Thirty-three books in and I experienced another first while reading Culturize by Jimmy Casas. This is the first time I have read the final page of a Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc book at a loss for words. I literally had nothing to say… which meant the blog post would have to wait. A blank blog post won’t help anyone.
Two days… it’s been two days since I finished reading Culturize and I’m still struggling with my thoughts. This post may come out a jumbled up mess. I’m not even going to edit (much), so be prepared for a hot mess express. Usually I know exactly what I’m going to say, with quotes highlighted and implementation plan ready. This time…I’m not even sure where this one is going. So bear with me, and let’s see what happens together.
(Pause for ice cream break… possibly ice cream will help.)
Ice cream didn’t help. Also, I now feel guilty for eating ice cream at 9:30 at night. Marvelous.
From the very beginning, Jimmy gripped my heart and pulled at my soul. I spent the entire time I read this book wondering if I could have done better. Normally when I read these books, I feel inspired, motivated, excited to implement… with Culturize, I just feel guilty. Jimmy mentions that feeling of guilt frequently in the book. Guilt when a student drops out, guilt when a student lashes out, guilt that he could have done more. I, too, feel that guilt. I think as educators, we all feel that guilt. Honestly, if we don’t – we likely aren’t feeling anything… apathy. Because let’s be honest, if you aren’t feeling guilt, you’re not in the game 100%. That sounds completely pessimistic and very judgmental. Hear me out… have you ever engaged someone in talking negatively about your school? Have you ever found yourself agreeing with someone who puts down the profession of education? Have you ever acted as an educational martyr? If you’re giving every ounce of yourself to help your students, you know by now that you cannot save them all. Y’all – it’s just not possible. And those that you can’t save… well, they bring with them the guilt of not being able to save them. So again – if you’re not feeling guilty at some point, perhaps you’re not really “getting it”.
Jimmy opens by talking about the kids who walk down the hall feeling invisible. I’ve often wondered which of my middle school students feel invisible. I want every. single. one. to know that I see them. But do I really? Do I really see them? Tonight at our open house, I realized just how many names of students I had forgotten over the summer. I constantly advocate for calling students by name, but I couldn’t have told you half of their names as they walked up to me. Do you have any idea how guilty I felt about that? I must do better. Must. No child should ever feel invisible. Every single kid should have a champion (Thank you, Rita Pierson) – someone who really sees them. I can’t be that for every kid, but shouldn’t I try? At what point do I invest in quality over quantity?
Perhaps this is what Jimmy was referring to as he discusses that we are all leaders. I remember thinking early in my career that my principal was the school leader. It was a very clear hierarchy – principal, assistant principal, curriculum specialist, school improvement team chair, grade level chair, and somewhere waaaaay down that totem pole… me. At some point, it changed. That totem pole was chopped down; the hierarchy fell. I remember the first time my assistant principal asked me for my opinion. It scared me, and exhilarated me at the same time. I remember the first time I stepped up to present at our district teaching and learning conference. I was terrified, and now I present all over our state. At some point, I started acting like a leader. My words, my body language, my convictions moved me into leadership. I’ve never wanted to be an administrator. When I started my career in education, the equation was simple: administration = leadership. Reflecting, I think it was when I saw MYSELF as a leader, I embodied the leadership that I saw in others. It wasn’t until that confidence was built that I ever imagined leading others. Jimmy says that leaders don’t need a title. I agree. Administration no longer is the sole equality to leadership. Leaders just need followers who are then empowered to become leaders themselves.
Within Core Principle 1 (there are 4 core principles), Jimmy says that lack of confidence is the number one reason that kids fail. I think it’s also the number one reason adults fail, too. I was talking to a friend of mine once who said, in response to my feeling doubtful that I had anything to offer to the friendship, “that’s part of the problem, the fact that you don’t see yourself as special is part of this for you.” My friend was completely on target. My own self-doubt was negating the beginning of a wonderful friendship. Thankfully, I’ve been able to build on that and I wouldn’t take anything for that friendship. It means the world to me. I still struggle with self-confidence every day, though. Affirmations can help build confidence – more than anyone will ever understand. Self-doubt can eat you up if you let it. Shake it off. Just like we find the positive in others, find the positive in yourself. List at least 5 things that you’re good at, and allow yourself to feel pride. Humility is valued. It’s possible to be humble without doubting your own successes.
In Culturize, Jimmy says often that “What we model is what we get”. What am I modeling for my students and staff? Am I finding the positive in day-to-day interactions? Am I believing from the tips of my toes to the top of my head that every one of my students can be successful? Am I showing grace to others? Do I stay calm when something comes along to mess up the plans I so carefully crafted? Probably not. We’re human, we mess up. Do I apologize to those I’ve wronged? These are very real questions if we consider ourselves leaders.
Another thought Jimmy shares often is that we are responsible for our own actions.
“No one is responsible for determining your success or failure but you, and no one is responsible for your morale but you.” ~Jimmy Casas, Culturize
Oh boy! That right there felt like a punch in the gut! I have been known to complain about the sheer amount of complaints from those around me. (Yes, I know… ironic. You do it, too, don’t lie.) It drives me crazy to be around people who constantly find something negative to say. But here’s the thing…. what am I doing about it? I sit there, and nod my head along with them. Who is that helping? Then I turn around and complain to someone else that I was in a great mood until so-and-so got me down. What? What am I even saying? Does that make sense at all? I am responsible for my morale. Why am I lowering my standard of positivity to meet their miserable attitude? Let’s be real. Nothing happened directly to me; I was just fine until the pit of negativity appeared. Why am I not just fine afterward? and why in the world am I allowing them to continue with the negativity around me? I need to do better. My kids deserve better. If I call myself a leader, and I internalize what it means to be a leader – then dang it, I need to lead. I’ve got to speak up and halt the negativity I hear around me.
Sometimes when I’m wallowing in my own misery (yes, it happens), my “little” brother (he’s 28 and married with two kids of his own) will look at me all innocently and say, “but did you die?”… I need to reframe my perspective.
The media center is being used for pictures! “But did you die?”
I’ve not met with PLCs because the location keeps changing. “But did you die?”
This student left their Chromebook at home for the 100th time. “But did you die?”
The bulb on my projector looks so dim that I have to turn off my lights. “But did you die?”
The TV in the cafeteria won’t mirror the TV in the lobby for announcements.
“But. Did. You. Die?”
There’s too much big stuff to worry about to let the little things ruffle my feathers anymore. Or allow others to have their feathers ruffled. As a leader, I need to shake my feathers back down when daily mishaps come along and help others remember their purpose as well. Rather than complain, determine if whatever happened is even within my sphere of influence. If not, then move on – if it is, then change it. Simple enough, right? When others start on their negative campaign, I’ve got to remember my brother’s “but did you die?” – it just puts things into perspective. I want to be a “merchant of hope” as Jimmy says in his 4th core principle. Believing that my words and actions can inspire others, I need to watch what I say and do. What I model is what I will get.
With all that – I have no idea if I’ve made (as we say in the south) a lick of sense. Welcome to my brain. It’s a terrifying place to be sometimes. (HA)
The only implementation plan I’ve got for this book is to live out the four core principles, every day. This is going to have to be intentional because it’s so easy to be drawn back into the quicksand of negativity that can quickly pull you down. Instead of fighting, I need to stay still, wait, plan, and then move slowly, crawling out of the quicksand and moving away, bringing the others with me helping them avoid that same pit. So in the new school year, I will be a champion for my students, expect excellence from them and the staff I work with (ALL of them… because all means all), carry the banner (with pride and enthusiasm for my school), and be a merchant of hope. Because when all else fails, hope will get us through the worst of the worst. Because at the end of the day, we didn’t die… so tomorrow, we can get up and try again.
You’ve got to get this book. I don’t know any other way to say it. It’s a game-changer. I have said of every book that I recommend it, but this one… this one right here is one that every person should have. It’s one that needs to be revisited frequently. If you truly want to change your school, you have to change you first. Culturize requires a self-examination that you may not be ready for… I wasn’t. My scattered thoughts are evidence that I’m continuing to wrestle with book 33. I will wrestle with this one for a while. I am putting it back on the shelf, but the change feels incomplete. I feel as though the growth just kickstarted. #DBC50Summer has challenged me and what I think of education multiple times. This book is the equivalent to that moment when the GPS just found a traffic jam up ahead and had the foresight to go ahead and re-route you without you even knowing what was going on. Just trust it. Follow it. Just go get the dang book already.
Here’s the tweets. I’ll just sit back and let Jimmy do his thing here.
Excited to finally get to #Culturize in #DBC50Summer! I had to put this one down when I first started this summer blog series, so I’m beyond excited to pick it back up again!!! #BookSnaps #tlap #LeadLAP pic.twitter.com/aivuNDw166
— Alicia Ray (@iluveducating) August 19, 2018
.@casas_jimmy – preach, sir!
— Alicia Ray (@iluveducating) August 19, 2018
Are you a champion for students? ALL of them? What do you see when you look into their eyes? What do they see when they look in yours? Your answer matters to your school’s culture and your students’ belief in themselves. #Culturize @casas_jimmy #DBC50Summer #tlap #LeadLAP pic.twitter.com/VFgLK6iOnb
— Alicia Ray (@iluveducating) August 20, 2018
This. All of this. If you don’t make time for it, what you’re really saying is that it doesn’t matter enough to you. What will you intentionally make time for this year? #Culturize #DBC50Summer #tlap #LeadLAP #champforkids #122edchat #waledchat #realtalk #BookSnaps pic.twitter.com/jyvF2m46vy
— Alicia Ray (@iluveducating) August 21, 2018
Love this quote from @casas_jimmy in #Culturize. Reminds me of @burgessdave question in #tlap: Do you want to be great? In 2018-19, I’m striving to make the greatest impact I possibly can. I want to be great. #DBC50Summer #122edchat #waledchat #scsed #ncdlcn #edchat pic.twitter.com/16ST39y1Tj
— Alicia Ray (@iluveducating) August 22, 2018
Resources and Podcasts and YouTube, oh my!
#IAedchat Live – Feb 25, 2018
**If you’ve made it this far, I’ve got to apologize for the length of this post and the scattered thoughts on this spectacular book. However, keep in mind that I started #DBC50Summer for my own personal growth. This is for my growth so I can better impact my students and teachers. I hope you were able to take something from it as well, but if you take nothing else from this post – buy the book and follow Jimmy Casas on Twitter. Now! Thanks for reading.**
Book 34 is Code Breaker by Brian Aspinall. I’ve presented at multiple conferences on coding in the classroom, started the Hour of Code at my former elementary school, and helped rewrite the elementary school computer science curriculum to include a focus on coding almost 4 years ago, and played a collaborative role in the creation of a middle school curriculum for computer science. So to say I’m excited about this is an understatement. Let’s go!