John Wooden’s Poem about Teachers

“No written word

nor spoken plea

Can teach our youth

what they should be.

nor all the books

on all the shelves.

It’s what the teachers

are themselves.”

John Wooden, most winning men’s college basketball coach of all time

Remember Who We Are

We teach more with our lives than we ever could with our mouths. As teachers, we have a responsibility to not only live well but to teach well. For in living well, we do both.

The truth may set you free, but it will probably tick you off first.
The truth may set you free, but it will probably tick you off first. – Vicki Davis

When I share this at conferences, it gets tweeted a lot.

When we connect our students with the world, we are building bridges today that tomorrow will walk across. Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
8 ways to spark problem finders
FREE PDF: 8 Ways to Spark Problem Finders

 Questions should ignite learning. Curious kids never get bored. But why do young kids ask more than 100 questions a day and by middle school, they’ve stopped asking?

Recently when I talked with George Couros, author of the Innovator’s Mindset, he said,

“Do kids see problems and see themselves as solvers of those problems?”

Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question came on my radar this past Monday, when Angela Maiers shared his book on #MatteringMonday.

As I looked at Warren’s blog, I found this conversation with Richard Saul Wurman, creator of the original TED talks:

“In school, we’re rewarded for having the answer, not for asking a good question,” Wurman pointed out. Which may explain why kids—who start off asking endless “why” and “what if” questions—gradually ask fewer and fewer of them as they progress through grade school. (emphasis mine)

In the Newsweek article, the Creativity Crisis, they grappled with why US creativity scores are declining and found,

Overwhelmed by curriculum standards, American teachers warn there’s no room in the day for a creativity class. Kids are fortunate if they get an art class once or twice a week. But to scientists, this is a non sequitur, borne out of what University of Georgia’s Mark Runco calls “art bias.” The age-old belief that the arts have a special claim to creativity is unfounded. When scholars gave creativity tasks to both engineering majors and music majors, their scores laid down on an identical spectrum, with the same high averages and standard deviations. Inside their brains, the same thing was happening—ideas were being generated and evaluated on the fly. (emphasis mine)

Quite simply, we have to help our students find questions. And asking questions belongs in EVERY SINGLE CLASS. Not just “art” class or “music” class but math and history and science and literature. ALL OF THEM.

We have to encourage students to ask novel, creative questions that they cannot answer on Google.

As Angela Maiers says, we also have to ask students questions that show that they matter.

The Questions We Must Ask

  • What if we as a human race and society are not defined by our answers but what kind of questions we ask?
  • What if the next time you show a video or have a reading assignment, you asked students to create one amazing question and turn it in?
  • What if curiosity, question asking, and question seeking became part of our daily classroom routine?
  • What would school look like then?

Feel Free to Take the 8 Ways to Spark Problem Finders and ask these questions.

I made this infographic accompanying George’s show mentioned in the opener, but I’ve started getting messages from principals and others who are printing it out and putting it in break rooms and even in bathroom stalls for teachers to see. I have been asked for the PDF as it is easier to print, and made it for you. I hope this will spark conversations not just on problem finders but also the questions we encourage students to ask.

We need to spark problem finders. We need to encourage students to ask questions.

Download the Problem Finders PDF

I Dare You to Share your Beautiful Questions, here, on Twitter and beyond. 


Should we drop grades
Should we be averaging grades? Picture by Thomas Guskey

This graphic by Thomas Guskey Thomas Guskey is a fantastic challenge to whether we should be averaging grades — or honestly, if we shouldn’t just drop some BEFORE we average.

ONE THING I wish I could stop would be teachers who REFUSE TO DROP ANY GRADES EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Are you kidding? Who doesn’t have a bad day?

I guess it teaches “a lesson”, but I’m not sure what? A zero KILLS an average. It just KILLS it.

I’ve lived through having one of my children make all A’s and come back to school after an illness and bomb a test. The teacher wouldn’t drop the grade. She puffed up her chest when I asked and said,

“I never drop grades. It teaches responsibility. Plus, I’m a tough teacher. They need to know I mean business.”

My answer:

“My child shows by his test score that he doesn’t KNOW the material. Even if you decide to keep the grade, when are you going to TEACH it to him? Or can you give me the material so I can teach it to him?”

The answer was that it was time to move on. Are you kidding? TEACH. A zero is a battle cry to get busy and make sure they learn. Do something. But don’t just MOVE ON.

Ok, I am a teacher. I TEACH. I want kids to LEARN SOMETHING. I find that if a child makes a very low grade, I’m better off to call in the child and reteach and then do as I see fit. Sometimes I’ll give another test and average the two together. It depends on the situation.

Rae Pica said it well, and I paraphrase, We know that two snowflakes aren’t alike, then why do we think two kids will ever be alike?

Plus, if a child fails, I blame myself as much as the child.

I do tell kids I’m the scorekeeper. But I’m also the coach. I’m also the one who tells them to get back in the game and learn when they want to quit. I want to give everything I can to teach so they can learn.

But, in my opinion, letting a child just make a zero without following up, without additional teaching, without looking at the circumstances should reflect on me as a teacher. I’m not sure what you’ve seen, but in my experience, refusing to drop grades or evaluate the individual circumstances of a child makes me angry.

You can call me a softie. You can call me whatever you want. But you doggone well better call me a teacher. Because, in the end, they’ll learn what I have to teach no matter what it takes, they’ll learn. And that, to me, is what counts.

I’m a teacher.

Sometimes kids don’t need another person being harsh, what they really need is a second chance. As for me, I’m all about more chances to learn, even if it is more work on me.

As for me, I’m all about more chances to learn, even if it is more work on me.

I’m curious, what are your thoughts? If you don’t drop grades, how do you make sure that kids still learn the material? Please share. Perhaps there’s something I’m missing here.

This epic graphic was created by Thomas Guskey @tguskey and shared today on Justin Tarte’s blog(If you’re not reading Justin’s blog and following him on Twitter, you really should.)

Help students dig deep and ask their own questions.1
Help Students Dig Deep and Answer Their Own Questions
technology will never replace teachers
Will technology replace teachers? @gcouros @sylviaduckworth

“Technology will never replace great teachers, But technology in the hands of a great teacher can be transformational.” George Corous (sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth)

NOTE: This was incorrectly attributed to Erin Klein, thanks to Erin for clarifying this so we could attribute this to the correct author and to Sylvia for updating the sketchnote. Sorry, George – I’ll be retweeting it now! — Vicki 11/7/2015 

Will Technology Replace Teachers?

Technology is not your competition UNLESS…

  • Technology can easily replace a teacher who only uses worksheets.
  • Technology can easily replace a teacher who only gives multiple choice tests.
  • Technology can easily replace a teacher who only shows videos.
  • Technology can easily replace a teacher who follows a rote, conventional system of fill in the blank, drill and kill, and take a test.
  • Technology can easily replace a teacher whose students just read the book, memorize and watch a video.
So, are you replaceable? Are you stuck in a rut of rote, routine boredom or do you do things that matter to kids? Teaching is so much more than drill and kill and worksheets. We can be more.

Technology cannot replace a teacher IF…

  • Technology can never replace a teacher who knows and relates to every child as an individual and helps them find their strengths.
  • Technology can never replace a teacher who encourages students in design thinking to create unique projects.
  • Technology can never replace a teacher who helps kids do things that matter in the world.
  • Technology can never replace a teacher who teaches with a flourish, encourages with a smile, and busts routine with powerful learning experiences.
  • Technology can never replace a teacher who helps students do new, novel things to create and invent.
  • Technology can never replace a teacher who looks kids in the eye, understands their heartache, and flips that kid!
Are you getting to know each child? We can flip a kid with encouragement. We can tell parents about the unique strengths of each student. We can give kids a reason for wanting to come to school. We can engage them in unique, fun experiences that also teach. 

Technology can make you an even greater teacher IF…

  • Technology can make you a better teacher if you let students create unique things that matter to them and the world.
  • Technology can make you a better teacher if you harness it to do what it does well (like grading multiple choice), and you focus on doing unique things that make a difference (like coaching individual kids).
  • Technology can make you a better teacher if you connect kids with a global audience using it.
  • Technology can make you a better teacher if you find unique ways and tools to engage kids in learning.
  • Technology can make you a better teacher if you are open-minded enough to try new things.
  • Technology can make you a better teacher if you let it connect you with other teachers in your field who have great ideas.
Are you choosing to let technology make you a better teacher? Are you letting technology do what it does best? Are you unleashing your students or putting them on a leash? 

So, remember who you are. You are unique. You, dear teachers, are precious. You might be working harder than a one-legged cat in a sandbox, but if you’re doing work worth doing — in ways worth doing them — (unlike the cat), you’re making progress.

We all have the seeds of greatness inside us. You can reboot any day you choose. You can start over. Plan something epic and be the incredible teacher you can be.

Get your rest then be your best. Be that irreplaceable you! We can do this.

10 Ways to Improve Your Sketchbook
10 Ways to Improve Your Sketchbook

Sketchnoting is big. Why not encourage students to have their sketchbook for your class? This teacher did. In fact, this teacher is inspiring a growth mindset and curiosity with all he/she is saying about having a sketchbook.

Annotation, reflection, research! Look at the subtle cues for learning built into this graphic drawn by the teacher.

I love how the kids are inspired to be curious and investigate.

We don’t just need genius hour. Sketchbooks can become the journals and curiosity cabinets of today’s generation.

For more on Sketchnoting:

Source: The twenty-something wanderer on Tumblr posted this graphic in 2012 that his/her teacher had drawn and put on the wall. This poster is awesome.
Teaching Growth Mindset with these 10 Statements
Teaching Growth Mindset with 10 Growth Mindset Statements via @sylviaduckworth

We should all be teaching growth mindset principles. There are so many resources to bring this into your classroom. How do you teach a growth mindset? Here are my favorite resources. Please share yours in the comments.

Teaching Growth Mindset

  1. Show Carol Dweck’s TED Talk on Growth Mindset
  2. Show Students Sylvia Duckworth’s 10 Growth Mindsets Sketchnotes (above)
  3. Discuss the different statements.
  4. Come up with a fun way to “catch” people saying growth mindset statements.

Other Resources for Teaching a Growth Mindset

READ THE BOOK from Carol Dweck. Mindset has been a book study for many successful schools.

LISTEN to Principal Jayson Snyder. Jayson Snyder in “What Every Teacher Can Learn from a Title I School” episode of Every Classroom Matters shared the “Power of Yet” and how they emphasized it in their school.

HERE ON THIS BLOG. 4 Tips to Develop Great Teacher Leaders is a wildly popular post on this blog that also talks about another essential leadership book, Multipliers.


DECORATE YOUR CLASSROOM. Visit Pinterest, which has tons of Growth Mindset ideas for teachers.

START SAYING THE RIGHT THINGS. OK, don’t ever ever say “you are so smart,” instead, use one of these statements below. It is what you DO. Being smart implies that is what you are. Instead, we want students doing smart things, behaving in wise ways. Here are some growth mindset statements, I use. Please share yours.

  • You worked really hard on that.
  • I’m so proud of your progress!
  • You kept going, even when it is hard.
  • You have a tenacious attitude; I’m so proud that you never quit. And look at you, YOU DID IT!
  • You are unstoppable. Even when you struggle, you keep going.
  • You work well with other students. I like how you _____ (include everyone, listen to everyone, really worked hard to help everyone be part of the process — a true compliment.)
  • Wow! I can always count on you to come prepared to class.
  • (do this privately) I’m so proud of you for helping ____ with their assignment.
  • You really did ___ well because.
  • You know, I appreciate how I can trust you to tell me the truth. We can work through this together.
  • I can tell that you gave everything you had to this project. I’m so proud of how hard you worked.
  • You thought of a great idea. Wow.
  • Oh, I’m so proud that you remembered to do ____. You’re making amazing progress.
  • You know, that was a fascinating way to solve that problem. It showed real creativity. I’m proud of you.
  • Oh yeah! High five! You did it! (Or knuckle punch or fist pump – I do not ever, however, do a chest bump. Not happening. 😉
  • Fantastic! That is so awesome.

We are teaching growth mindset every day. Sometimes we’re teaching a fixed mindset. We can do better. Just talking about a growth mindset early in the school year will help students get on track to learn. You can do this!

Thank you, Sylvia, for such a fantastic sketch note and for sharing them with all of us.

Remember that when students believe that their actions can make changes, they’ll often choose to do them. But if they think their talents are fixed and set in stone, they often will quit. Teaching growth mindset is important to help students reach their full potential. Now, that is something that is really smart.


15 Things Every Teacher Should Try This Year
15 Things Every Teacher Should Try This Year by Austin Gagnier & Sylvia Duckworth

15 Things Every Teacher Should Try This Year is a graphic created by Austin Gagnier that has now taken on a new direction. As things happen now, Austin Gagnier created and tweeted a graphic.

Super sketchnoter Sylvia Duckworth (@sylviaduckworth) found it and made it into a sketchnote.

Use the “15 Things Every Teacher Should Try This Year” Sketchnote to Inspire Change

This photo is an encouraging, inspirational graphic to share with all of your teachers. (Learn more about sketchnoting if you want to try with the epic guide to sketchnoting.)

  • Print the graphic and put it in their box (old school can work)
  • Post the graphic in your break room
  • Share it on Facebook and Pinterest.
  • Talk about it in a staff meeting with your peers
  • Email it to your staff and challenge each person to pick one, try it, and share the results
  • Commit to try one new thing and share the results
  • Create your own 15 Things based upon your school’s toolkit (You could even sketchnote it.)

Inspiring change often happens when someone simply depicts options and lets others make a CHOICE. Kids like options and so do teachers. Kudos to Austin and Sylvia for giving us  a tool to inspire and help teachers choose to improve and change. Now get out there and be teacherpreneurs. Be craftsman of the teaching profession. That is who we are. Let’s do this!