January 27, 2017

Kindness Matters...

We have been celebrating a week of kindness this week at West Middle so I thought it would be a perfect time to share some tips on what it looks like to be kind.


I talked with some students and got their feedback. This is what they said.

Helping pick things up
Volunteer work
Complimenting and caring for each other
Helping those who need it
Holding the door
Helping with difficult tasks like when a locker is stuck
Saying good morning and good afternoon
Telling jokes, making people laugh

Here was one I loved...Kindness cards

Like this one...

Or this one...

Basically, the kids have these cards that have inspirational quotes on them. They can give them to random people or simply someone they know. They can say something to them or just hand it out and smile. One students said she liked to just hand it out and see the people's reaction.

How cool is that!

Although we strive to be kind everyday, it is also good to have reminders such as this week. It is intentional and who knows, maybe it will help form a habit of kindness.

As I thought about this, there were some others that I felt needed to be added...

1. Always be first...I read about this one in Tim Ferris' book Tools of Titans. He was speaking about Gabby Reece (famous volleyball player) and her husband Laird Hamilton and their relationship. Gabby says she likes to always be first...first hello, first smile, first hug, etc. She knows if she does it first then the kindness will get done.

2. When seeing someone, act like the young kid does when he or she sees you at the end of the day and its like she hadn't seen you in months. You know, when you walk in the door and your son or daughter screams and is all smiles. What a great feeling! Why don't we do that when our spouse or mom or dad walks in the room. We should take notes from toddlers. 

3. Free Hugs and High Fives...this is one of my favorite things we do. The first day of school, several of our kids and our teachers stand outside with inspirational signs and hand out free hugs and free high fives to any one who wants them. You should see the smiles, it really sets the tone for the day. 

4.  Say you are AWESOME - no explanation needed here. We can always say something good about someone else. 

Here's to every week being kindness week!


January 24, 2017

Ol' Lazarus Lake and the idea of failure...

Have you ever heard of Lazarus Lake??

The ultra-marathoner who starts his race with the lighting of a cigarette.

Me either until just a couple of weeks ago when I was perusing my Netflix account.

Some of you may not know but I have a healthy (or unhealthy for that matter) addiction to documentaries and have watched some great ones the past month or so.

There are no boundaries to my genres of documentaries...none. I love them all! ESPN has some of the best in the 30 for 30 series and they have not let me down yet. Here are just a few of my favorites...

The Barkley Marathons - More on this one in a minute...

Anyways, back to Lazarus Lake.

Lazarus (not his real name) is a runner. He really doesn't run much anymore but has contributed greatly to the running culture for many decades. In fact, Lazarus is well known for creating several races, one in particular is called the Barkley Marathon.

Again, this popped up on my Netflix account and I had no idea what it was about. I saw Tennessee in the title and felt I needed to explore this documentary.

I am glad I did!!

Long story short...The Barkley Marathon is actually an ultra-marathon... meaning that it is super long and I will never ever run in it.  Actually, the official definition is any race that is longer than the traditional marathon length of 26 miles. The race takes place in East Tennessee in part of the Appalachian Mountains and was supposedly inspired by a prison escape (won't spoil it for you). 

Start of the Barkley Marathon

You know how these things get started, friends sitting around having a good time talking about this and that and all of a sudden an ultra marathon is born. That is not exactly how it happened but you get the idea.

I do not want to spend the entire about this documentary because that is not the point. The takeaway was something said by Lazarus Lake. He simply said, "you can't accomplish anything without the risk of failure."

Yes, an eccentric, ultra-marathoner spouts wisdom that is applicable to all aspects of life...including and especially the world of education. You see, in his world, in the world of the Barkley Marathon...most fail. In fact, only 10 in the past 25 years have actually succeeded (more since the taping, but still) in this ultra-marathon. But, the popularity is increasing year by year. I'm sure the documentary will only make it grow more.

You can't accomplish anything without the risk of failure...

In order for that to happen in a school, in the classroom, etc...these things have to be present...

  • A culture that allows people to take risks and try different things.
  • Being transparent and modeling how making mistakes and learning from them can work.
  • Continuous dialogue on how taking chances...trying new things...taking risks can be acceptable if it means that something better is going to come out of it.
  • Sharing and celebrating successes that have risen out of taking chances/risk-taking.

Too often we reward success and discourage failure. Don't get me wrong, educators are good cheerleaders but we may need to go further. Adults and kids need to see it in action. 

They need to see that something better can come out of something that did not initially work.


January 20, 2017

5 Reasons to Try Something Different...

It is important for us to change. It is important for us to do different things. If not, we stand a chance to become stagnate personally and professionally.

To do something different does not mean drastically changing your thought and actions. It could simply be small changes in incremental steps. It can be methodical or spontaneous.

Although I would never recommend drastic changes without first putting some thought into it (pay attention to your Spidey-Sense).

In case you aren't sure what Spidey-Sense is, here you go...

I do think it is important to do something different every once in awhile.

Here is why:

1. It keeps people on their toes...guessing a little.
It is ok that there is wonder. If people expect the same thing every time, then after awhile do they even pay attention any more??

2. Gives you a sense of excitement/nervousness.
Every get that butterfly feeling when you do something new? That is a reminder that you are ALIVE. 

3. Leads to reflection
Doing something different allows you to look back at what you have already done. It allows you to reflect on what has worked and what has not. 

4. Starts a conversation
When you do something different people ask questions. Then, YOU get a chance to talk about the great things you are doing. 

5. Becomes contagious
When people see different things, when people see others get excited and that excitement becomes contagious. People want to be a part of something fun and meaningful. 

One word of warning, people may try to stop you because it is not "normal" or because it is different than what everyone is used to. Those distractors like the status quo and will most likely respond with statements like "it will never work" or "that's not how we do that."

Do not let that change your course of action. Push ahead and if it works, AWESOME. If it doesn't, you can always adjust.

That's the key, you can always adjust...

Go out and try something different.


January 17, 2017

Day of Disruption...(Disruptor Series Part 3)

Friday, January 13th, 2017 was a day like no other at WMS.

Two other teachers and I proclaimed it "Disruption Day" for 8th grade science and social studies. We have been talking about it for awhile. Good ideas were mentioned, what ifs were brought up but we still had not pulled the trigger...until Friday.

This is what Disruption Day looked like for us:

Each class was divided into 3 groups.
The groups rotated during their science and social studies classes to three different locations.
Each location spent around 25 minutes on a specific topic.
The topic was related but it wasn't related...I know weird.
We did that for 3 class periods...9 total rotations.




It has been awhile since I spent a whole day as a classroom teacher and it brought back so many good memories.

On a side note, I think it is a good idea for administrators to actually take a teachers class every once in awhile...it helps bring back those teacher memories. More importantly it keeps you from forgetting where you came from. 

Back to Disruption Day

3 Rotations 3 Classes the theme was...

Fear and Uncertainty.

I know, just enough ambiguity to make the students wonder what the heck is going on. That was our goal.

The lesson all focused around fear and uncertainty in relation to the 1940s to late 1980s, basically the period of the Cold War. Mr. Epley focused on Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project. Ms. Cossey used mouse traps and ping pong balls to show reaction. And I used propaganda posters to talk about the human side of things.

Now here is the kicker...The Cold War is not in the standards for 8th grade history. Nor is there any mention of any of that in the 8th grade science standards. Oh yeah, we also did not require any assignments, worksheets or writing about your experience activities. It was simply out of the box thinking.

The feedback was great! The students enjoyed it and said they wanted to do it again!

Some things I think we would do differently...

Bring in more student driven activities (we were all tired).
Extend the lesson to multiple days so the students can identify and solve problems relating to the topics.
Make a bigger deal out of it.

If you ask the three of us it was a success. If you ask the students you hear things like...
"it was relevant"
"it was fun but and we were learning"
"that wasn't like anything we have done before"
"when are we doing it again??"

Disruption Day Part I was a big hit. It will not be the last one. We are already planning for future disruption days. Other people are getting excited about it too.

Who knows, maybe it will lead to more members of #TeamDisruption...


January 12, 2017

If students could choose classes, would they choose ours?

A couple days ago during our recording of the LTL Podcast, my good friend Christopher King posed a great question.

"If students have the ability to choose the classes they go to, would they choose ours...would they choose yours?"

That is a valid question.

I remember there were times that if I asked myself the same question, I would have said no. I feel like I was a good teacher but upon reflecting on some of those classes, I would have chosen no...I'm not sure I would have taken my class.


I didn't recognize this at the time but I felt my classes were relevant...but were they relevant to me or were they relevant to the students?

Why in the world would a student not want to learn about Reconstruction? Why would they not want to sit back and read about and discuss the Gilded Age. I mean, everyone likes history right??

If I could go back this is what I would do...

Screen my students - By that, I mean give them personality inventories and check their learning modalities. I would even screen to see their reading ability. Why? It wasn't until I moved into an elementary principal job that I realized that some of my high school students couldn't read. How's that for hindsight. Believe me it is easy to do because secondary folks were all about the content and most of us had very little background on the pedagogy side of teaching kids...at least that was my experience.

Provide real world problem solving experiences - Not the problem solving experiences where I have a specific answer but one where there is no answer. The students' role is to solve it. Who knows, they may think of things from their perspective that we never thought of.

Fun and relationships - I feel I was good at this but looking back I know I could have done better. I would greet them everyday, ask them about life and spend more time getting to know my students. I have learned more than ever this past year that life is too short to worry about the little things. They are kids, they are going to make mistakes and that is ok.

Speaking of mistakes...

Encourage more risk-taking - This would be for me and the students. I liked to do different things in my classroom but I pretty much kept to the pacing guide and standards. Looking back I feel that those things are important but I could still get it done without relying on them so much. I would want to make sure that my students knew that my classroom was a place where you could make mistakes (including me) as long as you learned from them and grew.

Personalize learning - Not every kid learns the same. Not every kid can read the same passage about Teddy Roosevelt and understand the same things. Heck, I didn't even think that some of the kids couldn't read the passage at all. But now I know that some could not. With my increased knowledge of technology, I feel that I could use that to help me personalize learning, even in a high school history class.

Again, I don't think I was a bad teacher. In fact, I still get comments from former students about how they loved my class. However, I know I could have done more.

Knowing what I know now and implementing the strategies I mentioned above...I think if I were in the classroom today and I sold tickets to my class...kids might just buy them.

What about you?


January 10, 2017

Why I do the things I do...

Why I do the things I do...

my wife would LOVE to know.

I am not talking about the every day crazy things I get myself into (see the above pic) but the things I am doing to help improve myself.

Such as...


I like to share. Maybe I didn't so much as a kid but now I do. I like to share information that I feel can be helpful to someone. Blogging allows me to put thoughts down onto "electronic" paper and share them with other like-minded people. I like to believe a bunch of people read those thoughts, but in the grand scheme of things, it is ok if they do not. The process of taking thoughts and converting them into words, sentences, paragraphs, etc is an educational process for me. Plus, hitting that publish button can be somewhat exciting (and intimidating) knowing that other people can actually read my work.

That can be the tough part...hitting the publish button.


Again, I like to share.

I found two other guys who also like to share.

Click on the picture to listen (oh and leave a review on I Tunes)

We have common interests and a common goal to provide not only information to people but a platform for them to share what they know too. We recorded another podcast today (will be released soon) and the process is so much FUN! We get to talk about things we love, share new ideas and laugh about the crazy things going on in our world. And believe me, there are plenty of crazy things!


Twitter is my go-to professional development tool. I know what you are thinking...Twitter can't be a PD tool...it is for funny cat videos and crazy memes like this one.

One of my favorites by the way.

No, that's Facebook (for me). I do enjoy some Facebook but usually for entertainment only.

Not a day goes by that I do not gain something from my interactions on Twitter. Every day = great tips, great articles, great followers...the list goes on.

I have connected and made new friends with people all over the world. Some are in education or leadership but others are in completely different fields.

Try it, don't give up on it...you may like it. Come find me @mickshuran


I read for knowledge but I also read for entertainment.

I read "real" books but I also read on my kindle or I Pad.

I read education and leadership books but I also love a good mystery or crime novel.

I read so I can share.

Here is what is on my night stand right now...

I do these things on a regular basis so I can not only share but grow.

The cool thing is...YOU can do this too.

Don't be afraid to hit the publish button. Don't be afraid that no one will read it.

Don't be afraid of the sound of your voice. Don't be afraid that no one will listen.

Don't be afraid to connect with people in your field or even your favorite author. You may be surprised.

Read every day, even if it is for fun.

If you struggle, ask someone to help.

I will be glad to help.


January 5, 2017

Thresholds, Granny Shots and Group Think...(Disruptor Series Part 2)

In his new podcast Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell tackles the idea of thresholds.

By the way, if you have not read any of his articles or books, you are truly missing out. He is a fantastic storyteller and although sometimes controversial, has great insight as to how humans think and work. Go HERE for more info on Gladwell.

Here is the basic idea:

Wilt Chamberlain, arguably one of the greatest NBA stars of all times, the only player to record a 100 point game...was one of the WORST free throw shooters ever.

Rick Barry, another NBA great, was the best free throw shooter of all times.

Both players are ranked in the NBA's Top 50

Both players are recognizable to basketball fans throughout the world for different reasons. 

The most glaring difference probably relates to physical attributes that cannot be denied.

Wilt was a behemoth, playing at 7' 1" and dominating the inside like no one else could.


Rick Barry shot free throws underhanded.

Yes, that is correct, the ole granny shot. With a 90% free throw made rate, who could argue with those stats?

Well, apparently all of basketball. Since that time, how many other folks have you seen shooting underhand? Can you count on one hand? My guess would be yes.


If it is effective, why do we not see more people shooting this way?

Good news! Someone is bringing it back. Chinanu Onuaku from the Houston Rockets starting shooting that way at Louisville and he says it has helped him.

Will it take root??

Probably not...

The reason Gladwell says this conflict exists is this idea of low vs. high threshold personalities. A high threshold personality is one that is dictated by what the "crowd" thinks. While the low threshold does not concern themselves with the crowd.

Wilt = high threshold = does not want to look foolish in front of the crowd
Rick = low threshold = does not give a crap about what the crowd thinks

Is this something that exists in your schools, businesses, houses etc??

Would it be beneficial to know who around might exhibit either a high or low threshold personality?? 

I believe it could make a huge impact!

Think about working on a project. If the entire group consists of high threshold personalities, there is a likelihood that group think will occur. Basically, everyone will agree and in reality, no one agrees.

Ever heard of the Abeline Paradox??

What if everyone had a low threshold personality?? There literally could be fights!

The balance is necessary. 

I visited Chattanooga STEM recently (my third or fourth visit). Each time I visit, I gain something new and interesting. Tony Donen, the principal at Chattanooga STEM, talked about how ALL of their students are given the Myers-Briggs Test. The results of that personality test are used throughout the year to help group those students on different projects.

Instead of grouping by ability, group by personality?? 

Looking at personalities and using the results may be something worthy to examine.

Back to Rick and Wilt. To this day, Rick Barry works with young players to attempt to convince them to consider his way of shooting. He believes that ALL players can be good free throw shooters, they just have to have confidence, good form and practice. I bet he even still wonders why more people do not shoot that way. I bet if Wilt were still alive, he would have that answer...

No way...it's a granny shot!


January 3, 2017

One Word 2017...I may need your help!

Like most folks, I struggle with New Year's Resolutions. So much that I no longer even attempt them.

Do you ever wonder what resolutions people have or the statistics on how long they last?? Click Here for some New Year's Resolutions Statistics.

A few years ago, I was able to watch a short clip by Jon Gordon that allowed me to rethink the process. 

Here is the video in case you missed it.

ONE WORD - Jon Gordon

Basically, you choose a word which sums up what YOU want out of the new year. There is more to it than that but I will probably butcher it if I try to describe in detail, so check it out on your own. Plus, tons of people are getting into it. It is fun to see everybody's word for the year. Go to Twitter or Facebook and type #OneWord or look on your favorite blogs, you will see a bunch! 

Here are a few of my favorites so far...(check them out).

Dr. Ryan Jackson's #OneWord - Progress
Julie Davis's #OneWord - Brave
Christopher King's #OneWord - Growth

The past couple of years, I chose the same word...PRESENT. The reason...I was terrible at wrapping presents...just kidding (no really, I am bad a wrapping presents too but that's another story).

I was bad about not being PRESENT with my family and friends. I was there but I was not there...ever felt that way??

Since that time, I cannot say that I am cured but I will say that I am able to remind myself very quickly and easily when I am not being PRESENT with the people I care about most. And I will say, I have improved. I even have a daily reminder on my desk...Thanks to Kim Uselton!

The concept does work!

I will continue to use the word PRESENT because it works for me (most of the time...I still fail, but that is ok). However, it is pretty ingrained in me now so I think it is time to add another #OneWord to my repertoire.  

I know EXACTLY what I need to focus on. 

I have thought and thought and thought and the same idea has popped into my head. 

The problem, it is not #OneWord but two. 

Mental Toughness

That's it, mental toughness. I stink at it. 
What I mean by stinking at it is...

If I need to get up at 5:30am to run or workout...I stink at it.
If I need to read or write instead of watching one of my shows (see last post), I stink at it.
If I need to ignore that bag of Doritos and a cold beer...I stink at it.

I am in a constant battle with my mind. I need to be more mentally tough! 

So...this is where I may need your help. 

Do I try to find a one word solution for mental toughness (if so do you have any suggestions)? 

Or, do I simply use mental toughness as my #TwoWords mantra to define my 2017? Who knows, maybe a new trend will start...What are your #TwoWords??

The reality of it is this. I know it is more about the PROCESS. If I am thinking about what my weaknesses might be or what I need to focus on for the new year, then I am already moving in the right direction. 

So...think about what YOU want out of 2017. If you come up with that #OneWord that ultimately describes your PROCESS, that is awesome! If it happens to be two words, that will do just fine. The key is finding that word, words, mantra, whatever and use it to guide your life. You and I will improve.