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September 8, 2010 Going the Extra Degree With 212 By Brent Vasicek
Grades 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    There is nothing like a good metaphor to inspire people to learn and live to a higher standard. 212: The Extra Degree is a book definitely worth owning. Though the philosophy stated in this book seems simple, it can change the quality of work in the classroom as well as a student's or adult's outlook on life. This book is one I put in the top five "must haves" for teachers. What is 212, and do you have what it takes to be 212?

    Several years ago I had a very sweet student named Heather. We had a great connection, and one day she invited me over for a dinner at her house. The dinner was delicious and the conversation with the family was refreshing. After dinner her mom, Karen, presented me with a very thoughtful gift. Little did I know the impact this gift would have on me, my friends, my students, or my district. It was a book called 212: The Extra Degree. Karen said that when she saw the book she immediately thought of my teaching style, and she knew I would enjoy reading it. She could not have been more correct. I loved the book and bought about a dozen copies for my friends and colleagues.

    So what is 212? This three minute video does a wonderful summary of the 212 philosophy. In words, it is this: At 115 degrees, or even 211 degrees, water is hot. But at 212, water turns to steam, and steam can power a locomotive. If you go that one extra degree, you can create change. That one degree can make a difference! The book provides many examples in which the difference between first place and second is merely millimeters or tenths of a second.

    How do I use this in a classroom?

    Higher Order Thinking/Analogies: I present this as one of my first reading lessons on deeper meaning, or meaning that goes beyond the literal.

    Writing Reflection: At the end of the week or on big projects, I have students reflect on whether they truly gave the task their best effort.

    Behavior: When the class is going a little crazy, I ask them what degree they think they are living at. This can reset their focus as they all begin to respect the 212 philosophy. This has the most impact if you purposefully label behavior or work as "212" on a regular basis when they do achieve it.

    Role Models: Throughout the year we nominate people to put on the 212 poster. These may be celebrities, 002 book characters, or historical figures. When someone has a nomination, we must come up with several examples of what qualifies that person as 212 degrees. We vote and decide whether the person is a worthy role model. This keeps students on the lookout for 212 behavior all year long. By the end of the year the 212 poster is littered with names of role models on sticky notes. People we have included in the past are Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr., Lance Armstrong, Oprah, Mark Deldin (our superintendent), Brian Robeson (character in Hatchet). Last year we actually voted to take Tiger Woods off of the wall. Great class discussions are often sparked by this key poster.

    Own It: We truly own the 212 philosophy in Studio 24. Much like the Notre Dame players who touch the "Play Like a Champion" poster before each and every game, we touch the 212 poster each and every time we enter the room. I tell them they may only touch it if they truly are trying to live it. A great consequence I have offered in the past is, "You are not allowed to touch the 212 poster until you show me your behavior has improved." You would have thought I canceled this kid's Christmas. That is how much we own and respect 212 in Studio 24.



    Also, a group of middle schoolers and former alumni known as The Integrity Bros (Michael Carney, Brendan Murphy, Brandon Rickert, Jacob Tsatsanis, Tyler Skurda, Tristen Szajna, Anthony Zipay) have taken 212 on as part of their philosophy in life.

    As I mentioned, I have given this book to other people in my life that I feel live or teach at 212 degrees. One of my former colleagues, Ms. Kress, created a whole 212 theme in her classroom one year. One of my role models, the superintendent of Chippewa Valley, presented the philosophy to his principals and department heads at the back to school meeting and provided each one with his or her own copy. It truly is a metaphor worth teaching, especially in today's society. So, pass it on!

    Do you have any great metaphors or philosophies you would like to share with the world? Comment below.

    Living the extra degree,

    Director Vasicek


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