Week 1 Retrospective

Hello, friends!  I’ve been in high school (part two) for a full week now, and it’s better than I could ever have imagined.  Although it is a whole new ballgame, it takes elements from the two worlds that I’ve been living in for the past few years (middle school and professional learning), and splits them right down the middle.  I’ll keep this short and sweet, because I have to jet, but need to blog.  Here goes.

The Change

The opportunity to go to high school, after seven amazing years in my K-8 came along.  I realized that I had become good at what I did, but if I were to continue to grow, I’d need to try something new.  After making this creepily foreshadowing video nine days before I even knew about the opportunity:

I decided to go for it, with a little nudge from my PLN, as well as my family.

First Week with Staff

When I arrived at the first day back for staff, I was immediately struck by the happy realization that I left one familial environment, only to join another.  This was a huge relief, as I was going through major anxiety the night before, as evidenced by this blog post I wrote to process what was going on (lol…hey, we’re all human).

The entire staff was so welcoming, and I was happy to see many familiar faces: parents of former students, spouses of former co-workers, people who I’d been following on Twitter for years, and folks I had met through county workshops and conferences like ISTE.  I probably knew a good third of the folks there already, so this helped a lot.

My team was also on point.  I learned so much from them in the first few days, and am continuing to learn.  It was from our department chair that I got my first explanation of how 3D printers work, something I’ve wanted to learn forever and a day.  Everyone on the team brings the heat in his or her own way, and I’m so proud to be part of this.

The atmosphere was very high-energy and supportive, but it was still a major change for me.  At one point I started to doubt myself a little bit.  However, our final assembly of the week was all about how important we all are to students, and about moonshot thinking.  After watching an inspirational video and hearing the principal’s speech, I felt renewed and ready for Monday.

Time to Meet the Students

Sunday night, surprisingly I slept like a baby.  I woke up early to work out, which I incorporated into my daily routine before school (we have to be there at 9 a.m.).  I found that it helps me focus, and I’m in an overall better mood.

Monday was Freshman Orientation, and they stayed in each class for about 30 minutes to meet all of their teachers from both days (block scheduling).  In our class, we introduced ourselves, then played a game of Kahoot to go over expectations.  In it, there were questions specific to the course itself, the school culture, and random trivia about me to keep them on their toes.

The day went by fast.  Tuesday was the real first day, with the freshmen and upperclassmen at school.

Day One

Since we are on block scheduling, we have A Days and B Days.  So, this will be a culmination of both days.  I teach three different classes, but the first five days of each class is roughly the same.

Warm-Up

The students did a survey that I whipped up on Google Forms, which included info about their strengths, goals, and an anonymous gamer tag for our leaderboard.  When they were done, they signed up for EverFi Ignition, a free self-paced digital citizenship resource, and began completing the activities.

Class Time

After warm-up, I told students how important storytelling is, and how we each have a story and something to bring to the table.  I challenged them to prepare a presentation of no more than five minutes about themselves to introduce themselves to the class, and modeled what this could look like through an ignite(ish) speech of my own.

Afterwards, we played Kahoot again, because most students were not present on Monday.  Lastly, we went over class expectations.  On the last slide, there was a link to an activity, which we didn’t get to until Day Two.

Day Two

Warm-Up:

On the second day of class, students began the day with their EverFi warm-up, except for those who hadn’t yet completed the survey.  On Friday (B-Day #2), students were invited to vote for their favorite class more from the 3rd period A-Day class.  We have a new class showcased every day, and the public is invited to vote as well.

Class Overview:

I explained the routine to students, that we would reconvene after warm-ups to go over the leaderboard, as well as any relevant announcements.  By this time, I had updated the leaderboard with their pseudonyms and points earned on Day One, so then I told them about the items they could “purchase” with their points in the Swag Shop.

Next, we moved on to the Class Activity for the day, Balloon Cars!  (The site where the activity is described is hyperlinked on the last slide of Day One’s course overview.)  This was a great group work activity where the kids were able to get out of their seats and work together on the design process.

Some groups got it on the first try, and many more had to try and try again. Overall, it was a great learning experience.  I was really touched when groups who had success split off to help their classmates experience the same success.

In some classes, we were able to get started setting up reflective blogs via Blogger (thanks to the EduMatch crew for the sugestion).  In others, we jotted down notes for later blogging.

Homework

I’m not very big on homework, especially in a class pretty much rooted in PBL.  However, I am a huge proponent of flipping.  My school happens to have a 1:1 Chromebook initiative, so this will make flipping easy.  In addition, most students do have cell phones.  I took full advantage of this knowledge to craft my first 360 degree flipped video via my Ricoh Theta camera, to show students what is possible:

FYI, this video may not work properly in some browsers, but I had lots of success on my phone in the YouTube app, as well as on the YouTube site itself, where there is a directional control pad located in the top left of the window.

Reflections

I know I promised to be short and sweet, but I got carried away.  Here are a few take-aways that will drive me into next week:

  1. Find some comfortable shoes.  I’m not feeling heels.
  2. Stick to the model of one reading/writing day and one lab day.  This will help get students ready for the college model.
  3. Implement “Figure It Out” Fridays, where we all get together to…well…figure something out lol.
  4. Get the blogs up and running ASAP, so that students can reflect and comment on each other’s musings.

I’d love to hear what everyone else has going on the first week of school.  Please drop a comment below.  Thanks for reading!

Going to High School, The Sequel

Today is my second first day of high school, except this time I will be on the proverbial “other side of the desk.”  Actually, strike that.

First off, I never sit at my desk (literally or figuratively), as we are all learners in the room….I guess that makes me the “Lead Learner,” Google-style.  Hey, they should make a Gangnam Style remix to that.  Sorry…4 am.

Secondly, the students don’t arrive until next Tuesday, meaning this day of inservice is more like freshman orientation.  However, let’s not get too technical 🙂  For the purposes of this blog post, we will revisit how my first day of high school went, almost exactly 20 years ago, and see if maybe I can glean any wisdom from that day.  Hooray for diaries!  OMG, this feels like such an invasion of privacy, but I think 13-year-old me would forgive Now me, because she’d think this was awesome.

Here we go.  Original comments in italics.  (P.S. I will try to stay authentic and give all of the juicy details, but I’m leaving out names to protect the innocent.  Any typos were in the original.)

Day: Tuesday/Wednesday     Date: 9-5-95/9-6-95

I can’t sleep.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Today/Yesterday/the fifth was my first day of High School at W.P.  I woke up at 2 a.m.  I just walked around the house and read books to take my mind off things.

Thank God for WiFi.

I was nervous, but I didn’t realize it until now. I got dressed around 4:30 and woke Mom up at 6:15 like she had asked.  I was on my way at 6:23. There were two kids from my bus stop there all already and 3 from Deer Run going to some other school.  I started biting my nails that I had carefully grown since August.

What a waste.

What a waste.

Ha!  Spoiler!

The bus came at 6:35. I got on and sat in the front. Crazy thoughts were running through my head about what could possibly happen. I pictured being hung from the pullup bar by mean seniors, being shot, being beaten up, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Oh, the drama lol.  Some of my kids may feel like this Tuesday.  I should be ready for that.

We picked up the next stop.  Kelly sat in front of me.  We talked for a while and I felt better.

Kelly is still the voice of reason, by the way.  Shoutout to Kelly!  Woot!

That feeling, however, only lasted for a couple of minutes. The feeling of dread and lonliness returned after a while and worsened by the time we got nearer to the school.  We were at the stop light near my alma mater, Groveton Elementary.  I must have passed out or something, because next thing I knew, we were on Quander Road. 

So much drama!

I decided to go back to sleep, but before I could shut my eyes, people were getting off the bus. I hopped off and started walking to Geometry. Mr. S***** showed up after what felt like 2 decades and unlocked the door.  

Note to self: don’t be late on Tuesday.

We sat down. The bell tolled, then another about 5 minutes later. Well, actually it was more like an annoying tone. It gave me a headache. Mr. S****** has a loud voice, so my headache worsened and I thought I was going to puke.  I was glad when that class was over.  Not because I was bored, but because I was getting dizzy.  Oh yeah, the boys.

Seriously?  Note to self: this will probably also be on my students’ minds.  Also, don’t be loud, in case any of my students are prone to drama…or blogging.  Sorry, back to the good stuff.

When the first two walked in, one was butt and one was ok. I gave him suttle hints that I was interested. 

Like what?  Sarah, we need all the deets! *takes out notepad*

We made eye contact and he winked and smiled. I smiled back even though I felt crummy. I must have looked like a rabied dog about to attack, because when I fake a smile, especially to a boy, I show all of my teeth.

Totally #relatable, young Sarah.

It drives some of them wild (really?), and others it would if I were better looking (aww, don’t make me travel back in time and sing Christina Aguilera songs at us). I looked like a vampire today. 

Whatever that means.

Well, back to the boys in 1st block. When the first one walked in, I fell head over heels for him. (LOL!) He just had crooked teeth.  Major bummer for kissing, I would say. (Spoiler alert: Stop being so judgy, you’re going to wish you got those braces back then, yourself!)

I forgot about him when the last dude walked into the classroom.  He seemed cool and confident. I liked his attitude.  Plus, he was a sophomore.

I seriously do not remember dude #2.  I remember dude #1, though.  Thanks, Facebook!

I went to second block chorus.  There is not much to tell.  There are no guys (cute ones, that is) and the guy talks a lot.

Ha!  This ended up being one of my all-time favorite teachers.  I guess perceptions change.

Next class was Biology.  I was fashionably early for class.  My headache had cleared a tiny bit so that I could concentrate at least.  I paid attention to what the teacher said. (LOL notice what I gloss over, and what I write about in great detail.)  We got out of class and I went to lunch.

I sat with D***** and T******* and some other kids.  J**** came to sit with me.  After they all left, I went to sit with A********.  (Who are these people? Just kidding lol.)  J****** and D***** came too.  We all left when that annoying tone sounded and I went to gym.  It sucked.  

I hated gym.  I find this article to have mirrored my general experience.  Wish that I had physical education teachers like the ones in my PLN!

We left.  I found my bus and we went home.

Interesting!  We have a similar block schedule at my new school, too!

I talked to Kelly.  I got off the bus.  I walked home, did my homework, talked on the phone, watched T.V., helped dad, went to bed at 10, am still not asleep now at 12:45 pm, will have to wake up at 5:30, and tomorrow will probably suck too.  Joy to the world. I will write again today/Tomorrow/the 6th.  I’ll try to get some sleep.

So long!

Looking back, I don’t think it sucked as much as I thought.  It seems like a fairly normal day, with lots of self-imposed drama, excitement, friends, and of course, boys.

This was very informative!  It was like historical research in a way, haha.  Take-aways:

  1. Many of the students may be feeling nervous on Tuesday when they come back.  High school is new territory…major leagues to them.  Be ready to help them make this transition.
  2. My neighborhood friends, and people I met in middle school, helped me get through the day.  Some of my students won’t have this network, being at a magnet school.  Allow them some time to socialize and build alliances during class…but not in a forced, awkward way.  I don’t think I would have liked that much.  Instead, I think a DigCit Edcamp will be a good go-to, with the optional backchannel.
  3. Bring the heat!  That first day, I was very hard on my teachers.  I had a very bad academic experience the year before, so I was entering high school with a sour taste in my mouth.  It took a long time to shake this.  I realize that some kids may enter with their own baggage (far heavier than even that), so I will try to be ready to take some weight off their shoulders.  I need to establish from the get-go that we are on the same team, and will exert as much effort for them as they should exert for themselves.

I’m sure these aha moments will continue to slap me in the face as I think about it.  Maybe tonight, I’ll write an entry in the same diary, as I have done on occasion.  To my PLN, any tips for this freshman?  Please chime in on the comments 🙂  Thanks!

My Drone-y, My Drone-y…Where Ever I Go, it Goes

Drones might get a bad rap.  

When I think back to the first time I heard about them, it was in reference to their use as weapons.  The next thing I heard, a drone was selling for under $1,000 on Amazon.com, less than the entire season’s coaching salary I had previously spent on Google Glass.  Freaking out, I had my students blog about the implications of consumer drones, thinking their perspectives might help me wrap my mind around this phenomenon.  They were underwhelmed, as many young folks tend to be.

My perspective started to shift a few months later, when I heard about how drones could be used for good, such as in the case of Amazon Prime Air.  Although still kind of creepy, I was impressed that I could order a package and have it delivered to my doorstep in 30 minutes.  At this rate, Amazon would be moving faster than most delivery places.

It wasn’t until I saw my first drone in real life that I really started geeking out.  It was April 18, 2015 at the Maryland GAFE Summit, during Adam Bellow’s keynote.  Adam was talking about the current state of educational technology, as well as developments in the near future.  As I tend to throw myself into professional learning, I usually have a good working knowledge of what’s going on in our field; however, this was new to me.

All of a sudden, I realized that in order to prepare my students, I would need to educate myself on this technology, no matter how uncomfortable drones made me.  I strongly believe that the more something scares you, the more you need to learn about it.  Best case scenario, you’ll realize that it’s not as bad as you think…worst case, you will at least know what you’re up against.  

Adam showed us how easy it was to program his drone with the Tickle app, and made it run through a series of patterns.  I downloaded the app immediately, because it also worked with Sphero, which I had purchased and wanted to explore.  I decided that one day, I would buy a drone of my own.  Time to save up!

Only…drones were a lot cheaper than I thought, as I found out by talking to the members of the EduMatch voxer group.  There were even Groupon deals that had them running under $40!  

Eventually, I found a drone that was compatible with Tickle, the Parrot Rolling Spider Mini-Drone.  I purchased it a couple of weeks ago when all of the summer traveling died down, and I had some time to play.  In the meantime, some great conversations came up in the EduMatch group about privacy regarding drones and other technologies, which inspired one of our recent podcast episodes.  Through this conversation, I fell in love with this topic, and decided to make it the subject of my upcoming session at the #DigCit Summit.

Finally, the big day arrived, and my drone was delivered.  I was a little too overzealous, and launched it in my recording studio, where it nearly tore the room apart.  A few days later, I took it outside on the sidewalk.  The drone was hard to control, and it kept rolling under cars, but I figure that I’ll get better with more practice.  I took it to my patio and tried to fly it there, but it started veering onto my neighbor’s property.  I felt uncomfortable in continuing the practice session, fearing they would think that I was spying on them.  Next time, I will try in a larger, open area, perhaps at my parents’ house, or the football field at my new school.

I can’t wait to speak with the participants of the Summit on October 3rd in Connecticut, so that we can all explore the concept of privacy in 2015 together, including a discussion on drones.  I’m also very excited to use it with my new students, and hear their thoughts.  What are yours?  Please chime in on the comments section below.