Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Awakened: Book Review

I don't think it is a shock to anyone reading this blog that I am a huge fan of Angela Watson and the Cornerstone for Teachers. I think I stumbled upon her site, back when she was Ms. Powell, probably the year I started my first real field assignment for earning my teaching certification. I've been with her ever since.

When The Cornerstone was published, I jumped right in. I think that I am so drawn to Angela's work because she's been there. She's worked in the inner city and she knows exactly what my job is like every day. (Because sorry but if you HAVEN'T worked in the inner city, you really just don't get the realities -- it isn't 100% the same as working in the 'burbs.) Additionally, her work is written in a tone where you kind of feel like you're chatting with a friend. She isn't judgmental, she's realistic. She sets the standard that it is okay to not be perfect because no one is and then offers what has worked for her.

When I heard that she was publishing her second book, Awakened, I knew I had to have it. Once I read the book description and everything, I really knew I had to have it. Was it possible that one little book could be the answer to it all? Really? [Let's face it, no one single book, no matter how fab the author is will solve the answer to everything...but this one covers a lot and is well done!] I took my sweet time reading this book as well because I really wanted to absorb it and process everything I was reading. Very rarely do I take this long to read a book of this nature but I gave myself two full weeks to read it and I do feel like when I put it aside and let myself process what I'd read for a day or two before going back to the book, that I was able to get more out of it.

The book is relatively short at 208 pages, but this length makes sure the text is concise and to the point. There are three parts: Setting the Foundation for a Healthy Mind; Breaking Free of Destructive Habits and Cultivating a Positive Frame of Reference. Each part will be discussed in turn.

Part One: Setting the Foundation for a Healthy Mind
To start with, Angela offers insight into her own life and describes how she used to be that Negative Nellie. This honesty, from the get-go, provides the reader with the notion that this is not just a book written by anyone. Rather, it is written by someone who has been there, done that and wants to share this knowledge to help other educators. It is very nicely done since it immediately pulls you in (even moreso if you realize that you are the same kind of person that Angela used to be).

This section includes a lot of research to back up what Angela is describing. Again, clearly this is not just the ramblings of a random person who published a book. It is the thoughtful synthesis of information through one educator's eyes who really wants to share this knowledge and new found way of thinking with others.

The best part of this section, to me, is the strategy section. Angela talks about four key strategies to help you set the foundation for a healthy mind but also to set you up to prepare for what comes in the second section of the book. The strategies are DDSS: dismiss, distract, reject, replace. As she goes on to explore these strategies in detail for the reader, she provides many examples and scenarios where you can see how to apply the strategies in your teaching life.

Part Two: Breaking Free of Destructive Habits

In Part Two, Angela explores 10 Destructive Habits that teachers often put upon themselves. From thinking negatively to rehashing events over and over to being presumptuous, Angela carefully explores habits that many teachers probably don't even realize they have.

Each habit has its own chapter. Each chapter goes in-depth to explore the habit and provide examples and scenarios where these habits come into play. I saw myself in a lot of these scenarios and habits. In the past year or so, I have been on a quest to be more positive and only deal with what I can deal with, and for some of these sections, I can thankfully say I am no longer in the midst of that habit. However, there are also many areas that I am still working on. This section is one that will end up covered in sticky note flags as I review and reflect on how I want to improve myself.

Part Three: Cultivating a Positive Frame of Reference

The last section of the book really ties everything together. Each chapter in this section really shows you how to examine the habits of mind that you currently have. Beginning with looking at your own unrealistic expectations and ending with the fact that no one can do EVERYTHING right, this section really provides you with an inside glimpse at how our own negative self-talk puts us in the position to be...well, negative. I particularly enjoyed the sections about how to make yourself difficult to offend and practicing forgiveness even if you want to be upset.

I found this to be especially true and helpful because, in general, people tend to remain upset and offended by things that in the long run, really just don't matter. It shouldn't matter that yesterday someone did XYZ. What matters is, you take what you find useful from whatever the situation is and let go of the rest so you don't drive yourself insane.

Angela ends the book with a chapter dedicated to what the self-talk of an Awakened teacher might sound like. She definitely hit the mark on the little things that we let get us down in our day-to-day teaching.

Overall I would highly recommend this book because it's powerful. Realizing that yes, YOU, have control over how YOU feel and only how YOU feel, is pretty amazing. You can't control anyone else's thoughts or reactions, but you can control your own. And that is pretty awesome.

If you don't have this book....PLEASE do yourself a favor and go buy it. You won't be disappointed.



  1. Wow Sunny,
    It sounds awesome....I'll be having to get that I guess:)

    4th Grade Frolics

  2. Wow, Sunny, thank you so much for such a thoughtful review! I really appreciate the time you took to summarize everything and reflect publicly on what you took away from the book. Your words made me smile because I feel like I achieved my goals in writing this book--you totally got where I was coming from. How wonderful to know that this book genuinely helped you! Exciting!

    Would you mind copying and pasting this review onto Amazon? I think even more teachers would get to read your thoughts if you shared it there.

    Thanks once again, Sunny. I am blown away by the depth of what you wrote. Thank you!

  3. Boy, you're quick! THANK YOU! :-)

  4. I really enjoyed the book too! I just reviewed it on my blog today :)