March Madness this year has me thinking. Heck, it has me thinking every year. You see, I’m a Kentucky Wildcat fan.

Yep, I’ve been thinking about the passion, the excitement and the awe that every “O.M.G.” moment produces. But you know what I love the most? The way the word “madness” morphs into a new definition. One that is synonymous with more positive words such as energy, drive, strength, liveliness and creativity. In fact, it makes me think of the Apple commercial, “The Crazy Ones.” Watch it again, if you get a chance. If you’re like me, you’ll love the look in their eyes.

So, after bouncing a few ideas around, I want to offer a checklist of thoughts.

Go ahead. Test your teaching “madness.” You may just find you are in the right profession…

1. If there were ever a teacher draft by the MLTA (Major League Teachers Association, of course) you wonder if you’d be a first round draft pick or a late season trade for a teacher-to-be-named later.

2. If you wish opening day for all schools was celebrated like opening day for Major League Baseball. Can’t you envision a star student and star teacher “throwing” out the first creative assignment to kick off a fabulous “season” of engaged learning? Heck, we could even have drones fly over the ceremony just before the principal enthusiastically yells, “Play school!”

3. If you want your tombstone to read, “I am pretty sure creativity can’t be standardized.”

4. If tip jars were appropriate in the teaching profession, you fully believe that your classroom canister of candy or monetary contributions would be bursting at the brim.

5. If hand sanitizer is a waste of your money due to the strength of your immune system from all the times you inadvertently touched a crusty booger, a fossilized piece of chewing gum or a slimy and sticky object-to-be-named-later during after school clean-up times.

6. If you understand the probability of drastic educational changes coinciding with political elections is as guaranteed as finding flattened beer cans and empty Marlboro boxes littering the infield of a dirt race track.

7. If your common sense says educational reform should start first with soliciting feedback from the customers (the students) and then secondly from the experts (teachers)…before making any drastic changes.

8. If you wish school cafeterias partnered with GNC, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Tim McGraw’s personal chef. Then, your waist and weight measurements would have a chance to resemble your high school sizes.

9. If schools provided teachers with mandatory workout/relaxation sessions on a daily basis, teachers’ stress levels would not mirror that of air traffic controllers. And, who knows, maybe some of those Google and Apple employees would gravitate more towards the perks provided by the educational profession.

10. If, after a full season and off-season of coaching an extra-curricular activity, you guesstimate your hourly supplement to be around five cents an hour. There is no question, however, that it is worth every minute of your time.

11. If you consistently interrupt workouts, pause movies or take quick breaks from any current activities to jot down awesome ideas that spontaneously pop into your creative, teaching mind.

12. If the majority of papers seen this year in your classroom were merely your own leftover Wrigley’s gum wrappers. I mean, after all, your class may be paperless, but your breath needs to be fresh.

13. If you wish “professional attire” would be redefined to include sweatpants, shorts and t-shirts. Undoubtedly, you fully understand that wearing a tie does not warrant respect from your students and colleagues. Genuine respect and concern for others warrants respect.

14. If you have ever bit your tongue into two pieces after witnessing a colleague, who has the natural disposition of an angry crab, back a student into a corner with a disrespectful, condescending and disdainful tone.

15. If you teach high school and regularly attend the graduation ceremonies, you are contemplating updating your college graduation gown to include a Twitter stole to indicate the immense knowledge you have gained from your PLN on Twitter. Somehow, however, you’re afraid that the Twitter bird logo might stand out just a bit too much.

16. If you truly remember what it’s like to be a teenager, and that particular source of empathy is one of your many driving forces in the classroom.

17. If you want to scream to the educational world, “Unleeeeeeeeaaaaaash creativity in education!”

18. If you long for the first-ever Teaching Olympics so you can immediately register to compete for the bathroom sprint. Let’s be honest! You have proven day-after-day, year-after-year, that you can take care of business during class changes in about 2-3 minutes flat (including hand washing). Couldn’t you just imagine hoisting that porcelain trophy high above your head?

19. If you feel a little squirrelly sometimes…but in a positive, creative way.

20. If you collaborate with an energetic colleague to showcase your lack of musical talent and to energize your students. Ultimately, the show is painful to watch, but the students appreciate the attempt.

21. If you can’t seem to understand why your spouse thinks a Saturday night of educational talk with all of your educational buddies does not sound like a riveting time.

22. If you could receive an overtime check for all the extra time you have spent grading papers and planning awesome learning experiences, you could actually pay off your student loans.

23. If you accept that professional learning is endless.

24. If your heart aches for that kid who is struggling with an internal issue that you can do nothing about. Your helplessness is nearly unbearable.

25. If you tell your spouse around noon on a Sunday that you just need to catch up on some grading for an hour or so…only to leave the kitchen table around 10:00 p.m.

26. If you’re shopping in a grocery store and see an old student from twenty years ago, and despite his hair loss, weight gain and family of five, you immediately remember his name and success in school. Yet, somehow you can’t seem to recollect what your spouse sent you to pick up for dinner.

27. If the sum of all professional negativity could be harnessed in one punching bag and you were the equivalent of a modern-day Bruce Lee, you would go all “Enter the Dragon” on that bag and rid the educational realm of all pessimism.

28. You seriously believe that having a dome-shaped classroom with all-glass walls that let nature and sunlight in would be an inspiration to students, not a distraction.

29. If you feel it your professional duty to stay abreast of current trends and technology in education. To do the opposite just doesn’t make sense. You know what I mean. Kind of like a doctor who refuses to study current research trends in the medical and pharmaceutical fields. That’s a prescription for failure.

30. If you truly believe all invested members can create an educational system where children beat the doors down to get in, not to bust out.

31. If you incurred a nose bleed while wearing a white t-shirt, the resulting clothing would suffice for spirit wear because you swear you bleed your school colors.

32. If you think all schools should be decorated with exemplary artifacts of learning (essays, presentations, projects, academic scores, etc.)…not just athletic banners.

33. If that one student you can’t seem to reach haunts you day and night.

34. If you wish schools had academic competitions with as much fervor as generated by sports contests on Friday and Saturday nights. Can’t you envision thousands of fans at an academic showcase who are wearing t-shirts of their favorite students? The excitement would be so intense that the seven dollar gate fee would concern no one.

35. If you would run through brick walls for any of your students…knowing all too well that classrooms with flattened walls seem to foster curiosity, community and unlimited creativity.

36. If one of your co-teachers is a trusted and efficient screencasting program like Camtasia, Screencast-o-matic and Jing.

37. If your students can access your course material anywhere in the world from any internet-connected device.

38. If you ever wonder if the only differences between some unchanging schools and prisons are the presence of razor wire and the absence of a third meal.

39. If you have ever uttered a sentence such as this: “Yeah, we had students access their assignment from our LMS, share their Google Drive document with an ‘Anyone can comment’ link on a Google Form that populated in a shared spreadsheet so we could systematically crowd-source to peer edit each other’s writing.”

40. If every fiber of your being expresses gratitude at being trusted with such an awesome and important job. Being the best teacher you can be is being the best person you can be. They go hand-in-hand.

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John Hardison
John Hardison is an interactive facilitator of learning and blended learning specialist at East Hall High School (Studio 113 & EPiCC) in Gainesville, Georgia. By creating a flexible class where literature creatively comes to life on a stage with students as the stars, Mr. Hardison focuses heavily on creativity, interactive structures, and student choices. In the past 18 years at East Hall High School, he has taught AP Language, American Literature, World Literature, and Applied Communications. Through original learning structures and a shared classroom concept, students are inspired to connect literature with their own talents and interests. Mr. Hardison shares his classroom concept and interactive structures by presenting at professional conferences and upon request by various schools. Look for John at ISTE and follow him on Twitter at @JohnHardison1.

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