Monday, June 27, 2016

My @Scholastic #ReadingSummit Experience

Last year I had the pleasure of attending my very first Scholastic Reading Summit in San Antonio, Texas.  And I loved it!

This year I had the honor of being asked to present at two of them.  The one in San Jose, CA and the upcoming one in San Antonio, TX.

These Reading Summits are phenomenal.  A "must-go-to" if there's one in your area.

Donalyn Miller and John Schu got me hooked.  If you haven't connected with, or don't know, these two people, you are truly missing out.  Not only are they some of the kindest people that I know, but they're also some of the most passionate advocates for kids and reading that there is.  Plus I got to see my buddy Brandon Blom who is a force to be reckoned with and a GREAT person to talk to if you're interested in getting rid of AR (his school just did and you can read about it HERE!)

I was also beyond impressed by everyone at Scholastic who put this event on.  Usually you don't get to meet the people behind everything.  But since I was presenting this year, I did!  And man, was I blown away.  Scholastic has people in charge who are in love with reading.  In love with sharing books with everyone and finding ways to get others to fall in love with reading.  It's one of those organizations that really speaks from the heart.

As the day started, I got to listen to the opening Keynote of Kwame Alexander (author of Booked, Crossover, and more).  He talked passionately about his journey as a reader.  About the power of poetry.  It was moving, entertaining, and had me rushing to buy his books immediately.

Now, I don't teach reading.  I never have.  I'm a principal.  But I LOVE reading and ever since reading Donalyn Miller's book, "The Book Whisperer", I have been on a mission to make sure we do right by kids when it comes to reading.

I then spent a lot of my day presenting over how we have worked as a campus to get our kids to fall in love with reading (which I'll be presenting on again in San Antonio!)

The day ended with a keynote from Jewel Parker Rhodes (author of Ninth Ward, Towers Falling, and more).  Wow.  I don't even know where to begin.  She even made me cry!  I had heard of Jewel and her books before, but had never read them myself. After hearing her speak I went and bought all of them, and have already devoured two (Ninth Ward and Towers Falling).  Jewel has a huge heart, powerful life story, and a real passion for writing and sharing her stories.

I even got to spend the end of the day signing books right down from Donalyn and Jewel! How crazy is that?

I hope you'll get the chance to attend a Scholastic Reading Summit this summer.  And if you can't it's ok too!  Follow the hashtag #ReadingSummit or get ready to attend one next summer!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Brick By Brick

Every one of us has walls built up in our lives.  Some walls we build to keep others out.  Some walls we build to make us feel  There are times we build walls only to surround certain parts of our lives.  And other times we build walls completely around us.

I have walls too.  Large walls built out of many bricks. Walls that surround every angle.

The walls weren't built in a day.  The bricks were laid one at a time.

Sometimes I feel like I'm not even sure when I laid some of the bricks down.  Or how they appeared.  They just were there.  Keeping me safe.  Secure.

There have been times in my life where I've allowed someone to bring a pickaxe, sledgehammer, or small tool and chip away at some of the wall.  I sat there on my side of the wall...heard the beating...and let them break through.  Not completely mind you.  But I let them tear down a few bricks to glimpse inside.  To see me.

Every time I do it's terrifying.  Will they like what they see?  Will they quickly replace the bricks, or just turn and run and leave the gapping hole for anyone to walk by and see?

My walls are jagged.  They've been re-built many times.  My fear gets the better of me, my self-judgement, my insecurities.  The spaces that are torn through never last long.  I quickly grab the scraps of bricks and plug the holes.

If someone can see beyond my walls for too long, they'll see everything.

I sit behind my walls alone.  Bounce the ball against the wall.  Stare off into the distance.

There are some who keep trying to break through.  They catch a glimpse, they're not scared away, but I keep plugging the holes.  I keep pushing them out.

And they get tired.  They always get tired.

There are others who walk away from the walls because when they do break through, I yell at them.  I say mean things.  Not because I'm angry at them, but instead because I'm scared.  Or because I allowed someone else to break through and they used what they saw behind the walls, against me.

Everyone has walls.  We all build them. Brick by brick.  But if walls were meant to protect us, why instead do they do the opposite?

The walls block us out.  They separate us.  They keep us alone.

The walls that we built, with the best intentions, only seem to instead make things worse.

I think in some aspects, some walls, are ok.  There are parts of our lives that should be protected.

But walls should come with doors. They should come with windows. They should have ways for people to access what's beyond the wall, without having to destroy the wall.

Brick by brick.  Day by day.  I find myself building a new wall.

But as I build, I'm starting to stop and re-analyze.  Can I place a door in this wall? A door that maybe I'd be willing to open to allow someone to walk through.  A door that could give them easy access?

I could sit in fear. I could build the walls higher.  Thicker.  Stronger.  I could.

But if I keep building the walls, how will I grow?  How will I learn? How will I trust?

We all have walls.  We think we build them to protect us.  We think we build them to keep us safe.

Brick by brick.  That's how the walls are built.  Painful brick by painful brick.

But today, instead of just walls, I am going to choose to build doors.  I choose to build windows.  I choose to let eyes gaze inside.  Bodies walk through the doorframe.  Sunlight seep in.

Today, I worry less about what the thoughts are when parts of my darkest corners are glimpsed.

Today, I remember my worth was never defined by the opinions of others.  My worth was always defined by someone who forgave every dark corner, every painful brick, every locked door, long ago.  Someone who loves me in spite

Everyone of us has walls that we build every day.  Today I choose to notice when I lay a brick.  To pick the brick up and decide if it really needs to be placed along the wall.  Or if instead, I can set it off in a pile.

We all have walls.

But we can choose to also build doors and windows.

We can choose to accept the forgiveness, the love, the mercy so freely given and allow others to go with us on our journey.

Brick by brick.  That's how the choice is made.  Brick by brick.