5 Lessons From A YouTube Expert

Recently I had the tremendous pleasure of introducing our TV/Radio students at one of our high schools to Beyond The Trailer and its host Grace Randolph. A friend of mine introduced me to her channel and as somebody who enjoys movies, I was instantly hooked. Her show is informative, entertaining, smart, and engaging. She interacts well with her fans and it's no wonder she has over 600,000 subscribers to her channel.

It was through our interactions on twitter that I floated the idea to her about doing a video conference with the students from one of our TV/Radio classes we are fortunate to have in our district. I met with the students leading up to interview, showed them some of her clips, and put together some questions for Grace.

It was a very enjoyable 20-30 minute conversation that I'll post below. If you go to video on YouTube, you can skip to different questions in the description below the video. As I reflect on the conversation and the follow-up discussion I had with the students from that class, I can think of five lessons I took away from the interview. (In no certain order.) These are going to seem pretty obvious but from this perspective, they had a profound impact on the students and me.


1.  It's a marathon and not a race.

I really hope you take the time to listen to Grace's perseverance as an artist. Multiple times she reminded the students that success is a marathon and not a race. In order to be successful we must be reminded that we can't get too down on ourselves when we come up short and we can't get too proud of our successes. Every day and every challenge deserves our top level of intensity and passion.

2.  Find a career where you can say, "I have to go to work" with a smile on your face. 

I loved to hear the excitement in Grace's voice as she talked about her career and the serious tone when she spoke about the business side of things. She spoke about how when you find a career you love, then you're always at work. It's something we've been talking a lot about in my district. This idea of balance and how technology has changed the way we work. It used to be that you were at work or you were off work. However, for most of us, we're never really off work. So, if you're always going to be at work, you better love what you do. Life is too short and there are too many great things going on to have to go to a job you hate every day.

3.  Think through your decisions. 

Towards the end of the interview she was asking the students what they were working on. She got talking about what to think about while viewing movies and TV shows. She said that every decision has a creative reason and a business reason. It really got me thinking about lesson plans, professional develop, and just learning in general. What are the creative reasoning behind our decisions we make in our schools? What are the business reasons behind the choices we make as learners? Man, a better blogger could write an entire blog just around those two questions.

4.  Know your stuff.

One of my favorite moments in the post interview discussions with the students was when a student says he was shocked by how much she knew about the business because he just thought that people lucked into success on YouTube. Grace talked about her time at film school, what news she reads every day, and how she reads more than just stuff that directly addresses things on her channel. She is a learner, and it was apparent to both the students and me.

5.  Be relevant. 

Grace puts out content about every day. Her Morning Movie News is fantastic! She covers 3 of the top stories in the industry and answers a viewer's questions. She talked about being on a schedule and how it throws the entire day off if she doesn't get going early enough because the industry is pushing content every day and she has to stay relevant. It's a great lesson for all of us to learn. In our ever-changing world, we better stay relevant because the moment we decide to become complacent, we get left behind. This world isn't going to wait on us to catch up. We are either ahead of the curve or we are falling behind.



Once again, a big thanks to Grace Randolph. I highly recommend her channel and she's a great follow on Twitter.

Bonus ideas: Her content is great for relevant conversations with our students. Check out her Movie Math episodes to discuss in math how projections are made, the percentage that movies drop in their second/third weeks, and how much money movies cost vs how much they make. Talk about how Hollywood helps shape the conversations around social hot-button issues and why in the world Vin Diesel is so popular in China. Finally, she breaks down the 3 Act arcs of story-writing as well as anyone you'll ever meet.

Ok, sound off below. What did you think of the interview? What lessons did you take away from our conversation with Grace? 

UPDATE: Thank you Matt Miller for the infographic!


If Its Not BLANK, Then They Won't Do It.


"If it's not graded, then they (students) won't do it."



This is something that I heard somebody say the other day and it really just rubbed me the wrong way. It's this idea that we have to use grades as some sort of negotiating tool to force students to complete task in our classrooms. It's cousin to the idea that teachers won't go to PD if we don't pay them. 

I believe that when we say that we have to use things like grades, mandates, authority, or pay in order to get somebody to complete a job, assignment,  or task then we are admitting that what we are asking to be done isn't relevant, engaging, and probably not necessary. At the very least, we are saying that we don't want to take the time to explain why it needs to be done. 

Here is the reality, it's not if it's not graded then they won't do it. Its if it's not relevant, interesting, necessary, fun, their choice, for the greater good, helpful, _______, then they won't do it. Nor should they have to. Come on folks, we are better than this. We don't have to use grades as leverage to force "engagement". 

I left a blank for you. How would you fill in the blank? 

UPDATE: Bill Ferriter wrote a great post about this conversation. You can read it here.  


See original image here
Also - the conversation made me think of this gem from my friend Bill Ferriter

Media preview


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Ideas Worth Wrestling With

I'm really working hard on getting back in the habit of blogging. As last year came to a close, I just couldn't stand the fact that I wasn't writing as often as I had just a couple of years ago. If I'm being completely honest, I would admit that I had started to feel a little stagnate in my thinking. I needed to get my creative juices flowing again. I have a new logo, a new design, and now this is my fourth post this month.

It's not the redesign of the website that is getting me back into blogging, but it's a reminder about why I blog in the first place. I blog because I believe in the power of reflection, it forces me to wrestle with my own thinking, it makes me consider the viewpoint of my potential audience, and it simultaneously gives me a clearer view of the past, while shaping my view of the future.

Nobody has helped me come to this realization more than my good friend, Bill Ferriter. When I first started blogging several years ago I was very fortunate to have Bill come to the district that I was working in at the time. We got to hang out that night and I'll never forget some of the things he said to me that night. One of the most helpful things he said to me that night, and has repeated to me on several occasions since then is, "everything is a blog post".

When he told me that, I took it to heart. You can see it right here on this site. A couple of years ago, I had 50+ blog post. Then the following year I dropped to 21 blog post. The last two years I have written a combined 11 blog post for this website.

So what changed? I think I can point it to a couple of things.

  • I took a job as Director of Technology. It's not that the job took up more of my time and I didn't have time to blog but I became more self-conscience of the potential to say something wrong and offending somebody. I say self-conscience because I've never actually been called out on anything I've written or tweeted about. Maybe fearful of saying something wrong is a better way of saying it. However, in the end, I've probably done my district a disservice by not blogging more the past couple of years. There is such potential in the power of being an open, reflective, transparent leader. 
  • I started writing for somebody other than myself. I said in my last post that it's more important to know who you aren't than it is to know who you are. Well, I'm not a "tip of the week" kind of writer. I've tried that and if you look back at the year when I wrote 50+ blog post, you will find a decent chunk of "how to" post. 

All of that being said, the most important thing I've learned about blogging is this:

  • Blogging is for me. I know that sounds selfish but I need to blog for me. I need to be reflective so that I can grow and move forward. I need to wrestle with my ideas so I can find my footing around the issues I face. It's why I loved the post I recently read by George Couros. Check out how he started this blog post:
  • How awesome is that beginning?! It captures exactly why blogging is just as much, if not more, for the writer than the reader. Of course, I think we already knew this. I think back to how much I learned about math when I started teaching it because I had to reflect on my math background and teaching it forced me to wrestle with mathematical concepts. 
So I am going to write when I need to reflect on my learning and my leading. I am going to blog when I need to wrestle with an idea and flesh it out so I can find out how I truly feel about it. Even when I wrote my last post; I wrote it, went to bed with it scheduled to publish the next morning, reread it when I got up, took it down because I didn't really think it matched my ideas on the topic, rewrote it, and republished it.

Am I still worried about somebody taking something I post on here the wrong way. Sure, perhaps a little bit, but I'll filter my thoughts as I write. The idea of writing for myself but acknowledging the fact that I have an audience, forces me to think more critically about what I'm writing. It puts the appropriate level of constraints on me to force me to be a more creative writer and sharer of ideas. John Spencer recently put together this brilliant video on the power of creative constraint



For the first time in a long time, I feel very excited about my ability to keep up with my blog this year. My reviewed vision and passion for reflective and transparent leadership will help shape me as a blogger. 

If I have an audience and my blog helps me form a relationship with folks currently outside my circle of learners, great!  I'm sure these ramblings can help somebody. If my audience is just one person, me, then that's ok too because I know my writing helps me out, if nothing else. 

If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. If you're a blogger, tell me why you blog and drop a link to your blog in the comment section.