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  • Writer's pictureKaren Caswell

Discovering how to be the REAL me

Updated: May 16, 2020

My most recent Dave Burgess Consulting Inc. read was “Be REAL: Educate from the Heart” by Tara Martin. All of the books I’ve read this year have had a significant impact on me professionally, but this book also touched me personally. Really, what else would you expect from a book with a title like that?

I love how authentic Tara is, as well as the REAL message she shares. Tara embodies REALness – she’s relatable, exposes her vulnerabilities, is approachable (via my experience with her on Twitter) and models learning through life. Through Tara’s stories, I am able to envision the REAL connections I can make with my students and colleagues. The ‘monitor your heartrate’ questions at the end of each section prompt reflection and challenge you to take action. I also love the contribution from Tara’s son, Kaleb, and the real quotes from students sprinkled throughout the book.

Relatable: This section is all about developing relationships with our students and colleagues. As Tara says, “Building relationships and maintaining a healthy heart requires intentionality.” We need to be intentional about developing relationships and take time to learn about those we interact with daily. I love how Tara gives specific examples how to do this – how to build trust and be relatable. I think sometimes instruction, performance and results – the data – can be pushed at us so hard, that we are forced into the trap of forgetting what’s at the heart of our success as educators – relationships. Without a foundation of relatability and relationships, all the other things we do will not have the impact we strive for. This section highlighted to me that maybe what’s been missing in my interactions as a coach is open, genuine relatability, and provided me with some invaluable ideas, such as the ‘Relatable REAL Talk Treasures', how to develop it.

Expose Vulnerability: This section probably hit me the hardest. I’ve never been one to admit I’m struggling or to ask for help– to expose my vulnerabilities. I’ve always been a perfectionist and a bit of an overachiever, and felt that I had to be strong no matter what. What I willingly and compassionately accepted in others, that we all makes mistakes, need help, are scared, I would never allow myself. Rather than reach out to others, I would withdraw. Of course, this made it hard for me to make deep and meaningful connections with others, particularly colleagues. I’ve worked hard on these thoughts and beliefs about myself, and this section showed me the importance of acknowledging our own vulnerabilities to ourselves, and the need to allow others to see our vulnerabilities, in order to truly connect with those we serve. I love Tara’s #Cannonballin theory! Even though I’ve been guilty of being a dabbler (mainly driven by fear) I’m becoming brave, and realise it doesn’t matter if I create a ripple or a splash – I’ve jumped!

Approachable: I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, ‘resting b*tch face’…unfortunately I have one. This is a major hindrance to being approachable. As Tara states, ‘approachability is foundational for building relationships’. Luckily, I’m aware of this off-putting trait, and work hard at how I present myself to others. This section was full of practical ideas to pay attention to ways we can influence how we are perceived by others. The ‘10 Approachability Principles from the Teen Kickboxer’ are a great guide. I especially like No. 2: Even if others intimidate you, be REAL, as this is something that I find hard to do. I think No. 10: Listen to Learn, is vital too for all of us who serve others.

Learning Through Life: I believe the majority of educators are life-long learners, but this section of the book guides you to identify your ‘Why?’ and how to make others ‘thirsty’ for your why by relating it to the proverb, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” and the often unknown second part, “but you can salt the hay.” Tara identifies three types of salt – Heart-Healthy Salt, Life Experience Salt and Passion Salt – and how to use these to season your interactions with others. I need to take more time to reflect on this section and clarify and define my ‘why’ and my salts. Mixed in there are my big rocks - my passion for developing a love of reading in my students, my desire to build meaningful relationships with my students and colleagues, and my quest to have students deeply engaged in learning experiences. Add in my life experiences of dealing with anxiety, reigniting my love of teaching, my love of music and dance, and my affinity for puns, I believe there are some meaningful strengths and talents to develop. My next step in my leadership journey is to clearly identify my ‘why’, then start to season the world with my salt.

This section also talks about #BookSnaps, Tara’s innovative way of having students reflect on their reading, conceived as a result of her son’s use of Snapchat. If you haven’t heard of them yet, check out the #BookSnaps resources on Tara’s website. I've been using #BookSnaps and find they certainly help me clarify my thoughts and remember parts of the text I connect with or that make an impact. My students have also been busy snapping this year, both #BookSnaps and their cousin #VocabSnaps, and they think it’s great!

Now it’s time to get REAL!


Karen Caswell
Karen Caswell
Dec 01, 2018

Thanks Jody! x


Nov 28, 2018

I loved reading this, Karen! .... and great photo! :)

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