#DBC50Summer 21/50: Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank

I have never liked swimming that much. I like for my feet to touch the bottom of any water I’m in, and I want to be able to see my feet through said water. The summer between my 5th and 6th grade years, I went to a summer day camp hosted at a local high school.  They took us to the movies, bowling, the park, and, you guessed it…swimming. In order to be able to swim in the deep end of the pool (with all of my friends), we had to pass a swimming test… in front of everyone. To pass, we had to jump off the diving board (the lower one, but still scary to 10 year old me), then successfully swim the length of the pool… all the way back to the shallow end, and wait for our pass or fail.

Do you have ANY idea how much was riding on that swim? I don’t remember doing anything but treading water before that day. But there was no way I was going to be in the shallow end with the little kids all summer… So I jumped off that diving board (oh em gee), swam the length of the pool (I think you can call the thing I did swimming… somehow I made it from one end to the other – I had watched the Olympics so I knew how the mechanics of it worked), and waited…

Book 21 in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line up is Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank by Rebecca Coda & Rick Jetter.  You’re going to want this one… trust me.


It doesn’t get much more real than this book right here. There is a “dark side” of education – yep… y’all know about it! We just don’t talk about it. Like me, you have likely been thrown in the dunk tank a time or two. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never been held under water, but I’ve definitely experienced my turn in the tank. In this book, Rebecca & Rick pull the curtain back on the more political, vengeful, deceitful side of education. They share stories that will rock your world if you’ve never seen anything like it first hand. They encourage us to walk through our educational journey with “pro-active paranoia,” which may be the best advice I’ve ever heard. If you’re out there disrupting education, pushing the boundaries, doing what’s best for kids no matter what (like we ALL should be doing), there will be haters. Those haters will want to see you fail. Period.

So how do you hold your head above water when it seems like you have no control over the situation? How do you not only survive the dunk tank… but thrive in the dunk tank?

For me… three key points have really stuck with me. One is a quote that will earn it’s place on the media center wall.

Another key point is ensuring that I do not become an adversary for someone else – intentionally or unintentionally. If we’re being totally honest here, I am a pretty competitive person. I like to be first, and I like to be the best. I can’t imagine myself being vindictive for any reason, but reading this book makes me even more aware of how my own facial expressions and body language can portray an adversarial vibe to others. Because I like to be first and best, I have to constantly remind myself that others’ success is not my failure. That helps to keep me grounded. It’s easier to manage my competitive nature when I know the “competition” is also in it for the kids.

Finally, the biggest takeaway from this book is the Gathering Allies chapter. Our allies must consist of the “right” people.  These allies must be nice people!  We need to surround ourselves with people that we want to emulate.

My vertical relationships (with my administration and classroom teachers), my horizontal relationships (my fellow digital learning & media innovation facilitators), community relationships (parents, stakeholders, business partners, etc), and personal relationships (my friends that I confide in) are so important to help me steer clear of the dunk tank. If I should find myself back in the dunk tank, I hope that I have done all I can to show these groups of people that I am “worth fighting for”, as Rebecca and Rick put it. With that in mind, the group I want to focus on is my external professional relationships. In today’s world, I call that my Professional Learning Network (#PLN). My PLN impresses me daily with their positivity, kindness, genuine desire to impact students, and their insanely creative ideas! The communities for many of the DBC, Inc books are so strong and I try not to miss a single chat with them! I have also stumbled upon several incredible groups of people that have quickly become a huge part of my inspirational network. I hope that I provide them some inspiration as well, but I feel quite sure that the scales are tipped in this case. Be sure to check out the following groups (there is overlap):

  • #122edchat
  • #waledchat
  • #champforkids
  • #celebratED
  • #TrendthePositive
  • #CelebrateMonday
  • #BeKindEDU
  • #tlap
  • #LeadLAP
  • #JoyfulLeaders

There will always be days that are rough. There will always be corruption (yes, even in education). We will never be able to make everyone happy.  This book gives sound, practical advice for how to manage these adversarial conditions. Rebecca and Rick also give indications of when you’re in a dunk tank and don’t realize it yet, and when you just need to retreat and flee the situation completely, assuring us that this isn’t a failure on our part.

I’m not going to lie; this book scared me a bit. It revealed the side of education that no one wants to talk about. If we don’t talk about it though, we aren’t prepared to deal with it.

It’s a lot like that first swim across the length of the pool after jumping off the diving board in front of my friends at summer camp. However, because I saw the mechanics of how it works, I was able to perform and pass the swimming test. Hopefully with the tactics I have learned from Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank, I will be successful when these situations arise, as well. I, for one, am thankful that Rebecca and Rick took the edgy route and weren’t afraid to expose real truths of challenges in education. I feel more prepared to deal with adversaries in the future.

My implementation for this book is to remain involved in Twitter communities throughout the school year. I generally fail at connecting once school is back in session, although that’s when I need the connection with allies the most! I usually share what the students and teachers are doing, but lack motivation to join chats and become truly connected. This year, I intend to attend and fully participate at least three chats per month. These networks give invaluable information that I can then use to change the discussion at my school, if needed.

There are multiple resources available from Rebecca and Rick! There are posters available here, podcasts (Better Leaders, Better Schools and Transformative Principal), and the Leadership Dunk Tank website here. When you sign up for their newsletter, you will receive a free Dunk Tank Reflection Guide eBook! The hashtag used to discuss these ideas is #sldunktank and both Rebecca and Rick are very active on Twitter! The flipgrid is available here and the password, as always, is DBCSummer. In this flipgrid, share your tribe! Tell others who inspires you; who is part of your external professional allies network? Shoutout to Andrea Paulakovich for this incredible idea! Don’t forget to grab your copy of Escape the School Leader’s Dunk Tank here!

Ready for Book 22? It is none other than Start.Right.Now. by Jimmy Casas, Todd Whitaker, and Jeff Zoul. This will be my first read of this book and I cannot wait to get to it!

4 thoughts on “#DBC50Summer 21/50: Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank

  1. Pingback: #DBC50Summer Book 21-30 Recap | AliciaRay.com

  2. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 44/50: The Secret Solution | AliciaRay.com

  3. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 45/50: Let Them Speak! | AliciaRay.com

  4. Pingback: What Happens After A Year of Twitter Chats? | Educational Hindsight

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