Playing with a Full Deck…Including the Wild Card: 53 Reasons to Be A Wild Card Teacher

Jon Konen
District Superintendent

Part 5 of 5 … Join us in the final installment of a five-part series that tells the story of how one dedicated principal observed positive change in the classroom when teachers incorporated the principles and philosophy from the popular book, The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King.

I remember my mom saying, "Well, he's not playing with a full deck!" I was excited to actually understand that idiom as a child, as it was one of the first ones I remember comprehending! Though it has a negative connotation, I think it can have a profound and wider meaning in the world of education.

A teacher that is playing with a full deck can be defined as one that is knowledgeable, has had much success, and has a multitude of tools to engage and enrich the lives of students. Becoming a great teacher, one that is not only remembered but revered, takes a lot of ingredients in order to bake.

Reading and implementing the extraordinary ideas in the bookThe Wild Cardby Hope and Wade King, is one way to teach with a full deck. It takes energy, a growth mindset, and a willingness to experiment with failure. How can we play with a full deck when sometimes it feels like we are missing several cards?

Here are 53 components in order to teach with a full deck. Many of these connect with the ideas from Hope and Wade King, but I have included some others from the 20+ years of observations, teaching, and supervising education.

2 of Hearts - Compassion

Compassion can be defined as caring and empathy in action. When we show compassion as educators we take our classroom and school culture to a new level. We go from helping a student who cannot complete homework, to being part of the student's support system. We do this by digging into students' lives more because we care. We may find out there is a food shortage, housing problem, or more in the home which makes it difficult and nearly impossible to complete homework. Wild Card teachers are compassionate!

3 of Hearts - Empathy

Empathy, the ability to understand and feel what others are going through, is a characteristic we want as a teacher, as well as the ability to cultivate it with our students. Once we can understand what others are going through, we can then support them. We can then sense other people's emotions and even imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. Cultivating empathy in our classrooms promotes a caring and kind culture that supports each other. Wild Card teachers are empathetic!

4 of Hearts - Love

The ability to love what we do, love who work with, and love the students in our classrooms is powerful. We treat every student like they are our own children. We advocate for them and their learning at all new levels when we love our students. We know that our love for our students may be the only consistent love that they receive in their world. Being passionate about education and loving what we do make us a Wild Card teacher!

5 of Hearts - Desire

The feeling we get to start and finish something comes from our work ethic and desire. We desire to do what's best for our students in the classroom. Through this desire and perseverance we can accomplish a lot for our students, families, and school community. We also desire to get better at what we do; through reflection and having a growth mindset we become Wild Card teachers!

6 of Hearts - Growth Mindset

The ability to always be growing and learning is the premise behind having a growth mindset. We understand that we don't know everything and we are able to risk failure in order to get better. We view any problem with the power of "yet." If we can't reach a student, our growth mindset words sound like the following, "I have not connected with this student, YET!" Wild Card teachers have a growth mindset!

7 of Hearts - Reflection

Reflecting on our teaching ability, the relationships with our students, parents, and colleagues, and the actions and words we use are vital to our success. When we can make changes due to reflection and feedback from others, we open ourselves up to reaching our potential. With meaningful reflection, we have stronger relationships with people, we work more efficiently, and we are more effective with what we do. Wild Card teachers use reflection to get better!

8 of Hearts - Grit

The number one indicator and predictor of success is grit. Grit is the ability to follow through and persevere no matter what. We want our students to show grit in their school work, as well as us showing grit throughout the school year. We push forward with an indomitable spirit to finish a task. We model it, speak it, and feel grit while in the moment of working or completing a task. Wild Card teachers are gritty!

9 of Hearts - Creative

The ability to be creative can be seen by some as impossible, but they are the people that see the glass as half empty, or are pessimists. Anyone can be creative, even if we start small. We want our students to be creative and not be afraid of failure. We create an environment that nurtures creativity and allows for failure and positive feedback. We want our colleagues and ourselves to be creative as that environment can bring on new inspiration, an innovative feeling, and even revitalize our passion for teaching. Wild Card teachers are creative!

10 of Hearts - Hope

One thing we cannot lose is hope. The hope that we can create a better life for our children, for our students, and our community. When all hope is lost, everyone loses. Being optimistic gives us a feeling that hope can pull us through the most traumatic events and stressful situations. We must teach students to feel hope, as well as to understand what hope can do for them. Hope creates dreams that can become reality. Wild Card teachers model and instill hope for others!

Jack of Hearts - Engaging

Though engagement is becoming harder and harder to accomplish in our fast paced video game environment, we must think of new strategies we can use to engage and connect with our students. We plan our engagement strategies and think about the specific students seated in front of us. We ask, "What will best engage these students right now?" When we start asking the question and planning for engagement, we create an environment that is highly conducive for learning. Wild Card teachers are engaging!

Queen of Hearts - Authentic

It may seem like everything that is done in schools is a repeat of what has been done somewhere else or done in years past. We must continue to create authentic learning experiences. Teachers are known for begging, borrowing, and stealing ideas to incorporate in the classroom. This helps us get started, but don't be afraid to be authentic. When we take someone else's idea, we can put our own twist on it. It comes when we find what engages the specific students in our classroom, and then creating authentic lessons that are powerful. In addition, we as teachers need to be ourselves and not be a copy of the teacher down the hallway. We need to be happy with ourselves and how we teach. We cannot be lost in jealousy of our colleagues. Wild Card teachers are authentic.

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King of Hearts - Planning

Planning can sometimes take a back seat when we are teaching. We get into a rhythm and find it difficult to put time into planning…we just go. The best planners know and understand that putting this time up front gives them time back in the end. When we plan learning activities for our students we take into account their specialized needs. We become more effective and efficient when we improve our planning skills. We can also plan with our colleagues on curriculum, instruction, assessment, and culture building activities. Planning is important to success. Wild Card teachers are planners.

Ace of Hearts - Positivity

The power of positivity may be hard to calculate or quantify, but it is necessary for job satisfaction as well as happy students. Students and colleagues can see our positivity immediately when we walk into a room or enter a conversation. We exude positivity with our body language, words, and actions. We can model and work on verbiage for our students when we are hit with adversity, stress, or negativity. Wild Card teachers are positive!

2 of Clubs - Consistency

One of the qualities that makes students feel safe is consistency. Teachers have routine patterns of behavior. Structure is something all students crave. Without it, chaos may take over causing stress, anxiety, and more. When teachers are consistent with their words and actions, students better understand the rules within a classroom. Many students come from families where consistency is lacking and they crave this quality in their teachers. When we discipline, it is not how big the consequence is that matters, it's the consistency that there will be a consequence when the behavior occurs every time. Wild Card teachers are consistent!

3 of Clubs - Appreciative

The most rewarding job in the workforce is teaching, in my opinion. If we appreciate the students, parents, community, as well as our colleagues we have a mindset that we can make a difference. We appreciate what each child brings to the classroom each and every day. We appreciate or colleagues for what they bring to the school every day. We appreciate the community in which we get serve as a teacher every day. When we can reflect and find the things that tell us why we began this journey in teaching, we are appreciative Wild Card teachers!

4 of Clubs - Decisive

The number of decisions we make as teachers has been tallied several times, but is difficult and near impossible to quantify. Some researchers say teachers make upwards of 1,500 decisions in a six hour school day, which equates to four educational decisions per minute. There is no doubt that teachers need to be decisive. They take the information available to them, combine it with past experiences, and then use words and actions to make the best decision possible. When we are making four decisions a minute, we learn that some of them may not be the best. We must learn from these mistakes, not be afraid of failure, and make the best decisions we can to the benefit the student. Wild Card teachers are decisive!

5 of Clubs - Humorous

If we don't learn to laugh in education, we will surely end up crying. When adversity hits us and we want to buckle under the pressure, we must find the silver lining and reframe our brains. Finding humor is something that can be easily done around the schools. Working with youth and colleagues, we must find time to laugh, learn, and have fun together. We may even plan out humorous activities to do with students, parents, and staff. Wild Card teachers are humorous!

6 of Clubs - Confident

Confidence comes from experience and expertise. When we get successful educational experiences we become better able to answer questions, perform tasks, and do our jobs. We also gain confidence when these are quality experiences. If we continue to do something over and over again at a low success rate, we never feel confident in what we are doing to complete the task. The successful experience contains a quality factor coupled with multiple repetitions. This equates to an overall confidence level. Through reflection, we take into account that being over confident can cause failure. Wild Card teachers are confident.

7 of Clubs - Honesty

Trust, telling the truth, and honesty are difficult to build when they are lost. As educators we need to be as honest as possible. Some educators have a difficult time telling a colleague, a student, or a parent their honest opinion. We must first ask if communicating the honest statements will support the current situation or tear it down. If we continue to look for the best words that will reach the best outcome for the student, we can continue to be honest. Wordsmithing to find the most effective words is truly an art form in honesty. Wild Card teachers are honest.

8 of Clubs - Adaptive

Adapting to a new learning environment can be difficult for students. Likewise, teachers new to a school must adapt their philosophy to that of the school's. Teachers must learn quickly how to communicate with their new colleagues and the hidden social cues that exist in every work environment. The better a teacher is in adapting, the better they are at understanding how to get along with people in their environment and causing less conflict. A teacher's adaptive skills are useful in all new settings or situations, and being flexible is a must. Wild Card teachers are adaptive.

9 of Clubs - Flexible

Rigidity causes stress in the education environment. So many facets of education change, in fact we can agree that education always changes. Being flexible is truly a trait that must be nurtured due to a person's individual stress level. Stress and anxiety seemed to set in when a teacher chooses to not be flexible. Time delays and changing of events are two of the areas in education that need the most flexibility. Wild Card teachers are flexible.

10 of Clubs - Commitment

When we commit to something, we are vouching that we not only support it but we are going to accomplish a task in the given time period. Follow through is vital to staff success. Commitment means the person is going to give 100% making sure something is accomplished. Dedication to a project tells a story about you personally. When you commit you are putting your name and reputation to the test. You can ask yourself, "Is the cause worth the commitment?" Wild Card teachers are committed.

Jack of Clubs - Transformational

A teacher should not be afraid to transform their teaching routinely. Transformational teaching requires a dedicated teacher who is willing to fail first before transforming. Becoming a transformational leader causes change in individuals and the education system overall. It creates valuable and positive change in the people who follow you. People want to be around you and also become transformational leaders. Wild Card teachers are transformational leaders!

Queen of Clubs - Overcoming Failure

It is not how many times we fail, but how many times we get back up and overcome failure. We need to make sure failure is part of the learning environment. Those who never experience failure are missing the transformational change of perseverance and grit. If we can teach failure to our students and how we can overcome it, they will be more ready for life after school. We can model how can endure failure and discuss it with our students, parents, and colleagues. Wild Card teachers overcome failure!

King of Clubs - Potential

If we believe in the statement that all students can learn, then we can believe that all students have a potential to learn almost anything. Educators are great at finding the potential in a student in a specific learning area, and then expounding on that strength to take the student further. Likewise, teachers who work with other teachers find the potential in how they can support the team or school with their given strengths. Those who find potential in others are also creating new leaders. Wild Card teachers find the potential in others!

Ace of Clubs - Challenging

One quality that we all need to keep us interested in our jobs is challenge. Teaching would be boring if there was not challenge. Luckily for educators, there are a multitude of challenges each and every day in schools. Many of us take on challenges because we love the ability to problem solve, as well as the feeling we get when are able to successfully overcome the challenge. We create this same feeling in our students in our classrooms by creating lessons that have rigor and challenge built into them. Wild card teachers love a challenge!

2 of Diamonds - Win-Win

When both the teachers win and the students win, we create a win-win situation. We search for learning experiences that are both enjoyable for the teacher to teach, as well as the students to experience and learn. We problem solve situations that arise with hopes of making it better for both sides in the end. We are not pitting ourselves against our students or our colleagues. We may have to compromise in order to create a win-win for all parties. Wild Card teachers search for win-win solutions.

3 of Diamonds - Experienced

Experience in education only comes from getting into the trenches and teaching. We then use that experience as we advance. In fact, we may have had a student or situation before in our past teaching experience that leads us to act or use similar words. Knowing that all students are different, we fine tune our tools to meet the needs of students that are similar in nature. The more experience we get the better we are at connecting and establishing relationships with the student, and the same goes for parents and colleagues. When we do not have any experience in a certain area, we find someone who has advice or strategies. Wild Card teachers use experience as an advantage, as well as finding those who have more experience!

4 of Diamonds - Adventurous

Being afraid of failure leads many teachers to the safety of the text book. Being adventurous for students means taking risks. If we teach students it is okay to take risks, we must do so also as teachers. You may be adventurous in several different arenas as a teacher: instruction, curriculum, assessment, or location. Field trips can lead to more adventurous learning opportunities. If a teacher understands the best place to teach a certain topic is off campus, the teacher tries to make it happen. Wild Card teachers are adventurous!

5 of Diamonds - Inspirational

As a teacher, wouldn't you love to have a former student come back to school to tell you that you were an inspiration for them? I don't think anything feels better than that in education. It is the "why" most of us get into the teaching profession…to make a difference! Whether you realize it or not, as a Wild Card teacher you will be admired and will be an inspiration for students, and even for other colleagues. Being humble is a great quality to have, and not becoming overzealous is noticeable. We must remember everything we do and say is viewed by our school community. Be inspirational, be a Wild Card teacher!

6 of Diamonds - Comfortable

It is imperative that the environment we create in our classroom and school is safe and comfortable. Students are able to take more risks and challenge themselves in an environment that they trust and know that sharing their opinion is not only acceptable, but expected. What we do as a teacher and what we allow should be examined closely. If we allow negativity to brew, we lose this positive culture of sharing. Wild Card teachers make it comfortable in their classroom for everyone!

7 of Diamonds - Work Ethic

Teaching has never been an 8-4 job and our work ethic is evident of that. Many of us work long hours making sure the learning experiences for our students are engaging and meaningful. We don't give up on students and we make sure they are learning not matter what. We believe the credo "All students can learn!" Wild Card teachers have a strong work ethic.

8 of Diamonds - Co-Regulators

When a student is unable to do something for themselves they need support. If it is socio or emotional concerns, we may have to support them in regulating their behaviors. We call this co-regulation. We can add or take away support depending on need. Teachers must have a vast amount of tools in order to support and co-regulate a student when they are struggling. Wild Card teachers know when and how to co-regulate.

9 of Diamonds - Safe

Safe schools have always been the first goal for educators, but even more so in the past decade as school shootings and violence have trended upwards. We need to continue to be proactive with safety precautions. We need to not live in fear, but live out what is best for the welfare of our children. Wild Card teachers continually think about safety and plan instructional experiences that take that into account.

10 of Diamonds - Celebratory

If the following statement is true, what we pay attention to is what we value, then celebrating student successes should be an everyday event. We need to continue to celebrate growth and use goal setting as our tracking tool. We must remember, growth can be both social and emotional, as well as an academic achievement. Wild Card teachers understand celebrating success from growth begets more success.

Jack of Diamonds - Evaluative

Though school is not all about meeting standards and taking assessments, Wild Card teachers are always evaluative. They determine whether the instructional strategies, materials, and student products are an effective educational experience and if they meet the needs of the specific students seated in front of them. They are also evaluative in the sense that they are continually reading student engagement in hopes of connecting them to a learning experience on a whole new level. Wild Card teachers continually evaluate themselves and their students.

Queen of Diamonds - Change-Agent

Similar to the definition of a wild card, a card that trumps all other cards and can change the game, a change-agent is someone who can alter the learning environment. Wild Card teachers are not only remembered for the educational experiences they create, but are revered by students, parents, and colleagues alike. They are not afraid to take risks and not changing for change-sake. They use the best information to make calculated changes that support student learning and engagement. Wild Card teachers are change agents!

King of Diamonds - Empowering

Some educators may fear that if they give up power in their classrooms, they may lose control of the students and the learning that takes place. Wild Card teachers understand that empowerment can be a perpetual motivator for students to learn and build agency. Agency is when students take charge of their learning. Educators can empower students to new levels of engagement and leadership. Wild Card teachers know exactly how and who to empower.

Ace of Diamonds - Accepting

Being able to model acceptance to students comes in many different forms for educators. Using empathy, kindness, and compassion are three such strategies that support student's understanding of acceptance. Respecting other people's ideas, actions, and words helps us to understand their background. Building tolerance creates a learning environment full of acceptance. Wild Card teachers understand that accepting others is one of the backbones to success.

2 of Spades - Literacy

Print is the basis for all educational achievement. Wild Card teachers embrace literacy and can promote it in every instructional strategy. Reading and writing across the curriculum is something that connects all learning experiences. Wild Card teachers read about the latest research and are not afraid to use that research when experimenting with new strategies. Wild Card teachers are literary giants!

3 of Spades - Supportive

We continually believe in creating students that are independent and self-reliant. In order to create students like this, we must be very supportive. We may have to co-regulate before students can regulate themselves. We support students along this pathway. Wild Card teachers understand the difference between enabling and empowering. Wild Card teachers offer the correct amount of support in order to build independence.

4 of Spades - Coach

Ultimately, we are a coach. We motivate, we encourage, we teach, we model, but it is up to the students to perform. We use questions, we develop skills, and we make sure our players have the tools they need to succeed. We use coaching strategies that are unique for each individual player, as well as our classroom or team. Wild Card teachers are strong coaches.

5 of Spades - Collaborative

There is no "I" in team, but there is in collaborative. Wild Card teachers know that there is more power and efficiency when we work as a team. We search out other teachers who like to team with us, especially those that have expertise in our growth areas. We know that collaborating is something we need to teach and model with our students. Wild Card teachers are creative collaborators.

6 of Spades - Energetic

Energy comes from within. When you take care of yourself through exercise and proper nutrition, your energy level increases. People look at Wild Card teachers and wonder where they get all their energy. This is where passion is evident. When passion comes out in the classroom, Wild Card teachers get energized. When students become so engaged that they lose themselves in the learning experiences, energy is multiplied. Wild Card teachers are energetic.

7 of Spades - Passionate

Knowing our "why" is something we revisit every day in education. When we know our "why" our passion is evident. We know that our passion drives how and what we teach daily. Students not only can see our passion from our words and actions, they can feel it in the learning experiences that we develop. We transform our rooms to create learning experiences for students that are built from our passion to fully engage them in a real world experience. Wild Card teachers are extremely passionate about learning.

8 of Spades - Spontaneous

Being calculated and predictable supports many students in our classrooms who seek out routine. In the same sense, we create spontaneous learning experiences for students to model that learning can take place at any time. We even surprise students with discrepant events to help them remember something significant, as well as making learning fun. Wild Card teachers create experiences that are sometimes spontaneous in nature.

9 of Spades - Musical

Patterns of sound, or music, can support a learning environment, bring people together, and even energize a classroom. Wild Card teachers add in music throughout the learning process and create an experience stronger than a stagnant quiet classroom. Music can drive and motivate a student to work harder, longer, and become more passionate about a specific topic. Wild Card teachers use music to motivate.

10 of Spades - Relational

Relationships are the number one factor for learning in the classroom. When a positive classroom culture is built, learning can occur in a more productive and efficient manner. Wild Card teachers spend time building relationships every day, and especially at the beginning of the year. They know that the relationship that is built in the beginning can carry a student through the remainder of the year. Wild Card teachers know how to build relationships.

Jack of Spades - Happy

A smile can go a long ways. When a student thinks about their favorite educator, many will say they were happy. As an educator we must find the silver lining in the most difficult of situations or events. We model and show happiness for our students by smiling and laughing as much as possible. Learning occurs at a much higher rate when there is happiness and laughter. Wild Card teachers are happy and they know it.

Queen of Spades - Intentional

Being intentional with our learning experiences, especially when we are transforming our classrooms, creates an environment that engages and connects students through a deeper understanding. We intentionally give students tools, materials, and manipulatives in order to problem solve difficult and challenging learning experiences. Many times we use data to support our intentional planning of these experiences. Wild Card teachers create intentional learning experiences.

Kind of Spades - Expressive

Much like an actor on stage, a Wild Card teacher is expressive in nature. We over exaggerate, or even under emphasize, all for the sake of creating meaningful and memorable learning experiences. We express and model large emotions about learning in order for students to better understand the importance of a concept. Wild Card teachers continually refine, as well as redefine, the words and actions of our instructional strategies in order to be as expressive as possible.

Ace of Spades - Contagious

Much like a cold, our teaching can become contagious. Others want to learn more about our Wild Card teaching strategies. Other educators want their students to be just as engaged and enthralled with learning. Unlike a cold, Wild Card teachers are happy to support other teachers in their transformation. Wild Card teachers infect a learning environment outside of their classroom and can affect the whole school.

Joker - Wild-Card

The ability to be a game changer comes from not doing the obvious, but from changing the rules of the game. We must continually work to infuse fun, laughter, and creative ideas into our instructional strategies. We are not only competing with more engaging activities outside of the classroom, we are competing with students who need more rationale about why they must learn the content than when we were raised a generation ago. Wild Card teachers bring an excitement to the classroom to create a better learning environment for our students.

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Jon Konen