#DBCBookBlogs: Sanctuaries

Book 60. Let’s just take a minute. Be still. Silent. Slow down and appreciate the fact that this organic publishing company, born from a single book, has revolutionized educational professional development to its core. SIXTY books, y’all. And they’re not obscure books. They’re best-sellers. They are inspirational. Many are being used similar to textbooks in preservice teaching courses! And they are real books, about real educators, doing real things… so yeah, just take a minute. Respect. Dave & Shelley, I am blown away. Congratulations on book 60! I’m betting we’ll see book 100 in 2019! I can’t wait to see who will have that honor!!!

So let’s get down to it! Who had the honor of being book 60? The same amazingly relaxed, zen-like educator who authored book 8 The Zen Teacher! Dan Tricarico brings us book 60 and it dropped at the perfect time of year; a time when most teachers are on break! Sanctuaries is a stunningly beautiful book and is full of incredible strategies to give ourselves the same kind of care we’d give others.


I’m always up for a dose of irony. Are you? So, I received this book before Christmas. It is now a week later and I’m just getting to sit down and read the book. Holidays. Whew! What a crazy hectic time of year! In fact, we were on our way down to my in-laws to celebrate Christmas and I used the commute time to read (I was a passenger; no worries about I-77 travel in NC, other than the usual). It didn’t take long to start laughing out loud; I love Dan’s sense of humor.

When we got home, I was dying to finish reading it, so I holed up in my bed, opened up to the last page I was on before it got too dark to read in the van (we’re Sienna people – if you’ve read Teach Like A Pirate, you know that the Burgess clan and I disagree here), I got out my blue highlighter and dug in. As I’m reading, trying to be as immersed as I can, my daughters are playing with some (insanely loud) robots/cars/toys they got for Christmas, my husband is “watching” Mythbusters while really watching Facebook videos at the highest volume possible (maybe not, but it seemed that way), the dog is snoring, and the whir of the ceiling fan somehow started echoing in my ears… Guess which chapter I was reading at that very moment…

Y’all… I can’t make that up. I even tried to get the audio for you so you could get the full effect, but the 7,168 images and the apps saved on my phone caused my recording to not save.

So here’s the deal. When I read & blogged about The Zen Teacher back in early July, I was a bit hard on Dan. “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.” – yeah, I said that… that was me. This was not the case with Sanctuaries! (Also, I ended up LOVING every minute of that book once I started it. So I knew that Sanctuaries would be just as epic!) Dan has been such an amazing asset since reading his first book! I have taken two of his online courses and have had several fantastic conversations with him. I was chomping at the bits to get Sanctuaries started! As he states in the introduction,

“If The Zen Teacher reminds you to take care of yourself, Sanctuaries shows you how.”

I love the practicality of Sanctuaries! There are so many implementations possible from my reading! My highlighter was working overtime! Dan even leaves space in the book to work out your own Sanctuary Plan and that got filled up quick in my book! You’ll definitely want to buy your own copy and not borrow this one from a friend. (Truly, friends likely won’t even loan this one because they will have written their own self-care plan in it.)

By the time I was on page 100, I was just itching to grab my computer and blog! I’m glad I didn’t though, because I came across more goodness in the next 68 pages!

I could write for hours about how great this book was and how timely the message is, but then I’d essentially rewrite his book and he does a MUCH better job than I ever could at telling this story. Just trust me when I say it’s worth your time! Make your first act of self-care to be purchasing this book for yourself. If you don’t believe self-care is important, I challenge you to purchase The Zen Teacher (Pro Tip: Go ahead and purchase both at the same time so you can have Sanctuaries ready to go because then you’ll realize how important self-care really is. Just sayin’)

My implementation is directly from the book. Sometimes I choose something totally off the wall based on what meaning I found from the book, but this one – it’s pretty much taken straight from the words of Dan himself. Dan talks about the Five S’s – these are imperative to our self-care. I need each of these in my life, intentionally and radically (he talks about this early on, too).


Mama needs silence, y’all. I’ve got to find time in my day, those fast breaks, where I can relish in the silence. These moments are rare, but I will find ways to purposefully seek out silence more often – even if it means silencing headphones. No lie.


One of my very favorite Bible verses is Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am God. There is so much power in just being still. Being still requires trust and reverence for the moment. So many people revel in busyness – constantly running here or there, but Dan urges us just to stop. Be still. Take it all in. Use our senses to appreciate the stillness.


This is the big time y’all. It’s the end of 2018. What have you not used this year? Why is it still in your home? I’m obviously talking to myself too. If you could see my daughters’ playroom right now… I’m legitimately looking right at it and it looks like I could have self-funded ToysRUs before they went out of business. Tomorrow, they’ll be figuring out what they can subtract from that room. I’ll be going onto my bookshelves and determining what I can subtract from it (don’t worry; the DBC books are safe, y’all). I need to open my fridge and figure out what can be subtracted there. My closet. The pantry. Our [outdated] movie collection. The bathroom vanity drawers. Medicine cabinet. I’ll be subtracting like a wild woman.

I also need to subtract from our calendar. We need to free up some space there, too. Over this holiday break, my family has watched three movies. This isn’t anything new; we watch movies all the time. What’s new is that we watched them …(wait for it)… as a family. On the TV. In the living room. Not Bailey watching one on her new Chromebook, Sophie watching one on her iPad, Chris watching one on his iPad, and me binge-watching The Office on Netflix (yes, I read that part, Danny). We watched each of them together. It was wonderful.


It’s important to clear mental, physical, spiritual space and I need to do more of that. Once I’ve subtracted, I believe the space will abound. I am a minimalist by nature. I only have curtains and pictures on the walls because my husband picked them out and hung the frames – seriously. In the media center, there are no books on display atop the shelves. I know that’s a cardinal sin of libraries and there are amazing media friends of mine who will likely be trying to hold an intervention, but I don’t like it. I feel like it looks cluttered. I like artwork on our shelves.

Slowing Down

I need to do this. In my car. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of being a passenger while I drive, you likely suffer from white knuckle syndrome. I have a bit of a lead foot. I need to single-task as Dan discusses in the book. Devote myself to one task at a time, finish it, then move to the next one. It seems counter-productive at first, but now I won’t need to go back and fix my errors that I likely made while multi-tasking.

I loved this book. You will, too. Well done, Dan Tricarico. The 60th book from the DBC, Inc line continues to uphold the tradition of excellence. Go now and grab your copy and prepare to take care of yourself. We are in a profession that is about giving and giving and giving. Take some time to give to yourself. Give yourself the gift of self-care. You deserve it!

The flipgrid is available! You’ll definitely want to check this one out! Thanks to Andrea Paulakovich for this tremendous idea & offering to allow me to copilot the space with her when #DBC50Summer first started!

Oh, and in case you were wondering… there is an acronym. It’s solid stuff.

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2018

What an incredible year this has been! Reflecting through blogging has allowed me to create something I’m proud of, highlight some incredible educators and students, share about my most favorite books ever, and find my voice. I had not written in so long that I forgot how therapeutic writing is. I am grateful to anyone who has taken the time to read these posts & share your thoughts. I realize they are a bit long by blog post standards, but hey – I’ve got a lot to say. Ha!


Here are the top ten blog posts as indicated by views during the year 2018.

10. #DBC50Summer 14/50: 140 Twitter Tips for Educators

9. #DBC50Summer 2/50: Pure Genius

8. #DBC50Summer 10/50: eXPlore Like A Pirate

7. Where Everybody Knows Your Name?

6. #DBC50Summer 1/50: Teach Like A Pirate

5. #DBCBookBlogs: Stop. Right. Now.

4. #DBC50Summer 29/50: Social LEADia

3. #DBC50Summer Explained

2. #DBC50Summer Book 1-10 Recap

1. #DBC50Summer 9/50: The Innovator’s Mindset

I wish you and yours a very Happy New Year!

2019 is sure to be a great one! Looking forward to continuing to learn and grow with you!

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A Day in the Life of a Middle Schooler

They say not to judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes. While reading Kids Deserve It by Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney for #DBC50Summer, I chose three different implementations of the book. Two of them I have failed at miserably, but the third? Epic.

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Five Positive Phone Calls per Week

I started this with every intention of completing it every week throughout the year. My thought was if I called 5 families per week, I’d end up calling about half of the student body during the year. In the first week, I called five families. These five were new families to our school – three were new 7th graders and two were in the 6th grade. The responses were overwhelmingly positive. The second week I called five more parents, two 8th graders, and three 6th graders.

Then I found myself so busy that I didn’t take the time to call. It’s not an excuse. I should have made the time. What concerned me the most was that when I thought of making the calls, it felt like a chore. It became something I was going to do to check a box on a list of things to do. This was never the intention and the feeling of “checking a box” was not in the spirit of what Kids Deserve It is all about, so I pulled back on this implementation. When I see a student going above and beyond, I still make the contact. I want to brag on these kiddos! I never want these conversations to feel forced or like I’m fulfilling an obligation. That will come through on the other end of the call, which will completely defeat the purpose of making the call in the first place. It should always be genuine.

Ride Each Bus

One of my favorite parts of the day is being in the car line with my daughters right before they begin their school day. We have some insanely fun car line karaoke together. I’ve got to be honest, there’s not much out there that makes me want to miss out on this time with them.

When I created this implementation, it was about three weeks before our lives got turned upside down by a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis. We are managing quite well; I have a superhero in a 5 year old’s body. We are still figuring everything out, so bus rides in the afternoon are out of the question right now.

With both of those things in mind, I put my heart and soul into my third implementation. Here’s what I learned.

Shadowing Students

Spending a day in the life of a middle schooler is eye-opening and exhilarating. But spending a week in their shoes… exhausting.

Eighth Grade

I purposefully chose students based on course load. My first student to shadow was one of our eighth graders enrolled in all advanced courses. She is currently taking, as an 8th grader, World History, English 1, Math 1, and Earth & Environmental Science. She also had PE and Chorus. From my day with her, I learned that it is super difficult to jump from one 57 minute class to another with only 3 minutes in between. While my body got me from class to class in the allotted time, my brain couldn’t make the transition to be ready for the next subject area.

I learned that the good stuff happens at lunch. By planting myself squarely in the middle of the 8th grade tables, I was able to listen to conversations all around me. I quickly found out who was dating who, who was making poor life choices, and which best friends were in a squabble. I learned that some of our students use the restroom less than teachers do. Upon arriving at school, many of them use the restroom, then use it again around lunch, and try to make a sprint to the facilities before loading the buses. The time between classes isn’t enough to do their business if the three or four stalls are full, so the 8th graders usually don’t even bother. Finally, I learned that assigned seats in 8th grade are ridiculous. In the classes where students were allowed to choose their seats, they chose wisely. Allow them to sit where they’d like and you’ve won more than half the battle of the day.

Seventh Grade

My seventh grade student is what many would consider to be an “average” student. He gets his work done in a timely manner and usually does well on the completed assignments. He was quiet and rarely participated in class. He didn’t speak to many students. What bothered me the most about my day with this student is the lack of interactions between him and anyone else. He was acknowledged by teachers with a quick “hey”, but no one ever really talked to him. I realize this is just one day & could very much be an anomaly, but it made me pause to think about which students I unintentionally overlook day-to-day. How am I reaching my introverted students? How can I better serve them, appreciating their individual needs while still getting to know them & forming a relationship of the same caliber as my outgoing, talkative students? I need to do better at this.

Sixth Grade

Our sixth grade is very different from 7th and 8th grade. Our 6th graders are on teams, so they only have two teachers rather than the four of our older students. This is a change to our school this year and I believe it’s highly beneficial to our students! Our 6th graders are forming deeper relationships, and from what I could see, they are having a rich experience in their first year of middle school. This is a great transition year and I feel like the teaming aspect is giving community and pride. That hall of teachers also has a very strong PLC as they are able to discuss both content and grade level specifics.

Also – 6th grade was so much fun! We played games, had flexible seating, and I found a couple pretty awesome books on desks of those teachers!


Physical Education is Where It’s At

My favorite part of my time spent shadowing students was the PE classes! Even now, months after the shadowing, students come ask me when I’m going to play with them again in PE. I think I impressed them with my dodgeball abilities, haha!

I challenge you to spend one planning period in January participating in a physical education class. Or during recess, jump into their kickball game. This informal time is so important to relationship building. Sure you’re missing that valuable planning. But trust me, your return on investment is exponential!

If you can’t find the time to shadow students due to scheduling conflicts, definitely jump into lunch and PE! But do not, and I repeat, do NOT try to make it educational. That’s the only time these kids have to themselves, so don’t taint it. You’re on their turf at that point; respect it and enjoy it!