February 2020 Reading Update

Each month I blog about what I’ve read for my own records, and to share my recommendations with anyone interested.  My reading goal of the year is to broaden the type of books I read, exposing myself to cultures beyond my own. This month I read:

  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – Another book recommendation from my favorite podcast, 10 Things to Tell You.  This was not what I was expecting at all.  Based solely on the title, and the fact that there is a sequel called Olive, Again, I assumed this was going to be all about the life of Olive.  And it was, but not in the traditional storytelling manner.  This was a lot of little snippets about life in a small town in Maine, and the unique characters who come into contact with Olive.  So often I would become interested in one storyline, only to have that chapter end and never to hear of those characters again.  It was interesting and disappointing. I loved the way we learned more about Olive as we met people who knew her, and learned their perspectives on her personality.  This was a well-written story.
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson- I haven’t read a book by Woodson in a long time. I love her YA books and her writing style is so unique. This book was told by various characters and not in chronological order. I appreciated how each chapter gave you another detail of the life of the characters across three generations. However, Woodson also makes the reader infer a lot – she doesn’t go into great detail and you have to work! It’s a bittersweet story of a Black American family.
  • My Life Has Been A Bowl of Cherries by Louise Bond Dowling Vincent – This was not my usual reading material.  This is actual the autobiography of my grandmother’s cousin, who, with the help of her daughter, wrote her memories out when she was 99.  She is still with us today and over 100 years old! It was fun to read about her life, and to read small snippets about my grandparents and my father through the years. I know I met Louise at at least one family reunion event when I was a teenager.  She and my grandmother were close throughout their lives. I wish I had paid more attention to the family history when I was younger.  The older I get, the more I treasure the stories and memories from our family’s past. This was a special treat, especially because of all the amazing family pictures that were included.
  • The Institute by Stephen King – I haven’t read a King book in many years, though I loved his books as a child and I loved 11/22/63 sometime in the last decade. This book, while being over 600 pages long, was amazing! It was suspenseful, intriguing, and I couldn’t put it down (though sleep and work forced me to do so a few times!). Young children with some extraordinary powers are kidnapped and brought to the institute, where they are forced to endure medical tests and torture as mad scientists try to harness their powers.  The main character Luke, was such a great protagonist.  I loved this book!
  • Miracle Creek by Angie Kim- I loved this book! It was a quick-paced mystery that made you question every character’s motive and actions, as each chapter gave you just a little more information and a lot more to doubt. Young and Pak created Miracle Submarine, a hyperbaric chamber to help children with autism and various diseases. A fire causes a great tragedy in the first chapter, and the rest of the book is the trial about the fire mixed with flashbacks as we get to know each of the characters and their lives inside and outside of the submarine. Everyone was so real and flawed, and each had motives and guilt. I loved the way the author weaved together this bittersweet story.
  • On The Come Up by Angie Thomas [audiobook] – I loved The Hate U Give by Thomas, and knew I would love this YA book too. Bri is a black teenager whose father was a famous rapper killed many years ago.  As her family struggles to survive, Bri is determined to make her own way as a female rapper. This story explores school security, the differences in discipline given to white students versus students of color, poverty, gang issues, friendships, teen romance, and the influence music has on our lives. It’s a powerful story with many lessons.
  • Open Book by Jessica Simpson [audiobook] – I love a celebrity-read autobiography! While I’ve never been a big fan of Jessica Simpson, I have been a fan of pop culture and have known parts of her life over the years.  There was much about her life that I didn’t know, and I appreciated her honesty about her childhood trauma, her relationships, her demons, and her search for love. She is a successful businesswoman, and a wife and mother with a full life. I enjoyed her story.

This year I’m also keeping track of the stats of the books I read. I am not surprised that I read more fiction than nonfiction and books by more women than men authors.

Fiction: 5

Nonfiction: 2

Young Adolescent: 2

Audiobooks: 2

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

Female author: 6

Male Author: 1

Nonbinary Author: 0

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Coming out of a hole

Have you ever had a week where nothing felt right?  I feel like I’m coming off of a few weeks like that.  I’ve been fighting a losing battle with a sinus infection, so I’ve had a headache for 8 days straight. I’ve experience the deaths of two people who were good acquaintances to me, and amazingly loved by people I care about. I’ve worked out less because of the sickness, which means I feel more sluggish than normal.  That leads to me eating not as well, which makes me feel even worse.  I’ve felt like I was in a spiral I couldn’t escape.

During this time, I’ve tried all of my usual fixes: meditation, extra sleep, extra essential oils, every variety of cold and headache medicine, fresh air, time with friends, journaling, binge watching tv, staying in my pj’s all day on a Saturday, and more. Nothing seemed to do the trick by itself.

Today, however, I feel like I’m crawling out of a hole. I woke up without a headache, which is a start. I took a great walk by the lake with friends, which was replenishing. I had a facial, which was hydrating.  I got my grocery shopping complete, including some much-needed nutrients, which was important. I got a massage, which was relaxing!

I’m writing this for my own reflection and for anyone else who is currently feeling like they are in a hole, unable to get themselves out.  We all go through these phases and it’s helpful to know we aren’t alone. Here’s hoping this week is great for us all!

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Networking vs Connecting

A few months ago I stumbled upon this article about ‘why networking is dead‘. The article goes on to explain that networking is often about superficial meet and greets, where people collect business cards as if they were “likes” or “follows” on social media, only for personal gain. The author then describes a super connector.

Instead of meeting people in small doses to use them later, a super connector enjoys getting to know people. I see a super connector as someone who, once they get to know you, is able to introduce you to other people who have similar interests or who work in your field or who you might like to collaborate with in the future.  The way the article describes them, I see networkers as people out for themselves, using individuals as a rung on their personal ladder up.

When I first read this article, I made note of it with just one comment: Maybe this is why I never liked “networking”.

I just found this note, reread the article, and am reflecting on some recent interactions I’ve had.  I went on a two day business trip with a group of leaders from other school districts.  I didn’t know most of the people before our trip, but we spent two days, 3 meals, and 2 plane trips together.  This could have been forced networking. But what it actually turned out to be was an opportunity to connect with a few individuals over our work, our shared passions, and some personal interests. While I have always disliked walking into a room full of strangers feeling like I’m supposed to “network,” I enjoyed this experience much more. I appreciate the human, individual connections more than getting a business card.

What are your thoughts about networking, connections, or the article linked above?

It’s ironic that after this experience, I also attended the AASA National Conference, where my biggest takeaway was the importance of connections!

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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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How you choose to spend your time

zig ziglar time

I’m reflecting on this quote.  There are days or weeks when I feel so busy, so stressed, as if there just isn’t enough time to get everything done.  Then I find myself spending a weekend day comatose on my couch, unable to do more than stare at a bad TV show and a game on my iPad. There are other times when I make a long to-do list and I check it all off, leaving me feeling accomplished.

How we choose to spend our time can dictate a lot – how we feel, what we get done, how we work with others, how we build and maintain relationships, how we succeed, and when we fail. I’ve recently decided that I just can’t do it all! I was trying to do too much, so I’m finding ways to prioritize what matters so that I can still get that feeling of accomplishment but also some fun built in. This idea of trying to find balance is one that I’ve worked on many different ways over the years. At this point in my life, here is what I’m trying:

  • To support my physical and mental health, I’m committed to walking every day I can. The sun is finally setting late enough that I can once again enjoy a walk on the beach after work.
  • To support my work, I’m using my calendar as effectively as I can, looking ahead to plan big and small tasks. I’m also trying to delegate where I can.
  • To support my book and my coaching work, I’m trying to blog more. I’m committed to spending time each weekend on this one extra task.

I’d love to hear how you organize your time and prioritize your to-do list.

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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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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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Intentionality

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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