#DBCBookBlogs: Through the Lens of Serendipity

A little over a year ago a serendipitous treasure was shared with the world. I struggle with self-doubt and a constant desire to be better, to be more. I constantly fear that I’m not enough; not enough as a friend, not enough as a mom, not enough as a wife, not enough as a daughter, an aunt, a sister, and the list goes on and on.

Then Allyson Apsey came into my life with her first book, The Path to Serendipity. That book forced me to change my self-talk and visualize an inchworm moving ever-so-slowly toward its destination. It is this visual that reminds me that “All [I] need to do is move inch by inch toward the person [I] want to become; that is enough. [I am] enough.” In all the beautiful, powerful quotes through Allyson’s first book, this one impacts my day-to-day life in a most profound way. I still struggle with self-doubt, but I’m moving toward the person I want to become.

Naturally when Allyson shared that she had finished her third book (yes, she’s a writing machine – check out her second book, The Princes of Serendip), I was ready to click pre-order immediately. In early January, Allyson tweeted out that she was offering the opportunity to endorse her newest book… and I went all “I volunteer as tribute”! The incredibly amazing Hans Appel and I were selected to endorse the new book and I immediately sat down to read what would become the 70th book released by Dave Burgess Consulting, IncThrough the Lens of Serendipity.

#SerendipityEDU

Here is my endorsement (with 100% more clickable links, ha):

“First, she astounded us with her authenticity in The Path to Serendipity, then she gave us The Princes of Serendip, an exceptional picture book for social-emotional learning. Allyson Apsey amazes yet again with this timely masterpiece on trauma-informed practices. She shares actionable, practical ways to show compassion and empathy to everyone around us. Whether in education, or in any other career field, this book gives readers the tools needed to understand how to HANDLE others with care. Through the Lens of Serendipity should be on every bookshelf, highlighted and tabbed, to be referenced again and again.”

When I received the print copy last week, I was so excited to do just as I recommended in the endorsement… highlight and tab all the things! I’ve got to tell you… reading it way back in January was an honor; however, I needed this book at the very moment it arrived at my back door (yes, my delivery folks rock out here in rural North Carolina). This book has such valuable information on trauma-informed practices that are really just good practices in general. She shares this information through stories about students and scenarios involving fictional characters, and the acronym HANDLE. (I have to say that I love this because Dave Burgess shares how he likes to put “handles” on his material so others can pick it up in his #tlap sessions.)

Allyson has such a heart for social-emotional learning, trauma-informed practice, and becoming our best selves and it is evident in every word she writes. I’ve not met her face-to-face yet, but I’m fairly certain her heart is quite literally made of gold. Truly.

I could share so many thoughts & stories as I reflected & connected throughout this book, but instead, I’d like to just share some quotes that really stood out to me. I believe you will see how beautiful Allyson’s soul is through this alone.

“…understand your personal needs so you can be your best self and therefore more effectively help others.”

“No one’s life is perfect. ‘Perfect’ just doesn’t exist.”

“If you knew that person’s story, would you treat them differently? My guess is that if you were to look at everyone you meet with compassion, their behavior and your own would significantly change.”

“When we treat students the way they have always been treated, they will behave the way they have always behaved.”

“The supports that allow people affected by trauma to heal and grow are good for all people… trauma sensitivity is people sensitivity.”

Implementation

Although there are a dozen or more impactful quotes I could continue to add, this is the one I will implement because “inspiration without implementation is a waste” (courtesy of The Captain in Teach Like A Pirate).

“The only person you can control is you… you cannot change others. Only they can decide to do that. You can only change yourself… if you wait for the world to change for you, you may wait forever.”

Allyson shares this piece of advice she gave her son after a particularly rough day he had as a young child at school. How profound and true! I needed this the moment I saw it. It’s amazing how every time I reread a book, a new truth jumps out at me. This one not only jumped out, but it held on tight. It reminds me of the Emotions Deflector from The Path to Serendipity. There’s an old saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The horse must decide to drink the water of its own free will. There is something resembling freedom that I feel when I am reminded that I cannot control others. It helps me to not feel responsible for their actions, because I am not in control of their actions, only my own.  (“I am the one thing in life I can control” -Aaron Burr “Wait for It” — Hamilton runs on repeat through my head now, thanks to my students.)

The lesson applies to many aspects of my life. As an instructional coach, I can share best practices. I can model them. I can support the teacher through co-planning and co-teaching. I can rinse and repeat, but until that teacher is ready to change, it won’t happen. That’s not to say I should quit trying to help and support positive change. But just realizing this truth depersonalizes the struggle for me. As a wife, I cannot expect my husband to change some of his annoying habits, just as he cannot expect to change mine. (Bless him; I’m sure I have more things that annoy him than vice versa.) I can’t control him. I cannot make anyone do anything. I cannot change anyone.

But do you know what I can do? I can have compassion for others. I can give grace freely. I can show others my heart. I can speak positively and (as Toby Mac says), I can speak life into those I encounter. I can choose to believe that I am enough. I can discover my best self, so I can be a better educator, wife, mother, and friend. And thanks to Allyson’s newest book, I have many tools to do just that.

Follow along on Twitter with the conversations around this book using the hashtag #SerendipityEDU. Also, you simply must check out this TEDx Talk that Allyson just did! While you’re at it, have you seen Allyson’s website? Check it out here! Her blog is powerful and she shares terrific resources!

Finally… oh my goodness… are you thinking of a group of colleagues that you believe would love this book? You should read it together! BOOK STUDY!!! Are you nervous about facilitating a book study? Or don’t have the time to pull together questions and resources? Y’all… DBC has you covered! They have just introduced an amazing new section on their website specifically for book studies! You just have to see it; it’s that amazing! There are activities and reflection questions already created for you! Seriously! So thankful for this incredible resource, which saves educators time and makes facilitating book studies a breeze! And yes… the book study for Through the Lens of Serendipity is ready to go! So grab some copies of the book, some friends, and have fun! Remember to share your learning on Twitter using the hashtag #SerendipityEDU!

 

 

#DBCBookBlogs: Tech with Heart

I’ve been a fan of educational technology for some time now. In fact, that was the initial focus of this blog. So naturally when I heard there was a book to be released from Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc on the topic, I was pretty excited.

Okay, so, I was really excited.

The latest book from DBC, Inc is written by Stacey Roshan (@buddyxo on Twitter). Tech with Heart is all about using technology, not just as a cool tool but in order to give you more time really getting to know your students, as well as the voice it gives our quieter students.

techwithheart

I knew immediately that I would connect with the book because of the topic, but it wasn’t until I dug in that I realized how much I connect with the author, too! Stacey is precious! She is a perfectionist. She shares so much of herself in her story; many things she admittedly shares for the first time. She reluctantly shares that she struggles with anxiety, which really hit home for me.

I love that she writes, “…by sharing our experiences we can help others who may be struggling with similar circumstances.” I agree with Stacey! This is the primary reason that I feel the need to share my struggles and failures with others. Although I am a perfectionist and I don’t like pulling back the curtain, so to speak, and sharing all the failures that went into an awesome lesson, I choose to share because I realize it frees others to step out of their own comfort zone and try new things.

I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I remember constantly feeling nervous and on edge. I was uneasy about almost everything. It wasn’t until my twenties that I ever sought treatment for my anxiety, and I am so thankful that I did. I am still fairly “jumpy”; loud sudden noises spook me and I hate surprises. Through my chats with my doctor, I found that this is all interrelated.

Our students are more anxious today than ever before. And for good reason! Can you imagine nearly everyone around you having a camera that could potentially record every embarrassing moment you’ve ever experienced? That’s what our students deal with daily. The idea of “privacy” is diminishing quickly. Everything is posted on social media; well, everything may be a stretch… it’s really just the best things posted. So many people put the best version of their lives on social media, which makes it impossible for others to “keep up with the Joneses”. I, along with three other teachers, took nearly 40 students on an overnight trip to Washington, DC a few weeks ago. We put their phones on chargers in our rooms at night to ensure that they get a full night of sleep. Y’all… the whole night those phones were going off in our room. Notifications, messages, alerts, etc. Only a few were set to “Do Not Disturb” throughout the night. They see no escape from this constant need to be present and active online. This feeds into anxiety because they have no down time. No time to just be still, quiet, and thoughtful.

Stacey shares “an anxious classroom is not where learning – or growth – thrives.” She continues on to share that flipping instruction helped her create an environment with less anxiety, more student attention, and higher student achievement. Throughout the book she shares what it means to “flip” instruction, how she did it, and what she learned through the process. She shares stories about how it impacted student learning and students’ attitudes toward school. She holds nothing back and has written the book and shared resources that allow readers to create their own flipped classroom quickly.

Tech with Heart is summed up pretty succinctly by this quote from Stacey:

It’s not so much about the tools as it is about the why. Technology has allowed me to get to know my students as individuals, deepen the relationships I can build, hear from each and every student in my classroom, and be the most efficient teacher I can be.

-Stacey Roshan

Finally, I have to say, this book singlehandedly destroys the common myth that technology cannot be used in a math class. In fact, without the technology, this math class would not have been such a success for so many students. With that in mind, I would highly recommend this book to any teacher, but more importantly, I’d suggest that every math teacher own a copy of this book! It will shift mindsets and show example after example of what technology can do for a math class!

As for implementation, I plan to use edpuzzle next year to help me flip parts of my media classes. I only get to meet with students during one 57 minute class period per month, and I want to get the most out of my time with them. Stacey has convinced me to give flipping instruction a try.

Be sure to connect with others on Twitter using the hashtag #TechWithHeart and connect with Stacey at @buddyxo. You can find Stacey’s website here. Dave Burgess wrote a blog about it here. Below is a sneak peek into Stacey’s book from the author herself, and as always, you can find the first few chapters on the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc website. Just click here and scroll to the bottom. I believe you will enjoy it and you will adore Stacey, just as I do.

#DBCBookBlogs: Learner Centered Innovation

Back in 2017, George & Paige Couros teamed up with Dave & Shelley Burgess to create a division of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. IMPress introduces us to books that dive deeper into the message of The Innovator’s Mindset & continue to showcase what George first brought us in DBC’s ninth book. (See the big announcement on a blog by Dave here.) As of this blog, there are seven books published under the IMPress label.

I am breaking a rule of mine by reading Learner Centered Innovation by Katie Martin first. I have typically read the books in order of their release (this is the second release from IMPress), but I had an amazing opportunity to meet Katie Martin at a What Great Educators Do Differently conference a few weeks ago in Houston, TX. (Blog about this experience is here.) Because I was meeting her, I wanted to dive into her book. I never expected it to take weeks to read it, but more about that in a moment.

LCinnovation

To discover what this book is about, simply read this quote from Katie:

“Many of today’s kids will have to create their jobs and forge a new path. The world has changed so dramatically and will continue to do so at an exponential rate, and, to best serve our students, educators and institutions must evolve with it, or we will leave our students behind.”

-Katie Martin

Katie begins by sharing the beauty of two words: “What if”

She immediately pulled me in by pointing out the traditions in education (as related to the industrial age model) and how that is preventing innovation from taking root in more than just pockets around our schools, district, state, and world.

Evolution of the Teacher’s Role

She shares that our role as educators has evolved. It made me stop and consider if I have evolved with the times. Do I teach like my teachers taught me? Some of my very favorite teachers did the “traditional” courses… desks in rows and columns, the teacher at the front of the room using the whiteboard or overhead to display information, and the students taking all the information in from that teacher. Perhaps their classes weren’t edge-of-your-seat excitement, but I knew those teachers cared about me.

Early in my career, I definitely taught as I’d been taught. I still use storytelling (like my amazing 4th grade teacher), humor (like my 7th grade social studies teacher), and student choice (like my 8th grade ELA teacher).

Katie shares that one of our most prominent roles should be that of an activator. Here are some of the definitions I found for activate:

  • to encourage development or induce increased activity; to stimulate
  • to trigger, to actuate, to set off, to enable
  • to excite
  • to remove the limitations of by providing a license; to unlock
  • to bring a player back after an injury

Even down to the sports definition, I want to be an activator for students! I want to encourage them, stimulate them, enable them to do more than they ever thought they could and then get them excited about doing it. I want to remove their limitations by unlocking endless potential in their minds and hearts. I want to make school fun again, bringing them back to the place of creativity and imagination that so many of our “traditions” in education squash like a bug on a windshield. I want to be an activator.

Testing or Learning?

Katie says, “We will never achieve the results we want by focusing on performing well on a test.” Let me repeat that for those in the back…

“We will NEVER achieve the results we want by focusing on performing well on a test.”

-Katie Martin

Guess what that means? All that time spent painstakingly going over released test items… better spent doing Project-Based Learning where those same problems are relevant to students. All the time spent reading and highlighting short passages using question stems from “the test”… our time is better spent allowing students to select their own reading material & having (wait for it) conversations with them about what they’re reading. You want to use question stems? Ask the questions and don’t expect an A, B, C, or D response.

I’m preaching to me right now, too. Do you have any idea how much time I spent reviewing at the end of each year I was in the classroom?! I flew through curriculum so I could be sure to have enough review time before the standardized test. What if I’d just ensured that students learned the content (and so much more) thoroughly the first time? Imagine the possibilities.

Here’s what I think (and it appears to align with Katie’s beliefs, too)… standardized testing isn’t the bad guy here. It’s the overemphasis on them that gives them a villainous role in education. Think about it… I’m thankful that my students in rural, high-poverty, small town North Carolina are expected to learn the same content and perform at the same level as rich, suburban kiddos. It wouldn’t be fair for the standards to be different for those groups of students; set the bar high, I’m okay with that! However, when we focus so much on the outcome of those tests rather than the process and growth, I have a problem.

This test season take the time to have fun! Play games, make learning authentic, give students an audience like never before… I truly believe that “the test” will take care of itself if students are having a good time while learning the content.

Professional Learning Communities

I remember hearing about PLCs for the first time many years ago. The idea that teachers were to work together to create lessons with common assessments and “share” students was insane to us. Until that point, we were in competition due to the aforementioned test scores. Several teachers didn’t want other teachers to know what they were doing successfully because that teacher might use it and (God forbid) the students down the hall might perform better than their own. If you’ve been in education long enough, you remember this and you know I am speaking truth.

Our PLCs turned into exactly what Katie talk about in her book. It was a checklist. The questions she shares… the exact questions we had to answer each week. It became a running joke because we knew those questions by heart the same way we knew the script for the end-of-grade testing by heart.

Thankfully, I was part of a PLC that was exceptional. We worked together, co-planned lessons, shared everything, switched up students for flexible grouping as needed, and when one teacher’s students performed better on a given objective, that teacher taught our students, too! I knew every student in 5th grade’s name and to be honest, I see some of those students now (many are high school/college age) and I honestly can’t remember if they were on my roster or not because I taught them as much as those in my class. It took a lot of time to get to that place; we had arguments, petty things mostly. We got on one another’s nerves. It wasn’t all rainbows and roses, but we were a rocking PLC. We celebrated birthdays together; our kids played together; we laughed together and cried together. We even did graduate school at the same time. The three of us left the school one after the other. I truly believe it’s because we didn’t want to do the job without the others; we had experienced a true PLC and struggled to replicate it. One became an administrator and moved to a high school during the summer months, I left halfway through the year to begin my journey as a media coordinator, and the third left at the end of that year to move to a middle school library position.

Katie’s book reminds us that the same things we know that are true about building relationships with our students is true of our colleagues. “We are more willing and able to hear critical feedback when it is coming from someone who we perceive cares about us as individuals, sees our strengths, and is willing to invest the time to help us grow.”

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It took me over three weeks to finish this book. If you’ve been around for any of #DBC50Summer, you know that means something. Katie’s book covers so much ground. It’s all interwoven and connected to everything that has the potential to make education what it should be for children (and adults). In many ways, after reading this, I don’t even know that we need to do anything but submit this book to Congress and tell them that THIS is how we should be doing school and begin implementing it nationwide. I have to tell you… when you get your own copy of this one, carve out time to really read it. It’s not a “light” read; you need your brain fully activated (see what I did there) while you’re reading it. I have notes all over the margins of this book and didn’t even use a highlighter because I knew I’d need three or four of them as I read.

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Implementation

This implementation will begin next year. I still have several implementations of #DBC50Summer and previous #DBCBookBlogs to do and only a few weeks left to do them. In the implementation post Creating a Stronger Foundation, I shared that I created a template for 6th grade students to tell me about themselves. In Learner Center Innovation, Katie shares about a teacher who stopped asking students about their favorite color, etc and instead asked for an open-ended list – “The Top Ten Things I Need to Know About You”. I’m 100% doing this! I can keep the template I had created, but add ten slides at the end with students putting one thing I need to know about them on each slide. They can add pictures, videos, etc to that slide if they’d like. I love the open-ended nature of this as it will allow me to get to know them better and deeper much faster!

Remember to get your own copy of Learner Centered Innovation by Katie Martin! It’s the second book in the IMPress line, a division of DBC, Inc. You won’t regret it! And if you have the chance to see Katie in action, I highly recommend going! She is also an amazing presenter! Follow along with the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #LCinnovation!