Monthly Archives: August 2015

Get Yer PIRATE On!

BLOG dare

In early August, the above tweet caught my attention; especially since I was working on my syllabi at the time! That tweet by @Jennifer_Hogan got my creative juices flowing! I got brave and I took her dare!

Today was the first day of ED 344: Social Studies Methods. We begin our semester with the book “Teach Like a PIRATE” by Dave Burgess so, rather than going over the syllabus and the expectations with my class, I created a Pirate Landlubber’s Hunt to kick off our semester.

“Be off, ye scoundrels,” I said.

And off they went…arrr, ran! 🙂

Below is the activity I created for my ED 344 class. Please pardon the bad rhyming… 😉

Pirate Land Lubber’s Hunt – Be off, ye scoundrels!

Ahoy, me mateys…Argh…ye be looking fer treasure aboard the SMSU ship. Ye Buckos must be workin’ together fer that be what make a crew! No hornswagglin (cheatin) allowed!

Ye lads and lasses be needin’:

**Coxswain – the ONE landlubber who be in charge of the crew!

**Hands – the rest of the crew…ye 2-3 sailors.

**TOTT – Tools of the trade. Ye be needin’ yer cell phone with camera & video; a sword and spyglass (created at two of yer stops).

#1: BE ON THE LOOKOUT: (Each make a spyglass before ye take off on the hunt)

In this place you’ll begin your journey

Be on the lookout for strategies galore,

A spyglass is needed for others to see,

That you are a teacher, and so much more!

(Get a selfie {or get someone to take the picture} of all buckos looking through your spyglasses out in the hallway! Make sure to sign your name on your spyglass and bring with you wherever you go!)

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Off to AC, your next destination.

To protect your booty you must carry a weapon.

History proves that defense is a must

Defend social studies and you’ll be considered a legend? (Okay, stretching that a bit)


(Make a sword using the directions and materials provided. Make sure your name is on it! Bring with…will be needed later!!)

#3: WALK THE PLANK: (Head to the pool).

Think social studies and how you can teach it.

The 10 thematic strands you’ll want to thank!

Dive right in and learn those strands well,

Then you’ll never have to dread walking the plank!

(Get picture of Coxswain walking the plank (diving board) with one crew member holding the sword behind the Coxswain and coaxing him off. PLEASE…do not jump in).

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Social studies can get kind of messy

In elementary schools it’s on the back burner

Cleaning up that mindset will be your challenge

Let your admin know it’s important for each learner!

(Find maintenance person and take a picture of ONE of your crew ‘swabbing the deck’ (mopping) with that maintenance person by you!)

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Between FH and SC a few flags fly.

These could be a great topic of study, don’t you think?

So many to choose from…which do you pick?

The SMSU Mustang flag of course—wink, wink. 😉


(Video tape all of you singing the SMSU fight song in front of the SMSU flag outside the bookstore! Don’t know the song??? It’s up to you to figure that one out!).


Did Pirates drink coffee? Well, I’m not sure?

I know that I do and some of you do too.

So many people consume it, I’m not sure why?

Social studies can help us learn what’s all the hullabaloo!


(Get a picture of the coffee special for the day)

SHIVER ME TIMBERS! Before ye weigh anchor and leave that place, ye MUST get a video of ye singing “A hundred cups of coffee on the wall, a hundred cups of coffee. Ye take one down and pass it around, 99 cups of coffee on the wall” to the lads and lasses who serve up the grog each day. Shirley be smitten if ye do! 🙂

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We’re running out of time, head back to the ED office.

Find the person at the helm, her name is Carol.

Tell her “we thank you tons for all you do!”

She will help you order all your ED Department apparel.

(Take a selfie with Carol that includes a sign that reads “Thank you Carol!”)

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Avast, me mateys…ye be done! Report back to ye classroom for a special treat and sharing of ye picture/video treasures! 🙂

In spite of NOT being a competition, these teacher candidates returned within 30 minutes, glistening with sweat. Chocolate chip cookies were waiting for them so they could recharge their batteries. I got the giggles watching the videos of them singing the school song (which most of them did not know), and serenading the coffee shop workers. The teacher candidates seemed to have a good time. I know I did!

After all was said and done, we chatted about how this activity could be used in their future careers as teachers. They visited about it could be used in their future classrooms. They chatted about how it could be used as an activity at staff meetings. It is an idea these teacher candidates can now add to their teaching toolboxes.

Thanks, Jennifer Hogan for the dare, and thanks Dave Burgess for an outrageously, engaging book.

Get yer pirate on, teacher candidates…I dare you! Stay calm and pirate on!

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Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

How to Accessorize Your Staff Meetings with Children’s Books

It is back to school time. A new beginning. A time to come together as a team. Elementary principals from all corners of the United States are preparing what they will say to their staff when they return. Planning that important first-day-back staff gathering can be a challenge.

Any of you principals use children’s books to accessorize that staff meeting? May we suggest that you give these delightful books a try? If they don’t seem to work, ditch them. (…and then it wasn’t us who suggested them. 🙂 ) If the lovely books do seem to bring home an important point, by all means add a title to the agenda now and then.

Phillips and Wong (2010) advised us to “think of literacy as a spine; it holds everything together.” Holding it together at the beginning of the year and all year long seems like a great plan to us.

Here are a few titles that we used when we were elementary principals, and also a few titles shared with us by other administrators, and also how they used those children’s books in their meetings. We hope they bring a little ‘bling’ to your staff meetings – because really, who doesn’t like a little bling now and then?! 🙂

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The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane DeRolf –“I used this book at the beginning of the year with my staff to remind them that we all play an important role in making the school a place where we all need to work together.” ~Pat W., Superintendent

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 Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss –“I read this book at the all-school assembly at the beginning of the year and changed the names in the book to the names of my staff which allowed for some laughter from the students and faculty.” ~Dr. Wendy C.S., former principal

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Look out Kindergarten, Here I Come by Nancy Carlson –“I used this book for kindergarten round up in the spring and for preparing my own children for school.” ~Dr. Sonya V., former principal and parent-in-training

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 Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss – “I read this book at the end of one of my staff meetings to celebrate the fact that we met AYP.” ~Jason S., principal

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Testing Miss Malarkey by Judy Finchler – “I read this book the day before grades 3 – 5 take their MCA-II tests.” ~Dr. Connie H., former principal

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 Math Curse by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith – “Math is our biggest challenge for AYP, so we are brainstorming all possible ways to have our students perform better in math.  Thought that we should start thinking “math” like in the story — just a fun way to bring a point across.” ~Melody T., retired principal

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 Zombies: Evacuate the School by Sara Holbrook – “Use at your back-to-school staff meeting. Read ‘100 Percent Me’ then have each teacher give percentages of who they are. Hang up in the lounge or office. These show how each one of us is unique.” ~Dr. Wendy C.S., former principal

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Pip & Squeak by Kate Duke – “I used this to work on developing relationships in the school and home environments.” ~Dr. Sonya V., former principal and current parent of “my 3 sons”!

Accessorizing adds beauty – it can make an outfit or make a meeting. Just don’t overdo it or it will lose its’ luster. We would LOVE to hear of any children’s literature that you are currently using to adorn your staff meetings or all-school assemblies. Please share them in the comments below with us and others.

We wish you a fabulous year filled with enjoyable reading and lots of bling. 🙂

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Are You An Abacus Leader?

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Technology is an amazing tool that we heavily rely on…maybe a bit too much. (Where’s my phone?? I can’t find my phone! I NEED my phone! Wait – my phone is in my hand. Yikes! Be honest – that has happened to you, too!) We have Smart phones, iPads, Nest thermostats. It’s hard to keep up.

The picture above was/is an amazing piece of technology in its day. For you young ones out there who don’t know what that is, it is an abacus. It is a piece of technology from years and years ago. It is a counting frame. Kind of like the number-line you might see in the front of an elementary classroom. It is used to count on. They say (whoever they are) that someone who is skilled with an abacus is faster than someone who is using a calculator.

I hadn’t thought about an abacus in a very long time until tonight when I sent my husband a text message asking him if he would please stop at the grocery store on his way home. Below is a picture of our short, but so sweet, text conversation…

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My husband’s text message got me thinking. All of us should be someone’s abacus. That one person who others can count on, rely on, trust in. We are all leaders, really, so whether we are school board members, superintendents, principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, cooks, custodians, parents…we MUST be an abacus leader for others. We must be someone who others can count on.

How can we do this? Below are just a few of our ideas, and we hope you add to this list in the comments section because it is nowhere near being complete:

~Follow through.

~Care for others.

~Listen to others.

~Forgive others.

~Trust others.

~Extend grace.

~Be patient.


Do your people see you as an abacus? No matter what your role is in life, we would like to encourage you to be an abacus leader, an abacus colleague, an abacus friend…you count the possibilities! Dear friends, be someone others can count on this year and always!

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Leadership Lessons from Geocaching

BLOG Geocaching

Bending. Twisting. Feeling. EWWW—a spider! Searching, searching, and more searching. Forty-five minutes, two dirty hands and two scratched knees later, the treasure was found! Ahh…success! Oh, yes, we did the victory dance. 🙂

Geocaching. It gives us a sense of adventure. It can take us to some amazing and beautiful places. Or, it might just take us to whereabouts right in our own community that we haven’t been to before.

The geocaches can be all shapes, sizes, and can vary in difficulty. Depending on the difficulty of the cache, the location can challenge us mentally and/or physically.

The geocache app or the GPS will tell us where we need to go. Once we get there, we need to search with our eyes and our hands. Sometimes we will need to stop searching, step back and look at the area from different angles. We might even think to ourselves, where would I hide the geocache? Where is NOT the obvious?

And then…that glorious moment when the treasure is discovered. A moment of satisfaction and accomplishment. A moment to do a victory high-five. A moment to document our success. A moment to savor…until the excitement of finding the next cache and the adventure begins again!

Isn’t geocaching just like leadership?

  • Adventurous, taking us to remarkable places and teaching us life lessons that are brand new to us. Or discovering great things happening right in front of our noses.
  • Students and staff come in all shapes and sizes, some of them more difficult to manage than others. Some may challenge us mentally as we try our hardest to find what is best for our people.
  • The leaders’ GPS is knowing the goals we will want to accomplish throughout the year. Knowing where we want to go. We will need to search with our eyes and our ears and our hands and our hearts to find what is best for our districts. We may need to stop, step back and look at goals and problem solving from different angles. Look at situations with a different perspective. We leaders need to think what is NOT the obvious?
  • Those glorious moments when goals are met. When faculty, staff, and students experience success – yes! That moment to celebrate with a high-five – yes! That moment of accomplishment documented as a dynamic year – yes! Everyone— administrators, staff, faculty, students, parents, community—all savor the moment.

And then it begins all over again. In the fall. When school starts. The excitement returns. The new adventures begin. The hidden treasures are eventually found and shared.

Leaders…let’s navigate our upcoming school year, and succeed at finding those hidden riches within our buildings. Don’t let our best kept secrets go quietly into the night – or school year. We may have to experience dirty hands and scraped knees once in a while, maybe even a few spiders along the way. But when all is said and done…we will reap the rewards.

Happy hunting…

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Hidden treasure…in a corn field. 🙂

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.