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: The Princes of Serendip

Do you remember your first car? I remember mine, clearly.

Two-toned – dark blue and gray. 1990. Lexus ES250. Power windows. Sunroof. Decent sound system. While this may sound like luxury to some, looking back I can assure you it was not. I went to school with kids from very wealthy families. There were brand new sports cars, new Jeeps, BMWs, Explorers, etc. in our the spaces of our senior parking lot. My car could be heard from miles away, and the rust was showing and paint was chipping off. The fabric of the interior was hanging from the roof of the car. But to this 16 year old, the windows, sunroof, and sound system worked and it had the “L” on the front grill, so it was better than walking.

Why do I start this blog talking about my first car? Because my mom bought the car for me to drive and made me pay every cent of the car back to her. I remember being so angry. She made me pay for the car and pay for the gas to drive it. (She did pay the insurance.) Very few of my friends were made to pay for their car; their parents paid for it and gifted it to them. Not me. Nope. I got a job at a clothing chain and worked to pay for the car and my gas. Mom always told me that I would appreciate the car more if I worked to pay for it.

Allyson Apsey brings us the 58th book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line of awesome. (At this point, can we really call it anything other than that? I mean, really?) If you’ll remember correctly, Allyson also brought us book 46 as well, The Path to Serendipity. Her newest book, just released a couple of days ago, shares a powerful message in picture book format. Yep – DBC now has TWO children’s books! The Princes of Serendip joins the family and shows us the importance of pride, kindness, and gratitude. The illustrations are absolutely stunning! The illustrator for this book is Molly Blaisdell, and she did a terrific job with the artistry of the princes and their lessons learned.

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Allyson newest book is her own version of the 16th century Persian tale The Three Princes of Serendip. In the original tale (as much as my limited research could bring up), the King questions his three sons about their readiness to take over the role of king and is proud of their answers. He decides they have completed their formal education and sends them out into the village to discover what life is like there to polish their education through real world experiences. The three princes decide to tell the emperor that they saw a camel on the road based on clues from their trip along the road, even though they did not. They are accused to stealing the camel and are sent to jail. Someone finds the camel, and they are released. When questioned about how they knew about the camel so well without ever seeing it, they share their keen observation skills and the emperor is so impressed that he asks them to stay at his guests.

There are several variations of the story as it has been passed down through generations. Find more information here and here. These could easily be adapted to be more appropriate for younger students, if desired.

Allyson’s tale is about the princes discovery of pride, kindness, and gratitude. It is heartwarming and the perfect social-emotional learning book for any home, classroom, or school! Much like with Dolphins in Trees by Aaron Polansky, I immediately started thinking of ways to use this book in a classroom setting. It opens up so many conversation possibilities as a read aloud option!

  • Why do you believe the King was disgusted with his sons?
  • How would you feel as the King?
  • Why do you believe the author chose those three virtues for the princes to discover?
  • Which of these virtues do you believe is the most important?
  • What other virtue would you have them discover?
  • Create a parable (short story) that teaches the princes about the virtue you chose.
  • How would this story be different if it was set in today’s time?

Some terrific opportunities present themselves to create authentic learning and self-reflection from this children’s book as well.

  • Think of someone (or a people, charity, etc) less fortunate than you. Research the day-to-day problems they must overcome, and create a way to help solve their problems.
  • What unfamiliar words do you see? How can we use the context around them to infer their meaning?
  • Serendipity is defined in this book – why do you believe the author shares the origin of the word?
  • What did formal education look like for princes and/or princesses of the medieval times? Compare this to the story.
  • Compare the original tale (or a modified version of the original for younger students, if desired) to Allyson’s story.
  • How do the pictures enhance the story?
  • Illustrate your version of a modern-day Princes of Serendip.
  • Writing prompt: Do you believe Americans are spoiled? (Reference the USA Today article on the Ryder Cup in Paris, Oct 2, 2018)
  • Do you believe you are like the princes? Why or why not?
  • How do the princes change from the beginning of the story to the end of the story?

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I am certain you have many amazing ideas for incorporating this story into your classroom, home, or school! Please share those awesome ideas on the flipgrid that Andrea Paulakovich and I co-pilot.

Follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #PrincesOfSerendip. The most precious video can be found on Facebook and YouTube of Allyson opening the Amazon package of her book for the first time. It is moving to see an author touch a book they have worked so hard to create, and see and hear the pride as they hold the finished product in their hands. Check out the video below (or click here if you have problems viewing)!

This is the perfect book to purchase your child’s teacher and/or librarian in this holiday season! Here is the Amazon link to purchase The Princes of Serendip.

My girls’ reactions after asking me to read it for a second time, scooting closer and closer as I read each page:

My 5 year old: “My favorite part of the book was when the kids worked hard to cheer up their dad when he was sad. Kindness is my favorite and it means to be really nice to another human. It was really sad that the girl got burned. I don’t like fire.”

My 9 year old: “My favorite part of the book was the whole entire thing. I loved it. Kindness is my favorite because there is kindness inside of us and we can be kind to others. I like that they stop ordering their servants around at the end. I love the illustrations.”

So how will I implement this book? The problem of the Princes of Serendip is that everything was handed to them. They were spoiled. I will allow my students to fail and experience defeat. I will encourage them to get back up and try again every single time. It is only through reflecting on our failures that we learn life lessons. When the students I serve are working through a tough BreakoutEDU game, I watch the frustration on their faces. I see them get agitated as they work through the problems; I see them put down a clue, and eventually pick it back up again. I smile at them as they whine and complain that it’s too hard. Then, we celebrate together as they unlock the locks one by one. The pride in themselves is so evident as I hear squealing and laughter throughout the media center. This is part of my why. Allowing students to fail in a controlled, safe environment and encouraging them to persevere and get back up again, determined to succeed, gives them the resilience to get back up again when the stakes are higher.

I’m so excited to see where the DBC, Inc line goes next! Definitely go to the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc website and sign up for their newsletter, if you’ve not already! From the November eNewsletter, it appears that 2/3 of the Start. Right. Now. crew is coming out with a second book titled Stop. Right. Now. I’m intrigued by what Jimmy Casas and Jeff Zoul have in story for us and can’t wait for it to come out! Several books are being transformed into audiobooks in the near future, so watch for those! If you’ve subscribed to their newsletter, you will also receive #SundaySeven which is super cool!

Finally, my mom was right. I do appreciate things more if I work hard for them. (Don’t tell her I said that though.)

#DBCBookBlogs: Balance Like A Pirate

I was intimidated when I started this book. I know I’m imbalanced; I can feel it. I think you can feel it too, when you’re out of balance. If not, take some time to listen to your body.

My shoulders and neck are stiff. My head hurts. I’m not sleeping well. I eat more junk food. My house becomes cluttered. My kids argue with one another and I become very short-tempered. I find myself planning for the next day rather than the next week. Have you been there? Of course you have. If you’ve not, you’re lying. Yep – I just called you out.

We’re educators; imbalance is a way of life. Thankfully, Jessica Cabeen, Jessica Johnson, and Sarah Johnson share their stories in the third Lead Like a Pirate guide book, Balance Like A Pirate.

I knew going into this book that it would be conviction central, and sure enough… I’m riddled with guilt right now. Jessica-squared (this is really how I remember them) and Sarah share stories of their own imbalances, which help with the guilt. They assure us that we will never be at a mathematical balance, where we are exhibiting a 50-50 relationship balance between work and home. In fact, the authors contend that there aren’t only two areas in which to focus. There are four. These are as follows:

  • Personal – Who are you? Outside of your job, what titles do you hold?
  • Positional – What is your role at your job? What pays the bills?
  • Professional – How do you continue to grow and learn your job?
  • Passions – What gets you out of bed?

I took time while reading to dive into these quadrants and define them in my own life. There are some excellent activities the authors share to help us think through where we currently are in our balance, and where each piece of ourselves fits in the quadrants.

Personally, I am a wife, mother, caregiver of a child with Type 1 Diabetes and high functioning autism, daughter, sister, aunt, granddaughter, niece, cousin, Christian, nursery worker, and friend. Positionally, I am a digital learning coach and a media coordinator. I work with teachers and students in my school, as well as partnering with administration to bring about meaningful and sustainable change in our school. I also lead district and state level professional development. I serve on our ISTE state affiliate board of directors and am a Future Ready Thought Leader in Instructional Coaching. Professionally, I read books and connect with my PLN to provide my own growth. #DBC50Summer and #DBCBookBlogs have been the main instrument for growth, in addition to Twitter chats. I enjoy attending edcamps. I attend state level conferences and would like to attend a national or international conference in the near future. Finally, my passions include reading and writing, watching football, and connecting with others.

Like many of you, I’ve got a lot on my plate, so to speak. I drop the ball every day on at least one of these quadrants. I’ve got to get better at this balancing act, and this book was exactly what I needed to help me make small steps to see big changes in each of these areas.

There is so much I enjoyed about reading Balance Like A Pirate. The practical advice at the end was definitely the highlight for me. As a believer in the quote from the Captain himself, “Inspiration without implementation is a waste,” I was thrilled to see the final section devoted to ways to readily implement the ideals and philosophies held within the pages of the book. I will be implementing many of these in the near future. My official implementation plan for this one is a bit different from the ideas given at the end of the book.

When I started my weight-loss journey over a year ago, the first thing my doctor suggested that I do was write down everything I put into my body. If I drank water, write it down; if I put barbecue sauce on my chicken tenders, write that down, etc. I thought this was lame, but realized that I weighed more than I had when I was 9 months pregnant with my youngest daughter and I knew I was in a spiral into depression. So… I documented it all with my FitBit app. What I quickly realized was that I was gaining weight because I was eating nothing but junk. I wasn’t eating much at all, but when I did it was a Snickers bar and Mountain Dew. I was drinking nearly a liter of Mountain Dew every day and absolutely no water. We would go out to eat every night and I would load up on all the starchy vegetables and leave the good stuff out. I would eat a half of a bag of Doritos at 8:00 at night, then wonder why I couldn’t rest well. It was bad, y’all. If I hadn’t written it all down, if I hadn’t taken that step to become aware of what I was doing to myself, I’m not sure that I would be able to tell you that my weight-loss journey has been a huge success. I have lost over 40 pounds in a year and feel better than I’ve felt in a long time. Granted, I’ve gained some of it back in the past few weeks due to excessive amounts of time reading and blogging (ahem, imbalanced much?!), but as part of my EduNinja Mindset implementation plan, I will be getting up early at least 3 days a week to exercise in the mornings. (This hasn’t gone so well yet, but I will get better.)

With this in mind, my implementation for Balance Like A Pirate will be very similar. I will take a pulse of my commitments and my time in each quadrant by writing down what I am doing each day. Every 30-60 minutes, I will take a short pause for reflection writing down which quadrant I have been focused on. If there have been multiple quadrants addressed during that specified time, I will note that. I will do this for at least one week, possibly longer, until I see a clear picture of where I currently stand in the quadrants. I’m not sure which quadrant I’m spending the most time in right now, but it is clear that my personal quadrant is being neglected the most.

If you’re a parent and an educator, you likely feel the same convictions I do when it comes to our own children. My daughters get the worst version of me.  They unwillingly make so many sacrifices because their mom is a committed educator. They need me to be a committed mom. I come home exhausted from answering a million questions, dealing with middle school drama, and pouring my heart out for my students, and there’s just not a lot left when we get home. After working until 4:30-5:00 every evening, we come home to quickly do homework, grab something quick to eat, go to whatever ball practice/game is on the schedule for the night, then come home for showers and bedtime. They deserve better from me. This much is evident without even taking a pulse on where I currently am in my imbalance. Once I see where the majority of my time is being spent, I can better adjust using ANCHOR Goals (described in this book, it’s the equivalent of a SMART goal for balancing our lives) without eliminating my time in the quadrants altogether. I look forward to seeing what comes from my time with this book. I am excited to spend more time with my family, but fearful of what that will do to my professional growth. I’m not going to lie, I’m looking forward to sleeping again, ha!

Also… that freaking out chart… that thing is on point! You’ve got to see this thing in the book! It’s pretty much perfect!

Head on over to the Dave Burgess Consulting website to preview this book! You can follow along with others going on this journey working toward achieving a better balance using the hashtag #BalanceLAP and following Jessica, Jessica, and Sarah. You may also check out their websites! Jessica Cabeen’s is here, Jessica Johnson’s is here, and Sarah’s can be found here. Jessica Johnson’s website has a list of podcasts she has appeared on, as well as her own podcast, Principal PLN. Sarah also includes podcasts and publications here. I highly recommend purchasing this book for yourself and for a friend. Being sure that both of you have a copy gives you the opportunity for immediate accountability partners who will speak the same language. Oddly enough, my accountability partners are people I’ve never even met; you all. You are my accountability partners in that you pushed me to finish #DBC50Summer, and you are currently encouraging me to follow through on the implementation plans I created for that, and the rest of the #DBCBookBlogs and you may not even be aware that you’re inspiring me to complete this journey. But you are. And I appreciate that. Continue to follow along with me. There are only a few books left (I’m sure more will be coming very soon, but at least for now I’ll be caught up).

As always, Andrea Paulakovich (creator of the flipgrid for all DBC, Inc books) and I invite you to share your thoughts on the flipgrid for Balance Like A Pirate.

The next book is Kim Bearden‘s Talk to Me. I’m beyond excited about this one. I have heard that I’m going to love it, so I’m eager to see if it will live up to the hype from my dear friend who suggested it. Also – there’s a special something in store for this blog!!! Stay tuned!