28-Charlie Rowley Tells Teachers to let their Freak Flag Fly


A few years back, Charlie Rowley became my student teacher. Charlie is a really good looking dude. He’s friendly, calm, and to top it off, he was a college football player. Many of my kids were immediately drawn to Charlie, but there was a handful who were totally closed down and not ready to give him a chance. It was like they were thinking, Oh great…another jock Social Studies teacher! I pulled Charlie aside and explained this delicate social dynamic. Charlie didn’t hesitate, “Okay…let’s see if I can win them over. This sounds like fun.” He’s a great guy.

Charlie Rowley

Charlie Rowley 


Over the next few weeks, Charlie shelved his ego and worked hard to engage his reluctant contingent. It was working. They started warming up to him. And then one day, one of Charlie’s emerging converts made an amazing observation. Listen to this episode to learn how a simple observation from a student revolutionized Charlie’s ability to engage his students!

Episode Template

The Problem:

Teachers are afraid to be human in front of students.

The Solution:

Become aware of, then whole-heartedly embrace, your interesting proclivities.

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • Challenge students to list some of their proclivities.
  • Direct students to list some odd tendencies or quirks of friends and family. 
  • Ask student a simple question,Is there anything I do or say on a regular basis that you guys think is strange or unique?” 
  • If you do something odd…own it, exploit it, and find ways to perform it on a regular basis.

Discover your unique proclivities. Exploit these wonderful behavioral fingerprints as potentially wonderful engagement tools.

Listen to “28-Charlie Rowley Encourages Teachers to let T

27-Dorali Arambula…a Beautiful Young Dreamer on More Inclusive Schools

Dorali Arambula is senior at Westerville North High School in suburban Columbus, Ohio. Dorali was born in Mexico, but she moved to the United States at age 2. America is her home. She has no recollection of Mexico.


Dorali Arambula

Dorali Arambula

Dorali was in my class 2 years ago. At the end of that school year, her family moved down the road to a neighboring school. As you’ll learn in the episode, It was not the first time she’d moved schools. Sit back and listen to her fascinating life journey. Sometimes she’s felt welcomed and valued, other times not.


With the brutal political rhetoric we’ve all experienced during this election season, it’s so wonderful to hear her uplifting voice! We all have a lot to learn from this beautiful dreamer!

Episode Template

The Problem:

Some students feel disenfranchised.

The Solution:

Become more empathetic and aware.

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • Take note of a student who might feel excluded.
  • Analyze why this youngster might feel this way.
  • Monitor your words and deeds. 
  • Strategically pair excluded students with positive peers.
  • Practice empathy 24/7. 

Make all your students feel welcome and included.

Listen to “27-Dorali Arambula…a Beautiful Young Dreamer on More Inclusive Schools” on Spreaker.


26-Amanda Reynolds and Channeling Your Inner Yoga Teacher

The Problem: Teachers get lost in their agendas and forget to be empathetic to students.

You might be muttering, “I don’t have an inner yoga teacher.” But please consider Amanda Reynolds’ words before submitting that verdict. She’s an amazing yoga instructor. I know because I’ve taken a lot of her classes. She’s compassionate, gentle, and encouraging. She empowers stiff students to open. If you interact with Amanda outside of the studio, however, you’ll be struck by her intense Ayurvedic Pita nature. She’s enthusiastic, active, focused, and competitive. She kids me that I’m a pita too. Guilty! Amanda’s story is relevant because her daytime job is to teach high school English. She uses her yoga background to channel, and at times mask, her intensity, build relationships, and engage students,  


The stunning Amanda Reynolds




The Hack: Use compassion to build relationships and foster engagement.

  • Engage your intuition.
  • Ask this youngster, “How are you doing today?”
  • Ask your students a courageous question. 

Strive to interact with students compassionately and in the process, gain valuable insight into them and how you can make your class more engaging.

Listen to “26-Amanda Reynolds and Channeling Your Inner Yoga Teacher” on Spreaker.


25-The Celebrity Couple Nickname Game Staring Trevor Ambrose, Jack Belcher, Liz Bender, Mikayla Colvin, Alejandrina Hernandez, Christopher Ward


The semester just started and you have 150 names to remember…and you must do it fast! Students feel marginalized when you can’t remember their names:

  • I’m insignificant
  • Mr. S doesn’t notice me
  • I’m not important
  • Mr. S doesn’t like me
  • I’m invisible
  • Mr. S knows other student’s names. He must like them better

A number of years ago, for some odd reason, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie came up in class. I referred to them reflexively as Brangelina. I was struck by how every kid knew exactly whom I was referring to. Hmmmm! Perhaps, I thought, I could do the same thing with a student’s first and last names. This was the birth of the Celebrity Couple Nickname Game. It has:

  • Been a fun bonding tool
  • Allowed me to remember student names
  • Created powerful allegiance to my class

Ten days into class, you don’t want to be saying, “Hey…you in the brown shirt, what’s the answer to #10?”

Listen to these incredible student voices promote the power of this technique!

Episode Template

The Problem:

It’s hard to remember student names.

The Solution:

Play the Celebrity Couple Nickname Game.

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • Take your seating chart and create celebrity nicknames out of the first and last names.
  • Present examples.
  • Challenge kids to morph your name. 
  • Deputize your students to create their own celebrity nicknames.
  • Present students with your creation. 

You can’t engage kids if you don’t know their names. Creating celebrity nicknames will transform this tedious chore into a fun game.  


24-Hacking Engagement the Book Launch

It is my great pleasure to announce that my book…“Hacking Engagement”, is actively seeking a home on your bookshelf! Mark Barnes interviewed me about my book for his Hack Learning Podcast. I liked the interview so much that I published it on the Hacking Engagement Podcast. Listen and you’ll learn a lot about my book…and hopefully, be motivated to spring for a copy!

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: