18 for ’18

Welcome to the 4th annual (even though I swore last year was my final one) new year’s educator bucket list! I’m coming at it from a slightly different perspective this year being in the principal role, but the theme will stay the same. Check out 15 for ’15, 16 for ’16, and 17 for ’17 as well! Here are now 18 ideas that you can try out in your classroom/school for the new year:

1) Ditch that worksheet: Save a tree or two. Raise engagement. Fuel that creativity deep inside! Ditch the drill sheet and challenge the students with something exciting!
2) Make a video: As smart phones get smarter, so are the apps. It is so easy to make and edit videos these days. One of the easiest apps I have found is iMovie for the iPhone. Use the videos that you record on your phone and bring them right into the app to easily edit into fun videos for your class.
3) Flipgrid: Probably my favorite app of the year. I just love how it allows individuals/groups to not only record their own products (videos), but you can share them on a common platform so others can see.
4) Chalkboard paint: The first thing I did when I got my new office was to paint a wall with blackboard paint. It opened this world of opportunity to create and celebrate. More on that next. If you get permission from your administrator, I totally encourage you to try it out! 
5) Celebrate the AWESOME: One of the primary uses of my chalkboard wall is to celebrate students being “AWESOME.” It’s so easy getting inundated with the bad behaviors that we forget how many kids are always doing the right things. I love when teachers send kids to my office for being AWESOME so they can sign the wall. But after they sign the wall …
6) Make positive phone calls home: This simple phone call home to tell a parent that their child is being awesome has been a culture changer for me. Parents are always scared at first when I call since they think something is wrong, but you’ll change their day if you just share that their kid is being awesome and you wanted to let them know.   
7) Pajama Day: Tell the kids it’s pajama day tomorrow! Head over to Walmart. Find yourself the most ridiculous adult onsie you can find and wear it like a champ! You’ll never have so much fun!
8) Ride the bus to school: Get some colleagues together and surprise the kids at the bus stop in the morning by riding the bus to school with them! It’s a lot of fun and the kids are shocked! It helps to have someone drop the group off so there’s not a car left behind.
9) Watch DOGS: One of my proudest installments as principal has been the implementation of the Watch DOGS program. It’s a great way to bring positive male role models into the school. I’ve loved seeing our dads, uncles, grandpas, and community members take part in this program!  
10) Get an author to Skype with you: Authors are real people too. And most of them that I personally know are quite friendly. With technology so accessible these days, it’s not hard for an author to Skype or Facetime in with your class after you read their book. Plus the kids think it’s amazing. 
11) Get a classroom pet: Hamster, fish, gerbil, snake. It doesn’t matter what kind of pet it is; the kids will flip out! Just make sure you check out for allergies first!
12) Bowtie Tuesdays: I’m definitely not the creator of this idea, but I’ve loved jumping on board with many other schools by wearing bowties on Tuesdays. Why Tuesday? Who knows. But it’s a lot of fun and the kids get into it as well!
13) Social media goals: Set a goal with your social media outlets. Don’t have Twitter? Create a profile. You have 100 followers? Aim for 150 by the end of the year. You post once a month? Set a goal to post once a week. Raise the bar wherever you are and join in on the social media fun and learning!
14) Visit another school: You can learn a lot just by seeing what others are doing. Ask your principal to visit a neighboring school, but also invite them to come watch you. 
15) Share your story: Everyone’s got a story to tell. Use platforms like blogs or podcasts to share your story. You could even try to write it in a book. You’d be shocked how much people will love hearing about your life.
16) Rethink homework: This is mostly for elementary folks, but there’s virtually no research support that shows homework in the primary grades has impact on learning. Consider ways to engage students in family tasks or social-emotional learning outside of school. It’s a huge shift, for sure, but one that many have reported changed the dynamics of their classroom.
17) Recognize talent: As a principal now, I am always looking for ways to bring out the leadership potential of my staff. Whether it’s art skills, social skills, organizational skills, the more distribution of leadership you have around you, the stronger my school will be. The same can be said for your students. The more opportunities you give to students to be leaders using their strengths, the stronger your classroom will be.
18) Check out The Limitless School: This last one is a more of a PSA, but my buddy Abe and I are excited to release our new book this spring, The Limitless School: Creative Ways to Solve the Culture Puzzle. We’d love for you to check it out!
Happy 2018!

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