Brianne Gidcumb | January 2016

Books for Personal and Professional Development: Volume 1

    One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year has been to tackle my mile-long reading wishlist. I’ve maintained a list of books on the themes of personal and professional growth for years, but they sit unread as the chaos of daily life takes precedence. In an effort to hold myself accountable to my resolution, and introduce some amazing reads with you, I’ll be sharing recommendations throughout the year. In this first installment, I give you my first four reads of 2016!

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person

My first read of 2016 was Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes (yes, the Shonda Rhimes of basically everything on my Netflix queue- Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Private Practice). I finished this book by approximately 3 p.m. on New Year’s Day.

Ms. Rhimes chronicles her self-imposed challenge to say “yes” to everything for a year. Her efforts to accept challenges, to step out of her comfort zone, and to simply say “yes” snowballed and transformed her life, personally and professionally.

As educators, we tend to sacrifice ourselves (our time, our inner peace, our health) for the sake of our passion for teaching. We mold our lives to fit the awesome responsibility and privilege of teaching. This book was a wonderful reminder that when we take care of ourselves, we are better for others. Find it HERE.

Steal Like an Artist

I’m sure I’m behind the times, but I finally read Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist, and I am so thrilled I finally did! First of all, it was a quick, engaging read. I managed to finish it in a couple hours. Second, Mr. Kleon will be the keynote speaker at Education Closet’s Winter Connectivity STEAM and Arts Integration Conference on February 6, 2016 (

I found this book to be an energizing, inspirational read. I take comfort in the premise of the book: there is no “original” work, but basically we are the sum of the world around us. To thrive as artists and as educators, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel! Dive into what ignite the passion, that sparks the inquiry, and create something reflective of you! Find “Steal Like an Artist” HERE.

There’s also a companion resource, “The Steal Like an Artist Journal,” for those “pen-and-paper” people like myself. Find it HERE.

The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion

The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna is a quick, engaging, highly inspirational read, and recommended for anyone, who has contemplated how their job, career, and their calling intersect. I took my highlighter to my copy often. Jotting down notes, dog-earing particularly relevant pages, and found myself texting friends and family members several times throughout this read saying, “You HAVE to pick this one up!”

How do you find your passion, pursue your passion, and still maintain the necessary “shoulds” of daily life? Elle Luna maintains that every day, we run into the intersection of those things we should do and those things we must do in order to honor our calling. She explores the origins of our shoulds, the limitations and rewards of our musts, and how we might intertwine these two paths to live life fully. Definitely recommended for educators, particularly those who are creatively and artistically-minded! Find it HERE!

The Creativity Challenge: Design, Experiment, Test, Innovate, Build, Create, Inspire, and Unleash Your Genius

This is another book that will stay close by me in my work space for frequent reference! Tanner Christensen created a creative manual of sorts, filled with a collection of 150 creative challenges. These challenges fall into a number of categories, including convergent, divergent, lateral, aesthetic, and emergent challenges. This book is purposed not necessarily to be a front-to-back read, but rather a reference to be accessed at random, allowing the reader to solve creative challenges by providing tasks within these five processes to unlock creativity. Find it HERE!

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: