#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.ย  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!

#DBCBookBlogs: Lead Beyond Your Title

Thinkerbell…. My SuperHero name is Thinkerbell. A dear friend and colleague nicknamed me Tinkerbell as a joke one day because of my (slight) obsession with all things Pirate. (I’m still trying to figure out why she thinks I am that into pirates. HA! Kidding! Love this Pirate Fam!) Every once in a while, she’ll even reply to my Twitter posts with a Tinkerbell image or gif. It doesn’t really bother me because Tinkerbell is a pretty amazing little character! She’s stubborn, small, and sassy. She is a problem solver and likes to, well, tinker. She learns best when her hands are moving, and I’m the same way. I changed up the nickname to Thinkerbell for my superhero name as I analyze everything and focus on learning everything I possibly can. I ask [too many] questions and am sometimes accused of being a “creeper” because I can do insanely fast research and excel at deductive reasoning. (I am pretty good at Sudoku.) I thrive when I’m thinking. So I embrace the pirate obsession & overanalytical nature as strengths rather than deficits. Thus, Thinkerbell.

Why in the world am I creating SuperHero names and what does it have to do with #DBCBookBlogs? You’ll have to read the latest Lead Like A Pirate guide, Nili Bartley‘s Lead Beyond Your Title, to truly understand – it’s the perfect mix of inspiration and practicality!

leadbeyondyourtitle

Nili shares with us her journey from classroom teacher to technology integration specialist, using clear examples of leadership in every role. What I love the most about this book is that she is leading by empowering others to lead using their own superpowers. She shows specific examples of this throughout each page. Whether she’s talking about the exceptional students in SuperPIRATES of Crew 202 (Seriously, you’ve got to read about these kids in her book!), the teachers she serves, the administrators, or even her superintendent, she leads by passing the mic. It’s like the whole book is bragging on the awesomeness of others, which is exactly the kind of leader I want to be. I never want others to get the vibe that I’m a “Look At Me” leader, but rather want to known as a “Look At Them” leader.

When I was teaching in the classroom, I never would have considered myself a leader. Isn’t that ironic? I literally led dozens of 10 and 11 year olds every day, but never thought of it as leading. Every teacher is a leader. Truly every person is a leader. In some way or another, we are leading others. Even my 2 year old nephew is leading; my niece wants to be exactly like her big brother! Whether we choose to embrace that role as a leader is what makes all the difference. I choose to embrace my role as leader because it will allow me to have a more profound impact on those who feel empowered to lead based on my example. Nili did just that! She embraced her role as leader, regardless of her title. The president of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc, Dave Burgess (author of Teach Like A Pirate) says you can’t announce change from the podium. In other words, true change will come from grassroots movements. Who are the grassroots in education? Teachers and students. This makes me pause and ponder, does a title actually give us a diminished authentic influence? Just food for thought.

Nili encourages us to lead through conversation, developing relationships. She speaks of building trust and rapport with those she is leading. She shares phenomenal and practical examples of opportunities she gave others to lead (students and teachers alike). She talks about defining and crafting your role. This particular chapter hit home for me because I am in the final year of a 3-year pilot position in my district. I was asked in the Summer of 2016, by my superintendent, to read a new job description which formally merged the roles of media coordinator and instructional/digital coach (aka, my dream job). After a couple of hours of wrapping my head around what he was asking and realizing that I would have to leave a school that I very much loved, I accepted the position. I had no idea what I was getting myself into – this new position meant that no one really understood what my role was. After several discussions on where we wanted to go with the position, we crafted a road map and made some big changes to “the way we did it last year”. The first year was one of the worst years I’ve ever had in education. I wanted to walk out more times than I can count. It was like no one was getting it. Well, of course they weren’t – we hadn’t even shared what it was, what the endgame looked like.

Standing here, looking back on the past 3 years, I am in awe of the changes that have occurred at my school with the students and teachers I serve. I am so proud of the exponential growth and the willingness to constantly move forward and get better. I love the educators I work with and the students are the reason I never feel like I’m going to work. Instead, I’m going to fun. This didn’t happen accidentally. I’d love nothing more than to sit down with Nili and hear more of her story and compare notes. We have so much in common. I knew I would love her book from the moment I saw the title, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least by the content within the covers!

Check out these phenomenal finds in Lead Beyond Your Title!

 

 

Now the question is: how do I implement this book? This is a tough one, and not because it’s not practical. It’s TOO practical. I believe I could literally take any of these examples and tweak it to meet my needs and find success. This adventure (#DBC50Summer and #DBCBookBlogs) is more about pulling back and doing one or two things intentionally. One thing I did immediately to implement this book was check out Thrively.com and SuperYouFun.org! Both are as awesome as advertised! In Thrively, I completed my strengths profile (a real superpower discovery tool), and found it to be spot on with the other profiles I’ve done in the past. The best part is that the assessment questions to discover your strengths are written in kid-friendly terms! I love that! I found out that I am 110% Thinkerbell! Check it out!

Man oh man can you think your way out of anything!! You are like a Vulcan, breaking down problems piece by piece, even talking them through out loud if you need to. You are very logical and have a mind that works like a computer. You can analyze situations and problems with the best of them and will not let your emotions rule you. Distraction? Complexity? Too many moving parts? All in a day’s work! Problems are to be solved, and you are the one for the job!!

-Excerpt from My Thrively Results

My other implementation is getting students involved in professional development for teachers. I haven’t thought through the actionable plan just yet, but I want to make this happen. Whether it’s by survey, video, or having students physically join us to lead workshops, I feel that their voice needs to be heard. Nili shares this passion and offers examples of each of the options I mentioned. Stay tuned to see how we make this happen!

I highly recommend you go directly to Amazon to purchase this book. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. (Man, wouldn’t $200 be nice right now?! Can I get a witness?) Jump in the conversations already happening on Twitter about this amazing new book using the hashtag #LeadLAP and follow Nili at @nbartley6! Be sure to check out the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc website for a preview of the book and more information about how to connect with the community! As always, the Flipgrid is available (thanks to Andrea Paulakovich for allowing me to copilot this space) for your reflections. Feel free to share your thoughts there, comment below, or connect with me via Twitter! I look forward to leading beyond our titles together!

#DBCBookBlogs: Educated By Design

In the Spring of 2017, my family and I bought a modular home about 20 minutes from where we lived at the time. Our old home was built in 1900 and we had spent more money than I’d like to think about upgrading the plumbing and electrical systems and the roof. I was ecstatic to move into a home that was built only 5 or 6 years ago. It’s a three bedroom, two bathroom home with an open concept and a playroom/office. We have between 1.5 – 2 acres of land and there was very little landscaping around the home.

Walking into a completely empty home was a bizarre feeling and one that left me a bit overwhelmed at all of the empty (mustard colored – ick) walls and windows. I have never had a knack for interior design, so seeing this blank canvas added an unwelcome layer of stress to our move. I immediately called my stepmother who is a painter and does faux finishing on any surface. She is incredibly talented. She helped us find a color scheme we liked and before placing our furniture, she painted every room in our home. My husband chose the window treatments (yes, I did say my husband) and he did an outstanding job! Next came the pictures, artwork, and decals placed on the walls. We chose our living room sectional together and our bedroom furniture was our big gift to ourselves when we moved in.

The idea of being creative and designing a space that fit our family was overwhelming for me, but with the help of others, we have been able to put together an interior design that we are all happy with. We continue to add to it, and have even taken away a few things over the past (nearly) two years. Being creative with the design process was a real struggle for me. The 61st book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line of books,ย Educated by Design by Michael (The Tech Rabbi) Cohen, shows us that it shouldn’t be scary.

educatedbydesign

There is so much to love about this stunning book, beginning with the beautiful cover and the square design! It is totally symbolic that this book would be shaped differently from any other book in the DBC, Inc line. It’s symbolic in that this book is all about design and creativity. Rabbi Michael Cohen (yes, he’s truly a Rabbi) does an awesome job sharing his story and showcasing his love of design, incorporating it into the field of education.

The sketchnotes in this book are remarkable! Even in grayscale, they jump off the page! These are Michael’s own sketches and they add so much depth and beauty to the book!

There are two main points that really stood out to me as I read.

Creativity must be taught in our school. We are doing a disservice to our students if we don’t give them the opportunity to showcase creative thinking on a regular basis. Students are taught that creativity belongs in their art class or their music class. This isn’t the case! Creativity belongs in ALL classes! As Michael says, “Creativity is a mindset, not an art set.” He also shares this. “Creativity comes from within. It’s not something teachers give to students – it’s something they reveal.” Are we revealing creativity in our students? Do we give them multiple opportunities to engage in the creative process? Michael speaks to the need to allow students to fail, emphasizing that failure is not a final destination, but a part of the journey. We, as people, do not fail, but our creations might. So we “stop, reflect, and pivot” to fix our next iteration. I love how Michael brings his background in design into the classroom and allows students to dig into the process!

The other main point that stood out to me was that we must connect with others. In fact, the author shares the word “connect” or some derivative of it 45 times (Thank you for checking that for me, Michael)!!! Michael shares that educators must learn from those outside of education, as well as those within education. Similar to when we bought our house and brought in an expert to help us choose a color scheme, we should be connecting our students with experts in their fields of study. I love that Michael suggests that we “diversify resources and connections when looking to hone our educational craft.” This will truly allow us to open our minds and get creative in the design of our lessons and student learning. He gives us a list of folks to follow outside of education and, of course, I went to follow each of them immediately!

Finally, I must say that once again, the DBC, Inc books are complementary of one another – building on the philosophies of others. I see many aspects of Teach Like A Pirate and The Innovator’s Mindset within the pages of Educated by Design. The idea that creativity must be something completely new is a fallacy and Michael speaks to that. He shares that creation can be the mashing together of two or more things that are already in existence, as well as the use of a tool for a reason other than what it was intended. Hearing these descriptions make me feel that, you know, maybe I am creative after all! Thanks, Rabbi!

My implementation of this book relates to the research that my students are currently doing during their media classes once a month. Throughout the next four months, students are embarking on a research project in the media center. This coincides with my implementation of the book, Launch, by John Spencer and AJ Juliani. By implementing the LAUNCH cycle in research, students are learning research skills by delving into any topic of their choosing. I have students researching anything from Fortnite to diabetes, from Greek Mythology to Holocaust, and from Imagine Dragons to traveling to Fiji. Using inspiration from Educated by Design students will be able to show their learning in any medium they choose; the only stipulation is that they create something. It can be hands-on using materials in the makerspace, or can be driven by technology using their Chromebooks. They may choose to create a poem or song, or a video and upload to YouTube, it doesn’t matter to me. We will then place their creation on display in the media center, as well as on the school’s student blog.

I highly recommend reading this book (preview it here) and using the Creativity Toolkit at the end of the book as a hook for students (and teachers) to reveal their own creative process! His emphasis on empathy as a driving force for creation is on point! If you can’t get enough, check out The Tech Rabbi’s keynote from ISTE 2018!

There is so much goodness to share and thankfully, he has a lot of it on his website! So check that out! As always, you’re invited and encouraged to check out the Flipgrid (created by the amazing Andrea Paulakovich) and add your thoughts!

I might also add that my one word for 2019 is CONNECT, which fits with this book quite perfectly! Check out my blog post about why I chose this word here! You have a part to play in helping me live out my one word, so be sure to let me know when you’re within driving distance and I’ll meet you for coffee, lunch, dinner, ice cream, whatever!

Well, what are you waiting for? Go grab your own copy of Educated by Design and start “designing the space to experiment, explore, and extract your creative potential”! Thanks for bringing us another incredible book, DBC, Inc!