• Andrea Paulakovich

#DBC50Summer 8/50 Innovator's Mindset

Updated: Jul 10, 2018



How did George Couros empower me?

Differentiation. Flipped Learning. BreakoutEDU. Station Rotations. Are these educational trends or best practices? After fifteen years in education, I have seen a variety of educational trends. I still remember my first year of teaching when a veteran colleague rolled her eyes at a faculty meeting and joked, “How long until we jump on the next bandwagon.”


In life, you are often told that there is a moment of impact when a word, a situation, or a person, will change your thoughts or course of action. Reading The Innovator’s Mindset and glaring intently at George Couros question, “What is best for this learner?” was that said moment. It was as if this one question had solidified years of trying to explain why we shouldn’t just try the next best thing. While I agree that we need to continue to learn and grow, we also need to remember our audience. Each year a new set of students walks through our doors. They bring different cultures, learning styles, readiness, background knowledge, values, and dynamics. If we try to throw the next best teaching method at them, without considering their readiness and needs, we are truly placing the cart before the horse.


If we analyzed trends in education, we would find best practices, great ideas, and good intentions. The problem is not the inability of the trend to produce results. The problem is often the absence of Effective Tier 1 Instruction, proper training, or ineffective implementation. In order to remedy this ever growing problem, we must provide the proper training to ensure teachers are utilizing Effective Tier 1 Instruction, first and foremost, and then show teachers how to weave in and out of different teaching methods based on student need and readiness. As data reveals a need for change, we must shift our focus from passing the test to measuring student social emotional growth, teaching social skills, and ensuring students are college or career ready.


Educators can often feel overwhelmed. Can you imagine why? Teachers are expected to:


1. build relationships with all students.

2. pre-assess for each lesson.

3. know their students personally and academically.

4. communicate with all stakeholders.

5. maintain an accurate gradebook that reflects student mastery of learning standards.

6. differentiate product, content, environment, and process.

7. scaffold instruction.

8. learn, understand, and implement research based strategies and teaching methods.

9. understand how to help support students with different learning styles.

10. make accommodations and modifications for students.

11. counsel students that are dealing with drug abuse, poverty, bullying, relationship issues, and the list goes on.


Do we ever stop and ask ourselves, when do we stop having meeting after meeting to yet provide another list of “to do” items to educators plates? If we truly want teachers to utilize best practices, shouldn’t we provide a survey that allows teachers to express their areas of need, develop On-Demand Professional Learning so teachers can learn when and where they want, and support teachers as they experiment with a variety of teaching methods? Take a moment to explore the different methods for engaging staff in professional learning and consider how you can begin to empower teachers: https://bit.ly/2JNgI1H

Innovator's Mindset: Developing a Passion for Learning

I was eating dinner with a former colleague. She shared with me a story about a recent appraisal meeting. During the meeting, the teacher argued that she should be placed at “Accomplished” for the Educator Standard: Lifelong Learner. My colleague looked at her and said, “Unless you are Andrea Paulakovich, sending me articles/research at 2am you are not Accomplished.” Although I chuckled at her story, I began to wonder:

  1. “Why do I stay up until 2am?”

  2. “Why do I have a hunger to learn?”

  3. “I cannot be the only teacher that stays up into the wee hours of the morning?”

  4. “Why am I obsessed with consuming information?”

  5. "Why did this person compare a former colleague to me? Eek. That is no BUENO!"

As I pondered these questions, I realized that my tenacious appetite for learning stems from specific events from my past. Specific events that trigger an emotion, an empathy, a response.

  1. My father passed away when I was twenty. A few weeks before his death, he shared with me how proud he was of my hard work and that he believed someday I would be Dr. Westerfield (my maiden name). This belief, this encouragement, has been a force that drives me forward.

  2. I was a mother at a young age. Society told me that I would not make it. Society told me others had the right to judge me. Society thought it could make me a statistic, but I was not a statistic. I was a survivor.

  3. I was not an “A” student in high school. I struggled on tests. I struggled with organization. I struggled to learn. Each of these struggles has developed a passion to overcome my weaknesses. I had a deep desire to overcome my fear of tests. To overcome my struggle with organization. To overcome my struggle with the process of learning. Two out of my three fears are now strengths. I am still working on overcoming my fear of tests.

  4. My son was often sent home from preschool because he couldn’t sit still. I was the parent that spent year after year hearing teachers tell me what my son couldn’t do: listen, behave, sit still, and the list went on. My obsessive learning has taught me: my son was not the problem. The teachers were not the problem. Our educational system and beliefs are the problem. My son shouldn’t have to sit still in his seat. He should be able to show his learning by verbalizing his thoughts. His teachers should not have received my frustration. Instead, they should have received proper training on how to deal with a hyper young man, who learns best kinesthetically. They should have known it was acceptable for him to show mastery of skills by processing his thoughts verbally. Learning has changed my mindset. Learning has allowed me to see my own faults. Learning has allowed me to say, “I am sorry to any of my son’s teachers that I pressured or pushed incessantly.” My intent came from a pure place but my frustration came from a lack of knowledge. Now that I know...I will do better.

Overall, my obsession with learning has everything to do with a desire to create resources that will help my fellow colleagues (administrators, teachers, etc…), parents, and students to see that learning is not about collecting content. Learning is about the process. Take a moment to think through a past event that has instilled a passion in you. What made you so passionate? How can you share your passion with others?


As educators, we need to show our students that learning doesn’t end when you graduate from high school, college, or technical school. Learning should never stop. Learning provides a lifetime of opportunity. You make a choice to continue to explore, to challenge yourself, to take risks, and to discover the rewards of your efforts. You might be saying, “But I don’t have a story like you. I don’t have reasons to love learning.” Trust me. I understand. I want to support you. Take a moment to explore a few reasons to get started:

  1. If you “get comfortable” with stagnation, you become complacent. We are not here for complacency. We are here to problem solve, provide support for each other, or use our talents/skills to pay it forward. Maybe your passion has nothing to do with “education” in the traditional sense, but everything to do with developing your talents/skills and using them to support others. This is one place you can continue to learn and share.

  2. Expanding your knowledge. Developing your talents. Each choice helps you stay abreast of changes. Why does this matter? I am sure you have heard the story of Blockbuster and Netflix. Blockbuster used to be a happening joint. You could drive downtown and rent a VHS or DVD. This idea was pretty awesome in the 90s; however, the creators of Netflix looked at Blockbuster and said, “I have a better idea.” And voila, Netflix was created. Netflix allowed you to stay in the comfort of your home and watch a movie. This convenience was the reason Blockbuster eventually shut their doors. They couldn’t compete. This example should be a driving force to keep learning. The development of your talents, or expansion of knowledge, will help keep you away from becoming another “Blockbuster” story.

The most important takeaway from these stories: understand that learning provides opportunity to change your perspective. To walk in someone else's shoes. To develop a deep compassion for the struggles and aspirations of others.


What are the rewards that blossom from continuing to learn?

  1. Developing a passion. A new interest. A possibility to shift careers or the direction of your life.

  2. Developing a growth mindset. Expanding your understanding of others beliefs, cultures, values, or choices.

  3. Expanding your current strengths. This expansion could open new doors for your future.

Developing a deep desire to learn, can help you model this passion for your students.

Let’s explore 10 ways you can help develop passion in your students:


1. Develop Passion through Connections to businesses/community members

  • Why? Research reveals that students learn best from relevant, authentic experiences.

  • What would this look like? Invite parents, community members, etc…, into your class and ask them to share their passions.

2. Develop Creativity:

  • Why? Einstein once said, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

  • What would this look like? Allowing students voice and choice in their assignments. Instead of telling students what they have to include, create a rubric that uses the standards/skills you want them to master. Allow students to take the rubric and develop their own specific wording. Before they can begin the assignment, they can ask for feedback.

3. Developing a Playful, Positive Learning Environment

  • Why? “Play allows the brain a mental break and actually can supercharge learning. If learning loses its fun, than it becomes a mundane task where passion cannot coexist.”

  • What would this look like? Beginning each class with a teambuilder/classbuilder that encourages movement, laughter, and teamwork. Did you know that, “Laughter is said to increase white blood cells and neurotransmitters for memory and alertness.”

4. Developing Emotional Connections to Learning

  • Why? “According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

  • What would this look like? Creating assignments/choices that appeal to different learning styles. Allowing students to choose a topic. Think Genius Hour! Think Differentiation of Product/Content! Think raising the bar to increase performance!

5. Develop your Student’s Interests

  • Why? “Students want to learn in traditional ways, before they break away from them in their own way. Teaching a solid foundation is important, so that they can then apply their own interpretations.”

  • What would this look like? After students feel comfortable with a skill, ask them to apply it to an authentic situation/audience, an area of interest. Example, how could a love for drawing be applied throughout a student’s day?

6. Developing Connections to other Subjects

  • Why? It is important to be proactive and help students see connections between their interests and other subject areas. Creating these connections can help motivate students.

  • What would this look like? Do you notice a student has a love for reading? Talk with your student’s English teacher to identify different ways students can express their learning in math, history, science, etc…, using their insatiable desire to read.

7. Developing and Encouraging Innovation

  • Why? “Studies by Rosenthal and Jacobson suggest that a positive, stimulating environment, where learning is present, can actually support connections in the brain and enhance memory."

  • What would this look like? Providing students with opportunities to develop projects for or with an authentic audience. Allowing students to use their skills for a bigger purpose.

8. Developing Motivation to Learn

  • Why? “Sir Ken Robinson said, “When students are motivated to learn, they naturally acquire the skills they need to get the work done.”

  • What would this look like? Are you noticing a pattern, differentiation of process, product, and content, will motivate students to learn.

9. Developing Student-Driven Classrooms

  • Why? “When students believe they are in control of their own learning, they value it twice as much as they would otherwise.”

  • What would this look like? Ask students to create their own avatar, or logo, using Canva. Then show students how to upload to Thinglink. Ask students to share fun facts about their likes and dislikes. Finally, ask students to post their Thinglink on your class website/Learning Management System. This allows all students to "get to know each other" on a different level and provides you with information to develop lessons around their interests.

10. Developing Your Passions and Share with Students

  • Why? In “A Passion for Learning Begins with a Spark”, the president of ASCD, suggests taking time for professional development, personal renewal and reflection is important to creating passionate learners.”

  • What would this look like? Developing a goal for your own professional growth. Exploring topics you are passionate about. Developing a Professional Learning Community with like-minded teachers on a topic of interest.

Innovator's Mindset: Your Actions Speak Louder Than Words

As educators, we have the distinct opportunity to model the word integrity. I was introduced to the word my freshmen year of high school. My 9th grade English teacher began the year by talking with us about the importance of living a life of integrity. At that moment, I intently listened to his motivational speech; however, it didn’t really sink in until I became a teacher. I, too, used this word each year. However, using the word and living the word are two different things. Although I am far from perfect, I always strive to keep this word in action. Integrity is the force that drives me forward. It reminds me that my actions speak louder than words. It reminds me that the words I speak, the attitude I choose, and the choices I make, are all a part of living the word integrity.


When you choose to befriend integrity, you make a life choice to practice self-discipline, organization, time management, responsibility, leadership, and developing strong relationships. You might be asking yourself, how are you supposed to do all of that, plus meet the demands of educators, take care of yourself, and possibly a significant other/children? Here is a plan of action to ensure you can live the word integrity, take care of yourself, meet the demands of teaching, and be present with your family/friends.


Plan of Action

Take a minute to think about these words and consider how you start your day:

How can these words help you wake up in the morning, realize it is a new day, and make the choice to have a good morning? This is the first step towards choosing to live out the word integrity. Making the choice to start the day with a positive attitude can provide hope and strength to overcome the challenges you will face throughout the day. As silly as this might sound, preparing for the next day the night before can help you start the day off with a sense of peace. I used to hate when my husband would tell me I should pack my lunch the night before, set out my clothes, or place everything I needed by the door. As hard as this is to say, “He was right.” When I prepared the night before, my day seemed to start off on the right foot. Don’t get me wrong, there are still challenges in the morning (e.g., my two-year-old crying because she wants to stay home; unexpected traffic; etc…); however, starting my day with the right mindset helped me handle theses challenges with a positive attitude. Imagine if we all taught our students this skill. How would this help them deal with the various battles they deal with each day?


Now take a moment to reflect on the quote below and consider how you deal with challenges during the day:

Your day has started and one challenge after another seems to choke the life out of you. How do you keep a positive attitude? How do you continue to live out integrity? It will be hard. Some days it will feel almost impossible. But if you develop tools to help you in these moments of adversity, you will continue to live a life of integrity. What tools do I need? It all depends on what you struggle with:


1. Do you struggle with patience?

  • Tips: Practice thinking before you speak. Being able to identify the moment or trigger that causes you to react. Self-talk - sometimes you just need to talk through the situation.

2. Do you struggle with sarcasm?

  • Tips: Identify when/where you use sarcasm. Imagine that every time you use sarcasm it is being recorded. Would you be ok with the entire world hearing what you said?

3. Do you struggle with fear?

  • Tips: Do you know what makes you afraid? Try to flip moments of fear into moments of gratitude. Let’s say you have to talk in front of your peers. You are terrified. Instead, think...I am thankful I have the opportunity share my opinion and that others want to listen.

4. Do you struggle with voicing your opinion?

  • Tips: What if your opinion could change someone’s mind/actions? When you hold back, you will never know the positive outcome you missed out on. My great aunt taught me that regretting action is much easier than regretting inaction.

5. Do you struggle with confidence?

  • Tips: First and foremost, stop negative thinking. Identify why you feel that way. Use self-talk to overcome the negative thinking. Replace with positive self-talk. Are you trying to live up to someone else’s expectations of you? If yes, you need to learn who you are, what you believe, and what you value. Then, shape your life around your vision for yourself, not someone else's vision of you. The biggest barrier to feeling confident is constant comparisons. Stop comparing yourself to others. You are unique for a reason. How boring would this world be if everyone was alike?

When you decide to identify a struggle, and then choose to make necessary changes, you are choosing a growth mindset. This type of mindset allows you to face any challenge as an opportunity for growth. An opportunity to learn.


As we continue to live out the word integrity, we should consider this quote, “I got my arms raised, un-phased, jump out of bed. Gotta get this party going.”You have started the day with a growth mindset, you are ready to face challenges, and now it is time to look at the 86,400 seconds in each day as a PARTY. You might be rolling your eyes at this point, saying “Are you kidding me right now.” No, I am actually very serious. Imagine a party or event you planned, or attended, that you couldn’t stop talking about, thinking about. What made it so fun? I could almost guarantee it is one or more of the following:

  1. The atmosphere. Someone created an ambiance, an excitement with the decorations, unique smells, and engaging conversations. How can you apply this in your classroom? Your life? How can you become a part of the atmosphere of your school, classroom, family, friends? How can your attitude affect the atmosphere?

  2. The conversations. The host engaged with each and every guest. Ensuring your needs were met. Ensuring you were enjoying yourself. Listening to your needs. Listening. Really listening. How can you apply this in your classroom? What if each student was seen as an honored guest? What if you ensured each student’s needs were met? What if you created an environment that allowed each student to enjoy the process of learning?

  3. The engaging activities. The event you attended had activities that were engaging. Games. Music. Singing. Creating. Interacting. Teamwork. Laughter. Regardless of where you were, or what you were doing, one or more of these activities were present. How could these activities be embedded in your classroom? How do you ensure engagement/empowerment each day?

  4. The novelty. You attended an event/party and the host includes a unique look, feel, or idea. You engage in a scavenger hunt. You wear a costume. You paint with friends. You assemble meals for a month. Regardless of the quality that makes the event unique, you are intrigued by the idea. How could you embed one or more of these ideas in your classroom?

  5. The people. How many times have you accepted or declined an event based on the guest list. We all want to be surrounded by people that make us laugh, that make an event memorable and fun. Think about this in terms of the classroom. Do students have the opportunity to accept or decline your class? No. With this in mind, how do we encourage an environment that allows all students to feel welcome? What if we embedded teams, roles, and classbuilders into our lessons? What if we modeled and taught soft skills?

What if we realized the moments we create each day, can help us become focused, passionate, and excited about teaching. With a positive mindset, a purpose, and desire to create purposeful play, we can smile and kiss all of our worries goodbye. We can realize our potential. We can model integrity in our words and actions. We can truly make a difference in the lives of our students.

Explore this question, "How can videos inspire passion in your students?"
Innovator's Mindset: What are the Building Blocks of Effective Teaching?

“There are no “big” things, only an accumulation of little things done well.”


As I recently read The Innovator’s Mindset, it challenges you to ask the question, “What is best for this learner?” This simple, yet profoundly moving question, encompasses the principles of industriousness and loyalty. To be an effective teacher, you must place your students first and be loyal to their individual needs. The learning styles, values, cultures, and talents in your classroom offer endless possibilities. With an enthusiastic attitude, you can see their varied needs as a gift. This gift allows you to open your curriculum as a guide, not a mandate or checklist. You can begin to employ the principle of loyalty by staying true to the needs of your students. Their needs create a beautiful cycle of reviewing, refining, and reflecting. A cycle that requires hard work. Hard work that will require work beyond the school day. Hard work that will require passion and an enthusiastic attitude. Hard work that will lead to success.


As you focus yourself, and prepare to meet the needs of your students, there is a foundational play you will want to reference. This foundational play reminds you that effective teaching is not a one man show. It takes the entire team to witness significant growth. Take a minute to explore the document below and reflect upon how you could play a key role in implementation. Ask yourself the following questions:


1. “Who is on my team?”

2. “Why is it important that we all implement this play with fidelity?”

3. “What impact will it have on our professional growth if we utilize this document to plan at the beginning of each school year?”

Now that you have designed learning experiences as a team, you can begin to develop unit plans that will meet the needs of your students. That’s right. We each have a different set of students sitting in front of us. We can all teach the same standards in a specific window; however, the tools/methods we use should be different. Below you will find the playbook for designing a unit outline:


Unit Outline
Daily Lesson Structure - The Weave

You have outlined your units and are ready to design daily lessons. The lesson structure below is meant to be a structure that ensures you are consistently weaving in and out of acquisition, meaning making, and transfer. How are you ensuring each and every day that you begin with the question, "What is best for this learner?"

Beginner's Lesson Outline

You now understand the structure that can guide your daily decisions, but you aren't sure how to actually plan a 50 minute class period. What does this look like? Here is just one example of a "Beginner's Lesson Outline."

Beginner’s Playbook

Every teacher experiences the “first-year” teacher moment when they are given a new course to teach, a new building, a new department, or a new administrator with new expectations. This moment requires a “go-to” set of plays to ensure you are on the top of your game. If you wait to refine the beginner’s playbook, or never master the skills, you can often feel underprepared, burned out, or left feeling like a hamster on a never-ending wheel. You Google lesson ideas, you pay for an “interesting” lesson on Teachers Pay Teachers, or you dig through online files of previous teachers. By mastering the “Beginner’s Playbook,” you always have “go-to” plays that are research-based and proven effective. Take a moment to review the Beginner’s Playbook and ponder the following questions:

  1. Have you mastered the Beginner’s Playbook?

  2. How do you know?

  3. Why does it matter?

“Bloom states that even though students have a wide variety of learning modalities, if teachers could provide the necessary time and appropriate learning structures, all students could reach learning goals.”

Example Beginner's Lesson Plan

I have mastered Effective Tier I Instruction, now what?

Now that you have confidently mastered Effective Tier 1 Instruction, the foundation of any successful educator, you can consider new plays to take your lessons and students to a whole new level. When learning new plays, don’t just jump on board because it is the latest, greatest trend in education. Think of advanced plays like a basketball coaches secret play. The coach would only use the play under the right conditions. As an advanced player of instruction, it is your job to know when your students are ready for the secret play. Throwing flipped learning, simulations, project-based learning, or differentiation at students to look good for appraisal, to catch the eyes and ears of district personnel, or to please a superior, are all the wrong reasons. Learn new plays to enhance your teaching toolbox. With a plethora of tools, you can quickly pull out the right tool, at the right time.

With the right attitude, and a dedication to student success, we must commit to a shared set of values. Values such as modeling integrity in our words and actions, showing a dedication to student improvement by focusing on growth instead of a grade, valuing different learning styles by providing student’s choice, developing and implementing common formative assessments to monitor student learning, utilizing backward design to ensure alignment of goals, standards, assessments, and daily lesson plans, engaging in meaningful job-embedded professional learning, seeking out innovative practices that are research based to support student learning, and staying in contact with all stakeholders to discuss student progress, share resources, and provide information to help students succeed. “Educators must do more than give students the chance to learn: they must align their practices to promote learning” (Learn by Doing). This collective commitment to a shared set of values will develop a strong foundation. A foundation that focuses on behaviors that will help achieve our purpose - student success.

Innovator's Mindset: Ask, "What is best for this learner?"

Each student that enters your classroom has their very own learning profile. It is imperative that we spend time exploring their cultures, background knowledge, learning style, multiple intelligence, and interests. Each of these snapshots helps reveal the skills/interests of our students. This information can help guide our instructional decisions. When we develop unit plans, we can use this plethora of information to determine our teaching methods and strategies. If data reveals that our 1st hour is kinesthetic learners, we should not keep them in their seats 50 minutes listening to a lecture. If our 3rd hour is auditory learners, we should not give them a 30 minute, individual assignment that is done in isolation. Truly knowing our students unlocks the potential to intentionally choose resources that will help our students to succeed.

Innovator's Mindset: Always seek to motivate

Motivating students is far from easy. Each student walks through your doors with challenges, fears, or a lack of focus. Discovering tools to keep your students head in the game, are priceless. The following section is meant as a guide. Tools, tips, and tricks to uplift, encourage, and empower students to feel motivated, inspired, and excited to learn.


#1 Creating a positive environment

In Teach Like a Pirate, Dave Burgess asks, “Would you want to buy tickets to attend your class”? If the answer is, “No!” what can you change. First I would encourage you to explore your classroom environment. As I have worked with educators in a Project-Based High School, they don’t have assigned classrooms.

So...there question would become, “How do I create an environment when we are always moving?

The answer is simple, you can create a positive environment anywhere, anytime. Your attitude, your enthusiasm, your passion, can help shape the attitudes of others. My last year in the classroom I had a senior who was already accepted to play football at MU. He had to walk up at 4am for training sessions and then arrive in my class 1st hour for College Prep English. He would walk through my door each day and I would greet him with a smile and a heartfelt “Good Morning!” Before the end of the year, he shared with me that my attitude, and crazy activities, kept him positive and engaged, when his body simply wanted to shut down and sleep.


So...how do you create a positive environment?

  1. Build relationships first and foremost

  2. Show a genuine interest in the lives of your students

  3. Model a positive attitude

  4. Encourage your students

  5. Use music, stickers, food, props, costumes, stamps, videos, poems, and singing (yes, my students had to listen to my squeaky voice) to engage students in a lesson

  • Need more ideas? Check out different ways to "Hook Your Audience" thanks to Mr. Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate.

  1. Incorporate game-based learning (check out Michael Matera)

  2. Incorporate simulations

  3. Incorporate performance-based assessments

  4. Expect excellence from all students (and encourage students when they are struggling)

  5. Never, ever give up on students

#2 Communication is King

When it comes to student motivation, communication is one of your best friends. Spending time calling home and bragging on student achievement, writing letters of appreciation, updating a class website, providing students with unit calendars, sharing resources/tutorials in a digital environment, and organizing your classroom for student success, are all ways you communicate with your students. Spending time on the small details can produce lasting effects. Let’s take a moment to explore different ways communication can increase student motivation:


1. Innovation

Encouraging students to seek out their interests can increase student creativity, thus promoting innovation. Provide students with authentic audiences, choice, and voice in their assignments. Allow students to collaborate with one another, other schools, other districts, or globally. Using Skype in the Classroom, Google Docs, or Twitter can encourage collaboration and promote opportunities for students to explore ideas. Providing time for students to share their passions, interests, and discuss ideas recognizes the difference each student makes and can improve student motivation.


2. Relationships

Keeping open communication with your students via Social Media or a Learning Management System (Edmodo, Google Classroom, Remind, Twitter, etc…) encourages constant communication. When you provide the door for students to ask questions, they will open the door and ask away. It is also vital that you utilize teams, collaboration, and modeling to encourage the growth of relationships. Intentionally rotate students, move seats, and mix up the class to encourage communication and the development of new relationships. My favorite moment each year was when we would make Lip Dubs at the end of the school year, take a group picture, and exchange letters of encouragement. I still have students that view the class videos and share how much they missed their “hour.” It is as if you build a family. You ensure students care about the well-being of each other. You ensure each and every student feels welcome and cared about. You ensure your class is, first and foremost, about relationships, about people.


3. Decision Making

Provide the opportunity for students to make decisions. Your class should not be a dictatorship, rather a democracy. Begin the year with students create a Bill of Rights for your classroom. What do they expect from the class? You? Each other? Provide voice an choice in student assignments. Provide the opportunity for students to self-reflect and determine their needs. Seek out student feedback with surveys, reflections, and questions. This will enhance productivity and motivation. Students will know you value their opinion, and you will in return show respect when you use their opinions to make necessary changes.

#3: Encourage Failure

Failure is essential to success. It is an inevitable piece of the puzzle. You cannot succeed without first falling face first, dusting yourself off, and getting up to try again. My son always says, “Mom you are so smart.” My response has been and will always be, “No, I am not smart. I just have sickening work ethic.” One of my favorite motivational videos includes Will Smith discussing how his work ethic has encouraged him to keep going in the face of adversity. I, too, can relate. When I was in my early twenties, I was working 40 hours a week, attending school full-time, and raising a young man. There were days when I cannot even remember how I dealt with the pressures caving in on me; however, what I do remember is: each and every failure provided a lesson, an opportunity to learn an grow. Everyday I made a choice to keep placing one foot in front of the other. Each day failures were my guide. They gave me feedback on how to improve. How can we teach our students this same lesson? How can we encourage failure? How can we make learning about the process, instead of a letter grade?


#4: Change it Up

Do students enter your classroom everyday and now the lesson from beginning to end? Or...do students enter your classroom excited to learn, excited to see what’s next? I have always felt that teaching was like writing a choose your own adventure novel. You use student data to make decisions to lead your lessons down different paths. You use data from students to determine how you will teach, what you will teach, and where you will teach. How could you use these ideas to change up your lessons?

  1. Change your scenery.

  2. Based on student data, use different teaching methods to reach students.

  3. Incorporate props and costumes to intrigue students.

  4. Play music to set the stage for learning.

  5. Allow your inner actor to come to life.

  6. Use flexible grouping to mix up students.

  7. Use Dr. Spencer Kagan’s Cooperative Structures to engage students in kinesthetic learning.

  8. Mix up lessons to focus on different intelligences; incorporate kinesthetic, visual, auditory, etc… to keep students on their toes.

  9. Create lessons that are fun. Please DO NO ever say, “This lesson is not going to be fun.”

Each and every decision you make can encourage or stifle motivation. When you decide to lecture, and pass out worksheets, you are making the decision to stifle motivation. When you choose to greet students at the door, provide choice in assignments, and ask for student feedback, you are deciding you want to motivate students. The decisions are endless. What choice will you make?


A small token of appreciation for my SUPERHERO of Education, Mr. George Couros!
Please share your journey with us...

Alicia Ray started blogging about #DBC50Summer back in June. I was rather intrigued by her journey. It all happened one evening during a #TLAP Chat on Twitter. She was discussing her journey, and I was like a moth to a flame. I could not help but follow along.


As we finish reading a book, we blog about what we learned, how it connects to education, how it has impacted us professionally or personally. Anything and everything. Once we bare our souls, we always include a link to a Flipgrid.


Why? Our goal is to turn this space into a global book study for all #50DBCBooks. Please feel free to join us on this WILD ride. We want to hear your voice. We want YOU to experience the amazing growth and empowerment that comes along with reading the genius books published by Dave and Shelley Burgess.


Please share your thoughts so we can all inspire purpose, passion, and play. The password is always DBCSummer and the payoff is priceless!


Click on the Flipgrid link below and join Alicia (@iluveducating) and me on our journey through 50+ Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books.

Flipgrid: https://flipgrid.com/50d52a

Password: DBCSummer