• Andrea Paulakovich

#DBC50Summer 5/50: The Path to Serendipity

Do you want to share how you connected to Allyson's path? How The Path to Serendipity touched your heart? We would love to know what you think!

Click on the Flipgrid link below and join Alicia (@iluveducating) and me on our journey through 50+ Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books.

Path to Serendipity Flipgrid: https://flipgrid.com/77c550

Password: DBCSummer

Dear Allyson,

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU! Reading your book allowed me to connect with moments, memories, and people that I had forgotten or suppressed. It also made me realize that I am just a work in progress and that is OK. As you shared, "This is one of life's terrifying yet thrilling secrets." When I started thinking about how I could ever pay homage to the beauty of your book, I thought...I can share my Path to Serendipity too. When you share stories, alone, it can be a frightening experience, but when you have someone beside you, someone who won't judge you, someone who will cheer you on, the pain, the hurt, and the doubt, can turn into a beautiful journey. A journey that I would love to share with you. Here is how your path connected to me...

Foreword -

"We are all works in progress."

As I read the foreword to your book, I was especially moved by the quote, "I've grown to learn that often those who move with the most grace are only doing so after having stumbled many, many times." As a young mother, I stumbled more than you could ever know. If it weren't for my Great Aunt Marie, I am not sure I would have become an overcomer. She always encouraged me. Modeled integrity. And taught me to persevere even when the walls felt like they were caving in.


"The lessons I've learned through the good and the bad in my life have brought me to this place."

You shared a story of your first day of teaching. Your classroom was chaos. Kids were walking all over you. You were not used to these issues. The apple chart had always prevented students from misbehaving. You felt as though you had no idea how to run a class without the apple chart. I, too, had a similar moment. I used to feel I needed BIST. It was the behavior management system I learned my first year of teaching. I was a pro at BIST. I actually was our school trainer by my fourth year as an educator. The year we decided to move from BIST to PBIS...I was like, "No, thank you!" BIST was my security blanket. It was what worked. It was safe for me. I knew without a doubt that students would respond to this behavior management system. Little did I know, but PBIS would become a corner stone to enchancing my ability to lead, to teach, and to connect with my students.

The First Stop: C.R.A.F.T. a Need-Satisfying Classroom

"Every student teaches me a great deal."

"All behavior is an attempt -made by choice -to meet one or more of our basic needs."

As you shared that no one invested in you, they only seemed to care about the work, I immediately thought of my brother. He was an exceptionally bright student. He earned a 30 on his ACT the first try as a sophomore. Regardless, he was beyond bored in school, so he often acted out. This behavior started small. Little pranks here or there. However, it became like a drug. Let me try a little more to see what I can get away with. He kept trying bigger and better methods until he was finally expelled from school. Like you, no one was taking the time to really get to know him.

Within this stop, you share the importance of CRAFTING the right lessons. What would have happened if one of my brother's teachers would have thought about this? I can tell you for sure...my brother did not have choice, relationships, voice, or fun in his daily schedule. And...his teachers were definitely engaging in power struggles trying to "tame" the monster.

Choice: Give students choice

Relationships: Positive classroom culture

Ask, don't tell: "The one doing most of the talking is the one doing most of the talking.

Fun: We need to have fun every single day.

Turn it around: "The last thing you ever want to do is get in a power struggle."

My Serendipitous lesson...

"Our challenging students often turn out to be our greatest teachers. You will never forget the lessons they teach you!

Second Stop: A Need-Satisfying Marriage

"Marriage is like twirling a baton, turning hand springs, or eating with chopsticks. It looks easy until you try it."

Marital Needs...

As I read this stop, I kept thinking (actually shouting out loud) "That is me and my husband!" You see...I am like you. I want to snuggle. Talk for hours and hours and share my hopes and dreams. My hubby would prefer fishing silently by a pond, playing baseball, watching ESPN, or anything related to sports.

"Husband feels smothered and itches for freedom. Wife feels neglected and wants to be feverishly loved."

Yes! Yes, Allyson! That is me and my husband. Like you and Jim, we are madly in love, yet we drive each other completely bonkers. He wishes I would talk less. I wish he would talk more. Regardless, we fight for each other. We have definitely been through our ups and downs, and like your Mom, we have been asked if we will make it. What allows us to keep going after 20 years? We do whatever it takes to fight for us!

My Serendipitous Lesson...

"These needs are like separate gas tanks, and our tanks are all different sizes."

Third Stop: A New Definition of Respect

"Respect is making life better for each other, not worse."

Bullying and eating disorders. I can totally relate. I was overweight in middle school and covered in acne. I was tortured by several classmates. I can still remember the day that left a scar on my heart. It was lunch time and our teacher asked us to grab our lunches from the coat closest. I remember waiting until the last minute because I was embarrassed that my lunch was in a grocery bag. My teacher asked, "Where is Andrea?" Sarah replied, "She is in her book bag." Of course, Johnny couldn't give up an opportunity to hurt me. He replied, "She is too fat to fit in her book bag." Tears started streaming down my face. I was so tired of being harassed. I was so tired of being overweight. Fast forward to our tenth year reunion. I stood across from him as he asked me what I was doing with my life. I shared that I was an English teacher. He appeared to be very interested. I decided this was the moment to let him know how much he hurt me. I can still remember what I said. "I bet you didn't know that I talk about you all the time with my students." He looked intrigued. "I tell them how I was bullied in middle school for being overweight. I specifically share a moment in the coat room that I thought would scar me for life." His eyes started growing, and growing. He responded, "I did that?" "Yes, you did that. But that is ok...you have helped me to share a story that touches my student's lives." I don't think he loved that I shared this with him, but I also don't think he will know how therapeutic it was to finally tell him how he made me feel.

My Serendipitous Lesson...

"Life is hard; don't make it harder for others."

Fourth Stop: All Behavior is Purposeful, and All Behavior is Information

"With practice, I have learned to stop and think about the potential reasons behind unkind words. That insight makes the pain those words inflict less debilitating."

I will choose to be an overcomer. I will not allow others words to hurt me. Change me (unless it is good change). Or define me. Thank you for reminding me that stopping to think about potential reasons for unkind words, can prevent the debilitating side effects!

My Serendipitous Lesson...

"An Emotions Deflector (real or imagined) is the best armor you can wear."

Fifth Stop: The Communication Balance - We Are all in This Together

"Then something serendipitous happened...I met George Couros."

Like you, reading The Innovator's Mindset was a game changer. I always talked with teachers about the importance of differentiation; however, his one quote: "What is best for this learner?" has become my mantra. I use this quote all the time. It is my MOJO! I love me some George Couros! Did I really just say that out loud! Eek! Seriously...his book is amazing!

My Serendipitous Lesson...

"Growth happens outside your comfort zone."

Sixth Stop: Who Controls You?

"Happy people are more active, and they take better care of themselves. They travel the path to serendipity, looking for the good in all that is around them."

This quote made me think of the movie Legally Blonde when she says, "Endorphins make you happy." This is so true. Seeing the world through a glass filled to the brim is so much easier than growling or finding the negative in everything. Thanks to you, and Mr. Jay Billy, I am choosing to find more time to be active. I am choosing to take control of my health. I am choosing me.

My Serendipitous Lesson...

"Stress, frustration, and anger happen, but I don't have to let them take up residence in my head and heart."

Seventh Stop: When We Don't Get What We Want, We Have Three Choices"

"Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck." -Dalai Lama

I love how you share three options for times when you don't get what you want:

1. Change what you want.

2.Change your reality.

3. Stay stuck and frustrated.

This is truly important advice. I have had several life-changing moments when I definitely did not get what I wanted; however, those moments are unanswered prayers, unanswered prayers that turned into a new journey, a new path. A path that keeps changing and morphing. Yet, I know, I believe that I don't get what I want and it is a "...wonderful stroke of luck."

My Serendipitous Lesson...

"Living a life in balance does not mean never feeling angry or frustrated or sad. It simply means we don't let those feelings overwhelm us."

Eighth Stop: How to Smile...I Mean Cry...No, I Mean Smile!

"Her passing left a huge hole in my life that I have slowly filled with the love of others. She is a piece of me I am so proud of, and she is always with me - a warmth in my heart and a voice in my head."

As I read about your Mom's battle with cancer, and your personal struggle as you watched her fight her way through treatment after treatment, I kept thinking about my Aunt Marie. She was (and still is) the most amazing woman I have ever known. She was my biggest supporter, my biggest cheerleader. She was also my greatest teacher. What Aunt Marie taught me, and how she taught me, shaped me into the woman I am today. In style and substance, much of what I taught in 15 years as a teacher, coach, and mentor can be traced back in some manner to her own teaching, her own example.

My aunt had a commonsense kind of wisdom. A woman who consistently said she wasn't wise, offered wisdom that guided four generations in our family. The guiding principles she taught me have been a compass for me in my years of teaching, coaching, and mentoring, important words and deeds I have tried to live by and teach others. Marie's principles, the points on her compass, had to do with compassion, intentness, self-control, mindset, and integrity. I didn't know it at the time, but she was giving me what is at the core of strong leadership.

Thank you, Allyson, for allowing me to pay homage to someone who "..is a piece of me I am so proud of...."

My Serendipitous Lesson...

"We all have our own stories, sorrows, and difficult times. I share my story to challenge us all to empathize and understand one another and to search for things to celebrate, even when it seems impossible."

Ninth Stop: Perception is Reality

"There is no truth. There is only perception." -Gustave Flaubert

I love your story about three workers perceiving a bee flying into the office in different ways. One barely notices. One hopes it doesn't come near. One fears for their life. This one bee, and the three different reactions, reveals that we all perceive situations in different manners. In this situation, we wouldn't "...begrudge coworkers of their reaction." But...what about real life? I can think of times when I thought someone was overreacting to a situation, but I forgot to remember that we each encounter experiences from a different perspective, from different experiences.

I am often made fun of because I am terrified of small spaces. What most people don't know is the why. When my parents used to scream and argue, I would hide in my closet in the dark. I was always terrified. Terrified of the yelling and terrified of the dark, enclosing space. This fear, this trigger, seems to always come back when I am in small spaces.

My Serendipitous Lesson...

"Embracing the difficulties in our lives can make us beautiful."

Tenth Stop: Assuming Takes a Toll on Relationships

She didn't even look at me when she walked down the hall. Why is she mad at me?

This is exactly how I have felt more than a dozen times. I spend too much time over thinking. Like you shared, "When I think back on these missteps, they all started with me making an assumption about someone else." I need to remember your advice and realize I have no idea what is going on in their life or what they are thinking.

My Serendipitous Lesson...

"Assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in." -Isaac Asimov

Eleventh Stop: Parenting for Dummies (I Am Referring to Myself)

"As a work in progress, I do not have this parenting thing mastered."

I can completely relate to your stories, Allyson. I have a twenty-year-old, son, and an almost three-year-old, daughter. They both give me a run for my money daily. I thought parenting would be so much easier the second time around. I mean it has been seventeen years since I had my son. Haven't I figured it all out by now? No, absolutely not. What I have learned, is that no one, I mean no one has the right to judge me. As you often say, "There is one ultimate judge, and it is not you or me." (Love this, Allyson!)

Recently, we discovered my daughter has life-threatening allergies. Do you want to talk about people judging. OMG! It is exhausting. One of my friends actually said to me, "I hope you don't become like my friend's Mom. She is always overreacting about everything." I will go back to your advice...

"Life is hard enough. Let's not add to difficulties by judging each other."

Another experience that left me beyond upset...I was at the Dollar General picking up a few items and a mother was looking at Valentine's decorations with her daughter. The mother picked up her phone to take a call. She was telling the person on the phone that it was taking them FOREVER to have to read the labels of all the candy. She then stated how stupid it was that they could not bring certain kinds of candy. She then hung up the phone. Her daughter said, "This is all their fault." The mother agreed and said, "I just wish kids with allergies would DIE. They ruin everything!" YES, she REALLY said this. It took everything inside me not to respond. I walked to another aisle to breathe and pray. Once I left the store, I sat in my car and cried. My precious little two-year-old did not ask to have life-threatening allergies. Do you think she REALLY wants to be stabbed with a needle to save her life? This moment reminded me why it is so important to think before you speak. You never, ever know who is listening.

My Serendipitous Lesson...

"Life is hard on us. Let's not add to our difficulties by judging each other. It is rare that we know enough about someone's situation to act as judge and jury or deem their behavior right or wrong. There is one ultimate judge, and it is not you or me."

Tweltfh Stop: A New Kind of Leadership

"I became a "path clearer" meaning I worked to remove as many obstacles as I could for our teachers so they could do their best work."

This past year I worked alongside 40 new educators at our new high school. There was so much new. A new school. New technology. Makerspaces. Blended Learning Labs. Learning Stairs. Scheduling of classrooms. Teachers moving daily to different spaces in the building. Student's reading TV's to figure out what room their class was in (they also had their schedule in Microsoft Teams). And the list goes on. 40 out of 60 teachers were brand new to the district. From day one, all I could think was, "How can I make their lives easier?" Like you (Allyson), I want to be a "path clearer." I wanted to make sure each and every teachers basic needs were met. Little did they know, that there were days, just like Allyson, where I laid my head down on the table and cried. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE my job; however, the pressure of trying to keep up with the requirements of my job, working hard to differentiate for all of the teachers needs, maintaining a weekly schedule of meetings, observations, one-on-one coaching, personalized professional learning opportunities, listening and learning, and always trying to be a shoulder for them to lean on, left me feeling as a failure a time or two. The best thing that happened to me was when my supervisor showed up. I had not experienced how challenging it can be to schedule appointments with 40 teachers, with 40 different schedules. It was as if I was creating a mini-master schedule. I was definitely working harder and not smarter before I met with my amazing supervisor. She quickly talked me through different methods for scheduling and I took what worked for me and designed a Google Docs Weekly Planner. I shared the planner with the teachers each Friday for the following week. They had the opportunity to sign-up for times to meet. I cannot tell you how much this helped. At the end of the quarter, I sent out a survey to the teachers. Asking how I could improve my communication, organization, etc... They provided feedback, and I continued to improve how I scheduled our time together. Overall, the best thing I experienced this year was working alongside teachers, learning together, asking questions together, and growing together.

My Serendipitous Lesson...

"Relationships are like checking accounts. Make sure you make more deposits than withdraws."

Thirteenth Stop: Looking Through a Lens of Gratitude

"A grateful heart is a happy heart, and our kids deserve educators who love what they do."

I am grateful for Allyson Apsey. Why? She has refreshed my soul by sharing her stories. She took a leap of faith and chose to reveal her life story. It can be scary to share who you are. There can be criticisms, judgements, and people who want to see you fail. However, she chose to have hope. For, "when there is hope, there is potential, there are dreams, and eyes are bright and looking forward."

My Serendipitous Lesson...

"Life is sweetest when viewed through a lens of gratitude."

Thank you for sharing your Path to Serendipity, Allyson! I feel truly blessed to share your journey.

Of course, you end your beautiful book with my favorite character, Mr. Mickey Mouse. Little known fact. I have over 200 Mickey Mouse collectibles and I have never seen the mouse in person.

Thanks to you...I will choose joy. I will celebrate the ordinary and make it extraordinary. I will work with imagination and intention. I will sing my song loudly and not worry about those who throw boulders. And...I will have a goal to make my eyes sparkle with delight at least once a day.

Best Wishes,

Andrea Paulakovich

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