Creating Connections Counts

Last week I attended AASA’S National Conference on Education, here in my own fine city of San Diego.  I heard some amazing keynote speakers, attended some great sessions, enjoyed lunch with colleagues, and even caught up with my AASA mentor from the More Than a Power Lunch Women in Leadership group I participated in back in 2017.

As I was reflecting on the conference as a whole, with a theme of The Personalization of Education, one word is standing out to me more than any other… connections.  Every session I attended had lessons that came back to connections.

In a session on how to use social media during emergencies, we discussed that while communication is critical, you have to have relationships and connections established well before an emergency strikes, so people have reasons to want to follow you. In his keynote speech, David Brooks spoke not just about his journalism career, but more importantly about loving one another and recognizing the peaks and valleys we all experience. His message was about the importance of connections in our personal and professional lives, and in schools. In Linda Darling-Hammond’s keynote speech, she connected her most current educational research to make the case that we need more love and connections in schools.  Our students need to know we care now more than ever. Her research talked about how neural networks are enhanced by social interactions, how learning is social, and how we all thrive through these connections.

In two sessions about how innovative school districts (including my own!) are making more environmentally sustainable decisions, the presenters shared that when we connect students to what matters to them, and when we help them connect to the world they live in (whether it be the water of the Chesapeake Bay or the glaciers of Montana or a city that banned plastic straws), our students can make an impact on our environment, their own learning, and beyond.

Why so much talk about connections?  Why isn’t it obvious to us, as educators, that we need to make personal connections to our students, and connect them to their learning? I think after so many years of high-stakes testing and external pressures, educators have focused on standards more than support. I think this is also why we’ve seen such a rise in Social-Emotional Learning across the nation’s schools.  The students and the adults in our schools are living more complex lives than ever before.  We need more empathy in our classrooms and our staff lounges. We need more authentic connections with one another, so that when the work gets hard (as we know it will), we can hold each other up. This, to me, is the call to action for more personalization in education. How are we empowering our students to have agency in their own learning?

I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend the AASA conference, and to have time to collaborate with new and old colleagues. Many other leaders have written their own reflections about their time at the conference, including Jill Siler, a new colleague I met this week after we connected on Twitter. She even blogged about our Twitter chat while in a session together! I appreciate the new connection we made and look forward to more learning from and with Jill.

Who will you make a connection with today?

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Did you know that I wrote a book?  The Coach ADVenture: Building Powerful Instructional Skills That Impact Learning is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I love interacting with readers via Twitter and my hashtag #CoachADV.


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Coaching in Meetings

I recently had a team meeting with a number of people in my department.  At the end of the meeting, one of the people came up to me and said something about how they noticed the coaching move I made in the meeting and they even referenced my book, which they had recently been reading.  I was surprised by the comment, because at first I didn’t even know what “coaching move” I had made during the meeting.  When I asked for some clarification, it seemed to be how I listened and gave space for everyone to be heard.

I left that exchanged wanting to reflect further. I think that coaching has become such a way of life for me that I naturally step into my coaching role throughout many conversations and in different scenarios. I think we often don’t realize the impact we can have in small ways.  I don’t think most people consider a group meeting to be a setting where coaching takes place. However, when I consider the times I’ve participated in a grade level meeting or Professional Learning Community (PLC), I have coached in those settings.

As I continue to work with and support instructional leaders stepping into the role of a coach, I am reminded that we can all coach from any role, any position, and any setting. I’d love to hear from you – where are you coaching these days?  How does a setting change the way in which you coach others?

staff meeting

Source: “Staff Meeting” by ljguitar is licensed under CC BY 2.0    A little humor for this topic… NOT the kind of meeting to which I am referring!


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Did you know that I wrote a book?  The Coach ADVenture: Building Powerful Instructional Skills That Impact Learning is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I love interacting with readers via Twitter and my hashtag #CoachADV.

The Coach ADVenture

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Last week I had the opportunity to visit Apple for a 2 day learning experience with a group of leaders from the Southern California. While I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures, nor post anything on social media about Apple Park or the work we did (they are top secret there!), I can share some big takeaways and reflections.

Apple is all about intentionality. From the way they designed their amazing park to meet the needs of their community, to the way they design and market their products, they have a clear and focused intention. Did you know that the Apple iPhone box was designed with a vacuum seal to create anticipation as you open it and to close in exactly 4 seconds when you place the cover back on top of the box? Even their buildings and workspaces are designed to encourage accidental and purposeful collaboration between different working groups.

All of this makes me wonder how we are intentional in education.

  • When we build classes, design new learning spaces, or consider programs or applications, are we intentional?
  • Do we have a clear focus on what we want and how we want to achieve our goals?
  • When we decide to start something new, continue something, or stop something, do we have a purpose?
  • Are we using our data (qualitative and quantitative) to help us make meaningful decisions?

Take a look at the graphic below, which shares growing and declining skills needed in the workforce by 2022, from the World Economic Forum. Apple agrees that these skills are critical to their work. Did you know that 50% of Apple employees do not have a college degree? They hire based on skills, abilities and products, and they don’t need to be linked to a certain degree. How are schools intentionally developing the skills on the growing list in our students?


“Everyone should have the opportunity to create something that can change the world.”

I loved seeing this quote shared during my learning experience. It is my hope that education provides every student with an opportunity to create something impactful.  Now to ensure we are being intentional about those opportunities…

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Did you know that I wrote a book?  The Coach ADVenture: Building Powerful Instructional Skills That Impact Learning is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I love interacting with readers via Twitter and my hashtag #CoachADV.

The Coach ADVenture





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Why Do You Use Social Media?

In episode 48 of the Ten Things To Tell You podcast (can you tell how much I love this show?), Laura discusses whether or not parents should post pictures of their children on social media. The chat moves into a general discussion on why and how people use social media. I’ve been reflecting on my own reasons.  Why do I use social media?  I have different reasons for different outlets.  Here are some of them right now. I’d love to hear your reasons in the comments.

Social Media
Why I use Facebook:
  • To stay connected to far away friends and family
  • To share my travels/ adventures for myself and family/friends
  • To learn about essential oils
  • To participate in some private FB groups around specific topics
  • To maintain a professional work page for an organization that I support
Why I use Instagram:
  • Joy
  • Fun
  • Love of photography (of others talents)
  • New perspectives
  • Intuitive eating/ health/ wellbeing
  • To follow celebrities
  • To see beauty, nature, cute baby animals, happy friends and family
  • To capture some gratitude moments

Why I use Twitter:

  • professional connections
  • blogging
  • to interact with different educators
  • to tell our story (if we don’t tell our story, someone else will!)
  • to follow the news
  • to stay current on educational practices and trends
  • #CoachADV

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are the three main social media outlets I use regularly.  These reasons may change over time, but these are my current reflections.  I also proudly participate in my own personal digital detox weekends or vacations to step away from social media at times.  Which social media outlets to you gravitate to and why?  Please share!

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Did you know that I wrote a book?  The Coach ADVenture: Building Powerful Instructional Skills That Impact Learning is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I love interacting with readers via Twitter and my hashtag #CoachADV.

The Coach ADVenture

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January 2020 Reading Update

Last year I read 88 books, which was over 30 more than I read the previous year. This year, I have a goal to read more diversely. When I blogged about my monthly reading, I plan to keep track of the stats of the books, for my end of year reflection. This month I read:

  • Inside Out by Demi Moore [audiobook] – If you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, it should come as no secret to you that I love a celebrity autobiography audiobook.  I always enjoy hearing the familiar voice of a celebrity sharing their stories. This book was interesting, as there were many aspects of Demi’s childhood and personal relationships that I did not know. Because I was never a huge fan of hers, I didn’t know details about her addiction issues, and she was honest about those along with her lack of self confidence throughout the book. There were times when I felt this was a little too self-indulgent, as she came off like she was asking for pity and complaining that the media was “unfair” like a child might stomp their feet about.  But there were other times were you realize she had a challenging life and was trying her best.
  • City of Girls  by Elizabeth Gilbert – I knew I would like this book, because Laura Tremaine of the 10 Things to Tell You podcast recommended it. But I didn’t know how much I would LOVE it! This book was a beautiful love story to strong, independent women, the city of New York, theater, and an interesting life. I loved following along through Vivian’s turbulent teens and twenties, and into her adulthood. I loved the supporting characters of her aunt Peg and her lifelong companion Olive, the actors from their playhouse, Vivian’s friend Marjorie and her son Nathan, and their wedding dress boutique. The writing in this book was detailed and lively and rich. I laughed out loud, I cried, and I truly enjoyed this story from beginning to end.
  • The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson – I think this was an impulse/ cheap buy when I was stocking up on e-books to have available over vacation.  It was a fun read about Miranda, whose life turns upside down when her long-lost uncle passes away.  The book chronicles a summer adventure as Miranda follows a scavenger hunt her uncle left for her and unravels the mysteries of her past. It was a fun read, especially with all the literary references.
  • Marcelo and the Real World by Francisco X. Stork [audiobook] – My friend Barb recommended this book to me, as I’m always looking for good YA recommendations to listen to. This was a great story about a teenage boy on the Autism spectrum whose father forces him to work in a law firm for the summer.  Marcelo’s father, an attorney, believes that his son needs more practice in the “real world” and that working in his office will teach him life skills.  As Marcelo narrates the story, you see the world through his view, which is often literal, sometimes confused, and very direct.  He questions what is right and wrong and how to behave in different situations. He explores and learns so much about himself, his father, and the “real world” throughout this journey.
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood – I loved reading The Handmaid’s Tale back in 2017 (I just had to look that up – it feels like I read that last year!). I have since loved how the TV series adapted the book and kept the story going long past what happened in the original book.  But to read this, from the original author, explaining what happened to Gilead, was a fantastic experience! If you watch the TV show, you do have to put some of the plot lines out of your head a bit, to pick up here.  The chapters are narrated, via witness testimony, by a variety of women in Gilead and Canada. As their stories connect, we learn more about the history and the fall of Gilead. Women can truly save the world!
  • Relentless: Changing Lives by Disrupting The Educational Norm by Hamish Brewer- I started this book sometime over the last few months. I appreciated the positive attitude of the author, but the first part was more rhetoric and not much in the way of strategies or ideas. Then I put it down to read some other things. Last week I saw Hamish speak as a key note speaker at the San Diego County Equity Conference.  He was an amazing, dynamic, inspiring, motivational speaker!  He made me laugh and cry and sing and dance all within one hour! After hearing him live, I immediately picked this book back up and finished it in one day.  The second half of the book is where he details what he and his staff did to turn a school and a community around. He shares practical strategies and big ideas.  It is not easy work, but it is worth it for the students.

Fiction: 4

Nonfiction: 2

Young Adolescent: 1

Audiobooks: 2

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me: 2

Female author: 4

Male Author: 2

Nonbinary Author: 0

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Checking in on Grace 2020

Recently I’ve been spending more time writing in my own private journal.  Throughout my entire life I have gone through phases where I journaled a lot, and then wouldn’t write for a year, and then would journal sporadically and then stop again.  Lately, the time I spend journaling is meditative, peaceful, and often necessary to work through my own thoughts and reflections.

I came across a new-to-me blog, Marc and Angel Hack Life, in which they shared 20 journal prompts to start developing the habit. Prompt #2 was especially compelling because it included my word of 2020, grace. I like to check in on my word of the year, so this is a great way to journal, to check in, and to notice the good around me.

Train your mind to see the beauty hidden in everything. Your positivity – your graceful acceptance of life – is a choice. The happiness in your heart depends on the quality of your mental perspective.

What’s one thing you could be incredibly grateful for right now, if you wanted to be grateful?

Whenever I start a gratitude list, it’s easy to begin with family, friends, and health.  These are generic, but true. I like to push myself to go deeper into each of these, and to notice the small things in life.

Today I am grateful for:

  • Friends who I consider family, whose children are my nephews and who call me “Aunt Mamey” and who still couldn’t tell you what my real name is!
  • A family member who is bringing another one of my nephews to come visit me (I am his “Tia Amy”) for a fun beach day in a few months!
  • The time to stay late at work this afternoon so I could cross a number of items off my growing to-do list, feeling somewhat accomplished when I left.
  • A day with no back pain, no knee pain (that means it won’t be raining tomorrow!), and no major pain at all!
  • An e-book I had on hold at the library becoming available 5 days earlier than expected.
  • The pink clouds that surrounded the sunrise I enjoyed on my drive in to work this morning.

What are you grateful for today?  Where is your word of the year showing up for you?

Amazon Rainforest Fires Update (1)


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What I Read in 2019

Every year I keep track of what I’ve read. I personally have a goal to beat my previous year’s record of books read, though that didn’t happen last year.  This year I also had a goal to read more Young Adolescent (YA) books and more books by and about people of color, from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

I’ve very competitive with myself, so I like to look back and see how many books I’ve read over the last few years.

  • 2018: 55
  • 2017: 59
  • 2016: 69
  • 2015: 44

This year I read 89 books. It was quite a reading year for me! They break down as:

  • 48 fiction books
  • 29 nonfiction books
  • 12 YA books
  • Out of the above books, I read/listened to 13 of them as audiobooks

In the future, I want to keep better track of the gender and ethnicity of the authors, to continue to challenge myself to read more diversely.

Below is a list of what I read this year.  I put ** in front of some of my favorites. I blogged about these each month during my reading update posts.  The last four I read while on vacation at the end of December. (And when I first published this post, I forgot to add Onward, which I reread throughout this year for my monthly reflection).

  1. Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein
  2. The Path to Serendipity: Discover the Gifts Along Live’s Journey by Allyson Apsey
  3. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told: An Oral History by Megan Mullaly and Nick Offerman [audiobook]
  4. Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger
  5. The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt [audiobook]
  6. For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Emdin
  7. Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
  8. Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
  9. Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students by Zaretta Hammond
  10. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brene Brown [audiobook]
  11. **The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  12. An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
  13. The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris [audiobook]
  14. When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger
  15. One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus [audiobook]
  16. Past Tense by Lee Child
  17. A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
  18. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
  19. From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein
  20. Bi-Normal by M.G. Higgins
  21. The Way He Lived by Emily Wing Smith
  22. Shoot First by Stuart Woods
  23. Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott –
  24. Fast & Loose by Stuart Woods
  25. Indecent Exposure by Stuart Woods
  26. Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming an Exemplary Leader by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
  27. **Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  28. **Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  29. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  30. Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus [audiobook]
  31. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
  32. Run Away by Harlan Coben
  33. **Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
  34. It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell
  35. Quick and Dirty by Stuart Woods
  36. Naked Greed by Stuart Woods
  37. Nuance: Why Some Leaders Succeed and Others Fail by Michael Fullan
  38. In Pieces by Sally Field [audiobook]
  39. Time for Change: 4 Essential Skills for Transformational School and District Leaders by Anthony Muhammad and Luis F. Cruz
  40. P3H: Pilots, Passengers, Prisoners, & Hijackers: An Educator’s Guide to Handling Difficult People While Moving Forward by Trish Hatch, PhD
  41. Professional Learning Redefined: An Evidence-Based Guide by Isabel Sawyer and Marisa Ramirez Stukey
  42. Losing Quin: A journey of injustice and healing by Brian M. Murphy with contributions from Maria Galleher
  43. **The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger
  44. Nantucket Nights by Elin Hilderbrand
  45. The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
  46. Coach It Further: Using the Art of Coaching to Improve School Leadership by Peter M. DeWitt
  47. **The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  48. Unbound by Stuart Woods
  49. **A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev
  50. Turbulence by Stuart Woods
  51. A Double Life by Flynn Berry
  52. Layover by Amy Adelson & Emily Meyer
  53. **The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
  54. One Day in December by Josie Silver
  55. **Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
  56. The World Becomes What We Teach: Educating a Generation of Solutionaries by Zoe Weil
  57. Desperate Measures by Stuart Woods
  58. The Ethical Line: 10 Leadership Strategies for Effective Decision Making by Toni Faddis
  59. Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley [audiobook]
  60. **The Coach ADVenture: Building Powerful Instructional Leadership Skills that Impact Learning by Amy Illingworth [me!]
  61. Dear Adam: The Pen Pal Romance Series by Kelsie Stelting [audiobook]
  62. **The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah [half read/ half audiobook]
  63. The Sumer We Lost Her by Tish Cohen
  64. The Friends We Keep by Jane Green
  65. **Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
  66. Learner-Centered Innovation: Spark Curiosity, Ignite Passion and Unleash Genius by Katie Martin
  67. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  68. Imagine Us Happy by Jennifer Yu [audiobook]
  69. A Delicate Touch by Stuart Woods
  70. **Recursion by Blake Crouch
  71. I’ll Be There For You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller [audiobook]
  72. Big Girl: How I Gave up Dieting & Got a Life by Kelsey Miller
  73. **Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two by J.K.Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
  74. **After the Flood by Kassandra Montag
  75. The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger
  76. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  77. Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum
  78. Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger
  79. Burnout by Emily & Amelia Nagoski
  80. Sadie by Courtney Summers [audiobook]
  81. Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
  82. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro
  83. Full Circle: From Hollywood to Real Life and Back Again by Andrea Barber [audiobook]
  84. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
  85. The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
  86. Wild Card by Stuart Woods
  87. The Need by Helen Phillips
  88. Contraband by Stuart Woods
  89. **Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators by Elena Aguilar
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