Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Today's Reads, Views, and Listens

Can you believe we are past the Fourth of July? Soon it will be the fair, then preseason football, then fall sports start . . . and then inservice and we're back at it.

Can't wait.

I'm a huge fan of Tim Elmore's. His book, Generatin iY, is a must read for parents and teachers . . . or anyone who wants to understand young people today. They are different. No way around it. But we are still the ones who have to help mold them and raise them. PS - and we are responsible for the young people they grow up to become. Don't just leave that part to their smartphones and Netflix.

Elmore is also a must follow on Twitter. What I love about Elmore is that he doesn't just focus on generational theories or young people today. He focuses a lot on leadership and personal development.

I think he hits the nail on the head with his latest tweet:

I am fortunate enough to work in a field where I get to see this first hand. I can't imagine doing anything else. And this is also why I'm counting down the days until next year!


I've become fascinated with Hamish Brewer.

He has a new book out, Relentless: Changing Lives by Disrupting the Educational Norm.

I love several things about Brewer's leadership and message. I'll outline them below.

1. He is opposed to business as usual. He wants to disrupt things at his school. His reasoning? It wasn't working before, so why continue it? Education is great for beating a dead horse. I love this approach. That may also explain why I try to change my curriculum up so much. I'm never satisfied doing the same old thing over and over.

2.  He isn't afraid to shock and awe. Some of his new initiatives? No homework. Free participation for student athletes in all sports. Free attendance to all games. 1:1 laptops with personalized internet accounts for each student. Unlimited class trips! Partnerships with local businesses. No scripted curriculum or preparing for high stakes testing.

I could go on and on. I hope Hamish Brewer becomes the face of education in American rather than Michelle Rhee.

3.  He isn't what I think of when I think of an educator. You see when I was growing up, I thought in order to be a teacher, you had to be super smart. That's not all bad as it's one reason I was so motivated in college to do well. But Brewer fully acknowledges that he failed two years of school in New Zealand. He wasn't motivated or interested in school. But sports saved him and offered him the inspiration he needed to change as a student. I think this is the new type of teacher who isn't afraid to talk about their struggles and show students that it's never too late to have the light go on. And I think this is a message our kids need to hear constant. It's the growth mindset in action.

I get so fired up listening to him. How amazing would it be to work for him?


Back to Tim Elmore. I just saw this, and it's gold: Sixteen Issues Parents Must Balance to Lead Kids Well.  What I love about the title is that it doesn't say 'raise.' It says 'lead.'  There is a massive craving for leadership in our world today, and it's my belief that this starts at home. We have to lead our kids and show them why it's awesome to grow up and become an adult, not baby them so they live in our basements for the next decade.

Here are a couple of my favorite issues that parents must balance -

1. Activities: Parent is present but allows children to navigate their involvement.  This is for all of the helicopter parents out there. As a parent, our job is to support or kids, not coach them from the stands (a personal pet peeve of mine), not interfere with them (that one goes out to the parent from an EGF school that yelled when one of our fourth graders was preparing to shoot a free throw), and not be the athlete themselves (don't relive your glory days through your kids).

3. Technology: The home environment makes technology a servant, not a master.  This is one I had to learn the hard way. I have been giving Cash baths ever since we brought him home. So it was our nightly routine for me to plop him in the tub and scrub him down and then sit down while he plays and makes a mess. While he was doing this, I'd go on my phone. One night I found myself looking at my email while Cash was calling me. Then I looked over and saw him looking at me. I had a moment where I saw myself through his eyes. I didn't want his main memory of me during this time to be sitting on my phone instead of interacting with him.

4. Time: Parent shows love without making the child the focal point. This is another important facet. I think too many of us live vicariously through our kids. And the worst part is that our culture is set up for this. If your child is in athletics, you know what I'm talking about. I know of hockey parents who shift their vacations around their kids' tournaments. This is true for the start of football too when we have a scrimmage over Labor Day, which alters plans.  I don't think we're doing the kids a favor when it comes to this. I even read a story via Facebook about how important it is to attend not just your kids' game but almost everyone's games, which is impossible. I don't think it's a bad thing, but when I was a kid (and I know it's dangerous to go down this road), I had no expectations for my teachers to attend my games or my grandmother or siblings. I just wanted to play for the love of the game, not to show off to anyone.  I have great memories of my mom at all my games, but my father never made a baseball game as he had work on the farm.

In fact, my sister talks about parents showing love through quantity time instead of just quality time. Too often, we fall in to this trap where we feel bad if we aren't taking our kids to the lake or Disney World or Universal or a Twins game. But the fact is that what really counts is the quantity of time you spend with your kids, not taking them on a fancy trip.  Some of my best memories of my parents is doing chores with them, driving to town, sitting at our kitchen table over dinner, watching Seinfeld, or baling hay. I wouldn't say any of that is really quality time, but it was a lot of quantity time, which I look back now was full of quality and love.


The kids and I love Aaron Mahnke's The Cabinet of Curiosity podcast. This reminds me a bit of the old Ripley's Believe it or Not or In Search of . . . 

A new episode comes out every Tuesday and Thursday. Every episode contains two curiosities. We listen to these on the way to school ever Tuesday and Thursday. Kenzie knows it so well she can recite the introductory monologue before it starts playing.

I enjoy this because I love weird and odd pieces of history.  Some of my favorite topics/stories from the podcast are -

The Ice Palace - The Empress Anna of Russia had a castle built out of ice. She despised a man who broke tradition and married a catholic woman. When his wife died, she forced him to become a jester for her court and then forced him to marry one of her servants (who was old and ugly). As if that wasn't enough, their wedding ceremony took place in the ice castle and she forced them to spend their honeymoon night in the castle. Oh yeah, she forced them to do so naked. She figured they would freeze to death, but supposedly the couple was able to bribe a guard for his coat and managed to survive.

Sergeant Stubby - His story is just too good to be true. He enlisted in the army with some close friends. He served faithfully in WW I, helping alert his friends to mustard gas and even cornering a German spy and occupying him until his colleagues could come.  And he did this all despite being a Boston Terrier!

Lawn Chair Larry - Larry always longed for flight but his poor eyesight kept him out of the Air Force. So he did what he could. He bought 45 weather balloons, tied them to his lawn chair, and filled them with helium.  His plan actually worked. A little too well. He made it to 16,000 feet where some jet pilots saw him over LAX. Larry's plan was to shoot the balloons with the pellet gun he brought, but he was scared that it might cause him to wobble and fall.  He did finally do it though and got entangled in some power lines on his way down. He became a bit of a celebrity and inspired others to take flight too . . . He even inspired a Pixar film you might have hear of: Up.


This story breaks my heart. I can't imagine what the grandfather and family are going through. So tragic and so incredibly unfortunate.


Over the Fourth of July weekend, we ended up watching Saving Private Ryan with Cash and Kenzie. It was violent and horrific at times, but it also reminded me of when my father let me watch Patton with him when I was Cash's age.

I recall that opening scene with Patton in front of the flag going off. He was swearing. That was something my father never did nor never allowed us to do.

"Dad," I said, shocked. "He's swearing."

"Yes," my dad said proudly. "That is the good kind of swearing."

So we watched Saving Private Ryan as a family. We stopped it to explain some of the historical background to the kids.

One thing that I became fascinated by was the real story that inspired the movie. Even more interesting is the story of the Sullivan brothers, which was what inspired the military's focus on not having brothers (especially brothers from large families) all serve together.


I'm actually perfectly okay with this.

BTW - Cash and Kenzie love this song.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Summer reading book #3

A few years ago, our former leader, Shane Zutz, gave me the book The Trust Edge by David Horsager. In it, Horsager explores the eight pillars vital to building trust.

The first pillar to building trust is clarity.

Three things are vital for clarity according to Horsager: vision and purpose; expectations and communication; and daily tasks.

Vision and purpose: What is your vision for yourself as an educator? What is your vision for your students? How many of us even consider that? I know I didn’t for a long while. But things changed over time. Candidly: my vison for myself as an educator? This is part of my ‘why’ (see Simon Sinek’s TED Talk for more on this) - I strive to be the teacher who helps students discover their elements and then helps them develop the skills to be remarkable, life long learners. That’s why I exist.

Expectations/communications: Now here is where I can use a lot of improvement.  I don’t think I do this well enough nor often enough. I tell stories, and stories are a great way to communicate expectations to students. I just need to be far more diligent about this.

A key tip from the author: If you’re specific with your requests about what you want (in other words, your expectations), you will almost always receive what you asked for. 

Finally, daily tasks. Again, I need more work here. What tasks do I structure for my students to help them on their paths to discover their elements and then skills that will make them remarkable? This is where the real work is done. To be fair, this is probably where I spend most of my time when it comes to lesson planning and deliberate practice.

A key tip from the author: In helping you move the ball down the field with daily tasks (so to speak) these three things are good to keep in mind -

  1. What tasks or projects do we have that fall outside our mission or core beliefs? (Personally, this is why I avoid all busy work. For others this might include home work. Still others might put testing in here).
  2. What activities are holding us back from greater success? (Personally, this is one I model with my students all the time. If I have to get some reading done - and I read the books right along with my classes - I set a goal for what I need to get done (say read 50 pages this block). Then I state what I need to do in order to reach this goal (put away my phone and don’t look at it even once. Take my classroom phone off the hook. Close my laptop and find a comfortable stop in my room). Finally, when the block is up, I reflect on what I accomplished or analyze why I didn’t reach my goal. (Personally, I read 60 pages because I didn’t feel the need to check Twitter or my email every ten minutes. Since I wasn’t at my desk, I wasn’t tempted to grade papers or look at my laptop to check emails. Thus, I was able to get more done).
  3. Ask yourself this: Am I doing any “good” things that are keeping me from doing the “best” things? In other words, good is the enemy of great. I often share with students my quest to get in shape and lose weight. By asking myself this question, I know I’m doing good things by getting up early and exercising, but I’m also doing some things that are getting in my way - not eating right and not avoiding enough carbs. The latter is getting in my way of being the best that I can be.

There is one vital thing to note here when it comes to clarity. It’s fine to note that “This might not be for you” when it comes to some students in your class. I used to beat myself up trying to get kids to buy in to what I was selling them about their elements and developing their skills.  But some just don’t buy it. That’s okay. That is why if I’m clear on anything, one of the first messages out of my mouth on the first day of class is this: if you aren’t here to discover what lights you up and to develop a variety of writing skills that will help you with your passions and certainly in college, then this class isn’t for you. You’re welcome to stay, but it’s going to be an uphill battle for you. It’s okay to realize that. It saves you a lot of misery. Just make that clear to your students and yourself.

One final tip - have a mission statement. It will help guide you and help your clarity. This is why I kicked this whole thing off talking about one’s Noble Teaching Purpose. I exist to help students discover what they are good at and then develop skills around that to set them on a path for work they will one day love. Whenever I see a standard or an assignment, that mission statement is so ingrained in me, that it always cross references itself against that.

The second pillar to trust is compassion.

This might be the most essential component for building trust. When I think of compassion, especially when it comes to my classroom and the students in it, I think of it as simply caring. In other words, when students walk in, are you happy that they’re there? Do they know it? How do you show it to them? 

In fact, at LHS, we have a core value built around compassion: “It’s Not About Us.” Hosager has a great quote in this section of the book that reminds me of our core value: “Show that you think beyond yourself; you will be distinctive and successful in your industry.”

Being part of a class should be more than just a routine. Maybe I’m odd when it comes to this, but being part of a class should be an experience.  I’m not going to lie, when you sign up for College Comp I, II or even English 9R, you’re in for an experience. And part of that experience is that I care.

If you look around, compassion is what fuels any successful entity. Why do I love apple products so much, in spite of the fact that they often infuriate me with their constant upgrades and changes (I still remember when they went to iMovie 3.0. I had the first two versions down cold, but then when they came out with iMovie 3.0, it was like I was using Final Cut Pro or something. It was way too complex). Or how every time they come out with a new iPhone or MacBook Air, all the ports are different and now I have to buy new cables and accessories! Yet, why do I stick by them? Because they show in their amazing customer service how much they care.  

One time I spilled coffee all over my old MacBook laptop. It was fried. I called applecare and they ran the specs. Turns out they were going to clean it all up for me and even throw in an extra large hard drive because (unbeknownst to me) there was a problem with my specific type of hard drive and they had extended the warranty on it.  That compassion build loyalty in me, and I’ll never own another phone or computer because of that.

When it comes to building compassion, Horsager uses an acronym (and we all know how teachers love those) - The four L.A.W.S. of compassion

L - Listen. Part of helping others is just listening to them. This is one of my favorite things to do when students come in early. I just talk with them. And sometimes the most trivial stuff they share is some of the best stuff when it comes to showing compassion. A student may mention a rough moment at their job. Then at the end of the week as they leave class, I’ll pull them aside and ask them how their job is going. I’ll just listen. That’s all they really want. I don’t have to help them solve it. They just need to know I care.

A - Appreciate. Who doesn’t like to be appreciated? I’m convinced there can never be enough of this in any environment. I mean when was the last time you ever heard someone say that they are tired of their teacher, boss, manager, coach appreciating them so much? Never! In fact, author and consultant Patrick Lencioni knows multi-millionaire athletes who are completely miserable (despite the outrageous money they are paid) simply because they feel like their coach doesn’t really appreciate them enough!

W - Wake up. I’m terrible at this. Not at school but at home. Just yesterday I came home from summer school and was so focused on the future (getting the house clean so we can enjoy supper in a clean house) that I wasn’t even listening to Kenzie tell me about how her day went. She was talking and I was only half listening as I swept up and walked right by her on my way to the pantry to grab the dustpan and then the Swiffer! Thankfully, Kenzie called me out on it. Then I woke up and gave her the five minutes of attention she needed. After that, I went back to cleaning. How often in classes do we really focus on what students are telling us? Or do we just focus on listening for what we want to hear (the “right” answer)?

S - Serve others. Here we go. We are back to our core value of “It’s Not About Us” again. How do we serve our students? They aren’t here for us! We exist to serve them. Yet, how often do we stop and really think (and act) that way? I’m reminded of my favorite plumber/furnace repair man. Two years ago we came home from my mother in law’s early because Cody was going to propose to KoKo on Christmas Eve. His sister was going to use Facebook Live so we could watch. But the minute I walked in the door of our house, I knew something was wrong. The temperature was at 58 degrees. Our furnace was out! That meant I had to call Todd to come check on it. He answered on the third ring and said he’d be right over. On Christmas Eve! Fifteen minutes later, the furnace was up and running and Todd was headed back home. Talk about service! I knew I had to go with Todd on my new furnace because years before he was my neighbor. Every time it snowed, when Todd got home from work, he’d fire up his skid-steer, hook up his monster snowblower, and blow out every yard in our neighborhood. He didn’t ask anything in return. He just served his neighbors. Well, when it came time to buy a new furnace, I knew who we were going to go with. If Todd took such good care of me when I was just his neighbor, I had no worries about how he’d take care of me as a customer. Service is everything!

The third pillar essential for trust is character.

For much of my life, this has been one of my favorite words when it comes to how others describe me, as in oh that Reynolds, he’s quite the character.

But that isn’t what Horsager has in mind with the third pillar that is essential for developing trust. For this type of ‘character’ Horsager means character as in ‘integrity’ and ‘morality.’ Two things that go way beyond my initial definition of character.

Essentially, Horshag notes that there are two sides to character. The first part of integrity simply means consistency. Do you say what you mean and mean what you say? Do you talk the talk AND walk the walk? If you do this, you have a huge leg up when it comes to developing trust. Who doesn’t trust (and then follow) someone who they know will come through when they need it? In our profession, if you know a student is willing to come to you with a problem or seek you out for a reference or letter of recommendation, you know they trust you. They know you will come through for them.

The second part of integrity is having high morals. Do you do the right thing? Early in my career, I wanted no part of this part of trust. The person I was in school was not the person I was outside of school. But that has changed drastically as I’ve grown as a person.  If people know you and know that you are morally sound, they will put their faith and trust in you far more often than if they don’t. 

When I try to impress this upon my students, the one thing I tell them is that what really matters most is what you do when no one is looking. In my experience, that is a true test of character.

And it matters. I’ll give you a real life example. Two years ago, the Writer’s Club used to meet in my room after school. They were meeting while I was out working on the yearbook. By the time I got back, they were all long gone, but I found a note on my desk. It was from a student that I had never had in class before. In the note, he explained that he had stopped by to visit a friend who was in Writer’s Club. In the course of his visit, he had been fooling around with one of the bouncy balls for my ball chairs. In fooling around, he lost control of it and it bounced off my wall, knocking down some Legos (Hagrid’s hut to be exact). He explained that he tried to put it back together as best he could, but he didn’t quite get it all put together. He apologized and left his number.

I was dumbfounded. I never expected that from a sophomore! I don’t know if I’d have had the guts (or character) to do that when I was his age. In fact, I know I wouldn’t have. I’d have left and hoped no one else ratted me out. This student could have slunk out, and I would have just thought it had fallen on its own, that my son had done it, or maybe a cleaner knocked it over. But he did the right thing and took responsibility . . . even when it would have been easier not to.

I knew from that moment on, I could trust this young man and I looked forward to having him in class. In fact, I am going to write about how much I thought of his character then and there in his senior letter next year.  That’s the power of doing the right thing even if no one is watching.

As Horsager notes, someone is always looking (even if it’s just you). The one person who is always there, of course, is you (or your conscience). Think about that the next time your character is tested!

Finally, Horsager gives us five ways that allow us to demonstrate our character to others:


In what ways can we model these in our own classes in front of our students?

The fourth pillar to trust, and maybe the most vital key, is competency.

How can anyone trust you if you aren’t competent? But how does one become competent?

Well, for teachers, that’s where our undergraduate degree comes in, but, speaking from experience, that gives us just a very, very superficial level of competence. Outside of my methods classes and a reading class, I wasn’t given much in the way of tools in my competency belt. My Measurement and Evaluation class? A joke. My Ed Psych class? Interesting and informative but nothing relevant. My Classroom Discipline class? A joke as well.

So if our undergraduate degrees just give us a superficial base for competency, how do we build upon that?

First, there is relying on your team members. I learned a ton from Lisa, Loiell, and Jan my first year. Though the names have mostly changed over the past two decades, that is still true. Rely on your team members to help improve you and push you.

Second - and I love this one - read to learn. Horshager writes, “Mrs. Klein, my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, wisely said, ‘Reading is critical because in the first three years of school, one learns to read. After that, one reads to learn.’” This is so true for helping me build my competency as a composition teacher.

Third - and this doesn’t come from Horshager - podcasts. These are gold. They do so much for inspiring and challenging me. Whatever your field or interest, there is a podcast for you.

Yesterday, I just discovered this podcast, Better Leaders, Better Schools: Relentless Learning with Hamish Brewer.  This is an absolute gold mine. If I was still working as an adjunct at UND, this would be mandatory listening for my Teaching and Learning 250 students.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg for what podcasts can offer us.

The fifth pillar necessary for trust is commitment.

Speaking from experience here, I can tell you this one is vital.  When I think of commitment I think of some legends around LHS: Reese, H, Kahlhammer, and Mumm (to name just a few). 

I’ve been on choir trips with Reese and have seen first hand her commitment. When she is up at 6 am ready for a whale watching trip after staying out until 1:00 am the night before . . . enough said. That’s commitment.

I’ve been mentored long enough by H (and have worked with his students long enough) to know that his commitment speaks for itself.  When I first started teaching at LHS, H was known to show up on Saturday mornings to work with his students who had missed class during the week. When I asked a former student, Keaton Joppru (who is now finishing medical school) about H, he noted how H went out of his way to meet with Keaton and re-teach him college chemistry. That’s commitment.

I worked down the hall and passed her room enough to know that Erika Kahlhammer lived and breathed her science class. I talked with a former student who said that Erika constantly went above and beyond to help her out once she knew she had a passion for eyes and becoming an optometrist one day.  That’s commitment.

Finally, I’ve coached and taught with my dear friend, Coach Mumm long enough to know that his commitment to LHS and his students and athletes is second to none. Who goes out of their way to bring his class Dilly Bars? Coach Mumm. Who meets with his captains once per week and is in constant contact with former athletes of his? Coach Mumm. Who tries to note everything that goes on at LHS and brag it up on social media? Coach Mumm. In fact, Coach Mumm IS commitment. Period.

On the opposite end of commitment is . . . what? Apathy? Half-assing? Selfishness? I don’t know, but it doesn’t inspire anyone. And students can see right through this. 

That is one reason I try to write as many of the papers right along with my students. That way when my third block College Comp class saunters in complaining about having a five page  literary analysis due on Friday, I can say, “Stuff it. I wrote my rough draft over my lunch break!” They know I’m committed because I’m doing the work with them (and showing them the mistakes I made and how I overcame them as a way to try and help them in the writing process too).

The sixth pillar of trust is connection.

Horsager leads off with a quote from Maya Angelou that illustrates connection very well: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” For teaching, this is even more true.

Trust is all about relationships. How do you establish and strengthen relationships? Connection.

If you have ever studied the business Dutch Bros. Coffee, you know the importance of connection. Just take a look at their core values and mission statement.

Here is a picture from one of their stores that went viral that also illustrates the power of connection.

You don’t get connection like that unless leadership all the way down encourages it. Think that later will be a customer for life? Who cares? The real point is that she will remember this moment and how much those workers cared in that moment. That is what is really important.

How is this different than what we do with kids every day? It isn’t. If you aren’t striving for connections, you’re missing the boat. Worse yet, you aren’t building the relationships with kdis that you should be.

The seventh and eighth pillars of trust are contribution and consistency.

This reminds me of a quote from Zig Ziglar that I’ve tried to live by these last 22 years: “If you help others get what they want, sooner or later you’ll get everything you want.” That covers the contribution part. In other words, don’t just think of this in terms of what you bring to the table, but what can you do to help others achieve. 

In terms of consistency, this relates to one our core values at LHS: “Excellence in the ordinary.” Mr. Zutz explained what this was so important. If you can do the little things with excellence, then the big things will fall in place too. It’s hard to have people take you seriously when you did some of the big things well but you are terrible at the little things. That’s the importance of being consistent.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Thing

In my Science Fiction class at summer school, we are watching John Carpenter's iconic The Thing from 1982. It is not for the feint of heart. That's for sure.

 I found this out when I was watching a bit of it on HBO in what must have been the summer of 1983. My parents were outside mowing the lawn or doing yard work after supper, so I went right to channel two, which was HBO then.

I don't remember how much I watched of it, but I clearly remember this scene scaring the hell out of me.

When that man's chest opened up into a gaping maw with fangs and bit the doctor's forearms off, I was out of there!  It was a heck of a thing for a nine year old to see, but it terrified me.  So much so that it wouldn't be until I was doing research for my own science fiction class at LHS (2001) that I mustered up the courage to watch it again.

It still terrifies me.

Carpenter's film is based on the classic sci fi story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell.  And the plots are quite similar.

The story is a staple of science fiction and the concept of the alien invasion, only this type of invasion is right out of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" as opposed to the type of invasion from Independence Day.  An alien ship crashes in earth's ancient past. A Norwegian Arctic research team discovers the ship . . . and one alien buried in the ice. They (in the wisest of all moves in science fiction/horror films) bring it back to their camp where it thaws and begins attacking the Norwegians. Only what this alien does is mimic other life forms.

Where Carpenter's film begins is with the few survivors of the Norwegian camp in a helicopter chasing a lone dog across the Arctic.  They can't seem to shoot it (another classic in science fiction/horror films). And thus it flees an American camp of scientists and researchers in the Arctic.

All the Norwegians die, but the dog infiltrates the camp and begins mimicking the other dogs in the American camp and then the Americans themselves.  The remained of the movie is a puzzle to determine who are 'thins' and who are true Americans.

There are a couple things that make Carpenter's film a sci fi classic.

First, the effects are stellar (if horrific). There were tales of people vomiting in theaters when it opened in 1982.

Second, Kurt Russell does an amazing job as the protagonist, helicopter pilot RJ MacReady. He leads the quest to determine who is still human.

Third, the ending. The film never resolves the key question - is 'the thing' dead? Russell and one other survivor, Childs, are left sitting alone as their camp burns to the ground. Neither are sure if the other is a human or a thing.

Is Childs the thing? Is MacReady the thing? Does it matter?

Well, of course it matters. If either one is the thing, it could well spell doom for all of humanity as one of the scientists does some calculating and realizes if the thing makes it to a populated setting and mimics others, it can take over the world in a matter of days.

But - as MacReady states late in the film - the thing really just wants to freeze again and wait for the rescue party to come to then get transported back to a population center to continue its conquest.

So who is the thing?

That has been gnawing at fans for decades now. A quick Google search reveals dozens of theories (not quite as many as for the ending of Inception, another science fiction classic).

Here is what Carpenter had to say recently via Twitter.

So one of them is the thing! I always thought it was MacReady, but I'm not so sure.

Regardless, The Thing, initially panned by critics, has stood the test of time and now has grown into a cult classic.

There was a pathetic attempt in 2011 to film a prequel telling the story of the Norwegian base, but the film is terrible compared to Carpenter's classic.

There are no plans for Carpenter to film a sequel though.  But given that Bladerunner got a sequel years later as did The Shining, there is hope.

Until then, I did find a story that tells the story of Carpenter's The Thing from the alien's point of view.  It's called "The Things" by Peter Watts, and it's pretty awesome.