Sunday Night Prep – Defining Success (September 16, 2012)

This past week, I did an activity with my advisory and it went really well. Two years ago, when he was a high school Junior, Marc Busko (@MarcBusko) came flying into my room and stated, “You gotta check out his video Mr. McCabe! Quick. Go to Youtube and type in ‘Secret to Success.'” As I started watching, I got the chills. Eric Thomas (@Ericthomasbtc) calls himself the Hip-Hop Preacher. His YouTube channel can be found here:

The video I watched for the first time in 2010 is called Secret to Success. It’s an incredible five minute and thirty one second ride.  I’ve had three different groups of students watch this video. For me, the video has had the most impact with the group when shown after the students define what success is to them.

I start off by having students enter the room with just a pen or pencil. I greet students at the door, ask them to take a notecard from my hand, and say, “have a seat in the circle.” This past week, I followed the lesson to a T (link to lesson plan is at the bottom of the post), and it worked really well. I had students write their definition of success. Then students circle the room, and share out their definitions. Then, I ask students, “Please circle just the verbs in your definition.” Talk about an amazing checking-for-understanding, see how many high school students know what a verb is without providing a prompt. After students share out their verbs, I ask them to write their verbs on a sticky note, and put them on a board/butcher paper that already has the word success written on it. An artifact of what we created this past week is shown here

After opening up the room to the students for further discussion or thoughts, I go on to tell them they are about to see one of my favorite videos. Eric Thomas is then projected, and jaws begin to drop. The guy speaks with such conviction- students connect.

What struck you?  Typically, this question is met with a bit of delayed silence when asked first thing in the morning. But this video resonates, and people want to share.

30 minutes seems to be about the right time for this learning activity. Here’s what was awesome– before students left, I had them write down on the blank side of their notecard what a successful day would look like. I told them they would not have to share this out. I asked them to put their notecard back in their pocket. At the end of the day, when we circled up, I asked them, “Was today a successful day?” There were a lot of nods and the typical statements of how much they achieved. All fifteen adolescents were talking at the same time. I then stated quietly, “Take out your notecard from this morning, and look at what you wrote down. Were you successful?”

I’ve had students tweet out how they love this video. I’ve had students ask me six months after watching, “What’s the name of that video with the guy talking to the college kids about making it?” I hope I can make this lesson more impactful and lasting with future groups of learners. I’m going to try and curate our definition of success and build on it over the next several months, and maybe even years.

I feel lucky to be with the same multiage group of learners day in and day out. We are able to build community in an authentic way. Having time at the end of the day to come back to the concept of success was powerful. I know not every teacher reading this is in a progressive classroom or open learning environment, but I chose to share this lesson heading into the third week of school (in the State of Wisconsin at least) because I think it’s an activity that can be used with any community of learners in any classroom setting. Big thanks to a former student and current friend Marc Busko for sharing this video!



About Michael

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