The Power is Yours!

One of my favorite shows to watch as a kid was Captain Planet.  If you’ve never seen it, let me break it down.  There were five kids from different continents who each found a ring with a power over an environmental(ish) factor.

When the kids met up, they found that they could randomly point their rings somewhere and yell out a random word.  Sing the song with me now.  “Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Heart!” Magically, this random blue guy with green hair would pop up and save the world against some random polluting bad guy.  (Side note: there is a hilarious, although NSFW, parody on Funny or Die featuring Don Cheadle.)  When he was done, he would randomly disappear back into the rings, while saying, “the power is yours!”

The power is yours.  Indeed.

I’m a huge conspiracy theorist, especially when it comes to cartoons.  For example, I’m fully convinced that Pinky was the genius, and The Brain was insane, and that is a conversation that I’m prepared to have if we ever meet face-to-face.  I digress.

Anyway, I think that what Captain Planet was trying to say to the kids, once you read between the lines, is that they didn’t really need him at all.  They had the power to save the world, as do all of us, the kids watching at home.  The kids who have now grown up.  (Psssst…you and me.)

We are educators.  We not only have the power to change the world, we ARE changing the world, whether we realize it or not.  That being said, we tend to have a lot more power than we even realize.  It took me a while to grasp this, but in the age of social media, we can move mountains.

I don’t know how many educators are on Twitter.  I’ve heard two million, six million, eight million, a few hundred thousand…it depends on who you ask.  For the sake of argument, let’s lowball it and say half a million (totally inventing that number…I’m sure it’s way more than that).

Generally I don’t care about numbers of followers, because it’s honestly stupid. #sorrynotsorry.  Twitter shouldn’t be a popularity contest; it should be about creating meaningful connections so that we get better as educators.  However, today I will entertain the discussion, again, for the sake of argument.  After all, if we are trying to move educational mountains, we cannot do it by ourselves…so the ideal would be to have a high number of high-quality connections (i.e. collaborators).

Let’s say you get 1% of all educators on Twitter on board with your idea.  Even with my fictional lowballed numbers, that is still 5,000 educators.  Get 1/10 of that, and that is 500 people in your corner, helping you to move this mountain.  Get it?

The power is yours.

Moment of honesty: I facepalm every time someone on Twitter asks me to start something brand new on their behalf.  No.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it when people ask me to be involved in what they’re doing, ask me to amplify (as long as they are not spamming me), or even give feedback/suggest improvements to something that I’m doing.  It frustrates me to no end though, whenever someone has a great idea and tries to hand it over to me because they think I have some kind of power that they don’t.  That’s ridiculous.

THE POWER IS YOURS DAGNABBIT!!!!  So stop it!

What is the difference between a teacher and a teacher leader?  It’s not a title.  Not some secret ceremony with your admin involving a sword and holy water.  A teacher leader does.  That’s all.  Be like Nike and just do it!  If you see a need, and are smart enough to find the solution, just do it.  Don’t ask me (or anyone else for that matter), because all I will say is, “do it yourself…let me know if I can help.”  Just save yourself the lecture 🙂

Featured image source: http://i.vimeocdn.com/video/417592894_1280x720.jpg

I Am Not My Body… (pt. 1)

There is so much that I have yet to understand about this world.  Like the old saying goes, the more I learn, the more I realize I have no clue.

This post will probably end up more spiritual than anything I’ve ever written.  It’s not quite educational in nature; rather, it’s me just trying to hash things out so they make sense to me. Some may disagree, and that is okay. I make no apologies for it.  We all have the right to believe in whatever or whomever we so choose.

While I do believe in a higher power, I don’t consider myself religious.  I have purposely exposed myself to many different faiths, but have not found one that suited me.  Ironically, though, religion is one of my favorite subjects to talk about.  Listening to many different ideologies allows me to pick and choose what fits my personal schema.  I am non-religious, and multi-religious at the same time (a walking contradiction, like Starburst).

One particular thing that has fascinated me has been the view of the afterlife.  Not to be morbid (as I do have a tendency to go there), but since I was a tiny child, I have been curious about what happens to us once this life is over.  Do we go to heaven?  Are we reincarnated?  Why do we so often feel untouchable, when our lives are so fragile?  For a long time, I believed the only things we truly had were our heartbeats.

This weekend, that changed.

I had the pleasure of attending 5Sigma held at Anastasis Academy in Colorado.  There, I met and/or reunited with great friends, both new and old.  As expected, I facilitated a session about EduMatch.  As expected, my friends on Voxer (link to #EduMatch group) had my back once again, as I had a crazy last-minute idea to include the voices of educators from around the country.  What I did not expect was to have my mind blown.

Well actually, yes I did, but not in this way.

Towards the end of the afternoon, there was a session with a featured speaker by the name of Tusta.  He spoke softly, and captivated the room full of people.  Even I, a person who may as well surgically attach an iPhone to my right hand, clung to his every word.  His message was simple but profound: to find happiness within.

Yes, I have heard this message before, but this was the first time it truly resonated with me.  One particular piece of wisdom was when he talked about how nearly everything in this world is external.  “I am a soul,” he said.  He expanded on that idea by noting how we generally refer to things in the possessive.  We say things such as, “My house.  My car.  My brain.  My body,” and not, “I house. I car. I brain. I body.”  What then, exactly, am “I”?

Simple.  I am a soul.

We are all souls.  This ties in with the ideology of many of the world’s systems of belief, from Islam, to Christianity, to Buddhism, and beyond (at least to my understanding…I do not claim to be an expert).  In some religions, people pray to ancestors who have since passed away.  Some people speak of ghosts who walk among us.  Even looking from a purely scientific perspective, the law of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed.  Thus, when we die, “we” must go somewhere.

With so many perspectives backing this idea, I personally am hard-pressed to dispute it.  I haven’t been able to get this idea out of my head. Whereas my answer regarding most spiritual questions is typically, “I have no idea,” this is something that I can firmly say that I believe.

After accepting this as my truth, I have been ruminating on this idea for the past couple of days.  As we all know, for the time being, every”body” dies.  We don’t know what the future will hold, with all the technological advances and whatnot.  Exploring that option would be a blog post in itself, so I will hold off on going down that rabbit hole.

I came to a wild conclusion.  It’s not a far leap to think of our bodies, and those of others, the same way that we would think of any other long-term, yet temporary, possession, such as “I Car” (joking).  Wouldn’t that make life so easy?  While some shallow individuals may judge others on their cars, most people see them for what they are…a mode of transportation.  I drive a Ford Focus, and though it’s not a BMW or Audi, I still love my little red car.

Believe me, I know our world is nowhere near ready for this, with all of the prejudice, injustice, and -isms…I will save more of that discussion for part two.  However, I challenged myself to take on this viewpoint, just to see what would happen.

Today, I put this new philosophy into action, and found it quite liberating.  If theoretically I can maintain this attitude, it may be the first step towards shedding years of baggage.  For most of my life, I have struggled with self-inflicted issues that I am now looking back and categorizing as external.  How many years have I wasted, looking down at the ground, not believing myself to be pretty enough, or thin enough, or just “enough”?  All of that time, I should have been holding my head high; and while I have been doing a better job of this over the past few years, again I ask, how many wasted years?  I wish I could share this feeling with every girl and boy, woman and man, who have ever dealt with similar issues.

I am not my body…but my body is me (to be continued).

Part Two coming soon (hopefully).

Sticks and Stones, Inspired by #BFC530

This morning, I participated in the #BFC530 chat from the treadmill, as I (try to) do every morning.  Today’s topic,

struck me as particularly blog-worthy because I had a very strong reaction to it.

The worst piece of advice I’ve ever gotten has been, “you’re not cut out for [teaching].”  It was given to me very early in my career, and I almost took it.  Thank God I didn’t.

I came into teaching through alternative certification with a background in television production.  Almost every job I had from the age of 12-21 involved working with children, and as I approached the end of my undergrad studies, I realized that I was very interested in teaching.  Of course, it would have been foolish to change my major when I had already completed nearly all of my coursework.  Thus, alternative certification programs became really appealing.

The golden opportunity came one day when I came across a flyer for a cohort through my university.  I was selected to join this group, and within a year, my dream of having my own classroom came true.

Understandably, the first few years were a steep learning curve.  Yet, time and again, I was told that teaching was not for me.  I wasn’t “cut out to be a teacher.”  I was, “still very young and [had my] whole life ahead of [me],” to find something that I “really love doing.”

Yes, I was young, but I was also stubborn.  I knew exactly what I loved, and it was building relationships and learning with the students in front of me.  Year after year, I was constantly bombarded with less-than-positive messages about how I needed to quit.

Then one day, it finally clicked.  I started to find my way around year four, when I received the support that I had needed.  Year five, I was able to use my background in technology, and everything changed.


This morning, I struggled while trying to answer the second part of the question.  My initial reaction was that the negative advice made me work harder to prove myself, but then I thought…did it?

Not really.

What it did was the opposite.  It gave me baggage and insecurity as a teacher, that took a long time to shake.  Truth be told, some of it still lingers.

Last night, I was listening to the Edu-Allstars Podcast with Principal El, who made a great point.  He was talking about how he would never again give up on a student, and also how we should never give up on struggling teachers.

By definition, a struggle implies some form of effort.  To paraphrase Principal El, if someone is giving an effort to help students, they should be celebrated, not vilified.

A member of my PLN nailed it:

We need to be very mindful in our profession how we treat one another.  As educators, we are often persecuted by media and society.  It’s not fair to do so to one another.  Just as we are supposed to be patient and supportive with our students, we need to do the same with others in our field, especially those with good intentions, who may just need help.  After all, we are all still learning ourselves.

To answer the second part of the question, something positive did come from that bad advice.  I now understand exactly how it feels to be on the receiving end, and can better advocate for the “struggling teachers.”  If you are doing what you truly love, don’t let anyone else tell you what’s in your heart.  Keep pushing forward, and be a sponge when it comes to best practices.  To those of us in a position to help, let’s do so from a place of love.  We are judged enough already!

P.S.: The story has a happy ending. Nearly ten years have passed, and I have seen many of the people mentioned above recently.  They have been very supportive! Let’s all continue to support each other, and work as a team for the good of our students 🙂

 

Don’t Be the Best, Be YOUR Best #BoredEduChat

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  It’s also been a while since I’ve done #BoredEduChat.  It emerged one day as I was…well, bored…and there were a few that we’ve done since then.  One in particular has stood out as my favorite.  I’ve always been meaning to flesh it out in a blog post.  Here goes.  This one is from September 25, 2014.  I’d love your thoughts.

That was the list from 2014.  (This year’s list)

(Now up to 108 billion.)

New figure: 9.25925926e-7.  My math may have been off.

What I should have said was multiply that by 1000.  New figure: 0.00092592592.  In other words, the “Top 100,000” who have ever lived have comprised approximately that percentage of the population.

Don’t seek to be the best, seek to do your best.  I was listening to Lewis Howes’s The School Of Greatness, and one of the guests, I believe Grant Cardone, said that greatness means a narrow the gap between one’s potential and what s/he actually does.  By this definition, we can all be great.

My good friend Sara Brooks expanded upon my “Connecting the Dots” metaphor, and said that while we are each just like a pixel on a TV Screen, we are HD together.  I dug that.  Actions live on way longer than we do.  Our legacy is built when we work together to improve the world.

Let’s work together to make the world a better place.

Fight Club Mentality for “Teechurs”

In my humble opinion, Fight Club is one of the best movies of all time.  If you haven’t seen it, and plan to, you may want to stop reading now, because some major spoilers lie ahead.  I’ll wait.

Photo credit: https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4094/4921687348_c328c75012_b.jpg

The first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club.  I’m a rule-breaker by nature, so I’m about to blab it all.  If you’re still reading, that means that you agree not to get mad at me for basically giving away the plot of the movie.  Pinkie swear?

It’s been a little while since I’ve seen the movie, but here’s what I remember.  There’s this somewhat geeky office guy (I forgot his name), played by Edward Norton.  He meets Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler, who is a total hottie and bad-booty, and together, they come up with this thing called Fight Club, where guys get together and basically beat the mess out of each other.

I’m not a huge fan of blood and violence, so I didn’t see this movie until a few years ago.  What drew me in was that after I saw Inception, I went on a hunt for other psychological mind-freak movies, and saw that Fight Club was on many lists.  So, I decided to give it a shot.

Oh…my…gosh.

Beware, *spoilers* lie ahead: as you watch the movie, you see Tyler rubbing off on Edward Norton little by little, until at the end, they drop the bombshell on you.  It turns out that Tyler and Edward were the same person all along.  Whoa!!!

The Tyler in Us All

Yesterday, I was driving to band practice and listening to Voxer.  In one of the groups I was in, the conversation shifted to how powerful the mind can be, in allowing you to accomplish more than you thought possible.  I added my two cents, and got back to driving, then began rehearsing our new material.  I wasn’t satisfied with how I sounded, and realized that I’d have to get my confidence up before arriving at practice if I wanted to sing better.  So, I asked myself, “how would Sarahdateechur sing this song?”

Then, it all came together.

I’ve written about how I’ve survived (and even occasionally thrived) as a shy, introverted person in situations that have required me to be outgoing.  I’ve done so by channeling Sarahdateechur.  It probably sounds ridiculous, but I’d be willing to bet that many of us have alter-egos of our own creation.  Little kids may be onto something when they create their own superhero personalities and pretend.  I’m just saying.

What if we were to create these fictional, better version of ourselves, and just become really good at imitating them?  To the outside world, it would appear that we were that person.  Truth be told, we ARE that person, but sometimes it’s easier to pretend it’s someone else.

In the movie, people would see Edward Norton, but when he was “Tyler,” they would ascribe that behavior to him.  I vaguely recall a scene when he was in his boss’s office, and tearing the room up.  That was all Tyler, but the boss saw Edward.  To the boss, Edward is dangerous.  Edward is crazy.  But Edward didn’t see himself that way.

Take that scenario and flip it upside down.  Sometimes we think that we are less-than…not as good as we can be.  Why not pretend that our alter-ego is, then do our very best imitation of that person?  For example, I was super-hype over this Google Glass app called “Race Yourself.”  I don’t know if it ever came out, but I was intrigued by the concept.  How engaging would it be to run alongside a representation of yourself, trying to beat your best time?

Growth mindset, I’m not sure.  However, I will say that although I tend to be shy, it has helped me tremendously to “pretend” that I’m Sarahdateechur (not Sarah…there’s a difference) when I’m in a professional situation.  Even if I do a horrible imitation, it’s much better than I would do otherwise.

Educational Implications

Recently, I made the drastic move from K-8 to high school, within a new content area.  Truth be told, I was very nervous at first, never having dealt with this age group before.  However, after getting some great advice from my friends, family, and colleagues (and a prior video of myself, surprisingly enough), I decided to try it.

If I were to do this, I would have to be on my A-game.  Being someone who even has trouble looking people in the eye, it would be a struggle to project confidence.  So, I pulled off my best imitation of Sarahdateechur, the teacher who I would want to have if I were a student.  She is confident, kind, fun, inspiring, fair, and innovative.

Trust me, it feels ridiculous to type this…but that’s exactly what I did.  Sarahdateechur has taught my classes the first three weeks of school, while Sarah has done the work behind the scenes.  The co-teaching model is working well so far, and I hope to maintain this partnership 😉

The Rules of Fight Club

Ha…ok, these aren’t the original rules.  However, here are some tricks that have helped me, and will hopefully help others:

  1. Create your persona.  Trust me, it might seem weird or awkward…it still does to me…but whatever works, works.  Don’t let feeling silly stand in the way of results.  If it helps, you can feel free to apply the first rule from the movie: you DO NOT talk about your alter-ego.
  2. Dream big. This persona/alterego/educational superhero…he or she can be whatever you choose to make him/her.  What kind of teacher/principal/coach/superintendent/etc. would you want to have if you were a student?  Create this person in your mind.
  3. Don’t make excuses. Superheroes don’t have excuses.  If there’s something blocking their way, they go around it, above it, through it, whatever they have to do to save the world.  When you face a challenge, educate yourself on how to overcome it by talking to your PLN, reading up on the topic, whatever you have to do to find a solution.  Never stop trying.
  4. Be the change.  Each week in my classroom, I put a quote on the board, something I carried over from coaching basketball.  The quote might be for my students, it might be for me, or it might be for the world at large.  Gandhi once said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”  This was last week’s quote, and it resonated so much with me that it might reappear.  If you want a kinder, fairer world, you must be a kinder, fairer person.  Our alter-egos will probably know this, and should act accordingly.
  5. Seize the magical moments. What makes a superhero/alter-ego great?  Well, if we look back through comic book history, it usually boils down to one magical moment.  There was that very first time when the superhero had the choice to help someone with their superpowers, or go on with business as usual.  The same goes for us.  We are already awesome, as we are helping our students.  But remember, our alter-ego is constantly pushing us to go even further.  Sometimes we get great ideas that can change the world, or help someone else, but often we think that we’re not “good enough” to make them happen, and these good intentions fizzle out and die in our brains.  News flash: you are more than good enough, and YOU can bring that idea to life.  If you don’t believe me, ask your alter-ego.

No matter how small we may feel, we all have the potential in us to be great.  Many times when we feel inferior, or that we can’t do something, we can push through it and thrive.  Sometimes the trick is simply to visualize it, and to do our best imitation of the great person who will get it done.  Even though we may sometimes think otherwise, we ARE those people.  Activate your inner Tyler, and see what greatness you will achieve.

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!

The Personal Benefits of Having a #PLN (#EduMatch Tweet and Talk 2)

Most of us who have been connected for a while already know the professional benefits of having a PLN: we become better teachers, we share ideas, we discover new opportunities, we better prepare our students by encouraging them to connect, etc.  The list goes on and on.  Tonight, in our second #EduMatch Tweet and Talk, we discuss another topic: how being connected has changed us as people.

When we truly connect, it goes far beyond typing out 140 character blurbs or using some strange Nextel-ish app to talk to strangers all day.  This seems to be the impression that people have of “being connected,” and may explain why they are hesitant to join in.  What I wish I could tell them is that being connected has made me not just a better teacher, it’s made me a better person.

I’ve alluded to my experiences growing up in previous blog posts.  TL;DR: I grew up in a community where I was one of few people who looked like me, and have had some experiences that left a negative mark.  I’ve always been kind of a loner, and isolating myself became my main defense mechanism.

It was easier this way.  When you shut people out, they can’t hurt you.  But I have recently learned that when you shut people out, YOU are hurting you.

Being connected has allowed me to see that there are more kind, loving people in the world than just my family, friends, and a few scattered people here and there.  Over the past two years, I have met some amazing people, who have changed my outlook.  Of course, we are a far cry from utopia, but there is a lot of positivity out there if we are open to receiving it.

As a result, I have become more empathetic, but I am still a work in progress (as we all are).  The more people I meet, the more I see the good in others…the more I see how much we can learn from each other…the more I see how we can help each other.

This is why I choose to connect.  This is why I am so passionate about encouraging others to do the same.

Yes, it is important for us all to share our stories as educators.  We can all grow professionally, hearing about what worked (or didn’t work) for others instructionally, and building upon that shared knowledge.  We can collaborate, innovate, and spread our passion.  But what we don’t always discuss is how these personal take-aways can be just as important.  Many thanks to my #PLN for making me a better “teechur,” as well as a better human being.

If you are free, please join us tonight (June 7) for our Tweet and Talk on this topic at 6 PM EST (Live Google Hangout on Air) with #EduMatch Twitter backchannel.  The Twitter chat will be storified, and the panel discussion will be available as an iTunes podcast.

#PostYourDrafts: Rant on Testing

This rant on testing is two years old.  To put it in context, I wrote this one morning when I was fed up, around the time when PARCC first hit many districts around the country.  I still feel the same way, and hope to see it become less of a time and energy suck.  The post may be a little stale, but unfortunately still relevant.  For your viewing pleasure, I #postmydraft.


Yesterday, in one of my Voxer groups, there was a heated discussion on standardized testing.  It was a discussion, not a debate, because nobody was advocating for the insane amount of testing currently going on in our schools.  Come to think of it, I’ve never met an educator who has said, “now now, guys, all this testing is really awesome!  Here’s why!”  *crickets*  Remember, we are the professionals, and often the adults who spend the most waking hours with children.  We teachers know what we are talking about; but I have yet to meet an educator who thinks all of this testing is reasonable.

Testing does have a place; this is not it.

Formative assessment on a classroom level is very helpful to see where students currently stand, and how to best meet their needs.  Even the occasional summative standardized test can serve a constructive purpose, to see how much students have grown over the course of a school year.  However, according to the New York Times, states such as Florida may devote 60 to 80 of the 180 school day calendar to testing.  This is an extreme, and thankfully most of us are not in this situation; however, I feel for the teachers and students of Florida.  Even losing a third of that time is a whole month of school.  Imagine what can be taught in one month…this could be an entire instructional unit.

If we must have standardized tests, can we at least get it right?  To me, the ideal standardized test would be short, sweet, formative, and low-risk for all stakeholders, as many factors can influence a student’s score.  For example, I’ve heard of students who traditionally scored high proficient fall to basic on an end-of-year test, perhaps because they were not feeling well that day.  This has a huge potential for negative implications, perhaps even relegating students to low tracks.  Even worse, I wonder how these scarlet letters of testing affect their self-image.  This kills me.

Why is there this war on our students?  I would say because of money, but that’s a whole different post.  Why aren’t the professionals being trusted to make the important decisions?  I hope to explore this topic more in a follow-up post.  I invite you to weigh in below.

Day 11 – Thank You :)

Whoops, I dropped the ball and forgot to post yesterday.  I’ll write two posts today.  This one will be really short, because I’m getting set up for class.

This post is dedicated to everyone who makes the world a better place.  I really want to thank all of my family, friends, students, PLN, school family, and just everybody for all of the birthday love.  It really made me smile, and I’m so fortunate to have all of you in my life.  You mean the world to me.  It gets me choked up sometimes to think of how lucky I am to be blessed with so much awesomeness around me.  Thank you for continually inspiring me.  Words aren’t nearly enough, but at least it’s something.  Have a fantastic day, everyone!