#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!

#DBCBookBlogs: Be Real

It’s been two weeks since I blogged. I have to tell you that I’ve felt lost, without purpose, and out of sorts. I’ve had a hard time wrapping my head around events in my life, professionally and personally because I wasn’t reflecting as I should. I think it’s safe to say that writing has become my main outlet for reflection and sharing my voice, with others, but most importantly with myself. I knew that after the incredible #DBC50Summer journey, I needed to put on the brakes a bit and spend time with my family. I needed to catch up on sleep. I wanted to watch some Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime movies and get back into football. My house desperately needed to be cleaned. So here we are two weeks later, after finally watching The Greatest Showman (so good), with 100% less dark circles under my eyes, and a moderately cleaner home.

After trying to read Be REAL: Educate from the Heart by Tara Martin for a week while being totally distracted by life (and only reaching page 57), I finally made myself intentionally go back to my reading spot (center seat of our sectional), eliminated distractions, opened the book to page 1, and pressed play. This time, I couldn’t put it down.


I don’t remember the circumstances under which I first spoke to Tara online. I just remember an instant connection to her. I felt as if I’d known her for years within moments.

In this way beyond cute video in which Tara and Wendy (DBC Director of Operations) announce Tara’s accepting a new job with Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc, I found out that I had won a #DBCChallenge (a contest run each week – see Dave’s blog post for more) and got to pick any book from the DBC, Inc line for free! (I chose Social LEADia by Jennifer Casa-Todd – great book! See my #DBC50Summer post here!) It was the first time I had ever seen Tara and Wendy on video and I instantly wanted to hug the both of them! They both appear to be so authentic… so REAL!

A little over two weeks later (June 18, 2018 – my oldest daughter’s birthday), Tara’s book was officially released to the public. Be REAL: Educate from the Heart is everything that I adore about Tara! She is relatable, vulnerable, approachable, and employs an attitude of lifelong learning. Through no surprise if you’ve picked up many DBC, Inc books, REAL is an acronym:

  • Relatable

  • Expose Vulnerability

  • Approachable

  • Learning Through Life

Without giving away too much, you will read this book and want to pack your bags, figure out where Tara is, and give her “big squeezy hugs” multiple times before reaching the last page. Tara is an amazing storyteller; she captivates you and pulls you in, sharing her truths, many of which are heart-wrenching. After removing the mental block I had, eliminating outside distractions, and finding my “reading spot”, I now sit here with tears in my eyes, convicted to be as REAL as I can for my students and the teachers I have the honor of serving.

As an instructional coach, I relate to many of Tara’s stories and look forward to employing her strategies of coaching teachers and other coaches. I love the REAL + Innovator’s Compass (inspired by the work of Ela Ben-Ur) section & look forward to using this practice in my own relationships. More information can be found on Tara’s (insanely awesome) website here. I also love the REAL Talk Treasures shared in the book! Humble inquiry has served me well as a coach!

This past summer I was fortunate enough to serve the western half of my state as a Digital Learning Competency Ambassador. During this time, I traveled over 530 miles to deliver professional development in four schools to over 1200 North Carolina educators. I facilitated a session with the spectacular Emily Brown (Follow her on Twitter: @ebrown0789) called #Twitter101, then moved into facilitating a live Twitter chat and growing a #PLN in a session called #Twitter102, and finally, got to share my love of #BookSnaps in two sessions, which were almost always at capacity.

#BookSnaps are a digital, visual representation of our connections to the text using common tech tools like Snapchat, Google Slides and Drawings, Seesaw, etc. See all you ever need to get started on Tara’s how-to page here! Tara sent swag to give to participants and even created an epic personalized video for those in my sessions! The love of #BookSnaps has now spread virally throughout North Carolina! Tara speaks about #BookSnaps and how it got started within her book, and she shares exceptional stories of their impact on students from educators.

I had so many a-ha moments while reading Be REAL: Educate from the Heart. The first was in the foreword written by the author of Teach Like a Pirate, the Pirate Captain himself, Dave Burgess. You can see it on his blog here. Other moments were certainly tweeted:





So much good stuff to choose from in this book! Care to know what my implementation is? (Yes, I will continue to share these because, as the Captain says, “Inspiration without implementation is a waste.”)

After all the awesome that #DBC50Summer has brought to my life, sharing my thoughts with each of you, and figuring out my passions, my why, and many times forming an opinion while in the middle of writing these posts, I realized I need to take the advice of my mentor, director, and friend, Lucas Gillispie. As soon as I read this portion of Tara’s book, I know it was time to make the change. It’s time to finally transition my blog site to become my professional website. The blog will still be housed here at aliciaray.com, but will become a subset of the larger website. In the coming months, I will be adding resources, presentations, contact information, and more. So the home page will look a bit different, but just click on blog and you’ll be back in the right spot. I’m not really sure what to expect of this space, but know that I plan to just “cannonball in” (see what I did there, Tara) and see where it takes me.

I can’t say enough about Tara Martin as a person. I can assure you that she is the REAL deal – I can see her heart and soul through her social media presence and through the words in her book. I know that sounds weird as I’ve never talked to her face-to-face, but you just can’t fake it on social media that much. Everything I know of her matches up. I so look forward to the day I finally get to meet her (we were in Chicago in June together, but our schedules just wouldn’t allow it to happen) and finally get that “big squeezy Tara hug” AND give her one back in return! You should seriously go grab a copy of her book here. I highly suggest following her on Twitter at @TaraMartinEDU.  You can check out her newly updated website and book resources here! This is amazingness, by the way, so prepare yourself!  You can preview Be REAL: Educate from the Heart here. Because everyone adores Tara (seriously. everyone.), you can find tons of podcasts featuring Tara by a quick google search. Check out the hashtags #REALedu and #BookSnaps on Twitter and follow along!

Also – you want to follow @HeckAwesome! If you see photos tweeted from the book, it typically includes the illustrations. Carrie Baughcum sketched every illustration within this book and they are fantastically beautiful! Find more about her and sketchnoting on her website here! She was super inspirational in her #HiveSummit conversation with Michael Matera (author of Explore Like A Pirate), and I tried sketchnoting for the first time last week. It was an awesome way to creatively taking notes!

This book seriously reminds us as educators and readers that many of us have overcome life’s challenges to get where we are; we have persevered and beat the odds to have the privilege of standing in front of children day in and day out and facilitate the creation of a love of learning.

I’m inspired to share more of my story, with you and with my students and teachers I serve, in hopes that it inspires someone else to persevere. Thank you for your REALness, Tara. You are so appreciated and your story is valued beyond words. It came out 5 days after #DBC50Summer started, so I knew I’d have to wait a long time to get to read it… I must say, it was worth. the. wait.

If you’ve read Be REAL by Tara Martin, add your thoughts to the Flipgrid (copiloted by Andrea Paulakovich and me) here! If you’ve not, grab a copy, then add to our flipgrid!

Up next is Lead with Literacy by Mandy Ellis!


#DBC50Summer Book 41-50 Recap

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It is officially the first hour of Fall 2018! I published the blog about the 50th book 30 minutes before the official end of summer.

When I began the #DBC50Summer journey in June, I had no idea what it would look like at that point. I typically begin with the end in mind. In this case, I took a major risk. I had an idea and I just went for it. Not only did I go for it, but I jumped in head first by letting the owners of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc know what I was doing before I even really knew what I was doing. From that moment, Dave and Shelley Burgess have been nothing but supportive. Their team at DBC, Inc is incredible; Wendy and Tara are two of the nicest people you’ve ever interacted with in your life! I have felt encouragement, support, and enthusiasm from everyone at DBC, Inc and I cannot say thank you enough for that!

Only having less than 2 weeks to read and blog about 10 books was insane! I was at a point where I literally read and blogged about a book a night. You may have noticed (especially if you’re subscribed to the blog) that the posts were coming around 1:30-2:00 AM every night. That’s when I was publishing. You would think that I have been exhausted. You would be wrong. I have been more energized than ever before in this journey! I quietly wondered if the integrity of the quality of books would be in question as the quantity of books increased. Short answer: DBC has just gotten better with time.

Through reading the first 50 books, in order of their release date (to the best of my knowledge), I have watched the transformation of DBC, Inc. I am absolutely blown away . by the fact that every. single. book compliments the Teach Like A Pirate message. These books never contradicted themselves. They built on one another in a logical manner, pulling you deeper into the PIRATE pedagogy with every page. It is abundantly clear that Dave and Shelley take great pride in their authors and they are still very much running the business, both in name and in practice. I do not believe for a second that the continuity between books would be present if they weren’t (wait for it…) steering the ship at every turn. They are clearly invested in their business through their investment in the authors they publish. Dave set out to disrupt the publishing business, and disrupt the business he did. I stand (errr, sit…) in awe of the dynasty they have created from the ground up. Dave and Shelley have kickstarted a revolution in education through their publishing business and I am so excited to see what they have coming up for us next!

Three days ago, I saw this post was pinned on Dave’s Twitter profile.

Although Dave saw this at a fitness center, this quote applies perfectly to my experience with #DBC50Summer. I believe there were times that the Captain himself even doubted that I would meet my goal of reading the first 50 of his books by the end of summer (though he never said anything about it). Heck, there were times I doubted it. When my youngest daughter was hospitalized and diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in early August, when I was traveling throughout the western half of North Carolina doing four presentations each day then driving hours to our next destination for two weeks in July (I presented 32 one-hour sessions in 8 days), when I was spending late nights at the softball field with my oldest daughter, and when teachers came back to work in late August, I was certain that the first day of fall would come and go as I continued to work on #DBC50″SUMMER”. The unending encouragement from my professional learning network and the absolutely spectacular authors of DBC, Inc get full credit for inspiring me to keep going and push through these obstacles to achieve my goal of reading the first 50 books by the end of summer. Even those “without a dog in the fit” so to speak (the authors of books 51-57) have shown support through Direct Messages on Twitter, text messages and encouraging tweets. I am forever grateful.

On August 27, I experienced an hour unlike any other. I actually found Cloud 9 and hung out on it for a while… I was honored to host #tlap that night to share my experiences with #DBC50Summer and discuss the entire DBC, Inc line. This was a great celebration of the authors and the ideals shared in each book, and I hope that those who participated were able to walk away with new books on their Amazon wishlist!

Let’s check out the last ten books in #DBC50Summer!

41 – Be The One For Kids by Ryan Sheehy: This book lit me on fire to be an advocate for every student. It also reminded me that even though I can’t possibly be the one for every student, I never know which one I will inspire and motivate. Because I don’t know which one(s) will be touched the most, I should do everything in my power to be the one for them all.

42 – All 4s and 5s by Andrew Sharos: This book is advertised for Advanced Placement (AP) teachers. But ohhh the power of false advertisement. This book is actually for EVERY teacher! Why should AP students be the only ones held to high standards? That’s exactly what Andrew shares with us in his book! Don’t let the intended audience fool you. You need this one in your hands yesterday!

43 – Shake Up Learning by Kasey Bell: Static learning won’t work for students in 2018! (It also didn’t work for students in 2006 when I started my career, but I’m learning to forgive myself because I didn’t know any better.) Kasey inspired me to step out and apply to earn my Google Teacher Certification. Get her book to see what dynamic teaching is and why it’s what’s best for our kids.

44 – The Secret Solution by Todd Whitaker, Ryan Donlan, and Sam Miller: Unlike any book in the DBC, Inc line, this book takes us on a fictional journey inspired by real events. We experience the inner-workings of a typical school that could be found anywhere in the US. A principal (Roger Rookie) is trying to find the secret to being a great leader. He fails over and over again. What does he find the Secret Solution to be, or is there even a Secret Solution? Grab this book – and you don’t have to be a principal to put it on your wishlist!

45 – Let Them Speak by Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter: The power of student voice cannot be understated. Meet students on their turf and get their opinion, but only if you’re ready for the honest feedback you’ll receive. Then, do something about what they say. They deserve to be heard. So let your students speak.

46 – The Path to Serendipity by Allyson Apsey: The big secret of #DBC50Summer can be found in this post. Allyson’s book is the real catalyst! The post for this book written weeks before #DBC50Summer started. This is one of those books that you’ll get something different out of it every time you open it. I actually deleted the majority of the first post to rewrite a new one because I was inspired by something altogether different the second time around! Allyson takes us on a journey of self-discovery that you don’t want to miss!

47 – Lead with Culture by Jay Billy: Jay is the real deal, y’all! His book has me excited to go on a treasure hunt this year for evidence of positive culture! Check out the post to play BINGO and use the link within it to purchase Jay’s book, the very first book in the Lead Like A Pirate guide book series! There are more to come!

48 – Sparks in the Dark by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney: This. Book. Though. What do you mean, you don’t have it? Go get it. Now. It will transform your reading and writing instruction (and all other content areas) for the rest of your career! You will fall in love with reading and writing, and so will your students if you use these strategies!

48.5 – Sparks in the Dark by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney: What happens when you’re 48 hours away from the end of #DBC50Summer and you are inspired beyond belief by a book… you write a second blog post, of course! This one had me breaking all the rules. Lucky for me, I know the lady who made the rules. We chatted… it’s okay. (HA) Check out Part 2 of Sparks in the Dark #DBC50Summer blog post!

49 – The Pepper Effect by Sean Gaillard: Why does Monday have such a bad reputation? Why can’t we celebrate a new beginning? That’s exactly what Sean did through #CelebrateMonday! Find out what inspired the movement and how Sean connects his passion for The Beatles into his own schoolhouse as principal! The author is a friend of mine… he’s as genuine as they come! You want this book, even if you’re not a fan of the music.

50 – The EduNinja Mindset by Jennifer Burdis: She competed on two seasons of American Ninja Warrior but that wasn’t the hardest thing she ever did! Find out what was the hardest thing she ever did. You’ll also discover how to set goals and get out of your own way to achieve them. This one is a book for the masses! The perfect book to end #DBC50Summer on!

My implementation plans and flipgrid links for each book are listed in a nifty spreadsheet here. I also suggest checking out each of the Recaps from earlier in the summer: Summer Recap 1, Summer Recap 2, Summer Recap 3, and Summer Recap 4.

That’s it; that’s all folks… but wait. #DBC50Summer may be over, but I’ve still got one more blog post to write! You’re going to want to see this one! I have been asked a dozen questions by coworkers, administrators, PLN members, and members of the Pirate crew (immediate and extended)! I address them all in the final #DBC50Summer post, as well as sharing a HUGE announcement!