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.


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!


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.


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.


#DBC50Summer Book 31-40 Recap

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I think I can, I think I can, I think I can! Here we are – entering the final stretch for #DBC50Summer with books 41-50. The official end of summer is on September 22 at 9:54 pm EST. Are you thinking there’s no way I can do it? Are you thinking that this lady has less than 14 days to read, develop an implementation, and blog 10 more books? I have a secret! You’ll have to check out the next ten blog posts to find out my secret(s)!

This journey was born out of creative alchemy. I had probably half of the books published by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc on a shelf and came home with five more after meeting Dave in April. I thought my husband would flip his lid when I came home with five more books to essentially fill space on a shelf. I’d wanted to read them, but never had the opportunity. There was always something else to do. I also wanted to get back into blogging. I remembered the growth I experienced the summer that I did the EdTechSummer series on my blog. It reframed my mindset and provided an opportunity to be intentional about viewing “outside” technology as tools for use “inside” of education. Sharing it allowed me to expand my PLN that summer as well. Finally, I desperately wanted new ideas for the new school year. After my students shared their hearts in a survey at the end of the year, I realized that I wasn’t doing all I could to make school the very best experience they could ask for. New ideas would motivate, inspire, and excite me as I prepared for 2018-2019 with them. Put those three things in a cauldron and stir it up… you have the ambitious plan for #DBC50Summer – reading, choosing at least one thing to implement, and blogging reflections about each book. See Summer Recap 1 on books 1-10 here and Summer Recap 2 on books 11-20 by clicking here. Summer Recap 3 on books 21-30 can be found here.

Since I’ve been back at work several have asked why I did this journey with #DBC50Summer. I’ve been given “the alien look” from Kids Deserve It. They want to know why I put so much time into it? “What’s in it for you,” they’d ask.

Seriously? What’s in it for me? It just sounds so selfish. Yes, #DBC50Summer was my idea (an insanely crazy one, but mine nonetheless). But it’s not about me. This has never been about me! This has been about my students, my staff, my school by making myself the best educator I can for them! It’s been about knowing there’s a lifeline out there and grabbing hold with all my might. It’s been about relationships. It’s been about bettering teaching practices. It’s been about inspiration and motivation. It’s been about making 2018-2019 the very best school year I possibly can for those around me. It’s not about me. It’s about them. Dave Burgess has his six words that drive him crazy… I guess I have my own version now… five little words.






Well… if you really want to know – here’s what was in it “for me” as they say.

*#DBC50Summer is in order of release dates according to authors, blogs, and tweets. This was intentional so I didn’t just grab the books I was interested in reading first and neglect the others. There have been so many books that surprised me – books I probably wouldn’t have read due to content that was seemingly irrelevant to my current position. Now I can look back on the past 40 books and say that they were all relevant.*

31 – Ditch That Homework by Matt Miller & Alice Keeler: Giving students an authentic audience pulls them deeper into the learning. Homework isn’t a bad thing if it’s relevant to the student. It’s not about the philosophy of homework, but the type of homework given. If my homework after reading these books was to fill out a worksheet sharing the title, author, theme, conflict, setting, etc, I would have never even started. I have an authentic audience and am making the content relevant to my world.

32 – The Four O’Clock Faculty by Rich Czyz: Giving teachers opportunity to have choice and voice in their professional development makes a world of difference in attitude and experience for adults, just as giving students choice and voice does the same. Reflecting on the best professional development I’ve had, it’s been voluntary, collaborative, relevant, and has had some sort of follow-up. This book gives oodles of examples to make PD better for educators by taking charge of your own learning.

33 – Culturize by Jimmy Casas: This entire book was an eye-opener. It tore me apart, then put me back together. It’s a must-read for every educator. It makes us take responsibility on the individual level for the culture of our schools. Rather than complaining about our culture, if we start with the “(wo)man in the mirror,” we can make effective change toward a positive environment for students and staff alike.

34 – Code Breaker by Brian Aspinall: I am fortunate to be able to provide my students and teachers with incredible opportunities to develop coding skills through robotics, computer science discoveries, and MinecraftEdu. We have evolved way beyond “Hour of Code” and are starting to work toward coding being about the critical thinking and problem solving. This book gave me multiple ideas for lessons as I work with teachers to create cross-curricular project-based learning opportunities for students.

35 – The Wild Card by Wade and Hope King: Every student has been dealt a different hand in the cards of life. How can we be that wild card for them to make their hand better, not worse? How can we give them the extra boost to get to the next round? There are no excuses for mediocrity. I should want to go all out for my students, doing everything I can to make middle school the best years they’ve ever had. What advantage can I give each student and teacher I work with?

36 – Stories from Webb by Todd Nesloney: So I’m going to write a book. This book is about my epic fails in teaching – from fails with parents, other teachers, administrators, and my students. We all know that hIndsight is 20/20, but what should I do differently next time? What could other teachers learn from my failures? What could they identify with and realize someone else has done something similar? Todd and his teachers, parents, wife, and other stakeholders inspired me with their stories, and I look forward to writing mine. It may never see the light of day in its entirety, only living on my Google Drive. Some of it will likely work its way into a new blog series though! Stay tuned!

37 – The Principled Principal by Jeff Zoul and Anthony McConnell: I have to be the calming voice of reason when others are in a frenzy. When people talk to me when they feel as though they are in a hurricane, I should be the eye of the storm, calm and peaceful. Hopefully I can help with whatever is on their mind, but if not, I certainly don’t need to add to the wind and rain, but be their few moments of sunshine. This was one of the unexpected gems of DBC for me. With no desire to be an administrator, I expected to get nothing from this one. Instead, I identified with almost every single chapter in the book! Don’t let “Principal” scare you; it’s about leadership, and if you’re an educator, you’re a leader.

38 – Google Apps for Littles by Christine Pinto and Alice Keeler: If you get nothing more than logistically managing devices from this book, that’s enough! Christine blows my mind with all that her transitional kindergarten students (four and five year olds) can do! This book is about believing in kids. Give them the opportunities to prove they can do something rather than shutting the technological door as they walk up to it. So many excellent strategies and tools in this book, no matter the age of the student!

39 – The Limitless School by Abe Hege and Adam Dovico: These North Carolina boys brought the house down with their book. Removing limitations by breaking down barriers is what Abe and Adam do. They show you how to do it, too! Another must-read for all who want to improve the culture of their school for your students and staff – and let’s face it. We should all want to improve.

40 – The EduProtocol Field Guide by Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo: I loved my second trip into this book! Listening to my students’ feedback, I knew I needed to revamp some of my media lessons and I’m thrilled to have read this the weekend before having my first media lessons of the year. Overhauling this week’s lessons, with the help of Marlena herself, to include Smart Starts and fast-paced mini-lessons has me enthusiastic about heading back to work tomorrow! It’s a fresh start and an immediate look into things to come for students and staff from my #DBC50Summer journey.

Well… isn’t that interesting? Every single one of those books gave me something to change, do, or continue doing for my students and teachers. What’s in it for me looks pretty good if you’re a teacher or student that I have the privilege of serving, doesn’t it?

If you want to see what’s in it for you by hopping on the #DBC50Summer journey with me, do it! You don’t have to commit to reading the first 50 books published by DBC! You can read just one! Just one book and implement something you learned. Share your reflections, your implementation plan, and then reflect on it upon completion. It’s that easy!

That leads me to two things I need your help with!

A) The flipgrid that Andrea Paulakovich and I are copiloting is silent. When Andrea mentioned this digital space for global collaboration for all DBC books, I was blown away by her creativity! Still am! Would love to have your thoughts added to the flipgrids. We will release the link to the grid itself once we are finished with the books and blogs. (We’ve also got a couple of awesome things in the works so stay tuned for that, too!) For now, you can use my implementation plan which includes the links to individual topics within the flipgrid!

B) Summer is over in less than 2 weeks. I will finish the final 10 books in the first 50 books published by DBC. I have no plans to stop reading, reflecting, and implementing something from DBC books after book 50. There are incredible books waiting to be read and shared after book 50! So how do we rebrand #DBC50Summer? Help me think! Tweet out your ideas for a new hashtag that can remain relevant no matter the season or book number, or add your ideas in the comments below.

When I started this journey in June, I had no idea what it would look like. I figured no one would ever read these posts, and that it would essentially become a notebook of reflections that I could refer back to as needed when supporting teachers and students. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined my summer would turn out the way it has. My PLN is incredible. Absolutely, mind-blowingly (not a word, I know), insanely spectacular! I am beyond thankful for each person who has read even one word, tolerated my incessant tweets (and e-mails for those who are subscribed to receive emails for each new blog), encouraged me, and supported me. You have inspired so much growth through your conversations and kind words and I can never thank you enough. But it’s not time to get sappy yet. This isn’t the acceptance speech, because we’re not finished yet.

Just as the first 40 were, these last 10 are for my students and staff. What’s in it for them?

Ten books, less than 14 days… and I’ve got a secret. Let’s go!

#DBC50Summer 39/50: The Limitless School

Fun fact: I’ve never been able to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Ever. I like to mess them up for others to solve though.

I have watched students take a randomized cube and get all the colors back together within a minute or two. There is clearly a pattern… one that I do not understand. Finally a student showed me a particular Rubik’s Cube Solver online & it changed my life. Okay, that may be an exaggeration. It is pretty cool though. On the site, you position the cube on a table in the same manner as the image on the screen. Then, simply fill in the colors on the digital cube to match what you see on the physical cube. Clicking solve will then show you step-by-step directions (with animation) to solve the Rubik’s Cube!

Reading Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books this summer has been like that Rubik’s Cube Solution website. This is my 13th year in education, and I’ve never felt like I had it all together. I may have felt successful in one area similar to the way we can get one side with matching colors on a Rubik’s Cube. After feeling accomplished for about 2.2 seconds, I turn the cube over and realize what a hot mess the rest of the cube is still in. This summer of growth has shown me ways to bring many of my thoughts together. It has allowed me to become grounded in who I am, both personally and professionally. It has helped me find my voice through blogging. It is helping me define my passions and my short- and long-term goals. It’s like I put the colors on a screen and clicked solve. Each book I’ve read has been a shift in the cube that further aligns my thoughts, passions, and goals.

Book 39 is no exception. The Limitless School, written by Abe Hege and Adam Dovico, uses the metaphor of a Rubik’s Cube to highlight creative ways to solve (or continue to strengthen) your school’s culture puzzle.

…Oh… and Limitless… it’s an acronym. (Of course it is!)

I have really grown to enjoy reading the forewords of these books! Beth Houf, co-author of Lead Like A Pirate, nails it in the first two pages! She says, “Culture isn’t something you do to people; it is the bedrock of any school campus…Culture first, culture next, culture always.” This is one of my favorite parts of the book written by Beth & Shelley Burgess so I was thrilled to see it here.

Typically, I do not spoil the acronyms provided in the book, but this one needs to be shared. (You can preview the first chapters here!)

  • Leader

  • Impressions

  • Marriage

  • Integrity

  • Time

  • Limelight

  • Educate Yourself

  • Success

  • Set Goals

That’s impressive, right? Abe and Adam discuss how each of these topics play a huge role in creating and strengthening a positive school culture. Trusting others, and being trustworthy yourself, are key components, both for students and staff of a school. Integrity is what you’re doing when no one else is watching. Traditions are also discussed within the book. When I started the pilot position at the STEM magnet middle school I serve, I wanted to give students a reason to come to the media center. I wanted a way to display the community effort that our school needed to be successful. Because I’ve always been a fan of puzzles (and I lucked up and found a beautiful puzzle of wild horses on Amazon for insanely cheap), I put a 1,500-piece puzzle on a table in the media center. At first, no one touched it. I put together a few pieces here and there, and a few 8th graders started venturing into the media center in the mornings to put a piece or two in. Before we knew it, the edges were complete. By then, other teachers within the school saw the puzzle at faculty meetings. They said there was no way we’d finish the puzzle with all 1,500 pieces remaining. That students would steal pieces, or pieces would drop and be sucked up by those amazing school vacuum cleaners (They pick up everything! I’d love to bring one home with me one day and see what it can do on our carpets!) I felt kind of defeated because I wanted to see the good in the students and I wanted to believe they would take pride in this puzzle that showcased their school mascot.

It took nearly 4 months. The final piece went into the puzzle and the 8th graders who had worked so hard on it looked completely…lost. They had finished the puzzle, but rather than feeling a sense of accomplishment, I believe they dreaded taking it apart to put back in the box. We devised a plan and that puzzle is now a focal point in our media center – matted by a black science fair board cut to fit the space within a stunning oversized frame that I found at 60% off one day! As for the 1,500 pieces… every single piece was there. Not one went missing over the entire 4 months!

This has become a tradition in our school. We’ve even purchased sorting trays for the pieces and I have kept one large rectangle table specifically to be the “puzzle table”. When each 8th grade finishes their puzzle, they want it on the wall immediately. I’ve already purchased the frame for this one! The 8th grade puzzle is at least 1,000 pieces and I select the image that I believe represents the 8th grade class as a whole. We just finished our second week of school and already three different 8th graders have come to me asking when the puzzle is going to be put out for them to work on! I will unveil it to our 8th graders next week and students can begin the excitement of seeing it come together the following week! I can’t wait to share it with you, as well! (Hint: It’s part of a #DBC50Summer implementation… when I saw this one, I knew I had to make a little twist to the original plan & I am so thrilled to share when it is finished!)

The section of the book that really touched my heart was Educate Yourself. Yes, it’s about lifelong learning, but also about so much more! The rural area in which I live is very much at the heart of the Bible Belt. There’s a church on every corner, and on Sunday afternoon, if you aren’t in your “Sunday best” at “the Walmart” you get the side-eye, judge-y look from others still wearing theirs with pride (some of you know exactly what I’m talking about). I will choose not to get on my soap box right now about these things, but will just suffice to say that I do not believe it is my place to judge others and I do believe it is my duty as a Christian to love my neighbor (others). That’s everyone; not just those that belief the same way I do, those that look the same way I do, those with the same lifestyle I have. Everyone. And that’s exactly what I try to do on a daily basis. (And also, at my church, we wear jeans and t-shirts. It doesn’t make me any less of a Christian. Just saying.)

Last year I conducted a survey asking for students’ honest opinion about their experiences in middle school. I was blown away by their maturity and thoughtfulness in answering the questions honestly and respectfully. A few of my students noted that the LGBTQ community was bullied, that they wished homophobic terms would be reprimanded in the same way as racial slurs, and that they would like more representation in the books available in the media center. Here is one response from a student:

“Schools need to be aware of mental health, and awareness for bullying (homophobia, transphobia, racism, fascism, sexism, etc). Teachers need to stand up for their students when they are getting bullied. For example, if a teacher hears things like “that’s gay”, “fag***” and the n word (coming from someone who is not black) they should say something. People have been fighting for rights for years now, and I want to (and others too) to come to school and feel safe and be accepted for who you are no matter your race, religion, sexuality, or gender.” -8th grader

That’s powerful, y’all. To be sure I advocate for this voice and better the experience of my students, I need to educate myself. I need to seek out books they can read and identify with the characters. I need to allow my students to connect with like-minded peers. Anytime I attend an edcamp and I see a session on equality, equity, culture responsiveness, etc I do all I can to attend that session. It is, without fail, the most open and honest conversations I’ve ever been part of. I need to provide my students the opportunity to engage in those open and honest conversations that I learn and grow from. I need to provide those books with characters they relate to, and those like-minded peers. Each student should have a positive role model that reminds them of themselves.

I LOVE this video explaining privilege! We should all check ours!

That’s where my implementation comes into play, I believe. I want to provide positive diverse role models through book selection and research in the media center. It’s a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’d rather take a multiple small steps forward than one large step too quickly and risk backward movement. I’ve mentioned an open genius hour as a #DBC50Summer implementation. (Read more here in the post about The Wild Card by Wade & Hope King) Through reading Pure Genius by Don Wettrick, I learned that modeling and structuring the first genius hour is important to the success of future genius hours. I could confine the genius hour topics to be about the qualities of a positive role model & selecting a role model with which the student can identify. These positive role models, selected by students, can then be shared via whatever platform/tool the student desires and discussed among those in attendance. Remember, it’s open to any and all, so there may be 50 or 2; I’m honestly not sure. I’m taking a risk here & building the plane as we fly it. Finally, students can determine if we have any books by or about that person, and if we need purchase some. We will find creative ways to fund these new books & offer a display of diverse positive role models when the books arrive, and make them available for circulation.

I knew this book wouldn’t steer me in the wrong direction! Abe and Adam are located only about an hour from me and I’d love to visit their schools! Watching their tweets is so inspiring and I love the energy in their schools that is evident through social media. (Side note: Abe started his journey as principal of an elementary school this year, so it’s been awesome watching him develop the culture in a new school using the same strategies outlined in his book!) You can follow along too by following Abe and Adam at @abehege and @adamdovico, respectively. Also see what others are doing with their limitless schools using the hashtag #LimitlessSchool. Adam’s website is here. Teach Me Teacher podcast interviewed Adam about The Limitless School. You can see that here in part 1 and part 2.

If you want to change the culture of your school, and want practical ways to make it happen and quantitative data to prove it’s working, you need to grab a copy of The Limitless School!

As always, feel free to add to (or start) the discussion on flipgrid! This global collaboration space for all DBC, Inc books was the brain-child of Andrea Paulakovich, who fell in love with the idea of #DBC50Summer early in the process and ran with it! I’m so thankful to be connected to her, and you should get connected, too!

Rereading book 40 tomorrow! This book was released less than 6 months ago and has taken education by storm! I mean, who doesn’t love a good protocol, right? Especially when they’re a bit silly! Can’t wait to share my favorite protocols from The EduProtocol Field Guide by Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo in the next #DBC50Summer blog post! I think the implementation will be fairly obvious…