Where Everybody Knows Your Name?

My family and I just returned from a week of luxury aboard the Disney Fantasy, a cruise ship with the Disney Cruise Line. We were thrilled to be able to spend time as a family, completely removed from work, social media, and the stress of day-to-day life.

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Disney Fantasy in port in Cozumel, Mexico

From the moment we stepped off the airplane and into the Disney transportation portion of Orlando International Airport, we were treated to the Disney experience. Because it’s just the way I am, I couldn’t ignore the connections between the Disney experience and the experience I try to give students at school each day.

Of course, the customer service was superb and the amenities were outstanding. Disney pulled out all the stops; they went all out to ensure that our experience made our family feel special and made us want to come back. Our schools should be like Disney for our students. Every child, yes, even those children, should feel special, cared for, and like we want them to come back.

What stood out the most to me was the relationships formed while on the ship. In just seven nights, we formed bonds with other families that will last a lifetime. My children were devastated to leave the characters and the fun, but they were also sad to leave our stateroom host and servers! How does Disney form these relationships so quickly?! Two big things stood out to me!

§- The Power of A Name -§

It started from the moment we embarked on the ship. We were greeted instantly and were asked our family name. Upon entering the ship’s atrium for the first time, we were introduced to the cast members and crew of the Disney Fantasy and were met with applause. A crew member took us to the side and gave us a quick rundown of logistical information and invited us to the Sail Away Party later that afternoon. After asking if we had any questions (we did not), she encouraged us to explore the ship and shared where to go if questions should arise later. What a greeting!

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Our amazing stateroom host, Narciso

If you ever doubt the power of learning names, let me share this short story…

Narciso was our stateroom host. Every time we ran into him in the hallway, our conversation went something like this:

Narciso: Good morning, Alicia! How did you sleep?

Alicia: Great, thank you! How was your evening?

N: It was good! Are you planning to visit the island today?

A: We’re hoping to. We didn’t plan an excursion but we hope to check out the shops nearby.

N: Sounds great! I hope you and your family have a great day. Is there anything I can do to make your stay more comfortable?

A: No, thank you.

N: Will Bailey or Sophie be on the top bunk tonight? (He placed the stuffed animals they sleep with on the bed when he turned them down each night.)

And the conversation would continue. He was exceptional! On a ship full of strangers, it felt like home because someone knew our name, and greeted us by name. It had a calming effect that I wasn’t expecting. I realize that if I feel more comfortable in a space upon hearing my name, our students likely do as well.

§- Likes and Dislikes -§

At our first dinner our server and assistant server introduced themselves and called us by name, asking what we preferred to be called. They already knew our names because they had taken the time to view our information before we joined them. Our servers had between 24-30 people to attend to throughout the cruise during our seating, with another 24-30 at the other dinner seating. They had our names memorized and quickly learned what we liked and disliked in meal preferences.

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Danijel (server), the Faulkners, the Rays, and Clifton (assistant server)

Now I don’t, for even a second, believe Clifton just remembered that my oldest daughter wanted Sprite and my youngest daughter wanted water with extra ice nor do I believe that Danijel remembered that I like my sirloin cooked medium and my husband is an adventurous eater. They took the time to write it down, jotting a note in their record so they could refer to it the next night. How often do we do that with our students? If you are a classroom teacher, I encourage you to make a list of your students and write as much as you can about each one from memory, and add to it as the year progresses. Because I fully believe Dave Burgess‘s quote “Inspiration without implementation is a waste,” I will use a <large> notebook (I serve approximately 400 students and 30 educators) and create a page for each one, adding notes about their likes and dislikes as our relationships continue to form. Is that going to take time? Of course! Will it be worth it? I believe so.

Why do I think it’ll be worth it? I just experienced 7 nights with people I’ve never met before who took the time to pay attention to the little things and get to know me as a person. I never felt like just another family on vacation. I never want my students to feel as if they’re “just another student.” I want each one to feel special. That starts with knowing their name, pronouncing it correctly, and taking the time to learn their likes and dislikes to make a genuine connection as quickly as possible.

 

#DBCBookBlogs: Dolphins in Trees

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”.

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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.

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.

Pause.

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!

 

#DBCBookBlogs: Talk To Me

June 13, 2018 – I took an insane dive and “cannonballed in” (thanks, Tara) to beginning #DBC50Summer. I had no idea what it would look like, but just knew I wanted to get this crazy idea out there.

June 18, 2018 – I’m sitting in a hotel lobby enjoying a #tlap chat and see this tweet pop up in my notifications. I was blown away that someone had already picked up on the #DBC50Summer challenge and was eager to share what they learned from the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books as well. That someone was Andrea Paulakovich, who was then an instructional coach from Kansas, and is now Assistant Director of Learning Services.

June 19, 2018 – After exchanging links to our respective blogs, Andrea was ALL IN! It was her amazing idea to add in the use of Flipgrid only a few days after #DBC50Summer started.

The rest… as they say… is history. Andrea and I have chatted multiple times on Google Hangout and via FaceTime. This lady is amazing & her story is so powerful! I can’t wait to see what is in store for her because it’s going to be epic when it happens!

From this tweet, #tlapsisters was born, ha! Fast forward to August 26 – Andrea sent me a DM about co-writing a blog as we were both reading The Wild Card by Hope & Wade King. Knowing that I didn’t have the ability to add anything else to my plate, and I didn’t want to let her down, I suggested that we wait until #DBC50Summer was over and instead we co-author a post on book 54, Talk to Me by Kim Bearden.

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We set a date to finish the book and Andrea created this incredible Google Doc with all of her notes and ideas for our blog post. (She takes the most detailed notes of anyone I’ve ever seen; further proof that she’s superwoman.) I hopped into the doc last night and I swear, magic happened. Writing side-by-side, literally, in the Doc was incredible. Seeing Andrea’s thoughts form on the page was inspiring and I highly recommend you go check out her other #DBCBookBlogs on her website! Andrea put her amazing artistic spin on our thoughts and created this magazine on yumpu.com (super cool tool, by the way).  You can see the final product below, or use this link if the embedded file is giving you trouble. (You can also look at the PDF of the magazine.)

https://www.yumpu.com/en/embed/view/Eb8kA7UH5gBI6ztc

Didn’t Andrea do a terrific job putting this all together?! I am constantly blown away by her! What a pleasure to co-author this blog with my friend! (Go see Andrea’s story behind Talk to Me on her website here!)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Talk to Me by Kim Bearden! I felt as though she reached through the pages and hugged me multiple times. She gives practical advice on effective communication, not just within education, but for every relationship. Her words about sharing appreciation and validation with others reminded me so much of Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess‘s Anchors of Appreciation in Lead Like A Pirate. I know that I appreciate others, but do others know that I appreciate them? My implementation plan is to show as often and outwardly as possible that I appreciate actions and people as those moments come along.

Follow along with the conversation using the hashtag #talktome and check out Kim’s website here. For more information on the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, GA, check out their website here. Finally, head over to the DBC, Inc website and preview the book for yourself! I know you will love it! After you’ve bought and read it (because you will), share your thoughts on the flipgrid co-piloted by Andrea and me. This collaborative space is available for anyone around the world to share their thoughts on all DBC books!

Book 55 in the DBC, Inc line is Run Like A Pirate by Adam Welcome (yes, that Adam… from Kids Deserve It – woo hoo). This book is going to get me to the core; I can already tell. I believe it’s going to be just the kick in the tail that I need to get me to stop talking about my dreams, and actually taking steps to make them come true. And I’m scared. to. death. I’ve heard it said that if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. So now, I’m going to read his book and do all I can to make my dreams a reality.