Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Discover - My Australia Adventure

14 months ago I discovered twitter as a teacher -- and not a soccer fan (I joined Twitter in April of 2013 and lurked for about a month...)

13 months ago I discovered that Skype could change my classroom-- and not just connect me with my brother (I'll never forget the day. I got an account, sent out some messages and got so many replies in return I didn't know what to do. The first reply was from a teacher in Australia, Jacqui, and we ended up Skyping with our students on our second to last day of school. If you're interested in my first experiences with Skype in the Classroom, you can read more here.)

10 months ago I discovered that a connection does not have to end with the good bye at the end of a Skype call. (In August, Jacqui contacted me to be a guest speaker via Skype on a geography project and that's when we discovered that the furthest city from where I live is PERTH, Australia.)

9 months ago I discovered what it's like to have students from 11,000 miles away IMPACT one another. (In September, I contacted Jacqui to share in our Dot Day project. She sent the following video that inspired my students to create a video to send back as a reply.)
8 months ago I discovered the power of shared videos and games. In October, Jacqui and I began comparing our curriculum and we agreed to begin a weekly video sharing series where we would share about our schools, community and current content. We also began playing the first of many games - Battleship. You can find out more about how we began our global classroom here.)

7 months ago I discovered the power of a book... We began sending packages in November and the book "The Red Tree" that was sent to us helped my students and I cope with an unfortunate situation that happened in our community. You can read about that story here.)

6 months ago I discovered that my students could calm another student's fears as she moved half a world away. One of Jacqui's students moved from Perth to Boston in December. She said that because of our global classroom connection she wasn't nearly as nervous to move to the US. Here's a poem my students wrote for her and read to her via Skype.

5 months ago I discovered that our classroom felt an emptiness when our global classmates were on 'summer break' (Because our seasons are reversed, Jacqui's class is on summer break from Dec-Jan. After three months of constant communication, we were lost when we didn't have games to play or videos to watch. However, it was a perfect way to teach opposite seasons on opposite hemispheres!)

4 months ago I discovered what it's like to co-teach a math lesson via Skype (I taught Jacqui's students the partial products method of multiplication via Skype.)

3 months ago I discovered what it's like when you tell eleven year olds you're coming to visit via Skype.  (We decided to surprise the students via Skype with news of my upcoming trip. There was a lot of screaming....) 
Best quotes from the call: 
"I'll get to hug you!" 
"That's my birthday present!"
"Adam's in tears right now!"

2 months ago I discovered that every package you send overseas may not always get to its desired destination  (In one of our weekly videos, the students talked about girl scout cookies. After finding out that the students in Perth had never had girls scout cookies we decided to send them some...However, the package we sent never arrived...They sent us Caramello Koalas along with a night light that luckily did arrive.

1 month ago I discovered what an Australian night light looks like in an American outlet. (We did an experiment to determine if different amounts of electricity would affect the light from the same night light. This was our second international science experiment.)

1 week ago I discovered what's it's like to build relationships inside a soccer stadium with students on another continent (Students in Jacqui's class got to witness a few minutes of a Columbus Crew match and view the skyline of our beautiful city as dark clouds overtook it all via Skype! After the game we talked about Soccer, the World Cup and Lionel Messi :) 
Connecting my students with others around the globe and encouraging them to be curious about the world has had an amazingly unintended consequence: I became more curious about the world.  I began to ask more questions. I wanted to know more about places I have never been. I wanted to experience things I have never done. I wanted to discover..... so:

On Sunday, June 15th I leave for Australia.
I will be gone 34 days.
I will be in the air for a total of 2 days 5 hours 47 minutes during my trip.
I will travel over 24,000 miles.
I will see New York and LA both through the clouds.
I will cross the international date line.
I won't realize June 16th occurred. 
I will see the Pacific Ocean for the first time, but I'll need to look east to do so.
I will attend my first international conference.
I will experience the Outback in all its glory.
I will see the sun set on the Indian Ocean.
I will gaze into the night sky and see the same moon reversed from the way I left it.
I will experience 'winter' in July.
I will visit Sydney, Perth and Broome.
I will meet the students who have touched my heart.
I will meet the teacher who has inspired me and impacted me in so many ways...

But what will I discover?
About education?
About the world?
About life?
About myself?

What will I discover on my 34 day excursion?
I'm not exactly sure.
And that's the exact reason why I must go.....
I created this adventure for myself
And it all started with the yearning to 

You don't need to leave the hemisphere, continent, country, state, town or even your home to discover. What will you discover over the next month? What will you learn and how will you grow? Have an open mind and always be willing to discover...

Interested in following my journey? I will post pictures as often as possible on Instagram:

Thanks for reading and happy discovering! 

Oh and I would have to agree with Kyla....I love global classroom too!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My One Year Blogiversary

I haven't blogged as much as I would have liked over the last 6 months, but today I decided to work on a few posts that I've been meaning to write. Oddly enough, today is the one year anniversary of my first post on this blog. Curious as to why this blog is titled Hate Chalk? You can find out by reading my first post by clicking here :)

If you haven't taken the leap yet into the world of blogging, try it out this summer. Just remember, you don't have to make all your posts public but by sharing your thoughts with others you will hopefully grow from the feedback that you will receive while potentially helping others in the process. You will also have an archive of your thoughts, reflections, lesson ideas, etc. It's a win-win for everyone involved :)

I would also suggest setting a blogging goal. You don't have to post daily and be careful to not make blogging 'work.' One post a week? Two posts a month? Make it a manageable goal. However, setting a goal is important because if you don't, you may go for months without a post like I did!

Also, if you're looking for some great blogs to follow I would suggest the following group.  They all have different styles, but have provided me with great insight and inspiration over the last year:

Brown Room 18 Groovy Classroom Blog by Jennifer Regruth (@JennRegruth)
-Excellent class blog bound to inspire!

Engage Their Minds by Terri Eichholz (@terrieichholz)
-Short, practical great ideas to use in the classroom

Kleinspiration by Erin Klein (@kleinerin)
Amazing posts about innovative ideas for classroom teachers

Compassion Based Learning by Oliver Shinkten (@schink10)
-Thought-provoking blog by an incredibly passionate educator

My Own Genius Hour by Joy Kirr (@joykirr)
Great reflections and examples from an inspiring ELA teacher.

The Power of Appreciation by Joy Kirr and team
YOU can be the author of a post on this blog to thank others who have impacted your life.

Two Guys and Some iPads by Brad Waid (techbradwaid) and Drew Minock (@techminock)
-Wonderful technology tips about apps, Augmented Reality and much more.

Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension by Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp)
-Well-written and thought provoking posts by the creator of the Global Read Aloud. (Here's a link to the OTHER blogs Pernille writes as well...)

Bailey and Derek's Daddy by Jon Harper (@jonharper70bd)
-Beautifully written posts about education and life by a reflective educator

From Effective to Excellent by Ryan McLane (@McLane_Ryan)
-Amazing ideas by an innovative leader

Colorful Principal by Ben Gilpen (@benjamingilpen)
-Excellent blog that includes "Articles Worth Reading" and "Videos Worth Watching" in each post.

Ninja Reflections on Education by Todd Nesloney (@techninjatodd)
-Succinct, creative, great ideas by an inspiring educator

Technically Yours, Teaman by Amber Teaman (@8Amber8)
-Short, fun, insightful posts from a connected administrator

Passion...Purpose...Pride by Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy)
-The title of this blog says it all. It is full of passion, purpose and pride - a must read for all educators.

Education and Motivation by Daisey Dyer Duerr (@DaiseyDyerDuerr)
-Well written and full of inspiration

Taught by Finland by Tim Walker (@timdwalk)
-Really interesting insights from an American teacher in a Finnish school

Thank you to all those who blog and put so much time into sharing your thoughts with a broader community. It took me forever to finish this post because I got sidetracked reading so many of the posts from the blogs above! Please be sure to add links to other blogs that you enjoy reading in the comment section below.

Also, thank you to those who read this blog or have commented on any posts over the last year. My goal for the coming year is to post more frequent, shorter posts that give more insight into my classroom and my thoughts as an educator. I hope you will join me for the ride over the next year.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

So Much More (A Poem for My Students)

Next week is our state testing. I wrote the poem below for my students and thought I would share it on my blog as well. Just an FYI: We will be testing on May 1 and June 2 is our last day of school.

So Much More:
You’re more than a score
More than a number
You are unique.
A class to remember.

I see the potential in you.
I see how you’ve grown.
I’ve seen your fears.
And the kindness you’ve shown

So when that day comes
To take the test
Realize you’ve been challenged each day
To do your best.

May 1st is no different
Than day 1,
And when June  2nd comes 
Your work isn’t done. 

It doesn’t start with the test
And doesn’t end there.
I want you to take what you’ve learned
And continue to share.

You don’t only have potential
You have so much more…
In my eyes you’re not a number -
You're not a test score.

You’re an artist
And a singer
A dancer
And believer
You’re a gamer
And a player
A friend
And truth sayer
You’re a daughter
you are a son
A unique individual
The only ONE.

But you just haven’t made
Your family proud
You innocently love life
And each day show me how.

You’ve cried for each other
And reminded me to smile.
You made an impact on me
That will last a while.

You’re a great class
Down to your core
Please know,
life’s not about

-Written: April 5, 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014


This winter has been one for the record books....Lots of snow, ice, cold temperatures, etc. When I was a kid, I distinctly remember having all four seasons but I heard the other day that we now really only have two seasons: Winter and Construction.


I love that joke. If you live in an area that has harsh weather, you likely know what I'm talking about. The snow plows and salt tear up the road so badly, then if it's not snowing or icing, the hard working construction crews are out in full force trying to repair the pothole-ridden roads.

Yesterday I was riding with my sister and as we approached the highway we planned on taking, we saw taillights as far as the eye could see. Being impatient (or smart) we decided to go another direction. However, I remembered reading on Twitter that the major highway we were headed to was going to be closed for 6 hours due to pothole repair. I hopped on Twitter to double check ODOT's account and look at one of my favorite apps, WAZE, to see the real time traffic and reports from other drivers.

With information on what was ahead of us and as the orange construction signs approached, we decided to veer off the interstate and create our own little detour. We took side roads and back streets and finally found our way to a road paralleling the interstate. All we had to do was go one more mile and we would miss all the construction. However, what stood in our way again?  More orange construction cones and signs. The street right ahead of us was totally blocked off with orange cones and large "Road Closed" signs.

This time, we only had to go around the block and we were back on track. As we could see the on-ramp up ahead, I looked at my sister, put my index finger in the air and declared "We will not be deterred!" Still, surrounded by orange nearly in all directions, we both looked at one another and said nearly simultaneously, "But we may be DETOURED!"

We had a good laugh and finally continued on our way....

Think about it though. In life and especially education, how many roadblocks stand in our way? How many times do we plan and plan and plan and then the unexpected happens and, on the fly, we have to adjust. 

Sometimes the detours are short - "just around the block" type of detours

Other times the detours are long -  "use another highway" type of detours. 

Typically, when I see a detour sign, I'm frustrated because it means I can't go in the direction that I wanted. But really, I should be thankful, because at least it's helping me get to where I want to go. Without detours we would be totally lost and may not even reach our destination. 

But life, as opposed to driving, doesn't have large orange 'detour' signs pointing us to our desired destination.  We must forge new paths in sometimes untraveled territory. We must be creative to figure out how to still achieve our goals even when faced with adversity. We must realize that sometimes we need to seek out help through a variety of means along the way...

So, what destinations are you trying to reach right now as an educator?

What roadblocks are in your way?

What detours are you going to use to get there?

In the end, when something stands in our way we need the DETOURS to lead us to our final destination. We must have the attitude that we can not let anything stop us from achieving our goal. Some days the ride is smooth, and some days potholes and 'road closed' signs stand in our way. But even if we have to use the detours, we must try our best to do all we can to reach our destination - so we can raise our index fingers in the air and successfully declare, "I will not be DETERRED!" 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

That Sinking Feeling

I've said throughout my whole life that I never got "the car gene." My grandfather owned a Chevy dealership when my dad was a kid and my dad has always had an affinity for cars, especially corvettes. He passed on his love of cars to my sister and brother, but I never was one to get too excited about them. When my dad was younger he had two vettes - a blue '68 and an orange '72, but as legend has it, he sold the cars when he got married to 'have kids.' He's a great dad and he instilled in each of us the qualities of hard work, perseverance and determination. My dad never wants much and is always happy with just the basics in life. He worked in an aluminum factory for all of my childhood and eight years ago when the workers went on strike and he was out of work, he got a job in a coal mine an hour away. He's nearly 70 and most times works seven days a week underground...

Two years ago, we decided it was time - time to get something that he has worked his whole life for: another corvette. Of course, my sister and brother took more of an interest than I did. They ordered the customized black 2013 vette and within 6 months it was ours (not his). He wanted us all to share in his joy. 

Instead of having the car delivered to us, we decided to get 'museum delivery.' We drove the five hours to Bowling Green, Kentucky together, knowing that on the way home we would be in two cars. We first took a tour of the corvette assembly plant, which honestly was one of my highlights. It's amazing in the plant. So much organization. Everything worked like clockwork. The workers smiled as we were led on our tour and it was evident that they were proud of the masterpieces they were creating.

Next, we went to the Corvette Museum. We had been there about ten years prior but I remember this trip much more vividly solely because when we walked in, one of the eight cars that sat in the main lobby area was 'ours.' The museum has installed security cameras in this area and some of our family members were able to watch online as my dad received the keys to our corvette! 

After getting the keys we took a guided tour of the museum. My favorite part was the uniquely built Skydome. The structure was incredible, the cars are rare and the story told in the building is amazing. The walls and celling are lined with the faces of major contributors to Corvette history. The car that I most remember is the 1983 corvette for two reasons. Not only because I was born in 1983, but because it is the ONLY 1983 corvette left because the cars never went to production that year. 

The "Skydome" Courtesy of @CorevetteMuseum's Twitter Account

Inside the Skydome
Courtesy of The Corvette Museum's YouTube account

We enjoyed the rest of our stay in Bowling Green and then made our journey home - in two cars. My dad wanted each of us to drive part of the way home and we did just that. I remember not wanting to drive it for fear that I would wreck and damage it, but I drove it for nearly the last hour of the trip -- the most I've driven it to date. 

The fun didn't stop when we got the corvette. We now take it to car shows and it's a way for our family to bond together. We also ordered two special puzzles of the corvette that we made together:
A puzzle of our corvette in front of a mural at the Corvette Plant in Bowling Green, KY.

Puzzle #2

I haven't thought about our trip to Bowling Green for over a year and a half, that is until this past week. On Wednesday, Feb. 12, something so bizarre happened that at first, I thought it was a joke. There was a sinkhole INSIDE the Skydome of the Corvette Museum. Sinkholes may not be that uncommon in that part of the US, but for one to occur beneath the exact part of the museum that houses the rarest cars is not only unfortunate but nearly unfathomable. Here's the security camera footage of the sinkhole:
Courtesy of The Corvette Museum's YouTube Channel

After realizing that the news was true, I was unexpectedly saddened - I ironically had a sinking feeling in my stomach.  It was an odd feeling because corvettes/cars have never meant much to me. But I slowly started to realize, it was more than the cars that I was upset about. I thought about the people who designed and built the Skydome and how they must have felt in some way responsible. I thought about those who build the corvettes with pride and love. I thought about the great people we met on our trip who work at the museum. I thought about the rarity of the cars (the one millionth corvette, the 1.5 millionth corvette, etc.) I thought about standing on that exact spot like thousands of visitors had done before and the fact that it occurred during the early morning hours and that no one was injured. After realizing that cars were swallowed up by the 40 foot wide, 30 foot deep sinkhole, my first question was if the 1983 vette was one. Luckily it was spared, but eight others weren't as lucky...
 My dad with the "Blue Devil" in June 2012

The Blue Devil at the bottom of the sink hole
Courtesy of @CorvetteMuseum's Twitter Account

Feeling sad, I called my dad and although he talked with a sense of disbelief he also shared a message of hope. He said that he believed the cars would be recovered and restored. I thought, on the other hand, that the hole would be filled and the cars buried in the process. (Most of the cars appear buried as it is.) However, after reading a few articles and listening to some press conferences, the Corvette Museum's plan is more in line with my dad's initial thoughts.

Over the last few days they have released information on their website, Twitter account, etc. that expresses such a positive message. The plan is for the Skydome to be repaired and reopened, and the cars to be recovered and restored all in time for the Museum's 20th Anniversary celebration in August. Nowhere in the press conferences or releases was there a sense of self-pity. On the other hand, phrases like "just another obstacle," "teamwork," "together," and "family" were used over and over again....

It's an amazing story of hope, perseverance, determination, ingenuity, and love. I feel more a part of the corvette family now than I ever did. To me, it's not about the beauty of the cars, but the PEOPLE who make the corvette experience so unique. It may have just taken this unbelievable occurrence for me to realize it....

So when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When a sinkhole swallows eight rare corvettes, instead of burying them, create a plan for recovery and celebration. And in the mean time, laugh at the absurdity of it all....

Courtesy of @CorvetteMuseum's Twitter Account

Good luck to the museum workers, structural engineers, construction company, etc. who will be a part of this huge undertaking! And if you need any help, you may want to call on my dad. He embodies the qualities of perseverance, determination and hard work... oh, and he knows a little bit about working underground! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

FREEzing PD - EdcampHome

Half the US is in a deep freeze thanks to a record breaking Polar Vortex that is sweeping the nation. Highs are in the negatives, wind chills have reached as low as negative 70 and some cities have posted temperatures colder than the South Pole!  Many schools that should have gone back on Monday after the Christmas break, had "Freeze Days" instead of "Snow Days" because of the dangerously cold temperatures. If you have some extra time off this week because of the weather, you may want to use it to catch up on the incredible event that took place this past Saturday.

EdcampHome 2.0 was another huge success. The organizers impressed again as they were able to pull off another FREE PD event from the comfort of homes all over the world. So, if you missed out on this Free PD opportunity, and have time this week because of the weather, you may want to take part in some "FREEzingPD" :)

Here are screenshots from the sessions. Click on the screenshot and it will take you to the EdcampHome site where you can access the videos!

Session 1:

Session 2
*Short tips, suggestions, etc. from the participants! 

Thank you to everyone who participated and shared during EdcampHome and especially thanks to the organizers:
David Theriault (@davidtedu)
Karl Lindgren-Striecher (@LS_Karl)
Kelly Kermode (@coachk)
Shawn White (@swpax)

Not only is it a great source of PD, but it's also a great way to learn about new people to follow on Twitter. Thanks to EdcampHome 1.0, I have learned SO much from Joy Kirr (@joykirr), Garnet Hillman (@garnet_hillma), Victoria Olson (@MsVictoriaOlson), etc - all amazing educators that the first Edcamp introduced me to! I remember watching the different sessions and going straight to Twitter to follow these great minds! I hope you have the same experience this time around!  Here's my write up on EdcampHome 1.0 that has links to all the sessions and slams from the first EdcampHome in July 2013.

So grab a blanket, a hot chocolate and sit back and take in some amazing FREEzing PD. Stay warm!
Of course...I know the whole world is not experiencing temperatures like the US! My students and I always compare our weather to our partner class's weather in Perth, Australia......Here are the screenshots....

Yea, Perth's high on Saturday is 100......That's all.....

So, if you're in Perth, or some other place on Earth lucky enough to have warmer weather right now, feel free to still take advantage of the FREE PD above :)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

No Excuses - My Kyle Maynard Story

I wanted to write a reflective piece on the year and what I've learned during 2013. Twitter has opened my world up to so many experiences and new opportunities as a teacher: Flipped Classroom, Skype in the Classroom, Global Classroom, etc. But today I would like to tell another that didn't even happen in 2013.....

The Idea:
In May of 2012, I was assigned to be our school's Anti-Bullying coordinator. I also was in charge of a full day event called Choices Day that was scheduled for Oct. 5, 2012. After seeing the video below in early August, I knew that I wanted Kyle Maynard (@KyleMaynard) to be our keynote speaker for Choices Day - a day dedicated to helping students make good choices in the areas of Health, Safety and Character. Kyle, a quadruple amputee from birth, not only has an amazing story but an equally amazing spirit.  Please take three minutes to watch this incredible video:

After viewing the above video, I knew I had to get Kyle to my school to share his message in person. I reached out to his publicist, Joey Leonardo, (@JosephLeonardo) to inquire about a possible appearance and the fee associated. Joey informed me that Kyle was already booked on Oct. 5 and that they could possibly schedule a visit to my school when they were in Cleveland or Cincinnati. I was disappointed, but not deterred. He also informed me of his typical speaking fee but said it was negotiable, which of course I appreciated.

Joey and I kept in contact for the next several months and in late October I got the email I had hoped for! Kyle was scheduled to visit a school in Dayton and was willing to drive to my school near Columbus to speak.....I know it sounds crazy, but instead of being ecstatic....I was terribly disheartened.....

The Roadblocks:
Also in October, we got news that our school (for the first time I think in our school’s history) was rated as a “Least Effective School.” Our end of the year test scores did not meet what the state deems as effective and it was a big hit for our staff. We were embarrassed. We felt like we let each other, our administration, our district, our community and our students down. The subsequent staff meetings that followed were difficult and very stressful. We were told we had to go through a year long state mandated review process that requires us to change many of our school’s policies and practices. Therefore, my principal said we had to take a hard look at what we do that takes our focus away from the academic areas we need to teach. 

Throughout the process my staff fought for LESS outside of the classroom so we could focus on what we needed to teach within the classroom. Less assemblies, less weekly initiatives, less paperwork, less of anything that didn't directly relate to the curriculum.... We were overwhelmed to say the least.

That was the attitude of my staff in late October when Joey emailed me and told me about the trip to Dayton and that they would be willing to drive to Columbus with no extra expenses besides the speaking fee. If it were at any other point I would have hit the roof. But I didn’t. I was discouraged and disappointed. I was burnt out and thought that I couldn’t propose “one more thing.” (In the modified plan I was going to cancel Anti-Bullying week altogether and asking for an assembly would not have even been an option.) I knew the funding would be difficult to get, the timing wasn’t right, the morale of our staff was the lowest it had ever been in the four years I’d been at the school, my principal had just told me to scale back some of my plans, and so much more.

I read Joey’s email on the way to Washington DC to visit my brother. My parents, sister and I rode together for six hours each way and I didn’t bring up that I had received an email from Joey. After arriving at my parents on the return trip home, I briefly mentioned to them that Joey emailed me with great news, but everything seemed wrong about the situation. They were surprised that I hadn’t talked about it the whole trip, or that I wasn’t already figuring out a plan to make it happen. They told me to think about it some more because I’ve never been one to give up.

So, when I arrived home I got on Kyle's website, watched the intro video again and got my answer. Ironically his mantra was what I needed to adopt. Kyle's message was NO EXCUSES right? And I got to thinking: Everything that was stopping me was just an excuse. The timing wasn't right. Everyone was frustrated - including myself. We most likely won't be able to raise the money. I couldn't ask for just one more thing. There’s no way I would be able to pull this off in just a few weeks -- But, I couldn’t make excuses! Honestly, the staff and I needed to hear Kyle's message just as much as the kids did! 

So, I went for it! And unbelievably within the next few weeks, we were able to secure the money from PTA and Student Council, my principal was on board and the idea was pitched to the staff. I work with a great staff whose priority is always the students. They were excited for Kyle's arrival and agreed to introduce his story before his appearance along with some other activities that we put together for Anti-Bullying Week. Here's a flyer we sent home to the parents:

The Appearance:
Kyle was gracious enough to speak to two separate groups - the 5th graders and the 6th graders. Many parents were able to come and staff members who typically aren't able to attend assemblies made it a point to hear Kyle's story. Kyle agreed to be interviewed for a few newspapers beforehand, posed for pictures before and after and of course gave two amazing assemblies. (He even wore our school's Anti-Bullying T-shirt :)

He wrote a special message for the students and signed his name on a large dry erase board...

He walked on his hands...
And even showed his skill in an impromptu cup-stacking competition!

He was funny, cordial, engaging and incredibly inspiring.

I didn't have a blog last November, but I did write a little about his appearance. Here's an excerpt:

Everything came together the second Kyle and Joey arrived.  The students were literally pounding on the doors to be let in to meet Kyle - I've never seen anything like it! Instead of getting in line for breakfast, they crowded around him as he signed his books before school started. They were respectful and polite and asked great questions. I was so proud of the students!

Afterward everyone wanted to meet Kyle and get their picture taken with him and I felt bad turning kids away. I could already hear the comments from the teachers and students “Best assembly we’ve ever had” “What an amazing story” “He’s so inspirational.” “I want to be like him!” “Not dead, don’t quit!” "Can he please stay longer?" and so on.

Unfortunately, after the second assembly, Kyle and Joey had to rush back on the road so they could make the appearance in Dayton. After they left, I grabbed my things and started walking back to class so I could hear my students’ reaction. I didn’t make it very far though, because I broke down. I just started crying right there in the hallway. I had watched so many of Kyle's videos online, I read his book and I knew what his message was about, but to have over 700 students, some families and our whole staff hear his inspirational message was too much for me. And to think just a few weeks prior I could have said "Thanks but no thanks." I learned a very important lesson right then and there: It's good to take risks. I could have easily been told "No," but thankfully the idea was supported by many people who could have prevented it! 

Over the next several days I had so many teachers, students, my principals and even a few parents tell me how incredible his message was. Kyle's message uplifted our staff as much as it did the student body. We continue to focus on building each other up and not tearing each other down - one of Kyle's main lessons. And even when our backs are against the wall, we don’t give up. We have such a wonderful job, although it is a very difficult one. We need to remain positive and I know Kyle's message will continue to be echoed through the halls of our school for a long time to come!

The Skype Call and Future Impact
Although Kyle visited our school in November, I don't think anyone in attendance will soon forget his message. After discovering Skype in the Classroom in May, I thought I would reach out to Joey again to see if Kyle could possibly set up a call with the students in my class. Of course, he found time to talk to my students during our last week of school. He showed us around his kitchen and where he plays video games. Every student who wanted to ask a question, got the chance via Skype. Of ALL the Skype calls we did at the end of the year, many students said Kyle's call was their favorite. 

This year, I have Kyle's picture hanging in my room next to a poster I made. 

Early in the year, many of my students asked me who I was pictured with and who wrote the sign. I briefly explained who Kyle was and I swore to my students that I was the one who made the sign. The students refused to believe me because it was so 'sloppy.' Little did they know that I wrote the message with my elbows - to try to put myself in "Kyle's shoes." It was an activity that all the students last year completed before Kyle's appearance. Many students said it was impossible, but after several tries and a lot of perseverance and encouragement the students also felt successful. More importantly they just had to remember to make NO EXCUSES! It was a great activity and one that I think helped the students relate to Kyle before his appearance. After telling the students this year that I wrote the sign with my elbows, their attitudes changed and they congratulated me on my success! It's funny how perspective can change everything!

The most amazing thing when I think about this story is that Kyle came to our school nearly fourteen months ago. He spoke for a little over an hour altogether and the impact he left is amazing. I still have students from last year talk to me about him and, just today, I had a student email me about Kyle. We still have signs in our school that read "No Excuses!" and we're hoping to get Kyle to come back again next year to speak to a new set of 5th and 6th graders. There are just certain people in this world who have the unique ability to make an amazing impact in such a short time. Kyle is one of those people. He's sincere, appreciative and approachable with a never-say-die attitude. There are numerous life lessons that both adults and students can learn from hearing Kyle's story, therefore....

The Recommendations:
I would recommend sharing Kyle's story with your students - no matter what grade level you teach! Here's a link to his site that includes the video above.

I would recommend sharing Kyle's story with your staff - there are times when we get discouraged, when we want to give up. It's important to remember that we can't give up even when our backs are against the wall!

I would recommend adopting Kyle's mantra of "No Excuses" and even trying the "Writing with Elbows" activity with your students. It's difficult, but great conversation and lessons will come from it!

I would recommend ordering a copy of Kyle's book for your classroom library - It's a great read and any wrestling lover will surely enjoy it! 

Finally, I would recommend looking into having Kyle speak at your school! Here's the information from his website.  Like anything in life, if you hit roadblocks, you may just have to find a creative way around them! 

I'd like to thank Kyle and Joey for what they do everyday to change lives. They are two people on a mission to spread an incredibly uplifting story and an even more important message. On November 15, 2012, they changed over 750 lives at my school - and I'm very thankful that mine was one of them.

Have a great 2014 - Make it the year of No Excuses!