If you were to start high school all over as a student but have your current knowledge and wisdom, would you do it differently? Most people I have talked to give a resounding yes! From classes, friends, decisions, and everything in between, they’d do it differently.

Moving from teaching to administration, I have similar feelings. Having an opportunity to look from in on many different classrooms has changed my perspective and would change how I approached my classroom and students. Upon reflection, I find it very similar to how many of us look back on our own high school experience as a student.

The Wild Card Book Review

I read The Wild Card: 7 Steps to an Educators Creative Breakthrough this summer and it made me wish I was back in the classroom. Full disclosure, I am happier than I deserve to be as an administrator and don’t find myself longing to be back in the classroom very often. So for a book to bring up those feelings, you know it’s a good one.

Hope and Wade King are teachers at The Ron Clark Academy, a school that has become famous for their creative, outside the box approach to teaching and learning. Check out the entrance to the school in the picture below as an example.

This book made me think: if I was still in a classroom, what would it look like? What would I do differently? I kept thinking about these things while reading the book. It referenced a lot of elementary level ideas and situations, which causes a lot of secondary educators to immediately dismiss it. I would warn against that, sure there are things happening that wouldn’t work in a high school classroom, but what would work? What could I do to my classroom to implement these creative ideas?

Because ultimately I would be a different teacher if I was to go back into the classroom. I would do things that surprised my students. I wouldn’t stick with the status quo that I had developed. My first few years of teaching were just building my curriculum, but once it was developed I started to coast. I would change that.

We learned early on that it’s not just the content but the delivery method that matters.

As educators, our job should be to make our children excited to come to class. That’s why “set the stage to engage” has become our mantra for teaching.

By cultivating the ability to startle and surprise students, teachers—including you—can become a “wild card” in yet another sense by being so unpredictable that students never know what’s in store for them when they get to class.

When your students can’t wait to see what you’ll do next, you become the wild card that just might change the game for them.

The 7 Steps To Wild Card According to the Kings:

Step 1: Evaluate Where You Are Today and Accept It so You Can Move Forward
Step 2: Let Desire Drive Your Commitment to Challenge Yourself and Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Step 3: Reflect on Your Own Creative Path
Step 4: Develop a New Understanding of Engagement
Step 5: Identify Your Go-To Thing and Start There
Step 6: Push Through Barriers and Overcome Obstacles
Step 7: Persist with and Build On Your Creative Efforts

Creative teaching is crucial for Hope and Wade King because they use it as a vehicle to promote engagement and learning within their classrooms.

They have included a statement in every chapter, and it is an incredible summary of the book.

  1. Be the wild card.
  2. If you argue for your limitations, you get to keep them. (WOW!)
  3. Don’t listen to the Joker.
  4. Always know your WHY.
  5. These things are free: a smile, passion, and enthusiasm.
  6. Lunchtime is a creative opportunity.
  7. Make them want to come to class.
  8. Just do you.
  9. Don’t stop for roadblocks.
  10. Spread the magic.

I would try to do all these things.

Initially I was going to do a comprehensive summary of the book, but there is just too much to review that I feel is important and pertinent. Instead, I will pull out my top 3 quotes (aside from the ones above) from the book and why they connect with me.

Quote #1

I know I talk a lot about relationships in this blog, but it’s because the longer I’m in education, the more I learn that relationships make the difference. We went into education not to give a test, but to connect with students. Not all kids need that wild card in their life to change it, but relationships and connections can make a school experience richer and more fulfilling for a student. The King’s also said something else that goes along perfectly with this.

Children who’ve been dealt a strong hand in the game of life might flourish no matter who their teachers are. Others depend on that wild card to change the game.

I have worked with a lot of students that have come from stable homes and haven’t needed any wild cards in their lives. They are going to “flourish no matter who their teachers are,” but I have also worked with students that needed that extra attention. They needed the one wild card to make that connection and be the difference maker for them.

Quote #2

During my first year at Riverton High School, we began a focused approach to PLC. Carolyn Gough taught us what a high functioning PLC looked like and what we needed to do to get there. One of the main concerns from teachers is that if we are required to follow a pacing guide or curriculum map I am going to lose my personal touch in the classroom. Following a “script” is going to take away all the joy from teaching. Fortunately, this was all a big misunderstanding. We had pacing guides and common assessments, but that did not prevent me from putting my own touches into my lessons. It did not stop me from being as creative as I wanted. I found that when I added my touch, the experience was better for both the student and me. We have standards set by the state, but we get to determine how we are going to deliver them.

Quote #3

This was one of the biggest takeaways for me. I could give you a million reasons why the creative ideas in this book wouldn’t work in a high school classroom, but ultimately, I would need to try them. If I continue to push back about why something isn’t going to work, then I stifle the potential growth.

Instead of arguing why something won’t work, I am going to find ways that it will work.