Tag Archives: awesome

Making Our Ideas A Reality

I am making an effort to write more as my way of engaging in the act of creation every day. I am not an artist so I won’t be doing the draw everyday challenge, but I can certainly write something every day. Today’s writing is about something one of my TED Ed Club members did and I am so, so proud of him for it.

First, some background. Remy is a sophomore in our TED Ed Club and was forced to attend a meeting by a senior who was on the soccer team with him. Remy’s parents are from France and he is fluent in both English and French. But, it didn’t take long for him to realize that this was the exact type of club he was looking for. As we have been talking this year, and especially after attending the TED Ed Weekend even in NYC, we realized that the thing that makes our club so unique from anything in the school and from other TED Ed Clubs is we don’t just have ideas we want to share, but we try to turn them into reality. The club has engaged in a variety of projects over the past few years, and Remy was insistent on making something big happen this year again.

After the event in NYC, Remy was talking with his grandfather (who still lives in France) about our club and his grandfather remarked that nothing like that exists in the school that he works with. His grandfather, who is like the Alumni President, said that he thought the students at the local schools would really benefit from this type of experience. So, Remy decided to start a TED Ed Club in France while still in the US. He wrote an email explaining his idea to the TED Ed people and they loved it! It turns out there are only 5 clubs in all of France, and nothing in this region. They sent him information on how to get started, are going to do a video call with him to discuss the idea further, and are going to feature his work in an upcoming newsletter they are sending to all of the clubs! If he is successful, this will be the first club whose Student Leader doesn’t even live in the same country as the club.

I am so proud of Remy for acting on his great ideas. Being a TED Ed Club Advisor is one of the best things I have had the opportunity to do in my career and I love working with amazing students like Remy.

If you are interested in starting your own TED Ed Club, just check out this link or contact me directly. You can also find us on Instagram and Twitter. Also, check out Remy’s other project, Humans of the Dog Park.

Make Your #Hashtag A Movement

Anyone can put an octothorp in front of a word. Yeah, that’s what the hashtag/pound sign thiruter_logo_number_signngie is actually called. I once had a 5 minute conversation with someone on Facebook entirely in hashtags. #youcanhashtaganything

When I was listening to Shonda Rhimes’ book A Year of Yes, something she said has really stuck with me. She was talking about how we all seem to have time to send a tweet or make a post expressing our support for something, tagging it with the appropriate hashtag, but what do we really do beyond that? It is fine if you want #justiceforharambe, but the fact is your public outcry on Twitter isn’t helping the cause unless you get up and actually do something. Start a fundraiser, call your local politicians, start a website and Internet campaign. It doesn’t matter what you do, but you need to do something beyond just saying you support something.

I regularly talk with teachers about using social media better in schools. I tell them to create a class Twitter/Instagram account or create a hashtag so that you can document ad show the world what is happening in your class. But as I have been rolling Shonda Rhimes’ words around in my head, I realize we need to do more than that. You need to make your hashtag a movement. Make it mean something. Make it change peoples’ mindsets or views of your classroom. Let it embody everything you and your students do in the classroom.

Last year, I started #roomofawesome. When I assign projects, I purposely only give them the bare requirements because I want their imagination and creativity to be the focus of their work. When they ask me to give them better direction, I open my arms and sweep them around the room where there are previous students’ work and bulletin boards with my hashtags on them. I tell them the best projects (aka the most creative) will end up on the walls/bulletin boards and posted to my social media accounts where thousands of people around the world will see them. Make it good enough to make it on the #chemisawesome board. Students will always work a little bit harder when they know their work will reach a global audience.

Hashtags can do so much more than just keep the community informed of what is happening in the school. It is the opportunity to change the expectations of what is possible in the classroom and show everyone the awesome that is happening every day.

Eh, I’m Good With That.

My parents never put pressure on me to succeed. Well, they didn’t need to because I put so much pressure on myself that if they had I probably would have had a meltdown. However, what they always said to me was to do my best. Every grade that I brought home, no matter how low or high, my parents would ask “is this your best? If it is, we’re ok with that.” With that mindset, I would always examine my work to make sure that I was only submitting my best work every time. But, in the back of my mind I knew that no matter what I got, my parents would be proud of me because I was doing my best every day.

I have seen a growing trend in my classes and it is bothering me. I graded a student’s paper this week and he received an 8/10. Since I utilize a modified mastery system, students can complete up to 4 of any assignment in an effort to earn a higher grade and improve their understanding of the material. When I returned the paper to the student and mentioned that he can complete an additional version so he can improve his grade, he looked at the paper and said, ‘An 80? Eh, I’m good with that.’ This level of complacency is growing in my classes. It has nothing to do with this generation, a lack of motivation, laziness or anything like that. It’s an acceptance for being good enough. The belief that if I can’t be the best, I just better not be the worst.

In a poem printed by Charles Osgood, he says:

if you want to be great,
pretty good, is, in fact, pretty bad.

So, dear students, I don’t settle for pretty good. We will always push the envelope in this class, even if I have to drag you kicking and screaming along the way.

You should never give me anything less than AWESOME every day.

You’re a Glitterbomb of Glory!

There are 5 things I hate in this world and one of them is high-stakes testing. I don’t like what it does to my students. They become either neurotic or completely apathetic during testing time and the mood in the classroom has been completely destroyed. The Room of Awesome is supposed to be a positive learning environment, but what are you supposed to do to raise the kids spirits right before you hand them an assessment that could get them in a lot of trouble at home?

A few years ago, I ran across this post on Pinterest about giving students pencils with positive messages on them. We were about to enter Final Exams and I thought this would be a great present for my Honors students that year. Problem was I didn’t have enough time to get the pencils before the exam so I made my own.

2013-06-20 12.41.56Instead of keeping a pile of spare pencils for the test, I wrote a positive message on them and left them on the desk for each student. Some students left them behind, some traded them for ones they liked better. I think the best one was the student who tweeted to me the following year telling me that she went to take her SAT, found the pencil in the bottom of her bag, and made her smile.

The following year I wanted to do this again, but expand it to all my students. Problem was I had 156 students that year and there was no way I was writing out messages on that many pencils. Instead, I grabbed a whiteboard marker and wrote on their desks right before they entered for the exam.

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The students loved this! Many came in and wandered around the room reading the messages and sitting at the desk with the message they liked the best. While this was a much easier method for getting the positive messages out, it was cumbersome to write on every desk before each exam, the messages wiped away as the kids were taking the exam so I had to rewrite them for each class, and the students couldn’t take the messages with them.

I used the whiteboard marker method in 2015 as well, but wanted something new this year. I happened to find a pack of small Post-It notes in the bottom of one of my desk drawers this summer. This would be perfect because I could write a lot of them in advance and hand them to the students as they walked in the door.

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I quickly ran out of fun phrases so I Googled “phrases to tell someone they are awesome” and came across this site. My favorite was “You’re a glitterbomb of glory”, “You are a polished opal in a pewter world”, and “You’re my personal Yoda.”

Did every kid appreciate the gesture? Absolutely not. Most smiled. Some put the Post-It on their phone or water bottle to take with them. Some students asked if I get upset when people don’t appreciate my random acts of kindness. To be honest, it doesn’t really bother me. I didn’t do this to change the lives of every one of my students. I did it to change the outlook of as many as I could. If it was only 1, then at least one more person had a better day because of me.