#DBCBookBlogs: Beyond Us

Every once in a while I will read a book that has so much heart and soul dripping from the words that I can’t help but to tear up while reading it. The 78th book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line is one of those books. The best part is that it’s a picture book and can inspire empathy in our children through the author’s words and the illustrator’s images. Meet Beyond Us by Aaron Polansky with illustrations from Rin Rezendes.

BeyondUs

This true story tells of a young lady who asks for $50 from her father so she can go shopping with her friends (promising to return everything she purchases). Aaron shares with us the battles of wanting to fit in and treating others with kindness. The daughter then thinks of several students in her school who needed kindness and chooses to spend the money in a way that shows acceptance and love toward others. You’ll need to grab a copy of the book to see what it is that she does and how she models kindness and acceptance of others.

The words are amazing, and the illustrations are breath-taking! Rin is a student and he has placed many subtle messages for us in his images! Check out more in this article from Sippican Week, a newspaper in southern Massachusetts!

Do you see the tip of the hat to the LGBTQ community here? There’s stuff like this everywhere in this book!  (I also LOVE that quote!)

In the foreword, Aaron brings so much passion and truth in two short pages! He says,

“…be brave and love who you are, love what you do, and help others do the same.”

“We all have the ability to change the world for the better.”

“Ask without judging. Check in – not just with students…”

“In a profession like education with no shortage of acronyms, I consider ‘RUOK’ to be the most important four letters for educators to remember.”

The timing of this book could not be more perfect. I want to share a moment with you, but I need you to promise to finish the entire blog before judging. Okay?

Okay.

§§§

I grew up in a very spiritual, religious, conservative home. In our home, homosexuality was not acceptable. It was an abomination. Insert scripture here, judgment there, and finish off with overall negativity and shunning over here.

As I became aware of my own emotions and opinions, I realized that while I didn’t quite “accept” the lifestyle, I didn’t believe it was worth alienating other people. I was of the mindset that if it didn’t impact me directly, it wasn’t that big of a deal. When issues of homosexuality and gender identity came on the news, I’d just turn the channel. I’ve never considered myself to be homophobic, I just didn’t have a personal reason to be involved. And I didn’t understand it.

Then, I transitioned to teaching middle school. I found myself in situations where students were choosing to come out, and of all people, I was the first person they told!  When I looked into the eyes of children I had known for years and saw their anguish and their fears of how I would react, yet trusting me with something so important to them – it tore me apart. While I still don’t understand (and can never truly understand because I’ve never experienced it myself), I now have a personal reason to be involved.

These students are my kids. They are worth love and respect. I accept them. The first student who came out to me told me in a survey response that just gave them the space to share anything on their mind. It only took about 5 seconds for me to decide how I felt about it. I immediately found them in the school and took them to the side. I told them that I’d seen the response to the survey question and gave them a big hug! I told them that I accepted them and if they ever needed anything, they are always welcome in the media center.  ::cue tears::

A few months ago, a student shared with me that she preferred to be called by a masculine name (no longer using her ‘dead name’) and wanted pronouns “he/him/his” used. That night I stopped at a bookstore and bought two copies of The Art of Being Normal and he and I read that book together. I learned so much about the transgender community and continue to learn more every day. Many of my students are members of the LGBTQ community and they need to know they are accepted and loved. One way I can show that is by learning about social norms within the community and doing what I can to eliminate my own ignorance.

It’s not about me and my opinions; it’s not even about them. It’s helping others to understand that we are “us”. I am a straight Christian teacher, and I support the LGBTQ community. I believe that we are called to love one another, period. God does not call us to love one another unless they are different from you.

Love. One. Another.

My implementation for this book is simple. I will continue to advocate for students in the LGBTQ community in my small town in rural North Carolina. This fight is not just their fight anymore. It’s ours, and I stand with them. I hope you will do the same.

Beyond Us is a powerful example of love, acceptance, and what the world could possibly look like if we see the value in every person. Check out Aaron‘s latest blog post here. He outlines some incredible discussion starters and ideas to incorporate from the book! Also check out his first picture book (& DBC, Inc’s first picture book), Dolphins in Trees! Below is a sneak peek with Aaron and Rin. I love their interaction here! It’s clear how important they are to one another.

I do not share this post to invite criticism and hate, so if you’re bringing that, take it back with you. Don’t come at me with that. The world is full of hate, especially on social media lately. Sometimes my feed reflects people that are being plain cruel to others, and I follow educators!!! I ask that you simply love, show compassion, empathy, and acceptance. Our world needs more of that. And to start showing more compassion, empathy, and acceptance, grab a couple of copies of Beyond Us and share with your friends! This true story truly does have implications for all of us! Well-done, Aaron, Rin, and the DBC, Inc crew!

What Happens After A Year of Twitter Chats?

What Happens after a year of twitter chats_

Spoiler alert: Growth! That’s what happens!

Well, that’s the short answer anyhow. As my #DBC50Summer implementation of Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank, I chose to participate in at least three Twitter chats per month in order to keep connected during the school year. Normally I drop out of the “Twittersphere” when school is in session because I’m “too busy” to spend time connecting with others. In #SLDunkTank by Rick Jetter and Rebecca Coda, I saw that it’s more important than ever to gather allies when you’re in the trenches.

As an extra spin on this implementation, I chose to participate in three different Twitter chats each month! I ended up connecting with incredible educators throughout the world and discussing topics that I’d never considered. Throughout this implementation, I also satisfied the implementation of 140 Twitter Tips for Educators by Brad Currie, Billy Krakower, and Scott Rocco. For this implementation, I simply wanted to share the incredible happenings of the school I serve and share my blog posts.

These two incredible books inspired immeasurable growth in me, both professionally and personally! They inspired growth, not just because of their words, but because of the implementation and the amazing educators with which I am now connected. Each of these chats have built communities of support, encouragement, and a safe space for educators to challenge one another to be even better for students. I truly believe I’ve learned with and from some of the best of the best in education this year and I’m so grateful for that.

Here’s what the year looked like!

August

September

  • #122edchat – Created by Michael Abramczyk, this chat is fire every week! I still check the feed even if I’m not able to attend that week. The topic that night was When Passion and Heart Meet Purpose.
  • #waledchat – This chat is one that I try not to miss each week! Phil Strunk has created a terrific community which provides a safe space for educators to share their Wins And Losses in EDucation!
  • #OrEdChat – I was able to stay up late on the east coast and join Tisha Richmond on a stop on her virtual book tour sharing her manifesto Make Learning Magical. What a fun group in Oregon!

October

  • #IAedchat – Joining educators in Iowa, we discussed personal and authentic learning that night!
  • #teachpos – Another chat I try to jump into each week was created by Craig Shapiro. This chat focuses on teaching positively! (I’m not even going to lie, the hashtag drew me in at first, lol) This week we chatted about the season of fall.
  • #TellYourStory – I enjoyed this chat and was sad to see it end. Created by Todd Nesloney (author/co-author of multiple DBC, Inc books – Kids Deserve It, Stories from Webb, and Sparks in the Dark) Todd runs a podcast under the same name that you access here! The night I joined, we discussed How to Deal with Crappy Days! It was a timely topic for the month of October. (Am I right?)
  • #K12ArtChat – I just had to join Tisha on another of her virtual book tour stops and this chat is definitely worth mentioning! Loved this community!

November

  • #edchatRI – A chat out of Rhode Island, with Ray Steinmetz leading, is a weekly win! You can always be certain to get something great out of this group! This chat was led by Preservice Teachers and focused on Teacher Readiness and Training. (See, I told you it was good)
  • #AltEdChat – Alternate Education is a great chat and on the night I joined we chatted about Learning & Social-Emotional Well-Being for ALL kids. I love that this group constantly focuses on how to help ALL students!
  • #champforkids – Another chat that is on fire is Champ for Kids! Created by the author of the book Champ for Kids, Kelly Hoggard has created a community that stands in one another’s corner. I adore these folks! Our topic this night was Trauma-Informed/Trauma-Responsive Practices.

December

  • #ShiftThis – I was fortunate to lead a chat in this community about Shifting Mindsets. The book, Shift This, is a must-read by Joy Kirr! This chat, unfortunately, doesn’t meet anymore. However, Joy’s got another book coming out soon called Word Shift! I can’t wait to see what she does there!
  • #fearlessedchat – What a cool name for a chat! I had to get into this one! How can we be fearless as educators? We talked about Winter Tech Treats!
  • #LastingLearning – In this community, we are committed to creating learning that sticks. Promoting a love of learning is so important. We chatted “Staying Safe When You Fall Down” on this night.

January

  • #bookcamppd – Created by Meredith Johnson, this group is constantly reading and learning from one another! It’s a continual book study online and they have a terrific line up each season! The book they were studying when I hopped in was The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King! Make book recommendations here!
  • #ecet2 – On the night I joined this community, we chatted about Character Education! If you want some educators who are on fire, check this chat out!
  • #oklaed – Ooooklahoma educators are awesome! Our discussion on Best Practices in Education was so powerful and I left with many great ideas!

February

  • #LeadUpChat – I had always wanted to get into this chat but never made it until it became intentional! I loved our chat about Relationships as the On-Ramp to Rigor. So much truth!
  • #rgveduchat – Randomly coming across this chat was a treat for me! We talked about Honoring Culture in the Classroom and it was so powerful to have these discussions with educators who are doing it right!
  • #AISLEdchat – My people! I was thrilled to find a chat devoted to school librarians! On the night I was able to join, I was treated to a tremendous conversation led by Kristina Holzweiss! Her book Hacking School Libraries is on my “to be read” stack!

March

  • #edchatPH – I went global and joined a chat in the Philippines! Whaaat? This was awesome! Honoring All Languages was the topic and we discussed how to honor the first language of all our students. Coming from a district with many students who have English as a second language, this was so wonderful to discuss!
  • #futureofschool – The topic on this night peeked my interest! As we chatted about Exploring the Impact of Tech on K-12 Education, it was clear that we all agree that students should be creating with technology, not just consuming!
  • #BuildHOPEedu – This community is awesome! Roman Nowak brings sunshine everywhere he goes and this group is no exception! We chatted Inspiring Action in our Classrooms on this night!

April

  • #masterychat – I try to join this chat regularly! The incredible Teach Better Team always puts on a great chat, and they have an after-show on Facebook Live each night as well! We talked about Creativity and Inspiration and I’ll tell you, this team is on fire! The BIG Teach Better Conference is coming in November and I’ll be presenting there! Hope to see you there!
  • #Read4Fun –  Yes, please! I’m always reading for fun, so I was excited to join this chat! We just shared various materials we like to read – everything from books to blogs to magazines! It was so much fun!
  • #worldgeochat – Unfortunately, this chat no longer exists. I caught the tail-end of a 5 year journey! Our conversation about Ending the Year Strong got me pumped up to finish as strong as we started!

May

  • #UnisonEDU – This fairly new chat, put together by Patrick Hausammann, promotes unity and inclusion! We chatted about Blended Learning and how to be inclusive in this space.
  • #LCInnovation – Katie Martin wrote a powerful book called Learner Centered Innovation. This chat was part of a book study led by Katie in May. I’d certainly look for her to lead more & check out the hashtag frequently!
  • #WB4K – What’s Best for Kids is a great chat! Student engagement was the topic on the night I joined; they had just experienced a #tlap keynote and were sharing amazing takeaways for keeping engagement high!

June

  • #VAESPchat – This group of principals joined together to chat about Ryan Sheehy‘s book Be The One for Kids!
  • #CelebratED – Celebrating education, educators, and educating keeps the enthusiasm for our profession turned up! I was able to sneak in on a chat about FIRE Up the BBQ! It was a great summer theme and got me excited to see students again!
  • #EngageChat – During this chat we discussed Collaboration and how being collaborative not only helps teachers, but also helps students.

July

So I’ve still got the remainder of this month to jump in a few chats, but there are a few that I have been in during other months that I didn’t highlight! So… check these out!

  • #tlapdownunder – Led by my favorite Australian PIRATE Karen Caswell, you don’t want to miss out on these chats! I love that she’s taken my favorite book and made an international tlap chat from it (with blessing from Dave, of course).
  • #BeTheOne – This is the fastest 15 minutes on Twitter and Ryan gives us two great reflection questions each week!
  • #KidsDeserveIt – YES, this chat based on the book Kids Deserve It is still going strong. Check it out each week as Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney remind us of the most important part of our profession – the kids!

Check out these communities and see which chats fit into your nightly schedule! You can find chats in the morning, afternoon, and evening! It’s easy to say we’re “too busy” for joining twitter chats, but finding your allies so you can thrive as an educator is too important to miss out on!

#DBCBookBlogs: Don’t Ditch That Tech

Quick! Go take this super-simple, fast survey about technology use in your classroom. Pay close attention to the scale provided; the agree & disagree alternate in questions! Before you click submit, be sure to add up your total points! You’ll need that in a moment.

There’s a new DITCH book out called Don’t Ditch That Tech and it’s the 74th book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line of super-awesome books by super-awesome folks! The two previous DITCH books are Ditch That Textbook and Ditch That Homework! In the book , Matt Miller, Nate Ridgway, and Angie Ridgway show readers how to differentiate instruction using technology, which is music to my instructional technologist ears. The best part?! They teach how to differentiate by… wait for it… DIFFERENTIATING! dontditchthattech

Back to that survey! Do you remember your total points? In the first chapter (which are interestingly given letters rather than numbers – it spells out DITCH IT!), Matt & the Ridgways identify “five roles that correspond to different levels of a continuum of technology integration and differentiation”. They are quick to remind us that these do not define us, but give us a starting point.

  • If you scored from 0-16, you are a Pilot.
  • If you scored from 17-22, you are a Museum Exhibitor.
  • If you scored from 23-28, you are a Restaurant Owner.
  • If you scored from 29-34, you are a Councilmember.
  • If you scored from 35-40, you are a Creative Art Coach.

This continuum moves from Pilot being mostly teacher-centered to Creative Art Coach being mostly student-centered. I found that I scored 34 points and am on the cusp of Councilmember and Creative Art Coach. When you read the book, you’ll find out much more detail about what each role means and how to move from one role to the next in the continuum.

The entire book is set up to be a guide based on your current role. You could read this book in a jiffy, multiple times by focusing on your current role only. Imagine if you’re a Pilot the first time you read Don’t Ditch That Tech and you focus only on the Pilot sections of the book. You choose a couple of things to implement (as the authors tell us again and again NOT to implement too much at once because it will overwhelm both teacher and student) and you implement them with success. Then, you take the survey again with these new tools in your tool belt to see that you have moved up the continuum. (YAY, you!) Now you’re reading as a Museum Exhibitor or Restaurant Owner. Get it? Isn’t that neat?! I love that this differentiation book is differentiated to meet the needs of the reader!

I’ll be perfectly honest, I knew that anything Matt Miller touches turns to gold (truth), but I wasn’t sure if there was anything in this book for me to really connect with. I wouldn’t dream of ever ditching the tech, so being told not to in the title made me go into this book with a coaching lens – as in, how can I use this with the educators I work with who are ditching tech daily. I was very pleasantly surprised that there were tech tools that I got to explore while reading as I’d never heard of them! Matt and the Ridgways also included some oldies but goodies like VoiceThread and Blabberize that I honestly had moved on from, but checked them out again. I’m impressed with their updates and look forward to possibly using them in the future.

There are so many things to love in this book as it is insanely practical! I truly appreciate all the examples using QR codes and shortened URLs!  There’s advice, notes, tips, and recommendations throughout the entire book that highlight various potential pitfalls when using tech. I love that the authors are being proactive about these possible issues and helping readers avoid those issues altogether!

Implementation

Last year I introduced Google Keep to my students and several jumped right on board with it! There were many however, that were overwhelmed with the post-it note look to the platform and thus felt unorganized. I’m excited to… yep… differentiate (!!!) next year! Now that they know about Google Keep and how to use it, those who want to continue to use it for due dates, upcoming events, etc can do so. For those who want to try something new or never really liked Keep, I’m excited to introduce Google Calendar to them. I’ll use our 1:1 school-provided Chromebooks, as well as helping those with cell phones set up their notifications on their Google Calendar. (Of course, some may choose to use their iPhone Calendar.)

I’m really excited about all Don’t Ditch That Tech has to offer and I love the focus on differentiation. I also love that there is so much emphasis on technology being more than a shiny tool, but using technology to strengthen student experience making each student feel like the class was created for them. Be sure to click here to purchase your copy of the book, and check out the free preview! I believe this is a book for everyone – whether you believe it’s blasphemy to ditch technology or you just wish the “tech lady” would stop pestering you with these “tech ideas” or if you’re somewhere in between!

For a little extra bonus, check out Matt’s blog about this latest DITCH book! Be sure to join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DitchBook and follow Matt and Nate & Angie Ridgway! It is abundantly clear throughout the book that they are very open to answering questions and helping readers move through the continuum differentiating instruction for students using technology! You don’t want to miss out on this book!