23-Engage the Enraged…here’s what you do with those Kids that Keep you Up at Night

Enduring a meal with an obnoxious co-worker, relative, or acquaintance is painful…but it’s just one meal. Imagine an adolescent version of this person striding into your class. Now, you’re confronted with the daily drudgery of interacting with a very biased kid who’s quick to profess his bizarre theories. Most importantly, his captive audience…the remainder of your students, will be subjected to his monologues too.


But your new student isn’t your crazy uncle. You simply MUST engage him. That’s your job. This obligation may seem distasteful, but flip your paradigm and embrace this as an amazing learning opportunity. This difficult student will be your teacher. He’ll expose your biases, your triggers, your limited perspectives. He’ll engage your empathy, your objectivity, and your fair-mindedness.

Your mantra moving forward is: I’m going to bond with this kid.

  • Try engaging him in casual conversation about non-controversial topics
  • Try engaging him by smiling frequently
  • Try engaging him by greeting him warmly…whenever possible
  • Try engaging him by complimenting him when he’s deserving
  • Try engaging him by taking an interest in what he does outside of school
  • Try engaging him by helping him express himself in more effective and succinct ways
  • Try engaging him by keeping your cool when he spouts something disgusting

If you’re able to engage this problem child, benefits will abound:

  • Archie Jr. will succeed academically
  • Archie Jr. will succeed socially
  • You will confront your biases
  • You will become more empathetic

Episode Template

The Problem:

Some problem kids can wreck a classroom atmosphere.

The Solution:

Embrace the challenge of bonding with this kid.

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • List attitudes or dispositions you detest.
  • Find difficult students on your roster.
  • Practice holding your tongue.
  • Produce some empathy.

Embrace the mantra, I’m going to engage with this kid. Make this engagement mantra materialize by creating a list of strategies you’ll implement, particularly the next time your problem child bellows one of his or her conspiracy theories. See the list above for ideas. Just remember, the focus is to bond, not to pound your chest and put the kid in their place.

Listen to this episode for more detail: 

22-Michaella Young is your Socratic Circle Customer Support Rep

Socrates understood formative assessment 2500 years ago. His student would make an assertion and then the Great One would start probing. Much like an annoying 3-year-old, he’d keep asking questions and then follow ups. Socrates’ good natured interrogations would cause students to bob and weave…refine and alter. Eventually, the young Athenian would strike bedrock. In the process of finding that firm foundation, this ancient adolescent would demonstrate a solid and evolving understanding of the concept. They still may disagree with classmates and Socrates for that matter, but those disagreements would be based on reason.

Unfortunately, when it comes to complex ideas in modern classrooms, many students keep a low profile, totally disengaged, profoundly intimidated. In order to bring such students out of the weeds and into the intellectual light of day, copy the Great One and conduct a Socratic Circle.

Here’s a blog I authored in 2013 on how to setup an epic Socratic Circle.

But, perhaps you’ve tried a Socratic Circle and it didn’t end well. That’s where my guest Michaella Young comes in. Michaella is one of those student voices…primary sources…that I love to feature.


Please consider Michaella your Socratic Circle Customer Service Rep. She’ll give you advice on how you can fix yours up, or give you the confidence to try one!


Episode Template

The Problem:

Many Socratic Circles are unsuccessful.

The Solution:

Let a Socratic Circle expert guide you on how to plan, then execute, a great one.

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • Designate an upcoming, meaty, complex topic for a Socratic Circle.
  • Create a number of thought-provoking prompts and provide them to the students prior to the circle.
  • Divide the class into 2 groups.
  • Only intervene when necessary.

Socratic Circles are an engaging way to help all students grasp complex ideas. They also constitute a wonderful formative assessment.  

Listen to this episode for more detail:

21-Brian Sztabnik Tempers the Teplate to Unleash Expression


I have to confess, I love it when I’m supplied a template. My editor imposed a template on me for Hacking Engagement. I’d have been lost without it. K-12 education seems a lot like a huge rigid template. In fact, schools are darned similar to standardized mass production facilities. And therein lies the problem. While templates provide direction and form, they’re incredibly restrictive.

Brian Sztabnik believes that creativity, student discovery, and self-directed learning can be stifled by over-reliance on templates. He urges teachers to take a courageous step and remove the training wheels.

Brian is an exceptional AP English teacher from Long Island. His website and podcast Talks with Teachers is exceedingly popular. Brian is all about collaboration and his efforts led to the creation of an amazing book…“The Best Lesson Series Literature: 15 Master Teachers Share What Works”



Listen to this episode and work up the gumption to remove the security blanket from students.

Episode Template (I’m well aware of the irony)

The Problem:

Writing templates restrict creativity.

The Solution:

Challenge students with an open-ended writing prompt.

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • Create a sparse prompt.
  • Include a word count.
  • Help kids with writer’s block.

Engagement is stifled by rigidly detailed writing prompts. Find the courage to open the door to epic expression!

Listen to this episode for more detail:

20-Gretchen Schultek Bridgers Navigates the Ebb and Flow of Student Engagement for the Entire 50 Minutes Class Period


50 minutes is a long time. When’s the last time you were engaged for 50 solid minutes? Interestingly enough…we expect our kids to be engaged for a solid 50 minutes every day.


We need to plan for student engagement just like we plan for covering the learning target. To help us in this noble quest is educator, author, podcaster, wife, and mother Gretchen Schultek Bridgers.




Gretchen’s Book:

Elementary EDUC 101: What They Didn’t Teach You In College

Gretchen’s Website:


Episode Template

The Problem:

It’s hard to keep students engaged for 50 solid minutes.

The Solution:

Include engagement in lesson planning.

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • Chunk your lesson.
  • Formulate an engagement strategy for each chunk.
  • Anticipate student disengagement…who and when.
  • Include peer teaching.
  • Constantly debrief.

Learn to navigate the ebb and flow of student engagement. Enter your room tomorrow with confidence and enthusiasm!

Listen to this episode for more detail:


19-Kylie Stickrath…A Student Voice Urging You to FLIP your Presentations


I was a history major in college. I was thoroughly invested in my discipline. But even me, a history geek, struggled during marathon lectures. And you should’ve seen my classmates. It was often a massacre. I remember thinking, This is a darned passive way to learn. I could read what he’s saying in a book. I felt like a prisoner with no control. And remember, I was a guy who loved history.

This is relevant because I teach dual enrollment history to high school juniors and seniors. Dual enrollment is a college course brought to the high school campus. A few years ago, my principal asked me to teach such a course. The sponsoring college made clear their expectation that lecture would be a big part of the class. I was initially reluctant because I remembered my comatose classmates back in college. I didn’t want to do that to my kids.  

Regardless of my hesitancy, I signed on. My challenge was to make lectures engaging. I certainly wasn’t going to stand in front of them and drone on. I decided to try something new.

Kylie Stickrath is one of those awesome student voices (primary sources) that’s going to urge you to give flipped presentations a try! Kylie was skeptical about flipped presentations. Once she experienced a good one…she became a full-fledged convert! Listen and see if she can convert you!

Here are some great platforms for flipped presentation creation:







Episode Template

The Problem:

Students are disengaged and downright fidgety during lectures and presentations.

The Solution:

Give a flipped presentation a try.

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • Pick a presentation to flip. 
  • Select a number of public domain images.
  • Record the lecture and then upload it to YouTube.
  • Have students apply what they’ve learned the next day in class.
  • Constantly debrief.

Watching videos is what this generation does. So when in Rome….do like the Romans. Create an engaging flipped lecture and upload it to YouTube. This format empowers students to be self-directed.

Listen to this episode for more detail: