Summer Reading and Learning

With only a few weeks left until we dive in to the new school year officially, I am beginning to hear and see a bunch of “where did the summer go?” comments and posts. It is definitely true that each summer seems to be a bit shorter than the previous. It is also possible that each May summer looks like an endless precession of lazy days by the pool, and each August summer looks like a nap in which you closed your eyes for 5 minutes and woke up with a shopping list of uniforms, book bags, and belts.

This summer has been delightedly learning-full. I was fortunate to attend #iste17 and be inspired by the passion of fabulous educators as well as network and connect with my Twitter PLN. These 5 days of intense learning left me filled with exciting new ideas and activities to explore in the coming year with my team.

The primary occupation of my summer learning has been a deep dove in to reading the books that have been on my to-do and/or recommended list. Below are links to 4 of my favorite books from the summer. They are a diverse group but I would highly recommend all of them.

The Space: A Guide For Educators written by Bob Dillon (@ideaguy42) and Rebecca Hare (@RLH_DesignED)

This is fantastic book that looks at how we maximize learning by being intentional with our space choices. The book look at space from the prospective of fostering thinking, creativity, and community building with the class not for the class. This is not a book that requires or professes a large financial commitment to achieve the aims of maximized learning, rather it describes some simple hacks and mindfulness strategies that can be done in any classroom or learning environment.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind written by Yuval Noah Harari (@harari_yuval)

This book is the definition of thought provocation. Each chapter left me with new insights and new questions based on the historical and cultural evolutions Harari detailed. The book challenges you to examine beliefs and assumptions that you have without even knowing the genesis of these beliefs and assumptions. I would highly recommend this for anyone interested in the evolution of humans and humanity.

Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration–Lessons from The Second City written by Kelly Leonard (@KLsecondcity) and Tom Yorton (@TomYorton)

I loved this book. Each chapters offers a bit of history about some of the amazing comedians who have worked with (not at) the Second City Ensemble and amazing insights on how to embrace the Yes, And philosophy to foster creativity, innovation and maximizing your own ensembles. The book is fun to read and leaves you with a bunch of amazing activities, one liners, stories, an insight about environments in which creativity thrive.

The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity written by George Couros (@gcouros)

This book spoke to who I am as a student, educator and leader. I love the focus on relationship that is specific to one chapter but permeates the whole book. I love the thought provocation about how we embrace inevitable changes as opportunities for growth. Lastly, I love the focus on culture and educator learning which are my own passions.

All in all it has been a fabulous learning-full summer, and I am excited for the final few weeks (a final few books) and the start of a great 17-18. As always, I would love book recommendations from my peers. If you have a fantastic read, please let me know.




Recently I had the pleasure of hearing one of my family friends and personal heroes Congressman John Lewis come to my school to share with our school and greater community stories of his upbringing, his advocacy and activism in the civil rights movement, and his #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel trilogy, March. As always, I was inspired by the person he is, the way he connects with an audience, and the vision of love and hope that he puts forth despite be physically a part of some of the most hate-filled and hopeless parts of our history.

Two quotes from that evening have been particularly lasting to me:

  1. We all have an obligation to leave this little piece of real estate a little cleaner, a little greener and a little more peaceful!
  2. Get into trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble!

These words, like the man himself, inspire me to fulfill the obligation to seek and engage in good trouble in the New Year!

Student Reflections on Our Trip to Charleston



My most memorable part of my trip to Charleston was the incredible kayaking adventure. While paddling down the river I saw many different types of wild birds. I saw an amazing amount of brown, black, gray, and white birds. As we were floating down the river I could smell the millions of oysters, fish and salt. The river smelled like a mixture of smelly fish and the Dead Sea. When the splashes of water reached my mouth I could taste the saltiness of the water, it tasted like stale pretzels.   I felt most connected to God when I was drifting slowly down the river, listening to the birds chirping, seeing the water rushing by and feeling calluses form on my hands. It was one of the best experiences because I got to relax, think about God, talk to my friends and enjoy nature a little bit more. – Rian


One of my favorite parts of Charleston was the bus rides. I really likes it when we were listening to the soundtrack of Grease and Mrs. Stein, my language arts teacher, was singing along. The bus rides were also really fun because we got to watch movies. My favorite was Parental Guidance, because it was really funny. I also really enjoyed all the activities we did. One of my favorites was go carting, it seemed like that was also Mr. Frank’s favorite. I also enjoyed kayaking with dolphins because they are so cute. Overall Charleston was one of the most fun trips I have ever been on. – Sarah


The most memorable experience I had this trip was visiting the seaport of Charleston. Two other friends and I got to go all over the aircraft carrier, the destroyer, and the submarine. In the aircraft carrier I could feel how uncomfortable it was for the sailors on the boat. I felt really hot air and it was claustrophobic. I could see that the space inside the ship was compact. On the deck I could smell the fresh sea air of the ocean. When I stood on the edge of the deck, I could taste the salt of the saltwater. Looking out at the ocean, I heard the sound of the waves hitting against the aircraft carrier. This was my most favorite activity because I’ve always wanted to go on to an aircraft carrier. – Eran


The most memorable part of Charleston was going to the pool the last night of the trip and having fun with my friends. It was very enjoyable and crazy loud. It smelled like chlorine was rushing through the air. It also tasted chemically and it had the taste of chlorine. The pool felt room temperature and at sometimes I got chills while I was in there. It was so crowded I could barely move around. A lot of times it was hard to keep my eyes open because of all the splashing and water going into my eyes. After that I went to go talk to some friends and then Mr.Frank told us it would be a good idea to start heading back, but I stayed. At the end when there was about twenty minutes left, a bunch of people left but a few people stayed and we played jackpot. We played for the next twenty minutes, it was so much fun. The branch of science that goes with my most memorable memory is kinesiology. This is the science of human movement. It fits into my memory because in the pool we are moving, swimming, and jumping into the pool. – Ben




Sometimes, the inertia of not writing seems like an insurmountable force.  This has certainly been the case for me this month.  At the cognitive level, I know writing is an essential tool that helps me reflect on the events and thoughts of my past, as well as inspires idea synthesis for my thoughts for today and in to the future.   At the tactile level, it can feel laborious.  Therefore, I pose the following question. How do I push through the laborious to get to the rich reward (or treasure)?  

While the above is more a stream of consciousness word dump rather than a thought out, planned link to this month’s #blogamonth topic on treasured resources, it does seem to fit (synthesis in action).   There is a myriad of amazing educators in our community who inspire me every day. Not only with their passion to improve the education of the students that are in their charge, but to extend their knowledge to the field of education in general.  George Couros (@gcouros) , AJ Juliani (@ajjuliani), Justin Tarte (@justintarte), Brad Gustafson (@gustafsonbrad), and Todd Nesloney (@techninjatodd) are but a few of the amazing examples of such passionate educators.  Moreover, there are thought provokers that inspire me to lead, teach and live a better life, including Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers), Lolly Daskal (@lollydaskal), Alec Couros (@courosa), and Mark Weston (@shiftparadigm).  In addition to inspiration from these individuals, I have been fortunate enough to attend, present, and lead fantastic conferences including Educon, GaETC, ISTE, FETC and a host of Edcamps throughout the southeast. And then, there are books, twitter chats, voxer groups, connected colleagues, and blogs, and the list goes on.   While a simple answer to the question regarding my most treasured resources as an educator and administrator may eclipse the acceptable word count and evolve into a doctoral thesis, my greatest inspiration comes in the form of the intangible joy and passion that I receive from my school community. 

I am inspired by the joy of our kindergarteners getting out of their cars in the morning to hug the teachers on carpool duty.  I am inspired by the passion of our parents as they embrace our new initiative, DPU (Davis Parent University), which offers interactive learning sessions on topics ranging from September 11th to group cooking classes.  I am inspired by the dedication and professionalism of my team who are constantly evolving and enhancing their practice to meet and exceed the needs and desires of our students.  I am inspired by the experience of being a member of this community both through my eyes and through the eyes of my kids who come to and from school each day with an enthusiasm for both what they have learned and what lies in the days ahead. 

In the end, there is no doubt that the work we do every day is a labor, but it is equally true, that it is a labor of love.  I am grateful to all the people who allow me to perch upon their shoulders and borrow from their creative genius, such that I may reap their rich rewards.


Daring Greatly


A new year brings forth abounding NEWs.  New students, new classes, new subjects, new roles, new learning and the NEWs (not to be confused with the news) keep coming, and they are personal to our own experiences.  One way that I love to embrace the NEWs that lay ahead is with a mantra or theme which will help me challenge myself and frame the year.

Two years ago I/we embraced Kid Presidents message shared in Pep Talk for the Heroes (LINK). We challenged each other to #BeMoreAwesome:

  • Be More AWESOME in Pursuit of Your Own Growth.
  • Be More AWESOME in Your Care for the Gifts We Have.
  • Be More AWESOME in Your Pride at Being a Davis Lion.
  • Be More Awesome in The Way We Treat the Members of Our Community.

Last year we used the powerful message delivered by Mark Bezos TED Talk (LINK) to focus on the theme #EVERYDAY acts of kindness and heroism.

  • EVERYDAY presents the opportunity to share kindness with a friend.
  • EVERYDAY presents the opportunity to stretch ourselves and learn something new.
  • EVERYDAY presents the opportunity to take pride in yourself and your surroundings by taking care of both.
  • EVERYDAY be and become the person you can be.
  • EVERYDAY know that I and the amazing team of teachers are here to nurture and support these achievements.

This year my inspiration comes from Brene’ Brown’s book Daring Greatly,  as well as the impetus for the title of the book,  Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” Speech (LINK).

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly”

This powerful message about continuing to grow and evolve is a perfect fit for our school as this year we will see the efforts of our Next Stage Campaign as we open the doors of our amazing new performing arts center, cafeteria, sanctuary, and adaptive learning spaces. Our students, teachers, parents, and our whole community are in the arena and are daring greatly each day to make this school the best it can be. Early in Brene Brown’s book she poses two powerful questions which I believe tie in directly to this speech and I plan to use as the key reflection tools behind our Daring Greatly theme.

  1. What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
  2. What’s worth doing even if you fail?

In a year during which our students and school community will undoubtedly meet “the triumph of high achievement”, I want to challenge all members of the community to answer these questions, embrace the lessons and learning that come from failure, and most importantly to Dare Greatly.

Fill Your Bucket



As a kid I loved the endless days and weeks of summer.  Camp, pool parties, family trips and very few rules or bed times.  These 10 weeks filled my joy meter, and set me on the path to a great successive year in school.

As a parent, I am enjoying watching my children immersed in this same ritual.  Though only a month in to their summer they are enjoying the freedom of activity and procedures to fill their joy meter.

As an educator, my view on the duration of summer is certainly a little more realistic (if not sometime cynical), though my desire to fill my meter (bucket) in order to best prepare for the successive year has not changed.  With that in mind, and the relaunch of #blogamonth (which I hope will be a sustaining force in my “bucket” level), I share my response to the July topic:

“What are you doing this summer to grow, refuel, and prepare for 2016-17?”


  1. Edcamps

I love Edcamp.  I love the format, discussions, passion, multiple perspectives, varied experience levels, and different functions and environments in which participants come to edcamp from.   I am a fan of any format that recognizes and embraces the idea that the smartest person in the room should always be the room.  Thus I am headed to 3 Edcamps this summer, and I would attend more if they were geographically convenient:

Edcamp Leadership Alabama

Edcamp Organizers Summit

Edcamp Fayette


  1. TedED Challenge

This is the second year that I will be participating in the July TedED challenge in which a 4-6 minute Ted video and lesson is delivered to my email each day.  I enjoyed the range of topics that were presented last year, and I always love finding great videos to use and share.  This year I am excited to have my son attempting the challenge with me.


  1. Reading

Reading over the summer is certainly not a new or different method of filling my bucket, but this year it has taken on a few special purposes to heighten the learning.  First, Stacy Brown (@21ststacy) and I will be hosting to parent book clubs during the upcoming year.  The two books (Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and The Circle by Dave Eggers) are a part of two different book club professional development strands (opportunities) that teacher may participate in as well.   Second, I will be writing a book review (Quiet Power by Susan Cain) for SAIS.  Hereto I am thrilled by the contrast in topics and styles of these three authors.  Lastly, and certainly ongoing, I am reading the fantastic blogs and articles of the PLN I learn from and with.


  1. Lastly but certainly not lastly

Nothing fills my bucket like spending time, playing cards and grilling out with my family and friends while trying to make the most of each day. The summer is blessedly full of time for our family to be and laugh together, to host and hang with friends, and time for a game of cards or two (J).


If you would like to join in the Edu-couragement? Join the #blogamonth group for monthly topics and tons of support!

Life, Learning, and Laughter Enthusiast

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