Summer is here, like many educators, we look at the days of the 3 other Rs: Refuel, Recharge, and Read. Summer was always a time of reading for me, back to the day where I would sit on the front porch in summer reading comic books or the latest novel that caught my interest. In the Summer of 2014, something drastic happened, as many of you know as the school year came to a close in 2014 I was feeling burned out. I wasn’t feeling very motivated, I was more of an administrator than teacher and I would go into my office and just look at my screen after finishing paper work and go: “Now what?” However, it was that Spring I discovered Teach like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and things completely changed. I found a re-ignition of passion and began buying every book that would be released by Dave Burgess Consulting Inc and they became my constant PD books during the summer. In the past two months thanks to Dave and Shelly Burgess, Jay Billy, Wendy Hankins and some well timed Amazon Gift Cards. I started my Summer of 2018 reading list in early May of a whopping 8 books. I’m here to give a brief review of them, what I found amazing about each one and a little sneak peak at home I’m using them in the classroom this upcoming school year as I begin building the Classroom of Pixels (#PixelClassroom).
I’m going to start with Secret Solution by Todd Whitaker, Sam Miller and Ryan Donlan. The Secret Solution is a story about a new principal, Roger Rookie (I’m not kidding) who becomes the new principal of Anywhere Middle School (no really). The book is a parable that brings to life many of the personalities, moods and situations that many educators see every day in their own schools and organizations. The Story of Roger is one many of us have experience or seen before, a leader trying to find the path to success and of course stumbling along the way. Todd, Sam and Ryan give us a wonderful set of characters from Nellie Newcomer the new enthusiastic teacher to the teacher losing his luster and passion in Edgar Sleeper. These three writers point out four main types of leadership from The Hibernators who stay in their offices, try to avoid having meetings or getting to know students and staff. The Glad-hander who delay actions or never implement them or reward disproportionately to those who have strong personalities (I had one of these way back in the day when I first went into education). To The Thumb, those who invite confrontation, to a fault. To the Path Finders who learn from their mistakes and finds the balance between leading climate positively and leveraging accountability.
All three authors do a wonderful job with this story, there are times I nodded, there are times I laughed and there are times where I went: “WOW! That happened to me!” I loved the break down of the four times of leadership and it’s something I want to bring up with my FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) members this year. What type of leader are you? Do you fall under the category of the Hibernator, Glad-hander, ect. Why do you show those traits? What lead you to those decisions? How can you improve and be more of the Path Finder and find the balance and becoming a leader. FBLA is about building Future “leaders” not just business. The Secret Solution is a great book to look into if you are an educator, administrator or advisory.
The next book is Let Them Speak! By Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter, who gave us Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank (another wonderful read). Let them Speak! is about Student Voice. According to the glossary on Educator Reform: “In education, student voice refers to the values, opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students in a school, and to instructional approaches and techniques that are based on student choices, interests, passions, and ambitions.” Similar to Dunk Tank, Let Them Speak! is full of real stories from students and teachers. How student voice can be powerful and can transform your school and classroom. I have been an advocate of student voice for a few years, but I didn’t really start making much headway until Flipgrid came about. However, after my past year, I really wanted students to have more of a voice in the classroom and we are a school that encourages student choice and student centered learning. Let Them Speak! is a very inspirational book, the stories leave you engage and give you great examples that while Student Voice won’t change things over night, it does matter and it does make an impact in your school. One lesson I started this year was bringing in: A Letter to the Editor for students. Now, classically, a Letter to an Editor is usually when a person writes a letter sent to a publication about issues of concern from its readers. Usually, letters are intended for publication. In many publications, letters to the editor may be sent either through conventional mail or electronic mail. These days students want to speak about situations that concern them, but sometimes they don’t know how to organize that voice or talk.
A quick Facebook or Instagram Live post won’t always be effective if someone doesn’t know how to why they need to bring up topics of concern or interest to online or traditional media. I want to give examples and know that A Letter to the Editor isn’t just to a newspaper or blog. It can be to a politician, a school administrator, an owner of a business. That there is a level of awareness that needs to be raised, not just an angry letter. Many students do not know how to write a professional letter because they either don’t know how, or feel they will not be heard. Teaching them how to find their voice on a topic of their interest empowers them to raise awareness and have their voices heard. It starts with a simple way of saying: “You are heard.”
Moving to a book I really found great for integration into my classroom is Shake up Learning by Kasey Bell. If you have been to Kasey’s website or following her career, you know she is amazing. In the words of Tony Vincent: “Her practical ideas empower teachers with innovative ways to truly shake things up!” Kasey’s book is very practical, as the chapters go, she shows that technology is NOT a solution but an opportunity for learning. The chapter that stuck out to me the most was Chapter 3: The Rise of the Entrepreneur. Kasey talks about the shifting economy and less job stability for all people and all ages. However, she states: “how it presents a huge opportunity for students to be remarkable.” Digital tools have opened so many new types of innovations and new markets in the world. Questioning and searching for knowledge to answer those question is a great process of entrepreneurial life. As put by John Spencer and AJ Juliani in Empower. “While not every student will become an entrepreneur they will all have to think like one, some day.” Next spring I’m teaching a new class that I’m very excited for: Entrepreneurship and while I have been working out the lessons, watching a lot of Shark Tank and reading Spencer and AJ’s book, Launch. Kasey has shown me some great ways to discuss with my students on Entrepreneurial mindset. What are they passion about? How can they authentically find the answers to the questions in their quest? What tools will they and I be using to discover those answers and build their models? What forms of Entrepreneurship will meet those discoveries? It’s an exciting time. If you are new to using technology in the classroom or looking at what you are doing through a new angle. Shake up Learning is the book for you.
From finding the path in opportunity, we head to The Path to Serendipity by Allyson Apsey. The timing of this book couldn’t have been more perfect when I picked it up a couple of weeks ago. I was a few weeks into summer break, I had just gotten Ed Puzzle up and working for my Consumer Education class for this fall and was breaking down my videos when I stopped. I had received an email from a former co-worker of mine who asked me if I could join them for their defense of dissertation in a couple of weeks. I politely declined as I was going to be out-of-town that week. They replied that they understood and was happy I was getting away for a bit. It wasn’t thirty minutes later after getting the message that I looked and said: “Why are they finishing up and I’m still working on mine?” Jennifer Burdis brings situations up like this in The Edu Ninja Mindset (more on that later). However, I just closed my computer, went down to the basement and started cleaning up the basement. I get in a big cleaning/reorganizing mood when I feel like this. It wasn’t long afterwards I heard the mail man and went to my mail box and there was Serendipity waiting for me. I dived right in and from the first chapter I was in. Allyson talked about how our struggles can “illuminate” our gifts. That the difficulties we face should be embraced as we learn and grow from them. I was so engaged with Allyson’s stories and lessons that we can practice and bring to our co-workers and even our students can be truly amazing. I stayed up late finishing the book and when I was finished I personally sent a tweet to Allyson thanking her for writing this book. Before I read this book I was thinking that once more, I was just the person going through the paces. Wondering when I was going to reach completion of my dissertation and when that happened. I started thinking of all the other troubles that have been plaguing me the past few months. From missing my sister’s wedding, my mother’s health to being upset that I was going to miss ISTE (more on that later too). Yet, after this, The Path to Serendipity really gave me courage, I even went back to my Vision Board for 2018 and while 2/3 of it had fallen apart. I looked at the rest and decided I needed to start with had I had yet to accomplish and start looking forward again. Seeing where my path would lead me and you know what happened a few days later? My committee wanted me to submit my full dissertation proposal to them. As the book puts it: ” When faced with an imbalance, we can change what we want, , we can change what we are getting, or we can remain in a state of frustration.”
A couple of days passed after I finished The Path to Serendipity and I was working on updating some of my business lesson plans and I came to one of my favorite pieces I did this past year. I had students reading a few stories for a group project we did and I was saying to myself: “I really need to figure out how to bring more books to my classes.” So, here was Sparks in the Dark that arrived the next day by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney. Todd’s last book, Tales from Webb was a very inspirational collection of stories about the many teachers who shared their stories. In Sparks in the Dark, both Travis and Todd shared amazing true stories of lessons, projects and the magic of reading in the classroom. Truth be told, I went through the first few chapters pretty fast, because I had been doing similar lessons the last couple of years, but then I started Chapter 4. The chapter really hit a note with me. Talking about writing and how it is: “whimsical, joyful and delightful.” When I was in high school and even far back as 6th grade. I HATED writing. Didn’t matter if it was a report, creating a short story or something, I was not a fan. Towards the end of high school, my English teacher told me to start writing my ideas down. She noticed I was engaged with a few books and comics and saw that I was analyzing characters a lot, but there was no real form to it. She told me to start writing characters the way I saw them in paragraphs.
When I started doing this, I started enjoying the writing process, I started writing out small scripts before too long. This later translated in college during my undergraduate days in creative writing and play writing. This would later lead me to writing blogs and of course getting two of my stories published years later. How did it start? My teacher told me to make it personal. As I move through Chapter 4, they talked about Student Memoirs. How students put themselves in their writing and when they write with passion and conviction they are willing to spend time crafting and polishing their writing. For my Marketing Class, I want students to start crafting their own Memoirs as we move through our Units. Having them journal and write what lead them through our lessons. Sparks in the Dark was a real surprise, not that I expect anything less from the Kids Deserve It line, but this was a real winner.
Is everyone still with me? OK, good. I have a question for you? What is School Culture? Dr. Kent Peterson said that: “School culture is the set of norms, values and beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols and stories that make up the ‘persona’ of the school.” However, what really matters in our schools when it comes to culture? Lead with Culture by Jay Billy, a LEAD like a Pirate Guide. Jay talks about how much culture matters in a school. That when you LEAD with passion, knowing that Joy, Community, Celebration and more matter to your students and to your school you will create an amazing Culture in your school. That you have to be purposeful about teaching and learning. Much like pointed out in Secret Solution, it doesn’t happen over night. You have to keep the question: “What is the purpose?” How the Purpose of making school amazing for not only students, but everyone involved. Jay Billy gives many examples, real stories and more that will help you LEAD with Culture and find the path.
The Pepper Effect is the next on my summer reading, I was so fortunate to receive a copy of Sean Gaillard’s book from Wendy Hankins. I had been following Sean’s work on Twitter for a while now and had been looking at his blog posts on how I could bring The Pepper Effect to my students during the year. I found inspiration with students in creating their own album covers in my Multi-media classes to having student creativity sore with the use of music and movement. When I started reading The Pepper Effect I just feeling the magic. The Pepper Effect talked about having you believe in your visions, your masterpieces and believe in collaboration and ignore those naysayers who say: “You can’t and won’t do this.” The book has inspired me to start a Donors Choose Project for my Programming class next spring. Where I want students to create games based on music they find inspiring. What words stand out to them? What characters can they create? How can they collaborate and make an amazing experience for all involved? That’s The Pepper Effect and I can’t wait to get started.
Finally, there is The Edu Ninja Mindset by Jennifer Burdis. So, this week ISTE 2018 happened in Chicago. Yep, only an hour train ride from where I live. I had been planning on going to ISTE since 2014. Yet every time I tried to go, something happened. In 2014, I didn’t have the money. In 2015 I chose to go to The Mobile Learning Experience 2015 in Arizona. In 2016, I was unable to make the deadline so I when to USM Summer Spark in Milwaukee and last year, I lost my job. What happen this year? Tons of things, seriously, it couldn’t have been more of a plethora of a perfect storm of problems and well, I couldn’t go. I even know for a fact that going to ISTE in Pittsburgh in 2019 is already off the table. Now, was I as upset as I was a month ago when I talked about Path to Serendipity? No. Not really, I had access to other avenues to follow along. Now, grated, I really, really wanted to be there in person, but I just said: “Well, one day I’ll get there, just not now. Late Wednesday, Jennifer’s book arrived and boy was it an inspiration.
The Edu Ninja Mindset is an amazing book, Jennifer brings her personal story into how building a stronger mind and body will help you turn obstacles into strengths. Jennifer talks about embracing the uncomfortable with positive energy and succeeding. The book is filled with how journaling can inspire students to using movement and a healthy living to build culture and learning. Her ideas for Kinetic Activities on page 171, just ignited so many ideas for my students this fall. To creative opportunities for my students and is leading me to create a great Green Screen Project for my Market Class on how to live a healthier lifestyle. I’ve just started outlining the project and I can’t wait to get it finished and into my students’ hands this fall. It’s going to be amazing.
So that’s it, my current Summer Reading Review. Am I finished? Oh no. Not by a long shot, I keep going back to the books, making new notes, working on lesson plans and ideas. I am inspired and I highly recommend all of these books. Please check them out, you will be happy you did. I know I am.