#DBC50Summer 8/50: The Zen Teacher

So here’s the thing… I bought this book a couple weeks ago when I realized that #DBC50Summer was really going to be a “thing”.  I’m just going to say it. I’m going to get it out in the open. I was not excited. Period. I tried to be… really, I tried so hard!  I gave myself a big pep talk before I even opened it. I knew it was a DBC, Inc book, which meant it was going to have something in it for me… I knew that from reading Pure Genius and Learn Like A Pirate, which were other books that I didn’t think related to my current role in education but gave me so much inspiration. But y’all… I’m just not into this whole idea of chi, zen, yin and yang, feng shui, etc. I’ve got an insanely busy life and I don’t have time for “tranquility” – in fact, I kept thinking that the classroom is the last place I want tranquility – I want organized chaos in my room!  I thrive on that buzz of energy and if it’s not there, then I may as well not be there either.  I was likely the BIGGEST of the naysayers when it came to book eight; pretty sure I’ve rolled my eyes a time or two when asked about it.  All I could picture was super quiet students in rows asking questions of their guru, or what have you, in their mild mannered voices.

I didn’t even make it through the introduction without my highlighter making its presence known.  When Dan Tricarico says in the introduction, “As teachers, we are given an amazing opportunity to influence young people and profoundly affect how they see the world,” I was highlighting.  He continues on to say, “there is, perhaps, no career as fulfilling to the soul as education.” He goes on to discuss in the first chapter this idea of Zen. Taking his words and making them my own, to me Zen is that state where time feels as though it stands still and passes without our knowing at the same time.  I have felt that several times in my life!  When I’m captivated at a conference, when I’m emotionally moved by something I’m witnessing, or when I’m involved in an activity with others where I am so incredibly immersed that I can’t believe the time has passed so quickly. After getting through the introduction and the first chapter, I hung my head in shame at my closed-mindedness about this book.  You should to if you feel like The Zen Teacher, book eight in the DBC, Inc line up, is not for you.  Because it is.  It’s for ALL of us!


Here’s the thing, my friends.  This book is about taking care of yourself.  Dave Burgess talks about the danger of never being “done” in his blog – the announcement of the release of this very book.  Because of this constant state of “what’s next,” we run the risk of burn out early in our careers.  Dan helps us combat this through taking the time to live in the present.  He helped me feel a sense of relaxation when he said that “we are not the Gatekeepers of Knowledge.”  I literally went into the margin of the book and wrote “I AM NOT THE GATEKEEPER OF KNOWLEDGE.”  It struck a chord with me when I read it.

I started this book late Thursday evening. Until this point, each of the DBC books have taken me a day or so to read, then another few hours to blog.  This one taking nearly 72 hours to read is not an indication of how boring it was… rather it shows how much it made me stop and THINK!  I did the Zen Assignments at the end of [most of] the chapters.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much more relaxed, focused, and thankful I feel after doing these basic activities.  Dan wants us to take care of ourselves first because until we have taken care of ourselves, we cannot do our jobs, our calling, to the best of our ability.  So I took his advice.  I slowed down.

Those who are closest to me know that I have been up after midnight writing most of the blog posts.  It is a JOY to write them!  I am awake until 2:30-3:00 either because I’m completing the readings and blogs or because I am too excited to sleep after completing them earlier in the night. I have been waking up at 6:30 to get ready for work as I’m an 11-month employee and work August 1 until June 30.  It is not something I’m complaining about, so please don’t consider that to be the case.  It is *SO* much fun to read these books and write my reflections and intentions immediately after finishing the book.  I have learned more about myself, how to be a better educator, and grown my PLN exponentially since I created this personal challenge of #DBC50Summer.  I have met incredible people through this adventure, and I do not intend to stop.  The Zen Teacher just slowed me down enough to think, wait a minute – you need to take care of yourself or you’ll never make it to number 48, 49, 50.  So I did.  I took the time to REALLY take in what Dan had to offer in his book.  We, as educators, must do a better job of this.  We must slow down, we must live in the present, we must find opportunities to show lovingkindness, gratitude, grace, and compassion, not only to our students and our coworkers, but also to ourselves.  If we don’t, we turn into that grumpy educator that everyone is waiting anxiously to hear of a retirement announcement.  I don’t want that to be me.  I never want anyone to say of me, “it’s time she finds something else,” or “we’ll just wait it out, she can’t possibly have that much longer.” (You’re nodding because you have heard it, or said it, about someone else… go ahead, admit it. It’s okay – it’s a safe space.)

I cannot possibly list all of the takeaways I had from this book.  There was something in every single section of every chapter that I highlighted. I immediately recommended this book to my mentor as it sounds like things he would tell me. I feel like Dan looked deep into my soul and said, “child… slow down and look around you.”  I have always been driven and determined.  When someone tells me I ‘can’t do something,’ it just pushes me harder to prove them wrong.  It’s one of my best AND worst attributes.  I was told that I wouldn’t graduate from high school by someone close to me because I was too boy-crazy (hello teenage hormones)… I not only graduated, but graduated 7th in my class.  I was told by university admissions that there was no way I could finish my bachelors degree in 3 years… I said in true southern form, “hey y’all, watch this” – started in August 2003 and walked across the stage at 20 years old in May 2006.  I was told I’d never be able to have children because of a deficiency in my blood which causes blood clots (discovered when I was 20 years old)… Bailey and Sophie (ages 9 and 5, respectively) have three angels watching over them, but I was able to carry 2 of my 5 children and successfully lived through two c-sections.  I was told I’d never be able to finish my masters degree in instructional technology with a toddler at home… I started in January 2011 and graduated with highest honors in May 2012. Glutten for punishment, I went back to receive a master of library science degree, getting my acceptance letter 3 days after I discovered we were expecting Sophie, our youngest. Not willing to turn it down, I finished my MLS in two years, graduating with highest honors in May 2014.  Doing what others say is impossible is kind of my thing, I guess.  It’s never easy, but I refuse to allow them to be “right”.

So… my biggest takeaways:

Gratitude Diary on my iPhone – I downloaded it immediately after reading about it and started writing what I was grateful for that very minute. IMG_8987Taking time to find what I enjoy… outside of work.  Most of my “zen” comes from reading professional development books, like the DBC, Inc books – or finding amazing resources for my teachers.  I love spending time on Twitter to connect with my PLN.  I realized that all the things I really enjoyed were still focused on my work life.  So I dug deep… and I came up with push-mowing my yard.  Yep… that’s my enjoyment, my “zen”.  There’s nothing as mindless and thoughtful all at the same time as mowing nearly 2 acres of land with a self-propelled push mower. I put Pentatonix Pandora radio on (which has obviously been set to my specifications), earbuds go in, grab the mower and go. Yesterday I took the day off from reading so I could catch up on sleep and then mowed the yard.

Finally, in 2018-2019, I will be saying “no”… a lot. I immediately backed out of two book studies that I was part of (ironic, right?!) after reading about self-care.  Last year, my calendar was full.  And I mean, FULL.  I had students in the media center every morning, then classes and/or meetings all day, and clubs/meetings every afternoon.  I realized that I have to schedule a planning period for myself.  I feel horrible telling teachers no, but I absolutely must have that time.  The media center became a mess, I was unorganized, and I was staying at work until 5:30-6:00 pm to get caught up on emails and preparing for the next day.  I cannot maintain that level of crazy next year, so I am going to schedule a planning period for myself every single day (with some flexibility for emergencies).  Even if it’s only 30 minutes, it has to happen next year.  For that to happen, I am going to have to say “no” to teachers and students.  Not because I don’t want to work with them, but because I owe it to them to give 100%, and I cannot do that if I’m not prepping for their lesson until the night before it’s delivered.

So… I have learned my lesson, DBC, Inc.  No more doubting…

This book opened my eyes, punched me in the gut, then hugged me and held me close.

Dan Tricarico is certainly a mentor I’d want to have on my side.  This book was written for everyone – every single educator out there… from first year teachers to 35th year, you will get something tremendous if you’ll take the time to be openminded and open this book.  I was hooked from the introduction.  For more information on The Zen Teacher, you can follow Dan at @thezenteacher or the hashtag (I love that the DBC, Inc books are so community-oriented) #ZenTeacher.  I suggest checking out Dan’s website as well!  Share your thoughts on the Flipgrid (Andrea really rocked this whole Flipgrid idea!) using the passcode DBCSummer!  We’d love your thoughts, and to have this as a safe space for teachers throughout the world to share their greatest take-aways, quotes, and inspiration from each DBC, Inc book throughout the summer!

Book nine is coming next!  I know several have been waiting for this one!  Luckily, I got to read it a couple years ago as a book study in the North Carolina Digital Leaders Coaching Network and I am so excited to reread it for #DBC50Summer.  We’re almost one-fifth of the way through the first 50 DBC, Inc books! Many have said there’s no way I can possibly read all of these, blog, and implement the ideas from every single book next year…. did you read what I said earlier?  Watch me. I can do this. For me, for my students, and for my teachers and admin.  Check back soon for Book 9 of 50 – Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros!

7 thoughts on “#DBC50Summer 8/50: The Zen Teacher

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