My Reflections on Ditch That Textbook

The other day, I finally finished Matt Miller’s Ditch That Textbook. Completing the book was about 9 months in the making because I habitually stop making time for myself to read, and because I almost always have about five books that I’m working on reading (right now, it’s Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, Word Shift by Joy Kirr, Shake up Learning by Kasey Bell, and A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.)

The nuance setting Ditch that Textbook apart from other books about edtech/pedagogy is found in the acronym Matt discusses throughout the book. Ditch stands for 

Hands on

Now, while this acronym and it’s explanation are all over the place, that’s about as far as I’m going to get into the content of the book so that if anybody hasn’t read it, I don’t accidentally take away their motivation to do so. Though it may not seem like it thus far, my aim of this post is not to be a Matt Miller super fan, but rather I wanted to discuss a call to action found in the book (apparently the physical copy has blank pages for this reflection, but I read books exclusively on an eReader, so I guess this is my best option).

The single most meaningful section of the book for me was a series of questions posed to readers:

  • What kind of teacher are you?
  • What do you want to be known for?
  • What do you want your students to be known for?
  • What do you want your students to be able to do at the end of the year?
  • What skills do they need to develop for success?
  • What discussions do they need to have to cultivate new ideas?

Additionally, Matt challenges teachers to create a mission statement for their class/teaching practice. 

Admittedly, I am still thinking through the answers to the majority of the above questions, and will continue to do so for quite some time. In all likelihood, many of the answers can and should change during the course of a teaching career, or even in as little as a school year. I know that many of my paradigms have shifted over the beginning weeks and months of the school year! 

Of all that I admittedly don’t know, here’s what I can say that I do know. 

Goals for my Students and Myself

I want to be the kind of teacher that students know genuinely cares about them, and that even though they might have no personal interest in finding the volume of various prisms, my conduct and my passions will keep them engaged (that’s some Teach Like a Pirate spilling in). In turn, I want to provide students with opportunities to develop and show off their passions and talents. 

I want my students to be known as the kids on campus that anyone can turn to when they need a friend. I want them to be known for the passions that they pursue in lieu of homework. 

I want my students to be able to recognize that they can find something interesting in (almost) any topic, and know how to research effectively. I want my students to be able to take what they’ve learned and share that information with a global community in a way that they’re passionate about, and in a way that conveys the information logically and naturally. 

Mission Statement

Though I suspect it would be a beneficial exercise to work collaboratively with my class to create a mission statement we can all work towards, the mission statement I have for my class is:

The Quantum Crusaders (that’s what my class named themselves) is a class that prides itself their educational accomplishments and in conduct. Llama Sharks (don’t ask) work diligently to gain mastery of a topic, and then share that information globally in powerful ways.

The aforementioned questions have done a lot to shape my goals for the school year. Now that I’ve spent time thinking about the destination (a destination that doesn’t involve getting to the back cover of a textbook) I have a much clearer vision of what I needs to happen in order to reach these goals. Maybe greater than the book itself, Matt invites teachers to really think about their practice, and to figure out what we want out of our students, and out of ourselves. 
Like I mentioned before, I think these answers in large part are fluid and are subject to change, but refining a teaching practice, which is presumably equal parts science and art is an imperative for a successful teaching career. 

Thanks Matt for writing such a great book!

Note: This blog post is not sponsored by nor is endorsed by Matt Miller or Ditch that Textbook.


  1. Jon is right ... Not endorsed by me, but appreciated! Jon, you got what I hoped you would out of it! We are called to a higher purpose than just transmitting information, and you are taking fantastic steps in that direction. Keep up the great work!

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