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Read This

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Since I made the commitment to read a book a day, there’s been no regret. Oh, there’s been catching up and wondering if I can possibly keep this up until Labor Day, but no regret. Pushing myself to read means I’m watching less media, going to the library more, taking my book in my car to read at any little moment and talking to more people about books. Those are all wonderful things.

At this point I’ve read 34 books. Two books have emerged as favorites.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

One of my friends on Goodreads had written in her review, “I love everything about this book” and I completely agree. I love the characters, tension, dialogue, description and even the fact that it made me cry. My ten-year-old loved it as much as I did. It’s one of those books that I clasped to my chest upon finishing and said, “Thank you.”

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt

Wow. OK Wow. There is a song from Sesame Street called “Just One Person” that begins,

If just one person believes in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough, believes in you…
Hard enough, and long enough,
It stands to reason, that someone else will think
“If he can do it, I can do it.”

Making it: two whole people, who believe in you
Deep enough, and strong enough,
Believe in you.
Hard enough and long enough
There’s bound to be some other person who
Believes in making it a threesome…

This is that book.

Here are the other books I’ve read and the order I read them in:

Hooray for Hat by Brian Won
I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo by Jill Esbaum
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
The Shadow Throne by Jennifer Neilson
Gifts from the Enemy by Trudy Ludwig
Monkey with a Tool Belt by Chris Monroe
Something Big by Sylvie Neeman
The Cheese Belongs to You by Alexis Deacon
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
How to Get a Job by Me, the Boss by Sally Lloyd
The Pocket Mommy by Rachel Eugster
Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale
A Good Trade by Alma Fullerton
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
Plastic, Ahoy! by Patricia Newman
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
Odd Duck by Cecil Casteelluci and Sara Varon
Fairytale Comics Edited by Chris Duffy
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Doreen Rappaport
Puss Jekyll Cat Hyde by Joyce Dunbar
The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren
The Silver Button by Bob Graham
Bugs in my Hair! by David Shannon
A Dance like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey
My Teacher Is a Monster by Peter Brown
Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
Flight School by Lita Judge
The Day I Lost My Superpowers by Michael Escoffier
The Grudge Keeper by Mora Rockliff
Jim Curious: A Voyage to the Heart of the Seas by Matthias Picard

I believe if we teach literacy, we need to be up on current books. Educators often ask me how I know about so many books. I say simply: I stay in touch. My children talk to me about what they are reading and I read those books. But you don’t have to have kids. Talk to anyone. Ask, “What should I have on my to-read stack?” and they’ll tell you. Happily.

Or look at a website like

Publishers Weekly Best Books of Summer

Or go to Twitter and type in the hashtag #bookaday

Or get an account at Goodreads and follow what your friends are reading. Friend me if you like. I don’t post often but I check in every couple of weeks.

Or go to Amazon and type in the books you like. Scroll down and see what other people are buying who like what you like.

Or find the “new books” shelf at the library and sign-up for the e-newsletter from your local library. There are new books and suggestions from librarians.

Or go spend twenty minutes in a bookstore. Walk in, find the area that interests you, sit down and begin touching. If you have the funds, buy the books. If you don’t have the funds, write down the titles and put them on hold at your library.

Or follow blogs like mine or this one Nonfiction Detectives or this one Teach Mentor Texts.

There’s plenty of summer left. Keep reading. Find good stuff and share it.

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Trust and Laughter, Laughter and Trust

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If you are going through a change at work, this book by William Bridges Managing Transitions belongs on your shelves. I was rereading the section today on trustworthiness. He has 11 reminders about trust and a few of them really jumped out at me. Maybe they’ll resonate for you too.

Do what you say you will do. Don’t make promises you can’t or won’t keep. Most people’s mistrust has come from the untrustworthy actions of others in the past.

Listen to people carefully and tell them what you think they are saying. If you have it wrong, accept the correction and revise what you say. People trust most the people whom they believe understand them.

Share yourself honestly. A lot of mistrust begins when people are unable to read you. And remember: while hiding your shortcomings may polish your image, it ultimately undermines people’s trust in you. Admitting an untrustworthy action is itself a trustworthy action.

Ask for feedback and acknowledge unasked-for feedback on the subject of your own trustworthiness whenever it is given. Regard it as valuable information and reflect on it. Feedback may be biased, and you don’t have to swallow it whole. But check it for important half-truths.

Try extending your trust of others a little further than you normally would. Being trusted makes a person more trustworthy, and trustworthy people are more trusting.

If all of this is too complicated to remember and you want a single key to the building of trust, just remind yourself, “Tell the truth.”

And now for the laughter…

Many of you have already seen Weird Al’s viral Word Crimes to the tune of Blurred Lines, but if you haven’t, watch this. I bet you’ll find yourself smiling in recognition of both word crimes you’ve been guilty of and the word crimes that get on your nerves.

Word Crimes

Finally, my daughter showed me this video of an interaction between Kermit the Frog and Cookie Monster. Kermit’s voice has been slowed down and the effect had me doubled over in hysterics. You must watch it. It’s 59 seconds of funny. I’m pretty sure I felt this same left of frustration toward Cookie Monster at some point.

Kermit and Cookie Monster Slow Mo

IT’S NOT A COOKIE! IT’S AN ORANGE! OF COURSE IT’S AN ORANGE!

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Taking in the Good

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My friends Eileen and Laurie were talking about a book called Hardwiring Happiness. They mentioned a part of the author’s practice from “Taking in the Good” that zooms in on observing or recalling a positive experience for 10, 20, 30 seconds. Why? Unless an experience is intensely wonderful, our positive experiences stay in short-term status and never get downloaded into our memory.

Hanson talks about how our brains act like Teflon with positive experiences, which can slip right out of our memories while negative experiences are more like Velcro. They grip and stick easily. That helps us in survival situations (don’t eat small, red berries, bad!), but it doesn’t help most of us in our everyday lives. Thinking about negative and positive experiences as Velcro and Teflon is helpful for me. Most of us would like to be able to release the negatives and retain the positives. Lucky for us our plastic brains can do that more often if we are mindful.

The mindfulness exercise is simple. When you experience something positive, just stop. For 20 whole seconds. Notice everything you can about the experience. What are the colors and shapes? The sounds? The body sensations? The emotions? I tried this on walks. I’d see the first crocuses poking up or the dew on a spider web and stop to let my body and mind record it. Or I’d hear a birdsong or kids laughing and stop myself 20 seconds to listen and take it in. I shared this with my teenage son and he started doing it too on his runs.

Now I’ll warn you the result of this practice means that you might look like Walter Mitty at times. In the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Ben Stiller plays a character who zones out while life is happening around him. I’ve had people pass me on a trail with questioning looks as I record the beauty of a fern’s fiddlehead. The other cool thing is that you don’t have to be in a breathtaking setting. Once you start looking for things that make you feel positive, you’ll find them everywhere. It could be a color, the taste of homemade raviolis, a sharp pencil or even the smell of fresh basil. Or you can just sit and recall those things and let your brain bathe in the positivity.

By writing this I’m reminding myself to do this more. As Rick Hanson writes, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” So if you can stay with the positive experiences longer and more often, you’ll truly be able to take in the good.

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A New Job

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I’ve spent the last few days moving into my new office. Loved ones have shown up (thank you Kurt, Sean and Denise) to help. Each file folder, shelf, book and cupboard has been full of decisions. Did I use it? Is it still relevant? Is there someone who needs it more than me? Will I need it in my new position?

Director of English Language Arts, Social Studies and Library Programs K-12 is my new title for the coming school year. It’s a big job and it was a hard choice to make a move because I love my job as an instructional coach. But someone challenged me, “What if you love your work as an administrator just as much? And what if you are able to put legs on your vision of literacy and coaching for the district you care about?”

What if?

So what does that mean for the blog? I’m not entirely sure. A year ago I quietly launched this project and hoped I’d have a handful of people who would read and comment.

Why I Started the Coach to Coach Blog

My goal of at least 100 followers within the year was achieved in the first four months. From there I was blown away by the interest, the sincere emails, collaboration and opportunities to meet new coaches and teams. It seems like with every post I became more grounded in my beliefs and 254 comments later I’ve learned so much from all of you. Thank you.

I know I’ll probably post less in the coming year because I have a steep learning curve ahead of me and I want to give it my all. My commitment to posting an average of twice a week last year will likely change to once a week this year. I will also bring a new perspective on coaching. I’ll be mentoring the person taking my position and others in coaching. Along with the coaching team, we’ll be figuring out how directors will be participating and collaborating in the Friday Coaches’ meeting. I’ve always been an advocate for coaching and this position provides me with more opportunities to celebrate the good work that is happening across our progressive district.

I’m excited. And scared. One moment I think, “I can so do this” and the next moment I think, “I am so lost.” Which is funny because that’s how I felt when I transitioned from teaching to coaching. That’s how change is.

Happy Independence Day to all!