83-A Bard from Detroit Mesmerizes his British Students…Starring Elontra Hall

Elontra Hall @cloudscholar

April Domine, my former superintendent, once made a power suggestion. She encouraged me to read a book by Daniel H. Pink called A Whole New Mind. It was an amazing recommendation. The crux of the book is that the right side of the brain is going to be the star of the future. The subtext of the title says it all: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. As I read this excellent book, I felt Daniel was verbalizing everything I’ve always felt about the learning process. And to top it off, he is a fellow Buckeye!

Daniel devotes an entire chapter to the power of story. In the opening part of the chapter, he refers to earlier parts of the book. One reference is fact-based. He challenges the reader to recall some important specific data point from one of the opening chapters. No doubt, most of the readers struggled to recall a specific statistic…I certainly did. He then asks readers to recall a fascinating comparison between the legendary John Henry, The Steel Driving Man, and Gary Kasperov, the chess champion defeated by the IBM computer in 1997. Both John Henry and Gary Kasperov demonstrated the limitations of even the most skilled and determined human in the face of advancing technology. When Daniel referred to these rich narratives, the feelings I had when I first read them, the moral, and many of the details, immediately surfaced on my hard-drive.

Here is what Daniel Pink has to say:

Our difficulty retrieving that isolated factoid, and our relative ease summoning the sad saga of Gary Kasperov, aren’t signs of flaccid intelligence or impending Alzheimer’s. They merely demonstrate how our minds work. Stories are easier to remember because, in many ways, stories are how we remember.

And here is where my guest Elontra Hall makes a grand entrance. Elontra is from Detroit, but he lives and teaches in the UK. The story about his migration is fascinating and will be explained in this episode. He and I became friends on Twitter and I instantly loved his vibe. I prompted him to be a guest. He agreed as long as he could talk about storytelling. I was totally down with that condition! 

Episode Template

The Problem: 

Students feel alienated from class content.

The Solution:

Engage kids profoundly through stories.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  • Consider how you can insert a story into tomorrow’s lesson.
  • Challenge students to ignite their storytelling abilities in the quest to peer-teach.

Stories are an awesome way to engage students as they learn. 

Listen to “83-A Bard from Detroit Mesmerizes his British Students…Starring Elontra Hall” on Spreaker.

82-Class Clown Management

Many teachers cringe when they hear “humor in the classroom” because it brings to mind the class clown–the scourge of serious learning. First of all, I want to note that not all class clowns are problematic. Some kids are just delightfully funny and have skills to use their humor without harm or disruption. However, there are class clowns that seem to be “the scourge” because teachers just do not know how to deal with them. In the past, many class clowns faced frightening consequences. (Back in the day, they probably took the brunt of the corporal punishment meted out at the principal’s office.) But regardless of the consequences, every school still had class clowns. It is not acceptable to violate the Geneva Convention; so let’s explore a better way to live with class clowns.

Teaching is a tough existence if you are at odds with your students. You can learn to welcome them, appreciate their humor, and keep them from disrupting or dismantling classroom plans or relationships. I’ll share some tips that I have learned from working at this challenge.

The most effective way to manage class clowns is to connect with them. Education would be a dull enterprise without their humor. Embrace that they exist, and try to get them on your side. 

So, how do you do it? As with other discipline challenges, you set expectations, anticipate problems, strive for consistency, follow through with consequences when needed, and constantly work at a relationship with the clown. The better you connect, the more of a joy and asset her or his humor will be to the class.

Distractions from class clowns generally fall into three categories:

  1. general disruptions
  2. sarcasm
  3. derisive statements directed at other students, or you

The first step is to identify and anticipate the behavior. Most of us handle issues better if we have time to think about proper responses. Sometimes you have to think on your feet, but even then, it’s helpful to know what could be coming.

Avoid pulling the disruptive students out in the hall for a private “Come to Jesus” or “I am going to set you straight” talk. Even more, avoid giving the talk in front of peers. Most pranksters have been through this drill many times. Usually, those “talks,” appeals, or threats have not worked. Any “getting into trouble” that is public just elevates their status as the premier class clown.  

Instead, your next step will be to build rapport with the class clown and hold him or her to pre-arranged expectations in class, during instruction. Your role as teacher, your skill at connecting, and your homage to the class expectations will be enhanced–in front of all students.

Finally, you will make contact with the class clown outside of class to work on a relationship of trust and care. This affirming follow-up communication deepens your connection.

In this episode, I’ll share ideas about how not only to manage a class clown…but to get them on your side! 

Episode Template

The Problem:

Class clowns disrupt learning.

The Solution:

Build a relationship with the class clowns

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Make a list of your class clowns
  • Game plan on how you would respond disruptive, sarcastic, or derisive statements or actions by class clowns
  • Engineer how you can have a social interaction with a class clown tomorrow

Student/teacher relationships are essential to engagement. Win over your class clowns and your room will become a joyful and engaging place.

Listen to “82-Class Clown Mangagement” on Spreaker.





81-Make a Kid Feel Great…Give them a Verbal Praise Coupon…Starring Catherine Cook and Audrey Justice

Just the other day…I was cruising down the hallway at my school and I landed on the business end of 3 outstanding compliments in the span of about 5 minutes. These compliments were totally unsolicited and really hit the spot! I felt an adrenaline rush for the remainder of the day as a result. I’ll bet you’ve experienced an unexpected compliment, or two. Didn’t you feel like it was Christmas morning?

Unfortunately, many are reluctant to praise their fellow man. What a pity. Don’t just think, Wow…my buddy is looking really fit. Tell them! They probably need to hear it and it will inspire them to keep working out.

When it comes to students, teachers frequently compliment kids on their academic efforts, but how about expanding our repertoire? That’s what this episode is about. Two of my original sources…Freshmen Catherine Cook and Audrey Justice will explain the power of teachers paying kids compliments.

Catherine Cook and Audrey Justice

I’m going to promote a systematic, premeditated, and public way to do just that. The verbal praise coupon is a way to bond with your kids, make them feel great, and perhaps elevate them in the eyes of their peers. If you’re tired of awarding the same old extra credit, this episode is for you.

Episode Template

The Problem:

People are too stingy with compliments.

The Solution:

Distribute verbal praise coupons instead of extra credit.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Create some verbal praise coupons.
  • Designate some target students that you know will be receptive.

The verbal praise coupon is a great way to bond with your kids while making them feel great in the process.

Listen to “81-Make a Kid Feel Great…Give them a Verbal Praise Coupon…Starring Catherine Cook and Audrey Justice” on Spreaker.

80-The Powerful Sarcasm Lesson Plan

One fine day in my little education world…I witnessed the negative power of sarcasm. I was hanging with a colleague who became frustrated with a student’s lack of effort. The young man did not have his assignment. Instead of asking the kid…

  • What happened?
  • Were you unclear on instructions?
  • Tell me what’s up.
  • Let me help.

my teacher comrade responded to the news of the student’s lack of preparation with sarcasm, “Wow…that’s really going to prepare you to compete in the global economy!” This volley was well received by the rest of the class. There was much laughter and a few of the young guy’s classmates tossed in some verbal darts aimed at the youngster to support their teacher. The young man laughed too, although he blushed. I wondered if he was really okay with the barb.

This entire episode might seem innocent. I’ll argue however, that it was a poor relational move on the instructor’s part. The teacher absolutely elevated himself at the expense of his student. I don’t know if the kid was injured by the comment, but it’s conceivable that the sarcasm could have reinforced many of the insecurities the boy already had about himself. While his exterior was saying, “Good one Mr. X. You got me there!” Internally, he may have thought, Wow. I guess it’s true. Maybe, I am irresponsible. Maybe, I do have a bleak future. 

I certainly don’t know if these thoughts were deviling this kid, but why risk it? I’ll argue that you should purge sarcasm from your classroom. This may be a tall order because sarcasm can be a vice. At the time of consumption it feels real good, but the aftershocks can be unsavory. Let’s get rid of this tendency and your students can help in this process.

Episode Template:

Sarcasm can poison relationships and undermine student confidence.

The Solution:

Purge this vice from your classroom.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Discuss the origins of the word sarcasm.
  • Confess to your kids a time when you used sarcasm and it didn’t end well.
  • Have student role-play when they have been the victims of sarcasm.
  • Challenge kids to utilize sarcasm in an appropriate way, like the creation of an editorial cartoon.
  • Deputize your kids to police your use of sarcasm.

Sarcasm may seem harmless, but its impact can be devastating. Purge this tendency and engage your kids in the process.

Listen to “80-The Powerful Sarcasm Lesson Plan” on Spreaker.



79-Inspire your Kids to Embrace the 6 Degrees of Separation…Starring Russell Doup


Russell Doup is my nephew. Russell Doup is a 25-year-old stockbroker and former Ohio State football player. Russell Doup is living with his uncle…yours truly…while he builds his client base. Consequently, we hang out a lot. About a month ago, we watched The Founder the story of Ray Kroc who was the force behind McDonald’s. We both loved the movie. Ray, played by Michael Keaton, was a champion networker. He used this skill to transform a small hamburger stand in California into a dominant multinational corporation. Russell is a 24/7 networker. We agreed that the movie was inspirational and it inspired a passionate conversation about networking.

Watching the movie challenged me to inventory all the times I’ve benefited from networking. I met my lovely wife through social networking (this was old school social networking prior to the internet…I’m talking 1988). Every teaching interview I’ve landing was the result of personal and direct networking. As Russell and I sat on the couch and discussed the implications of The Founder, a thought struck me, Networking is darned important, but schools don’t teach kids how to do it. I turned to my nephew and asked if he ever learned about networking in school. He responded negatively. My experience as a student was the same. In the midst of this Eureka moment, I knew I had to do an episode on networking featuring my networking nephew!

Episode Template

The Problem:

Kids don’t know how to network.

The Solution:

Ostentatiously introduce networking activities to students.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Do an icebreaker. If you need ideas, check out Episode 43.
  • Debrief students on what they learned about their classmates during the icebreaker.
  • Challenge students to seek an answer outside of class in a face-to-face fashion and then encourage them to solicit another resource from their interviewee.
  • After students have practiced networking, perhaps in a few days…challenge them to go virtual. Locate an expert online who might be well equipped to answer a difficult question. Direct kids to email this expert. And like before, challenge them to ask the expert for another resource they could contact.

When students practice this essential skill, they’ll get better at it. When they get better at networking, social and professional opportunities will saturate their futures.

Listen to “79-Inspire your Kids to Embrace the 6 Degrees of Separation…Starring Russell Doup” on Spreaker.

78-DEINSTITUTIONALIZE your Classroom…Starring Casey Ewy, Heather Smith, Haley Smith, and Richard Hancock

On a brilliant October afternoon a couple of decades ago, the fire alarm shattered the tranquility. Our school was experiencing a gas leak. The students and staff hurriedly spilled out of the building and marched on to the practice football field. We were told to stay put and wait till the all clear signal could be issued. You’ve probably experienced such situations…1,000 adolescents herded outside and told to wait patiently. It was bedlam!

What I found so interesting was the reactions of the kids. They exited their institutionalized classrooms into a beautiful day and immediately came to life. As they frolicked in the afternoon sun, one droll young man approached me and said the following, Mr. Sturtevant…our staff much looks better in artificial lighting. I laughed uproariously, but the comment struck me. Just maybe it takes removing kids from a bland, sterile, uniform, institutionalized setting to stoke their creative juices and find joy.

And here dear reader, is where Dr. Casey Ewy makes a dramatic appearance. Dr. Casey teaches at Susan B. Anthony Middle School in Manhattan Kansas. Dr. Casey is all about DEINSTITUTIONALIZING classrooms. Her objective is to build a family atmosphere in her room which will bolster relationships, ignite creativity, and stoke engagement. Joining her on today’s episode is her team of like-minded colleagues:

Richard Hancock, Haley Smith, Heather Smith, and Casey Ewy

Throughout the episode, you’ll hear my enthusiastic guests reference their core values. The following image is prominently displayed in Dr. Casey’s classroom:

This final image demonstrates not only a family atmosphere, but also student-led decor:

How about transforming your room?

Episode Template:

The Problem:

Many classrooms are bland, sterile, uniform, and institutional.

The Solution:

You have it in your power to alter this depressing dynamic.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Walk in to your room and objectively evaluate what you see
  • Consider improving fluorescent lighting
  • Ask your kids how they would improve your room
  • Challenge kids to bring in a room decoration

Transform your room into a welcoming space. Perhaps, a family atmosphere will take route in your class!

Listen to “78-DEINSTITUTIONALIZE your Classroom…Starring Casey Ewy, Heather Smith, Haley Smith, and Richard Hancock” on Spreaker.

77-Flipgrid is a Powerful Little Tool that’s a Blast…Starring Aharon Rockwell

When evaluating a new tech tool, I must be able to use it within 5 minutes…or I just bag it. If I can’t figure it out by then, my students will be lost. I was conducting a PD session in Ft. Worth this past summer. A young lady called me over and said, Have you heard of Flipgrid and if so, have you used it? My answer was, No and no. I made a mental note to try it when the school year started, but I remember thinking…It has to pass my ease of use test. Last week was 8 weeks in and I finally got around to it. I’m glad I did!

Flipgrid is a cool way to encourage student’s voice. You record a video question and then kids record a 1 to 90-second video on their smartphones or Chromebooks in response. I mastered Flipgrid in about 3 minutes. My students figured it out in 2. This tool is great in terms of providing a creative vehicle for student expression. In last week’s episode, Chrissy Romano warned that ostentatious presentation tools like Flipgrid might unravel introverted kids. My response, which Chrissy liked, by the way, was to take anxiety away by permitting students who were uncomfortable to interview someone.

My first Flipgrid was pure practice. The students were prompted to ask Mr. Sturtevant a question. This accomplished 2 objectives. It got them accustomed to the platform and they learned a lot about their teacher, which makes me more approachable. My second Flipgrid was powerful. I challenged students to interview a friend, family member, coworker, or classmate. They asked their subject if they knew a Muslim and is Islam a religion of peace.

To help me in my Flipgrid explanation quest is an awesome original source. Aharon Rockwell is a freshman and in my Global Studies class. Aharon knew I had a podcast and approached me about being a guest. I jumped at his offer and I’m glad I did. He’s a great guest!

Aharon Rockwell

Episode Template

The Problem:

Student are limited in terms of expression.

The Solution:

Flipgrid will give your kids a new expressive canvas to paint upon…and it’s a lot of fun.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Watch this brief tutorial.
  • To become familiar with this tool, create your own Flipgrid and coerce your family and friends into posting.
  • Prompt your students to use Flipgrid in a trial by challenging them to ask you a basic question…see my first Flipgrid.
  • Prompt students with a question that gauges community attitudes. This will be an interview where introverted students can breathe a sigh of relief. Check out this Flipgrid for ideas.

Flipgrid is a cool tool that’s easy for kids to master. It’s also a lot of fun!

Listen to “77-Flipgrid is a Powerful Little Tool that’s a Blast…Starring Aharon Rockwell.output” on Spreaker.




76-Quit Trying to Turn your Introverts into Extroverts…Starring Chrissy Romano

A number of years ago, I took the Myers & Briggs personality assessment. I was tabbed an ENFP. When I read the description of my type, I was thrilled. I thought, Yup that’s me and I’m glad it’s me. 

My enthusiasm, particularly for the E classification which stands for extrovert, was well-founded. Being an extrovert is the gold standard in America, particularly in our schools. As students, extroverts are the volunteers, the kids who make cheesy videos, the guys who march up to the homecoming queen and ask them out (my wife was a homecoming queen), and the students who inject levity into drab academic settings. As teachers, extroverts are the hams. Even worse, many extroverts seem determined to transform quiet contemplative students into mini versions of themselves. Extroverts say things like, I’m going to pull you out of your shell, or… Put yourself out there. I’ve done this! I must change!

And here’s where my stunning guest, Chrissy Romano from the Garden State, makes her grand entrance.


Chrissy is a veteran teacher with over 25 years experience with students in elementary and middle school. She has spent the bulk of her career teaching in Hackensack where she was born and raised. She graduated from Rutgers University with a double major in Sociology and Psychology and went on to complete the Teacher Certification program and earned a Masters in Counseling from William Paterson University.

She is dedicated to teaching the whole child as well as stimulating and supporting innovation in classrooms. Chrissy continues to be passionate about teaching and infusing technology to engage and motivate students.

Her specialty is G-Suite for Education, effectively integrating technology into the classroom, and PBL/Inquiry-based instruction. She is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and provides professional development and consulting services to educators.

She is a co-host of #CoffeeEdu, an informal monthly gathering of educators,  in Westwood, New Jersey, co-director of NJASCD North, a lead organizer of EdCampNJ and overall EdCamp enthusiast!

As impressive as Chrissy truly is, I invited her on this episode because she’s a proud introvert. She’s going to help blowhards like me help the 1/3rd of my students that are introverted.

Chrissy also recommended that those interested should watch the TedTalk by Sarah Cline on the Power of Introverts.

The Problem:

Teachers have a hard time accepting students that process the world differently.

The Solution:

Accept all of your students!

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Build-in some quiet contemplative time in tomorrow’s lesson.
  • Present with a tech tool that encourages anonymous participation. Great choices include Pear Deck, Padlet, and Today’s Meet.
  • If you’re going to employ a more ostentatious tool like Flipgrid, be certain to provide the option for kids to interview someone instead of starring in the video clip.
  • Make a point of interacting regularly with reserved students about non-school issues.

Please accept all students for exactly who they are. Isn’t that what you’d like someone to do for you, or your children?

Listen to “76-Quit Trying to Turn your Introverts into Extroverts…Starring Crissy Romano” on Spreaker.


75-The National Anthem, Code Switching, and an EPIC Teachable Moment…Starring Marlena Gross-Taylor

I became politically aware in 1968…my 7th year of existence. The world seemed on fire. The young Jimmy Sturtevant was busy being a kid, but events kept invading my innocence. In April of that year, Martin Luther King was assassinated. Just weeks later, Robert Kennedy suffered the same fate. The insanity of the Democratic convention in Chicago monopolized TV coverage, but what really captivated the young me was the Mexico City Olympic Games. I watched in wonder as one African-American athlete after another shattered world records in the high altitude of Central Mexico. One black American gold medal winner climbed the podium, donned a black glove, raised his fist in the air, and then bowed his head during the National Anthem. 

This moment came back to me this past week when the NFL/National Anthem controversy descended. I knew that I had to do an episode on this topic. My objective is not to promote my views, but rather to help brother and sister educators navigate the rhetorical minefield that is this issue. I also knew that I needed help. I decided to share my mic with someone who doesn’t look like me…someone who has had a different life experience. And that my dear listener…is where my good buddy Marlena Gross Taylor makes a dramatic entrance. 

Marlena Gross-Taylor @EduGladiators

Marlena Gross-Taylor is the founder of #EduGladiators as well as a district leader in Tennessee. She has a proven track record of improving educational and operational performance through vision, strategic planning, leadership, and team building. A Nashville transplant originally from southern Louisiana, Marlena’s educational experience spans several states allowing her to have served K-12 students in both rural and urban districts including Atlanta, Georgia and Hickory, North Carolina. She has been recognized as a middle school master teacher and innovative administrator at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. 

As a proud Louisiana State University alumni, she is committed to excellence and believes all students can achieve. Follow Marlena on Twitter @mgrosstaylor or visit her websites www.marlenagrosstaylor.com and www.edugladiators.com.

In this episode, Marlena and I will break down this issue and build you up in the process. We’ll give you courage to tackle your fears and take on this controversy confidently.

Ideas for Activities:

  • Practice discussing contentious subjects
  • Encourage students to objectively study all sides of controversial topics
  • Have kids assume roles in simulations that may differ than their personal views
  • Challenge students to back up their statements and convictions with objective sources
  • Teach about code switching (see resources)


Inviting controversial topics like the National Anthem controversy into your curriculum takes courage. Be an EduGladiator and sponsor societal evolution in your class! 

Listen to “75-The National Anthem, Code Switching, and an EPIC Teachable Moment…Starring Marlena Gross-Taylor” on Spreaker.

74-Peergrade takes Student Collaboration to an Unprecedented Level…Starring David Kofoed Wind and Kristen Spayde

I like to think that I have a wonderful rapport with my students. And yet…I’m still their teacher which is a significant barrier. I also have 40 years on my kids. To them, I’m someone who has a lot more yesterdays than tomorrows. My observations on their lives, while I hope respected and valued, does not carry the weight of a peer.

Just 4 sentences into this intro, the wonderful word peer makes its grand entrance. Peer acceptance, peer constructive criticism, peer praise, and peer collaboration are the powerful fuels that ignite and propel the outstanding education tool called Peergrade. Anyone who’s taught for more than 5 minutes knows the power of peer influence.

In this episode, I’ll interview David Kofoed Wind the founder of Peergrade. Peergrade is a marvelous way to capitalize on kid’s natural inclination to listen to their peers. This tool randomly assigns student creations to classmates and then guides and monitors evaluations. Peer feedback is not only highly valued but it’s also welcomed because it’s often couched in contemporary youth vernacular. Kids understand how to communicate with other kids. And finally, a student evaluator who focuses on just one narrative written by just one peer does not suffer eye-strain and fatigue that teachers often experience wading through 100 student narratives. A 1 on1 evaluation experience is a fresher, focused, and perhaps more useful interaction.

Joining me in the Room 111 Studios is Kristen Spayde. Kristen may sound familiar. She starred in Episode 39 about going paperless and in Episode 58 when we dished with the HyperDocs Girls. Please give this awesome tool a try!

Episode Template

The Problem:

Students don’t give your feedback the time of day!

The Solution:

Utilize Peergrade to foster profound student collaboration.

Watch this brief tutorial:

What you can do Tomorrow:

  1. Choose an assignment that calls for the creation of a student reflection, evaluation, or narrative
  2. Pull a couple of student guinea pigs out of study hall to test Peergrade
  3. Schedule your Peergrade maiden voyage.

Kids value what other kids say. Embrace this natural tendency for the benefit of all!

Listen to “74-Peergrade takes Student Collaboration to an Unprecedented Level…Starring David Kofoed Wind and Kristen Spayde” on Spreaker.