Signs You Need a Revolution!

Education is like most professions, full of good people with good intentions and strong desires to be productive and effective. For most professionals, this means finding things that work and ways to replicate success. After all, we all want to be successful and enjoy that feeling over and over.

But what does success look like? What does it mean for us teaching multiple learners with multiple needs?

We wrote ‘The Revolution’ as a call to reflect on what we do and why we do it and then – most importantly, make some changes. Are we looking for what the learners in front of us need or what we want or what we deem is best for them?

Its hard work and often harder realization to understand to come to grips with the fact that most of what we do in school is geared towards adults behaviors not learner needs. To bring that change towards learner needs requires more than just a shift or small changes sometimes, it requires real change, real action, real planning – a Real Revolution!

Some Indicators You Need a Revolution:

  1. Your schedule for the next school year was a ‘Copy, Paste’ effort from the last year’s schedule;
  2. Lessons for next year are planned based on interest from this year not necessarily needs of learners for next year;
  3. Order of what’s taught is more important than who is taught;
  4. You don’t have space and time planned for learners to have time and space for collaboration, planning or calm-down;
  5. Your makerspace isn’t accessible to everyone;
  6. Certain activities and clubs aren’t available to everyone;
  7. Assessment comes in one flavor;
  8. Your discipline policy and procedures are more about the number of offenses and less about changing behaviors;
  9. Clean, empty spaces are preferred over learning spaces.

We got into this for the noble, worthy cause of making a difference, not to replicate what has [or hasn’t] always worked well. Embracing that level of risk and challenge is the real work of Revolution@ries!

don’t raise your hand to ask, pump your FIST and start your Revolution!

Start Your Revolution!!

I’m happy to share that after almost two years, ‘The Revolution: Its Time to Empower Change in Our Schools’ is finally here. My co-author Darren [@dellwein] published it under the Teacher Like a Pirate, #tlap, banner and we couldn’t be happier with support and love we’ve been given.

Start Your Revolution!
Don’t raise your your to ask, pump your fist to make a change!

When we started out on this, we had a mission to change what we do at the middle school level – how we think about [and treat] middle schoolers, how we set up middle school and, truly, what we believe. But we got deep into the work and began having more conversations and the collaboration with PLN members became real, we realized that this message and purpose was broader – BUT don’t get it wrong, we still have a strong message for revolutionizing middle school!

We don’t want you to see this as just a book – its a resource to help change mindsets about learners and redefining our roles. We put together chapters filled with what we are doing in our schools, stories of wonderful stories from our friends who are leading revolutions in their schools. These are the chapters and major themes you can look forward to:
Chapter 1: The True Revolution@ries
– Chapter 2: Add Some Revolution to Your Mindset
– Chapter 3: Revolution@ry Learning Spaces
– Chapter 4: Revolution@ry Cultures
– Chapter 5: Revolution@ry Connections
– Chapter 6: Revolution@ry Innovations
– Chapter 7: Create a Maker Revolution
– Chapter 8: Empowering Learners to be Revolution@ries
– Chapter 9: Revolution@ry Leaders
– Chapter 10: Revolution@ry Learning

If you are,
– wondering what the difference between student and learner
– ready to shift your role
– exploring the connection between learning spaces and learning
– ready to bring the world to your learners
– ready to embrace and involve learner voice

– bringing in the maker-mindset
its time to start your Revolution!

We’d like to thank all our friends and PLN members who contributed to The Revolution. This book is proof that the best things about what we do, we do together! We create and build and dream together and, most importantly, we help realize real, learner-centered change together.

Thank you for your commitment to making a difference in the lives of learners. Let’s start having conversations that will change what we do/believe to benefit the learners we serve

Joining #GAED

This might be news to some but for several close friends and colleagues, its not news to say that after several glorious years in North Carolina
I’m happy to announce I’m joining Grady County Schools. This is actually a couple of months late in announcing but it’s always on time to share mementos news. Some great celebrations for the move:

  1. It’s a couple of hours from my mom and immediate family. That is an immeasurable benefit
  2. I’m a very close to my roots, where I grew up in rural southwest GA;

I started my teaching career in GA and it has always had a deeply special place in my heart. I am truly turning cartwheels to come back home. But my time in NC was beyond profound and special. I was a great educator when I left GA but I am a next level learner after my 13 years in NC. The mentors and friends I’ve met there will always be considered friends and have a permanent place in my heart. To say I wouldn’t be the person or educator/learner I am today if it had not been for #nced and #ncadmin would be a gross understatement and would be the

So I’m happy to join #gaed.

I’m happy to dive deep into a PLN back home and meet inspiring educators who are making a difference. I’m happy to see where

Beyond the Task

School leaders have a lot on their plates – there are things that just have to get done. Everything that has to be done is about making sure people are safe, have what they need and being nurtured/supported/pushed to do better.


Screen Shot 2018-01-20 at 1.31.35 PM.pngThe managerial tasks are part of the job but that doesn’t mean we can’t see them as an opportunity to be the leaders and changers our schools need.


  • Beyond sending an email – Are we tying your message to the goal and need of the school? Consider what a message means for students in 5 years as opposed to people right now.
  • Beyond leading a PD talk – Are we making sure the audience knows the need for the PD as it relates to benefitting student learning and needs of the school
  • Beyond knowing students names – Do we know students?
  • Beyond talking data – Are we making sure that ALL students are being seen and supported and talked about. We can’t talk about ‘ALL’ without talking about ‘EACH;
  • Beyond doing walkthrus and observations – Are we making a point to learn strengths, insecurities, finding ways to co-teach lessons, making conversations less about teacher action and more about students learning;
  • Beyond duties – Are we making sure people are seen or that the people present are about students;
  • Beyond setting dates on a calendar – Are we creating opportunities to collaborate at high levels in conversations centered around students and community?

Principals, grade/dept level chairs, assistant principals, instructional coaches, classroom teachers – all #leadlearners have this opportunity to see beyond the immediate task to be checked off at the end of the day and really make what has to be done worthwhile for the students and community we all serve.

Would YOU Be Inspired to Learn From You?

First impressions are huge.

While we shouldn’t make judgements about people or situations from a first glance, they are undeniably powerful.

I asked teachers to tap into this powerful opportunity by thinking of a saying or message and painting it above their freshly painted door frame. This is an opportunity to form a first opinion with families during our “We’re Glad You’re Here” night and to give students a great way to start each period, with the reassurance of a positive, uplifting, foward-moving quote.

There were some hesitations [hand-writing, timeliness, uniformity, etc] but in the end I think students value being welcomed more than a teacher’s handwriting!

I put the majority in this slideshow for your ease of viewing:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Major props to teachers who embraced this as an opportunity and try something new! Which one really resonates with you? Let me know and I’ll forward your message to the teacher.

Love this room! Here is a great way to welcome students:

What do you do if you can’t sum up your beliefs in one quote? Get ’em all!

Entrance to Derek McCoy’s Office


Can’t wait to see what the next iteration of inspiration brings!

The Lives We Touch


Our Intervention Specialist and I had to do some home visits recently to check in on students we were pretty sure enrolled in our school this year but we haven’t heard from them, for one reason or another. We had several students to check on. Our conversation became speculative about some of the students we knew from the last year regarding why they haven’t been at school – whether it was moved, vacation, parents planning to start after Labor Day and other possibilities.

While we have have no allusions about how some of our families are struggling and dealing with on a daily basis, it was still heart-breaking to come across this posting on one of the doors of a family we had to make several visits for last year.

I don’t write this post to this post to say we should all make a point to visit families of students we know are struggling or students who give us a tough time at school to get to know the families [even though we should]. I’m definitely not writing this for us to feel sorry for students and families. There is a difference in feeling sorry for someone and and being empathetic and determined.

I write this to say as much as we pour into being instructional designers and innovators, we must dedicate time to knowing and caring for and loving the lives we spend most of our days with.


Draw strength from one another to be a difference in our kids lives.

Conditioned to Kink

Two recent conversations have come together for create a profound insight for me and my role as an educator and school leader.

First three good friends, Glenn Robbins, Winston Sakurai and Bill Ziegler recommended a book, Leadership Isn’t for Cowards, in a great Voxer chat. This is a book to fire up anyone working with groups of people. Of the many resonating points in the book, one that led to some great conversation with my admin team was about a leader’s role in ‘unkinking the hose’, removing barriers so colleagues can do their their job effectively, efficiently and innovatively.  Think of all the pinch points [kinks in hoses] in your school that prevent progress and forward thinking. How could removing these organizational kinks dramatically change learning and teaching and growth in your school?

Second, last week James Pittman, @wrmstech shared an article with me about the communication philosophy and goals of Elon Musk for the employees at Tesla. The next day he and I had a great follow up discussion about how much a flattened organization structure is needed but there can be organizational barriers that prohibit it.

But what happens when these kinks are not just organizational?

What happened if we bring the kinks?

Our job as educators is design learning and teaching experiences for students that allow them to productively struggle for answers, search for solutions and achieve goals set for students [ideally with students].  Our own learning experiences as K-16 learners can serve as a kink for designing next level learning experiences is we hold traditional learning as the penultimate for experiences.

Holding onto a traditional thinking of failure, win or lose, is a kink that prevents us from building mastery learning experiences in our learners. We were brought up in a system of A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s and F’s; where turning in late assignments was could only be punished not coached. We taught in a system where teachers were given a thumbs up or down and were labelled as good or bad. It is a real barrier for school leaders today who have to embrace their role as coaches.

I’ve reflected on other kinks we bring to the table:

  • A need to respect and fear the boss that keeps us from appreciating the leadership or strengths of others that can help us grow;
  • ‘Winning at all costs’ attitude that prohibits us from celebrating our colleagues growth and struggles;
  • A fear of failure that keeps us from trying new things our learners should experience;
  • Learning stops if we aren’t in class or school;
  • Defining ourselves as an expert;
  • Valuing immediate praise over hard work;


Its important to ask what kinks we are preprogrammed with but its just as important to look at what kinks our grade levels, departments, teachers, counselors, administrators have. We need to look at what kinks we have inherited and ones we can let go with a decision and a conversation. And after you’ve identified personal/organizational kinks, do you have an accountability partner to help you along the way.

Students win when we unkink hoses.