– A Game Changer- Starting With Why

I’ve been wanting to write this post since the beginning of June – even before school was out, but it has always felt too big, there was too much to say, and the task was too overwhelming so here I am, a little over a week after school is over, still staring at this blog. 

I’ve just finished “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek.  Okay, this book is another game changer for me.  It may seem that I abuse this word sometimes, but when I say something is a game changer for me, I really mean it… I truly do! I am changed from having read this book: as a teacher, a leader, a parent, a human.  I have been talking about this book non-stop to anyone who will listen to me. 

The whole point of the book is how important it is to keep your WHY: your vision, your cause, your sense of purpose at the FRONT of all you do.  In thinking about this, I now know exactly how to reflect on this school year…

At the end of LAST school year, Katie and I found out we were going to be able to continue job sharing and also continuing to teach the same subjects (ELA and SS).  For the first time in three years, we did not have to spend our summer focusing on the WHAT: our curriculum.  This was a game changer (ha!) for us.  When we sat down for one of our late night “flow” work sessions, we were trying to goal set for the coming year.  We decided our main goal was to put ourselves out there more.  We were hoping to blog and speak and do a little more leading in our district to keep sharing our genius, sharing our voice (which is the most important thing to us as educators with our students).  This was our WHY.  It made us excited, motivated, inspired, empowered, and also allowed us to feel challenged and a bit uncomfortable.  Both of us totally dig all those for-mentioned emotions! 

When you lead with WHY, you care and are ready to do the work (the WHAT) necessary to get the job done. 

I can’t tell you, throughout the school year, how many times we went back to this why (sharing our genius, sharing our voice) in our planning, our reflection, our debriefing.  We were not perfect – there were times our WHY got fuzzy or was put on the backburner.  I am certain Katie would agree with me that we could’ve done more and there were times we could’ve done better.  Sitting here though, on June 23rd, eight days after school got out, a smile creeps to my face at how incredibly proud I am at how much we stuck with this WHY and how much evidence we have to prove we made significant progress and growth of this WHY during the 2015-2016 school year.

Here are some highlights of our WHATs from this year…


Our website – www.voicechoiceandpaperairplanes.com was born.  Our first WHAT in getting ourselves out there was to actually BE out there.  It had been in the making for most of the summer, but one night in early August, we stayed up almost all night putting the finishing touches on it and published it to go live.  This was going to be one of the most important place to share our genius and our voice.

-We both became more active on Twitter, which is one of the best things to happen to me professionally.  The connections I have made and the things I’ve learned I can’t even put into words.  So much of what happened during the rest of the year to put ourselves out there was directly related to Twitter. 

-The story of our students and the creating of our outdoor classroom was featured in the RAM Quarterly- a publication keeping our community updated on what’s going on in our school district.

-Katie and I blogged about picture books, different types of seating we were going to offer our students, book reading, ditching our desk, our summer, looking towards the school year


-Our outdoor classroom was featured on the FRONT page of the Lansing State Journal

-We received a RAM pin at a board meeting honoring our work with the outdoor classroom

-Applied for a received a grant to get our classroom six iPads

-Participated in Global Read-Aloud

-Continued to blog about genius hour, Global Read Aloud, and our outdoor classroom (do you see a theme for the fall?!)



-Spoke at Michigan State University’s Technology Conference

-Connected with our ISD and co-taught lessons to acclimate our students (and ourselves) to our iPads when they came in!

-Joined the Capital Area Ed Tech group

-Blogged about New Year’s Resolutions, our biography unit, Genius Hour, our curriculum design, and ways we SHOULD measure our students



-Attended MACUL

-Hosted a Capital Area Ed Tech meeting at our school

-Advocated tirelessly for outdoor equipment and resources for our students

-Raised funds for Gaga Ball and brought that to our school as our first piece of outdoor playground equipment

-Our students presented to our school and community about genius hour and how it empowers them

-Continued blogging about genius hour and student-led conferences

-Submitted proposals for two other speaking engagements and both were accepted!


Leading with our WHY created a year that was a game changer for sure.  All the WHATs I mentioned allowed us to grow tremendously, refine our teaching, be a part of some incredible opportunities we never would have gotten, and connected us with many innovative and inspiring educators.  We are humbled by the things we’ve been a part of and incredibly motivated and empowered to keep questioning our systems, keep working tirelessly to advocate for our students, and keep putting ourselves out there by sharing our genius and our voice.  Katie and I, thankfully, are always learning, always reflecting, and hoping to ALWAYS start with WHY. 

I am immensely lucky to work with someone whose WHYs are so closely aligned with mine.

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