5 Podcasts Every Teacher Should Listen To

5 Podcasts Every Teacher Should Listen To

One of the greatest life hacks I’ve ever learned came from Darren Hardy in his book, The Compound Effect, where he encourages readers to “Enroll in Drive-Time University.” Now this isn’t just any school… This means transforming your car into your own personalized mobile classroom by listening to inspiring and educational audio while you drive.

Have you ever thought about how many hours you spend driving? I spend about 50 minutes in my car every day just driving to and from school. Multiply this by five days a week and there’s 250 minutes a week. Prior to enrolling in Drive-Time U, I was spending those minutes unconsciously zoning out, listening to mindless garbage on the radio! The AAA Foundation did a study and found the average person spends 17,600 minutes a year driving! Imagine if you spent those minutes learning instead of daydreaming… Continue reading “5 Podcasts Every Teacher Should Listen To”


5 Life Lessons Learned from the #CardboardChallenge

One of our most passionate beliefs when it comes to teaching is that school should be more than just a place for content delivery and instruction. School should be a place that inspires creativity and innovation and prepares kids to be successful in whatever they choose to do after their schooling. One way we set out to do this with our 4th graders throughout the year is through creating epic learning experiences with Project-Based Learning.

The first week of school Grayson brought up the idea of doing the Cardboard Challenge inspired by the viral video, Caine’s Arcade. If you don’t know Caine’s amazing story of how he turned his father’s car shop into a cardboard arcade over summer vacation, watch the video below to learn his story. This video went viral and has started an entire movement in schools to foster creativity and innovation by taking place in the Cardboard Challenge. Continue reading “5 Life Lessons Learned from the #CardboardChallenge”


New Year #TeacherGoals

Welcome back to the new school year! We hope your summer was as great as ours! I (Zach) took a 10 day trip through the Canadian Rocky Mountains with my brother while Grayson and his family went to Arizona to hike the Grand Canyon. As awesome as summer was, we’re both ready for a new year, new excitement, new challenges, and great new students! While we took a break from blogging over the summer, we definitely didn’t turn our minds off of school. We attended and presented and many conferences and read many new educational books to fire us up for the new year!

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If you have been following our blog, you know that last year we removed the wall between our two classrooms and we co-taught a class of 56 4th grade students. We had an amazing year and loved the experience. Last week the numbers in our building rose and we had to close the wall with the addition of a new section in our grade level. As sad as it was, we are so happy to welcome our student teacher from last year, Amanda Oppenlander (@MsOppenlander), to our 4th grade Dream Team!

With the new year, comes many new goals for us. This post will outline our most ambitious goals which will be followed up in more in depth individual posts throughout the year as we progress.

Goal #1: Make All Instructional Decisions With Our Kids in Mind

One of the books I read this summer was Kids Deserve It by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome and it really brought me back to my why of teaching. I teach for the kids. Plain and simple. One graphic found on twitter had these three questions below. This year, the goal is to try and make all decisions with these questions in mind. If the answer is no, then we will rethink how we can modify the task to answer yes one of the questions below.

Will this increase my students’ love of learning?

Will this empower my students to achieve their academic/creative potential?

Will this position them for greater thinking and creativity in the future?

Goal #2: Rethinking Homework

This summer we have read many articles and books around the Great Homework Debate. I (Zach) have never been a huge fan of homework. I truly believe that our kids work REALLY hard all day in school and deserve a break when they go home I also grew up playing hockey and other sports. With certainty, I can say that the lessons I learned playing sports have shaped my life more so than any homework assignment I ever did and I lost more sleep that was probably healthy trying to cram in homework after sporting events.

I also know that the stress and added pressures of homework made me frustrated at my teachers and with school in general. I often found myself using the dreaded phrase, “I hate school.” I believe that school should be a place that kids WANT to come to and I also want my students to have the same extracurricular opportunities that I had. I would never want a massive homework load prevent them from doing so.

Additionally (and maybe most importantly), research has found no evidence that homework has a positive effect on elementary aged students. John Hattie’s 15 year analysis of over ¼ of a billion students worldwide has enabled him to identify what really aids student achievement. Specifically, homework has been found to have NO effect on the progress of primary school children. Not only does it fail to improve the academic performance of elementary students, but it might actually be damaging to kids’ attitudes toward school, and to their physical health. In a review of available research studies, Harris Cooper, a leading researcher who has spent decades studying the effect of homework, concluded that “there is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students.”

The exception of course is independent nightly reading of self selected texts. Study after study proves that students who read every night show exceptional gains and many benefits. Below is my favorite graphic to prove this.

By rethinking other homework and not weighing kids down with math worksheets, it will free up time to read which is proven to help a child succeed in school and life!

Fun Fact: Ask Warren Buffett why he believes he is successful and he will attribute to reading. When he was starting out he claims to have spent 80% of his day reading! He would read 600-1,000 pages a day and to this day he reads 500 pages a day (Read here for reading habits of ultra-successful people!).

We are not here to say that “ALL HOMEWORK IS BAD!” and that it should all be thrown out. Our goal this year is to rethink homework and make sure if we give assignments that they are meaningful, purposeful and not just busy work.

Goal #3: Providing more Project-Based and Service-Based Learning opportunities for our students

Last year, we really dove into Project-Based Learning (PBL) in social studies and science and we both believe that it was a huge success in our classroom. We found over and over that our students blew us away with their creativity and passion when it came to subjects that students in the past have considered dry and boring. By replacing traditional multiple choice assessments with more authentic projects students engagement and buy-in were so much higher and they were empowered to share their knowledge with our class and with the world.

The shift in our thinking this year is going to be to make PBL more apart of the learning process and not just an extension after the unit. We found that students were learning more from the research and project phase because they had a higher buy-in and were much more excited then the traditional lecture.

One inspiration we had over the summer was listening to Trevor Muir’s keynote and meeting him at an edtech event. He explained his launch cycle of “Epic Projects” which has inspired us to ramp up our PBL this year. Reading Trevor’s book, The Epic Classroom, also brought tons of inspiration of how we can authentically position our students to make the world a better place.


Goal #4: Utilizing Skype to connect our students to experts and students around the world

Last year, we dabbled with Skype in the classroom and did a few virtual field trips and Mystery Skype and they proved to be great learning opportunities for our students. This year, we plan on doing many more and seeking out places to do virtual field trips that would fit into our curriculum. It used to be that teachers were the smartest person in the room but with technology that has changed. If we want kids to learn about space, why not let them Skype with an astronaut if at all possible? We believe our #KidsDeserveIt!

We will continue to update each of these goals in separate posts as the year progresses. What are your #TeacherGoals for this upcoming school year? Comment below and have a great start to your year!

Gift #6 – Making a Positive Impact on The World

For years in college classes and in various new teacher training’s, I was told over and over that the larger purpose of school and education is “to prepare students to participate in America’s democratic society.” While this is based off of the highly regarded work of John Dewey, I have to admit, I’ve always had a problem with this definition.

To me, this definition is like when teachers used to say that I would need to know whatever they were teaching “when I got to the real world.” Can you think of a less motivating reason than that to get a kid engaged in learning? I can’t. When I heard that as a kid, I thought, “Phew, I’m off the hook… I won’t need to know this for another 15 years!”

My beef with John Dewey’s definition is that based on his idea, we are preparing students to be a citizen in our society someday in the future. Shouldn’t we be preparing kids to be apart of our society and world right now? Shouldn’t we be encouraging them that they can and should be making a positive impact on the world now? No one said you have wait until you’re 18 before you make a world a better place.

Below I will explain how I encourage my students to be positive and productive citizens, right here and now.

Continue reading “Gift #6 – Making a Positive Impact on The World”

Positive Energy, Powerful Results

The Seven Greatest Gifts We Can Give Our Students

“You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind

The scene was 2003 and the Berkley Bears hockey team was losing by three goals late in the second period of a semifinal playoff game. Players’ heads sagged on the bench, the team looked down and out. Unless of course, you looked behind the bench. There, you would undoubtedly find one particular coach pacing up and down, energy as high as ever, yelling to the players, “All we need is one, boys! All we need is one!” That coach was my dad and one of the earliest and most important lessons he taught me was the power of positivity. This is a lesson I try to teach my students every day and one of the greatest gifts we as teachers can give to our students.

Continue reading “Positive Energy, Powerful Results”

Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life

The Seven Greatest Gifts We Can Give Our Students –  Gift #2

Another essential gift we must give to our students is the power to believe in themselves. We need  students to believe that with hard work and effort, they can achieve anything they set their minds too. Too many people go through life doubting themselves and being afraid to follow their dreams. We must give students the gift of knowing that if they change their mindset, they can change their life!

Luckily, Dr. Carol Dweck has brought the idea of developing students mindsets to the forefront of education and I am very grateful for her work. In her amazing book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck defines two contrasting mindsets that people generally fall into; a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.

Continue reading “Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life”

7 Days of 7 Secrets: The Greatest Gifts We Can Give Our Students

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! We hope your students are showering you with the well-deserved praise and appreciation that you deserve. We would like to mark this occasion with a series of short blog posts that will help you show YOUR appreciation of your STUDENTS! We are going to post a mini-series of articles explaining the greatest gifts we can give our students (No, we are NOT talking about Fidget Spinners again). We are talking about the knowledge and skills that kids need to be successful in life. We believe that we need to teach kids the real skills they are going to need to be successful in the world, no matter what career, college, or community they end up in. So, enjoy the gifts you receive this week, and pay them back a hundredfold with these!

Gift #1: The Big Secret to Success

Continue reading “7 Days of 7 Secrets: The Greatest Gifts We Can Give Our Students”