August Reading Update [2019]

At the end of each month, I love to look back on these posts to see what I read. This month’s post makes me a little sad because I didn’t read much at all.  However, this was the second month of my new job, and the first two weeks of a new school year.  I have been very busy, and way too tired to read after long work days.

  • Dear Adam: The Pen Pal Romance Series by Kelsie Stelting [audiobook] – I loved this fun YA story. The chapters were narrated by two main characters, Nora and Emerick. As we learned about their lives in high school, an anonymous student starts an advice column in the school paper. Over time, all of the students learn that everyone has problems and that no one is immune to family or friend or school drama.
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah [half read/ half audiobook] – I LOVED this book!  Every time I hear about another WWII novel, I think that we have enough and we don’t need more.  But then I read one like this and I’m so glad we have this one too! This was such a touching story of two sisters and how they survived the war in France. Isabelle created a secret and dangerous way to save British and American pilots who landed in enemy territory.  Her sister Vianne had Nazi’s staying in her home, while her husband was a POW, and her best friend was targeted for being Jewish.  Both women were brave in their own ways. There was a lot of sadness mixed with moments of triumphs.
  • The Sumer We Lost Her by Tish Cohen – I finished this book just in time to make it on this month’s post. I enjoyed this bittersweet story, about a trouble marriage, a missing girl, and a past coming back to haunt them. Elise and Matt were both flawed characters, trying to decide whether to fight for their marriage or not. The chapters gave us both of their perspectives and I didn’t end up loving either of them, but I grew to appreciate what they brought to their relationship. The nature and the nostalgia were beautiful to read throughout the book.
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When do you read?

I recently discovered a fun podcast, 10 Things to Tell You.  Laura, the host, prompts us with questions to go deeper, make connections, and to share our stories with each other. I started back at the beginning of the podcast, which began last January, and episode two asks when and how do you read. It was fun to listen to Laura, who is an avid reader, share how, when, and what she reads.  I’ve decided to share my answers here, in the form of 10 things to share.

  1. I love to read! I have been an avid reader for most of my life.
  2. I read nonfiction books for work, for personal growth, and for entertainment, especially if they are autobiographies.
  3. I read fiction, especially mysteries, for fun! I could read fiction all day, every day!
  4. I like to listen to Young Adolescent or Celebrity-read autobiographies as audio books in my car.
  5. One of my secret tips for reading more is to mute commercials and read during those breaks.  Sadly, with the advent of my beloved DVR and Netflix binge-watching, I rarely watch live television anymore. So now I have to make a conscious choice to turn OFF the TV in order to read more.
  6. I love to read on vacations, on planes, and at the beach.
  7. During a busy work week, the only reading I do tends to be on my computer screen for work. My eyes and my brain are too tired to read at home after a long work day.
  8. I try to carve out time on weekends to catch up on my reading.
  9. I blog about what I read each month to remember what I read and to hold myself accountable for reading more.
  10. I read real books, I read on my ipad, and on my Kindle. I prefer the comfort of e-books for travel. I prefer real books when I’m reading a professional book for work, because I tend to write and mark up those books with notes. I read library books, borrowed books, and purchased books.

When do you read?  Will you share 10 reading notes?


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Building Resiliency: August

In January I began a deep dive in Elena Aguilar’s Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators and the accompanying workbook. I hope to share some of my reflections as I build daily habits to strength my own resilience and support that growth in others. Aguilar outlines a habit and a disposition for each month of the year. Follow along as I reflect on each month’s key ideas.

August’s habit is Tell Empowering Stories and the disposition is Optimism.

I’ve come to an interesting point in my year of diving deeper in Onward and emotional resiliency. In July I started a new job, where one of our focus areas for the year is Social Emotional Learning.  In early August we had a management retreat focused on love and mindfulness and self care for leaders. Our district-wide theme for the year is “Know My Story, Know Our Story”. All of these led me to August’s habit of telling empowering stories and the disposition of optimism.  I’m in such an optimistic place that this all feels right.

However, I know myself well. I know that when I get stressed out, or I have a bad day, I forget to use my mindfulness and resiliency habits. I often let the stress take over and I don’t even realize it until my jaw hurts from all the clenching I’ve done and my shoulder ache with tensed up muscles.  As I revisited August’s ideas, I’ve tried to find ways to build habits that I can tap into as I feel the stress beginning, before it’s too late.

Aguilar’s message about storytelling is that we are each the author of our own story.  When something happens, my interpretation can write a positive or a negative story. When someone gets upset and yells in a meeting at work, I can write an internal story about something I must have done to upset my colleague or I can write a story about how my colleague is having a rough day. When I choose to focus on optimism, the story empowers me in a positive way. It uplifts me, and allows me to have empathy for my colleague, rather than bringing me down into a negative spiral of self doubt.

This is where I need the practice! In the heat of the moment, when a situation begins to get stressful, I need to follow Aguilar’s recommended steps (these are the first four of six):

  • Be aware of thoughts
  • Recognize and shift distorted thoughts
  • Uproot problematic core benefits
  • Craft new stories

“You can manage your emotional responses by managing your mental frames.” ~Aguilar, p. 72

Aguilar offers three ways to help you tell empowering stories: visualizations, affirmations, and intentions. I think each of these strategies can be helpful during stressful moments.

As I reread the section on storytelling, I saw that I had made lots of notes about using Twitter to tell our story during my first read. I still feel strongly that we have the opportunity to use social media to tell a positive, empowering story about ourselves, our work, and our profession. I love August’s chapter and the positive way it sets the tone for a new school year. I want to make a note to reread this chapter mid-year, when I need to be reminded of this optimism.

  • How do you remain optimistic during trying times?
  • In what ways do you tell the stories of your school/ community

Posts in the Building Resilience series:

Building Resilience

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July Reading Update [2019]

Technically, I finished the first book on this list on the last day of June, but I didn’t have time to add it to my June post before it was published. July was another fun reading month.

  • A Double Life by Flynn Berry – I discovered this mystery by simply scrolling through my library app and looking for a good mystery! I loved the fact that the author told us pieces of the story from the past interspersed with the current storyline of “where are they now”. This was a sad story about a young woman needing closure on a horrific incident from her childhood, when her father was accused of murdering one woman and attempting to murder another, the girl’s mother. My biggest complaint about the book was that it wouldn’t load properly in my app, making it impossible to save a page or know were I was in the book at any given point in time.
  • Layover by Amy Adelson & Emily Meyer – I enjoyed this fun YA told in 3 different perspectives. The three main characters, Amos, Poppy and Flynn, are stepsiblings who decide to run away when they realize their parents are about to announce another divorce. They have an adventure throughout LA as they try to figure out what their relationships will be in the future. What I loved is that the story continued even as each chapter changed narrators. It had a great flow!
  • The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean – My stepmom recommended this book to me and I loved it (Thanks Holly!). A young women who worked in The Hermitage museum during WWII memorizes every piece of art in the museum as she and others pack them all away and live in the basement of the museum for months on end to survive the war. As this part of the story is going on, a current storyline also tells us that this same woman ends up with Alzheimer’s later in her life and she doesn’t share her history with her own children. This was a sweet but sad story, touching, moving, and full of art history.
  • One Day in December by Josie Silver [audiobook]- I loved the beginning and the end of this book, but the middle felt like a never-ending saga of unnecessary drama. When Laurie sees Jack from her seat on a bus, she feels an instant connection. After a year of trying to find her “bus boy” he turns up as the new boyfriend of her best friend. Hence, the drama that goes on for a decade before the expected happy ending occurs. I’m glad I listened to this on audiobook, because it was an easy story to follow along to while fighting my new longer afternoon commute, and I would have been frustrated if I was reading it in print.
  • Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton – What a beautiful story! The chapters alternate between Elisa’s life in Havana, Cuba in the late 1950’s, when Fidel Castro fights for power, and Elisa’s granddaughter Marisol as she travels to Cuba in 2017. I loved learning more about their lives and Cuban history throughout this wonderfully written story. It was sad to see the lives of Cubans who were exiled during tough political times as well as the lives of Cubans who stayed behind and had to fight for every morsel of food they could find. Then men in their lives, Pablo and Luis, were strong, passionate, political figures who brought added depth to this bittersweet story.
  • The World Becomes What We Teacher: Educating a Generation of Solutionaries by Zoe Weil – I love this book and highly recommend this to all educators! My new boss gifted me this book as a welcome present and it was a great introduction to the culture of my new district. If every school in the world took the advice from this book to heart, our educational system would be significantly different for our learners. I believe we need to rethink about how we educate students and what their role can be in their own learning. “Solutionaries” think critically about the world’s current problems and come up with actual solutions!
  • Desperate Measures by Stuart Woods – Another mystery in my favorite series- Stone didn’t buy any new houses, but he did have at least one girlfriend die in the process of their relationship.
  • The Ethical Line: 10 Leadership Strategies for Effective Decision Making by Toni Faddis – I was happy to read this book by my friend and colleague. Toni shares specific tips and real-world scenarios to help leaders explore ethical issues in a purposeful way.
  • Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley [audiobook] – One of my good friends recommended this YA book to me, knowing I would enjoy it! Tumble and Blue are two young adolescents who meet and become friends during the summer when Blue’s entire family is searching to change their bad fates. Blue’s fate is to lose at everything and Tumble is a superhero in training with trouble following her everywhere. They team up to solve their problems together through a series of fun and silly adventures.
  • The Coach ADVenture: Building Powerful Instructional Leadership Skills that Impact Learning by ME! – Technically, my book is not out yet (coming at the end of August), but as part of my final editing, I did reread my entire book a few times this month.
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Building Resiliency: July

In January I began a deep dive in Elena Aguilar’s Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators and the accompanying workbook. I hope to share some of my reflections as I build daily habits to strength my own resilience and support that growth in others. Aguilar outlines a habit and a disposition for each month of the year. Follow along as I reflect on each month’s key ideas.

July’s habit is Understand Emotions and the disposition is Acceptance.

Early on in this chapter Aguilar discusses how she has learned more about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) as an adult than she ever did as a child. I think this is true for many of us. I never learned much about emotions – what they are, when they occur, or even how to label them. I loved reading about the cycle of an emotion and realizing we each have the power to stop the cycle by recognizing where we are before we act out unconsciously.

When I read this section last year, I wrote a note in the margin that was a quote from a former colleague, also named Amy. Amy said to a group of teacher leaders we were working with, “Your emotions are a status report.” This quote has resonated me for a year and it’s so true! When your emotions come to light, they are trying to tell you something. Often we feel the physical signs of hunger or stress before we realize how hungry or upset we are. If we ignore those status reports, things can go wrong. If we learn to read our own status reports and those of others around us, we can address emotions before they create a crisis.

This entire section is making me want to watch “Inside Out” again, which is actually one of the suggestions! The more we talk about and explore our emotions, the more we can understand them and become more resilient. As I read this month’s chapter, I also transitioned into a new job. One of the main focus areas for our district this coming year is Social Emotional Learning. My rereading of Onward was a perfect support into this work!

The disposition of acceptance helps us see and acknowledge each of our emotions as they are happening. It also helps when we can distinguish the difference between anger and sadness, or other emotions and moods that get twisted in their attack on us. July is a great time to get more rest, take care of yourself emotionally and physically, in preparation for another great school year.

If you’ve been reading this series, I would love to hear from you.

  • Have you read or reread Aguilar’s Onward book?
  • How does your school/district address Social Emotional Learning?
  • What habits have you developed to support your own emotional resiliency?
  • Which habit and disposition from Onward has resonated with you the most?

Posts in the Building Resilience series:

Building Resilience

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June Reading Update [2019]

Last year I read 59 books total, so my this time of the year I am competing with myself and want to be past the halfway point to 60. After May, I had read 41 books. This month I read 9 bringing my 2019 total to 50! I think I’ve beaten my halfway point goal and am on track to have a record-setting year of reading!

  • Losing Quin: A journey of injustice and healing by Brian M. Murphy with contributions from Maria Galleher – This sad and emotional and powerful book was written by a colleague of mine after losing his son due to medical misdiagnosis and complications. Instead of living in anger, Brian turned his grief into a lesson on the medical world of HMOs and health care in America. I was so saddened to read of each problem, each time a doctor didn’t listen, each time his son was in pain and no one helped. But I was so uplifted reading about Brian’s determination to heal, to turn Quin’s life into a lesson for other families, and to keep Quin’s memory alive. This is a beautiful family story surrounded by the sad details of a life cut too short.
  • The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger – I saw this book recommended on a blogger’s list and since I’ve liked other recommendations by her, I knew I would enjoy this fast-paced mystery. I loved the stories alternately told from the two female protagonists, each trying to solve this mystery on different continents and from different perspectives. As we learned about the deep deceptions within foreign banking, and the lies that bankers, politicians, and even journalists will tell, the story took chase across the world. I appreciate the ending for each woman’s story.
  • Nantucket Nights by Elin Hilderbrand – This is a great summer read! As Kayla’s life unravels around her, she is forced to question herself as a wife, a mother, and a friend. Her two closest friends, Val and Antoinette, betray her, and she in turns betrays others. This is a story about complicated relationships. While the ending was satisfying, I’m not sure if I liked it or not. I love a book that makes you think even after the last page!
  • The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan – This was a random add-on purchase when I wanted to make sure I had enough e-books available during a vacation. It ended up being surprisingly good, if you love books and reading! The main character, Nina, is a book lover whose dream is to be able to find the right book for each reader. After she loses her job at a library, she ends up moving to Scotland and opening a book shop out of a large van. As she puts books into people’s hands, she gets to know them and herself. It was fun to go on her journey and to read the gorgeous scenery of Scotland.
  • Coach It Further: Using the Art of Coaching to Improve School Leadership by Peter M. DeWitt – I try to get my hands on any professional book that relates to instructional coaching, as that is my passion, my work, and the content of my upcoming book (The Coach Adventure comes out at the end of August!). I enjoyed DeWitt’s book, which allowed us to follow a first year principal’s journey as he is coached by a mentor and as he learns to build the capacity of his assistant principals and his site leadership team. The themes that were repeated throughout the story include: take time to build relationships, coaching takes time and trust, and keeping a focus on the most important work.
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker – I discovered this book by browsing my library’s e-reader app and I’m so glad I found it! This is a fascinating story about love, loss, and chaos in times of uncertainty. As the earth’s rotation begins to slow, the length of daylight and darkness grow, and people have to adjust to a new and scary normal. I loved the story being narrated from Julia’s 11-year old point of view. That made it as much about adolescence as about the possible end of the world. I highly recommend this book to everyone!
  • Unbound by Stuart Woods – I’m trying to get myself back in the correct order of my favorite series, the Stone Barrington books by Woods; I believe this was the last book I missed out of order in my recent haste. I loved this particular story because it includes a subplot all about Billy Barnett, formerly Teddy of the CIA, as he and Stone crossed paths between LA and Santa Fe. Billy had to use his old CIA skills to avoid trouble that he brought on himself after his wife was killed. It was a fun, fast-paced journey!
  • A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev – In my efforts to continue to expand my reading repertoire, I discovered this book through my library e-reader and I loved it! I enjoy Bollywood movies and this was like reading about one come to life! There were underage arranged marriages, real love, mystery, and what felt like a never-ending wait for the happily ever after moment!
  • Turbulence by Stuart Woods – I love my Stone Barrington novels, but I’m sad that I’m almost all caught up to the author’s present writing schedule. It will be hard to have to wait months for a new book to be available. In this story, Stone had both a boat and a car blown in an explosion meant to kill him. His insurance policy might not be renewed after these escapades!


This month I abandoned Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull.  Ed is a founder of Pixar and it was interesting to read about the begininings of the company and how they made their first movies. However, the storytelling was slow and laborious and I found myself not wanting to open the book up. So I stopped a little more than halfway through.

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Building Resiliency: June

In January I began a deep dive in Elena Aguilar’s Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators and the accompanying workbook. I hope to share some of my reflections as I build daily habits to strength my own resilience and support that growth in others. Aguilar outlines a habit and a disposition for each month of the year. Follow along as I reflect on each month’s key ideas.

June’s habit is Know Yourself and the disposition is Purposefulness.

Aguilar was very purposefulness in starting Onward with June, as that is the end of the  school year and a time to reflect on the past and set goals for the future. I love that she begins with the premise that you need to know yourself first. While this is my second reading of this book, this is an important reminder for me and how I’ve grown as an educator and a leader throughout my career. We often say we feel bad for the students in our first year of teaching, and I am no exception. I did the best I could for them at that time, but I would be a much different teacher for them today if I had the opportunity to relive that year. Not only am I a stronger educator, more confident in my content and pedagogical knowledge, but I am also more confident in myself. I know my own strengths and areas I’m actively trying to improve.

I wish my teaching program had dedicated more time to the work that Aguilar does throughout Onward – a focus on learning about ourselves to improve our resilience. As soon as I could articulate my own core values, I was a stronger educator and leader. Don’t we want our newest teachers to come into the profession ready to be as strong as possible?

Aguilar references a free Myers-Briggs personality test in this chapter. When I took it during my first reading, on 5/14/18, I was an ITFJ. This month, in June of 2019, I was an ISFJ. It’s interesting that I went from more Feeling to more Sensing, but that the rest stayed the same. My introversion will never change, but the others are a little more flexible, based on where I am in my life. I love to compare these results with people on my work teams, as it tells a lot about who you are and how you prefer to work.

A large part of knowing yourself is not only knowing your strengths, but your biases and how your experiences manifest themselves in how you lead. I love how Aguilar always connects her books to a focus on equity (and I can’t wait for her equity book to be published!) and culture proficiency. In this chapter, she also connects this to the work on vulnerability that Brene Brown is known for.

When you know yourself, you can define your purpose, your why. The disposition of purposefulness resonates with me so much. When you don’t know your purpose, or when your work is not aligned to your purpose, you often feel lost. The older I get, the clearer my purpose becomes, and I know that I’m doing the work I was meant to do. I hope you have that purposefulness as well.

Posts in the Building Resilience series:

Building Resilience

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