April 2022 Reading Update

This month I read a lot more nonfiction than usual, and it was all so different. This was a diverse reading month for sure.

  • The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb – I LOVED this book (5 stars for me!)! Ray is a young Black man who loves music when we meet him. Most of his family does not support his desire to play the violin, but his grandmother does. She gifts him a family fiddle passed down from when her great grandfather was enslaved. As we follow Ray’s study of the violin, we are also fast-forwarded to the present, where we learn that Ray’s very expensive violin was stolen. The story in the present goes back a few months, while the story in the past, tells us a lot more about Ray, his family, this violin, and the greed that comes with a valuable possession. I played the violin in middle school and I wished I had continued my studies. Reading this love letter to classical symphonies was a joy. It was also hard to read all of the very real racism that Ray faced, as only 1.8% of orchestra members are Black today.
  • Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy by Gholdy Muhammad – I heard Gholdy speak at last year’s San Diego County Office of Education Equity Conference. She is a passionate teacher who helps us see the necessity in using historically responsive literacy to reach all students, especially our Black students. Her book is a lesson on the history of Black joy and literacy and a framework for educators to reach students of all identities.
  • The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan – Anne Bogel, of the podcast What Should I Read Next, recommended this series as being good for fans of Louise Penny. While I am waiting for my next LP book to be available in my library, I got started on this Rachel & Esa series. This is aptly described as a cozy mystery, where you are slowly learning about the characters (both police people Rachel and Esa and the crime they are investigating). This takes place in Canada, but focused on refugees and the history from Bosnia, and specifically the Srebrenica massacre, which was genocide of Muslims. I knew nothing about that, so being immersed in the characters and their culture was eye-opening. I also loved the storyline of creating a museum dedicated the mixing of cultures in Andalusia, SPAIN (Toledo, Grenada, my favorite places!)! I enjoyed this and will continue on in the series.
  • Tales from My Uterus and Other Undiscussables by Fabiola Bagula – My friend, who helped me with the questions I needed to ask to make the decision to have a hysterectomy, self-published this book about her stories and memories being a girl, an adolescent, and a woman who was gaslit by many doctors before her health was taken seriously. I love her brutal honesty!
  • Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho – These two Taiwanese-American girls because friends as children, and we follow their friendship as it ebbs and flows across decades. We jump from one girl’s journey to the other and back, experiencing snippets of their failed relationships, complicated relationships with their mothers, guilt, cultural experiences, and more. This was an interesting story, with a unique structure, as I felt like we never went deep into any one part of the story, yet by the end I was invested in both of their lives and wishing the best for their futures.
  • Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain [audiobook] – I loved Susan Cain’s first book, Quiet. When I heard her on a podcast talking about her new book, I was intrigued, though not as excited by this topic as I am by the study of introverts. In this new book, Cain explore why she has always loved funeral music. She explores the research on bittersweet – why we cry and when, how sometimes when we cry with joy there is also sadness mixed in. She shares her love of Leonard Cohen and sad music, and why it has an impact on us. I personally usually do not like slow or sad music, but I did listen to some of her recommendations off her playlist, to feel the mood she was describing. I could appreciate the celebration that crying is a good thing, as I am known for welling up with tears over the slightest emotional topic and I cry at commercials, books, and movies!
  • I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet by Shauna Niequist [audiobook]- I have never read anything by this author before, but Laura Tremaine has been friends with her for decades and speaks so well of her as a person and an author. I enjoyed listening to her read these essays, most of which were written during the first year of the pandemic. I love her love of NYC, which she has only moved to in the last few years after a life in the midwest. She speaks about her family, her writing, her faith, and vaguely about family and church crises from the recent past. I had to google to learn what she was referencing, but it wasn’t necessary to know the specifics to feel the pain and longing and growth she described. I am finding more and more that I enjoy essay collections.
  • Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice – I read this for Laura Tremaine’s Secret Stuff book club, and that was the only reason I finished it. If I wasn’t reading it for a book club discussion, I would have abandoned it before page 50! While I heard of this series decades ago, and my brother told me LOVED the movie, which I never saw, I never knew much about it beyond the movie trailer. I did not enjoy the writing style, as there were practically no chapters, with TONS of overly written narration that just went on and on – not my cup of tea! I was annoyed by all the characters and I wasn’t even satisfied by the ending. My least favorite reading experience in a long time. ** I did, however, enjoy the book club discussion. I’m always fascinated to hear other people describe what made them love a book that I did not enjoy reading. I realize that the writing style was too much for me to overcome, despite a semi-interesting plot (of crazy vampires!). It also seems that all vampire writing is derivative of Dracula, which I have never read.
  • Bath Haus by P.J. Vernon – Another disappointing read here. In this story, Oliver is bored with his life with his older partner Nathan. When Oliver visits a Bath House, to cheat on Nathan, he is choked and almost killed by Kristian, the stranger he meets there. As Oliver tells lie after lie to Nathan and the police, Kristian begins to stalk Olive. This gets messy and I didn’t like any of the characters nor all their ridiculous lying. I only finished it to know how it ended.
  • Vox by Christina Dalcher – This was horrifying and propulsive and truly a dystopian world we never want to see come true! In a post-Obama world, a new regime has taken over America. As they work to get us back to a Pure society, all women are forced to wear arm bands that count how many words they say – and they have a limit of 100 per day. After 100, they get shocked. Dr. McCellan is a neurolinguist who was studying aphasia (second book I’ve read about this in a week!) and she is brought in to help the government. Everything that happens next is tense and propulsive and I loved it!

Favorite book(s) this month

Fiction: The Violin Conspiracy
Nonfiction: I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet

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Earth Day 2022

I’m writing a series of blog posts to document my learning about green schools; work that I have landed in over the last few years. Please follow along with my journey and share where you are in the environmental sustainability movement. 

One of the green initiatives in my school district is a district Green Team, which I described in this post. In a recent meeting, in which all of our schools were represented, our community members discussed Earth Day. This year, Earth Day is on Friday, April 22, 2022. Our Green Team leaders shared a number of ideas that the site reps could take back to their school such as:

  • A table at lunch where students could make recycled art, or art that represents one of our green initiatives, or around the theme of Earth Day
  • A scavenger hunt for students to go around the school and find each of the green initiatives signs (explaining our key initiatives such as water filling stations, no idling zones, rain collection barrels, solar tubes, etc.)
  • A Waste-less lunch day, teaching students how to bring a lunch from home with no waste
  • A trash collection (we are finding more masks on the ground now than ever before)
  • A Bike and Walk to School day

While our green team leaders consider how they will celebrate Earth Day at their school sites, our Educational Services team also puts together resources for teachers to enhance their lessons throughout the entire week leading up to Earth Day. The Earth Day website, https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2022/ is a great resource. This year’s theme is Invest in Our Planet. You can find lesson ideas, campaigns to support, the history of Earth Day, and so much more on their website. I encourage every educator to consider how you can bring in Earth Day education to your classroom, school, or district this year, whether you have any green initiatives or not. This is a free, easy way to start and our earth deserves it.

 Previous post(s) in this green schools series:

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Learning Something New

When was the last time you learned something new? What about something new that has nothing to do with your job or profession or degree? I consider myself a lifelong learner. I believe that phrase was in my first “educational philosophy” that I had to write in college. I am sure it has been in various cover letters I’ve written over the years. My email signature at work currently reads, “Always learning, Amy”. I am an avid reader and I share my new learning with others in many ways, so I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that I am a learner.

I have recently been a learner in a new and different way that had nothing to do with work, and which was not connected to anyone else or anything I’ve done before. The experience felt so fresh to me. I signed up for a virtual course with a content creator I have admired for years on Instagram. Every year I choose a word of the year, and I do that by following the journaling prompts created by Susannah Conway. I love her prompts for this annual event, for photo challenges, and more. I finally decided to bite the bullet and pay for a full course, both to support her and to challenge myself.

The course was structured through a Learning Management System where Susannah uploaded the course work. Each week consisted of at least three videos, accompanied by written content detailing what was said in the video, as well as a task for us to try on our own. I appreciated that this was self-paced, as I didn’t have time on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening to do coursework after a long work day, but I could catch up on the weekends when I had more time. Also, I have access to the coursework for months after the official six-week course is over, so I never felt rushed.

Normally I am not an auditory learner. If I had a choice between learning something new by watching a video or by reading a description, I would choose reading. I watch How To videos only when they are my only option, or when I’m trying some DIY project for which I have no natural skills (which rarely goes well!). However, in this case, Susannah’s videos were an incredible learning tool for me. The content was visual in nature, and seeing multiple examples in each video, along with written follow-up really helped me learn. Being able to listen, look, pause and then journal was a great structure for me as a learner.

The course, called 78 Mirrors, was a guide to using Tarot Cards for your own self reflection. Before this course, I knew NOTHING about tarot cards. I had rolled my eyes at the thought of them in the past. One of our first assignments was to buy 3 tarot card decks. I found the cheapest I could on Amazon, because I didn’t want to overcommit to something I might regret. By week two of the course, I had already purchased two more decks that I found to be gorgeous, and I only knew about them because each of Susannah’s videos included examples of tarot cards from multiple decks.

One of our next assignments was to create a journal specifically for this course, so we could capture our learning about each of the 78 cards in a tarot deck in one place. I like to journal, and had fun creating this. More importantly, before I hit play on every video, I had my journal out to the appropriate page, and my decks out in front of me, ready to take notes. At the time, I wasn’t sure if or when I might use those notes, but I have gone back to them many times. In addition, writing down my new thoughts and reflections helped solidify learning for me.

An aspect of the course I truly appreciated was how the content was broken up. A tarot deck consists of 78 cards, separated into 4 suits (like a deck of cards), plus an additional 22 cards. each suite has number cards (Ace- 10), plus the court cards (Page, Knight, Queen and King). The videos went through the number cards first, so we looked at the Ace of all four suits together, then the twos, and so on. Then we studied the court cards, and finally the additional 22 cards. I appreciated that for each element, we saw multiple examples, heard various interpretations, and even saw sample journal entries related to the cards. More importantly, the whole purpose of this was to make this your own, to benefit yourself in your own reflection, which felt freeing and empowering.

Throughout this learning experience what I appreciated was the loose structure with autonomy to make it my own, the visual and written supports, the community (there was a Facebook group created where we could share our thoughts with others in the course), and the excitement when I realized the learning had sunk in! I’m happy to report that still love learning and am glad to have had this unique experience.

A sample of some of my Tarot cards
What my study session often looked like, with Diego needing to be involved!

What was the last new learning challenges you gave yourself?

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Checking in on my word of 2022

I was intentional about my word of 2022: Connections. I was craving this from deep in my soul, a need to be with my people in more meaningful and authentic ways. Connections continue to drive how I spent my time this year. I think this also makes me more mindful (a word from many years ago!) Lately connections have looked like:

*a 5 hour dinner catching up with a friend I haven’t seen in two years – lots of storytelling and sharing

* a 5 day trip to visit friends who moved away and who I have missed during the last two years – lots of laughter, loud singing, a new card game, and exploring a new-to-me city (Memphis). This trip did also have connecting flights, which were part of the inspiration for my graphic this year (see below). While connections are often a pain, it’s a first world problem I am happy to deal with as long as I can keep traveling!

* a day-long visit with my childhood best friend who is in my town on her vacation – lots of walking, talking, reminiscing and eating

* silly text exchanges with friends near and far

* making videos for my nephews

* sharing the books I love with my online book community

Brene Brown, in her latest book that I own but haven’t read yet, talks about the importance of connecting with ourselves first so we can better connect with others. This rings so true with where I am in life right now, and how my own hobbies and habits are about connecting with me. I’m moving her book to the top of my nonfiction to-be-read stack so I can dive in deeper to her research and findings.

Previous posts on Connections this year:

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March 2022 Reading Update

March was a very interesting month of reading for me. After a year of listening to the Currently Reading podcast, I have a HUGE list of recommended books I want to read. I put many of them on hold at the library and I read them as they are available, and based on my mood. This month felt especially random, with much more nonfiction than normal for me! This month I read:

  • How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu – This was reminded me of Station Eleven (life in a post pandemic world) and Project Hail Mary (space and alien life possibilities), both of which I enjoyed for their unique structures and beautifully-told stories. This was a collection of chapters about different people before, during, and after a global pandemic, but not COVID-19, and while each chapter felt isolated from the others, eventually you found connections amongst the characters. We traveled from Siberia, across America, to Japan, to space, and back throughout the stories, each tale full of death and those who survived. This was a bittersweet story well-told.
  • How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith – This was a 5 star read for me. Each time I pick up a book related to American history, I think this will be the one where I will hear repeated facts, and won’t learn anything new. Wrong again! As we continue to peel back the layers of incomplete histories that we have been taught, I am amazed and saddened by the harsh realities that make up our country’s foundation. Smith takes us through a deeper look into various historical homes, former plantations, current prisons, and other historical markers. As someone who went to college in VA, I really enjoyed the chapter on Monticello, Jefferson’s home, which I toured in the early 90’s. It was wonderful to hear how the home is now incorporating entire tours on the Hemings family and acknowledging the lineage from Jefferson. There was so much personalization to this, with Smith taking the tours available, asking the harder questions, and including quotes from enslaved people captured through the Federal Writers’ Project. I borrowed this from the library, but might need to buy it for myself – it was that impactful. I highly recommend this!
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green [audiobook]- I loved Green’s The Fault in our Stars years ago, which was a bittersweet YA story. This is nothing like that, and yet has the same heart. In this collection of essays, Green uses a 5 star rating system to rate each essay topic. Topics include Haley’s Comet, Diet Dr. Pepper, and Scratch N Sniff Stickers, among many other random ideas. Green blends humor with seriousness, facts with fun memories, and new learning with pandemic life, as he wrote most of this during early COVID-19 days. I really enjoyed the different topics and the depth of knowledge he went into with them. This was fun to listen to him read.
  • A Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – I read this for Laura Tremaine’s Secret Stuff March Book Club. I hadn’t ever read anything by Didion, and I was a littler nervous to read a memoir about grieving, but I enjoyed her writing. This book captured the year after Joan’s husband John died of sudden cardiac arrest, while their daughter was in a coma fighting for her life. Joan had an incredibly rough year, not able to grieve for her husband until her daughter’s health improved, and then took a turn again. When you grieve, the simplest things can bring back floods of memories. Joan takes us through what she tried to avoid thinking about to stay away from her memories, and what she did to lean into them. This was melancholy but also so full of a lifetime of love.
  • State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny – I have read books by both of these authors in the past, and I am excited that they paired up to write this political thriller. I loved this fast-paced book and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! Ellen, the Secretary of State, does not have a good relationship with the new president, who seems to have appointed her just to get her out of his way. When an immediate and real terror threat threatens Europe and the USA, Ellen must figure out what is going on in order to save lives, including her own adult children. She travels to many countries (Iran, Russia!) and must face awful people in her quest for the truth. It’s hard to know who to trust. This all felt so real it was scary, and a little too close to being a possible plot in our world. I love that the main characters, Ellen and her best friend Betsy, were modeled off of real people who sound like they were wonderful.
  • The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino and translated by Alexander O. Smith – This is a mystery that takes place in Japan. We meet Yasucko, a single mom who has a horrible ex-husband and we meet her neighbor Ishigami, a quiet math teacher. Something happens early in the book and our police detective Kusanagi must figure out what exactly happened. As he, his partner, and his friend, who is a physic professor and a genius, try to solve the mystery, we learn more about Ishigami. This was a interesting story that held my attention. I appreciated reading a book translated from Japanese, and learning a little about Japanese culture.
  • Save Yourself: A Memoir by Cameron Esposito [audiobook]- I’m not sure how I started following this stand-up comedian on Instagram, but once I found some of their videos funny, I wanted to listen to their memoir. Cameron’s memoir describes their very Catholic upbringing, their realization that they were a lesbian, their guilt about that “sin”, and their eventual self acceptance. I’m using the pronoun they because on Instagram Cameron has shared that they are nonbinary (though the book was written when they thought of themselves as a masculine-presenting female).
  • The Wild Robot by Peter Brown – One of my nephews (CM) recommended this book to me recently when we were at a family lunch. I always ask him what he is reading when I see him and he told about this series. He said, “It’s good, not very fast-paced, but I liked the story and the characters” and I agree with him. This is a cute middle grades story about a robot that gets turned on after a crash on an island with a lot of wild animals. The robot learns how to adapt and live with the animals and make friends and be “wild”. There are a lot of themes of love, friendship, acceptance, and support in this book.
  • Verity by Colleen Hoover – This was a fast-paced, tense read for me and I loved it (4.5 stars!)! Lowen is a struggling author who is hired to finish writing a very famous series when the original author has an injury. Lowen moves into the author’s home with her family, to go through all of her materials. As Lowen gets to the know the author through her notes, and her family, she finds more and more traumatic details of their life. This is a very open door romance with lots of descriptive detail, along with some very tense moments when you are unsure who to trust. It’s a fun read! Thanks to Andree for loaning me her copy!

Favorite book(s) this month

Fiction: State of Terror

Nonfiction: How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

What I read in March 2022 (9 book covers pictured)
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A Gratitude Circle

I love when authentic connections happen between people in unexpected ways. Recently I was co-facilitating a professional learning afternoon with three colleagues at a school site. The learning was focused on school and classroom culture, building relationships, and also expressing gratitude for our colleagues and our own resilience. One of my co-presenters introduced a Gratitude Circle as our closing activity for the session.

We got into groups of 4 and each group completed their own gratitude circle. To do this, the group would start with person A in the “hot seat”. The other three group members would each take turns saying something they appreciated about person A, or something they were grateful for about person A. Person A was only allowed to respond with “Thank you”. That is a key rule, because so many of us want to brush off compliments or kindness. This is a time to soak in the positive words. After person A, person B gets into the “hot seat” to hear the gratitude from their colleagues.

While the staff was doing this activity, our group of four presenters did the activity in the front of the room ourselves. Part way through I paused us and had our group turn to face the staff members, all seated at tables around a large auditorium. Immediately the principal said, “Look! I have never seen her smile like that!” and another person said, “Wow! Look how happy he looks!”. Observing the Gratitude Circles around the room gave us a chance to see authentic joy, happiness, laughter, some tears, and camaraderie amongst this staff. It was such a beautiful feeling to see how kindness spreads so easily.

I left this day so filled with gratitude. I went back to my office and described the activity to my friend and boss (Hi AG!), who then brought the Gratitude Circle to a group we were in together the following week.

As a participate myself in this activity twice, there were two profound elements of this for me. One was the challenge of coming up with some unique to share about my colleagues, so that I wasn’t repeating what was already said and I was being genuine in celebrating a strength about each person. The second was hearing the strengths or the compliments that different colleagues chose to share about me. It was fascinating to hear the specific examples of things I have said or done that stood out to other people, especially some people I’m only just beginning to get to know and others with whom I have worked very closely for almost 3 years now. One colleague told me she was impressed with how good I am at having difficult conversations. This is something that I have worked hard to learn my entire time in leadership. This was a HUGE weakness when I first became a school leader, and something I struggled with for years. It was so affirming to hear someone see this as a strength in me now, after I have read, studied, practiced, and role-played to develop skills in this area specifically.

Have you ever participated in a Gratitude Circle?

a circle of people amongst many more circles.” by brett gullborg is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
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The Reader in Me 2.0

Seven years ago (wow, it’s hard to believe I’ve been blogging that long!) I wrote a post called The Reader in Me, inspired by a book, an author, and another blogger. The goal was to write 100 facts about my life as a reader, but I only got to 48. It was so much fun to revisit that list and see how many of those items are still true today. Since this blog is mostly a reading blog at this point, I figured I would try to add some more new details about my readerly life this time around.

  1. I asked for a subscription to the Book of the Month Club last year and have loved picking out one new book a month ever since.
  2. In 2021 I discovered The Currently Reading podcast, which has changed my readerly life. My TBR shelf on Goodreads has over 350 books on it, which is insane!
  3. I love suspenseful, fast-paced thrillers. Catherine Ryan Howard is one of my new favorite authors in this genre.
  4. I love buying books for all of my nephews, most of whom enjoy reading right now!
  5. My 9 year old nephew has agreed to buddy read one book a month with me this year and I couldn’t be more excited!
  6. My 3 year old nephew is the only child I’ve ever met at that age who can sit and listen to multiple books read in a row, multiple times a day. It makes my readerly heart so happy!
  7. There are many readers in my office, so I love discussing book recommendations with them all. Since I don’t need to keep a lot of books around my house once I’ve read them, I love bringing in my past reads to share with others.
  8. 2021 was my best year of reading ever, and December 2021 was my best reading month ever (thanks to a medical leave where I had endless time to read!).
  9. I realized recently that I own over 40 e-books on my Kindle that I haven’t read yet (thanks to Amazon sales!). These are top of my TBR this year.
  10. My permanent bookshelves are filled with books with special meaning to me and books that I am willing to reread time and time again. Not many books end up on these shelves.
  11. In 2022 I’m using a new Google spreadsheet to track my reading. It was created by Katie, one of the hosts of The Currently Reading podcast, and it’s incredible! I can’t wait to see my end of year stats.
  12. I often say I don’t like Historical Fiction, but I really do. I don’t like to get bogged down into gory historical details, but I love a fictional story set in a different time period, especially if it involves powerful women doing good work.
  13. Midway through 2021 I began to create a collage of my monthly reads, showing the covers of the books I’d read that month.
  14. I strongly dislike when someone, usually on Instagram or FB, posts something like, “I”m on page x of this book and I’m just not into it. Should I keep going?” I think we shouldn’t look to others to help us make these decisions. I have no problem putting down a book that I’m not into, even if someone says to keep reading it. My taste is unique to me and no one can 100% predict what I will or won’t like.
  15. The Currently Reading podcast Patreon hosts an Independent Book store every month, who recommends 5 books. I try to buy one book each month off that list to support these Indie bookstores when I can.
  16. I prefer to read nonfiction in the morning, and fiction throughout the day or in the evening.
  17. As much as I read, I only recently started to read just before I go to sleep at night.
  18. I don’t like to read subtitles on movies, because I’m usually playing a game on my ipad while watching the tv.
  19. When I started checking out library books last November, during my medical leave, it was the first time in over a decade I had checked out a physical book from the library. I’ve been using library e-books for years, but they don’t have access to everything in that form and I’ve learned how to put both formats on hold.
  20. This year, thanks to Laura Tremaine’s Secret Stuff, I’m participating in a virtual book club.
  21. Each month I have a Zoom meeting with other Currently Reading patrons to discuss what we’ve read that month.
  22. I am not a fan of The Classics. I read a few in high school, which made me hate reading for years! I recently read a few more, and while I finished them, and recognize that there is value in the way my brain has to work differently to read older language, it is not enjoyable nor educational enough for me to do so willingly!
  23. But for Laura Tremaine’s book club I read Frankenstein in early 2022 and survived!
  24. I feel like it’s cheating when I count a middle grades book or a book of poetry on my books read list for the year, because they are usually so short and quick to read. But I still do it!

So I was able to write 48 ideas on my first list and have now added another 24 here. Maybe by 2025 I will read 100 facts about my life as a reader. What are some of your readerly facts?

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February 2022 Reading Update

This was an interesting reading month for me. I read 3 nonfiction books, all good, which is more than normal. I also read 3 #OwnVoices books, which were all good. This month I read:

  • Honor by Thrity Umrigar – This was an Indie Press List from the Currently Reading podcast and I’m so glad I bought it and read it! I love starting the month with a 5 star read! Smita is an Indian-American woman who was born in India, and whose family moved to America when she was 14, under mysterious circumstances we learn about later. When she arrives, she thinks she is helping a journalist friend recover from surgery, but she is taking over the story her friend was covering. Meena is a young Hindu woman who married a Muslim man. When her brothers learned she was having a baby, they decided to burn their house down, killing Meena’s husband and disfiguring their own sister, in the name of honoring their traditions. As Smita is reminded of some of the horrors of the patriarchy and traditions of India, she is also reminded of the good in people and the blending of cultures in Mumbai. As we get to know her, we watch her decide how to remember India and how to honor herself. Trigger warnings for serious violence and abuse.
  • The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede – I saw (and cried through!) the musical Come From Away on Broadway years ago, and fell in love with the kindness of Gander, Newfoundland after 9/11. This is the nonfiction account of what happened in many small towns across Newfoundland, when 38 plans were suddenly diverted there after US air spaces were closed following the terrorist attacks. The incredible neighborly spirit was and still is unheard of, but leaves you with hope for our fellow humans. This is a beautiful portrayal of genuinely good people in trying times.
  • An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole – This is my second Indie Press List book this month. In this historical romance, written by a Black woman, who meet Elle. Elle was born enslaved, but her family was freed and able to move to the North. Years late, we find Elle working undercover for the Union as a slave back in the South. When Elle meets Malcolm, a white man, sparks fly. Then they realize they are both working undercover. Soon they are falling in lust and working together. This is not my favorite genre, but I enjoyed the story.
  • Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard – After loving her two latest books over the last few months, not only am I an avid Howard fan, but I am now happily reading her earlier books as well! I loved this one! Adam’s wife leaves for a work conference and doesn’t return. As he tries to figure out what happened, he uncovers secrets he didn’t want to know, and how easy it is to commit a crime on a cruise. At the same time, we are following Romaine’s childhood, where he continues to make bad choices that lead to injury and death around him, and he is just a child himself. Where and how the two storylines meet up was tense and suspenseful in this thriller!
  • Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout – Having read two other books by Strout, I know I have to be a in particular kind of reading mood to pick up her books. She writes with lots of descriptive language, and her stories are heavy on character and light on plot. Knowing that, I enjoyed this book as it was unique. Lucy was telling the story of some hard times of her ex-husband William, after his third wife left him. the story weaves in bits of their marriage, their past, his mother, their children, and his other wives, all while we learn more about the friendship these two still have. This is the third in a series, but I haven’t read the others. I read this because Laura Tremaine raved about it (same person who turned me on to Strout’s Olive books). It was a good Saturday afternoon read.
  • The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs – I’m so grateful that Laura Tremaine picked this for our February Book Club book. I hadn’t heard of it, and now I’m so glad I read it. This is a beautiful and sad telling of the lives of these three amazing Black women, who fought through their own traumas as Black women in America, to raise three powerful Black men who impacted the Civil Rights movement and all of America. We learn where each woman grew up, about their families of origin and the families they created. Each one followed her passion for faith, education, social justice, and more, while loving their families and their communities in their own way. Each woman ended up burying their adult son, two lost to murder and one to cancer. This book also tells many brutalities faced by Black women in American across many decades, and the power Black women have to lift up a nation, when given the respect they deserve. Written by a Black woman who had to dig up these small facts on the women behind the men of a movement, this is an incredible look into the history of white supremacy and the value of education, community, and kindness.
  • The Definitive Guide to Instructional Coaching: Seven Factors for Success by Jim Knight – I received a free copy of this book in order to write a review for the AASA journal. I always enjoy Knight’s passion for and knowledge of instructional coaching. This book felt like a summary of a lot of his previous work, packaged into a new system. The seven factors were all elements of a coaching system that I agree with, and that I have written about as well (from voice and choice to relationship building to time management for coaches). This is a practice guide for setting up a new coaching system.
  • Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah – What a sweet and odd story! Jo rents a cabin in the woods to conduct her summer research on birds. While there, a strange young girl, called Ursa, shows up with a story about being an alien. As Jo tries to figure out what to do about Ursa, they meet neighbor Gabe. Both Jo and Gabe are recovering from their own past traumas and are filled with grief and depression. As the story unfolds, we see love, found family, literature and science collide in a beautiful way.
  • The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith – This was a cute YA book about two teens who meet up unexpectedly in the middle of a blackout in NYC. Immediately after they have one great day together, where it is clear that they like each other, their lives are pulled into different cities across countries. They communicate via postcards for awhile, try to create relationships in their new cities, and fight the urge that is drawing them closer together. This was a sweet story, but also had a lot of the usual teen tropes – telling lies to avoid having hard conversations, hiding parts of your life from your parents/ others, and not admitting how you really feel. This book and the one I finished before it have been on my Kindle for at least a year, so I’m glad I’m going cleaning out my TBR!

Favorite book(s) of this month: Fiction–> Honor; Nonfiction–> The Three Mothers

Book cover of the books I read in February 2022
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How are you so comfortable talking about race and equity issues?

I am facilitating a monthly book discussion with a team at work where we read and discuss a chapter of Coaching for Equity by Elena Aguilar. This is a small but mighty team who works very well together and we have built up trusting relationships. One of my colleagues asked me this question during our last discussion, “How are you so comfortable talking about race and equity issues”? When she first asked, I gave a brief answer about how I had a professor in my doctoral program start my cultural proficiency journey, and how I have tried to be aware of my personal bubble and ensure it isn’t all the same kind of voices (meaning, I have friends and family members with diverse identity markers).

When I went home that night, I really reflected on this question and my own learning journey. Most people who know me know that I don’t enjoy talking about myself non-stop, but I can write and reflect in much longer “discussions”! I decided to look back over my blog, where I have captured much of this journey, to outline what I have done over the last 8 years to be a better ally, a better advocate, a social justice leader, and a better citizen of this global society. I think it is important to be open and honest about this work, and for those who are just beginning their own DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) journey, to see what work others have done. I share this not as a roadmap, but a reflection.

Coaching for Equity book cover

  *   In January of 2014 I wrote a blog post about the books I was reading at that time, including those for my cultural proficiency class with Dr. Cheryl Ward
     *   The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar
     *   Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders by Randall B. Lindsey, Kikanza Nuri Robins, & Raymond D. Terrell
     *   Culturally Proficient Leadership: The Personal Journey Begins Within by Terrell & Lindsey
  *   In March of 2014 I was actually deep into that class and reflected about my learning here. In this post I outlined 5 steps I believed educators needed to take in their own equity journey.
  *   In 2016, when I was reading The Art of Coaching Teams by Elena Aguilar, I was inspired to blog about my core values, one of which was equity.  I blogged about this multiple times:
     *   Core Values
     *   Revisiting Core values
     *   What are your core values?

  *   In November 2016, after the presidential elections, I wrote about how I was taking action, much of which was related to my equity journey.
  *   In January of 2017 I went to DC for the Women’s March, and wrote about Marching for Equity. I have attended multiple marches and protest in my own personal life, each of which is an education unto itself!
  *   In 2020, when I read Coaching for Equity the first time, I blogged a reflection about each chapter.  This is post #13, which has links to all the posts in the series.
  *   In summer of 2020 I joined a San Diego group called SURJ- Showing Up for Racial Justice. This group was created for white people, by white people, to teach us how to be allies for BIPOC communities.

* I have second-hand experience with both a young adult and an adult going through a transition, and have learned alongside friends and family members about gender identities.

* I have attended many PRIDE parades and festivals with friends and LGBTQIA allies.

* I have had conversations with friends and colleagues about my own biases and the institutional biases within our educational system.
 

Core Values activity

There are many ways to expand your own bubble, to ensure you are hearing voice difference from your own. This can happen through friends and family, through books and media, and by traveling outside of said bubble. Everyone who reads my blog also knows that I am an avid reader. While I love escaping into fun fiction, I have made a conscious effort to read nonfiction that continues to educate me on social justice issues, written by authors from a variety of identity markers to expand my perspectives. Below are a just a few of those titles as a reference:

 
     *   Raising Ryland– Hillary Whittington
     *   Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
     *   The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
     *   Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
     *   The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride
     *   Becoming by Michelle Obama (audiobook)
     *   For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Emdin
     *   Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students by Zaretta Hammond
     *   The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris [audiobook]How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
     *   I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
     *   Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
     *   Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World by Layla Saad
     *   White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo
     *   So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo
     *   Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson
     *   Leading While Female: A Culturally Proficient Response for Gender Equity by Trudy T. Arriaga, Stacie L. Stanley and Delores B. Lindsey
     *   The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee
     *   Start Here, Start Now: A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community by Liz Kleinrock
     *   You are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience edited by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown
     *   Miseducated: A Memoir by Brandon P. Fleming
     *   Raising Our Hands: How White Women Can Stop Avoiding Hard Conversations, Start Accepting Responsibility, and Find Our Place on the New Frontlines by Jenna Arnold
     *   Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann with Kristen Joiner
     *   Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman

What has your own DEI journey looked like? Where have you lingered for deeper learning? Who are your teachers and mentors on the path? Where do you seek out new information and different perspectives? How are you learning to have necessary and important conversations? To me, this work matters for each and every human we interact with every day, in and out of schools. I practice this work on behalf of my family, my friends, my colleagues, our students, and our global community.

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What is my word of the year again?

I literally asked myself this question the other day, and I had to go through my photos to remind myself that I had selected CONNECTION as my word of 2022. I laughed at myself for forgetting my own word. But then I instantly felt that I had been living with this as my driving force without being consciously focused on it.

Since this year began, I feel like I have been running a marathon that finally hit a break when a four-day weekend appeared like a mirage in mid-February. While being so busy getting back into work, during a COVID surge, I have also gravitated towards connections with friends and family as much as possible. I’ve had fun play dates with my 3-year old nephew, I have met up with friends for dinner and brunch and walks all over town, and I have been planning and booking upcoming trips to spend more quality time with friends. I can’t wait for those connections!

To me, I know that this is the right word for me because it comes naturally as something I want and need to feel fulfilled. I’m grateful for the big and small connections and seeing the positives amongst the first rough weeks of this year.

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