#DBCBookBlogs: Empower Our Girls

Two weeks from today is the 10th anniversary of working in the very best job I ever accepted… motherhood! Bailey has a big DOUBLE-DIGIT birthday coming up and Sophie turned 6 years old a few months ago. I am the incredibly proud mama of two beautiful daughters who could not possibly be more different. My poor husband is surrounded by estrogen… even our shih-tzu is a girl!

Lynmara Colón and Adam Welcome (Kids Deserve It and Run Like a PIRATE, anyone? Um – wow!) have written an incredibly powerful, moving, and timely declaration! I firmly believe that anyone who elects to pick this book up and open to page 1 will be touched and feel compelled to follow in step with the authors’ call to action! Quite simply, they want to Empower Our Girls!

empower-our-girls

So… can we just take a quick second to check out that cover?!?! The cover in itself speaks volumes about what Lynn & Adam believe! Imagine what that little girl on the cover is feeling! I bet she feels as though she can conquer the world, run with the bulls, take up for herself, open her own business… she views herself as a superhero! Imagine what the world would look like if we taught all little girls (and boys) to view themselves as superheroes! In Lead Beyond Your Title by Nili Bartley, she discusses this idea of superheroes and determining the superpower that lies within each of us.

What I love more than anything is that Lynn & Adam aren’t pushing this idea of “entitlement”… this thought that the world owes us something. Nope, they are very clear that it takes hard work and determination. It takes goal setting and mentors who believe deeply in their success. It takes crushing obstacles that lie before us. It is our job, as educators – and truly just as human beings – to open the doors to opportunity for our students… ALL of them. Not just the boys. And not just the girls. We have to be aware of the message we may be unintentionally (or heaven forbid, intentionally) spreading about equality and equity.

Reading Lynmara’s story touched my heart. Seeing a father’s passion for expanding possibilities for his daughter, and all girls, through Adam’s words was enough to bring tears to my eyes. The stories from successful women throughout the pages was extraordinary! When I finished, I was so sad that it was over! I want a sequel… immediately. Get on it, y’all!

One thing that absolutely must be pointed out is the foreword from Shelley Burgess! Yes, you know Shelley… many people may know her as “Dave’s first mate,” or “Dave’s wife”, but y’all – Shelley Burgess is a force to be reckoned with! I have been privileged to have a few conversations with the educator, former Assistant Superintendent of Educational Leadership, co-founder, co-owner and Vice President of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc, mother, co-author of P is for Pirate AND Lead Like a PIRATE, speaker, and powerhouse that is Shelley Burgess. Let me assure you that, while I feel certain she holds her role as “Dave’s wife” in highest regard, she moves mountains in her own name. In other words, she doesn’t need to rely on a man. (Besides have you ever seen Dave Burgess speak? Can you imagine being married to that for however-many-years? Bless her. She’s a good, good woman. HA! Sorry, Captain.) Anyhow, check out her foreword in a blog post from Dave right here! It sets the tone perfectly for Empower Our Girls and prepares us to be WOWed by Lynmara and Adam!

This is legitimately a book that I want my nearly 10 year old to read! I hope that I have shown her that she can do anything she puts her mind to! My mother opened her own business at age 54 and just held her first anniversary celebration! Business is booming in her boutique and she is the owner, operator, manager, seamstress, businesswoman, cashier, custodial staff, customer service, and everything else it takes to run a store all in one. I’m so proud of her! These are type of stories we need to hear more of; the stories where women share their successes and setbacks. Honest, raw, vulnerable stories that show that while we, as women, are deeply human in our emotions, we are insanely strong and equally as capable to run through obstacles that threaten to stop us. Our girls need to believe that anything is possible and we need to let them know the doors are open, even if we have to break them off the hinges first.

Implementation

Y’all… I’m awful about saying guys when speaking to a group of students. I’m done with that. It seems so inconsequential, but after reading Lynn & Adam’s stories, I realize that it could not be any more important. So not only will I be ensuring that my daughters realize that they don’t need to be rescued by anyone, and they don’t have to play with Barbies (Sophie plays with tractors and race cars anyhow), and that if Bailey wants to go to STEM Camp this summer, she can and will be just as good at it as anyone else there, but I will also pay more attention to the unintentional messages I’m sending out.

I’m also going to check our library immediately for female characters and female success stories! If I find a discrepancy, I will purchase books with strong female characters and biographies of women for my girls to read and aspire to be like.

Y’all… you need this book. Like… you need Empower Our Girls yesterday. Go! Get your copy & use the hashtag #EmpowerOurGirls to reflect and share your own story! Connect with Lynmara and Adam, and more than anything – encourage girls daily! Show them how much we believe in them. They deserve it!

#DBCBookBlogs: Empower

Immediately upon finishing LAUNCH by John Spencer & AJ Juliani, I knew I wanted to read their second book, Empower, as quickly as possible. Finally, I was able to find time to read it and I was not disappointed. Some sequels start out where the first left off, but Empower doesn’t simply pick up where LAUNCH left off; it adds a whole new layer of aspirations for our students.

LAUNCH taught us to engage students in design thinking and how to relate this student-centered design thinking process to every content area. Empower shows us how to shift our thinking from student-centered to student-owned.

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From the foreword from George Couros (author of The Innovator’s Mindset and co-owner of IMpress with his wife, Paige and Dave & Shelley Burgess) to the invitation to innovation on the final page, this book was a powerful read. John & AJ share why it is not enough to simply shift the educational environment from compliance to engagement. We must extend this vitally important shift for students to empowerment. Students should not be answering our questions, but asking their own questions and then seeking to find the answers. If we want lifelong learners (and I genuinely hope that is the quest for all educators), we need to help students take those reins. It’s not enough to tell them we want them to set goals for themselves, we should give them the freedom to actually set them.

There are many moments in this book that I felt a mic drop from John & AJ. One moment that I felt a mic drop was when AJ and John share the shift from ‘making the subject interesting to tapping into student interests’. I love AJ’s story about Mr. Flynn and how Mr. Flynn’s interest in AJ ultimately pulled out the maker in him by empowering him through a programming class. The rap created by AJ & veteran teacher Jen Smith further illustrates the difference between making a subject interesting and tapping into students’ interests.

The description of the tourist teacher was a perfect description of me teaching in my early years. I was driving the bus and the kids were along for the ride. If the students found something they were interested in and wanted more information, I had to keep going so we’d stay on topic and on time, according to my schedule. While I understand that there is content that must be taught and time constrictions to teach it, we must rid ourselves of this model teacher. It’s not easy. In fact, just this year (my 13th in education), I was able to give students more choice and voice than ever before through passion projects in the media center. I was able to do this because I gave myself permission to let go of control and release the power to my students.

Yes, some failed miserably. Some didn’t turn a thing in, and some wasted time. Many expressed that they learned more than they thought possible and that they enjoyed the learning! There are facets of this experience that I will certainly change in the future, but one thing will remain the same – they will own the learning. And they will own it without being graded. They will feel the freedom of taking risks.

Another mic drop moment was the discussion of the difference between fail-URE and fail-ING. AJ and John highlight George Couros saying that we shouldn’t celebrate the failURE of our students, but the act of resiliency and the grit of getting back up again.  AJ and John talk about reframing failing as success through iterations. I think of it as a productive struggle. Every time our students experience a Breakout from BreakoutEDU, I see the productive struggle. It is so tough to watch their content teachers as we co-teach in these experiences. They desperately want to help the students as I encourage them to let the students struggle with it. The victory is so much sweeter when they have achieved it all on their own. Many of our students are beginning to believe this is true, as well. I know this because they use their hint cards less than they did initially. It’s so much to celebrate success with students, especially when they have achieved that success on their own!

A true craft in writing is using an analogy to describe difficult concepts and these two authors have proven that they are artists. The comparison of differentiation, personalization, and empowerment shown through ice cream examples is brilliant. It’s worth purchasing the book just to read this short section. I want to take a teacher field trip to a Baskin Robbins, Cold Stone Creamery, and Sweet Frog (our own fro-yo spot) to make these connections with our teachers!

Finally, I love the section about the stages John shares as students move from consumers to creators.

  • Exposure (Passive Consuming)
  • Active Consuming
  • Critical Consuming
  • Curating
  • Copying and Modifying
  • Mash-Ups
  • Creating From Scratch

As always, I intend to implement at least one thing from this book. Because I work with both students and teachers, I have a lot of flexibility in my implementations and interpretations of the books I read. I have chosen to go a bit off the beaten path with this one, mostly because I can. Also, I feel that it is in the spirit of the book to do something a bit different. The premise of the book is empowerment and what happens when students own their learning. I am perfectly comfortable sharing that I am still a student. I will always be a student. My learners are also teachers, who are also students. So this implementation will go a bit “top down”, if you will.

I have facilitated somewhere in the vicinity of 50 various breakout experiences from BreakoutEDU with teachers and students in our school over the past two years. (With many breakouts being repeated in classes 3-4 times per day, this results in somewhere between 150-200 total experiences.) Some are digital and some physical. All have been copied straight from the BreakoutEDU platform. In a few cases, I have tweaked clues to better suit our students, but I have never created a BreakoutEDU entirely on my own. My implementation is to create my own BreakoutEDU for one of my media classes and empower teachers (and students) in my building to create their own for their content areas. Following the LAUNCH cycle, I will launch this Breakout to an audience by submitting it to the platform for BreakoutEDU and encouraging teachers to do the same.

It’s going to be messy, however I believe it will be a success!

Empower is the first book released under the IMpress label! Check out this website with an incredible toolkit and more information on maker projects and the Global Day of Design! This is good stuff! The sketches within the book are stunning, and really bring the message to life! I highly recommend grabbing a copy of this incredible book by John Spencer and AJ Juliani! Here’s to hoping they share another book of their incredible knowledge together with the world! Until then, check out their blogs – here is John’s and here is AJ’s. Both of them have also written their own book; AJ wrote The PBL Playbook and John wrote Making Learning Flow. Both are certainly worth a read as well!

#DBCBookBlogs: Through the Lens of Serendipity

A little over a year ago a serendipitous treasure was shared with the world. I struggle with self-doubt and a constant desire to be better, to be more. I constantly fear that I’m not enough; not enough as a friend, not enough as a mom, not enough as a wife, not enough as a daughter, an aunt, a sister, and the list goes on and on.

Then Allyson Apsey came into my life with her first book, The Path to Serendipity. That book forced me to change my self-talk and visualize an inchworm moving ever-so-slowly toward its destination. It is this visual that reminds me that “All [I] need to do is move inch by inch toward the person [I] want to become; that is enough. [I am] enough.” In all the beautiful, powerful quotes through Allyson’s first book, this one impacts my day-to-day life in a most profound way. I still struggle with self-doubt, but I’m moving toward the person I want to become.

Naturally when Allyson shared that she had finished her third book (yes, she’s a writing machine – check out her second book, The Princes of Serendip), I was ready to click pre-order immediately. In early January, Allyson tweeted out that she was offering the opportunity to endorse her newest book… and I went all “I volunteer as tribute”! The incredibly amazing Hans Appel and I were selected to endorse the new book and I immediately sat down to read what would become the 70th book released by Dave Burgess Consulting, IncThrough the Lens of Serendipity.

#SerendipityEDU

Here is my endorsement (with 100% more clickable links, ha):

“First, she astounded us with her authenticity in The Path to Serendipity, then she gave us The Princes of Serendip, an exceptional picture book for social-emotional learning. Allyson Apsey amazes yet again with this timely masterpiece on trauma-informed practices. She shares actionable, practical ways to show compassion and empathy to everyone around us. Whether in education, or in any other career field, this book gives readers the tools needed to understand how to HANDLE others with care. Through the Lens of Serendipity should be on every bookshelf, highlighted and tabbed, to be referenced again and again.”

When I received the print copy last week, I was so excited to do just as I recommended in the endorsement… highlight and tab all the things! I’ve got to tell you… reading it way back in January was an honor; however, I needed this book at the very moment it arrived at my back door (yes, my delivery folks rock out here in rural North Carolina). This book has such valuable information on trauma-informed practices that are really just good practices in general. She shares this information through stories about students and scenarios involving fictional characters, and the acronym HANDLE. (I have to say that I love this because Dave Burgess shares how he likes to put “handles” on his material so others can pick it up in his #tlap sessions.)

Allyson has such a heart for social-emotional learning, trauma-informed practice, and becoming our best selves and it is evident in every word she writes. I’ve not met her face-to-face yet, but I’m fairly certain her heart is quite literally made of gold. Truly.

I could share so many thoughts & stories as I reflected & connected throughout this book, but instead, I’d like to just share some quotes that really stood out to me. I believe you will see how beautiful Allyson’s soul is through this alone.

“…understand your personal needs so you can be your best self and therefore more effectively help others.”

“No one’s life is perfect. ‘Perfect’ just doesn’t exist.”

“If you knew that person’s story, would you treat them differently? My guess is that if you were to look at everyone you meet with compassion, their behavior and your own would significantly change.”

“When we treat students the way they have always been treated, they will behave the way they have always behaved.”

“The supports that allow people affected by trauma to heal and grow are good for all people… trauma sensitivity is people sensitivity.”

Implementation

Although there are a dozen or more impactful quotes I could continue to add, this is the one I will implement because “inspiration without implementation is a waste” (courtesy of The Captain in Teach Like A Pirate).

“The only person you can control is you… you cannot change others. Only they can decide to do that. You can only change yourself… if you wait for the world to change for you, you may wait forever.”

Allyson shares this piece of advice she gave her son after a particularly rough day he had as a young child at school. How profound and true! I needed this the moment I saw it. It’s amazing how every time I reread a book, a new truth jumps out at me. This one not only jumped out, but it held on tight. It reminds me of the Emotions Deflector from The Path to Serendipity. There’s an old saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The horse must decide to drink the water of its own free will. There is something resembling freedom that I feel when I am reminded that I cannot control others. It helps me to not feel responsible for their actions, because I am not in control of their actions, only my own.  (“I am the one thing in life I can control” -Aaron Burr “Wait for It” — Hamilton runs on repeat through my head now, thanks to my students.)

The lesson applies to many aspects of my life. As an instructional coach, I can share best practices. I can model them. I can support the teacher through co-planning and co-teaching. I can rinse and repeat, but until that teacher is ready to change, it won’t happen. That’s not to say I should quit trying to help and support positive change. But just realizing this truth depersonalizes the struggle for me. As a wife, I cannot expect my husband to change some of his annoying habits, just as he cannot expect to change mine. (Bless him; I’m sure I have more things that annoy him than vice versa.) I can’t control him. I cannot make anyone do anything. I cannot change anyone.

But do you know what I can do? I can have compassion for others. I can give grace freely. I can show others my heart. I can speak positively and (as Toby Mac says), I can speak life into those I encounter. I can choose to believe that I am enough. I can discover my best self, so I can be a better educator, wife, mother, and friend. And thanks to Allyson’s newest book, I have many tools to do just that.

Follow along on Twitter with the conversations around this book using the hashtag #SerendipityEDU. Also, you simply must check out this TEDx Talk that Allyson just did! While you’re at it, have you seen Allyson’s website? Check it out here! Her blog is powerful and she shares terrific resources!

Finally… oh my goodness… are you thinking of a group of colleagues that you believe would love this book? You should read it together! BOOK STUDY!!! Are you nervous about facilitating a book study? Or don’t have the time to pull together questions and resources? Y’all… DBC has you covered! They have just introduced an amazing new section on their website specifically for book studies! You just have to see it; it’s that amazing! There are activities and reflection questions already created for you! Seriously! So thankful for this incredible resource, which saves educators time and makes facilitating book studies a breeze! And yes… the book study for Through the Lens of Serendipity is ready to go! So grab some copies of the book, some friends, and have fun! Remember to share your learning on Twitter using the hashtag #SerendipityEDU!