3 Essential Keys to Living Large

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging and it's very difficult to find anyone,” said Gandalf the wizard.

Bilbo Baggins the Hobbit replies:

“I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

1. Are We Reading or Are We Starving Bakers?

With these words echoing in my mind yesterday– the youngest person I know — our 86 year old learning lab director Mrs. Grace Adkins says:

“The problem with most teachers is we are starving bakers. We bake up learning for everyone else and we don't take time to read and learn anything ourselves.”

It is so easy to get into those habits and routines that are ours as teachers — grade the folders & hand them back, mark attendance & take the lunch count, serve lunch duty & trudge back to your room, tutor kids after school & go home later than you planned, struggle to cook dinner & leave the dishes in the sink, sit down to watch a little tv & wake up on the couch in the middle of the night, alarm clock goes off & get dressed, and do over.

When do we read? When do we learn?

Have we had the excitement of reading something new and discussing it or trying it with our students in the classroom? Have we read something that ROCKED OUR WORLD lately?

Leaders are readers. When we refuse to learn, we should hand in our leader learner card because we are hypocrites.

Let me ask you this — if your mind was fed by books would it be starving or stuffed full?

2. Do We Still Have Adventure in Our Lives?

In the movie The Hobbit, Gandalf goes on to say to Bilbo:

“You've been sitting quietly for far too long. Tell me, when did doilies and your mother's dishes become so important to you? I remember a young hobbit who always was running off in search of elves and the woods, who would stay out late, and come home after dark, trailing mud and twigs and fireflies. A young hobbit who would have liked nothing better than to find out what was beyond the borders of the Shire. The world is not in your books and maps; it's out there.”

Books aren't enough, though. Adventures get our endorphins flowing — they stimulate our mind. They enrich us. What happened to that sense of adventure you used to have? When you actually tried new restaurants? When you took time to spend with new people? When you walked a different route as you worked out?

Adventure doesn't cost anything (although zip lining is pretty crazy awesome!)

This past Saturday I went to visit Mom and Dad as usual. My sister found and quite literally saved four puppies who had been abandoned on the dirt road a few months back. Well, now these puppies are in the crazy growing stage where they are half idiot and the other half cute. We walked them to the catfish pond and watched as they took flying leaps onto each other's heads as they tried to eat the catfish food and the fish. I practiced my speech for this upcoming Saturday at the BAMMYs (an 3iTalk). It was a hilarious adventure and it didn't cost a dime.

My sister and I laughed at the puppies swimming with the catfish as I practiced my speech for the BAMMYs next Saturday. It was awesome.

My sister and I laughed at the puppies swimming with the catfish as I practiced my speech for the BAMMYs next Saturday. It was awesome.

You've got tennis rackets, paint brushes, skates, skiis, fishing poles, and all matter of adventure items in your closet. Hey, you even have walking shoes in there. You've got awesome music you haven't listened to in years on that Smartphone and a pair of earbuds lonely for your ear canals wrapped up in your pocketbook or drawer. You've got free easy adventures ready to go.

If your home, classroom, and school events are your Shire — how often do you venture out to have a real adventure? Have you been sitting quietly far too long? Your soul is made for adventure – if you're feeling blah it might be because you've forgotten that!

3. Do You Make Time to Wonder?

Austin Kleon in his book Show Your Work! makes an awesome point about having a Wonderbox.

In the drawing below (since I'm really into visual notetaking now – I'm making it a habit of drawing my notes for the best books I read) you can see my pitifully scribbled notes on the concept of the “Wunderkammern” or “wonderbox.”

Kleon says we should all have things that spark our interest and creativity. For me, I'm including treasured collections of:

  • heroes
  • stories
  • movies
  • music
  • books
  • art
  • plants
  • shells
  • blogs (my RSS reader — I'm talking blogs that just rip my head off wow me of all kinds of genres.)
  • jewelry
  • mentors (people I go to for inspiration/ advice)
  • dreams
  • my Bible and favorite verses
  • certain apps


2014-09-25 06.24.52

The visual notes I took on the section of Austin Kleon's book “Show Your Work” where he discusses the concept of the “Wunderkammern” or treasured collections of things that inspire you.

How do you collect wonder?

  • On my smartphone I have a playlist called “WonderBox” – it is an eclectic mix of my favorite music.
  • On my bookshelf I have a “wondershelf” that inspires me with wonderful thoughts. I can always find things on my wondershelf to get me excited.
  • I have a “wondershelf” in my Makerbot Thingiverse account (for my 3D printer) things that make me wonder and be curious.
  • I have a “wondershelf” of wonderful quotes and verses written on index cards that I've put on a ring and flip through in my office. Some are painted on signs or on things that I've used to decorate my house.
  • The mantle in my den has things I've collected from around the world that make me wonder.
  • I have a collection of magnets from the places I've been over my stove — I ponder the people, faces, and places and wonder about things I saw.

You get the point. Intentionally create spaces and places that fill you with wonder and make you feel alive.  Do you have a sense of wonder?

Do You Live Large?

There's a verse in the Bible that talks about living life abundantly — to the full. That is what I want for my own life. Not stuffed full of STUFF but intentional things that have meaning. Serving others is part of that, for sure. But part of living large for me is the books I read, the adventures I have, and the things I wonder about.

It is easy to stay comfortable — like Bilbo Baggins.

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations if you live near him,” says Gandalf.

And there is a live dragon. There are live dragons of all sorts in our lives. In this case, that live dragon is the complacency and unwillingness to change that will ultimately cause boredom. While you can have great comfort in routine – there can be great adventure in sometimes breaking that routine. While it might be easier to tune into your TV set than to turn on your Kindle – great joy comes from great books. While it might be easier to have a hodge podge collection of things — a real sense of wonder emerges as you create WonderBoxes of spaces and things that fill you with wonder.

As you look at your school — what kind of people live in these parts? Those interested in adventure or those content to keep the routine of the Shire?

But as for you — are you one people can call on for adventure? It spills over into your classroom in subtle ways, you know? That sense of wonder, learning and adventure is felt and inhaled by every single student who crosses your threshold. You cannot lead them on their own adventure if you're not willing to go there yourself.

So, my friends — no starving bakers, no Shire-stuck people wandering through our days like zombies. Here's to living large and the kinds of classrooms we create when we reach out and do that!

[reminder preface=”Question”]How do you live large? What are the things you do to break out of your routine?[/reminder]



JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit

Movie: The Hobbit – Directed by Peter Jackson

Austin Kleon Show Your Work!


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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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