Don’t Sniff the Glue: How to De-Standardize School With Dawn Casey-Rowe

Author Dawn Casey on Hack Learning Podcast
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Dawn Casey-Rowe wants to de-standardize education. But is this problem really hackable? The author of Don’t Sniff the Glue: A Teacher’s Misadventures in Education Reform thinks so.

In Episode 52 of the Hack Learning Podcast, Casey-Rowe explains how her business experience helped her learn how to de-standardize her classroom and meet individual learners on their favorite “playgrounds”.

I loved school, and I want to prove that it doesn’t have to be a time of suffering for you.

A marvelous storyteller, Casey-Rowe compares students to customers, while defining the standard classroom’s problem, offering an overall hack, and providing several right-now solutions for educators.

The Problem

Educators are handcuffed by standardization, and many feel they can’t engage learners, who are not standardized at all.

I would be teaching the same six classes straight in a row, like replays of a Shakespearean theater, but in front of me was a different audience every 45 minutes.

Most teachers are conditioned to teach standards from the same work book or worksheet that other educators use, which Casey-Rowe says isn’t reasonable because “The world is a different place.”

The Hack

Use your subject area as a vehicle to connect learners to other things. Casey-Rowe, who has owned numerous businesses outside of her work as a teacher, suggests that teachers discover where individual student’s interests lie, and use this knowledge to engage them with your subject.

You have to be able to read that “customer” and give them 100 percent of your best experience… I need to say, “What do you feel strongly about, and how are you planning to use this in your life?”

What You Can Do Tomorrow

There are some simple strategies teachers can use to de-standardize their classrooms tomorrow, according to Casey-Rowe.

Lead from the middle - Hack Learning

How to change how you lead in 3 days

  1. Provide choice in how standards are learned and encourage students to be an even better learner than you are (they love this, Casey-Rowe says).
  2. Teach students with social networks, like Snapchat.
  3. Send students on scavenger hunts to learn about something they might see as boring. (Check out Casey-Rowe’s cool example at the 15:00 mark of the podcast episode at the top of this post.)
  4. Give students “world domination” (Casey-Rowe explains in the podcast episode).

My kids are like, ‘You’ve got a Snapchat,’ and I was like, ‘Doesn’t everybody?’


Dawn Casey-Rowe is a teacher and sustainability nut. She is the author of Don’t Sniff the Glue: A Teacher’s Misadventures in Education Reform. She writes on the issues of edtech, student success, and making schools the places we want and need them to be. The rest goes on her blog at, where she blogs about life, family, food, health, and surviving the challenges of daily living.

Dawn has worked in insurance, education, tech, consulting, and fitness, and restaurants. You can find her on her blog or on Twitter @runningdmc.

Don't Sniff the Glue

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Author: Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longtime educator and the Founder of Times 10, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, the uNseries, and other books for teachers and learners. To connect with Mark follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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