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Book Reflection: Culturize

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

Chapter 1 -My Connections

Like Jimmy, I had unique situations that shaped my views of education. Throughout my youth, I attended four different schools. Each school was unique and helped me to learn about the importance of building positive relationships.

In this chapter, Jimmy openly shares his struggles with his baseball coach. How his lack of genuine interest, or inability to show he cared, left Jimmy pondering this event for the next thirty-two years. How can adults not think about how their actions can impact a child for the remainder of their life? What if we each asked ourselves that question each day?

The 4 Core Principles are introduced in this chapter:

1. Be a champion for all students.

2. Expect excellence of everyone.

3. Carry the banner.

4. Be a merchant of hope.

My Favorite Quote: "No one person is responsible for determining your success or failure but you, and no one is responsible for your morale but you."

My Favorite Questions:

  1. "What if we were to pause, step back, and view our culture through the eyes of every child, every day?"

  2. ""Do the beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and interactions of your staff with students and with each other scream, "I care about you!", "You can do better!", and "You are important to me!"?

  3. "Have we reached the point where we are willing to allow an average, typical culture to determine our students' or schools' potential for success?

Chapter 2 - My Connection

In this chapter, Jimmy shares two stories that immediately caught my attention:

#1: When he was five, he went to work with his father and his father demanded a lot and expected high performance. He shares how his father taught him life-changing lessons and values.

My father owned a restaurant the last few years of his life. I was lucky enough to work alongside my father. He made me do everything. I. Mean. Everything! I scrubbed toilets. Scraped grease off the hood of the grill. Emptied fryer oil. Deposited money at the bank. Shopped at Sam's Club. Ordered food. Practiced new recipes. Swept floors. Emptied trash cans. I can even remember, at the age of 18, having my father ask me to discuss with an employee (an employee that was 56) her tardiness to work. I remember thinking..."Is my father insane!?" Why was he asking an eighteen-year-old to discuss tardiness with someone that could be my mother? At that time, I didn't realize, like Jimmy's father, he was instilling a sickening work ethic, pride, and important leadership skills.

There are three interrelated areas that either propel or inhibit a child's success in school:

1. Connection

2. Capability

3. Confidence

ARM Yourself for Tough Conversations

1. Acknowledge - "Successful people enter every conversation focused on the other person."

2. Rectify - "Strong teachers and leaders recognize that it is possible to stay calm and rationally seek solutions even in the midst of chaos."

3. Move On - "Effective teachers and leaders have a unique ability to accept their circumstances and move on rather than spend time and energy dwelling on things that are beyond their control."

Culture Builders:

1. Recognize What's Going Well

2. Change Student Behavior by Changing Adult Behavior

3. Reach out and Call Someone

My Favorite Questions about the way you interact with students:

1. Are you honest with students?

2. Are you dependable in following through when you promise to do something?

3. Are you available when you say you will be?

4. Do you take the time to ask questions when they let you down rather than make assumptions regarding the reasons why?

My Favorite Quotes:

1. "What we model is what we get."

2. "I write for my mother because I want her to be proud of me. It's one way to show my appreciation for her believing in me."

3. "Every staff member needs to remember that students are our most precious commodity. Without them, we don't have a job."

4. "If adults buy into the mindset that kids can't, then how can we complain when kids won't?"

5. "Behind every student success story is a staff member who championed for that student."

Chapter 3 - My Connections

I immediately smiled when I turned the page to Chapter 3. Jimmy starts off with a quote by my all-time favorite coach, Mr. John Wooden. He states, "A leader's most powerful ally is his or her own example." I could not agree more!

Mr. Casas shares a heartwarming story of a special young man and how he allowed him to be a positive example. This young man would probably be shunned by most. An eye roll. A whisper to a fellow colleague about his inability to do anything right. However, Jimmy looked at him and took a chance. He championed for the young man even when giving up seemed much easier. This young man proved the system wrong and graduated. In the end, Jimmy shares that he owed Ben "...the biggest thanks of all for showing [him] the importance of not only seeing the best in all kids but expecting the best from all kids."

This story reminds me of all the times I would discuss the importance of having integrity with my students. Now don't get me wrong...I am not Mother Teresa by any means, but I did strive to be (and still do) a positive role model for students.

What forced me to be a champion for all kids? was my son. From the moment he entered pre-school, he was told he was not good enough, smart enough, or well-behaved enough. And the horrible list goes on. I was bound and determined to ensure that each and every student that entered my classroom would feel loved. Would know I cared about meeting their needs. Like Mr. Casas, I owe each and every student from the 18 years I have spent in the classroom a huge THANK YOU! Each and every single student taught me a lesson. Helped me grow. Helped me reflect. Helped me improve. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Leaders Don't Need a Title: " don't need to wear a patch on your arm to have honor."

Excellent teachers and leaders have a few commonalities:

1. "They recognized they were a work in progress. They didn't consider themselves "experts" and valued the importance of learning from others."

2. "They didn't define themselves as "model" teachers/leaders; they defined themselves as model learners."

3. "They visualized the change they wanted for their schools. They understood how they thought and what they believed could impact what their students and school could become."

4. "They didn't shy away from challenges and never took a defeatist attitude. They stayed the course regardless of the arrows that may have come their way."

5. "They didn't expect everything to go as planned. They recognized that working in schools with kids was unpredictable. They saw student discipline issues as opportunities to both learn and teach self-discipline."

6. "When faced with adversity, they didn't dwell on the negative; they approached it as an opportunity to educate others."

7. "They were mindful that how they modeled teaching and/or leading each day was a choice, and they chose to bring their best each day, and the next day, and the day after that."

Successful Schools = One Key Thing

1. "A core group of leaders who believe 1) they can change the world, and 2) the success of their students and staff starts with the expectation of excellence."

Five Ways to Help Address Classroom, Building, and/or District Morale Issues:

1. Communication

2. Trust

3. Placing blame

4. Team builder

5. Follow through

*read more on pages 86-88

My Favorite Quotes:

1. " don't have to have the title of 'principal' to be a leader."

2. "The most effective leaders are always learning and are willing to share their expertise in hopes that someone will benefit in some way."

3. "If students or staff members are constantly asking for permission, you have not done a very good job of building capacity."

4. "It doesn't cost a penny to jolt those who are in dire straits with a blast of positive energy to help them get through the rest of the day."

5. "Sometimes a no is the beginning of a deeper relationship."

6. "Leadership is not just about how we behave when we know what to do; rather, it is best seen in the actions we take when we don't know what to do."

My Favorite Questions:

1. "When did you last trying something for the first time?

2. Why are you waiting for others to do what needs to be done?

3. "Do you believe that you can have a generational impact on families?"

4. "What qualities does an untitled leader possess that allow him or her to influence others to strive for excellence?

Chapter 4 - My Connections

3 Ways in Which Your Vibe Can Attract a Tribe of People Willing to Carry the Banner:

1. Model Positive Interactions

2. Remember That Your Body Language Reflects Your Beliefs

3. Show Appreciation

The best teachers... (see the remaining list on pp. 103-105)

  1. "Model a love for learning."

  2. "Value personal and trusting relationships."

  3. "Are extremely passionate."

  4. "Are empathetic."

  5. "Model risk-taking"

  6. "Are flexible

  7. Teach kids, not content

My Favorite Quotes:

1. "Don't be an awfulizer; Be an awesomizer."

2. "Learning is critical, but learning from each other is even more critical if we do not want the success of our school communities left to chance."

3. "When you realize how your attitude and actions set an example and affect others, you might just decide to change the way you think, dream, plan, and act."

4. "It is important to take time to surround yourself with others who help keep you focused on the things that matter, who energize you, and give you hope."

Chapter 5 - My Connection

Home Visit Programs

Jimmy shares a story of how he visited high risk students at home the summer before their freshmen year. They would take gift bags and discuss their middle school experience. This connection was the "...first step towards making a positive difference in the lives of students who had been identified as high risk."

This reminded me of my intentional conversations and connections with 7th graders the entire year before 8th grade. I remember starting my career and listening to teachers share who was going to give me a run for my money. I thought it was normal to have this type of conversation. I remember hitting year three and realizing this was not what I wanted. I wanted to form my opinion, my own connection.

One particular student that I connected with in 7th grade battled with teachers throughout her entire educational career. What did I find through my connection with her? She was hungry. She was tired. She wanted someone to care. She wanted someone to help. I cannot tell you how many times I fed her. I let her sleep for 10 minutes. I gave her perfume to spray on her clothes.

She has always remained in my mind. I always wonder, "How is she doing?" Last year when she graduated from high school, I hugged her and gave her my number. I told her to reach out if she ever needed anything. It is now one year later and she sent me a text. She lost her mother and grandmother in high school. She is now couch surfing and without a vehicle. I feel completely helpless. I wish I lived near her. I wish I had a vehicle I could give her. It is at times like these...that I PROUDLY carry my district's banner. I sent an email to specific personnel and almost immediately received several responses. We now have numerous educators searching to find resources to help this young lady. It is moments like this that I am truly proud to know that we are not just focusing on graduating students. We are focused on ensuring students can be successful post-graduation. We are truly concerned with their well-being. Their future.

Every Rose Has Its Thorns Activity

Everyone shares their "rose and thorn" for the school year

10 Ways to Challenge Yourself to choose a Positive Response:

1. "Bring your best to work every day."

2. "Give two minutes of your time to one students one staff member every day."

3. "Be empathetic."

4. "Value the mistakes of others."

5. "Model forgiveness."

6. "Understand you will not always see immediate results when working with kids."

7. "Have high standards for all kids every day."

8. "Address inappropriate behavior"

9. "Don't be negative."

10. "Take time to smile/laugh and encourage others to have fun."

My Favorite Quotes:

1. "How we respond is our choice."

2. "If you want to be an effective leader, be willing to sincerely accept an apology and move on. Believe that most people's intentions are good."

3. "Educators who wish to leave a lasting legacy understand that, before they can transform teaching and learning, they must transform their belief systems."

Chapter 6 - My Connection

"Remember to spend less time focusing on your own accomplishments and focus more time on serving others so they, too, can experience their own success."

It is as if Jimmy Casas is my kindred spirit. I, too, received similar advice my fifth year of teaching when I won the Horizon Award and was nominated for Kansas Teacher of the Year. It was an important wake-up call for me at the age of 26. I needed to hear this. I needed to know that my goal was not to win award after award or to be recognized for each and every moment of success. This was the moment when I decided to volunteer for anything and everything that would allow me to lead with a servant's heart. Little did I know, that I was swinging from one side of the pendulum way too far to the other side. I found myself beyond exhausted at year ten. It was almost as if I thought I needed to take on anything and everything as my penance for my self-absorbed attitude in the first few years of my career. I found a good balance in year eleven and the last seven years have been life-changing. It is so important to reflect. To find positive mentors. To focus on seeing each and every moment as an opportunity to grow. As I look back on the last eighteen years of my career, I have so many people I need to thank. So many people that have given me hope, lessons, advice, wisdom, hugs, laughter, and moments of pure joy.

What do wish someone had told you?

1. Focus more on experiences

2. Take time to invest in yourself as well as others

3. Stay connected

4. Don't just tell them; show them

5. Don't depend on the same teacher and leaders

6. Don't let the process become the product when trying to influence change

7. Stop putting so much emphasis on trying to be successful

8. Differentiate for staff like we do for students

9. If you want to improve your relationships with others, try changing he manner in which you have conversations

10. Focus on skill sets rather than knowledge when hiring staff

11. There are two ways to get in the last word - apologize or accept an apology

12. Take responsibility for your professional growth

13. Believe your words and actions can inspire others

If you have not had the distinct pleasure of reading Culturize by Jimmy Casas, click here and purchase the book TODAY! Seriously...don't think twice. You. Will. Not. Regret. It! :)

There are not enough words to describe how this book has impacted me. I could not ever truly thank Mr. Casas for his wisdom, his compassion, his 177 pages of stories, advice, tips, connections, and guidance. This book is not just for administrators. It is for all educators. Each and every person that opens this book will find connections and the amazing opportunity to reflect and, hopefully, grow into someone that builds a culture of positivity with every student, every day, whatever it takes.

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