Volusia teachers to start school year focused on creating the unexpected
What started as a summer book study with 10 Osceola Elementary School teachers quickly turned into a 58-person group with educators from all over the Volusia County School District.
Meredith Gilbert and Christy Cleckler knew fellow teachers at OES in Ormond Beach could benefit from reading “The Wild Card” by Hope and Wade King, who are teachers at Ron Clark Academy — a highly acclaimed middle school in Atlanta, Georgia. But what Gilbert and Cleckler didn’t know is how much their small book study would grow across the county through the power of social media.
“The Wild Card” focuses on key principles to making every day in the classroom unexpected and worthwhile for students. From room transformations that create stimulating classroom settings, to call and replies to focus students’ attention back on the lesson in an instant, each point is designed to foster the student-teacher connection and create a learning environment that makes kids excited to learn.
“It’s all about teachers experiencing the creative breakthrough in their class to get their students engaged,” Gilbert said.
The duo raised enough money from a DonorsChoose.org project to buy 10 books for the original group, and once others joined, they found their own way to get the book.
Cypress Creek Elementary School teacher Jeanne Wright happened to already be reading “The Wild Card” when she stumbled upon Facebook and Twitter posts by Gilbert.
As a STEM special area teacher, Wright gets the chance to impact kids from Kindergarten through fifth-grade at her Port Orange school.
“The premise of the book is that you’re the wild card; you never know your impact,” Wright said. “And I think for me, as the STEM teacher, I see all 840 kids. … To get them into the unexpected, to get them to want to come to my class, to get them to be excited.”
She said she’s excited to implement lessons she’s learned from the book in her classroom and encourage other teachers to go above and beyond as well.
“Now, I have teachers that follow me at my school that wanted to join in with this,” Wright said. “So, I need to talk to Meredith because I would love to have this same book chat happen at my school so that we can form a committee to do room transformations and try to motivate one another to bring it to the next level for the kids.”
The teachers had their first book study meetup on June 26. For the next three weeks, they organized a Twitter chat on Tuesdays where participants discussed the book and answered questions while using #WildCardChat in their tweets. As of July 24, there are 370 tweets with the designated hashtag.
Cleckler said the book instills a mindset to keep the students guessing, and that’s something she’ll constantly be trying to put into practice once the new school year begins Aug. 13.
“You could be the one part of their lives that could change them,” Cleckler said. “No matter what hand they’ve been dealt, you keep them on their toes and you keep them guessing and they’ll want to be there. They want to come to school every day; they’re excited about coming to school.”