#DBCBookBlogs: Teach Me, Teacher

May 17, 1995… it’s a day I will never forget. That’s the day my mom and dad separated. They had been married for 12 years, 11 months, and 5 days. I was almost 10 years old. The divorce was finalized a little over a year later. It was not pretty. Nothing about the divorce was pleasant. Nothing was amicable. I love both my mom and my dad so very much, but it was hell growing up with them despising each other. They are polar opposites in almost every way and sometimes I wonder how in the world they made it as long as they did. My house was full of fighting as I grew up. There are so many stories I could share, and so many stories in which I don’t know the full story, and even more stories that I have done everything I can to push completely out of my mind. I won’t share any specifics from that time period because one day my daughters may read this and I want them to always know their grandparents as they are now.

When my mom remarried a couple years after the divorce, I think I remember being excited. I was her “maid of honor” and I remember wearing a burgundy lace dress. My mom looked stunning and oh-so-happy. Not long before I left for college, my mom and stepdad got into a fight. I stepped in to protect my mom and he pushed me hard enough that I went through a wall. When they separated and I testified in court against him, he swore up and down that he never put a hand on me. Their divorce was finalized soon after. He still works in a neighboring town. Seeing him makes my skin crawl. I try not to “hate” others, but I certainly still harbor ill will toward him. I know that forgiveness would likely free me from this pit in my stomach when I see or think of him, but that forgiveness for an act from 16 years ago is not coming easily.

TeachMeTeacher

Stories like these, and so many more, were what I recalled when I read Teach Me, Teacher by Jacob Chastain. Reading Jacob’s stories brought back suppressed memories of my childhood. I would read a page or two and have to stop reading while I confronted some of those memories head on. Some of the memories I tried to shove back where they came from, locking them away and hoping to never remember them again. There is nothing quite like the guilt of loving both parents and feeling like you’re letting one down because you show the other love.

Both of my parents have their own version of the truth about various incidents and I will never know which pieces of both stories are the actual truth. Because they see it through different lenses, both versions are skewed (although both would say that their version is the gospel truth, and to them, it is). Even to this day, I struggle when both of my parents are in the same room (or even the same town). My younger brother (he’s nearly 30 now) handles this much better than I do. I wish I could be more like him. I have a family picture of the four of us from the early-mid 90s. The only other picture I have with both of my parents and my younger brother was from my brother’s wedding 3 years ago. Imagine that… I waited 20 years to have that picture. I cherish it.

Like Jacob, I learned a lot of life lessons that taught me to be a better teacher. In fact, they taught me to be a better person. I’m more empathetic. Like Jacob, I dove into books. My preference, however, was realistic fiction because I could imagine myself living the lives of the characters in the book rather than my own. Jacob’s story is so powerful. The way he transfers the lessons he learned from his own horrible experiences into our roles as educators is exceptional. His vulnerability touches my heart. He speaks about being the ‘camera’ in our classrooms, picking up on the subtleties that other might miss. I have watched my own home videos and they hurt so bad to watch. I can hear the spiteful murmurs in the background that I overlooked at a child. I understand the inflection in my parents’ voices as an adult that I never picked up on as a child. The camera picks it all up, and remembers the good and the bad for you. Jacob nailed that chapter!

Also like Jacob, I choose to move forward, using the lessons from my own past as an asset rather than viewing them as an obstacle, a series of never-ending hurdles that I continue to try to jump. As I read Jacob’s book, I thought about those teachers who were there for me in ways I never realized until I became a teacher myself. The times they went above and beyond for me. Some things were simple, like my 2nd grade teacher allowing me to hold the class bunny (a stuffed toy) much longer than any other child got to hold it because I needed that security. Some things were more pointed, the teachers who pushed me and never allowed my story to become my crutch.

Implementation

 

As the implementation of this book, I am creating a personalized thank you card for every teacher I had in my own K-12 education journey. I will be giving these to each of my former teachers very soon. Each card is similar in that it has the teacher’s yearbook photo, as well as mine, from the year they taught me (or the year that stands out to me most if I had them multiple years). Then I share a memory, something they taught me, and/or a special connection we made during my time in their class. Most importantly, I say thank you and that I love them. But shhh, I don’t want them to know about their surprise just yet (I doubt they read my blog, haha). To my knowledge, only one of my former teachers has passed away, so I will share her card with you here.

I am so grateful for each of my teachers who took the time to show me love and believed in me. I am grateful to Jacob for writing this incredible book, which ripped off an old band-aid that I didn’t even realize was still there. In many ways, ripping off that band-aid allows me to truly begin the long, long process of healing. The most beautiful thing about this book is the hope that it gives the readers. In many cases, we don’t know what our students are going through… Jacob’s first person account of his childhood, what very well might be happening in any one (likely more) of my students’ homes tonight, breaks my heart, but knowing that I can be one of the teachers who lifts them up tomorrow and shows them they are more than their circumstances brings about a greater sense of purpose.

Please do yourself and your students (especially those who are like Jacob and me) a favor and get a copy of Jacob’s book, Teach Me Teacher (free preview at the bottom of this page). I believe it will inspire some deep emotions and powerful reflections in every person that reads it. It will bring about compassion, a bit more understanding, and a boatload of empathy to readers everywhere.

And Jacob, you’ve got a big hug coming when I get to meet you one of these days! Thank you for being so raw, open, and honest. I cannot fathom how hard it was to write these stories in such detail, reliving them again and again throughout the entire process, to allow us to learn from you. Thank you.

My Five-Word GPS

FIVE-Word GPS

During #DBC50Summer last year, I chose to implement (at least) one thing from each of the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books. I continue that practice now through #DBCBookBlogs; some thing are able to be implemented immediately, while some take time. Some haven’t been finished while some haven’t even started. Last summer, I read P is for Pirate, the third book in the DBC, Inc line co-authored by Dave and Shelley Burgess. To implement this adorable alphabetical picture book for adults, I chose to select five words that I hope students will use when describing my class environment. In Teach Like a PIRATE, Dave touches on this idea with a letter-writing exercise (see tweet below), and the Burgesses continue this idea making the 5-word GPS as the letter G in P is for Pirate.

My five words for 2018-2019 were:

  • Welcoming
  • Safe
  • Exciting
  • Memorable
  • Uncommon

You can find more on why I chose each word here.

At the end of each quarter, I had students give me a grade based on how they felt I did with each of these areas. This grade was given on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. I was hoping for 4s and 5s from every student. Here’s what I received this year, and it was an eye-opener for sure!

Welcoming

1st Quarter: 97.4%

2nd Quarter: 98.2%

3rd Quarter: 90.5%

4th Quarter: 92.5%

Safe

1st Quarter: 93.7%

2nd Quarter: 91.6%

3rd Quarter: 88.3%

4th Quarter: 85.3%

Exciting

1st Quarter: 85.8%

2nd Quarter: 84.4%

3rd Quarter: 80.2%

4th Quarter: 78.5%

Memorable

1st Quarter: 73.3%

2nd Quarter: 69.5%

3rd Quarter: 57.8%

4th Quarter: 56.9% (ouch)

Uncommon

1st Quarter: 82.2%

2nd Quarter: 84.1%

3rd Quarter: 78.3%

4th Quarter: 71.9%

Students were also given the option to anonymously submit comments. Here are some of the comments I received (with no edits).

  • Keep doing what you’re doing it’s great I would just add a couple of actives with what were doing in your class.
  • You should get some last kids on earth books
  • we should have more time in here cause we only see you 1 a mouth
  • I think you should get more have everyone doing something in class.
  • I think that the media class is like other classes but it is made fun.
  • that i reall love her class
  • To have one day when we go to our classes like normal but just play on our phones or do whatever.
  • I love her class and I always get excited when we get to come to the Media Center
  • i love coming to the media center
  • I don’t feel very safe cause there are so many windows.
  • you should let us have free time
  • No because if someone dont feel comfortable about being here she has to change something.
  • Through out the whole year media has been fun ❤
  • I think we should come at least twice a month so I can remember things better.
  • i really think we should have more exciting activitys
  • Do more games that are educational
  • i dont like this class!!!!!!>
  • better time mangagement
  • I want to do something else than what we do already like instead of typing we should do more interactive things like vr and stuff
  • i feel save and welcome its just not that exciting
  • thanks for making your classes fun but serious at the same time
  • I don’t feel as safe because of the class windows, and how easily someone could break in.

So what do I do with this next year? I continue to make students feel welcome in the space, while also pushing to make sure I make our experiences in media more memorable and more uncommon than ever before. I completely agree with the student who mentions “better time management”. Because the majority of my time is co-teaching in other subject areas, I only get 57 minutes per month with students in media classes (which is what this survey is about). I cram as much into those 57 minutes as I can 10 times per year. I realize it can definitely be hard to remember what we did the month before, but I’m going to work even harder to make that happen.

As for the window comment, we are in the front of the school with a large wall of windows and two doors (which remain locked) that lead outside. Our media center feels very open, and for some that openness may feel unsafe. I can’t move windows, but I can provide several areas where those students feel more secure.

I don’t see this as a failure, by any stretch. If 7 out of 10 kids feel that their time in the media center is uncommon and exciting, I’m on the right track! Also worth mentioning, we spent the majority of our time together this year learning research skills, copyright laws, and digital citizenship.

School-Wide Implementation

Finally, I had teachers do this exercise at the beginning of the school year last year. Students then chose words from a drop-down list to see if they could identify which words their teachers used to describe their class. Check out the results here! It was pretty neat to see if students matched their teachers. I found it interesting that our encore teachers showed the same pattern across grade levels! 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students found their classes to be fun, welcoming, creative, challenging, and exciting overall!

What are your five words and how will you determine if your students are buying what you’re selling them?

#DBCBookBlogs: I Want to Be a Lot

Like many kids, I went through multiple career choices before being serious about becoming a teacher in high school. I wanted to be a veterinarian (until I discovered I’m allergic to anything with fur), I wanted to be a marine biologist (until I realized I’m not a great swimmer & not a fan of the ocean), and for most of high school, I wanted to go into the United States Air Force.

I also dreamed of being a singer/songwriter! I used to travel as a teenager singing anywhere they’d let me. My mom took me to Nashville to record a 3-song demo CD when I was 16; the CD is hidden where no one can ever find it. I even traveled to perform on a stage in Ohio at 15 years old. I guess you could say that I wanted to be a lot! Ashley Savage, a 19 year old college student, also wants to be a lot and she gives us permission to dream big in her picture book, I Want to Be a Lot – the 77th book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line (and the 4th picture book)!

IWantToBeALot

Let me first just say that this book is stinking precious and everyone should buy a copy (or two or three) right now! Ashley’s book is BEYOND perfect for graduation gifts! It’s an epic baby gift! I would purchase several copies to give as teacher gifts for your own children’s teachers! It needs to be in every media center in the world! I’m not joking; it’s that precious! My daughters have asked me to read it to them countless times since we received it!

I love this book because it frees our students from having to make up their minds about what they “want to be when they grow up.” Ashley writes, “It’s okay to love a lot of things… The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to give up loving one to pursue the other.” As an adult, that’s liberating! I want to be an educator, a speaker, an educational consultant, and an author when I grow up… and I love that I don’t have to give up loving one to pursue the others! Maybe, just maybe, I can have my cake and eat it, too (as the saying goes).

As for my daughters, the Pre-Kindergarten they attended does a graduation ceremony and one of the questions the children are asked is, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Check out their answers below!

Bailey, 4 years old, PreK graduation (she’s now 10 years old)

Yes… you heard that right! She wanted to be a football player! And you know what? We watched professional football with her every Sunday, Monday night, and Thursday night, as well as college football most Saturdays. What’s precious about this is that she is the most meek, mild-mannered child you’ve ever met!

I asked her tonight what she loved and wanted to explore more and she said that she “loved to read, so maybe a librarian, or an author, or book reviewer”. She also “loved math, so maybe working in a bank, a cashier, or owning a business”. Finally, she “loved animals, so maybe a vet”. It warmed my heart that she didn’t feel that she had to choose one thing. Sometimes she’d get very worried when she didn’t know the answer to that question. Ashley’s book made her feel that it’s perfectly fine to be unsure and I’m so grateful for that.

Bailey’s favorite page of the book:

Sophie, 5 years old, PreK Graduation (she’s now 6 years old)

Ladies and gentlemen… she did say that she wanted to be a horse! As in a four-legged mammal that trots, gallops, and grazes… a h-o-r-s-e. Bless her! We didn’t quite indulge her the way we did Bailey with playing football for obvious reasons, but it certainly made us smile. For the record, she wanted to be a horse until around Christmas last year.

After reading Ashley’s book, she’s decided that she wants to be a photographer! She wants to “take pictures of wild animals in nature”. My sweet husband is determined to find his fancy Nikon DSLR camera before he takes the girls to the zoo in a couple of weeks so Sophie can take pictures of the animals she sees there. She was so excited about taking pictures that she was still smiling as she fell asleep. She may change her mind tomorrow about what she wants to be, but I’ve got to tell you – I’ve always seen her going into the arts somehow. When you meet her, you’ll completely understand! Photography sounds like the perfect fit for her. It’ll be hard to hold the camera with her horse hooves when she magically changes form, though. Bless.

Sophie’s favorite page of the book:

Implementation

The implementation for this one is easy-peasy! I’m buying this book for our middle school media center and using this as our kick-off for passion projects in the fall! The message that Ashley shares is so important for our students (and adults) to hear! You can follow multiple passions and be successful!

The little girl in the illustrations by Genesis Kohler reminds me so much of a student that I teach at school that I’m going to have to purchase a copy for her! Her mannerisms, hair, and indecisiveness are exactly like my student and I can’t wait to share this story with her when we return to school!

You’ve simply got to get a copy of I Want to Be a Lot by Ashley Savage! This fourth* picture book from DBC, Inc is adorable and, true to DBC form, has a wonderful message for both children and adults alike! I can’t wait to see what this 19 year old author Ashley does – and hopefully she won’t choose just one thing; she’s obviously got a TON of talent to share with the world!

*The first three picture books from DBC are Dolphins in Trees by Aaron Polansky, The Princes of Serendip by Allyson Apsey, and Zom-Be a Design Thinker by Amanda Fox!  The titles link to their #DBCBookBlogs posts, and you can find author info on those links.