My next book purchase  = The Classroom Chef

Want to read some brilliance? Check out the next book coming out from the amazing folks at Dave Burgess Publishing; it’s going to knock some off of their feet.  The following was written by Dave Burgess himself:

Fast food joints and chain restaurants are ubiquitous on our landscape. New ones pop up all the time, others shut down, and we barely notice.

Why is that?

Because they are dime a dozen, they are the cookie cutters of the restaurant industry, and they are the old-school factory model in an age that increasingly appreciates personalization.

I travel a TON right now…I have a truly crazy schedule. But I also know that I can walk into any (insert the name of any chain restaurant) and get the exact same meal as I did last week in a completely different part of the country. Heck…even in ANOTHER country! Even in their storefront at the airport for god’s sake! They have placed the highest value on consistency and the ability to duplicate and scale their businesses. They have a formula… a recipe to follow…that allows anyone to buy a franchise, plug in the formula, and voilà…instant business. It’s easy! Even the menus and the way the food is prepared have been simplified to the point where you can hire a new cook and easily train them to crank out the same meals as the person they are replacing.

There is a comfort in consistency. A rigid recipe can be reassuring. A formula may not be fun…but sure is easy!

But when is the last time you left a fast food joint raving about how special the meal was that particular time? When was the last time you just had to know who prepared your chain restaurant meal because it was so exquisite? Have you ever heard a story about a short-order cook leaving one establishment to go to another and the customer base moved with him/her? No way!

This happens all the time in the restaurant world, though! What’s the difference?

Simple. There is a huge difference between a short-order cook and a CHEF.

Chefs bring a unique talent, style, flair…a panache to their work. They have a perspective. They have an agenda. They understand the significance of presentation and how to provide just the right balance of everything to create an extraordinary culinary experience to their clients. The menu is more likely to change to reflect growth, newly acquired dishes, and customer feedback. You can’t expect, nor would you likely be happy with, the same meal served and prepared exactly the same each time. There are specialty items that may be available only tonight…just because the chef decided to do something new and different. Tonight is unique.

For far too long we have been serving fast food education to our students.

Cookie cutter, scripted lesson plans (Gag reflex)

Worksheet packets of drivel

Assignments out of textbooks that are so old they have to be dusted off each year

Pre-packaged programs and ready-made curriculum from giant publishing companies that know as much about engaging kids as I do about craft beer. (That’s right, the pirate captain has never had a sip of alcohol in his entire life! #oddfactsaboutDaveBurgess)

We need more educational chefs! Thank goodness John Stevens (@Jstevens009) and Matt Vaudrey (@mrvaudrey) have come to the rescue with one of our newest releases, The Classroom Chef: Sharpen Your Lessons, Season your Classes, Make Math Meaningful.

Let’s get your first question out of way right now: “Is this a math book, then?”

Yes and no.

Is Teach Like a Pirate a U.S. History book? Nope! Every single example in TLAP is drawn from my class but the applications are meant for, and used in, classes of ALL subjects and ALL levels from pre-K to adult ed.

Same thing is true of The Classroom Chef. This is a book about becoming a more engaging and effective teacher. This is a book about powerful pedagogy. It is about the trials, tribulations, and ultimately successes that come from taking risks and seeking something more than short-order recipes in the classroom.

That being said, every single example in the book is drawn from actual math lessons and from multiple levels. Many are straight out of Matt’s and John’s classes giving them the authenticity we all look for…this stuff works! They send MAJOR shout outs to the power of collaboration with their #MTBoS community and there is even a KILLER math lesson about a cookie-eating monster that was contributed by first grade teacher, Jamie Duncan (@jamiedunc3).

There is NO OTHER SUBJECT that I get more questions and comments about as I travel and talk about Teach Like a PIRATE than math. “What does this look like in math?” “I see how this could be applied in social studies and English…but I teach math. My subject is too dry, objective, and skill based for this stuff.”


The Classroom Chef is what it looks like in math!!

Too dry?

How about teaching math with mullets, dropping barbies off high places with bungee cords, running action figures and dolls down epic ziplines, discussing GIGANTIC sharks, delivering life-altering lessons on 9/11, and arguing heatedly about toilet paper…all while delivering curriculum and having students master mathematical concepts.

How about starting a math fight? Get them so wound up about which side they have committed to in masterfully designed scenarios that they are desperate to prove they are right. Uh oh!!! The only way they can win is by understanding and using math! Stevens and Vaudrey are pretty tricky!!!

The book is cleverly organized into chef-themed sections: preparing the kitchen, setting the table, appetizers, entrees, side dishes, desserts, and paying the bill.

Appetizers: Ways to creatively hook students at the beginning of class

Entrees: FULL lessons…with a powerful section after the examples about how to prepare your own entrées.

Side Dishes: Taking lessons from good to great to amazing by adding engaging elements.

Dessert: Thoughts on Assessment

The Bill: A plea for courage and risk-taking in your practice.

There is even a “take-out food” section of resources and links for you to be able to find additional ideas and on-going support as you learn to prepare and season your lessons!

Oh! And please don’t skip the footnotes! Hilarious and one of my favorite parts!

Matt and John also deliver KILLER workshops, so feel free to contact us about that, as well. OF COURSE, they come dressed in their fine white chef outfits with striking, tall, white chef hats to inspire and work with your colleagues.

Pick up the Classroom Chef right here on Amazon:

Or here on Barnes & Noble online:

Be a chef! Prepare tasty lessons that your students will LOVE!

Slut Shaming – a horrible school epidemic 

I recently attended the annual NJASA spring leadership conference. The conference always offers a variety of leadership workshops and shares the latest educational trends, case law, and pedagogy. Surely there is some time to catch up with colleagues and network with your contacts, but I was surprised that one topic came up over and over again:”slut shaming.”

For real… slut shaming came up over and over. Student versus student, teacher versus teacher, and even administrator versus administrator. From Sussex to Salem counties, from the poor to the affluent district. I was astonished.

If you aren’t familiar, slut shaming is a form of social stigma applied to people, especially women and girls, who are perceived to violate traditional expectations for sexual behaviors. Some examples of circumstances where women are “slut-shamed” include, violating accepted dress codes by dressing in perceived sexually provocative ways, requesting access to birth control, having premarital, casual, or promiscuous sex, or being raped or otherwise sexually assaulted (Lamb, 2008).

Slut shaming is a type of victim blaming. Almost as bad as anonymous social media apps such as YikYak or LuLu,  this is a whole new level of hurtfulness and harm in a school. While we are always learning how to combat the latest bullying methods in school, and rumors of promiscuity have always existed, such ways to send lies  and such hurt have never been so easy. Even worse?  What was reserved for middle and high school has crept into elementary schools.

As Administrators, dealing with rubbish such as this takes up time in every district. Additionally, we are not clerics, nor should we be in the business of passing any type of judgment. Rumors will always exist in a school, but a caliber such as this – this slut shaming – is awful and will be dealt with zero tolerance if I ever have to deal with it.

I’m disgusted that I am writing this post. Given such an awful topic, I feel compelled to. We need to have resources and meaningful solutions to stop such heinous behaviors. This is rumor spreading and hurt on a whole new level. Educators must do that… Educate.

2016 State of the District

Below is my inaugural State of the District letter that went to almost 5000 homes in Waterford Township / Atco, New Jersey.


 FROM THE DESK OF:        

  Jason M. Eitner, Superintendent of Schools                                                                                         

May, 2016

Dear Residents of Waterford Township,

It is my honor and privilege to write my first State-of-the-District letter to you. Since August, 2015, I have had the pleasure of serving as your Superintendent of Schools and have had the opportunity to speak with teachers, administrators, parents, board members, community leaders, and many other stakeholders who value our schools.  The goal is to move our schools forward educationally while keeping our finances in check.  In fulfilling my job requirements, I wish to share with you our district’s current status and the steps we need to take in order to grow, learn, and progress in ways that are best for our learners and community.

Upon entering the district, I was charged with a series of tasks with special attention needed in the following areas: curriculum & instruction, facilities, spending, and a focus on our 6th-grade students that transition to the Hammonton schools.  After examining test scores, studying schedules, reviewing teacher assignments, and vetting our current instructional practices and programming, it was apparent that some big decisions had to be made.  Additionally, I reviewed the information from the feedback forums that the Board of Education had conducted when looking for a new superintendent.  The overwhelming response was a desire to change the status quo.  It was clear that my job was to return the quality of education provided in your schools to a level that would once again see our students achieving academic excellence.  You may have heard about some of the proposed changes and those that have already occurred.  As your superintendent, I have an obligation to share with you the overall status of the district and to help explain why these changes are necessary.

To begin, the 2015-16 School Report reflects that only 21% (1 out of 5 Waterford Township students) passed the math portion of the state performance assessment, and approximately 28% passed the English language arts section.  Currently, Waterford Township is the third lowest performing district in Camden County.  This is a grave number.  Not only are our students not receiving the education they deserve, but, as taxpayers, you know the value of the district’s schools directly correlates to the value of your homes.  These scores did not happen overnight.  Years of status-quo operations have held back our progression.  Given such drastic numbers, I have implemented a series of swift changes in the district that reflect meeting learners where they are today.  Updating curriculum and technology needs was essential, and, with that in mind, curriculum has been revised, academic coaches have been implemented, and numerous personnel have been realigned to ensure that your children are getting the best possible education.  Such swift change can feel jarring to staff and community, but my hope is that everyone will see what is at stake–the education of your children, the value of your homes, and the overall health and welfare of your community.

What students learn today, combined with how students learn, is paramount for their success. Traditional instruction is no longer meeting the needs of our learners, as evidenced by our recent state performance scores and years of failing scores in the instruction & practice category of the state monitoring program. Additionally, a lack of consistent curriculum, an adherence to “past practices,” and an absence of a clear vision and message have also hindered progression.  I am proud to inform you that these issues are being corrected and we are beginning to move forward.  I am also proud to report that many teachers, parents and administrators are in favor of change.

Social media has been introduced to our district, as I believe in meeting parents, staff, and students where they are in today’s times.  We are also keeping our schools up-to-date with infrastructure improvements to everything from HVAC systems to energy-efficient boilers.  

Please note that all of this change will not lead to improvement overnight.  However, over time, these advancements will allow our district to become the academic leader it once was before and deserves to be.  Like you, I want families to come to Waterford Township to raise their children because of our schools and be proud of our community achievements.  I would welcome the opportunity to speak with anyone regarding the issues addressed in this letter.  Please feel free to call me at 856.767.8293, ext. 3010, or email me at with any questions, comments, or concerns.  

Together let us embrace the changes, support our staff, and celebrate as our students achieve success.

Yours in education,

Jay Eitner

Superintendent of Schools 


Get a Hot Tub! 

For the past couple of years, I have been talking about my hot tub. Seriously!

I talk about it with family, friends, co-workers, and just recently someone next to me on an airplane.

A hot tub? Yes, a hot tub!

I don’t have a grandiose tub. I bought it after seeing a series of corner road signs that read “Hot Tub Extravaganza.” I shopped around for months before learning about the nozzles, airflow, pumps, and even “wet-tested” a few (hot tub folks are very big about “try before you buy” since it is kind of hard to return after delivery).  Finally, I felt confident enough to purchase.

My tub has LED lights and wireless, waterproof speakers, seats six, and goes up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. I use it for at least 20 minutes five days a week.

If you’ve read this far, you must be scratching your head asking yourself where this is going on an education blog. Simple response: My hot tub helps me relax, and relaxation is paramount for educators.

We are at a point in the school year (in NJ) where the home stretch is upon us. The temperature rises, kids (and staff) are ready for a break, and we are in a mindset to knock off the checklist. Taking care of yourself – relaxation included – is essential. Some like wine; some run. I use my hot tub and swear by it. I tell everyone about it, and I’m even so brazen as to tell people to come over and use it. I feel as if I’m paying it forward when I convince family, friends, and even co-workers to try it.

Here’s to more relaxation on the horizon. Relaxation helps your wellness. Your wellness is needed to be at your prime in a school. Your wellness effects all those around you.  Your being healthy means your being happy, and that rubs off on kids.

Looking forward to my hot tub later. Ask me about it sometime!

The Wheaties Box

Recently, when I was catching up with former classmate Nick Ferroni (Union High School c/o 1997), he tweeted the following:

This had me thinking all day.  Have we ever put teachers on Wheaties?   I started poking around online and came across numerous news articles and reports on the history of the Wheaties box.  It’s pretty neat to review some of the greats who have appeared.

  •  Bruce Jenner – the Olympic decathlon winner
  • Muhammad Ali – one of the greatest boxers in the world
  • Mary Lou Retton – a gymnast who obtained a perfect 10 in the Olympics
  • Michael Jordan – a basketball player who is one of the best since the inception of basketball itself.

While it’s honorable that we acknowledge scads of sports celebrities, why don’t we do the same for those who impact lives of all ages?  Why not go the extra mile to honor those who helped get these athletes to where they are/were today?   Why not put other heroes besides athletes on the Wheaties box?

Apparently I’m not the only one asking.  While there have been many petitions to get folks on the box–some even on the petition website–we have not seen any non-athletes as of late.

In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Day this week, I hope that everyone, both in and out of the education arena, understands that this is how we should be honoring our educators, not just on Tuesday, but every day.  I hope to Photoshop every teacher on a Wheaties box by the end of the school year.  That’s how much I think of them.  That’s how you should honor your teachers, too.

When you think of Wheaties and educators, you should be thinking of champions.

image credit: Nicholas Ferroni