The Zombies of Room 207

I am NOT against play.

I wish there were more time for it. And, time is my enemy. I have a lot to teach in a very limited amount of time.

Time is against me in another way, as well: I constantly ask myself, “How will this learning stand the test of time? Why would my students remember any of this?”

One answer to this question:


It was the first day of ELA standardized testing. I still had several math concepts to teach IMG_4199before students took the Math PSSAs (Pennsylvania’s standardized tests for elementary schools).

How would I present math when students’ brains were fried?

Serve them up for Zombie hors devours!

I wonder, now, if it was the metaphor of brain-eating, zombie-creating testing that got me on this kick. Either way, everyone loves a good apocalypse theme… And, I delivered. As soon as I got rid of my PSSA tests and dropped my students off at lunch, I recovered my stowed away phone and went to work.

Screen Shot 2019-05-04 at 6.34.16 AM
Problem from ReadyMath that I revamped with zombie theme

Earlier in the year a student had shown me the app Chatterpix. I used this to snap a pic of our classroom spider and make it talk. This spider, EEKK, named after the way students are supposed to sit on the carpet while pair-sharing; Elbow, Elbow, Knee to Knee; has been hanging out in our third grade classroom since his introduction early in the year. I was moving him every now and again, suggesting that he wanted new vantage points from which to witness students’ good behavior/sharing skills. The students love pretending things are alive, and we had fun with it. When I wasn’t moving him for a while students began grumbling and commenting, so I hid him away. Now, 5 min. away from kids, I took a picture of EEKK who was in a cabinet next to the squirt bottle I use to mist the plants. When students watched the video, they exploded in predictions of where EEKK was hidden!

The message of the video was simple: There are zombies lurking, and we need to learn capacity.

Pic of 2nd day: Review Gallon Guy and workout perimeter problem

Just as I had predicted, my third grade students didn’t care that a toy spider wasn’t alive; that, if it were, it wouldn’t be able to handle a squirt bottle; or that a tiny squirt bottle of water wouldn’t be enough to fend off zombies! They were thrilled to learn about standard liquid measurement and copy my Gallon Guy drawing from the board. I got out containers, and we discussed capacity. 

The next day, was Tuesday, the second day of standardized ELA testing (PSSAs) in the morning. As per law, I put all electronic devices away, until I had rid my room of PSSA materials. While the students were at lunch, I made a new movie. This time, I got fancier. I took a snapshot of EEKK on red tile and used Apple’s Keynote App to erase all of the red background with Instant Alpha. Then I stuck him on top of a pic of a moat.

Chatterpix was used to make EEKK present a new problem of creating a perimeter to protect the classroom spider from zombies while he rested. He couldn’t be on guard 24/7!

With each passing day, I added increasingly difficult problems to EEKK’s predicament. After digging a moat, EEKK had to fill it with water. If it took him 5 minutes to get one gallon, and each linear foot of moat required two gallons, how long would it take to completely fill the moat? Was this question real-world? Well, minus the zombie theme, yeah, I think so;)

img_1572.jpgEEKK wasn’t completely secure, surrounded by only a moat. He decided to build a fort on

MW Teaching
I had to review this several times.

the land he had partitioned from the zombie-infected outside. Luckily Amazon was still going strong and available to drone-drop an order of lumber on EEKK’s land square. But, we needed to figure out how much it would cost us. While the outer perimeter of the moat was a 10′ X 10′ square, the moat took up some of the inside space. If the moat was exactly one foot wide all the way around, what would the perimeter of the inner square be? Students needed some perception help with this one. I even had to break out the clay and make a moat to demonstrate the inside square being smaller than the outside one.

Once we figured out the perimeter of the inner square, which would be the length of fence that EEKK would construct, we had to calculate how much this material would cost. Each foot of lumber was going to require $1.25.

The #ZombieApocalypseRoom207 was so much fun that more characters wanted in on the action! Enter the #PolitePirates. Now, #CaptainIronKnee, Mary (pronounced “muh-ree” for a different story), and Zeus want in on EEKK’s pristine perimeter project. They are a little picky, though. They each want their own space. Now, we must figure out how much more  lumber we will need in order to build walls within our fort to partition individual spaces for each of the four inhabitants. Plus, they need a “Common Place” for all of them to eat and converse together; a shared space.

For this part of the project, I had students use the geoboard app on their iPads. They had to make the perimeter of the fort, 8 units by 8 units, with one “rubber band”. Then they could create any size spaces within that for the four characters, leaving an additional, fifth space, for the common space. The only parameter was that all of the corners must

perimeter of 5 spaces
This clever student had the idea of drawing lines on each unit to keep track of counting.

be right angles. (This was so that the linear measurement of perimeter was more accurate. It was enough to figure out the cost and time to construct our forts. I didn’t need to teach the pythagorean theorem on top of everything else!)

Once they designed their fort interiors, they had to figure out how much the materials would cost. “Keeping linear units at the price of $1.25/each, how much money are we looking at spending for your fort?”

One thing that was very difficult to communicate clearly was the fact that you didn’t have to count a unit that functioned as two walls twice: If a room inside the fort shares a wall with the outer perimeter or another room, you only count that structure once. (It is tricky, even, to write about this.)

Self-Reflection: What I would do differently

The apocalypse began in fantastic form. The students loved it. The theme was fun and the problems were challenging and engaging. They quickly became overwhelming, however. There needed to be more teaching. I sat with some struggling students and walked them through the use of geoboard. I had them make the same exact shapes as me, and we figured out the perimeters together. This worked well.

Also, the idea of shared walls was very tricky. Two things could remedy this confusion. Make the parameters so that not walls would be shared, or have kids use popsicle sticks to actually build model forts. I wanted to do this last idea, but Wegmans didn’t have any sticks, and I was out of time. Teams could use clay bases and even fill the moat with water. Manipulative money could be used to “buy” the materials from a Zombie store. Students could earn the money by doing chores or figuring out other problems.

Another lesson-learned: Don’t overdo the theme. I am guilty of this. I tried doing a data lesson using the zombies, and not only did everyone grown, but it didn’t even make that much sense without teaching data-analysis, first. The video is cute, and I’ll use it in the future. Plus, students did love the game of throwing zombies at the school.

Self-Reflection: AWESOMENESS and things to grow

Even though the data lesson was not perfect, it gave us Zombie puppets. I had the students use the puppets for an ELA lesson. They made their own Chatterpix videos where their zombies told stories.

The creativity and open-ended practice was unparalleled.

tricky perimeter
The teaching and creativity seemed endless!

The teaching moments were limitless. I never even got into the cost of carpeting the inside of the fort with different flooring styles! We discussed and figured out area, but it was enough to reteach/learn fractions with four quarters equaling one dollar and division with 12 being broken up into groups of four (quarters) to see the money problem different ways.

This student began erasing her art because she thought she was in trouble. “NOOOOOOOO!!!” I shouted. She had drawn the Polite Pirates talking over their fort fence with the misunderstood zombies.

And then there is the artwork. In addition to coloring in the zombie puppets, some students drew illustrations for their videos. I had given the class the premise for their zombie stories: The zombies didn’t really want to eat brains. They just wanted to be smart, and they thought that eating brains would help them. The Polite Pirates explained the problem of this misperception to the zombies and everything was fixed. Each student made up his/her own rendition of the story.

The Future of #ZombieApocalypseRoom207

In the future I’d like to incorporate some supplemental reading and ELA components. My friend, Julia Dweck has written a couple of cute kid books about zombies that I would love to incorporate.

Can you recommend others in the comments?

Any other zombie must-dos?

Active Math

IMG_5826I was going to title this blog “The Building Blocks of Math Construction” because I liked the play on building/constructing learning from material things. Really, though, I think the most important thing about this lesson was plain old ACTION. Yes, it was creative and fun, but rather than teachers reproducing the exact lesson, I want to share the philosophy behind it. It is a difference between building a beautiful, popular burger joint that everyone in a region admires and franchising the concept all over the world.

IMG_4095This is what I did. In thinking about teaching money, I was imagining setting up some kind of store in the classroom. In stead, I brought my daughter’s old school, wooden building blocks into the classroom. I thought I would have the students compete to construct the tallest structure while using the least amount of supply: They would stack blocks of value to create vertical towers and add up what it cost them.

I told the students of my plan. They were ecstatic. I assigned value to the blocks, dividing them into four categories: Many of the blocks were around 14cm. Those would cost 80¢. Any block that was less than 13cm would cost 40¢. (I did less than 13cm, because the 14cm blocks were a tiny bit under 14cm.) Now, the fun part. Many of the blocks had round edges that would make it

Students took pics with iPads and identified styles/cost of blocks. This is an image from a student iPad.

difficult to construct with; Those were on sale. They were half off. Here the kids would be using their recently acquired fraction skills. Lastly, there were two gigantic 28cm blocks in the box. Those were $2 each. Why? Because that’s the number that popped into my head. Also, these are super valuable because they are so solid and long. The kids can evaluate the price of these versus the others.

After going over costs, I set students loose!

After talking cost, I started centers and left my top kids to figure out constructing cost-effective building on their own, while I conducted guided reading. The buzz from the back corner was electric. Everyone in the class was dying for their chance to add up the cost of blocks!

Halfway through the first center, I stepped away from my guided reading group to check on my little architects. How were they doing?

Rather than constructing a tall tower, this group of three boys and three girls were designing the most beautiful condominium complex you ever saw. They were finding a way to use every single block they could! At first, I was like, “That wasn’t the objective.” But, I caught myself.

I forgot to mention: I had introduced the whole idea through telling the class that they were going to be designing high rises in an urban area. We would have Lego people rent space in our sky scrapers.

This group was not making a cost-effective creation. Was that wrong? No. No, it wasn’t. “Okay,” I managed to say. “This is going to be pricey,” I told them. “You’ve built a Five-Star resort, here,” I joked. “Let’s add up how much it will cost to construct.” They jumped on taking it apart, putting the blocks into piles, categorizing by the characteristics I had assigned, earlier. I told them that they could reconstruct their building after figuring out the price tag for it. Amazingly, there wasn’t a breath of complaint. I’m pleased to report 100% success, albeit after quite some time.

IMG_8975After this experience I realized that the rest of the groups would probably need some guidance with this project. I decided to use math time to teach how to evaluate constructions. While students did some online work, I brought groups over to the construction corner of the room. I went over the prices of each of the four styles of block. We analyzed similar blocks and categorized them according to cost. Then I built a simple structure with one of each price. Students used dry erase boards to add up the cost. I also had manipulatives (plastic coins) there to help. It took a few tries, and as students showed success, I let them build a four block building. They had to add up the cost before moving on. With each success, they were able to build more.

I grouped students with like abilities to work together. There was a group that did so well so quickly that I let them work in teams with more than four blocks. None of my builders cared too much about making their towers tall, even though the example that I gave them was straight up, as tall as could be with one of each style of block. I did not emphasize this, either.

Look at this amazing construction!

Students had a blast building their block structures. One group built a road. Why not?

We double-checked the cost of each creation.

One thing I would change, and I was tempted to change this halfway through the lesson, is the pricing. I didn’t like that half the price of the 80¢ block was the same cost as the smaller one. The smaller blocks should have been 50¢. Then there would have been more variation in the numbers and coins. Kids would be counting with quarters.

This was solved the next day. We revisited our building blocks motif, but this time with the vertical challenge. I explained that they were constructing in the inner city. I had actually looked up the price of the average urban block. “A city block in Manhattan is worth ONE BILLION DOLLARS!”

“What?!” Screamed the class with gasps of horror.

I had them use my vinyl chess mats as city plans. Each block or square would cost them 75¢. The trick is that for every inch of vertical they could collect 25¢. I formed a bunch of groups and spread students out all over the room, dividing up the blocks. In seconds the room was a buzz with builders. It wasn’t about how tall their building was, so much as how much money they could make.

My students were on fire. They had no idea they were even doing math! I am planning on putting together an elaborate assessment involving an urban plan where city block prices vary, depending on proximity to highway exits. I’ll redo the price of blocks. I’m even thinking about including fractions or weight! We love a challenge.


Hats On To You

My head is swimming in a storm of figurative language, ideas, memories, and desires to share stories right now. Room 207 is a buzz with homonyms. Twitter is popping with robust vocabulary that is inspiring existential, pedagogical philosophies. I have stumbled across a heretofore unknown superpower, asking “Why?” –Soon to be blogged.

And finally, have you ever had the experience of someone seemingly reading your mind? There are those friends who know you so well, or the two of you have shared so many of the same experiences that he/she can tell what you are thinking throughout a conversation. The idea of completing one another’s sentences is the costume for this super power. But, have you ever met someone who simply shares many of the same interests, experiences, life values, and goals; so many in fact that you seem to have known each other far longer than you actually have?

I only just met Kate Lindquist, and that only virtually on Twitter, a few weeks ago. But, the way she is tweeting things that are right up my alley reminds me of the relationship between Rodion Raskolnikov and Porfiry Petrovich from the godfather of dual personality psychology thrillers, “Crime and Punishment” (Dostoevsky, 1927). Petrovich, the local detective, has no idea Raskolnikov committed murder, but the latter feels like Petrovich is on to him through the entire novel. The recent tweet is a perfect example.

better qualityThe picture at the top of this blog is from my very first year teaching. Those kids are in high school, now. I was doing all kinds of culture-building activities, mixing in art, philosophy, and story-telling. This was the year that I dreamed up “The Polite Pirates”. One of the special days throughout the year was “hat day”. This theme spurred all kinds of ideas, one of which, as you can see by the picture, was making pirate hats that did the opposite of filling strangers with fear and dread; They were to spread cheer and peace. We also came up with new classroom roles: The Peace Pirates.

The first ever Peace Pirates

One boy and one girl would be chosen each week to be incharge of making sure that the classroom was manageably quiet. They were given a “Peace Tool”, which is a little plastic drum with beads in it. When tilted slightly, the beads spill, simulating a beach-like sound. The class whispers “So peaceful” in chorus. They love it. And, it works.

The next year I added to the theme by making two “Peace Hats” that the Peace Pirates may wear. These were made of gigantic cardstock fronts that every student added some peaceful idea to, decorating the front with color and peaceful symbolism. There were words, pictures, cartoons, etc. I had to readjust the band that held it onto the students’ heads each week, but that was part of the formality of picking new Peace Pirates.

It was the following year, year three of Peace Pirates, that I finally wrote a story for the Peace Hat policy. [This is wear (get it;) Kate’s tweet comes in.] The story is about the power of the hat. I wrote it to bring power to the Peace Hat, but it is about hats having meanings or messages.

While the story was only okay, it took on new life when it was changed into a play to be read during a readers theater for parents. I love engaging top notch students’ help with projects as a way to differentiate through enrichment. The year that I made “The Peaceful Hat Story” into a play I had a student named Brandon help a little. We were learning Google Docs that year, and I had Brandon reformat some of the text, separating paragraphs into speaking parts. Honestly, I did most of the work, and had to fix some of

Brandon’s help, but he felt like a million bucks, having participated in the project. As a reward and payment for his participation in the project, I put his name on the bulletin that I printed out for parents. Of course Brandon was in this play during the readers theaters performance! Some of his crew congratulated him with comments in the shared Google Doc. My favorite thing about this experience, though, was the ending that Brandon gave the play. I have left it just as he typed it all of these years, explaining to future classes that a student wrote that. It cracks me up, and I can’t think of a better way to end the thing!

The Peace Hats are not worn as much anymore. This year’s haven’t even graduated from artwork to hat! But, the Peace Pirates get to sit at our classroom island. Looking out over our classroom from their peaceful perch, they still use the Peace Tool to encourage a quiet environment. In this way, none of my Polite Pirates will need to dawn the invention explained at the end of the Peaceful Hat story.

And, here it is in play form.


A Peaceful Hat Story Readers’ Theater

by Mr. Weimann


  • Narrator 1
  • Narrator 2
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Captain Iron Knee
  • Zeus
  • Swashbuckler
  • Sailor

Narrator 1:  (in a gruff old piraty tone)  Behold, ye landlubbers be sittin’ in on the finest collection of courteous kids these here parts have ever known.  We have a tale to share saving shenanigans for silly sailors and piraty persons performing peaceful feats!

Narrator 2:  (in a normal voice.)  Oh, good grief that pirate talk is hard.  And, I’m pretty sure it didn’t make much sense, either.  What my friend meant to say was that this class of students has a story to convey through one last readers’ theater.  And, guess what! It is a polite pirate tale.

Narrator 1:  Yeh, there be some strange personages patroling these planks.  Watch out for the disease. It be catchin’ ye off guard, and shir ta frighten ya.

Narrator 2:  My friend is referring to Onomatopoeia, which is no disease, but rather the literary term defining words that represent sounds.

Onomatopoeia:  Grrrrrr.  Argh!

Narrator 1:  There she is!  That was thee disease.  She roams these waters. Be plenty oh pirates ‘fraid of her.

Narrator 2:  Sure.  If you are unaware of Onomatopoeia, you may be frightened by…

Onomatopoeia:  Wham!!!  Slam!!! Bam!!!

Narrator 2:  But I just told everyone who Onomatopoeia is, so we’re good here.  Let’s get on with our talel.

Narrator 1:  If you insisteds.  You be the boss, with yer fancy talkin’ and profesionalies explainin’.

Onomatopoeia:  Stomp, stomp, stomp, SLAM!  (Door slamming shut)

Iron Knee:  (bursts in on Zeus stirring a pot)  What’s for dinner!? I’m starving!!

Onomatopoeia:  CRASH! (pot falls to the floor) SPLAT! (Sauce lands on Zeus’ hat.)

Zeus:  Oh, no.  Look at my hat.  What a mess. I cannot cook with such a messy hat.

Iron Knee:  I’m so sorry, Zeus.  I did not mean to be such a distraction.  I should have walked quieter and closed the door gentler.

Onomatopoeia:  Sob, sob

Preparing for performance

Zeus:  I forgive you, captain.  I just don’t know what to do.

Iron Knee:  Well, you could wear my hat, if you must have one.  I’ll have one of the swashbucklers clean up yours.

Onomatopoeia:  Gasp!

Zeus:  I couldn’t possibly!  Your captain’s hat doesn’t belong  in the kitchen.

Iron Knee:  Nonsense.  What does it matter where it is worn?  It will cover yer head. That is all.

Narrator 2:  It did not require much persuasion for Zeus to dawn the captain’s illustrious hat.

Narrator 1:  There was much need, those, for the young piraty cook to be wearin’ many dishtowels on his little roundish head.  For the captain, he be havin’ a rather largish head, so his hat be hugish on top oh the cook’s.

Zeus:  This feels better… pretty good… almost too good… powerful…  Back to that sauce.

Onomatopoeia:  Swish, slosh, splirt… (Zeus stirs the sauce.)

Narrator 1:  Every stir that cook took made the hat-wearin’ rook look…  power caused him to shook…

Narrator 2:  Are you a poet now?  I don’t think shook is even a word.

Narrator 1:  It most certainly is!  The cook shook with might.  And, maybe. Maybe I will be the Poetic Pirate!

Narrator 2:  You might shook with…

Onomatopoeia:  Clank!  (Zeus drops the stirring spoon.)

Zeus:  Sauce, I am tired of stirring you round and round, round and round.  I want you to thicken, and I don’t think that I should have to slave over you to make that happen.

Narrator 2:  As if in answer to the person wearing the captain’s hat, a humungous bubble rose up from the surface of the brown goo.

Narrator 1:  (with gusto, like a professional actor)  Zeus grabbed a knife from the counter, and held it like a cutlass high above his head.

Narrator 2:  Don’t steal the show.  You’re only a narrator.

Zeus:  Insubordinate gelatinous mutineer!  You shall pay dearly for your rebellion.  I will have no rivalries on my ship!

Onomatopoeia:  POP! Splat.

Narrator 1:  (with a flat boring voice)  Zeus removed the captain’s hat.

Onomatopoeia:  Utter silence.

Zeus:  Oh no, what have I done?  Captain’s hat is covered in mutinous muck.

Onomatopoeia:  Creek, click.  (the door opens)

Swashbuckler:  Hey, what are you doing with the captain’s hat?  I have yours right here, all cleaned up and ready to go for you.

Zeus:  What?!  The captain gave this to me!  I did not steal it. You can go stick your nose in someone else’s business!

Narrator 2:  Now, the swashbuckler, who had returned with the chef hat that he just washed as a favor to both the captain who had asked him to, but also as a courtesy for his good friend the chef, could not help but laugh out loud.  Little did the chef realize, but he looked ridiculous with a pile of dishtowels still atop his head. As he yelled, the pile swayed to and fro like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Onomatopoeia:  Ha, ha, ha, chuckle, chuckle, chuckle

Narrator 1:  (incredulous)  A Dr. Seuss book?  Really? This story is so far removed from Dr. Seuss, that…

Narrator 2 :  (cutting off the other narrator)  Rather than experience the wrath of his friend, who was turning as red as a beet at this point, the swashbuckler backed out of the kitchen still clutching the chef hat.

Onomatopoeia:  Step, step, step

Swashbuckler:  I wonder what got into him.  Where should I leave Zeus’ hat?  I’ll just wear it until I find a place.

Narrator 1:  (back to a piraty voice)  Well, my mateys, this fine friend of a fellow forgot all about the look shook cook’s hat he took.

Narrator 2:  (to himself)  Oh brother. (to the audience)  Even when another sailor asked him…

Sailor:  What’s cookin’?

Narrator 1:  (piraty)  He be still forgetin’ he be dawning that puffy white hat!

Swashbuckler:  Nuttin’ much.

Sailor:  Tis that a new dish?

Swashbuckler:  Dish?

Sailor:  What we be havin’ for mess mate?

Swashbuckler:  What mess?  I cleaned this deck this morning!  It’s as shiny as your bald head!

Sailor:  (a little hurt)  Hey. I just be wonderin’ what’s the eats we be slavin’ aways fur.

Narrator 1:  (still piraty)  Look here. This sailor fella be thinkin’ that a regular old swashbuckler be the chef o’ the ship.  He be thinkin’ this ‘cause the swashbuckler be keepin’ that chef hat on top of his dare head.

Narrator 2:  Are you going to keep talking that way throughout the entire play?

Narrator 1:  (piraty)  It be startin’ to grow on me.  That there be an idiom, if ye not fir-mill-yaaarrrrrrJ

Swashbuckler:  I can’t take this anymore!  I’m outta here. (throws chef hat on the ground)


Performed on “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”, September 19th

Onomatopoeia:  Kirr whop!

Sailor:  I wonder if he realized he was wearing the chef’s hat.  I think…

Onomatopoeia:  Churn churn churn

Sailor:  I think I might be able to have a little fun with this.

Onomatopoeia:  Slosh, swish, swoosh,  ring, slosh, swish, swoosh, ring

Swashbuckler:  Hey chef, I’m starved.  What grub we got for supper?

Narrator 1:  (no longer piraty, but kind of confused)  Wait a minute. Is that the same swashbuckler from before…  like two minutes ago?

Narrator 2:  Yeah, that’s right.  We should probably infer that some time has lapsed.  You’re a narrator; why don’t you tell everyone?

Narrator 1:  (still regular voiced)  Could it be that the chef hat has some kind of magical power, so that it transforms the appearance of anyone wearing it?

Narrator 2:  I think you are over-thinking it.  These are pirates. They probably just see a chef hat and assume a chef is wearing it.

Narrator 1:  (a little hurt)  Oh, so pirates are less intelligent than other people, huh.

Narrator 2:  Not this again…  Look, this whole tale is about hats.  I think it is safe to say that there is something going on with the whole who wears a hat, and what hat it is matters business.  Let’s find out how the tale ends.

Narrator 1:  (piraty again)  I be hearin’ correctly?  Somebody mention themselves some grub?

Narrator 2:  Here we go…

Onomatopoeia:  Mmmmmmm

Sailor:  Grub.

Swashbuckler:  You ignorin’ me man?!  What grub we be eatin’?

Onomatopoeia:  Mmmmmmm

Sailor:  Grubs, man.

Swashbuckler:  I asked you what grub.  Why you be askin’ me what grub?  You is bein’ the cook ain’t ya? What you doin’ foolin’ me dis way?

Sailor:  We be eatin’ grub my matey!

Narrator 1:  (normal, and out of piraty character)  Is he saying “grub” like the animal, or grub, as in the slang term for food?

Narrator 2:  Narrators are supposed to supply information, not ask questions.  The sailor is playing a joke on the swashbuckler. The word grub can be used both ways, and he is implying that the swashbuckler will be eating actual insect larvae for lunch.

Onomatopoeia:  Splash!

Narrator 1:  Wow!  The swashbuckler did not seem to appreciate the joke.  He just dumped his whole bucket of dirty water on to the trickster sailor’s head.

Onomatopoeia:  Wham!!!   Bam!!! Slam!!!

Screen Shot 2019-04-07 at 7.06.13 AM
This was the crew that turned the story into a play. 2013

(conversation off stage)

Captain Iron Knee: All hands below deck!  Batten down the hatches.

Zeus: Where did this hale storm come from?

Swashbuckler:  Where is sailor?

Captain Iron Knee:  The sails will be ruined.

Swashbuckler:  No, I mean where is the sailor who I threw a dirty bucket of water on?

Onomatopoeia:  Thwack, thawack, thwack

Sailor:  Attack!  Attack! Someone is attacking the ship!  Man the nine-irons! Jib the sails, or whatever you do with sails.

Narrator 2:  As you may have guessed, the sailor was blind with the bucket on his head.  The dark, combined with the sound of huge hale hitting his bucket head, disconcerted him to the point that he began running around raising sail and preparing for battle.

Narrator 1:  Sailor unknowingly saved the entire ship!

Swashbuckler:  You raised the sails yourself?

Sailor:  I am a sailor.

Zeus:  You had the foresight and extreme intelligence to place a bucket on your head?

Sailor:  Well…

Captain Iron Knee:  You are the hero of the whole ship!  What a brilliant idea! How did you ever think of it?!

Zeus: Yeah how did you come up with that?

Sailor: Well you didn’t let me finish before.

Zeus: Well, then who did it.

Sailor: The Swashbuckler did.

Captain Iron Knee: What?

Zeus: Well then I guess we can congratulate both of them.

Captain Iron Knee: Yeah.

Narrator 1/Narrator 2: And, that’s exactly what happened.

Piraty Personages;)

To Coddiwomple is Classy

Education is an experience; This is our purpose.

The vision is coming into focus, while it is getting hazier and more illusive.

21st century teaching should less resemble the space race of the 1960’s than take on the attitude of video game designers from the 80’s & 90’s. The space race was meant to show up Russia. Who could touch the moon and return to Earth first? Whomever could cover the distance of the playground, tag the wall, and return to the starting point first, wins. Wins what? Wins the race. For what? Why?

Granted, we learned lots of things through the process of racing to get to the moon. Sometimes it is necessary to have goals. Shooting for the stars will get you off the ground… sometimes. But, what if your goal was to find out what else was out there, other than stars and what we already know? What if your goal was just to explore, in general? There is the whole funding issue.

A friend of mine (Thank you Kate Lindquist@heARTISTatWORK 9h9 hours ago) introduced an incredible vocabulary word to me just yesterday. I was of course flattered that she thought of me, especially in connection with such an interesting locution. A Google search, blog read, and some introspection lead to some seriously fun philosophy gymnastics.

Screen Shot 2019-04-04 at 4.39.15 AMThe word was coddiwomple. It means to “travel with purpose to an as-of-yet unknown destination”. If you were to boil Western Civilization down to just a handful of concepts, one of the most poignant, I believe, would be “goals”. We are obsessed with them. There have been countless coaches and seminars selling the necessity of setting good ones. A contemporary wave of self-help is focused on washing away the stress of not meeting them; failure.

A recently published blog by  Mar 28 about hiking presented a paradigm-shift away from being goal-oriented. It provided the etymology of the word saunter; coming from the word saint. A portion of text from John Muir explains the origin coming from people pilgrimaging to the Holy Land. Now, these travelers had destination goals, but clearly they understood the importance of the process as an experience. Touching down in the center of a holy place in a helicopter so that you can check it off of a list of todos, hardly seems like the end of a pilgrimage. And yet, this is exactly what some educators are teaching their students to do.


“Your mission is to figure out a way to get the robot to deliver something to the cup,” is not an awful way to get kids thinking, tinkering, toying, and trying. What if you said, “Others have gotten this robot to place this ball inside of this cup. What can you have it do?” Now the student will be coddiwomple-ing.

This term takes the goal and shifts it forward. So many times we keep pushing ahead. We have reached the moon. What’s next? Explorers kept pushing on until every square foot of planet Earth had been touched by human toes. I propose playing on the plains, rather than hurrying over hills.

As I prepared to deliver the definition of coddiwomple I was tempted to write some of my own words: I came up with this fun prose, “Meander with meaning.” I erased it, though, because it is inaccurate. To coddiwomple does not mean mess around. There definitely is a purpose to the play. We should teach students to love the wrestling of ideas in addition to showing them how to pin down a problem.


The Adventure Diary. (2016, November 4). Why You Should Coddiwomple Your Way Through Life…. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://adventurediary.co/coddiwomple-definition/

Mountain Buddha. (2019, March 28). The Simple Joy of Walking in the Woods. Retrieved March 29, 2019, from https://journeyofathousandmiles.blog/2019/03/28/the-simple-joy-of-walking-in-the-woods/

Planning a Party, Pirate-Style

IMG_3446Over the weekend I finally experienced “Teach Like a Pirate”. I listened to the recently produced (Jan. 2019) audio book, read by the author, Dave Burgess. There were tons of great take aways, some of which immediately developed in the first math lesson, Monday morning!

First of all, if you haven’t already gathered, I am one of the “freaks” that Dave mentions at the outset of his book: I bubble with passion, naturally and eternally. I live for teaching and love “bringing it” every day in every way. In addition to this, possibly because of this–There is definitely some cause and effect, here–I am quite creative find it easy to come up with new, innovative ideas. I left my accidental slip of type in the last sentence because it reminded me of one of my favorite points from “Teach Like a Pirate”: The six worst words that Dave Burgess has ever heard (loved that chapter!)

Monday morning, I was getting ready for the day and week, when an idea hit me: Have students learn time through using it to plan a party. We have been working on elapsed time for a couple days, and there are lots of ways to use real-life scenarios, but are any of them more fun than planning a party? Definitely not. I’m pretty good at hook-development, but it certainly didn’t hurt me to hear Burgess talk about it in “Teach Like a Pirate”! No more hook was necessary than “Today we will be planning a party.” I didn’t have to count to get kids on the carpet. They came ready to contribute… to their own learning!

When Math Time = Party Time

Through discussion, I let the hook sink deeper and deeper, so that the students were mesmerized with math. I refused to answer the question, “Are we actually going to do this party?” I upped the ante when a student suggested that rather than include “Set Up/Clean Up” in our 60 minute time window, “We should just set up before the party and clean up when it is all over.” This sounded perfectly reasonable to everyone, but I told the class that “We will be renting a ballroom that costs $250 an hour. We don’t get the room until noon, and if we go over our time, the price doubles. So, we have to squeeze all of our activities within this 60 minute window.” And then I added, “Also, we have to include plenty of time for clean up, because the hotel will charge us extra if we leave it a mess… plus, that wouldn’t be classy.”

Boy, were they hooked. I mean I have never seen a group of students more engaged in discussion and riveted to each utterance! Every hand was shooting up with ideas. Who doesn’t want a party? The first thing I did was facilitate brainstorming of ideas of things to do at our “Math Party”–That’s what I called it; This wasn’t just any ol’ party; It was math-time, and that’s what we are doing; Make no mistake about it; You will learn math by the end of this. Many students were sharing themes. I praised “Pajama Day” and “Electronic Day”, but redirected to coming up with events that actually take up time. “We can make crafts wearing pajamas or with electronics, but it is the building-of-the-craft that takes up time,” I explained. So that the students felt heard, I wrote the theme ideas on the side.

IMG_3458During the brainstorming time I was building rapport. Not between myself and the students–that happened in September, and I had plenty of it–but between my students and the subject matter. Remember, I am teaching them math through all of this! The way I see brainstorming, it is like student ability: Every kid can do the math, some faster, some easier, some needing patience, help, and additional explaining. In my brainstorming sessions, every idea is acceptable. This makes it fun and funny, also. When a kid suggests a water event, I say, “Did you just say No-holds-bar-water-balloon-war!?” The classroom erupted… and the ideas poured in like the water filling those metaphorical balloons. Just as a teacher needs to redirect thought to shape learning, I rephrased student ideas to write a list of potential party events on the whiteboard.

Next, I drew a circle with ticks or lines that made the circle look like a clock. But, I didn’t write any numbers. I pointed out that there were 12 increments. Students mentioned that it resembled a clock. I agreed, but told them that this was a measurement tool, instead. I asked how much each segment was worth, reviewing our fraction sense: one increment was a unit fraction of 1/12. “If the circle represented 60 minutes, how much was each segment worth?”

“Five minutes.”

That being established, we worked together, discussing how long the events might take. Students made suggestions as to which events we would want to have in our party. As students shared ideas, I filled in the pie graph. (I didn’t tell them that this is what the circle was, until afterward.) “Wait a minute, we have a lot of fun things planned, but what about set up/clean up time?” I inquired. “It’ll take some time to fill up enough water balloons to have a 20 minute war! And, we better plan on cleaning up all of the debris.”

As I filled the pie graph I asked questions like, “How much time do we have left?” And, “What fraction of all of our time have we used up?” Here is a tough one: “Of the time that we have planned, what fraction is eating?” This forced them to come up with a new denominator. You better believe we reduced our fractions to their simplest form each time, as well!

When done, I had students analyze our pie chart with questions like “Which two events equal the same amount of time as Water Balloon War?” After several of these, and Turn & Talk partner sharing, I modeled taking the information and turning it into a bar graph. First, I asked, “Why don’t we have to bring the (y axis) all the way up to 60 minutes?” Students knew to only go as high as the greatest amount of the events. After making the graph we did some more analysis: “How much more time will we be soaking each other with water balloons than eating?”

IMG_3459Finally, it was their turn. I showed the class the graphic organizer that I had made for them. They gasped when they saw that it was exactly like what we had just made. Because I presented it screen mirroring my iPad, I could quickly draw all over it. I showed them how they would plan events, fill in the pie graph, and make a bar graph. I told them that they weren’t allowed to use the same exact ideas that we had come up with together. They could have “eating”, but not the same amount of time. In other words, don’t copy, create. They were all cool with that. I stimulated this by writing crazy ideas on the graphic shown on the board: “Picking nose for 5 minutes, followed by washing hands for 20 minutes… because that was gross!” They loved it.

When everyone had their paper the room was abuzz with feaverish creativity. No one, not even my “I can’t think of anything to write” students, was stumped for ideas of things to do at a party, albeit “Math Party.” As students brought me their papers, they continued to ask, “Are we really going to do this?” All I did was raise my piraty eyebrows.

Proud Work

Google slide with graphic organizer for convenient printing and reproduction. Please pirate this to use as much as you like:)Screen Shot 2019-03-29 at 6.00.50 AM

Burgess, Dave. (2012) Teach like a pirate :increase student engagement, boost your creativity, and transform your life as an educator San Diego, Calif. : Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.,

Seamless Simple iMovie Integration

IMG_3324iMovie 1.o

I finally introduced iMovie to my students this past week. We’ve had our iPads since Christmas, but we’ve been busy. Last week my students read text and watched videos about St. Patrick’s Day from a Google slideshow (1). They took notes as they learned.

When they concluded the slideshow/I told them time was up (2), they began making their iMovies. Before opening the app, they acquired four images (3) to import into iMovie. IMG_1218After making the first image a title slide (4) with information about themselves and their project, the students produced voiceovers for each of the remaining three pictures. They recorded themselves reading their notes. To finish off the project, students added background music. “How would the students share these videos with me and each other?” I wondered. Without skipping a cognitive beat, I thought of importing them into Flipgrid. This worked without a hitch. I made a new topic in my classroom Flipgrid, and kids figured out how to import their movies. They loved being able to watch each other’s movies and comment on the pictures and information.

iMovie 2.o

Mr. Weimann teaching iMovie to a combined rooms 205 and 207

Immediately following the St. Patrick’s Day project, I had my class begin a new iMovie. This one was going to be about how animals communicate. There is a “Photo Essay” in the STORYtown textbook that I frequent for lessons called “How Animals Talk”. The How Animals Talk written responseaccompanying assessment for this text has a written response asking students to explain why it is important for animals to communicate. I thought it would be fun for my students to publish movies about this, rather than simply writing about it. Using pictures would reinforce the nature of the “Photo Essay” genre that STORYtown was presenting.

Building on the introduction to iMovie students just experienced, I added the element of picture in picture (PIP) to students’ production tool knowledge. This time students would have more images, and instead of using voiceover, they would videotape themselves reading a script. This video would be added to their movies as a frame on top of the slideshow of images. Additionally, students would use an iMovie built-in theme: I had them use the News theme because they were reporting on animals. Also, this theme has awesome text graphics! We used the News theme music, as well.

This time students would collect specific images. They had to find pictures that illustrated their animal communicating. There should be three or four per animal. And, students were to report on three or more animals in their movies. The notes about animals “talking” to each other should be written as a script. The script could be typed into an online teleprompter program (5) or app. This is neat because it makes the font big and easy to read, plus moves so kids can keep a reasonable pace. IMG_1236

After students acquire their images and record their videos, they are ready to make their movies. Just like last time, they import all of the pictures, first. They move the pics around, stretch them out, adjust the Ken Burns, if they like. Then students add the theme effects. Next, they insert the PIP. At this point students should include text on some of the images. I had my students provide sources for the information that they shared. They could tell the name of the animal, also. Kids will need to resize and position the PIP so that it doesn’t cover any of the image that is important, and so that it does not get covered by the text.

iMovie 3.o will involve showing students how to fine-tune volume, fading, and generally polishing their productions. I want them to understand the importance of quality before moving on to greater and greater quantity.

iMovie 4.o will teach detaching audio. This is neat, because watching someone talk for too long is boring. You can videotape yourself speaking, and break up the video by inserting pictures, all the while keeping the audio track playing in the background. (It is important to learn all about adjusting volume before this lesson, because when you detach audio iMovie automatically makes it louder.)


  1. Obviously, this kind of project could be conducted on any topic. St. Patrick’s Day just happened to be the event that corresponded with me finally being ready to have my students use this tool. The main thing to consider is having the students only wrestle with one thing at a time. I recommend already having information compiled for them. Don’t have them research, conducting all kinds of steps before ever getting to making their iMovie. Then they won’t remember how to make one. My students had a one-stop shop of a trough of info about one topic within the Google slideshow.
  2. I gave them plenty of time, but stopped everyone at the same time, regardless of finishing the slideshow. (Honestly, it had too much information in it, anyway.) This way I could help everyone with iMovie at the same time. They were all on the same page. They could go back to the slideshow to learn more when they finished their movie.
  3. Here is where digital citizenry comes into play. Kids are already familiar with Google Images. Because we are going to be making  movies using the pictures, and we plan to published them, images that are copyrighted are a no go. Kids can use “advanced search” in Google Images to find usable images,
    or Richard Byrne provides a list of 9 websites that have images available for “reuse”:
  4. “Slide”–I called the images in the iMovie app slides because my students are used to Google Slides, and the pics look like lined up slides. “You can stretch each slide so that it takes up more time in your movie, for a longer voiceover. You can rearrange, delete and add more slides. Also, you can add text to your slides.”
  5. A teleprompter program I found through a grad class at Kutztown University is https://cueprompter.com/


Dignity in Defeat

There is lots of talk about how great failure is… in books, articles… all over the Twitterverse people are praising the merits of accepting failure. How great is it, really? When was the last time you experienced a real, core-shaking, devastating defeat? It’s pretty painful.

A couple of years ago it was popular to make compilations of videos of people “failing” at tasks that made them look silly. Guys with skateboards fumbling  rail-slides down handrails; girls messing up gymnastics; trucks miscalculating the height of overpasses; and more. I fell into the trap of watching several of these. Is there something therapeutic in watching others fail? Laughter is definitely a healing salve, and these short clips will cause you to chuckle, for sure. But, many of these videos are bloopers of people attempting to do amazing feats. Where are the compilation videos of successes? Also, the seemingly therapeutic laughter is achieved at a cost, albeit difficult to measure, to the person whose failed feat will live on in infamy forever captured by video shared so that the public can laugh at his or her embarrassment. Make no mistake about it. We are laughing at others’ misfortune.

To be sure there is therapy in laughing at one’s own misfortune. Additionally, there is a trend spreading where embracing failure is being given value. TED (n.d.) has a collection of talks; over 17; on this topic. I have preached the positivity of negative results to science experiments for years. Failure breeds future discoveries and unforeseen understanding. While this very well may be noble, what about the person relying on results to bolster claims necessary for earning a grant to fund more failures? Companies and governments are probably going to be less likely to give money to projects that prove unsuccessful. Defeat can be incredibly disappointing.

Ss with catepillar in front of ship
Students found a caterpillar crawling around the room.

I experienced a deeply depressing defeat at the beginning of this school year. The fact that it has taken me several months to share it illustrates the emotional impact. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to frame it. The story is a little embarrassing and revealing. I had to throw away something that had taken me many hours to build. Money had been spent on constructing something that in the end needed to be thrown out. Were these hours and this experience wasted? Yes… and no.

Cubbies in Nursery
I made these cubbies for my daughter’s nursery, 8 years ago.

Many teachers and parents (Hampton, 2015) experience a sort of nesting phase, similar to a woman about to give birth, prior to the school year. They buy more school supplies than they need, arrange, rearrange, and re-rearrange their rooms over and over, making everything just right, perfect for the new class. Maybe it is a guy thing, or perhaps it’s just “my” thing, but I like to build stuff to get ready for the school year.

The very first item that I ever made was a couple of bookshelves. I love books, and I wanted to have a room full of them. So, I made homes for them. An idea of what I wanted the shelves to look like, how I wanted them to function, and the ease of making them grew in my mind throughout the summer. In between Professional Development sessions and team planning meetings I was drawing, measuring, sawing, hammering, etc. my bookshelves. They came out great, functioned flawlessly, and are still being used… But, the middle shelf was accidentally placed the exact height of the outlet the construction was to hide. It was impossible to plug anything in with the shelves against the wall. This was easy enough to fix. I simply cut a notch out of the unit so plugs had a space to stick out of the wall. From planning to constructing to fixing this problem, the experience prepared as much my pedagogical psyche as it provided a home for my classroom library.

The shelves are still in use, today!
You can see the cut away of the shelf behind this crazy pirate guy.

In the next few years I built a classroom island, a castle, a workbench, fish tank stand/hood, and conference table, among other smaller projects. The classroom island was something I obsessed over the summer prior to making it. The cubbies that I purchased for housing the plunder of books I had been pillaging from second hand bookstores were unattractive and sat flush with the floor. My island has a platform that raises the cubbies off of the ground. I made a countertop that covers the ugly cubby roofs and extends backward to allow students to sit under it. With stools it functions just like the kitchen islands that most students have in their homes.

The castle deserves its own blog.

My workbench was really neat. I didn’t like the way the teacher desk quarantined me behind it, cutting me off from the action of learning. One year I took it all apart and lined it up. The parts included the desk that a teacher’s chair can pull under, a similar table/desk with space under it, and two giant filing cabinets. I placed one of the filing cabinets under the table to hold it up; It had been attached to the teacher desk for support. The other filing cabinet was placed at the end of the twelve foot long line of equipment. Similarly to the classroom island, I built a frame of two by fours to attach one by eights, hanging the creation over one of the long sides and the end so that kids could pull up to it like a gigantic table. Because it was slightly higher than their little student desks, most kids stood to work at it. In my pirate-themed room this came to be known affectionately as “The Plank”.

I learned something new each time I constructed something, and many of the lessons involved solving problems. Every creation proved to be incredibly useful, fun, and loved… Until…

This past summer I got an idea in my head that I could not shake off. It consumed my thoughts. I was picturing building a sunken pirate ship, using planks from the classroom workbench. The workbench had served its purpose, and I wanted to do something different with that space in the room. Plus, I needed lumber for this new obsession–Make no doubt about it–I thought about this project constantly June, July, and August of 2018. Each beginning of the year construction project has been a sort of puzzle. My mind bends ideas and works out how I can form structures quickly and use as little funds as possible. The structure is always something that you can’t simply buy, either. Lastly, it has to be both functional and cool looking. The sunken pirate ship was going to be my masterpiece.

First of all it would be almost completely constructed of wood that I already had, making it virtually free of funds. Second of all, what I pictured in my mind did not exist anywhere but the bottom of the ocean. Thirdly, and most importantly, this new project was going to be the most beautiful, complex, impossible to reproduce, no-one-else-could-possibly-make-this-creation the pedagogical world has ever known! And, it was.

The frame was a puzzle in my mind.

I began by taking a part the beloved workbench and planing each edge of the one by eights so that the angle was 70ish degrees, rather than square. After doing this to all of my planks, I took four foot by four foot pieces of plywood that I brought from home, and I cut out a curve that would serve as the hull of the ship. This was one of the trickiest parts of the project. I brought the plywood up to my room and looked at it for a long time. I wanted the sunken ship to show the curved bottom of the boat, but also come up from the floor at an angle. This meant that I needed a few curved pieces, but different sizes. Additionally, I wanted the model to be the front of a ship, so I had to have the frame graduate from a large curve to a smaller and smaller one. It is almost as hard to write about this as it was to ponder it in my brain. This puzzle took me a long time to solve. Even after I had constructed a frame, it was tricky to figure out how to attach the planks. Should I build the whole thing outside, or piece it together right in my room?

First Plank
The first plank


I decided to assemble the ship in my room, rather than run up and down the stairs over and over. I figured out what angle to cut the bottom of each plank, ending at the floor, and attached my first one. It was beautiful, already! Just the success of figuring out how it could work was exhilarating.

I kept adding planks, alternating lengths and looks. I wanted it to look like the front of a pirate ship that had broken in half, so I left some of the boards ending at varying lengths. The front would be cut in an arching round curve, or so I hoped. This was still a little fuzzy in my head.

Partial completionThe top part of the ship would be flat or vertical, having no curve, to show that this was more than just a rowboat. It had been a tall mast ship. I continued the framework and attached more planks. curved front creation

As you can see, from these images, the ship was a work in progress. Much like a sculpture, I was cutting, shaping, adding, removing, and attaching pieces to adjust the art as it evolved. (Through constant formative assessment I made adjustments.)

Some of the shape of the ship would be produced simply through optics. I would position it at such an angle as to make the front of the boat look like it not only curved up, but also came to a seam with the opposite side (which obviously did not exist). One final extremely difficult, mind-bending trick was figuring out what to do with the front of the ship. I wanted it to look like a beam running the spine of the hull. Luan is a very thin wood that comes in sheets and is used for subflooring. You use it to make an otherwise uneven or bumpy floor smooth before laying tile. Because it is so thin, it is very pliable. It was very difficult to bend, hold, mark, and cut, but I got a piece that curved with my boat’s bow pretty well. I tossed around having a spear like staff sticking off the front, also, but the monstrous beast was already nearly touching the ceiling! A broken off point seemed to fit the theme of disaster.

Little did I know the disaster that was about to befall my creation, next.

Fellow teachers from my building visited my room, having heard the commotion or news of my creation. They were increasingly impressed as the structure was developed and took on shape. I remember wanting the boat to have a certain semblance to a ship before inviting my principal, Dr. Moyer, up to see my masterpiece’s progress. When I did finally invite him, I didn’t receive an enthusiastic response. In fact, it took a day before I even heard from him. At the time I was happy to have more minutes to get the ship that much closer to completion. When Dr. Moyer did finally join me in my room, he brought bad news.

Clearly, it pained my principal to inform me that after all of the work that I had put into this beautiful masterpiece, it was going to have to go. It wasn’t his decision. He shared with me an email from maintenance that he had received. The message explained that “The pirate ship being built in room 207 had to be removed, immediately” due to several violations and concerns. Dr. Moyer didn’t see any way around it, but suggested that I talk to the head of maintenance.

The pirate ship was just about done at this point. I called my school district’s head of maintenance several times before we finally connected. Over the phone I told the person who is in charge of not only maintaining all of the district’s facilities, but also responsible for students’ safety that I understood every point that he was making in his email to my principal. I explained that some of the concerns could be remediated and I asked for a chance to make some adjustments to my creation. This saint of a man told me that he would consider my changes and take another look at my project.

This was it. I had to move the ship away from the sprinkler head in the ceiling, make sure the structure was secure, and smooth rough edges as much as possible. I put last minute, finishing touches on the ship to make it look as good as it could… And then, I waited for a verdict.

I am not listing every concern that my masterpiece had raised in the mind of the head of maintenance, but suffice to say, I was unable to completely rectify enough of them to satisfy the justification of leaving the heap of wood in my room, permanently. It was honestly touching how obviously moved this understanding and caring individual was when he told me that, “Unfortunately, the pirate ship still had to be removed from the classroom.”

I had worked feverishly with an obsessed passion to complete this project before school began. I wanted to have this amazing, awe-inspiring, gigantic addition to my pirate-themed room ready for students to appear Monday morning. I couldn’t wait for them to feel the presence of the sunken pirate ship looming in the back of the room. Removing it would be like losing a limb.

Ella and ship
Although temporary, the pirate ship made an impression.

Hesitatingly, I inquired if I could just keep it long enough for students to see it. After a pause, my savior said that he needed the ship removed, but that he wasn’t planning to do a walk through of my building on the first day of school. It was understood that if anything negative happened, it was on me. Having constructed the creation myself, I knew that it was perfectly safe. And, I was very confident in my classroom management, so I took the chance of letting my students at least view the craziest creation I had ever attempted.

Dignified Defeat

I took the pirate ship down. I was okay with this decision because it was made with the safety of students in mind. But, make no mistake about it, this was a defeat, a loss, a failure. As I said earlier in this text, I struggled to publish any information about the pirate ship. I never tweeted images of it or talked about it publicly on Facebook. Was I simply embarrassed? Yes, but even more than that, my dream was defeated.

…Or, was it?

I told the head of maintenance that I had envisioned this creation over the summer, and I felt like I just HAD to make it. He suggested that I speak to the people who produce plays at the high school to help with making their sets. There was a respect for my creativity. I’m not sure that he ever completely understood, but I could not NOT construct this pirate ship. I had to see if I could do it. I had to see if my vision would work. I had to see if I could puzzle out the angles and curves. I had to see what it would look like. Could it become anything even close to what I envisioned? As it turned out, yes, I could. Yes, I did. Yes, it was… beautiful. And, now it is gone.

I eased myself into my defeat by thinking I would reconstruct the ship down by my pool. But, I’d have to build a whole new frame, and I didn’t think that the low-quality wood would hold up outside. In the end I let the thing get moldy and threw it all away.

A chess tournament training I attended recently shared what kids must master before attending their first match. They have to know how to checkmate or win a game. They IMG_1708should know how to operate a chess clock. There are a couple other elements, but what stood out the most to me was the idea that kids must learn to lose. At the time I pictured my 7 year old daughter who hates losing. She has melted down to tears when she loses. But, since then, I have mulled this concept over. At both the beginning of a chess match and at the end you shake hands. It is different from other sports. You don’t jump into competition and then slap hands carelessly at the end, chanting, “Good game, good game, good game,” while never looking the victor in the eyes. A dignified defeat is thankful for the opportunity to learn through this match. I was able to try out my skills, make some good decisions, show my stuff, prove myself to myself and perhaps others, and I am now a better stronger person having competed against you. Maybe, like a match I played against someone better than I, the outcome will be a feeling of “At least I held my own.” There is dignity in that attitude. Dignity is an attitude.

In conclusion, I am pleased to profess that although my room does not dawn a disaster of a sunken pirate ship, it does house one classy educator who has learned the lesson of dignified defeat.

What defeats have you dignified?



Hampton, K. (2015, August). THE ART OF AUGUST NESTING. Retrieved March 16, 2019, from https://kellehampton.com/2015/08/the-art-of-august-nesting/


TED. (n.d.). A collection of TED Talks (and more) on the topic of Failure. Retrieved March 17, 2019, from https://www.ted.com/topics/failure