When I was a kid, I remember using one of those big state maps to get from place to place. You know the ones; they’re a pain to get folded back the right way. I remember being asked to create a path to get us from Point A to Point B. At the time, that was perceived as a skill that I needed to know once I got my license, just in case I got lost. I’m sure the thought never crossed my parents’ minds that we’d not only have a GPS available, but that I’d have multiple GPS options from which to choose.
I was on my way to South Carolina to hear Dave Burgess speak at a keynote the next day (for the second time; yes it’s that good) and hit some major traffic in Charlotte. Of course it was afternoon rush hour and there was about 25 miles of construction zone ahead of me. I had spent my day moving outdated technology out of storage to be picked up by our technology department, and I just wanted to get to my hotel and have a hot shower & relax. Naturally, when I came up on a sea of red brake lights, I was irritated. So I consulted my GPSs, yes – multiple. Initially, I was using the GPS in my car. I consulted Waze to see what the social network was saying and it appeared I’d be in traffic for quite a while. Waze asked if I wanted an alternate route. Why yes, Waze, yes I do… However, every alternate route I took led to more congestion. I could either get mad at the traffic or enjoy the ride. I wish I could tell you that I was above being mad at traffic, that I am mature enough to know that I can’t control it so I should just relax. Not happening. I’m big enough to admit it; I got mad at the traffic. It was infuriating. I just wanted to get to the hotel! That’s all I was focused on!
Had I read Book 27 in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line up, I might have just relaxed and enjoyed the opportunity to listen to the music I wanted to listen to (I have two daughters who enjoy owning the music selection). I may have still been angry and ready for my hot shower, but at least I would’ve appreciated the irony in my map taking me into even more congestion. Book 27 is all about modifying the map we’ve created in our heads to expose our unlimited potential. It’s called Unmapped Potential and it’s written by Julie Hasson & Missy Lennard. These phenomenal principals can be found on Twitter at @PPrincipals.
This book is so much more than a professional development book. It required me to do some real soul-searching and discover what my prejudices were… against myself and those I serve. A prejudice is a preconception. For the purpose of this blog, it is defined as a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience. There are several truths that I had to grapple with while reading this book. I will share a few with you, and then I highly suggest you go purchase your own copy of the book (I’d get a physical copy because you’re going to want to complete the map-changing actions and questions at the end of each chapter).
I’ve been told by people I highly respect that I need to value myself more, that part of my problem with other’s seeing something special in me is that I feel unworthy of their attention for various reasons. And those people would be right. I struggle with self-worth, as many of us do. I constantly compare myself to others, which typically ends with me feeling inferior. Julie & Missy speak to that very thing in the book (see Tweet below). Someone else will always be smarter, more accomplished, prettier, have more money (obviously… I teach), funnier, and more desirable to be around than me. And whomever that person is will likely feel the same way about someone else. Self-confidence is hard because it’s a fine line to walk. Too much and it comes off as arrogance and too little comes off as self-pity. I continue to work on my self-worth, but it’s a struggle every. single. day. I still need some form of reassurance most days, but just a quick note or a small affirmation usually makes all the difference.
Stop comparing yourself to others. Advice from @PPrincipals that I need to take. Seeing others succeed does not mean that you have failed. #UnmappedED #DBC50Summer #tlap #LeadLAP pic.twitter.com/4epM6wxZb7
— Alicia Ray (@iluveducating) August 5, 2018
I am not flexible. Julie & Missy say that “effective teachers are irrefutably flexible”. Oops! I’ve always struggled with flexibility in my schedule. Those spur of the moment assemblies, changes in schedule because of TAs needing to provide coverage, a sick teacher which prevents me from having the planning I needed to make that phone call or grade that stack of assessments… that’s the kind of thing that put me over the edge. The principal who hired me had a little heart-to-heart with me at one point when she witnessed one of my “freak-out” moments over a schedule change. It must’ve made a strong impact because I still remember her exact words… “Alicia, if you can’t be more flexible than this, you went into the wrong profession.” Wow. In my teacher youth I was appalled that she would say something like that to me. Now, I appreciate her honesty. She was 100% correct! It’s something I’m working on, and I’m actually getting much better at handling sudden changes in my plans. I love how Julie & Missy say, “Filling your days with what is predictable leaves little room for what else is possible.”
My mom used to always tell me that it wasn’t what happened to me in life that defined me, but how I reacted to it. I have heard versions of this same statement over and over in my life, usually when I needed to hear it the most and wanted to hear it the least. The truth in that statement is so evident though. The version from Julie & Missy is shared in a tweet below. There is so much that I cannot control. My power lies in the things I can control and how I react to the things that I cannot control. I choose to be more easy-going and not waste my energy on those things over which I have no control. I will constantly be asking myself this year, “What are you going to do about it?” If my answer is nothing or there’s nothing I can do, then I refuse to waste my energy on it.
The difference is in how you respond to the change… it’s on YOU whether you’re bitter or better! Which do you choose to be this year? Great stuff in #UnmappedEd by @PPrincipals #DBC50Summer #tlap #LeadLAP pic.twitter.com/9YjkNMWfFz
— Alicia Ray (@iluveducating) August 5, 2018
Another truth that stood out to me was a bit more personal. When Julie & Missy talk about labels and how we generalize students with a label, I couldn’t help but tear up. I struggle with labels. I will attempt to share why labels are such a difficult topic for me with two quick stories about my daughters:
Sophie, the youngest, will start Kindergarten in just a few weeks. We are so excited for this new adventure for her, but also we’re terrified for her, beyond the normal anxiety that comes with sending your child to kindergarten. When Sophie was about 2 1/2, I started to wonder if she was exhibiting signs of autism. After taking a few parent surveys about autistic behaviors and indicators and discussing her behaviors with a dear friend of mine that was in her residency for psychiatry, I decided to bring it up at her 3 year well-child exam with her doctor. After a lengthy discussion and his observations of her during that appointment (she was having a rough day), he referred her to a behavioral specialist. After several appointments, the psychiatrist described for my husband and me the differences in Developmental Scale Models (DSMs) and that with Sophie being so young, he’d like to give it a couple more years to see how she progressed. We were to continue with play therapy and speech therapy. He wasn’t comfortable diagnosing a 3 1/2 year old with autism (so thankful for this). I asked him what he would write if he were to diagnose her right then with all he’d seen. He told us that under the new DSM, she would be diagnosed as high-functioning autism (formerly known as Asperger Syndrome). My husband and I thanked him for his time and left. We adamantly did not want a label on Sophie. We don’t want others to have a preconceived opinion about our spunky, quirky, beautiful little girl. Through lots of work at home, Sophie is doing much better with her speech and is working to identify and control her emotions. If you met her briefly, you’d likely not see symptoms. Spending day after day with her, you’d definitely understand. We want her teachers to love her and appreciate her for her, not give her a pass because of a label, or write her off because of a label. Julie & Missy discuss this very thing in Unmapped Potential. Sophie has an infinite amount of potential and we want her to have every opportunity to share that potential with the world, without a label.
Bailey, our 9 year old, just finished third grade. She has an insanely high composite CogAT score and is an “out of the box” thinker. She strives for perfection, but is easily frustrated when she doesn’t understand a concept. She puts more pressure on herself than any child I’ve ever seen. Trust me, she doesn’t get any pressure from us. She doesn’t need it. Her first experience with the state’s standardized test (EOGs) came at the end of the school year. She panicked. She passed both the math and the reading with no problem, but did not score a high enough level to be considered for the AIG program (another label). It broke her heart. She cried and cried because she thought she’d let us and her teachers down. Another broken spirit because of a label that we place on children.
As Bobby Boucher’s Mama would say in The Waterboy… labels are the devil!
I appreciate everything this book had to offer. I will continue to grapple with my own mental map. It’s not an overnight process and will be in constant revision as I struggle to see myself as worthy of praise, finding the right amount of self-confidence, and breaking through barriers placed by previous (& current) experiences in my life. My implementation for this one may seem a little peculiar, but I’m going to go with it. In The Writing on the Classroom Wall, I committed to posting at least one big idea for students to see what I believe about education. I have a wall in the media center that is bare and desperately needs to be transformed into a focal point. I will share this journey (#DBC50Summer) with my students and share, in particular, this book when we are making goals for each individual student in regards to how many books each student will read in each quarter of school. I will share the story of mental maps and inquire about what barriers are placed in front of them in regard to their reading goal. Then, I will encourage them to break through those barriers. My reminder of these goals (because I believe that visuals & connections are the key to memory)… I will purchase a large United States road map – one of those that I used as a kid to plot my path from Point A to Point B – frame it and hang it on that blank wall as our new focal point. A visual reminder for every single student that we are constantly fighting negative self-talk and pessimism and we can fight back with positivity and optimism.
Check out Julie Hasson & Missy Lennard’s website, Purposeful Principals. There you can find a book study PDF to enhance your time with Unmapped Potential. You can also follow along with the learning using the hashtag #UnmappedEd on Twitter. I highly recommend checking out their videos on YouTube here! Pay special attention to the Unmapped Potential Readers Q&A. Also check out the podcast with The Wired Educator with Julie Hasson.
As always, please feel free to share your reflections on the flipgrid. If a password is requested, it’s DBCSummer. A huge thank you to Andrea Paulakovich, the genius behind the fabulous idea of using the platform to provide a space for global collaboration on every DBC, Inc book that’s been published!
Book 28 is another book I’ve had on my shelf for several months and just keep missing out on reading. I’m thrilled to finally be able to read Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth by Aaron Hogan! Check back soon for the next blog post!
Edited April 5, 2019 to add link to implementation! See how I implemented Unmapped Potential here!