Picture books aren’t just for young children. I enjoy using short stories and picture books to spark an idea, start an experience, and set the stage for incredible things to come. When I heard that Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc was releasing their first children’s book, I was elated!
In my opinion, Dolphins in Trees by Aaron Polansky was the perfect way to kick off this new endeavor for DBC. It is beautifully illustrated by THE Genesis Kohler – the same illustrator of P is for Pirate by Dave and Shelley Burgess. There is so much detail in every picture and the colors pop off the page.
My favorite picture books are those that transcend time. I love books like The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, and Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. These are books I can use at any level, from PreK/Kindergarten to adult learners, these books have something for everyone. Aaron’s book falls in this category! As the subtitle says, it’s a “children’s book with implications for all of us”.
Cannot get home fast enough today!!! Breaking one of my self-imposed #DBC50Summer rules and reading this one out of order!!! I can’t resist a picture book! #DolphinsInTrees #tlap #LeadLAP pic.twitter.com/iq8utJusJz
— Alicia Ray (@iluveducating) July 22, 2018
I preordered this book and received a copy very quickly! I totally cracked open the packaging and read it immediately! Then I read it again. And again.
It’s HERE!!!! And it’s BEAUTIFUL! What a terrific message! Oh my goodness! Loved it! “We miss all of the chances that we never take” – “Next time you walk by a person in need, think of #DolphinsInTrees” 😍😍 #scsed #ncslma #tlchat #tlap #LeadLAP #DBC50Summer pic.twitter.com/OctmhifO19
— Alicia Ray (@iluveducating) July 22, 2018
Then I read it to my daughters. They love Dizzy the Dolphin. And let’s be real, who can resist reading a book that rhymes? It’s a perfect read-aloud book! As a former elementary school media coordinator, my teacher mind immediately shifted into gear & started thinking of lesson ideas for this book! Below are just a few ideas! Use the flipgrid (copiloted by Andrea Paulakovich and me as a space for global collaboration on DBC, Inc books) to share your own ideas about how to integrate this book into a lesson with any age group!
- Choose a character from the story and rewrite the story from their point-of-view.
- Pretend you are one of the animals who did not help Mindful. What would you have done differently?
- Tell about a time that you lost something. Did someone else help you find it? How did that make you feel?
- Create a storyboard sequencing the events in the story.
- Use Dolphins in Trees to kick off a week of Random Acts of Kindness.
- Have a discussion about differences and how those make us unique.
- Pretend you are a member of Mindful’s monkey family. Write a letter of thanks to Dizzy the Dolphin. Then write a letter to someone who has been helpful to you in real life.
- Act out the story as a readers’ theatre.
- The monkey’s name is Mindful; what does it mean to be mindful? Have a discussion sharing ways to maintain mindfulness in school.
- Dizzy takes a risk by coming out of the water to help Mindful. What risks have you taken and what were the results? Did you fall from the tree, or did you use your echolocation to find what you were looking for?
As I was reading this one out of order during the #DBC50Summer, I knew I would need to think of a way to implement the book. The easiest, most obvious, implementation is to read this book with my middle school students during one of our media days and have a discussion about being mindful of others and helping, even when you think you have nothing to give. I had already been discussing with our 7th grade team a Kindness Challenge in which students would do Positive impACTs in their school, home, and community, snap photo evidence, reflect, and earn Positive impACT money to spend on books at a book tasting to take to their forever home. This book is the perfect way to kick off that event, right?!
However, if you’ve been with me for long, you may know that I rarely pick out the most obvious thing to implement. As I read the book for the bazillionth time (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration… but only slight), I noticed something I’d never paid attention to before. Mindful the Monkey is old. He needs help because he cannot do what he used to be able to do. I know, I know… that’s pretty clearly stated several times. But hear me out because this is close to my heart right now.
There is an enormous division between educators that breaks my heart. It is especially evident in my home state, thanks to politics. This division is not due to race, gender, religious beliefs, or sexuality. No… this is due to age.
When you think of a veteran teacher, what immediately comes to mind? What does their classroom look like? Now picture a beginning teacher. What do you see? What does their environment look like?
How different do those images appear to you? Typically when I do this activity at workshops, the veteran teacher is aged and stern looking. She is no-nonsense. She uses a dry erase board, worksheets, and textbooks to lead her students. She stands in front of the room of desks in rows and columns and lectures while students take notes. She refuses to change her methods. She counts down the days until retirement.
Flip to the beginning teacher. He is typically energetic, full of fresh ideas. He is bright-eyed and uses technology to engage his students. He groups students and facilitates discussion as he moves throughout the room. Students are empowered to lead their peers in discovery and there are smiles all around. He wakes up ready to change the world. If something doesn’t work in his classroom, he will try, try again! He has a growth mindset and inspires his students to take risks.
That’s some messed up thinking right there! But aren’t those the stereotypes? Why do we equate veteran teachers to traditional teachers? Why do we assume they are unhappy? Why do we see worksheets and textbooks dancing in our heads?
Furthermore, why do we automatically assume that beginning teachers are using technology and are comfortable with taking risks? Why do we think beginning teachers have the capacity to grow and veteran teachers are stuck in their ways?
As an instructional coach, I’ve seen teachers who fit the stereotype to a “t” and teachers who shatter the stereotype into shards. I’m sure you can immediately think of educators who also destroy the stereotype! However, how often do you see veteran teachers voluntarily planning with beginning teachers? How often do beginning teachers go to veteran teachers rather than Pinterest for classroom management strategies? How often are veteran teachers comfortable with sharing their epic fails in the classroom, exposing vulnerability?
In my state, we are not allowed to unionize. Our salary is set by our state congress based on years of experience and formal education. After 15 years of experience, educators will not see another raise until year 25 unless they elect to go back to school to get a graduate degree or earn National Board Certification. Fact check me – I am not making this up! A teacher with 30 years of experience with a standard teaching license (no graduate degrees) will never gross more than $52,000 per year. With a masters degree (and only in a position that requires a masters degree – counselor, media coordinators, etc. Classroom teachers are no longer given a pay raise for advanced degrees), educators can only expect to gross $57,200 per year. The message this sends is that the public opinion (at least that of our politicians) of veteran teachers is at an all-time low. They are not respected; it’s as if our congress is saying their time impacting the lives of children should be over at 15 years. There certainly isn’t a monetary reason to stick with it! As a teacher with 13 years of experience, I consider myself to be neither a beginning teacher nor a veteran teacher. I am somewhere in the middle and I very clearly see the division happening all around me, locally, statewide, and nationally. And it. breaks. my. heart.
So bringing it back to Dolphins in Trees. Do we assume the worst as we work with a Mindful the Monkey? Do we stop to ask if we can help? Do we go to them with questions and seek their expertise gained from years of experience? If I’ve had one little kiddo who pushes my buttons and can’t figure out how to reach them, the experienced teacher has had five of those same kiddos through the years. Don’t you think they’ll have suggestions to try? What about working with Dizzy the Dolphin? Dizzy is motivated and seeking an opportunity to pay it forward. However, Dizzy was hoisted into a tree and came crashing down. Don’t you think that Mindful knew better than to try it? Mindful had life experience that said dolphins need ocean water. He tried to tell Dizzy it was a bad idea, but Dizzy wasn’t listening.
As we develop our amazing global PLN, remember our PLN that we see every day, face to face. Seek out their advice. Share resources with them. Value experience and meet in the middle to share ideas for the good of our students. It was only when Dizzy and Mindful discussed their problems that they were able to work together to find a solution. Let’s work on building those relationships between veteran teachers and beginning teachers. Both new teachers and those that have been in the game for a long time have value and deserve respect. My implementation is to check my own stereotypes of these groups and work to improve relationships among levels of experience.
The “tried and true” and the “shiny and new” can come together to create something amazing for students.
There are so many directions in which one could take this amazing picture book, Dolphins in Trees by Aaron Polansky! Grab your own copy (available in both paperback and hardcover – here’s to you media coordinators) and prepare to share with others! Aaron’s website is here and you can follow along with conversation using the hashtag #DolphinsinTrees. Aaron sat down with Vicki @CoolCatTeacher Davis for her 10-Minute Teacher Podcast and you can hear their conversation about the impact of a positive culture here. Just for fun, check out this video of Aaron – you may remember this epic version of a school closing announcement. Aaron has some incredible videos on YouTube as well – see them here and here, and subscribe to his channel here.
The best news is that this is not the end of children’s books from DBC, Inc! More. Are. Coming! I can’t wait to see what Dave and Shelley have in store for us next in this new market!
Coming up next… book 57! After this one, I have no idea what’s coming next. It’s not been released yet. I am completely in shock that I’ve reached the most recently released DBC, Inc book. This book’s official release date was just last month, September 12, and it immediately took off! I am so excited to finally get to read my copy of Make Learning Magical by Tisha Richmond!