Give a Defiant “Screw You” to Shame This Summer

51KiQ20v9AL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_As summer starts for many of us, I would like to share what I believe to be an incredible summer challenge from #LaunchBook co-author, John Spencer (@spencerideas). Quite simply, MAKE SOMETHING. With his permission, I have included his powerful post below.

You can find his original post with additional links, video clips, and images on his website here.

Here’s John!

You were born creative. You learned to dance with reckless abandon. You made up songs without ever thinking about pitch. You drew wild pictures in bold colors in sidewalk chalk and crayons and sometimes you even used the living room walls as a canvas. You invented worlds that didn’t exist, friends that adults couldn’t see, and stories that went nowhere. You built cities out of Legos and robots out of cardboard. You set up experiment without asking yourself if you’re a science person or an art person.

Early on, the world celebrated with your creativity. Chances are your parents plastered each masterpiece to the fridge. They cheered at your songs. They loved your Lego cities – that is, until they stepped on the bricks in utter agony at two in the morning.

But somewhere along the line, you lost something. You learned to be embarrassed of your dance moves and ashamed of your voice. You grew scared of speaking in public. You set down the chalk and the crayons and the pencils and relegated this to those with “real talent.” You bought into the lie that real scientists don’t do art and real artists don’t do science.

A little nuance here: it’s okay to grow out of things. It’s okay to reach a place where you’re just not that into mathematical theory or classical literature or crocheting unicorns. But this is about losing something deeper. Lost. Maybe that’s the distinction. It’s one thing to toss away something that doesn’t interest you anymore. But too often you lost some creative part of you because it was taken away and the culprit was shame.

 So, what happened?

If your experience is anything like mine, there’s a good chance you ran into shame. Maybe it was an offhanded comment of a teacher or the overprotective advice of a parent trying desperately to shield you from failure. Maybe it was another student who mocked your work. Or maybe it happened when you compared your work to others and never pulled out of that despair you feel when you see the chasm between your work and the work of others.

Brené Brown writes in The Gifts of Imperfection (this is one of my all-time favorite books):

“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

I wonder if shame does the same thing to creativity, as well. It seems that shame makes you hide. It makes you quit. It makes you hedge your bets so that nothing goes wrong. Shame kills your dreams and dulls your imagination. It turns you cynical, making you the perennial critic that has lost the creative spark.

 The Challenge

So, if you’re entering into the summer break, I have a challenge.

Go make something.

Here’s the caveat: it can’t be something for your classroom. It can’t be a unit plan or a project resource.

Find something creative that pushes you to the point of frustration.

Learn a new craft. Learn to draw. Learn to dance. Learn to code. Learn to crochet. Learn to speak in front of a group. Learn how to build a deck or install shiplap (don’t ask me how I know that term). Visit a makerspace and make something ridiculous and weird.

Call it your own extended summer-long Genius Hour. Call it your defiant, “screw you” to shame.

As you learn and explore and make, consider showing your work.

You can show your work by posting videos and pictures of your journey on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #teachermakers.

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, it’s easy to spend a summer learning. I’ll read books and plan out units. I’ll attend conferences, feeling inspiring keynotes and attending sessions where I jot down ne
w ideas. But there’s something humbling about entering the creative struggle for a summer. It helps me gain empathy for my students who will be using design thinking in our class. It pushes me to take creative risks. It’s uncomfortable. Unnerving. But it’s also what makes me feel the most alive.

If you’re curious about a structure for your creative Genius Hour, consider checking out Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student. You can go through the LAUNCH Cycle on your own as you explore the ideas in the book and maybe even do a collaborative creative project with a friend or colleague.

-John Spencer

Okay…back to me (Dave):

Wow! Special thanks to John for allowing me to bring that challenge to my readers!

We are so proud to have published his incredible book that he wrote with A.J. Juliani ( @ajjuliani ) called, Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student.

The maker movement, project-based learning, and genius hour have been hot topics in education for several years now and the idea that we need to add more opportunities for students to be creative and innovative in school is hardly controversial these days.

The problem is that simply adding “choice” and unstructured time to “make” has been a recipe for disaster, chaos, and ineffectiveness for many. Others feel hampered by a lack of resources, a lack of time, or may feel they have been inadequately prepared to teach the creative process to students. And…how does thisCjf0RBBUkAEKfoq all mesh with the standards, a packed curriculum map, and the need to be ready for all of these assessments? Oh! Can I do this even in my subject and at my grade level?

The design thinking process, as described in Launch, is the answer to your dreams! A.J. and John have demystified the creative process and made it not only accessible, but also highly implementable in all subjects and at all grade levels. The book is brimming with powerful examples drawn from a wide array of classes and has actionable steps, hints, and sample lessons ensuring this is something you will actually DO…not just read about.

We are unbelievably excited to bring this book to the educational world and the early feedback has been OFF THE CHARTS amazing. You will devour this book and leave inspired and fired up to try the ideas.

Great news! A.J. and John will be hosting #tlap chat and discussing Launch on Twitter tonight (Monday 6/27) at 8pm CST. We would love to have you join us!

In addition, Teresa Gross will be hosting a book study using the #LaunchBook hashtag on Sunday nights at 5pm CST starting July 10th and continuing for 4 weeks until July 31st.

As always, thanks for the support!!


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The Teach Like a Pirate Corollary

2QNe6fyr.jpg-largeI’m sure you’ve all heard the following phrase many times in the educational world…and it must be said in an earnest tone with a completely serious face:

“Literacy isn’t the English teacher’s job; it’s everybody’s job.”

I actually agree wholeheartedly with this. However, I would like to add a Teach like a PIRATE Corollary to it:

That’s true for EVERY subject!

We need to take a far more holistic and cross-curricular approach to education and forever do away with the “that’s not my subject” mentality. It’s just as counter-productive and frustrating as the employee who says, “That’s not my job.”

Break down the silos! Think wide instead of narrow! Read wide, too!

It may be strange to hear me say it since I publish educational books, but we spend far too much time in the education aisle at the bookstore. Incorporating outside perspectives and ideas is a cornerstone of the TLAP philosophy. My background in rap, magic, coaching, entrepreneurship, marketing, and success literature played a foundational role in the development of Teach Like a Pirate. It was in large part about looking outside of education and drawing ideas in.

I just read a blog post from Teresa Gross about how much she gained from reading The Classroom Chef, which I have described as Teach Like a Pirate with all math examples. Here’s the thing…she doesn’t teach math. It didn’t matter. It was about creating powerful lessons and on a new way to think about our profession.

We have to take off the blinders and be willing to develop the peripheral vision of a great point guard. See the whole court! Make powerful connections!

Writing in a math class? Absolutely!

Math to help understand history? Yes, please!

Science across the whole curriculum? Yep!

Art and music (and technology for that matter!) are perfect examples of what I’m talking about. Art and music aren’t just the art and music teacher’s job. They aren’t just something we have kids do when they are over in “that” part of the building. Art and music when embedded throughout the curriculum are a part of what brings school alive for kids. Creativity crosses all curricular content. It’s the rub, seasoning, and marinade that brings flavor to your lessons. It helps students process material in multiple ways which improves understanding and retention. The incorporation of art and music specifically, and a cross-curricular approach generally, is a big part of the Teach Like a Pirate system.

So while it is absolutely true that literacy isn’t just the English teacher’s job…let’s not stop there!!

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The Critical Importance of 127

I have recently had a few conversations with amazing educators who feel uneasy about sharing their powerful work with others. What a loss for the rest of us!! This is an excerpt from a chapter I wrote for 140 Twitter Tips for Educators by Brad Currie, Scott Rocco, and Billy Krakower. It is tip 127 in the book…and now I can just tell you to remember “127” whenever you are reluctant to share, whether on Twitter or anywhere else!vDEwket_.jpg-large

To thrive on Twitter and to use this game-changing platform to positively impact the educational landscape, educators must overcome two primary obstacles.

The first is the belief that their ideas are either not worthy of sharing or not unique enough to warrant adding into the conversation. This is a false belief! You have amazing ideas and experiences that are unique to you and your path as an educator. And what you have to add to the conversation may be exactly what someone needs to hear. Share everything! The things that were successful as well as all the stuff that didn’t work! You may help others…or save them from making the mistakes you’ve made.

I constantly hear teachers say, “I’m sure everyone does this.” No! They don’t!

Even if your idea is not new, you have probably put a personalized spin on it. Others can build on your idea to create something powerful for themselves. Furthermore, if you share something in a chat that others already know or do, that doesn’t annoy people; it validates their practices and experiences. By talking about an idea they’re trying to implement, you reinforce their belief in the soundness of the practice. You’ll also encourage those who may be under fire for trying something innovative. Hearing your experiences raises their confidence and enables them to continue to fight the good fight.

The second obstacle is the insidious belief that sharing your thoughts, ideas, and what has been successful for you is somehow selfish or egotistical.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

As Don Wettrick wrote in Pure Genius, “If you have found something that works, share that knowledge with the educational community. It isn’t bragging, it’s helping.”

The vast majority of educators on Twitter are there to collaborate, share, and support fellow educators with the ultimate goal of making school a more empowering place for all. We don’t just want you to share your amazing work…we need you to share it. It is, in fact, your responsibility to share what you know that could help others.

There is nothing selfish or egotistical about becoming a valuable member of the educational Twittersphere. If a person collapsed at a crowded party and stopped breathing and you knew CPR, would it be selfish to let it be known loudly and in no uncertain terms that you could help? Of course not! Would anybody think you were being egotistical if you even aggressively pushed your way to the front in order to save the victim? No way! You would be celebrated as a hero.

Our purpose as educators is just as mighty! We change lives. We literally save lives. We need your contributions. We need you to share your special perspective and to add your voice to this ongoing discussion centered on transforming the world into a better place. We are so glad you’re here!


PS: 140 Twitter Tips for Educators is for ANYONE looking to get connected and build a professional learning network. Even if you’ve never been on Twitter or you are a highly experienced user, there is something for YOU!

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