Monday, March 13, 2017

Guest Blog: How to Become a Pirate Hunter (A Novel)

Monday, March 13, 2017

From time to time, I like to feature a guest post on my blog.  What is different about this particular post is that I have decided to feature a book.  Now, here is my disclaimer...I typically do not promote or advertise products; however,  I think it is important to support other educators who are passionate about helping students.

How to Become a Pirate Hunter is a fictional novel written by Writing teacher, Marty Reeder. Reeder's goal is to help students imagine their future careers by using creative techniques like essay writing.  In my own career, I have found it important to partner with other educators so we can encourage students to think beyond their present situation and imagine possibilities for their future. What is most refreshing about Reeder's novel is that he emphasizes the importance of the school counselor in helping students in this exploration process!  For this reason, I would like to share Mr. Reeder's work with you in this post.

Please feel free to share your feedback with me and/or Mr. Reeder.

Who is Marty?

Marty Reeder lives in Smithfield, Utah with his wife and five children. He teaches creative writing and Spanish at Sky View High School. He received his both his undergraduate degrees (major in history and minors in English and Spanish) and master's degree (American Studies) at Utah State University. How to Become a Pirate Hunter is his second published novel and releases on March 14th. 

For more information about the book, you can visit his website:

As a high school English teacher, I’ve noticed more than my share of students who would  respond to that question as if they’ve just been asked to recite the geological features of the dark side of the moon. Those students are not lacking in capacity (though that may be unrefined), but many lack some imagination.

Often, as I’ve assigned essays to students, I found they retread the same political topics, narrative experiences, or social issues that they’ve written throughout their school writing history. They lacked imagination, and I lacked the insight to provide imaginative possibilities. So I tried something different and encouraged students to write according to their passions and personal interests, yet still within the bounds of the essay methods and styles we were learning in class. This led to far more interesting, far more imaginative writing on their part.

All of the sudden, instead of English being just one more class to check off on the road to graduation, I had a student--a wakeboarding fanatic--who came to report to me that the essay he wrote for my class had been published by a wakeboarding magazine and that he had received a check for the essay plus hundreds of dollars worth of free equipment. If you’ll forgive some poetic hyperbole: his eyes were lit up by the results of the application of his imagination to his situation, and the possibilities of the pairing of  his passion and the practical became his purpose.

Eric, the protagonist of How to Become a Pirate Hunter, is limited by his lack of confidence in himself and his imagination for his future. His answers to that age-old adolescent query come out as the same cookie-cutter jobs voiced by elementary school kids down the ages. For Eric, it takes the adventure of a lifetime and a good friend to open his mind to the possibilities of rising above mediocrity and realizing his full potential.

Not every student is going to be fortunate enough to have an eye-opening adventure to another world and a friend with special powers to provide it. In fact, I’m guessing this is rather rare. Luckily, most students are fortunate enough to have a caring high school counselor who can accomplish that same goal of expanding their practical imagination when it comes to future goals.

Perhaps one of the more fictional elements of my story is that Eric’s problems are not resolved through the careful guidance of an aware counselor after that opening line … but in my defense, a two-page story in an office is not as exciting as a novel with a bunch of pirate adventures!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

National Peer Helping Week Ideas

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Each year the National Association of Peer Program Professionals urges peer helping coordinators to acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate their peer helpers during the month of March. During this special month,  I take the opportunity to recruit my peer helpers for the next school year, appreciate my current peer helpers, and promote peer helping in my school community.  

Here is an overview of my plan for this year's National Peer Helper Week (March 20-24, 2017).  

The Plan

First, I will have my current peer helpers put up posters about peer helping around the school.  Here is a sample poster I made featuring Disney characters.

Second, we are going to make announcements about National Peer Helper Week to students and staff member.

Some sample announcements will include:
  • Facts about peer helping
  • Roles of peer helpers
  • Accomplishments of your schools’ peer helping program

Third, we will share information about National Peer Helper Week 

to get the excitement going on social media using the hashtag 


Sample Tweets:
Use #NationalPeerHelpersWeek
Because of YOU National Peer Helpers Appreciation Day is a 
national day to raise awareness about the peer power as a way to 
help others and save lives.  #NationalPeerHelpersWeek
March 23 is National Peer Helpers Appreciation Day and our 
school is celebrating by [fill in the blank].

Celebrate Peer Helpers helping for others during the week of 
March 20-24.
Peer Helpers help others by being their friend, tutoring, 
Join Peer Helpers around the country on March 23 and 
celebrate peer power and making a positive difference in 
other's lives.
Celebrate with us!  Peer Helpers honors past peer helpers who
have made a difference in others' lives.  


Sample Chapter Facebook posts:
March 23 is National Peer Helpers Recognition Day.  We are
celebrating past Peer Helpers and all they did to help others, 
current Peer Helpers and future Peer Helpers.
Upload pictures on Facebook; be sure to add Congratulations
Peer Helpers!

Remember to upload a photo of your Peer Helper Group. 

Fourth, create information to give out to possible new recruits.
Information can include:  a video, brochure, flyers, classroom 

Fifth, have your peer helpers recruit at least one person.  A 
personal invitation is a great way to recruit for your program. 

Sixth, include your principal in your appreciation.  Why?  Frankly, 
it is our principals who allow us to run a program and it is 
important to include them in your celebration.

Here are some ideas that are low cost...

  • Photo made of crayons signed by your peer helpers.
  • Create a bulletin board.
  • Create a candy gram.
  • Create a word art photo.
  • Create a photo with the thumbprints of students in a heart and a special quote.
Seventh, consider holding a peer helper ceremony.  At the ceremony, present a proclamation to your principal signed by your superintendent and give out certificates to your peer helpers.  Invite parents, board members, community members, and other special staff members.

Need additional information to get started?  Download the National
Peer Helper Week kit at the National Peer Program Professional