture is like watching Dancing With the Stars while simultaneously engaging in twitter conversations with people all over the globe during the show. There has to be input from both parties. There are just some things in school that can’t be engaging all the time. School can’t compete with the digital overload that students have access to. We just can’t. Learning is hard work and not necessarily for your entertainment. I work in a 1:1 school system. One chromebook isn’t enough, students have to pull out their phones and iPods, also. Attention spans have dropped. Spending an hour on an assignment is extremely hard for students to do. What I can do is provide as much choice as possible, try to connect to their world as much as possible, and encourage them to dive deep. Here’s what we’re currently working on in my class. Here's what it looks like in class.
  3. I can’t do students’ assignments or make them turn it in. This seems like an easy one. I won’t do an assignment for you. I can encourage you to start, to continue, to press on, to look at the future, to not just live for today, to explain the long-term effects of doing off-task things, or to talk about planting a seed that grows later. I can help you by answering your questions. I tend to answer questions with questions. I can assign them a lunch-n-learn with me during lunch, or a detention, or a Friday School. Those things don’t necessarily help. The only students that things like detention influence are ones that already care. (See number one in this list.)
  4. I can’t make them act like Mother Theresa. Look, not everyone’s perfect. I get that. I pretty much wipe slates clean everyday. I teach in middle school. First, they are trying to figure themselves out. Second, they are trying to figure everyone else out. Third, they are trying to figure out what they want to investigate in their own life. Fourth, they are trying to manage jumping up into secondary school and trying to make it as least awkward as possible. Fifth, by time they get to sixth grade, a lot of their thoughts have already been shaped by former teachers and how important school is perceived at home. I can read books like “Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success,” which is the kids version of John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success so they know what it takes to be successful. I can read them things like the “Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon so they understand how positive and negative energy affects culture and how to choose your friends wisely. I can read “The Crossover” by Kwame Alexander that gives a glimpse into the daily life of students in middle school that struggle with the same things that they do. I can read a quote of the day from “365 Days of Wonder” by RJ Palacio to try and get deeper and have discussions about life and show some empathy.
  5. I can’t be in charge of their home life. Parents/Guardians are in charge of home lives. As much as I want every student to have the best life outside of school, the reality is that most don’t have that TV sitcom home. I can make my room a safe place. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not too positive with students that can’t figure out how to “student” correctly after 160 days of school. (Random: I think studenting should be a word. There is a proper way to student. It’s kind of like the word parenting. A parent parents. Shouldn’t students student? I know, my mind is wired a little different.) Those students that just can’t figure out how to turn things in at the end of the year still, continue to talk out, continue to be annoying, continue to back talk, continue to treat others not nicely, are the ones I’m talking about. I can remember to look at others through the glasses that they are doing the best that they know how instead of judging them.  Maybe they haven’t learned yet? More importantly, maybe they haven’t been taught?
  6. I can’t make them responsible or be organized. I can provide support and ideas for organization like Google Keep, journaling, and using Canvas calendar, but a student won’t learn how to be organized or responsible unless they are held accountable and taught how to be organized. Even then, some students just won’t because it’s a choice. After 6 years of previous schooling (K-5) most of those habits have already developed. It’s also a caring issue (see number one) and a home life (see number 5) issue. Sometimes, being held accountable is writing a personal note. Sometimes, it’s calling them out in front of their peers. Sometimes, it’s a hug. Sometimes, it’s a stern gaze or suggestion. Sometimes, it’s having them call their parents from my desk phone to “tell on themselves.” Sometimes, it’s just being there to lend your shoulder.
  7. I can’t pull their legs anymore. I think it’s best to be straight up honest by the time they get in the middle school. This game called life is about to get real. Choices matter. Completing your work matters. Who you hang out with matters. Learning how to work hard matters. A lot of students are just getting a taste of what it takes to “student” correctly. (See, studenting is a thing, hehe.) I can tell students what they need to do to improve. I can help them make goals to get better. I can be honest and inform them that what they are doing isn’t cutting it and they need to try harder. Speaking the truth is a very hard thing to do. It seems that most people avoid the truth nowadays. Speaking the truth in love is what is needed. Listening to the truth is really hard, too.

I hate it when I get to the end of a school day and I have spent all my time on those students that fall into one or more of the seven things above and have neglected all the students that are working hard, behaving correctly, and care. I struggle with that balance. I struggle with letting students fail because it’s the right thing to do. I give limitless chances to redo or retake an assignment. I let students hand things in late. I feel I do enough on my end. There has to be some responsibility from the students.

I’m tired.

Good thing summer break is coming :)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


I'm stuck.

I feel my lessons are "good enough." They get by. Students are challenged. I've been using the same lessons for a couple of years now. The problem is that I've always thought that good enough is neither. Neither good, nor enough.

I'm out to change that. As I wrap up this school year and start making preparations for next year, I decided to enroll in the Innovative Teaching Academy that's put on by my good friend, A.J. Juliani.

I'm excited to learn more. To grow. To improve. To meet other educators that share the same passion. To find some new things to make the teaching and learning in my classroom better.

Here's to a great #ITA17


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

End of Season Letter

Our basketball season ended a couple of weeks ago. I always have a love/hate relationship with the end of the season. Sad to see it come to an end, but happy that it happened and that I can spend some time with my family. (Or actually write a blog post.)

I am sad to say that this season didn't produce any trophies, championships, or other things that the world deems as a success. It was the first year in four years that one of my teams hasn't "won" something. I also have never set out to win anything. Winning is never a goal of mine. I am upfront about that in the beginning of the season. I am focused on all the little things that go into winning. This class had a lot of things not necessarily go their way this year. They battled. They fought. They didn't complain.  Many factors go into that. Some we could have controlled. Others we couldn't. My job as a middle school coach is to prepare my players for their future careers in high school, while also competing in the here and now. I teach fundamentals, spacing, and all the players know that I love defense. Unfortunately, we didn't end up with many wins this season.

What it did have though, was great kids, great moments, and apparently, life lessons.

I have always thought that my job as a coach is to not make winners today, but to cultivate an atmosphere and culture that is conducive to producing students and players that win at life 20+ years down the road. Sports come and eventually go. Lessons, learning, and relationships last a lifetime.

This letter will go up on my wall. It will serve as a reminder that I at least did one thing right this year. I really appreciate how this player took the time to write a well thought out thank you letter. He doesn't know this, but these types of moments are what drives me. Not winning. Not championships. Not any of that. It really doesn't. You may think I'm crazy. Shoot. Most people already do. :)

I will remember this note more than any score.

Thank you to the player that wrote this. It means a lot.