Week 8 of Awesome


Coming back from the weekend can be a difficult transition for children. (And adults) They are either wired because they have consumed liquid sugar in the form of caffeinated mountain dew all weekend OR they are nearly in a coma because they are sleep deprived because they binge watched their new favorite Netflix series.  In reflecting on that, the exact same situation can be applied to adults too. So basically what I’m trying to say is… Mondays are hard sometimes. My 8th hour class was clearly more focused on the first option of consuming copious amounts of caffeine because they were firing on all cylinders when they got to my class. It was almost as if I was watching a game of pinball. Random comment in the back corner, something flying towards the trash can in the front, coughing attack from a student by the pencil sharpener, I nearly got whiplash observing it. By minute four of class it was clear we were going to need to get our heads on straight to make monumental learning gains. Then, in another random comment moment, a student announced “Ok everybody, Focus Foxes!”….. and the class got silent, while holding their fingers together in a fox-like shape. Wait. What??? I wasn’t sure what just happened. A student casually explained how a focus fox was simply a way of getting everybody to get down to business. He said it in a way as if it was obvious like, “clap two times if you hear me” strategy. I had NEVER seen this, but it was AWESOME and it totally worked. For the next 30 minutes kids held up their focus foxes, they really were lightening focused, and we totally nailed the lesson. Putting that one in my bag of tricks for every day that has a vowel in it!



I love pre-service teachers. I love pre-service teachers. I love pre-service teachers. Note, as I typed that I kinda sang it as a jingle. And did a little dance with it too. And kinda moved my head back and forth like a turtle. All to emphasize how excited I get about pre-service teachers. They are just SO excited to be teachers and I would love to bottle that enthusiasm up and turn it into an energy drink. It spills out of their pores as they eagerly walk to the library and spend 2 hours picking out 32 books about the moon for the interdisciplinary unit they are writing about for a class, even though they won’t even get to fully implement it. And even then they are SO excited. This is why I love spending time with colleges and universities and getting the AWESOME opportunity to work and speak to the future of education. On Tuesday I was at Eastern Illinois University, or the Harvard of the Mid-West as I like to call it. I graduated from EU back in 2009 and since then have gotten a couple of Masters degrees. I can’t stay away because I just love it! I was reminded of my love for this special university as I entered Buzzard Hall and spoke to a room literally filled with college students who soaked up ideas like sponges. They captured this photo. Lovely. I look like I am in severe pain, but I’m really just excited and animated as I tell stories. I have found that telling funny, relatable stories is the key to teacher’s hearts. As I explained the importance of the game “Mind Blowing Facts” I was reminded of the relationships that can get built when you ask students to dig deep and really get to know each other. I HIGHLY recommend this activity. Get yourself a free download under the 180 Days of Awesome tab here.



Makin it rain. According to the urban dictionary this means, “dolla billz flying from the ceiling in da club.” I love that definition so much. I totally get a visual in my head just by reading it. Get a solid visual before reading on, click here. I used to hand out reward money in my classroom. Literally I would hand it to the honored recipients. Then one day, jokingly, I made it rain with the reward money. (PS, the reward money totally has my face on it. All good reward systems are customized See Chapter “Put Your Face On It” from my book Game Changers) I hand a huge wad of dollas’ in my hand and I just let it fly. It was nothing short of the most educational frenzy I have ever experienced and it was AWESOME. The kids’ jaws dropped in excitement and amazement. The student chaotically tried to catch as many as possible, swinging their arms in every direction and clapping their hands in hopes one would land in between their fingers. It very much resembled people in those money chambers where the air pushes cash all around. This one time attempt to be silly has turned into a staple. The only way I pass out Genta Dollas’ in my classroom is by making it rain and the kids are now more motivated than ever to catch them so they can celebrate their success and…. Impress their peers by snatching up the cash! Take a sec and zoom into the faces of the kids in the picture above. I get hard laugh at the authenticity of their determination.



Kids have the best timing. This is especially the case when it comes to gift giving. I had one very eager young lady by my side today as she hid a bag behind her back. She enthusiastically showed me the bag and announced SURPRISE! She handed me a bag that also doubled as a card. I love her practicality on this one. Why write a card when you can just literally write the message directly on the bag. I’m officially only buying white gift bags from now on and stealing this idea from her! As I grabbed the handles it nearly took me to the ground. This fantastical surprise weighed at least 12 pounds. Looking inside was kids’ tissue paper, more formally known as Kleenex. As I took out the fancy tissue, literally, I found kids’ wrapping paper, more formally known as paper towel. As I unwrapped that I found an enormous hunk of concrete that had clearly eroded from a driveway, sidewalk, parking lot, or other important piece of pathway. It was custom designed with sidewalk chalk. Please note the entire time the student had full smile as she watched me open this 8th world wonder. Like a smile you have when you hit a home run over the fence, I’m talking that level of excitement. All to give me a chunk of rock that is no doubt going to cause somebody a broken ankle or flat tire now that it is missing. And I couldn’t be more excited that it sits on my desk now. It will make the most AWESOME reminder that gifts are so much more about time and talent than the actual treasure.



Some weeks call for big swigs. And this week was certainly one of them. I have recently reintroduced diet soda into my life. I know I shouldn’t. I know it’s basically liquid acid, but it is epic and it is a sip of AWESOME that is certainly better than other vices I can think of. This week I really wanted my team of teachers to know how much I value them. I wanted them to know how much greatness they do for kids everyday. I wanted them to know how much I appreciate all their work. I wanted them to know how blessed I feel to be their leader. And I thought one, simple way I could show it was a little mid-day caffeine boost. I had one of my advisory peeps do some “informal research” the day before and ask the question, “What is your favorite drink from a gas station?” (That isn’t found in a cave in the gas station may have been a good supplemental comment had an adult been asking the question). I wanted to keep this a little surprise so my student came back with all the data I needed. So one trip on over to the Hucks on my lunch hour and a couple of carrying trays later, I delivered 42 oz. of happiness to each of my teammate during our 1st official meeting we had together in weeks. We basically solved all world problems during this 44 minutes and I wonder if it was because of the caffeine boost or the morale boost? In the words of Dale Partridge, if your team members matter to you, they will know they matter to you. Sometimes a simple soda can show it.