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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Evolution of #MyWhy

Listening to the latest "Ditch That Textbook" podcast episode (click here for audio) I was motivated to reflect on my "Why" of teaching and how my Why has evolved over the years. Great educators don't just merely tell you what they do, they tell you how they do it. Exceptional educators don't just tell you how they do it, they tell you WHY they do what they do. Currently, I have two main "Why's" That drives me as a teacher.

I originally wanted to be a coach/PE teacher because of my HS PE Teacher, Coach Davis. I more or less wanted to be a coach because that is where Coach Davis made the most impact on my life. I thought to my self that if I could be an ounce of what Coach Davis was that I would be making an impact on the world. I also thought that teaching was a great job for a family. Thought teaching was going to be easy; teach the same content year after year and have summers and holidays off (how I was SO wrong about this mentality).

I couldn't really articulate my why at the time and I probably was trying to live other people's why's. I also didn't like that my why was motivated to do something for myself and not for the benefit of all people. 


During college and early years of teaching, I realized how important Adventist Education was in my life and I wanted to give back and try to change people's lives just like my life was changed through it. If people asked me Why I was an educator this is exactly what I would tell them. I feel like this why is still shallow. It is still about me and how it gives me satisfaction. I do like that there is an outcome of changing peoples lives but it seems vague. How are people's lives going to be changed? What am I going to do differently to change peoples lives?

I was inspired by Simen Sinek Ted Talk about knowing you're why many years ago and have been trying to constantly reflect and own my Why. Why is even my #OneWord2018 challenge, read more about it here, but basically I want to make sure I know why we are doing any activity in my classroom. With much back and forth I have settled on the following two Why's of not just an educator but as a person:

I believe that when we are better equipped to be physically active and can move in a variety of ways our body and mind will be a better place to make a difference with the people around us. Think about the cost of healthcare that is caused by the inadequate amount of physical activity. According to the CDC, that figure is costing America $117 BILLION Dollars a year, click here for more info. How much better would our world be if we were healthier to do what we love? How much better would we be if we were stronger and more alert when we were doing what we love? 

I also believe that when we own our learning we will better equipped to impact the lives around us. There is something empowering when we tell people that they can do whatever they want and I truly believe that statement. It might be hard but the brain is very plastic. I think when we shift the responsibility to each person to learn they can truly take ownership of their passions. I ask my students every year "who is in charge of your learning?" I am always surprised how many will say me. I think as the education we need to 

Both Why's have the same outcome, to better equipped to change the world. They are tools for people that will help them ultimately be better equipped to follow their passions. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

End of Year Reflection on my Goals

My school wanted us to write four SMART goals at the start of the year. We where suppose to reflect each quarter, which I did not. I wrote my reflection for each goal in bold. Overall I felt like I made huge strides in becoming a better teacher. One thing I know I want to do better is check in on my goals and reflect and make adjustments to my goal plan each quarter. 

My biggest accomplishments:
  • Not using a textbook. 
  • Almost completely ditching HW (probably assigned less than 10 formal HW assignments).
  • Trying out Interactive notebooks.
  • Becoming more proficient in Google Classroom.
  • Growing my PLN
  • Blogging and reflecting more.
  • Becoming Google Certified Level 1
  • Trying out a Flipped model and building a Google Site.
  • Starting my own podcast on Ditching Grades. 
  • Started to write and create my lessons
  • Using Gif's in PE class
  • Healthy Nuggets in PE class. 

Link to Goals: Click Here

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Book Reflection: Learn Like a Pirate: Empower Your Students to Collaborate, Lead, and Succeed

Authors: Paul Solarz

Book Website:

Why Did I Read This Book:
When I found out that our school had chosen this book as our next book study my wife made me recorded my genuine excitement (In tweet below). I had been participating in the weekly #LearnLAP chats for about 6 months and really liked the topics that were discussed. Had no idea really the context of the book or what the major themes were besides what I had seen on Twitter. I just knew if the book was anything like the Twitter chats I felt like I would be challenged and our staff would benefit from joining this community. I also enjoyed that the author was active on Twitter and interacted with people. 

Major Takeaways:

We love our acronyms in education and Learn Like A Pirate is no different. The author lays out What P.I.R.A.T.E system means in the same vein as the original theme from the creator of this series Dave Burgess does in Teach Like A Pirate (check out my original reflection of this book, HERE). 

I was surprised to find out that author was a 5th-grade teacher and all of his examples of how he applies his concepts to a 5th-grade setting. While I found my self-agreeing with every single concept in his book I had a hard time thinking about how can I apply this to my classroom. Some concepts like responsibility partners I found easy to try out right away while "Give Me 5" to get students attention or let other students make an announcement was harder to implement. While it might be hard to implement because it seems silly in a high school setting the concept of having rituals that empower students is important to have. 

Ideas I want to try:

  1. 21st-century Rubric: Love his example that he has on his website. Want to adopt one for our school and add the 7 C's. I don't think students would get a grade for this but just self-reflection and my feedback on these skills. Would do it either every quarter or semester. 
  2. Don't enter grades until the end of the quarter. I started doing grade conferences at the end of the semester and really enjoyed the process of students owning their grade. I want to add a conference check at each quarter and that would be their first official grade in the online grading system. I hate that students and parents are checking every class period. Checking in on an artist while he is panting and giving him a grade and what he has done even though he isn't finished seems silly to me. Yet we do the same with our online grading system and making judgments on students opportunity to play sports. It's also on me to make sure to communicate to parents and students when they are struggling and need help. 
  3. Have students create a video reflection of their 20 Time or Passion Project. This my first year in doing 20 Time and I absolutely love the message it sends to students, that I want you to follow your passions and you can learn anything. I am also thinking of changing the name to 20 Time to Passion Time.
  4. Have students set goals for next week. I started doing this with Sown To Grow, but I want to do a better job of teaching methods and strategies for students to work on their goals. I like the idea of having a class reward chart that as a class we can work on to get to do something different like silent day or Hour of Code. 
  5. Try to do a silent day. 
  6. Have the class set one goal as a whole to work on for next week. Need to find a way to make this applicable to the whole class. 
  7. Don't hand out any work/ quizzes/test back with a grade on it. I want the focus to be on feedback, not a grade. 
  8. Be more intentional about using peer collaboration and teaching the value of feedback.

Favorite Quotes:

  • “I can’t force my students to learn and mature academically, socially, and emotionally. But I can offer incredible experiences that make them eager to learn.” 

  • “Pirates are daring, adventurous, and willing to set forth into uncharted territories with no guarantee of success. They reject the status quo and refuse to conform to any society that stifles creativity and independence. They are entrepreneurs who take risks and are willing to travel to the ends of the earth for that which they value. Although fiercely independent, they travel with and embrace a diverse crew. If you’re willing to live by the code, commit to the voyage, and pull your share of the load, then you’re free to set sail. Pirates don’t much care about public perception; they proudly fly their flags in defiance. And besides, everybody loves a pirate.” 

  • “And I can help my students grow by creating a classroom culture in which they have ownership of their learning.” 

Leading Staff Meeting

Our staff would read a chapter each week from the book and at a faculty meeting, we would debrief about what we read. Usually, our principal would lead out the discussions each week and one week on the chapter on "Peer Collaboration" I asked if I could lead the talk. I used the blended learning model and had four different stations

  1. Mystery Skype 
  2. Think-Pair-Share
  3. Frayer Model
  4. Flipgrid Video Reflection

This is was the first time I could see myself in administration. I really enjoyed trying to inspire others and share other educational tools. I was surprised that most of my faculty had never seen the use of the Frayer Vocab model. Thank you to @HumResPro for being our person to chat with at the last minute. This is why I love the online Twitter community and weekly chats of this book, #LearnLAP. The chat meets every Monday at 7pm CST, and I just asked if anyone would be willing to do a Mystery Skype call with my staff for the next day and so many people were willing to do it just not available. #Learnlap is a great community of people dedicated to helping improve education, even for complete strangers. 
A Vist From The Author

I was super excited to find out that the author of the book was willing to do a book chat with our faculty. He did not charge us (we did buy 20 or some copies of the book) and during the chat, he came across very genuine. I am inspired to see what Pual can do with his fifth graders and I want to be able to have some of the same outcomes with my students. I don't want to use the excuse " that's 5th grade and that wouldn't work in high school." I want to learn and find ways to make the concepts alive for my class. Thank you once again for Pual taking the time to meet with our staff and answer our questions.  
Next Book:
By: Dan Rothstein, Luz Santana

Love this title. I think this might be the sole reason why I want to read this book. Supper excited to find out that our school library has this book.

Update: Just started reading this book and I think I am in love