GO SMALL!

I have shared blog posts from Dave Burgess with you before, but this post is rather important.  Sometimes, changing the littlest thing will bring the biggest result. Read below on how to do it in a school. The original post can be found here: http://daveburgess.com/go-small/ )


Go BIG! Take a leap! Shoot for the moon! Jump in with both feet!

We hear this type of advice all the time, and quite frankly, I’m often somebody who gives it. It can be a motivational and inspirational message for some (hopefully!), and it may be just what they need to hear to make major breakthroughs in their lives and career.

For others, it is perhaps overwhelming.

It’s easy to look at all the amazing and innovative developments in education that have taken place over the last few years and to get a major case of “analysis paralysis.” Where do I start? What do I tackle first? How can I make all of these changes all at once? How can I possibly learn everything I need to know to do this? The year has already started, so how can I change course mid-stream? What if students flounder under all this new freedom and autonomy? Am I qualified to lead my students in this new direction?

The struggle is real! I get it…I really do. We see rockstar teachers on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and presenting at conferences who have created UNBELIEVABLY empowering classes for their students, and it is easy to feel as if what we are doing is less than adequate. It’s hard to live up to the Pinterest boards and still keep some sort of balance and sanity. How did they get this awesome?

The answer may surprise you, because they often fail to share the most critical part of the journey. The struggle. These classrooms are the product of what is usually a continuous search for new and better, for a mindset of being willing to make small shifts and adjustments in order to test out and experiment with innovative new practices. You are just looking at the end result and feeling overwhelmed but not seeing that each step along the way, when broken down, is very approachable. All of this stuff is doable!

Makeover shows are wildly popular because they show the before and after…PLUS  the journey to transformation. It is in that journey where the real fun and adventure lie. That’s the part that pulls us in. If only a teacher who has traveled this path of the classroom and pedagogical transformation would share the whole story and break it down and just be fully transparent…

It has happened!

Joy Kirr is an unbelievably amazing 7th-grade teacher from Illinois who has been prolifically sharing her ideas and resources for YEARS! Many people who have wanted to jump into the Genius Hour world, for example, have successfully done so using her curated resources. She has truly empowered her students and has designed a learning environment that is not only highly successful…it is flat-out inspirational to behold.

She is that rock-star teacher we were talking about earlier…except that wasn’t always the case. It was a process of making many very small and gradual shifts, all totally doable, over a period of time. We have convinced Joy to swing open the doors of her classroom…the doors of her career…and openly share these shifts and how they have changed her as an educator and, more importantly, changed the class experience for her kids. We have just released her long-awaited book project, Shift This: How to Implement Gradual Changes for MASSIVE Impact In Your Classroom. This is powerful stuff! Classroom set-up and environment, grading practices, homework, class work, student-directed learning, Genius Hour…it ‘s all here. You will be fascinated by her journey and also inspired to take your own.

You can check out Shift This on Amazon (34% off!) here:
https://goo.gl/B59V3Y

Or Barnes & Noble (34% off!) here:
https://goo.gl/gGmV23

When educators who are connected to Joy on social media found out this project was happening, the response was almost universal. “Yes! I want that! She has helped me many times and deserves more recognition for how long she has selflessly served the community.” I hope you will support this new project.  Follow Joy if you aren’t already and tap into the #ShiftThis hashtag on Twitter to continue the discussion.


 

Believe in Magic

When people talk about childhood idols & heroes, I always say David Copperfield.  No, not the character from Dickens.  The other character:

 

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image credit: vegas.com

If you don’t know of the man above, David Copperfield is an international illusionist who has performed all over the world.  He did a series of specials in the 80’s and 90’s on television and currently performs daily in Las Vegas.

David Copperfield wasn’t just simple magic. There was spectacle; there were music and lights; there was a story; there was the attractive girl; there was the impossible becoming possible in a few minutes.  Illusions were almost performed like MTV music videos.  I was obsessed.

My love for illusions and magic was instantaneous. There was a magic shop in town that I was stopping in every day after school to either learn a trick or save up lunch money (sorry Mom) and buy a new trick each week.  At one point, I had a duffle bag full of all sorts of tricks.

AsI got older, I tried to break out into the entertainment scene.  I had  a clown costume and a mime outfit.  I tried rocking out some tricks and entertainment at street fairs and local township events.  I thought I had something really special in 6th-grade until I bombed two magic tricks on stage. I didn’t really generate much business in 7th and 8th grade, but I did manage to start a clown ministry program at my church. It was cool, but high school came along, and my bag of tricks retired to the attic.

Fast forward about 14 years to my first administrative position as an Assistant Principal in a middle school.  Truly a job where you will never know what will happen, I came across a special 6th-grade student named Max. Max had school phobia to the worst degree.  On many days in the beginning of the year, Max refused to leave the car. On the days he did, he was so reluctant to come in, he would be crying and sometimes even screaming. I was determined to find a way to get Max into school in a safe and quiet manner.

And then it happened. Like magic.

I went home that day and searched all over for my bag of magic tricks. I found it. Like riding a bike, the magic tricks came back after a few tries. I practiced on my wife and my dog.  I was determined to get the patter (a magic term for story) down and if there were any movements as well.  The next day that Max was refusing to get out of the car, I had my magic bag. While some Child Study Team members looked at me oddly for performing the vanishing coloring book trick to a 6th-grader who was kicking the door so I couldn;t open it, he was hooked.  Eventually, he asked how I did it.  That’s when I broke the magician’s code. I told Max I would show him how the trick works IF he came in. Just like that…magic.

Once a week, I would teach Max a new trick that he could try on his classmates and family members at home, but only if he could come in without fuss and go right to class. WE did this for about 2 months, and then he didn’t want the magic anymore; he just wanted to come into class.

I got to use the bag of tricks with a few more students in LAC, and even where I am now. The same deal is reached; if you {come to school} or {behave} or {get all of your homework done}, you can learn a new trick. Believe in the power of magic; it works wonders in lives of all ages.

 

Which guy?

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image credit: newgrounds.com
So… here we are again…another summer that flies by, another school year ready to kick off, and another few weeks of thoughts swirling in my head about what exactly to say to the hundreds of staff members who wait for my every last breathYou know the last sentence was sarcasm, right?  I used to despise listening to administrators giving speeches to begin the school year.  As a teacher, I already had so much to do, a classroom to set up, curriculum and IEP’s to look over, etc. The last thing I wanted to do was be herded in like cattle to sit and listen to some know-it-all administrator tell me how I’m going to do my job and how wonderful I am, even though he had never met me.

 

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image credit: shamelessmag.com

And now I am “that guy.”   I don’t like being “that guy.”  You know… “That guy” who cuts in front of you in the lunch line, “’that guy” who just has to have the last word, “that guy”’ who has been the gift to education since he stepped into a classroom and knows absolutely everything.

I don’t like the labels “good guy” or “bad guy” either.  My job isn’t a movie plot or a professional wrestling storyline.  However, some will correlate good guy and bad guy, because that’s what was always done.

Some people will call me a good guy, some a bad guy, or, even worse, “that guy.”  While I don’t think I fit any of these personas, I’ll tell you what I think I am. I am the guy.

  • I’m the guy who was appointed by the Board of Education to lead a school district down numerous avenues, sometimes even trailblazing.
  • I’m the guy who is charged with leading principals, supervisors, managers, teachers, and all employees in any and all school interactions, as I have oversight of, either directly or indirectly, every district employee, all school programs, and all facilities.
  • I’m the guy who signs the checks, approves the bills, and makes sure we are getting the best that money can buy.
  • I’m the guy who serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Board of Education and am responsible for the administration and supervision of the school district in accordance with Board policies and New Jersey Statutes.
  • I’m the guy who will inspire, lead, guide and direct every member of the administrative, instructional, and support services team in setting and achieving the highest standards of excellence, so that each individual student enrolled in our district may be provided with a completely valuable, meaningful and personally rewarding education.
  • I’m the guy who is an ex-officio member of the Board of Education and serves on every committee, like it or not.
  • I’m the guy who advises the Board on the need for new or revised policy and prepares drafts for Policy Committee review.
  • I’m the guy who supervises the effective implementation of all constitutional or statutory laws, state regulations, and Board policies. Some love that, and some loathe it.
  •  I’m the guy who recommends for promotion, appointment, or employment all employees of the Board and assigns, transfers and recommends for dismissal any and all employees of the Board.
  • I’m the guy who assumes ultimate administrative responsibility for the health, safety, welfare, discipline, assignment, promotion and retention of all students.
  • I’m the guy who will report to the Board of Education on the conditions and needs of the school system and effectiveness of the policies and regulations under which the system is operating.
  • I’m the guy who supervises the physical operation of the school plant and its facilities and makes appropriate recommendations.
  • I’m the guy who is responsible for the general supervision of the instructional programs as well as the one who supervises research essential to the efficient operation of the school system and the improvement of instruction.
  • I’m the guy who makes recommendations to the Board of Education for its adoption of all courses for students as well as the purchase of textbooks, instructional supplies, and equipment.
  • I’m the guy who schedules meetings and professional development for school staff as necessary for the improvement and welfare of the school district.
  • I’m the guy who makes the call for the opening or closing of school during emergency situations.
  • I’m the guy who has to enforce Board policies and implement Board goals whether I like them or not.

I could go on and on for another 8 gazillion bullets, but, hopefully, you get the point.  Bottom line: If it has to deal with school, from a broken pipe to a broken link on the website, I have something to do with it at some point.

You can love me, you can loathe me, or anything in between and outside of the scope of that, but know that this guy is here for your kids.  Kids first! Always!

I think I just finished by back-to-school address.  Here goes nothing.  If it hits home to one person, awesome.  If not, I have Dave Burgess to fall back on this year! 😉

Here’s to all having a great back-to-school year!

Second Hand News

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Summer is a time for relaxation, recharging, and for some, regrouping. I’m a big fan of just zoning out on the beach to some tunes. One of my favorite bands, Fleetwood Mac, was just on with their hit “Second Hand News”. I know the song has nothing to do with school, but the title sure does.

As a Superintendent, I am constantly addressing the rumor mill and second-hand news.  There’s not a day that does not go by where I don’t hear “well I heard that…” or “someone told me that…” or “is it true that…” To be clear almost every administrator goes through this. In no way, shape, or form is this unique to me.

Once you think you hear it all, something else comes along.  It’s constant, but almost expected.

Why would I waste time blogging about this? Simple; others folks in my position need to know it’s not just you, your district, or location. It’s everywhere. What you need to do is simply laugh it off and keep moving along. The only time I address rumors is when someone is personally being scrutinized for something.

Will rumors ever stop? Never. Will they dictate my life or my leadership. Absolutely not. Rumors are rumors, and peddling, laughing, and rolling with them is just as much a apart of school culture as snacks in the faculty room.

5 ways to use Pokemon Go in your classroom

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image credit: pokemongo.com

 

Disclaimer: Before you think I’m jumping on the bandwagon, I’m not.  This is intended to be used as another tool in the shed of an educator that connects to today’s learner. 

 

History does indeed come full circle. Pokemon is back in the news. When I first heard it over the weekend, I thought I was hearing things. Pokemon?? For real?!

Not even a week ago at this point, Ninentndo introduced a new app called “Pokemon Go” that has swept a country by storm.  Five days into its’ release, it’s scheduled to have more downloads and users than Twitter. You read that right; more users than twitter in five days.

Why? Sheer nostalgia meets a game that one can play with ease.

The goal of the game? Capture Pokemon creatures. Get Points. Get ranked. The epitome of gamification.

 

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image credit: pokemonfanatics.com

As mentioned earlier, this has become such a hit that it recently crashed a server because too many people were using it.  It also has received a ridiculous amount of press in a very short time, with not all of it being good.

Click here to watch a 3:00 report on NBC World News (for real, NBC WORLD NEWS!)

If you don’t know the basics of Pokémon,  it stems from the hobby of insect collecting. Players of the games are designated as Pokémon Trainer, and in the main series Pokémon games, these trainers have two general goals. These are to complete the Pokédex by collecting all of the available Pokémon species found in the fictional region where that game takes place and to train a team of powerful Pokémon from those they have caught to compete against teams owned by other Trainers, and eventually win the fictional Pokémon League. These themes of collecting, training, and battling are present in almost every version of the Pokémon franchise.

When playing the game, a Trainer that encounters a wild Pokémon is able to capture that Pokémon by throwing a tool called a Poké Ball at it. If the Pokémon is unable to escape, it is officially considered to be under the ownership of that Trainer. If a Pokémon fully defeats an opponent in battle so that the opponent is knocked out, the winning Pokémon gains experience points and may level up. When leveling up, the Pokémon’s statistics of battling aptitude increase, such as Attack and Speed. From time to time, the Pokémon may also learn new moves, which are techniques used in battle.

 

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image credit: wikipedia.org

I immediately thought of another game that has the same exact concept of moving around to collect things: Ingress. If you haven’t heard of ingress, it was created by the same company that created Pokemon Go – Niantic.  In Ingress, the competition in Ingress is between the two opposing teams rather than between individual players, and players never interact directly in the game or suffer any kind of damage. The gameplay consists of capturing “portals” at places of cultural significance, such as public art, landmarks, monuments, etc., and linking them to create virtual triangular “control fields” over geographical areas. Progress in the game is measured by the number of “mind units” captured. The necessary links between portals may range in length from meters to hundreds of miles. Gameplay relies heavily on the player physically moving about the community in order to interact with portals.

 

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image credit: citycapture.org 

Now that you have this crazy description, there has to be a way to inject this into classes; surely there is!  Below are 5 ways to capitalize on the craze:

Map Reading.  Starting in 3rd grade, per Common Core standard ERI.3.7, students should be able to use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur). While we all rely on GPS and mapquest, viewing and reading a map is paramount for anyone. PokemonGo is based off of maps; this would be a great way to teach direction and to incorporate the 5 themes of geography.

Digital Citizenship and Safety. I’m sure you have heard or read the headlines; the game has lead to people strolling into traffic, finding weapons and dead bodies, and has even lead people to muggings. Using real-time news and scenarios, you can easily inject the game into the importance of being safe in your surroundings, meeting strangers on the internet, etc.

 Probability. Pokemon is a game based on location, but also a game that circulates around rarity. It’s like fishing in a way; you never know what you’re going to catch. A lesson on the probability of catching a certain species to another species could be one of the best hooks that you can use for your students… and it’s compliant with 6th grade  CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.A.1.

 Local & Cultural Exploration. PokemonGo has brought people out and about.  Gatherings. Meetups. Excitement.  Not just in a park, but at art galleries, restaurants, sights, and more. The way the app works allows folks to truly explore their surroundings. You have a whole new level of engagement and urge for exploration that many did not have before.  Why not inject local history, art, music, and culture into this craze?

A perfect opportunity for research.   Tying into the exploration lab above, having students conduct research on the game, the fad, and the places they have gone in the process is an easy and simplistic way to engage as student in research practices.  If a student is interested in it, why not have them engaged in it?

Again, I certainly won’t be pushing a PokemonGo classroom next year, but teachers would be silly not to capitalize on the craze like everyone else has.

 

 

Armchair Quarterbacking 

Like most of you, I have kept tabs on the shooting of Harambe that occurred at the Cincinnati  Zoo. We have heard opinion after opinion, expert after expert, share their thoughts on what should or should not have been done. Then comes public opinion and what others would have done if they were in the same situation. This practice is often referred to “armchair quarterbacking,” the practice of trying to be an expert on something the individual knows only a modicum at best.

While it is certainly a part of our First Amendment rights to speak freely, we often get lost in what actually happened.

An incident occurred and professionals responded.

We often forget this before criticizing. We see it daily in the news from police procedures to government responses. While we may not agree with the way things are handled, in most situations, professionals are trained to deal with the incident.

When I was teaching, I often heard from non-teaching friends about how easy the job is, how we get the summers off, how they would teach and make our schools better. My response was (and will always be)

If teaching is as simplistic and uncomplicated as you make it out to be, get your cert and walk in my shoes for a day. Then we’ll talk.

In my current role as a superintendent, I’m the main target when it comes to criticism in schools. It’s a part of the job. No matter what happens, you can’t make everyone happy, and you’ll burn yourself out if you try. Just as when I was teaching, I tell folks the same thing when they start criticizing every move I make: get the cert and help those of us in these positions fix the problem. 

Sometimes my biggest criticizers are fellow educators. In a previous district, there was a small pocket of folks where, if I said the sky was blue, they would be the first to disagree. While that wasn’t bothersome, what was is that they spent 24/7 talking about whatever it was. They tried to sour colleagues, parents, and stakeholders; they tried to take anything I said and twist it into something else. Their paranoia or guilt drove them to do or say anything and use their own time doing it. Why would I care if it’s their own time? Those educators (not in my current district) could have actually invested in their lesson plans or their students to make their classroom an amazing avenue of learning.

I close with this.

Before you start criticizing something you have no relevant background in, think about the professionals who are charged with making the decisions. Yes, it’s not going to work out every time, and, yes, mistakes or intentional actions will be made on occasion, but those professionals are trained and are experienced, whether you like it or not.

Put your energy into something positive and productive. Those who surround you will thank you.

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.”

Bullsh%&!!!

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:

http://goo.gl/ibR9hy

Or here on Barnes & Noble online:

http://goo.gl/Lva8Ey

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