#DBCBookBlogs: Block Breaker

My oldest daughter and Minecraft are the roughly same age. In May 2009, Minecraft (Classic 0.0.10a) was released and in June 2009, Bailey was born. Take a minute to guess which one held my focus that year…

It wasn’t until 2014 that Minecraft really got my attention. Lucas Gillispie came to my district talking about this video game with blocks and creepers and that I definitely needed to get this going in my school. Um… no, thank you. However, after a “quick” (aka 2+ hour) Skype session while downloading Minecraft and getting into the inevitable flow state that ensues, I was hooked. I, too, wanted to break “just one more block”. He was right… I needed to get this going in my school. I saw so many possibilities in classrooms! Minecraft Club became a thing, classes started using MinecraftEdu to teach volume, coordinate grids, perimeter, area, setting, etc and I was in love. We even had our 4th grade classes create our state as their culminating product for their research project. Read more about that in an earlier blog post here.

So when Brian Aspinall asked me if I would be interested in endorsing his book Block Breaker, I immediately said yes! I loved it the first time I read it and couldn’t wait to have my hands on the final product. Now YOU get to read it, too!

SPOILER ALERT… It’s NOT really about Minecraft!

BlockBreaker

Because I could literally write a book about the goodness of this book, I’m going to attempt to stay focused by sharing my tweets and a quick thought… we’ll see how this goes, okay?

It’s here!

I was so excited to finally get my copy! Of course, Brian is the sweetest person and rather than celebrating that his book was out, the first thing he told me to do was find my name. I’ve got to admit; it’s the first time I’ve seen my name in print like that, which really tripped me out a bit. I shared it with my students and they were pumped because it’s a Minecraft book, which automatically gave me street cred as a “cool teacher”. Thanks for that, Brian! LOL!

Hello, World

Oh my goodness! Brian just puts it out there as soon as you start reading! We’re not even in Chapter 1 yet and he’s already inspiring, encouraging me to push beyond any limits that I have placed on myself and others.

Chapter 1

Brian tells a story in chapter 1 that touches my heart. His “why”; his reason behind using Minecraft in the classroom is one that you will want to read again and again. It brought tears to my eyes and challenged me to consider what else I can do to reach every student I encounter. Brian specifically states:

“This book isn’t really about Minecraft; it’s about personalizing learning and meeting each student’s educational needs.”

Chapter 2

Specifically speaking to math and Minecraft, Brian gives an abundance of evidence as to why this video game is the way to reach students. Best part: as educators, we don’t have to know a thing about how to play Minecraft! Let the kids teach each other!

Chapter 3

So this chapter escalates quickly! Check out the blog post that inspires the controversial topics Brian discusses here! It’s all good… REAL good!

Chapter 4

So this chapter is as close as it gets to becoming a Minecraft book. Redstone is in the title of the chapter. But what this chapter is really about, is 1:1 relationships, getting to know your kids on such a level that you’re not focusing on their weaknesses, but on their strengths as a way to improve their weaknesses.

Chapter 5

I loved this chapter for two reasons.

  1. Brian discusses the difference between computational thinking, computer science, and coding. Those three words are not all interchangeable; they do not reference the same things.
  2. There’s an interview with Steve Isaacs. The aforementioned Lucas introduced me to Steve several years ago via Twitter and I got to meet Steve face-to-face at a Minefaire two summers ago. Super awesome guy doing pretty epic things! Go check him out on Twitter.

Chapter 6

Mic. Drop.

Chapter 7

Brian doesn’t just share this thoughts in this chapter (although, for my money, his thoughts are research enough for me…), he shares research. He takes me back to my educational psychology class (that I wish I had paid more attention in), back to the teaching of Piaget. Giving students the opportunity to get their hands dirty, both figuratively and literally, allows them to connect with content. Giving them choice provides them with the opportunity for ownership. Brian even says it breaks down walls to provide equity. Wow!

Chapter 8

You’ve heard of something being a “labor of love” (or a “labour of love” as a shout-out to my sweet friends outside of the US)… that’s what this chapter focuses on. #DBC50Summer was so much Hard Fun that I chose to continue it with #DBCBookBlogs. It can be tough – finding the time to read the books and write about them. Not only devising a plan to implement, but then finding the time in my schedule to implement it… but you know what? I LOVE IT! It’s exciting and I’m growing. When I grow professionally, others around me grow as well. It’s Hard Fun.

Chapter 9

Feedback vs Grades… this is a big topic in my book, not my figurative book, lol. My actual book. I have been in a position without grading for three years and I love it. I give feedback. Students share their projects with me, not because they want the “A” or because they “have to”, but because care what I think. I could talk for days about grades and how they are for the parents. What baffles me is that educators feel that grades are unfair, students hate grades, parents get upset about grades… it seems like so much focus is on “the grade”… I wonder what would happen if GPA information was eliminated from college/university admissions? Just thinking out loud.

Chapter 10

What does your class culture say? What’s the best way to find out? Ask your students! Ask them tomorrow! Support them. Maybe you think you are, but it’s not coming across to them that way. Their perception is their reality.

Implementation & Final Thoughts

As I said, this book really isn’t about Minecraft at all. There are Minecraft ideas embedded throughout and lots of examples of how Minecraft applies to various topics at hand, but this book is so much more than a “how-to”. If you’re not a gamer, please don’t let that stop you from purchasing this book! It’s a short, very fast read and has sooooo much ooey-gooey goodness for educators that I’d hate for anyone to miss out because you’re “not a gamer”. (I see you with Candy Crush on your phone, btw…)

I am in the middle of a PBL with my sweet friend and colleague Holli Hudson (7th grade math teacher) in which students are designing a dog park and creating it in Minecraft. I will write a blog about it (and our past PBLs using Minecraft, which are pretty incredible) as my implementation for Block Breaker.

By the way, if you’ve been sitting here the entire time wondering why you know the name Brian Aspinall, it’s because he wrote Code Breaker (DBC Book 34). With two amazing books already out, I feel a trilogy coming on and I can’t wait to see what he shares with us next!

You should definitely check out Brian’s Instagram because his stories are on fire (his random airport air drops are everything) and he shares his travels with his followers. For a limited time, Brian is offering his Scratch Coding course for free. I’m not sure how long this offer will last, so jump on it now. Finally, check out Brian’s website here and his TEDx Talks here. (While you’re at it, go ahead and subscribe to Brian’s YouTube channel here.)

As always, there is a flipgrid to share reflections and ideas. Huge thank you to Andrea Paulakovich for allowing me to copilot this space for global collaboration on every Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc book ever. Be brave, take risks, be the first to create a video! It’s the PIRATE way, right?!

Why are you still here?! Go get Brian’s book, Block Breaker!

#DBCBookBlogs: A Passion for Kindness

Holding open a door. Saying hello to a stranger. Stopping by a fellow teacher’s classroom during your planning period to see if they need anything. Offering to cover recess or lunch or car or bus duty for someone who seems a bit overwhelmed this week.

All free. All require very little effort. All require 25(ish) minutes or less of your time. All are amazing acts of kindness that we can do for others. All sound like exactly the kind of thing Tamara Letter, author of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc book 65 – A Passion for Kindness, would do!

PassionforKindness

Having been a huge fan and follower of Tamara for a while, I was so excited to see her book released on Valentine’s Day. Her tweets and Instagram feed scream positivity, kindness, and compassion for others and I just couldn’t wait to get into her book and learn more about her. Through DMs on Twitter, I knew we shared similar struggles. Sure enough, as I read through her experiences of miscarriages and the loss of friends way too early, I sat with tears streaming down my face. Then, as I read about the kind acts that promoted healing and the compassion she was shown and the families of the lost loved ones were shown, the tears came again. This book is beautifully penned and oh-so-touching. One doesn’t have to be an educator to appreciate Tamara’s stories; one only needs to be human.

When I was a sophomore in high school, one of my sweet friends, Brittany, was killed in a car accident. We played softball together, we were cheerleaders, we were both going to be teachers. She was a year older than me in school, her mother worked in our front office, and her younger cousin and I were in the same grade and were best of friends. I will never forget that day; it was like a bad dream that I will relive over and over again. Every February 15 I wake up filled with dread knowing that something isn’t right, then I see a calendar. This year, on February 15, my copy of A Passion for Kindness arrived at my front door.

Like every other DBC book I’ve read, it was exactly the right book at exactly the right time. You see, every year on February 15, I have sent Brittany’s mother a message on facebook letting her know that I was thinking of her, I loved her, and share a happy memory of Britt. This is the first year I wasn’t able to do that. Brittany’s mother passed away unexpectedly in November. I was lost. I didn’t know how to handle my grief this year because sending Brittany’s mom a message was a way to grieve, and her mom had shared that it was a way for her to heal as well. Midmorning, I decided to message her younger sister: “Hey P – usually I send your sweet mama a message today to tell her that I’m thinking about you all and that I love y’all so much and today I feel a little lost because I can’t send your mama a message. Your family has always meant so much to me. I remember cheerleading practice with Britt, throwing you up in different stunts with her while your mama would just shake her head at us. I love you to pieces sweet girl. You & your daddy are in my thoughts and prayers today & every day. Brittany certainly isn’t forgotten, and your mom won’t ever be either. Both of them live in your sweet smile and beautiful spirit. Love you!”

I wasn’t sure how it would be received. P was so young when Britt passed and her mom’s passing is still so raw and new that I was worried I may have upset her.  Late that afternoon I received back, “Oh thank you so very for sending me this!! Britt touched so many people, and loved everyone! Her and mom are in a wonderful place and I know they are both watching over us all! And one day we all will be reunited together!”

Throughout her book, Tamara speaks about wanting to be certain that those who hear the stories know she is never trying to put the spotlight on herself, but on kindness because she has a real PASSION for Kindness! I believe her wholeheartedly! I share that story, not because I ever want anyone to say anything positive about me, but because someone may be in a similar situation and have the same worries I did about how a message would be received, or how to grieve, and maybe even is it still okay to grieve all these years later. Tamara shares story after story of kindness, and highlights so many others throughout her book in sections of Kindness Cultivators! She truly makes the world a better place to Lead, Love, and Learn and gives her readers the tools (garden tools even) to create the same environments in their own classrooms, schools, and communities. Please do yourself a favor and get this book! It’s heartwarming, beautiful, and inspiring!

Implementation

So…. I may, or may not, have already implemented this book… okay… I did.

Back in early January, Karen Caswell (@kcasw1) sent me a message about being a host class for a Kindness Read Aloud in February called #KindnessCrewCRSS. My students were so excited to join in and eventually we chose The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig. We implemented this Kindness Read Aloud this past week and had a blast reading answers from around the world; schools from Canada, Australia, and the United States joined in to answer our questions, and all of our students also answered the questions via Google Form. It was great to have time to discuss acts of kindness. Finally, each student was tasked with thinking of one act of kindness they had witnessed someone else do (adult or student) or completed themselves while on school campus. They wrote them on index cards and turned them in. On Monday, I will finish our newly decorated bulletin board by putting these examples of acts of kindness on the board as a constant reminder to Be The Good! This intentional focus on kindness throughout the remainder of the school year and beyond will be our continued implementation of Tamara’s book.

Tamara’s heart is good as gold. Everyone has rough days and I am sure she is no different. I feel certain that those closest to her know that there are days that she gets down and out, frustrated with the system and all the things that frustrate the rest of us. What I love most about her is that she doesn’t let it keep her down and that’s not what she chooses to share publicly. She is clearly compassionate, kind, generous, loving, and always doing what she can to make the world a better, more positive place to be. I can’t wait to give her a big hug for that! By the way – if you do nothing else… check out this precious video of her getting to hold her book for the first time… you see her joy coming through and it’ll make you want to rush out and buy your own copy! Trust!

One of my favorite things from the book is the sketchnotes from, not only Tamara herself (you should see the tomato, y’all – it’s precious), but also from THE Julie Woodard! I have been a fan of Julie’s work for a LONG time – you’ve seen it all over Twitter; she did a beautiful job taking Tamara’s words and bringing them to life in the book! If you want more from Tamara, check out her website here! As always, you’re welcome to contribute to the flipgrid, which the amazing Andrea Paulakovich allows me to co-pilot with her. This was her incredible idea when #DBC50Summer started back in June 2018, a space for global reflection for every DBC book. There will be a prompt, but you certainly don’t have to stick to it! Just share something awesome you got from the book!

Below are tweets, tweets, and more tweets from the book. I made myself quit tweeting about halfway through the book so I could finish it. HA! You’ll have the same problem; I promise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See what I mean… I had to MAKE myself stop tweeting about the book! So so so good! Go grab your copy so you aren’t missing out! A Passion for Kindness is the perfect 65th book!

My #OneWord2019

Last year my community group from my church did a book study on the book My One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen. It was the first time I’d ever heard of using one word to define the year, and I loved it! I rarely made New Year’s Resolutions because I knew I wouldn’t keep them, no matter how good my intentions were. The idea of only needing to remember one word was intriguing to me.

Last year, my word was moderation. I laugh every time I think of that being my word because reading 60 professional development books would likely be considered anything except moderation. My reason for choosing that word was that it applied to many aspects of my life. Financial moderation, moderation in eating unhealthy foods, moderation at work, etc, etc. I’m a bit obsessive when I put my mind to something. My focus is laser-like (to a fault) when it comes to achieving my goals. If I want something, I will push and push until I get it or until I’ve exhausted all options.

Jokingly I mentioned that I had failed miserably at my word for 2018 during a #MakeItReal Twitter chat. Denis Sheeran (author of Instant Relevance) shared this with me.

When he reframed it, I couldn’t help but agree that my epic fail was actually success through a different lens. (Thanks, Denis!) Also, I lost 40 pounds in 2018 and managed to make fairly decent financial decisions! Yay!

2018 was a year to remember for sure! Many amazing things happened, like being elected to the NCTIES Board of Directors, celebrating 12 years of marriage with my husband, meeting Dave Burgess, growing through #DBC50Summer, presenting about #BookSnaps, Twitter, and NCWiseOwl throughout my state, attending Badge Summit in Chicago, taking our family on a Disney cruise, and connecting with all of you, as well as some trials and setbacks, like our youngest daughter being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. With 2018 being so amazing, I really questioned how 2019 was going to top it.

Then, my word for the year practically fell in my lap. Now, I know how 2019 will top this year! I will connect with others!

connect

I will connect on a deeper level with the students and teachers I serve. I will connect students with curriculum by making it relevant. I will connect my students with other students from across the world. I will connect with my family by spending more quality time with them. I will connect with my PLN through Twitter chats and on Instagram. The part I’m most excited about is connecting face-to-face with people in my PLN. I can’t wait to see the incredible educators of NC at NCTIES in March. I’m hoping to attend an event in Houston this spring, and am begging my husband to let me go to ISTE in Philadelphia. I have absolutely no idea how we will be able to afford it (the aforementioned Disney cruise pretty much drained any savings we had, but it was oh-so-worth-it), and I am definitely a country girl. Being in the city makes me so anxious – I need wide open spaces and pastures with cows, haha. But if being in the city gives me the opportunity to meet some of my absolute most favorite people, I will smile through the busyness of the city & get after it! Now… anyone have suggestions for getting to ISTE for cheap? HA!

I can’t wait to connect with each of you! If any of you are ever planning to be within driving distance of North Carolina (anywhere around north of Atlanta, NC, SC, TN, VA, and even parts of western KY), let me know! I love taking a road trip & will do everything I can to meet you for dinner! And if you’re speaking at a public event around here, send me a DM!!! I totally want to learn from you in person!

Here’s to 2019, friends! Let’s go get it!