Patriot Period: It’s not what you do, it’s who you are!

It is our warrior code. It is the theme to this relentless pursuit. It is an unwavering passion to maximize our potential, to be the best version of ourselves. “It is not what you do but who you are.”


Patriot Period is an explicit and deliberate cultural focus on who we are as people. Time constructed for relationship building and character development. While core education emphasises how something works, what it is, or when it happened, we are focusing on WHO WE ARE now and who we want to be in the future. “It is not what you do but who you are.”

Look, say what you want about millennials “free food and bean bags…thanks google”, but generations today seek connection and a purpose more than any generation before them. Our grandparents were content with simply doing their job and going home. But that is not a reality for younger generations. “It is not what you do but who you are.”

Sure our worlds revolve around a 3X6 inch screen and we ask each other on dates by swiping right or sending a snap. Some argue this has devalued face-to-face interaction. I DISAGREE. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER NOW MORE THAN EVER BEFORE! While our interactions happen through text messages and pictures, the need for relationships is ever prominent. “It is not what you do but who you are.”  


Let me get back on track. School teaches us facts and dates, time periods and powerful people. But anybody can take an honors or AP course in 2017. And a lot of students can graduate with a GPA over 4.0 (check the stats if you aren’t buying it). So how do we differentiate ourselves? How do we separate from the masses? BY BEING GREAT PEOPLE. “It is not what you do but who you are.”  

Character is WHO we are, not what we do. Character must be acknowledged, recognized, and practiced. Character is what builds relationships. The world is filled with brilliant thinkers, elite athletes, and talented artists. Character is what creates separation. The objective of life is to maximize our potential. Our physical skills have a “ceiling”, some higher than others. And they will deteriorate or worsen at some point. But WHO we are has no ceiling and no peak in sight. Your character is what defines you. It is your legacy. “It is not what you do but who you are.”  

As an educator, I will only know you by who you are. I am sorry if the following is not a P.C. statement for a teacher but..I could not possibly care less about your grades. Sure, I want every student to enjoy success in the classroom. But I want to see you struggle. I want you to battle. To fight. And to overcome. I want you to succeed as a person, doing extraordinary things for the world BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE, NOT WHAT YOU DO. “It is not what you do but who you are.”

  • What do I do? I teach economics, coach basketball and baseball, and play golf.
  • Who am I? A weird, goofy, fun-loving, positive person who cares about the people in my life.

I am passionate about this. It matters. I will always remember my students. I will not remember a grade, a project, or a speech. But you better believe I will remember if you said hi or bye or said thank you on your way out of the room, or in the hallways. I will remember if you can shake my hand and look me in the eyes. If you can be yourself with confidence. If you make good choices whether the bright lights are on or off. If you fight like hell to overcome struggles and failures. If you are a humble champion (in any aspect of your life). That, I will remember. “It is not what you do but who you are.”


This is what the Patriot Period is about at Olentangy Liberty High School. It is about maximizing your potential. It is about growing, developing, practicing and striving to be your best self. Your legacy is staked in WHO you are and WHO you are is defined through your character. People do not want you for what you provide them. They want you for who you are and the person you represent. “It is not what you do but who you are.”

All the Best,

Mr. Tom Waterwash


GUEST POST: Once a Brave, Always a Brave!

When I graduated from OSU with my M.Ed. in Foreign Language Education last May, the university president proudly declared to the tens of thousands of graduates, parents and siblings gathered in the Shoe: “Once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye” amidst deafening cheers from alumni, new and old, throughout the audience. That may be true, but for me, another allegiance runs perhaps even deeper: Once a Brave, always a Brave. My name is Renee Hoffer, and I am a first year Spanish and German teacher at Olentangy High School, the same high school I graduated from six years ago. I am now two months into the profession that is supposed to last me the next thirty-five years, and every day I rub shoulders with many of the same people who taught me the lessons of responsibility and problem-solving that I’m now hoping my own students will learn from me. So it’s probably not surprising that, in many ways, these first few months have already been a rollercoaster. Some days I feel like I’m starting to figure this whole teaching thing out, maybe even that I’m actually good at it, often only to completely change my mind about whether I’m even qualified to be doing this job a few hours later. And while being a first year teacher is no walk in the park, there are definitely both challenges and rewards that come with it. While I could probably go on and on about either one, I’ve narrowed my list down to three challenges and three rewards that I feel best sum up what it is to be a brand new teacher.
First Year Challenges

1. Balance

First of all, there’s the question of balance. How do you find it? I am sure that balance is key in all things related to this profession, but I don’t yet know how to attain it. I don’t know when to accept that a lesson plan isn’t perfect, but that I need to maintain both a work and a home life, close the computer, and spend an evening with my husband. Or how to find balance in the classroom environment – how to ensure that the students are comfortable making mistakes and taking risks in their second language, while at the same time keeping the atmosphere serious enough that they don’t feel they can slack off. This is something I know I will work on throughout my career, but which I can already see getting better with time.

2. Tears

On the first day of school, the projector in my classroom broke down in the middle of the lesson. At first, I was able to shake it off. I figured I would fix it during the break. But as the day went on, several other teachers came in to look at it, and no one had any idea what was wrong. I started to wonder how long I would not be able to use the equipment. A week? A month? Longer? And as period after period went by, the students kept coming and going, a haze of faces whose names I was sure it would take me the entire school year to memorize. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and frustrated. When a former teacher of mine, now one of my colleagues, came in at the end of the day to ask me how it had all gone, I couldn’t help myself. Before I could formulate a sentence to answer her, the tears were already flowing down my face. They were the first of many tears, this year. And many more to come, I’m sure.

3. Questions

When I was in high school, I always assumed that my teachers had everything figured out. Being on the other side of the desk, I am now quickly learning that’s not the case. There is so much I don’t know. Situations with individual students that I don’t know how to navigate. How to tell whether I’m moving through content too fast, or too slow. Whether my lessons are adequate. Or even more practical things, like where to find information about turning in the SLO. It feels like every day there is some new problem that I don’t know the answer to, sending me rushing into the classroom of any one of my colleagues with the phrase, “How do I….” coming from my mouth before I’ve even made it through the doorway. I’m really lucky to work with awesome people like Margaret Thomson, Steven Krammes and countless others, who never seem to get tired of giving advice, lending an ear, or providing whatever else I may need.


First Year Rewards

1. Growing Up

Being a teacher has meant that new responsibilities have fallen on my shoulders. In many ways, becoming a professional has led me to face character flaws that I had previously been able to avoid. I have had to deal with difficult people in mature ways that prioritize the needs of my students. I have always hated conflict, and while I still don’t seek it out, I have learned not to be afraid of it (or maybe to be less afraid). Being a teacher, I have learned, means doing what we believe is best for our students, even if others disagree. While we should welcome and genuinely reflect on feedback, each teacher ultimately needs to make decisions about what is best for his or her students. Ultimately, I am the one who is responsible for the daunting task of teaching these 150 young people – for the next seven months, I have the opportunity to impact their lives in ways that affect who they become as adults. More than anything else in my life, this responsibility has catapulted me into adulthood.

2. Problem Solving

To me, the task of figuring out how to present material from a foreign language in way that students will be able to understand it, internalize it and later produce it represents a giant problem to be solved, and I welcome the challenge. Making adjustments and watching them positively affect the students’ ability to learn is not only rewarding, it’s fun! Recently, I changed the seating arrangement of my classroom from a U-shape to sets of “tables” each made of four desks pushed together. I wanted to create an environment that made student collaboration easier while also minimizing distractions. So far, I have been elated with the results! Students have pre-assigned partners accessible for speaking activities and cooperative work. At the same time, I can more readily reach each student’s desk, making it easier for me to monitor their progress, provide input and answer questions. Since then, I have noticed students taking notes who previously never did, and the number of students who stop me to ask questions when I walk by has skyrocketed. Problem solving FTW! 

3. Students!

Like most teachers, I chose this job because I wanted to impact young people, and so every day it is the students who make it worthwhile. I love watching them genuinely wrestle with a language concept, asking me questions over and over again until they start to understand it. And even more, I love the few minutes at the end of class when I can talk to them about the things they care about – their jobs, their sports and instruments and roles in the school play, their plans to get their driver’s licenses. I love interacting with them as whole people, with interests and aspirations, and having the chance to prove to them that their teachers really do care. And in particular, I love when they, unprompted, seek my input on problems they are facing, like how to interact with a teacher they have a disagreement with in a mature way. That, perhaps more than anything else, makes this job meaningful to me. Those spontaneous lessons, I know, are the ones that they will carry with them throughout their lives.

Renee Hoffer is a first year Spanish/German teacher at Olentangy HS in Columbus, Ohio.

STUDENT POST! Olivia Sweeney


A Symbiotic Relationship: Students and Teachers

By: Olivia Sweeney

The Teenage Reality

College applications, GPAs, essays, homework and on top of that, an expectation to maintain an impressive social status. The lives of teenagers are not the never-ending party adults, specifically teachers, think they are. The truth is, our days are chaotic, a constant attempt at balancing work and play. We are told high school is “the best time of our lives” but the bags under our eyes and stress-induced headaches say otherwise. There is no more living in the moment because every move we make is perfectly articulated in preparation for college applications. Extracurriculars are no longer done out of interest, but done so we look “well rounded” to a college acceptance board. We are given adult responsibilities, but are still treated like children.


The Effects of Reaching Out

However, this is not the life many teachers believe we lead. Our teachers have us for 40 minutes of our day, a small snippet of our lives. They know little to nothing about our true personalities, and the details we share about ourselves on the first day of school are soon forgotten. Relationships between most teachers and students are kept strictly professional, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Perhaps if teachers reached out to students, and continued learning more about us than just our name, they could understand the problems we are really facing. I know this is a large task, teachers have multiple classes filled with twenty to thirty students each day, and showing genuine interest in all of us would require effort, no doubt. But it has been done before, and those are the teachers students remember, and love.  I will never forget my third grade teacher, Miss Camacho. She was never afraid to talk about her personal life and taught us so many life lessons, which were never included in the curriculum. She genuinely cared about her students, and made every effort to prove that. Growing up, I was heavily involved in Columbus Children’s Theatre, where I acted in shows. Once Miss Camacho found this out, she bought tickets to come see me perform in all the shows I participated in, even after I was no longer her student. The feeling of seeing her in the audience, beaming up at me, gave me all the confidence I could ever need. To no surprise, today Miss. Camacho has been given an administrative job at Olentangy Local Schools, a gratifying recognition of the dedication she shows towards her students and career.


The Simplicity of Connections

In the end, we’re all working towards the same goals, and we’re relying on each other to make those goals a reality. We all want the best for our school, our teachers, our students and most importantly, our education. Teachers need the students to be active in learning the material, and students need teachers to be active about teaching the material. This delicate relationship requires more than formal, awkward interactions between the two parties. This is teamwork in it’s finest form. A symbiotic relationship that we need to treat with absolute care. The best part of this situation is the simplicity of the solutions. Teachers can connect with their students in easy ways that will continually make a difference. Ask your students about their lives, their difficulties, their interests, you may be surprised at the responses. Become your student’s biggest advocate, if there is any way to support them (in or out of school) make every effort to take that action. Don’t be afraid to act human around your students, they do care and enjoy to hear about your life outside of these walls. Overall, treat your students for what they are, a vital part of the symbiotic relationship which makes education work.


Guest Post: Innovation Meets Renovation (Kaelin Harrison)

When I walked into the Olentangy High School library on my first day I thought, ‘wow maybe this was a mistake’. My name is Kaelin Harrison and I have been the library media specialist at OHS for five years. I spent the first five years of my career as a first grade teacher and when I decided I needed a change I took a huge leap and applied for a position as a high school librarian. When I arrived at OHS the library was dark, dusty, and filled with shelves and shelves of books that I had never heard of and I could not imagine anyone had used in years. The tall wooden shelves lined the walls and broke the room into three separate parts. The tables were very large, very wooden, and very very maroon with chairs to match. There was one “comfortable” seating area made up of four old wooden chairs with maroon cushions. I knew from that first day I had to make this space better, I had to bring it out of the 1980’s and into the 21st century.

For the first three years I focused on simply getting kids excited to come to the library. The library had been a place that students avoided and I had to encourage them to return. Then in my fourth year I set in motion what I had slowly been building towards since the moment I walked in the door, a total shift. I wanted to transform my “cave” as I had so lovingly come to call it to a innovative, flexible, usable space. I wanted to create a space that would be the heart of our school. I had a vision of what the space could be and how students and staff could use it but I had to find a way to make my vision a reality. I knew to change the mindset of what the space was I had to first change how the space looked and with that came a new name, The Learning Center.

I started with the nonfiction books. I had to pair down all the old to find room for the new and the needed. I spent weeks combing through all 9,000 books to decide if they were to be kept or recycled. In the end around 2,000 books were sent off because of age and unusable information. My favorite find was a book on technologies of tomorrow that was published in 1982….watch out world there’s this new thing called the internet and it could really take off. Once I had a collection I was proud to offer our students I had to decide where the books would be placed. I fell in love with the idea of creating a nonfiction room and I had a storage room that I believed would be perfect. In the end the room turned out even more amazing then I had envisioned. With its wall to wall, floor to ceiling books and small seating area it is one of the students favorite places.

Once the nonfiction books had a new home I was able to move the large shelving that had divided the space. The room opened up in a way I had never dreamed. The windows poured in light and for the first time I could truly see the potential of the space. My budget was small so I had to find creative ways to turn the space into something drastically different without spending much money. I took apart long shelving units and put them back together to be individual bar top tables. I purchased funky high top chairs to pair with them to contrast the old with new. I repainted my maroon tables to a neutral grey and put them on wheels so they could easily be moved to make the space flexible. I spent what little money I had on purchasing new comfortable seating. With the shelves gone from the main space I now had a vast amount of wall space that I filled with student art. I wanted the space to be an extension of the students and what better way than with art they had created. I moved the nine computers I had to the back wall to provide more open space to be used for classes and two laptop carts were added for flexibility. My fiction section was loved by many students so its location was kept the same but I changed to a genre system to make it easier for students to locate books. I incorporated display shelves, added a coloring wall, chess area, and a puzzle table. I spent countless hours moving books to their new locations, placing tables, chairs, and student art in just the right spot and after a year of renovation the learning center was ready.
I spent the first few weeks of school attending department meetings and visiting teachers showing them what I could do for them, what the space could do for them. After a few weeks classes started showing up and I was thrilled. At the end of the first full month 124 classes used the learning center, twice as many as any single month in the past five years. I was overjoyed that teachers were finding ways to teach their students in the new space. In that month I saw classes team teach, study for tests, work in small groups, research, use computers, and read silently. In that one month I was able to witness teachers from all subject areas teach, mentor, and educate their students in a way that inspired me. The library should be a place that belongs to every member of the school, it’s not mine it’s ours. I sought input from staff and students throughout the renovation to create a space where everyone could feel they belonged. While I’m still navigating challenges I am hopeful that my vision to create something amazing for our students is indeed becoming a reality. Transforming a mindset takes time and I’m excited for the possibilities the learning center has to offer!

-Kaelin Harrison

Late Bloomers: Technology

Late Bloomers: Technology

I was a late bloomer.  I entered high school standing a mighty 4’11” tall.  Playing sports was difficult. Technically, I was a very sound athlete.  But, my gifts in skills and vision were overshadowed by my inability to keep up athletically. I remember feeling helplessly left behind by circumstances that were out of my control.  Genetics and heredity were not on my side.  Technology today is the equivalent of a 6’2” 7th grade student who can house two Chipotle burritos in one sitting and understands the term ‘5 o’clock shadow’ from personal experience. Educators are charged with staying relevant and integrating technology into curriculum.  Students cannot afford for schools to be technological late bloomers.  We must avoid being left behind, considered irrelevant, and called archaic.  The good news is several silly myths about the use of technology in school, specifically smart phones, are simply untrue.  Below are the top 5 ways my paradigm has changed due to reflecting on feedback from students.  I call them my professional “Growth Spurts”!

1. Any Technology Use Makes My Class Relevant

Silly Myth: If I’m not using technology in my classroom I will be considered irrelevant.

Student Voice: Sometimes the focus is so much on technology that I forget what class I’m in.

Growth Spurt: Pump the breaks! Best practice is best practice.  Using technology just to use technology might be more detrimental to the learning process than avoiding it all together.  Using technology is not the end game.  If technology doesn’t serve its purpose to simplify and streamline the road to deeper understanding, don’t use it.

2. The Cost of Implementing Technology

Silly Myth: The cost makes integrating technology impossible.

Student Voice: 99.9% of us have smartphones and the ability to download apps.  

Growth Spurt: Did you know many of our turbo-thumbed students would prefer to type an essay on their phone before type it on a computer or write it out by hand?  It’s true. If our students are willing to engage in lessons using their phones, why are we unwilling to meet them where they are?

Here is a list of apps students use in my classroom: Schoology, Voxer, Flipboard, Instagram, Twitter, Periscope, Remind 101, Typorama, Google Drive (Docs, Sheets, Forms), Socrative, Kahoot, and Quizlet

3. Smart-Phones in the Classroom

Silly Myth: Phones are a hindrance to learning in the classroom.

Student Voice: Phones are an extension of my person. Take my phone and lose my trust forever.

Growth Spurt: It is our job to teach students to appropriately and respectfully carry their phones.  We need to stop taking their phones away.  We definitely need to stop using “phone jails” and “cubbies”.  It’s patronizing.  I allow my students to have their phone on their desk.  However, I ask them to keep it face down when we are not using them.  I try to create an atmosphere that will transfer to their adult life.  It’s been challenging, but I try to pretend my students are my colleagues.  When they use their phone inappropriately, I engage in a conversation and explain why I feel disrespected.  The process includes repetitive conversations but the return trust and respect provides unlimited credibility.  

4. The Device as an Interpersonal Vice

Silly Myth: Students today generally do not possess interpersonal speaking skills because they are addicted to their phones.

Student Voice: When I use my phone to communicate, I rarely say things I don’t mean.  I have time to think and say exactly what I want to say.

Growth Spurt: Smart phones provide a voice for students.  I have yet to find research that supports a correlation between phone usage and social awareness.  However, if that perception is true, it is our job to create space to bridge that gap.  In my classroom I always use technology to start a conversation.  There is no “ice to break” when we type our ideas first.  Then, when we put our phones away for face to face interactions, students can’t wait to articulate their ideas vocally.
5. Resilience vs. Resilience

Silly Myth: Students today lack grit and work ethic unless it’s technology. Students can figure out anything when it comes to technology. They are so tenacious when it comes to troubleshooting.

Student Voice: Adults are hard-working problem solvers unless its technology.  Then, they freak out and give up.

Growth Spurt: Maybe we can learn from each other. Through which lens do you view your students?  Are they your subjects who need to absorb provided information?  Or, are they partners who offer us as many opportunities to learn as we offer them?  I’ve learned from my students that troubleshooting technology and successfully familiarizing oneself with a new interface comes down to resilience.  Be more stubborn than the tech.  

Application and Challenge:

The technology growth spurt is a fingernail on the timeline of education reform.  It’s not the first time innovation has brought monumental change to our field and it most certainly will not be the last.  Our business, to prepare students for tomorrow, should always be transient in nature.  Here’s the kicker; unlike human growth, we control our own professional growth spurts.  In what ways are you pursuing your own professional growth spurts?  In what ways are you engaging the professional growth spurts of your colleagues?  In what ways are your professional growth spurts impacting student learning?

The Week of “WHY?”

Last week (the first three days of school) I discussed the importance of cultivating a strong classroom culture.  With a relational foundation in the ground, I now have the opportunity to share “WHY” my class is relevant, necessary, and beneficial.  Without the precursor of “WHY”, the day-to-day “WHAT” (curriculum, units, lessons, activities) becomes monotonous and obsolete.

As a lead-learner (Spanish Teacher) my mission is has two parts:

  1. Facilitate a hunger for learning
  2. Provide opportunities where students learn to satiate their own hunger. (Note: Buy-in is the enemy of ownership. We want students to OWN their learning, not buy-in to what you’re telling them to do…) 

The Week of “WHY?” Goals and Rationale:

  • Validate the value of Second Language Acquisition. Second Language Acquisition (SLA) is important because knowledge is power. While I could write a book on the importance of SLA, I’ll sum up my favorite rationale like this: SLA does not drive, but enhance our career paths.  From an employer’s perspective: when an applicant demonstrates the ability to speak another language they establish value to my company. My hope is for Ss to share their career interests and dream what it might look like to pursue a field they are passionate about equipped with another language.
  • Introduce Ss to the educational value of specific YouTube channels. I am learning that as technology evolves and ultimately changes the landscape of education; I must follow suit to provide a meaningful experience.  This year I have committed to interlacing specific relevant (and FREE) technology/software within the curriculum.  The technological focus for this unit (The Week of “WHY?”) is YouTube. (Units will include interfaces such as Twitter, Voxer, Various Blogs, Pinterest, Flipboard, Typorama, Canva, etc.)
  • Facilitate discussion boards in the spirit of #EdChat collaboration. Our school uses Schoology.  This week my students did not take notes or fill out worksheets while we watched an educational YouTube clip.  Instead, I facilitated interactive discussions in real time on a Schoology discussion board.FullSizeRender (4).jpg



Exponential Return:

The #EdChat format is a classroom teacher’s dream. As lead-learners we need to create space for our students to learn and get out of the way.  

  • Participation-Have you ever asked a question to a group of people and been disappointed you couldn’t hear everyone’s response?  The discussion board is inviting and encouraging to every Ss.  It replaces the anxiety towards public speaking with a manageable burden to contribute to the team effort.FullSizeRender (3).jpg
  • Collaborative Documentation-The EdChat replaces individual notes and mind-numbing worksheets.  When Ss complete worksheets they are ALONE; they do not have anyone to keep them accountable or challenge them. The EdChat/Discussion board acts as a shared stream of intelligence where students are motivated to contribute to their team of classmates.
  • Student Engagement-Students are engaged by using devices.  Students are not addicted to their phones; they are addicted to being connected. (Spoiler alert: they’re no different than us in that regard.  We’re human.  Humans are relational creatures who desire and need to be connected.)  Throughout the week I have noticed that Ss are motivated to sign-in and get involved because I am using an interface that is relevant.  When they sign-in they are connected to their classmates, connected to the curriculum, and connected to the learning process.IMG_2218.JPG
  • Differentiation-As a participant in the discussion, I frequently post, reply, like, and challenge student posts.  Ss are given a single task when posting or replying: “Invite further conversation”.  Posts that do not enhance the collaboration (ex: Awesome! That’s great!) are encouraging, but do not enhance our team’s body of work.  Ss who are advanced in thinking post early and often.  I can readily differentiate instruction by challenging their thought process, debating the other side of an argument, or asking questions to continue their train of thought.  Ss who require extended time or clarification are able to take their time and post at their own pace.  Because of our culture, I often get beat to the punch when attempting to differentiate.  For example, if a Ss’ post requires clarity, other Ss are quick to provide information and support their peer.  Compliance is a hot topic in education.  Educators are continually looking for ways to help Ss take ownership in the learning process.  Throughout this activity, my Ss are not only taking ownership of their own learning process, they are authentically investing in the learning of their peers.

Conclusion: My Ss successfully built an innovative learning culture and are now equipped with a sincere understanding of WHY our curriculum is relevant to their life.  Tomorrow, we begin the official process of second language acquisition.  I’m humbled to play a small role in the process and I’m thankful to the people who have facilitated my learning.

Tom (@BravesPrincipal), Jason (@JBatesEdLeader) , and Jessica (@JessicaSlocum3) – You guys embody servant leadership.  Thank you for including me and growing me as a team member.  You have shaped my opinion of walking the walk of best practice.  Thanks for your pursuit of what is truly best for kids, your willingness to nudge me to take risks, and your holistic investment to in me and my family beyond the profession.  I’m hopeful for an opportunity to pay it forward.

Cultivating Culture: My 1st Three Days

The first three days are the most important days of the year.  It’s true; students never get a second chance to make a first impression, and neither do we.    

The first day of school was always difficult for me.  I battled anxiety as a child.  On the first day of school my peers were disappointed our routine of swimming often and sleeping late had been interrupted. I was different. I feared a new environment far more than I’d miss the pool.  Three questions haunted me:

  • Will my summer friends still be my friends at school?
  • Do I look acceptable?
  • Will I sit alone at lunch?

I recently watched Tony Robbins documentary on Netflix “I’m Not Your Guru” and have been empowered by ‘blaming brilliantly’.  I blame anxiety for robbing me early and often as a child.  However, I brilliantly blame my battle with anxiety for shaping my character, drive and mission as an educator.

The First Three Days

No syllabus, no content, no routines, and no homework.

The first week in my classroom is intended to cultivate a safe, collaborative, and innovative culture.  Students must be reprogrammed to forgo the pursuit of points and fall in love with the process of learning.

Goals for Ss:

  1. Every Ss feels physically, emotionally, and socially safe.
  2. Every Ss has a 1:1 relationship the lead learner.
  3. Every Ss is valued as an important member of our learning community.

Goals for Activities:

  1. Energy level will be consistently held at “2 Cups of Coffee”
  2. Clearly define and understand “Failing Forward”
  3. Stop often to reflect and discuss
  4. Allow Ss engagement dictate lesson placing (not the clock).

FullSizeRender-3.jpgDay 1 – Wednesday, 9/17/2016


  • Butchered Attendance
    • I purposely butchered everyone’s name, including my own, to protect students whose names I would otherwise mispronounce. (Ex: “John” pronounced “Joan”)
    • When students corrected me, I repeated their name correctly back to them. The act gives me clarity on how I can respectfully address them.



  • Simon Says
    • “Simon Says” is a way for me to introduce TPR, encourage failing forward, and get to know students in a fun engaging way.  I lead the game at a fast pace which encouraged students to listen and react.
    • After the first game of Simon Says, I introduced the concept of failure.  I asked students if they were emotionally crushed because they were knocked out of a silly game.  Students discussed the reasoning behind their response.
    • After the second game of Simon Says, I asked the students if they felt more comfortable and performed better during the second round.  This silly game provided an opportunity to introduce growth mindset and model failing forward.  After the second game, I asked students to apply the concept to their life. Students shared personal stories of times they initially failed but ultimately succeeded.



  • Facebook Profile & Dialogue
    • I used a modified Facebook profile page that asked students to document their personal interests, strengths, worries, and preferences regarding school.  Students completed their own profile for five minutes.  After finishing they interviewed five Ss to discuss answers.  I asked the Ss to take a risk and interview five people they didn’t already know.  This was beneficial because conversations were more organic and relationship seeds were planted.  After their conversation, they documented what they learned about their classmates on the back of the worksheet.   



  • Exit Slip – Facebook Profile Page


    • On their way out the door students will hand me their Facebook Profile page.

Day 2


  • Attendance w/ volleyball
    • I let the class know that we will play a game after I take attendance that revolves around knowing names.  I take attendance by passing students a volleyball.  Before they catch the ball, they must say their name out loud.  When they return the ball to me, I repeat their name before I catch the ball.  Often I will go to a student multiple times in a row, or go back to a student multiple times.



  • Name Game
    • Students stand in a circle.  A designated person will be put on the spot.  I will randomly pass the ball to someone in the circle.  The person on the spot will recite that person’s name within three seconds, or they are “out”.  If they do not know the person’s name, the student directly to the left is now put on the spot.  The ball can be thrown anywhere in the circle each turn, whereas the “hot seat” rotates one person to the left at a time.
    • The purpose of the game is to keep students on their feet, get them to think forward, place emphasis on knowing their peers, and to ignite laughter.  As the leader of the game, I am continually surveying for students who might feel embarrassed or put on the spot.  If the game is anything more serious than laughter, fun, and an exercise in learning about their peers, it is stopped.



  • I failed forward…
    • In the spirit of “Simon Says” and “The Name Game” I ask students to dialogue with their table groups about ways that they failed.  The discussion will then be led towards the concept of failing forward and growth mindset.
    • I ask students to share with their table groups a time, outside of school, when they proudly failed forward.  Students will write their best real-life example on the dry-erase board.IMG_2118.JPG



  • Exit Slip – “I wish teachers would…” sticky note
    • As a professional I need to model failing forward.  I thank the students for being candid, honest, and genuine in their dialogue and dry-erase posts.  I give them the prompt “I wish teachers would…” along with a sticky note.  I ask them to think about ways I could professionally learn from their past teacher’s mistakes.  Warning: if framed poorly, this can be a tumultuous and toxic activity.  The interest or spirit is NOT to bash other teachers or point out failures of our peers.  The interest is for me to learn and grow as a professional from students being candid about their personal experiences.  Students must keep their sticky notes anonymous and objective.FullSizeRender-2.jpg


Day 3


  • Bell ringer – “Technology in school is awesome because…” sticky note
    • Following the spirit of the exit ticket from Day 2, I ask students to complete the prompt and place a sticky note on the board about how and why technology can be helpful in school.  After reading the sticky notes off we have a short class discussion on the importance of the appropriate use of technology in the world today.



  • Two Truths and a Lie (individual)
    • I model two truths and a lie for the students with my own personal examples.
    • To start class students may sit wherever they like.  In order for our students to become more cohesive as a group, I ask them to change seats to start the game. They cannot be in a game group with anyone from their original table.
    • Students brainstorm and share two truths and one lie with their new table.



  • Two Truths and a Lie (whole class)
    • After completing their game within their table, students are informed that their table is now a team.  They will decide the best combination of two truths and a lie within their group to present to the class.
    • When a group presents to the class, each member stands in an opposite corner of the class to make their claim.  The class votes with their feet and migrates to the corner where they believe the group member is lying.  Each group filters through.  The students discover a lot of interesting facts about their peers and experience a lot of laughter and mischief in the process.



  • Our Awesome Truths
    • After the last group presents, groups are asked to write their favorite truth about one of their group members on the board.
    • To end class I read the posts from the board.  The students discuss “Our Awesome Truths” in their table group.
      • If time permits, I ask students to return to their original seats and reflect on the first three days of school.
      • What did you learn?
      • What did we accomplish?
      • How do you feel about the teacher?
      • How do you feel about the learning environment?FullSizeRender.jpg



  • Exit Slip – High 5
    • “Have a great weekend. Will I see you at the football scrimmage?”.  I want students to know that I am fully invested in the community and not just the fifty minutes I see them. If I’m going to help my students learn and grow I need to invest in than the 50 minutes I see them.  Can you truly help edit a book if you only read one chapter?FullSizeRender-1.jpg


Conclusion – If you are reading this article as an activity guide you will surely miss the mark.  The beauty of teaching is that the burden of ‘relationship’ is a two-way street.  The truth is this week might have been more beneficial for me as a teacher, than them as learners. The more intricately I know and love each individual student, the better I can tailor a personalized learning process.