#DBCBookBlogs: Teach Me, Teacher

May 17, 1995… it’s a day I will never forget. That’s the day my mom and dad separated. They had been married for 12 years, 11 months, and 5 days. I was almost 10 years old. The divorce was finalized a little over a year later. It was not pretty. Nothing about the divorce was pleasant. Nothing was amicable. I love both my mom and my dad so very much, but it was hell growing up with them despising each other. They are polar opposites in almost every way and sometimes I wonder how in the world they made it as long as they did. My house was full of fighting as I grew up. There are so many stories I could share, and so many stories in which I don’t know the full story, and even more stories that I have done everything I can to push completely out of my mind. I won’t share any specifics from that time period because one day my daughters may read this and I want them to always know their grandparents as they are now.

When my mom remarried a couple years after the divorce, I think I remember being excited. I was her “maid of honor” and I remember wearing a burgundy lace dress. My mom looked stunning and oh-so-happy. Not long before I left for college, my mom and stepdad got into a fight. I stepped in to protect my mom and he pushed me hard enough that I went through a wall. When they separated and I testified in court against him, he swore up and down that he never put a hand on me. Their divorce was finalized soon after. He still works in a neighboring town. Seeing him makes my skin crawl. I try not to “hate” others, but I certainly still harbor ill will toward him. I know that forgiveness would likely free me from this pit in my stomach when I see or think of him, but that forgiveness for an act from 16 years ago is not coming easily.

TeachMeTeacher

Stories like these, and so many more, were what I recalled when I read Teach Me, Teacher by Jacob Chastain. Reading Jacob’s stories brought back suppressed memories of my childhood. I would read a page or two and have to stop reading while I confronted some of those memories head on. Some of the memories I tried to shove back where they came from, locking them away and hoping to never remember them again. There is nothing quite like the guilt of loving both parents and feeling like you’re letting one down because you show the other love.

Both of my parents have their own version of the truth about various incidents and I will never know which pieces of both stories are the actual truth. Because they see it through different lenses, both versions are skewed (although both would say that their version is the gospel truth, and to them, it is). Even to this day, I struggle when both of my parents are in the same room (or even the same town). My younger brother (he’s nearly 30 now) handles this much better than I do. I wish I could be more like him. I have a family picture of the four of us from the early-mid 90s. The only other picture I have with both of my parents and my younger brother was from my brother’s wedding 3 years ago. Imagine that… I waited 20 years to have that picture. I cherish it.

Like Jacob, I learned a lot of life lessons that taught me to be a better teacher. In fact, they taught me to be a better person. I’m more empathetic. Like Jacob, I dove into books. My preference, however, was realistic fiction because I could imagine myself living the lives of the characters in the book rather than my own. Jacob’s story is so powerful. The way he transfers the lessons he learned from his own horrible experiences into our roles as educators is exceptional. His vulnerability touches my heart. He speaks about being the ‘camera’ in our classrooms, picking up on the subtleties that other might miss. I have watched my own home videos and they hurt so bad to watch. I can hear the spiteful murmurs in the background that I overlooked at a child. I understand the inflection in my parents’ voices as an adult that I never picked up on as a child. The camera picks it all up, and remembers the good and the bad for you. Jacob nailed that chapter!

Also like Jacob, I choose to move forward, using the lessons from my own past as an asset rather than viewing them as an obstacle, a series of never-ending hurdles that I continue to try to jump. As I read Jacob’s book, I thought about those teachers who were there for me in ways I never realized until I became a teacher myself. The times they went above and beyond for me. Some things were simple, like my 2nd grade teacher allowing me to hold the class bunny (a stuffed toy) much longer than any other child got to hold it because I needed that security. Some things were more pointed, the teachers who pushed me and never allowed my story to become my crutch.

Implementation

 

As the implementation of this book, I am creating a personalized thank you card for every teacher I had in my own K-12 education journey. I will be giving these to each of my former teachers very soon. Each card is similar in that it has the teacher’s yearbook photo, as well as mine, from the year they taught me (or the year that stands out to me most if I had them multiple years). Then I share a memory, something they taught me, and/or a special connection we made during my time in their class. Most importantly, I say thank you and that I love them. But shhh, I don’t want them to know about their surprise just yet (I doubt they read my blog, haha). To my knowledge, only one of my former teachers has passed away, so I will share her card with you here.

I am so grateful for each of my teachers who took the time to show me love and believed in me. I am grateful to Jacob for writing this incredible book, which ripped off an old band-aid that I didn’t even realize was still there. In many ways, ripping off that band-aid allows me to truly begin the long, long process of healing. The most beautiful thing about this book is the hope that it gives the readers. In many cases, we don’t know what our students are going through… Jacob’s first person account of his childhood, what very well might be happening in any one (likely more) of my students’ homes tonight, breaks my heart, but knowing that I can be one of the teachers who lifts them up tomorrow and shows them they are more than their circumstances brings about a greater sense of purpose.

Please do yourself and your students (especially those who are like Jacob and me) a favor and get a copy of Jacob’s book, Teach Me Teacher (free preview at the bottom of this page). I believe it will inspire some deep emotions and powerful reflections in every person that reads it. It will bring about compassion, a bit more understanding, and a boatload of empathy to readers everywhere.

And Jacob, you’ve got a big hug coming when I get to meet you one of these days! Thank you for being so raw, open, and honest. I cannot fathom how hard it was to write these stories in such detail, reliving them again and again throughout the entire process, to allow us to learn from you. Thank you.

#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!