Back to the Start

When I first started using twitter I felt like I was learning a lot of great things. Within a few months I had decided to start a chat.   Some of you that have been on the twitter for a while may remember #tleadchat as a place for me to indulge my inquisitive nature, and then a place where I pushed to help other people learn to ask questions for themselves as well.  It was a great chat, until I started feeling like I had run out of questions.  I had nothing more to ask…

That is, of course, absurd. I had plenty more to learn, and I have always had questions. I just stopped asking them on twitter because people didn’t always want to answer the hard questions in that space. I have decided however, after a recent question I posed to the edutwitter community, that I want to begin asking more questions again.  Rather than start a new chat, I am simply going to post them to #theteachersjourney  as a slow chat style throughout the summer.  Not everything will come from the book, in fact, much if it might now.  I am going to just go back to asking whatever questions aresd in my mind.

I would love for many of you to join me this summer for a Teacher’s Journey SlowChat! Starting soon, check the # for #theteachersjourney and find the available question for the day.

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I Learned on Twitter

Copy of You Are A Hero-2

All the time people talk about the incredible learning on twitter.  Allow me to share yet another unpopular opinion: I don’t really learn much of anything on twitter anymore.  I haven’t in a really long time.  Not really anyway.  That isn’t to say I don’t learn from people I have met on twitter, or that they don’t help me in many ways.  Most of the time however, the conversation, the actual discussions that further thinking and provide growth rarely occur on actual, public twitter anymore.

I asked a question yesterday morning. You can follow the thread and all of the replies here:

More honesty, I posted these with many expectations about what would be said.  What I didn’t expect, was the level of honesty with which people shared.  I also did not expect to find answers I hadn’t thought of before.  Congratulations EduTwitter, for the first time in a long time, you have surprised me.  I heard some people speak there truths about reasons why authenticity or positivity were more important to them.  I learned something important. Something that maybe I knew, but in reality a reminder didn’t hurt.  We ought to accept one another’s differences.  We can disagree, ask questions, push each other, but not attack one another.  We can stay positive, we can be okay being not okay, we can even rant if need be. There isn’t a right or wrong way, only what you need to work best for yourself.  As with many things, this conversation is filled with gray areas. I found perspectives I hadn’t thought of before, and most importantly, It seems that through all of the responses, questioning, prodding, and pushing, there was a fairly respectful discourse where people shared honestly. I wish it happened more in public spaces like twitter. Perhaps I will get back to asking questions…

Whose Hero Are You?

Teaching is hard.  Teaching is important.  Teaching rarely gets the genuine appreciation and respect as a profession. Maybe that is why we are prone to buy into extremes. I saw a YouTube video today by a friend, Doug Timm.  In this mix of spoken word poetry and education commentary, he hit a nerve.  Doug talks about how kids, even in some of the worst situations, will pick family over their teacher. How, no matter how much we care and how much it may seem a family member might not, we are almost never the only ones.

It got me thinking, why do we accept the bumper sticker statements?  I know most of them have some basis in truth. Most of them come from a place of wanting to help inspire and improve educators. But what happens when we really accept these statements at face value?

Teachers are super heroes.  No, we are not. Buying into this myth diminishes the work we do every day.  Being a teacher involves hard work, a passion for learning, caring for others, and so much more. None of the things teachers need to do to be successful are beyond any of us.  Believing that teaching is some sort of superpower belittles the hard work we really do.

Teachers are the only people who care about kids. Well this is just a ridiculous statement.   Lots of people care about kids. Health care professionals, child advocacy lawyers, and any number of others.  More importantly, parents care about their kids.  Yes, sometimes it can seem like they don’t. Sometimes it seems like parents are undermining their children’s ability to grow and learn.  But that is the attitude we develop when we start buying into the fact that only we care.  I am all for advocating that teachers care about kids. I don’t however, want teachers to presume anything about who does and doesn’t care for a child.

Teachers have the hardest job in the world. Not to take anything away from us. Our job is incredibly challenging, and at times it can be beyond difficult., but we aren’t the only people with difficult jobs. At the end of the day we get to spend our lives hanging out with a bunch of awesome kids.  Yes they can be challenging, yes they can come to us with many problems to work through, but if you are going to talk about how much you care about kids, can’t we keep this in perspective?

The list goes on and on.  I have myself at times been guilty of rehashing some of them. Going forward I am trying to focus solely on being my own hero and allowing everyone else to be their own hero as well.  I am not here to save anyone, merely find any way I can to make their journey more successful. I firmly believe that in education when we are all successful we all benefit, so I ought to help others along their path.  I don’t need to be their hero, certainly not their savior, just a character in their story with a part to play. For my part, I am choosing to try and be a light in the darkness, helping others to succeed.  I won’t try to bring others down.  I am simply challenging you to reframe your thinking in an effort to make a positive difference on the overall culture and potential for good in education. As a character in the journeys of others, choose to be the light. - Brian C

Right Now

Last week I had the chance to be a part of something special.  It may have seemed like something small, insignificant to the outside observer, but to me it was the epitome of why I teach.  So often I talk to teachers and kids about the importance of actual relevance.  When you work with kids who are under 20 years old, the concept of 10 years down the line is meaningless.  The “someday you will need this in the future” is hard to grasp when the future is literally over a lifetime away for many of these kids.  What can we do then?  Why does it matter right now? I have asked kids what they can do now to make their world a better place.  How can you use what you are learning to actually make your world a better place?

In the fall many of my students went on boat trips organized by their science teacher.  He has been doing this for years and the classes take water samples, take bio diversity surveys, and clean a small patch of a protected beach.  It is a great project that kids have enjoyed over the years.  When they get back, my role was to help them input the data into spreadsheets and provide the Greater Egg Harbor River Council with the data they had collected.  Except this year I was focussed on challenging my kids to do something. This year I asked them to analyze the data and create an action plan.  What does this trip make you want to do?

Back to the small, seemingly insignificant thing…

We went to the beach with 36 7th graders.  We walked a stretch of local beach for nearly four hours. In that time, we collected enough trash to fill the flatbed of a pickup truck.  Why is this beach cleanup in a small corner of southern New Jersey important? It was important because it was planned and organized by six kids.  Those six kids not only put the work in to make sure they had accomplished something, but they organized their peers and made a difference in our local community.

They used many of the things they have learned over the years. They needed basic math skills to plan the number of students, organize the route, plan for the bus, and identify times (not to mention the great data they gathered earlier in the year). They used social studies skills to obtain the permits and build upon community partnerships with the ACUA and Greater Egg Harbor River Council to learn about and acquire materials for their clean up.  They also applied for a city permit to perform a cleanup on the beach.  Their action plan, proposal to the principal, and emails to necessary parties involved language arts skills.  And, of course, their environmental studies in science propelled this forward.  These young people used things they have learned in every major subject to make a change in the world.

So often I hear all the things at are wrong with this generation of young people.  Their faults are on display for all to judge seemingly all the time.  But on this day, and in this school year, these young people (they hate being called kids) provided me with hope.  They created in me a sense of optimism and a reminder of why I love teaching.  As this school year comes to a close, these kids made a difference.  They stood up, did something meaningful, and used things they had learned to change (however small a portion of it) the world.  I am proud to have been a part of it, and I hope that in some way this inspires them to continue building toward creating positive change in their world both in the future, and right now.

 

Mentor, Friend, Unicorn, and Collector of Good People

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Nearly four years ago I can remember seeing his face pop up next to tweets. He was challenging, funny, thoughtful, and at times frustrating.  I couldn’t figure him out, but my people liked him, and I thought I liked him too. Over the summer of 2014, I got to know the man whose Twitter profile described him as a parent and career military man.  Instead, I found a friend whom I have now shared stories, laughs, struggles, meals, hopes, dreams, and ideas with over the years. He is one of the people who helped frame The Teacher’s Journey and allowed me to develop deeper understandings of mentoring, balance, and value.  

 

That man is Art LaFlamme.  During the past four years, I have witnessed Art transition out of the military and into the world of higher education with grace through the use of many of the practices he has shared and been incorporated into my own life and writing.  Like me, Art asks difficult questions and expects quality answers from others. It is probably what I found frustrating about him at first, but also what I liked best. What kind of person is Art? The kind who drives four hours both ways on a Saturday to meet his new education friends at an EdCamp.  He is the kind of person who spends an hour sitting on the sidewalk with a homeless vet while his own family eats ice cream so he can help him find and get the services he needs. Art is the kind of person who gives his time talk mentor others, who dreams big and then delivers, and who knows the value of keeping good people in your life.

 

I have learned many things from Art over the years, and he has inspired and pushed my thinking in countless ways. If I only took one lesson from Art, it is to find great people in your life, do what you can to keep them around you, and anything you can to help them along the way.  The Teacher’s Journey started as a joint project between Art and myself. At the time we were focussed on how we improve teaching from start to finish. With Art’s transition into the world of higher education, he quickly realized that he had to devote more time there and gave me his blessing to begin writing on my own.  I am grateful to have Art LaFlamme in my life and to acknowledge the inspiration he has provided me.

Uncle Joe, Symbolism, and The Logo

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As The Teacher’s Journey started to take shape, the cover design was something I took an interest in planning.  I had some ideas in my head and I had also heard other authors with other publishers say they didn’t feel great aboutor even didn’t like, their cover design.

 

This post is about how the Teacher’s Journey logo was created and the symbolism that goes into the design.

The following is a short Excerpt from The Teacher’s Journey

 

‘“When I look back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” (Simon, 1973). This Paul Simon song may ring true for many of us, but one of the most vivid memories it conjures for me is Mr. Mathis’s Humanities class.  It was the first time I really felt challenged, not by content, but by ideas and passion. From a deep dive into Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, a four-day epic tale told in German opera, to the quirks and creations of R. Buckminster Fuller my classmates and I were challenged to think.  One experience that stands out above the rest was reading and watching Joseph Campbell, or “Uncle Joe,” as Mr. Mathis called him. As we learned about Campbell, the monomyth, and the Hero’s Journey, my classmates and I observed and discussed how these themes were pervasive in both modern and ancient storytelling (Campbell, 2003).’

 

We read pieces of Uncle Joe’s work, but the most powerful memories I have from learning about the Hero’s Journey came from his armchair conversation miniseries with Bill Moyers: The Power of Myth.

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This is the inspiration for the two silhouettes sitting facing each other in chairs, casually holding a conversation.  The image pays tribute to the amazing conversations between Moyers and Campbell that inspired my interest in the Hero’s Journey.  

The Teacher’s Journey, like the Hero’s Journey, is a cycle.  The circular nature made me want to include a circular image.  I also wanted it to include people. At each stage of the journey, there are people we encounter, mentors, allies, villains, and more.  Each of the people in the circle represents people in the journey. It also represents as a secondary meaning, people listening to teachers telling their story.

 

The colors were chosen intentionally as well.  If you look at the book, the gradient of the gold color follows the circular concepts in the Hero’s/Teacher’s Journey.  As you follow the circle, you leave the light, comfortable place where you begin. Continuing you descend into a different world where the darkness represents challenges that you will face.  As you continue along the circular path, you return to the light, emerging through struggle with hope and a stronger understanding of who you are.

 

Why go through the trouble of sharing the thoughts involved? Simple, I ended up designing the cover myself.  Just like the book, the cover is a reflection of my understanding of the Teacher’s Journey, things that I have learned, and symbolism that fits together in a way I hope catches attention.  

 

You can get your copy, cover and all here: https://www.amazon.com/Teachers-Journey-Brian-Costello/dp/1732248702/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1525096691&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Teacher%27s+Journey&dpID=51qpQ5iXrcL&preST=_SX218_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

 

Campbell, J. (1993). The Hero With a Thousand Faces. London: Fontana Press.

Simon, Paul. (May 1973). Kodachrome. On There Goes Rhymin’ Simon [7’ Vinyl].Columbia.

Live: A Window into a Personal World

Live: A Window into a Personal World #cvtechtalk #edumatch #theteachersjourney #122edchat

Last week I tried something new. I went “live” to share a personal moment in my own journey as I shared the first Proof edition of The Teacher’s Journey.  I was shocked to see just how many people have taken the time to share that glimpse into my home, into a personal moment of joy and excitement. That event made me realize two things: People like sharing in personal moments and stories (something I did in my book but haven’t done enough on my blog) and people LOVE video.  

I decided that I would be adding some more live videos to share more about The Teacher’s Journey.  I will add them to www.costellocorner.com when I can, but in the meantime, I am going to focus on continuing to share more personal stories.

Today’s personal moments are about managing life, balance, and the insanity of this freight train moving toward May 14th.  I have two amazing children, a five-year-old daughter, and a seven-month-old son. This past weekend my wife returned to working nights, which means I get lots of quality time with the kids.  It also means that responsibilities that we had divided are now up to me. Here is the brutal truth, I have been terrified of the thought. I love being a dad, but being the equivalent of a single parent even five or six nights a week is daunting.  I admire single parents who raise their kids, make all the sacrifices, and do all the things. You are all superheroes. While I navigate this new routine, I am also preparing to launch The Teacher’s Journey (Book), which comes out on May 14th. Despite having most of the “work” done, it is still something on my plate; still something I need to balance.  Knowing this was coming, I planned weeks in advance to be finished writing, editing, backlogging podcasts, and more. I have had to cancel a few events that I was excited to be a part of to make sure life doesn’t overwhelm me. I knew this would be a period where my family would take up so much more of my time, and so I prepared. It doesn’t make it easy, but it has made it easier.  Podcasts come out on schedule, blog posts and this new added wrinkle of live video are just about the only thing left on my plate that takes up much time. That is good because time has been limited and extremely valuable to me. I am still able to hop on twitter and voxer during the day, find ways to help others, but most importantly, so far, I have been able to enjoy the quality time with my kids.  Balance isn’t just about setting aside time during a certain day, it is about making adjustments both on the fly and to plan ahead. I look forward to continuing to share more personal moments, excitement, and the joy of seeing The Teacher’s Journey making its way into people’s’ hands.
You can get it here: https://www.amazon.com/Teachers-Journey-Brian-Costello/dp/1732248702/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1525096691&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Teacher%27s+Journey&dpID=51qpQ5iXrcL&preST=_SX218_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

Own Your Success

Own Your Success #edumatch #satchat #joyfulleaders

This post is long overdue, but after a friend asked me for some perspective, I realized how it is still relevant, timely, and important to share.

“When you published your first book, did you people treat you differently? Did anyone act differently toward you?”

Maybe a little.  What happened most is my own embarrassment.  When Will McGill and the Magic Hat first came out in November of 2015 I was overjoyed.  The feeling that I had accomplished a lifelong dream, that my words would forever be in this neat, beautiful little package with my name on the front, was one I won’t forget.  It was something I had worked on for years.  Something I had been so excited to complete.  When it came time to share it with the world, I was more than happy to share it with people who I didn’t know.  But, when it came to sharing it with those closest to me, especially in person, I shied away.  In fact, it is something I still need to make a conscious effort not to shy away from now.

Why would I hesitate to share something that brought me such joy? The first response in my brain (and in some conversations through not many) was that because I had self published, anyone could do it.  It’s true, anyone can write a book. Anyone can format it, edit it, and share it with the world.  This simple fact led me to devalue what I had done.  It wasn’t special. It wasn’t important.

The other thought was, I shouldn’t brag.  As an educator my first reaction has never been to publicize myself, to shout about my greatness from the rooftops, or quite frankly to call attention to myself at all.  In the classroom I deflect the praise to my students.  After all, it is them who actually do the great projects, I just dream up the crazy things.

So there I was, with one of the things I was most proud of accomplishing in my life (outside of having my family) and I would barely share it with anyone.  Sure I would post it on social media, but I rarely spoke about it to other adults.  It all changed that spring.  I was at a one day educational conference and some friends pushed me to put a session on the board for the open choice section of the afternoon.  That session would be about writing and publishing a book, MY BOOK.

There were some fun parts of the session, including one where I was throwing books out like Oprah. “You get a book, and you get a book, and you get a book.” But, the most meaningful part, the part that has stuck with me most, wasn’t something I said, but a comment by someone else, unfortunately I cannot remember who it was.  I was continuing my self-deprecating description of writing a book when I told the people in the room that ANYONE could do this, it isn’t special.  After repeating that several times this gentleman said:

“Yes anyone COULD do it, but what makes it special is that you DID do it.”

Those words still echo in my head anytime I am hesitant to share things that I have done.  Whether your thing is a book, an article, a blog post, an image or picture you created, presenting on a topic, or anything else that you do, remember that it is special not because it COULDN’T be done, but because YOU DID IT.  Give yourself permission to accept that you have accomplished something.  Celebrate it. Share it.  If you find that there are people who aren’t happy for you, they don’t deserve to bask in your sunshine.  Do not allow others to throw shade on your joy, your celebration of accomplishment.  Whether it be from jealousy or some other misplaced personal issue, their problems are not with your accomplishment, they are with you.

I always welcome feedback, pushback, and I value where I can learn from the questions of others.  But looking to tear others down for the sake of diminishing what they have accomplished? I will no longer accept that as the norm.  Surround yourself with those who will question you, but who will also share in your joy.  As I approach the publication of my 3rd book, and my first non-fiction teaching book, I am absolutely reminded that there will be people whose only joy is in the shadows the can cast upon the world.  I won’t allow myself to stay in those shadows, nor will I go any longer without sharing that message with others.  If you have accomplished great things, or small things with great meaning, own it.  Own your successes with the intensity and vigor they deserve.

Are You a Helper?

As a character in the journeys of others, choose to be the light. - Brian C

Teaching is hard. It can drain you physically and emotionally.  I don’t want to pretend it is the only profession that does that, but teaching does take its toll at times.  There are so many things that can go into how we react to our profession.  One thing that has become clear to me over the years, more teachers deal with anxiety, depression, and other aspects of mental illness than I would have ever imagined.

That tells me a few things. First, if you are suffering right now, you are not alone.  The stress, frustrations, and frequent isolation from peers while working can augment many of the difficulties we face, but you are not alone.  I am inspired by teachers who share their own personal experiences with anxiety and depression so openly.  I can only hope it leads to more awareness and less burnout for teachers.  Second, the way you approach your job and the way other people around you at your job approach you can make a huge difference.

Each one of us is the hero in our own journey.  We are not, however, the hero in the journeys of others.  We are merely the other characters in the story. How are you helping? It is something I try to live by in both my professional and personal life.  How are you helping others in their own journeys?  Or, are you hindering them? Are you the obstacle or the enemy they need to overcome? Too often in education and in life people can get caught up in the details.    Little things that in the grand scheme of things that matter only because we want them to matter.  Take some time today to reflect for yourself. Are you helping others, or hindering them?

“Look to the helpers” as Mr. Rodgers would say.  My challenge is that whenever possible, we should be helpers as well.

In the end, we must decide who we are and who we want to be.  I know we as educators already seem to be prone to stress, anxiety, depression, and more. Because of this, I choose to be a light.  I am not anyone else’s hero, just something to aide them along the way.  Something to help them when the darkness sets in or they need to find their way.  I try to live this way.  Sometimes I fail, but so do we all.

 

This same thing applies to kids. They are people too.  We can either help them or hold them back.

How are you finding ways to help? How can we help one another?

Balance is the Story of Life

Balance is the Story of Life

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Born into a world  adrift

We roll with the waves

trying to hold our salty breath

Going under  only to resurface

A perfect balance alludes us.

 

As we seek to understand and determine how to find balance in our lives, remember that balance is not a static act.  Like the tight rope walker, we move forward making constant corrections.  We stay afloat by making constant corrections. Balance is a fluid thing. It isn’t something you find, or something you achieve, it is something you do.  Balance will never be perfect.  It will always tilt toward one direction or another.  Our goal is to stay afloat, not to be sucked under for too long at any one time.