#DBC50Summer: Discovering my #EDUpassions

One of my favorite things about my journey in the #DBC50Summer is reading the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books in the order of their release.  I have so loved seeing names of future authors before they were published as they contribute to the earlier books.  Another exciting piece of reading in order is drawing on the connections between the books released around the same time.  It has really given me an even deeper appreciation for the effort of every single team member within the DBC company.  The way common messages flow throughout the books is so impressive.  There is no way that kind of seamless transition is coincidental.  That is only achieved through hard work and attention to detail from every person involved – from the author to the editor and through the publisher.

Here’s what prompted this little #DBC50Summer interlude…

In reading Play Like A Pirate I realized that Quinn Rollins knew what his passions outside of education were – toys, games, and comics.  He brought those into his classroom with great success. Reflecting on passions, I also realized that I dabble in a bit of everything within edtech and “trends” in education, but was unsure of my true educational passions.  I am not even halfway finished with my career in education and I wanted to discover what my passions are, what could sustain my enthusiasm for teaching throughout the next 16 years.  As I come to book 18, The Writing on the Classroom Wall, I realize that it doesn’t feel right to read the book without having those passions nailed down.  How can I post my passions if I don’t know what they are?

Amazingly, as I read the next few books in the line up, there was a section about discovering your passion.  (I’m seriously not making this up – go get a copy for yourself and check it out!) . Within LaunchJohn Spencer & AJ Juliani discuss the use of brackets to force a decision between two topics.  Using this idea, I found my #EDUpassions!

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The process?

First, I brainstormed any and all concepts, tools, big ideas, lessons that get me excited about teaching.  I started by thinking of tech tools and their functions, like Google Apps for Education and BreakoutEDU.  Then my thinking became deeper through coaching teachers and forming authentic relationships with those I work with.  I numbered each topic 1-64.  Using a random number generator online, I was able to put two ideas “against” each other in brackets.  While considering my passion level for each, I went with my gut when choosing which topic/idea should advance in the brackets.  A couple were tied because I honestly couldn’t eliminate one or the other OR because the two topics were so similar and fit hand-in-hand.  *I did notice that I put design thinking into the brainstorm twice, but seeing as how they ended up eliminated anyhow, I just left them.

My brackets in Google Sheets are here.  This will force you to make a copy and create your own EDUpassion brackets as suggested in Launch!  Just replace my topics with yours! The teal blue cells are my original 64 educational topics that get me excited.  I narrow them down, eliminating one of the two options until I am left with only FOUR passions!

My Final Four are as follows:

  • Making a Difference in Students and Teachers through Coaching

  • Lifelong Learning through Being a Connected Educator

  • Being a Catalyst for Change

  • “Those” Stories (you know the ones… those that make you tear up when you share them with others) and Culture

I enjoy coaching teachers.  I especially love to see the impact made on the teacher, the classroom, and most importantly, the students through a successful coaching cycle.  When the teacher and I have co-planned a lesson, co-taught it, then reflect on it together, it is easy to see the growth in their students, and in the teachers themselves.

I am very clearly a lifelong learner.  I am never satisfied with the amount of knowledge I have.  I like to look up information on topics and people, just because I like having the knowledge.  I crave gaining new knowledge!  One of the best ways to continue to grow and learn in this field is to be a connected educator.  If I weren’t a connected educator, I could have committed to reading all of the DBC books this summer, started strong, then chosen not to finish because I didn’t have anyone holding me accountable.  Or I may have still continued, persevered through the weeks I have been swamped with presentations, and completed the challenge.  Who knows?  I do know that no one else would have known #DBC50Summer was happening.  Several educators are joining in on the fun and are strengthening their skill sets and will be inspired and ready for their students to return.  Thankfully, because I am a connected educator (on Twitter, specifically), I am able to not only learn and grow on my own, but connect with other educators from across the country who also hold an affinity for DBC books and have begun their own versions of #DBC50Summer.  Almost every one of the authors from the first 17 books have reached out to me with kind words after reading the #DBC50Summer post about their book.  This has blown me away and strengthened my connection with the books, and has made me adore these authors even more!  Being connected has brought both me, and my students, opportunities they likely would not have had otherwise.

Being a catalyst for change comes from working at my school, local, state, and national levels to revolutionize education.  I greatly enjoy the work I do mentoring coaches throughout my state, serving on the NCTIES board of directors, and piloting a new position which formally marries the roles of digital learning coach and media coordinator in my district. Being able to work on the national framework for Future Ready Instructional Coaches has been incredible.  This summer I have been fortunate in that I get to facilitate professional development with teachers across the western half of my state for two weeks.

Finally, you know “those” students who have “those” stories? The ones that touch your heart and will always stay with you?  They are my passion.  Their stories, as heartbreaking or heartwarming as they are, become part of my story.  We either cry together or celebrate together, and their stories of overcoming adversity inspire me to continue my educational career.  “Those” stories are the ones that sustain me, and many educators across the world!  Playing an integral role in forming the culture in my school has become more and more important to me.  I want every student and staff member to feel valued.  I want my administration to know they are appreciated (and that I would never EVER want to walk a day in their shoes).  I believe that when your school has the right culture, there is no stopping the growth in everyone who steps foot in the building.

So, my #EDUpassions… it took a while to nail them down, but I feel confident in saying that these ARE my #EDUpassions.  These are what get me out of bed in the morning.  These are what excite me and make me look forward to the new school year.

It always comes back to the students for me.  THEY are my why.  They are my number one passion.

Forming those authentic relationships is what allows me to know their stories.  It is imperative that we build relationships with our students.  I also encourage educational leaders to build relationships with their faculty.  Talk with them informally; get to know their families; get to know their stories.  Connect with them outside of school and make developing a relationship a priority.

Now that I have these #EDUpassions planted firmly in my head, and on my heart… I can get back to #DBC50Summer reading, reflecting, blogging, and implementing!  Let’s do this!

#DBC50Summer 17/50: Kids Deserve It

Kids. Deserve. It. Take a minute and consider that. Whatever good there is out there, kids deserve it.  Whatever opportunities there are out there, kids deserve it.  Whatever bright future we can show them, kids deserve it. Whatever silly scheme we’re cooking up next in the classroom, kids deserve it.  Kids deserve every bit of our best, and not one ounce less.  That’s what book 17 is all about.  Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney co-authored a book that took the world by storm.  This book reminds me of my why every time I open the cover. It’s obvious that it has done that and more for so many educators as Kids Deserve It has a tremendous community on Twitter full of passionate educators who push boundaries and challenge conventional thinking.


I did not have a desire to be a teacher when I was a kid in the same way many teachers did.  When I was a girl, my best friend wanted to play school all the time.  Because she was my friend, I obliged… however, I dreaded it every time.  I grimaced when she’d mention going to her garage because I knew that meant pretend worksheets, sharpening pretend pencils, or sitting in our pretend desks.  I always, always let her be the teacher.

See, I really didn’t like school.  I was GOOD at it, but I didn’t like it.  I enjoyed the social aspect – I was the kid that always talked, no matter who you sat me beside.  I was the one who would be hiding a book I was reading in my desk while you went on and on in math class; I would doodle in my notebook making you think I was working until you came over and saw the hearts and squiggles everywhere.  I was never a behavior problem, unless I felt backed into a corner or embarrassed in front of my peers.  I made excellent grades, and would happily tutor a friend if you asked me to. But I didn’t go running into school every day excited for what was to come.  I didn’t go home in the afternoons and play school with my teddy bears, Sandy, Smokey, and Brownie (don’t judge… don’t you dare judge, ha).  My parents weren’t teachers; in fact, I was the first in my family to graduate from college.  I don’t have an “a-ha” moment of when I decided to be a teacher.  I couldn’t tell you why I chose to go to school to be an educator.  I just remember putting it on a pathway form I was filling out for the guidance counselor one day, and thinking… okay, I’ll go be a teacher then.  There were no sparks, no fireworks, no heavens opening and angels singing. Just an ordinary day.

It wasn’t until I was around students of my own that I realized my “why”.  THEY were my why.  I needed to be around the kids.  They make me come alive.  I can be having the worst morning of the worst week and walk into a classroom of kids… and it changes me.  I become a different person when I take on the “Mrs. Ray” part of my life.  My daughters would tell you that I’m not the most patient person. I’m not one who enjoys loud sudden noises.  I do not like spontaneity at all; I NEED a plan! We frequently ride in the car with no music on because “mom needs some quiet time.”  But when I’m at school… I am insanely patient, I love to surprise kids with wild antics, and I play music on Pandora the entire day.  I thrive on the creative chaos that learning brings! Students bring out the best in me.  You can even see it in pictures.  If I’m around my students, there is a glow on my face in pictures.  I quite literally come alive when they are around.  My students are my why.  And I believe wholeheartedly that they deserve every good thing in life I can give them.

This book speaks to my soul.  There is a story that I can relate to every single chapter.  I picture a student’s face, an experience we created in the classroom, a phone call home to a parent who desperately needed to hear some good news about their child.  Unfortunately, I also think of all the ways I have failed my students in the past 12 years.  The doors that I slammed, the times that I was too tired to bring my “A-game”, the effort that I CHOSE not to put into a lesson.  This book makes me want to be better – not just as an educator, but as a person.  Many of the things Adam and Todd speak of are just things that good, kind-hearted, empathetic, loving humans do for one another.

It’s about going the extra mile to notice a kid in need, to praise them when they deserve it, to be their cheerleader, to find out why they behave the way they do.  It’s inspirational in every sense.

I could literally implement one thing from every chapter – actually one thing from every story within the chapter – that Adam and Todd share.  Many times I’m thinking Wow, that’s a great idea!  I could do that! after reading a story within a chapter.  Sometimes it’s affirming because I think Oh man, that’s like this time I did this… and I can relate to their story with an experience of my own.  In light of this being my third reading of Kids Deserve It, there are three things I want to implement for #DBC50Summer.

1. Phone Calls Home: I love to call parents and tell them a story of how incredible their kid is!  Last year I noticed one of my 8th graders walking another 8th grader with special needs down the hall.  As always, I waved from the fishbowl of a media center and the two young men walked in the door to say hello.  We struck up a short conversation in which I found out that the 8th grader with special needs was upset about something happening with his Chromebook and his friend was trying to help him figure it out.  We got him a loaner Chromebook and assured him that his Chromebook would be repaired soon and I’d get it back to him as soon as I could.  When the two teens left the media center, I immediately looked up the phone number of the 8th grader who was helping and called his mom.  She was so touched by the phone call, and it made my day better because I had focused on a good deed that one child did for another, rather than a Chromebook being broken.  I wanted to pay it forward as well.  This year, I want to make it a priority to call 5 parents a week to personally give them an example of when their child was an exceptional human being.  Because I don’t teach academics in a classroom setting, I get to call about everything BUT grades!  How awesome is that?! I can’t wait to make these calls and document the reactions!

2. Ride the Bus: I want to ride each bus in the morning and in the afternoon at some point this year.  When I started my first media position at an elementary school several years ago, we took a workday and rode the bus routes as a staff to see where many of our students lived.  It was an eye-opening experience.  I love the idea of being on the bus to greet students as they come to school.  It also allows me to see their homes.  We have four buses, two of which we share with the high school, so I look forward to seeing former students as well.  I’m not sure how I will implement this yet, as I have two daughters of my own that need to get to school, in the opposite direction of my husband’s job.  I will make it happen though, one way or another.

3. Shadow Students: There were times last year that a student would walk in the door and seem a bit “off”.  There were days I would stand in the halls during class change giving high fives and hugs and notice that a student wasn’t walking with their “best friend” that day.  I try to notice those things and speak to those students throughout the day to check in on them.  I want to make that a priority this year.  I want to be “in their heads,” so to speak.  I want to build a relationship with students that will allow me, with one glance, to tell that something is off and speak to them.  One way I plan to do that is to shadow students in classes.  I want to get the full experience of being a middle school student, going to their classes, completing the work, eating lunch with them, everything. (I draw the line at using the student restrooms though… I will still be using faculty bathrooms. Just saying.) By shadowing students, I will be more empathetic to their lives and use the experiences to continue to remember that they deserve my best, and the best of their classroom teachers as I coach them.

There are so many things that can be said about this book.  I could go on and on about the amazing things Adam and Todd bring to education.  Their passion and enthusiasm is contagious.  Their focus on the student, not just academically, but the WHOLE student is to be admired and should be replicated by every educator.  Why?  Because Kids Deserve It.

Both men have gone on to write books that will show up later in #DBC50Summer and I am so excited to read those for the first time.  I know they will be just as inspirational, if not more so (Wait…is that possible?), as Kids Deserve It.

As always, you can follow along with the learning, sharing your thoughts and reflections on the Flipgrid.  The password is DBCSummer and all credit for the idea goes to my incredible friend Andrea Paulakovich, an educator in Kansas.  Andrea had an amazing thought that we could create a space to globally share reflections and ideas as a worldwide book study for any of the DBC books!  See, told you she was incredible!  You can follow her on Twitter here and follow her #DBC50Summer journey here!  If there aren’t any posts on the Flipgrid yet, be a trendsetter.  Make the first video!  Be bold!

The Kids Deserve It movement can be found globally on Twitter using the hashtag #KidsDeserveIt.  You can join the chat, with the same hashtag, on Wednesday nights at 9:00 pm.  You may also choose to follow the KidsDeserveIt account on Twitter for updates and information.  Checking out the website is a great place to get your hands on more goodness from Todd and Adam like the blog and the KidsDeserveIt Show with SUPERSTAR educators like Dave Burgess, Shelley Burgess, Brad Gustafson, Erik Wahl, Ben Gilpin, Jennie Magiera, and the list goes on and on!

After you grab your own copy of the book, you should check out these videos of the authors as well!

Todd Nesloney: TEDxTAMU – Kids Deserve It

Adam Welcome – Kids Deserve It Keynote

Todd & Adam on Classroom 2.0

Are you ready for Book 18? The Writing On The Classroom Wall by Steve Wyborney is coming up next! I’ve never read this one and am so excited to see what it’s all about!  The subtitle of this book mentions posting about passionate beliefs & by the title, I’m guessing we’re putting those on the walls of our classroom. Guess I better figure out what those passionate beliefs are before I start placing them on walls… Still trying to figure those out from Play Like A Pirate! I’m still struggling through the process of discovering three passions. Guess I’d better start some official brainstorming & narrow it down using Launch‘s methods before reading Steve’s book…

#DBC50Summer 16/50: Launch

When you open a book and literally start nodding in agreement with the very first sentence, you know you’re in for a wild ride.  That’s exactly what Book 16 in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line up did!  Launch by John Spencer and AJ Juliani could not have come at a more perfect time this summer!  Big things are in store after reading this one!


This book is everything I want my daughters experiencing in their education.  It describes everything I want the media center to be for students… really, everything I want SCHOOL to be for students.  I’ve never really gotten into any of the “design thinking” protocols because they are so wordy… everything-“tion”… ideation, creation, reflection – my students needed a translaTION to understand half of it.  None of the ones I had seen really fit for middle school students; they were either too elementary or too difficult to understand.  Our school has been trying to find a new engineering/design process to implement and immediately upon seeing the LAUNCH cycle as described by John & AJ, I texted my principal.

The plan of implementation for this book will be school-wide!  The School Improvement Team (SIT) met last week; on the agenda was reviewing and selecting a design process as our current process is 10 steps long and just too much for our students. They didn’t see anything they were married tom so they began creating a mash-up of a few of the processes they saw, but it’s not been finalized!  With that in mind, I hope to have the opportunity to present the LAUNCH cycle to our SIT team as an option for our school’s design process.  I immediately fell in love with the process and the ease in which it can be implemented, and I believe our staff will too.

L – Look, Listen, Learn

A – Ask Tons of Questions

U – Understand the Process or Problem

N – Navigate Ideas

C – Create a Prototype

H – Highlight and Fix

LAUNCH to an audience.

At the end of last year, my principal requested that we begin thinking about a way to bring a focus of research skills back to our school.  When I saw that the U in LAUNCH relates directly to various types of research I all but squealed with joy!  The research methods discussed by John and AJ are exactly what I want my students to walk away knowing.  Research isn’t always about looking online or looking in a printed article or book.  Research is about learning.  It can happen in the form of an interview, watching multimedia, even action research with observation or through a hands-on experiment and collecting data.  This book came at the absolute perfect time, and I am so excited to share all I learned with my school!  The resources that John & AJ have made available are incredible!  Check out the website for their book here, as well as the individual websites of the authors – John’s is here and AJ’s can be found here!  I could spend hours just looking at the websites!

In the off-chance that my school does not choose to implement the LAUNCH cycle, I have a backup implementation plan (because that’s just how I roll; I’ve got a backup for the backup, but no need to share that one just yet).  As a backup plan (and likely implemented regardless of LAUNCH cycle implementation), I will pursue a Global Day of Design in May using the information given here.  This is an incredible opportunity for students to use their knowledge and unlock creativity in exciting ways.  I believe that being part of something much larger than our school will engage our students in meaningful ways.  Last year we held our first official Maker Faire event.  It was a terrific event, but I believe the Global Day of Design will bring about more creative products with a bigger purpose behind their creations than just the event in question.  I love that the LAUNCH cycle “ends” (we all know design thinking never really ends, but you understand, yes?) with launching to an authentic audience.  This is more than just a presentation, but actually seeing the design in action!  I believe this is a spectacular way for students to have real meaning behind their design, rather than the hypotheticals they are usually presented with.  I know my blogs being read by many of you has forced me to put much more thought into them.  Imagine how much harder our students will work when they know someone, other than their teacher and peers, are using their products.

Finally, Launch speaks multiple times about the power of challenges, risk-taking, and failure.

  • “…design thinking isn’t about abandoning the standards.  It’s about raising the standards and challenging students to think at a deeper level.”
  • “You will fail. It’s going to happen… failure is a part of the process for innovative teachers.  Each mistake is simply another iteration on the journey toward success…the only way you blaze a trail is by taking risks and failing forward.”
  • “Design thinking encourages creative risk-taking with the goal of eventual mastery.”
  • “It was the first time I had heard students talk about ‘failure’ in a positive light; they realized that creating big goals gave them the opportunity to fail forward.”
  • “…we want kids to embrace mistakes as part of the learning process… each mistake is a chance to figure out what works and what doesn’t work.  When students have the permission to make mistakes, they define success as growth and learning.  They recognize that failure isn’t really failure at all”

Each of these quotes stood out to me.  Creating a safe culture where it is okay to fail is of utmost importance when implementing design thinking.  It is what I hope our media center has become in the two years that I’ve been there.

I want students to know that it’s okay to mess up, that it’s great to make a mistake, that failure isn’t final.

Launch was such a powerful book to me!  I created multiple BookSnaps and posted them on Twitter, check them out!





Be sure to join the #LaunchBook community on Twitter as they discuss Design Thinking, creativity, and bringing out the maker in every student.  Follow both John & AJ on Twitter, at @spencerideas and @ajjuliani, respectively.  The Flipgrid is available, as always, as a space for global collaboration in reflection and implementation of the book!  In this Flipgrid, tell about a time you failed in the classroom!  What did you learn from it? How have you improved your teaching practice because of it?  It’s a safe space, so share, share, share!  We can learn from one another here!  The password is DBCSummer, as usual.

Andrea Paulakovich, a dear friend and vital member of my PLN, joined in the #DBC50Summer and suggested the spectacular idea of adding Flipgrid as a way to share ideas!  She’s super awesome – you should follow her at @apaulakovichIRT & her #DBC50Summer journey here!

Launch inspired another book by John Spencer and AJ Juliani titled Empower.  This book is part of the publishing company IMpress.  You can read more about IMpress here.  So why don’t you head on over to Amazon and purchase your own copies of both of these awesome books Launch AND Empower?!?!  I was blown away by Launch and look forward to rereading with my peers at work as we, hopefully, implement the LAUNCH cycle in design thinking.  I will certainly be reading and blogging about Empower once I complete the DBC books.

*Side Note: Within this book is a step-by-step process to uncover your passions… seriously, I’m not making that up!  This is another thing I fell in love with, as I plan to go through it to see if I can discover my educational passions (see Play Like A Pirate post).  How incredible would it be for our students to go through this process, too?!

The 17th book (my favorite number, coincidentally) is none other than Kids Deserve It by Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney.  This book… well, wow… no words. Just go get it, while I reread it and try to form the words needed to describe it in the blog. Not sure it can be done. Grab your copy and settle in! You will quickly remember your WHY while you read that one!