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The Tiebreaker: A scouting report on building a culture of gamification in professional learning

If you told me I would publish a book in my lifetime, I probably would have laughed. Not because I didn’t think I had it in me, because mainly, I didn’t believe I had anything worth writing. Being a published author has always just been a dream-like a three-year-old’s dream of being a princess or a firefighter. What were my words worth in comparison to famous thought leaders and inspirational speakers like Simon Sinek, Brené Brown, etc? Until one day, when I stood in front of a statewide Instructional Coach audience and presented my ideas on adult gamification. Afterward, I was approached by a mentor who put it out there and simply said, “you should write a book”. I may have chuckled. Yet, she had this serious stare about her and I knew she believed in me. That was all I needed for me to believe in myself.

But, isn’t that how it usually starts? With one believer?

As an Instructional Coach, I started gamification when I was in a lull, as an educator. Sure, I know that every day brings its own challenges and no one day is the same in the education field. However, I found myself stuck in the monotony of my daily schedule. Bell rings, class starts. Bell rings, class ends. Grade papers, pass out papers. Lesson plan, deliver lesson. Again, complete disclaimer, I know that education is not like this daily; but, I was in a stuck and stagnant phase in my life. To be completely vulnerable, I was stuck and questioning my longevity in the field of education every single day.

I cannot tell you what changed or how I changed, but I woke up one day and realized enough was enough. If I was going to enjoy my daily grind, I needed to bring the fun. I needed my own tiebreaker.

I am an education advocate and passionate change agent. When the times get tough (or stagnant), I usually find myself seeking the solution. The solution, in this case, for me was gamification. I realized I was taking every day too seriously. Serious with myself; serious with my students; serious with my colleagues. It was time to have some fun.

If you have ever tried to implement something “new”, I’m sure you know how it goes. For me, it was no different. Let’s just say the beginning stages of gamification implementation were not necessarily fun. There were questions, comments, and those are-you-kidding-me looks shot my way. I had to take a step back and reflect.

I had to build the culture.

And, so it began; but, not alone. My biggest supporter, my Principal, helped coach me through the process and never gave up. We started investing in my colleagues even more. Listening to their concerns and giving them voice. Building the dream team, my team of thinkers and doers. Strategically making a game plan through goal alignment. Refining and reflecting on the process. And, let’s not forget….rewarding.

The process did not happen overnight. In fact, it took years to develop a culture for gamification in the workplace; but, the process was all worth it. Actually, I continue to build and collaborate with educational leaders interested in gamification in the workplace to this day.

Here’s the thing. The education system focuses on students the majority of the time; and, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, we cannot forget about those that educate our children, the educators. I am a firm believer that if our educators are having fun, our students are having just as much fun, if not more. If we want to reach our students and truly make the impact we talk about, we must start with our educators. We, educational leaders, must be the influencers, the solution-seekers, the tiebreakers.

And so, I started on my adventure of publishing my first book, The Tiebreaker: A Scouting Report on Building a Culture of Gamification in Professional Learning. I used my voice in hopes to inspire other educational leaders (administrators, instructional coaches, etc.) to build a fun culture. At the same time, I hoped to provide words of caution. A leader cannot just start any “new thing” with the pedal to the metal. Believe me, I learned from experience. It’s important to start by building the culture to avoid those false starts. Then, this culture seeps to the students. What I realized, in my own experiences, is that when I modeled this culture and we really started diving into the games, my colleagues were more apt to try building a similar culture and use gamification in their own classrooms. There was a cascade of effects.

As an author, opening that published book for the first time is so surreal. I’m not even sure I still believe it has happened. It’s years of dreaming, months of writing, and, quite honestly, hours of staring at blank pages. Oftentimes, I would second guess my words on the page or wonder how my ideas would sound to others. That was the challenge. But, the key was I kept putting words to paper.

As we have approached one year of my “book birthday”, I have received many words of encouragement and suggestions. I have also learned so much from the personal connections and the networking opportunities. One part of my book that I have purposefully left open for interpretation is the title, The Tiebreaker. In fact, I actually wrote the book without a title, and then one of my editors mentioned The Tiebreaker, and that was it. Just the title, in itself, has sparked amazing conversation and has opened my eyes to new interpretations of my work every day. Who is a tiebreaker? What really is the tiebreaker? To me, it can be so many things to many different individuals. Yet, it’s that one person that must own it. And so, if you are reading this, I would love to hear your interpretation or even grab a virtual cup of coffee with you to chat about your interpretation. Please do not hesitate to reach out!

Because, who knows? Maybe your interpretation will bring an idea of your own to fruition. Maybe you are that one person that dreamt of being a published author, while others dreamt of princesses and firefighters. Maybe you just need that one believer to get your words on paper. I am happy to be that one person, perhaps your tiebreaker. That is what the world of writing has taught me. It’s about the support, the community, and letting your voice be heard!

Use the code TIEBREAKER in the EduMatch Publishing store for 20% off until 5/15! Find the book here.

Rebecca Gibboney


When did work become so serious? Who said it had to be? Imagine heading into a workplace where the fun is just as important as the work. What if you (yes you!) were the one who could unlock all of the fun for your colleagues? In The Tiebreaker, Rebecca Gibboney gives educators the scouting report on how to build a culture of gamification for professional learning. Filled with gamification examples, a game plan, and the keys to victory, the question remains…

Do you have what it takes to lead your team to victory?

After all, you could be THE TIEBREAKER!

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