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!

Day 10 Bonus! Meet the “Family”

My students are so funny.

We are at a K-8 school, so I have known my eighth graders since my first year, when they were in second grade.  They used to be so little and adorable, now they are big and adorable.  Most of them seriously tower over me (despite evidence to the contrary, I’m not very tall).

GTA Atlanta.  Photo credit: Danny Silva.
GTA Atlanta. Photo credit: Danny Silva.  I was standing on a chair.

Anyway, since we are a French immersion program, my students began taking English class in second grade.  I was the first English teacher many of them had, and will be their last one at the school.

Throughout the years, I have become super-close to these amazing kids and their families.  Our school is truly a family in many ways.

Last year, the “family” took a very humorous turn.  At a middle school basketball tournament (6th grade vs. 7th grade vs. 8th grade), I was joking with one of the seventh graders (now in 8th), and told her that she acted like a grandma.  She insisted from that moment on, that I refer to her as “Grandma,” so she has been Grandma ever since.

Once the word got out, a sixth grader wanted me to call her Grandma as well.  That makes two grandmas.

Grandma #1 extended the family by telling me that she has a “sister,” not her real sister, mind you, who is in third grade or something.  Grandma 1’s “sister” is another girl in her grade.  She has insisted I refer to her as Great Auntie.

Grandma #2 has a “daughter,” who is, ironically, a few months older than she is.  This is Mommy.  So Mommy and Grandma #2 are 12.  Stay with me, people.

I won’t go through the rest of the family history, but I now have a few uncles, some brothers, a sister, a Great Grandma, a Great Grandma Auntie, and a neighbor…lol, that last one had me scratching my head.  It’s hard to keep them straight, so I refer to them all collectively as “old people,” when I can’t remember.

All this is to set up the punchline for the big laugh of the night.  I received an email notification, that an Edmodo post had come in.  Here is the screenshot (name blurred out).

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 8.00.55 PM

Initial Reflections on Ferguson

This is take three.

This blog post has been incredibly hard to write, because it has been weighing heavily on my mind for the past few days.  I have tried to plan it out, and tried to write from an objective standpoint, but it has proven impossible because I’m so emotionally invested in the topic.  So, I guess all that I can do is be true to myself and share my views as they come to me.

We may not all agree here, which is totally fine.  The whole purpose of connecting to one another is to share our perceptions.  Somewhere, among all the voices, the truth will emerge.  Thus, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my reflections.

What happened to Michael Brown is a tragedy.  A young life was cut way too short.  At its core, there is a fundamental question of human rights left lingering.  An unarmed 18-year-old died at the hands of an officer of the law.  That alone should raise eyebrows.  There are even more layers to this story, a large one being that four unarmed black males were killed by police officers last month.  When we add race to the equation, emotions automatically come into play, since it is generally a taboo to discuss.  I ask why?  As you will see later, some of the best conversations I’ve had have been those when we addressed “taboo topics,” coming from a place of mutual respect.  But I digress.

What is happening in Ferguson is a tragedy.  In my opinion, the local government is handling it totally wrong, every single step of the way.  The disorganization and incompetence is mind-blowing, and frankly, quite disrespectful.  (I have many thoughts on what’s been going on, but I can’t seem to do them justice.  I may revisit this topic from another angle in the near future.)

So where do we go from here?  Things need to change fast, because our society is at a boiling point.  I’m troubled because I feel helpless, as I sit idly by, armed with only a laptop.  I’ve realized that the only thing I can do is speak my mind and encourage others to do the same.  We all have a voice, and can choose to use it however we see fit.

I am obviously a black woman.  Does that give me the onus of writing about Ferguson, while others must remain silent?  Absolutely not.  I am not writing this post “just because [I am] black.”  I’m writing it because I am a human being, who is enraged over the treatment of another human being, and subsequent disrespect to an entire city.  The First Amendment gives us all the right to share our views in a peaceful way, although it is currently being denied to the people of Ferguson between midnight and 5 am.  Yes, I have experienced my fair share of prejudice and discrimination.  That doesn’t make me an expert on the situation in Ferguson.  But, it certainly does make me more emotionally connected.

That being said, no one has to speak if they choose not to.  We all have our reasons on why we choose to speak or remain silent about any given topic.  However, my hope is that as educators, we do something.  This may come in many forms.  Some educators blog, some take to Twitter, and some may just give students a safe space to share their questions and concerns.  These are all great ways that we can help our students (and ourselves) process what’s going on.

The last class I took in a brick-and-mortar building was about the running of teacher preparation programs.  In this course, we spoke about many different things, many of them “taboo topics” such as race, gender, and economics.  The composition of the class was mostly white, mostly women, mostly upper-middle class…very similar to the overall demographics of the university.  Although it appeared from the outside to be mostly homogenous, there was such a diverse array of backgrounds, experiences, and opinions within those walls.  We all learned so much from each other, and it was definitely one of my favorite courses.

The beauty of this class was that we were all able to share our stories in a safe place, without judgment.  We would have open, honest conversations about our own experiences, and brainstorm ways to best meet the needs of all students.  I left the class with three take-aways that I would like to share today with my PLN:

  1. Everyone has a unique experience, but the more you listen to individuals, the more you understand the world as a whole.
  2. The more you speak your truth, the more you learn about yourself, and others.
  3. We are all different, but we are all one.

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to process and “speak my truth.”  Please feel free to comment, as I look forward to hearing your (constructive) thoughts as well.

Reflections on my Teacher-versary

IMG_6988

Ten years ago today, I began my career as a teacher.  I wasn’t yet a teechur, but I was well on my way.  No need to reinvent the wheel, check out this throwback from October.  It wasn’t so long ago, but in so many ways, it was.

There’s really way too much to say in a single blog post, so I’ll (try to) keep this short and sweet.  I just really wanted to take this time to thank everyone who has been there along the way.  I would like to give a huge shout out to a few people in particular.  Forgive me if I forget to thank someone, but that’s the great thing about being able to edit…I’ll come back and add later.

  • My family and friends…
    • You have been there every step of the way.  I really couldn’t have done this without you.  Literally, lol.  I love you guys so much.
  • My school…
    • Thank you to our fearless leader, who nurtured my strengths and helped me grow.
    • Thank you to the staff…we are a family, and I have loved learning with you all these years.
    • Thank you to all of the students…you teach me more than I could ever teach you.
    • Thank you to the parents…I can see why your children are so great, because apples don’t fall far from trees.
  • My county…
    • Thank you to all of the great educators whom I have met throughout the years.
    • Thank you to T3, as you all are fantastic mentors and have taught me so much.
    • Thank you to #pgtech.  You inspire me and I love our collaborations.
  • My PLN…
    • There are way too many of you to name, but I want to tell you all how special you are to me.  Thank you for all of the fantastic ideas and conversations.  I’m looking forward to our journey ahead.

I also wanted to thank Howard University for introducing me to the field, as well as the great professors there who have taught me so much.

In addition, thank you to George Mason University, particularly my dissertation committee and cohort members, who have helped me shape my vision.

Thank you to all of the great teachers that I’ve had, who have set the bar high for my expectations of myself and others.

I could go on and on and on, but I will spare you.  Thank you to everyone, and cheers to another great decade.

Gone Fishin’: Reflection on Social Media

Disclaimer: This post is going in a very different direction than usual. Not everyone will agree, and that is totally okay.  However, I wanted needed to chip in with my own two cents.

First of all, let me say that my PLN absolutely ROCKS!!!    

I have been having a blast over the past year, while learning alongside great teachers all over the world.  The collaborations have been excellent.  I am also thankful for the times when we have had those courageous conversations, for these are the moments when I get to re-examine my thinking.  We all need to be exposed to different perspectives in order to see situations from many angles.  It is in this spirit that I write this blog post.  

Please keep in mind that I am dissecting ideas, and not attacking individuals.  For this reason, I will not mention any names or specific blog posts, except for those that have inspired me in a positive way.  The views below are my own, and I am not speaking one else’s behalf.  With that being said, let’s begin.

The Fish

Rafranz Davis  wrote a phenomenal blog post this past weekend, which got my gears turning.  I told her that I loved it so much, that I could “blog about [her] blog.”  At the time, I was joking, but later that week, I saw some very different posts being spread so virally that now I’m dead serious.

Rafranz is totally right.  There is a weird Twitter dynamic in the world of educational technology.  Some of my other friends and PLN members have mentioned it, too, such as Elle Deyamport and Angela Watson.  They both utilized a metaphor that I really like, being fish in a pond.

To continue the extended metaphor, our networks would be the pond, and we educators are all the fish, splashing around.  I, personally, am thrilled to be a fish in the pond, swimming in this good salt water…or fresh water…whichever is in a pond.  Obviously, I’m not a science teacher.

There are all different kinds of fish in our pond.  I like to consider myself an exotic, quirky fish, if there is such a thing.  Maybe a little red one, swimming in the blue water…a Haitian fish.

Anyway, back to the point.  There are guppies.  There are goldfish. There are dolphins (I know there are no dolphins in ponds…humor me, people).  That’s what makes our pond so great! Fish come in all different varieties.  In all honesty, the size of the fish (i.e. how “known” you are) really doesn’t matter.  You’re a fish.  You’re already a rockstar.  But since fish size is a reality in the lovely world of educational technology (and most other fields), I’m not going to ignore the elephant in the room.

To loosely paraphrase Angela, sometimes you may be a guppy in one pond and a dolphin in another.  There is nothing wrong with being a little fish, a medium fish, or a big fish.  We are what we are, let’s face it.  It’s all good in the hood…er, the pond…however, lately, I’ve been reading some things that have made me go, “hmmm???”

There is no need for me to “call anyone out,” or for any rachet behavior of any kind.  This is not Worldstar Hip Hop, thus I will not mention anyone specifically.  The point is to address a certain way of thinking that goes far beyond a few blog posts.  Many people seem to share this philosophy, so I wanted to chime in and offer some food for thought.  Fish food, if you will.

We can agree, we can agree to disagree…it’s all good baby, baby.  I have love for my educators either way.  With that being said…

Here We Go!!!

Twitter is a social medium.  Let me slow that down and bring it back one more time…social…medium.  Those two terms would lead us to believe that it is a tool for collaboration, oui?  Twitter and other social media have brought me out of teaching in isolation and into 20-freaking-14, allowing me to collaborate with, and bounce ideas off, educators all around the world.  In other words, using social media has put me into a new pond.

(BTW, here are some ideas to get you going if you want to rock social media for collaboration.)

The way I approach Twitter (and other SM) is that I am here to learn.  I am here to share.  I am here to grow…with you.  However, lately I’ve seen a few blog posts, with the writers sharing their criteria for following back.  I totally respect that everyone has their own methods.  Yours may be different from mine, and that is A-OK.

However, I’ve been seeing one recurring word that doesn’t sit quite right with me.  This word is, “impress.”  A lot of times, people say they won’t follow back if they’re not impressed. I’m baffled.  I’ve heard this term enough over the past week that I would be remiss if I didn’t address it.

What, pray tell, are the criteria for “impressive?”  If I have less than 1000 followers, am I not impressive?  If I don’t have 50 million accolades listed on my bio, am I not impressive?

Personally, I’m impressed simply by the fact that you’re on Twitter, trying to better yourself for your students. The last time I checked, we were all fish.  Do we not have fins to swim?  Do we not have gills to breathe (ok, science teachers, I know…just work with me)?  And since we are in a magical pond where fish can change species, did we not all start out as guppies?  

Don’t get me wrong…I have criteria, too, for when I will follow back.  Obviously, you can’t follow every single person who follows you, or your timeline will be complete junk.  I made that mistake on my first Twitter account. But, what is junk?  To me, the voice of a fellow fish will never be junk.  Junk is that spammy stuff that pollutes our beautiful pond.

***(Random sidenote: Dolphins can learn from guppies as much as guppies can learn from dolphins.  I’ve met some great dolphins who know this, and some great guppies who had the confidence to insist upon both listening and being heard.)***

Here are my criteria for following back, in a nutshell:

  1. Are they clearly involved in education?  (If yes, follow back.)

It’s that simple.  Every now and then, someone flies under my radar, but that is an oversight.  I apologize profusely to anyone whom I may have missed.  That being said, every educator fish is welcome in my pond.  The more, the merrier.

To reiterate, I’m not attacking individuals, just dissecting ideas here.  I’ve heard the argument that people’s streams will get diluted by info they don’t want, etc.  Again, I believe that everyone has a voice and something valuable to bring to the table.  In addition, you never know what guppy is going to become your “personal dolphin” someday, i.e. have a great impact in your life.  I cannot begin to tell you all how many seemingly random strangers I have connected with online, who have come to play a major role in my life.

However, I do understand that there are certain people you want to connect with more closely, which is hard to do when you follow hundreds or thousands of people.  That, my friends, is the beauty of Twitter lists.  I just created one with about 100 of my personal dolphins…close friends in my PLN with whom I want to stay tightly connected.  I set this list to private, and I check it frequently.  It’s the best of both worlds.  I can now have that ever-growing pond, while still having that VIF (Very Important Fish) feed.  Ok, I’ll stop with the fishy metaphors now.

Nobody has to use my methods.  Who am I to tell you who/how to follow?  However, as a friendly fellow fish (I totally lied about stopping with the metaphors), I wanted to share what works for me.

Conclusion

Student voice is a concept that has been gaining ground in terms of best practices for instruction.  In my district, teachers cannot be evaluated as “distinguished,” unless they give every student the opportunity to be heard.  To me, this is phenomenal!  Why are we not treating each other with the same respect?  We need to start knocking down these walls, and shattering glass ceilings.

I’m not going to mince words.  Like I said, I am all for collaboration, and will continue to actively pursue and facilitate those connections.  I have love for all fish, regardless of size, but I personally do not have any interest in “impressing” anyone.  There are plenty of other fish in the sea, willing to work together for the sake of all our students.

Guppies.  Goldfish.  Dolphins.  Who knew that we fish could make so much noise?  The funny thing is that Twitter is just a tool!  It really isn’t that deep…at least it shouldn’t be.  We are here to listen.  We are here to share.  We are here to do right by our students.  Make your own pond, and fill it with all kinds of fish.  Don’t forget your personal dolphins 😉

Some awesome quotes to leave you with:

I’m proud that I can inspire someone but what makes what we do even more amazing is that we are also constantly being inspired by others. – Rafranz Davis

We need to continue venturing into other ponds and making connections so that every fish can feel welcome wherever they go. – Angela Watson

I was glad to take the plunge because below the surface I was able to find my school of fish. Now I feel I can take my next adventure out to sea, and this time, I don’t have to do it alone.  – Elle Deyamport

What is your $0.02?  Chime in below in the comments.

Five PBL Hacks for Educators

I don’t remember much from high school, but I will never forget chorus.  I spent so much time in the choir room that I could have received mail there.

Every year, we would put on a big production, where we’d cover songs from musicals, decades, or movie soundtracks.  Senior year, one song we did was “What a Feeling” from Flashdance.  One day in rehearsal, my teacher, Mr. Johnson, told us, “those lyrics are so true. (dramatic voice) If there’s one thing you need to remember in life, it’s to take your passion and make it happen.

At the time, being 17, I laughed it off, thinking it was the corniest thing that I had ever heard.  However, it always stuck in the back of my head.  Now, *cough cough* years later, I finally get it.

What is PBL?

If you’re hip to the current best practices of teaching, you know that PBL means many things to different people:

  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Project-Based Learning (edit: a rockstar member of my PLN just enlightened me about terminology regarding PBL.  Read her blog post here.)
  • Passion-Based Learning

I heard the third definition more recently, and I think I like that one the best.  For the purposes of this post, let’s stick with that, shall we?

As educators, part of our duty is to model life-long learning, and what better way to do that than to become living examples of PBL for our students?  Take your passion, and make it happen.  Here’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

My PBL Journey

Last year, at approximately this time, I received an email that would change my life.  I’m not going to tell you about it just yet; that would ruin the suspense.  Muhahahahaha.

For the months leading up to summer 2013, I had begun my journey to connectivity, creating a Twitter account exclusively (well, almost) for #edtech stuff, participating in chats, and getting to know other educators via social media.

One day, I saw a “Call for Presenters” come through my Twitter feed, for a conference called Edscape.  On a whim, I filled out a Google Form to present on flipped instruction.  We had tried it the last few weeks of school and it had worked well for us.  However, I wasn’t quite comfortable with the idea of leading a session on it.

I was also very uneasy about the traveling aspect, knowing darn well that I lived in the DC area, and this conference was all the way in New Jersey.  I had presented a couple of times at conferences in my area, but this was different. This was traveling.  I had no idea what I would do, on the off-chance that my session would be accepted.

Surprise!

Well, guess what?  It was.  (For those of you playing along at home, the acceptance letter was the life-altering email that I alluded to before.)  A little punk voice in my head kept screaming, “OMG, what do we do now?!?”  Thanks to the unwavering support of my family, I decided to go for it.  My parents made the six hour drive with me.

Once I arrived, I was so happy that I actually took the plunge.  I learned so much and made some amazing connections.  For the first time, I met members of my PLN face-to-face.  One person would serve as a super-mentor and we’d present together at ISTE in a matter of months.  Another would inspire me to found (find?) our county’s first ever edcamp.

Photo credit:: https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4070/4719560086_dc1a41cf1b_z.jpg

Looking back, my Edscape experience was like walking to the edge of a huge diving board.  Once I dove in, I was no longer afraid…I have presented approximately 15 times in 10 months, in six states and two countries, and twice online to international audiences.  I have learned so much from others, and made lifelong friends, but I could never have done so without activating my PBL.

Here are a few takeaways that I’ve encountered.

The Hacks

    1. Step outside of your comfort zone.  Well, duh.  Sometimes you are going to have to yell at that little punk voice in your head.  I personally enjoy, “break yo’self foo!”  However, feel free to use whatever terminology you choose.  Another case in point: some of you may have seen my free interactive tutorials.  If not, I have attached the link for your viewing pleasure (insert shameless self-promo here).  Well, I had this idea a couple of years ago, but was too afraid to start.  “Ooh, nobody will watch! We’re wasting our time,” the little stupid voice said.  Well, so what?  When I finally got around to it last December, I was having so much fun that I didn’t care if nobody watched. (Spoiler: some folks did, which opened even more doors.)
    2. Bet on yourself.  If you want to live your dreams, you’re going to need to invest in yourself.  It could be money for conferences, transportation, etc.  It could be the time that you invest in building your brand.  Just be prepared to foot the bill, because nothing in this world comes for free, sweetheart.  (I hope you read that in a Humphrey Bogart voice.)  BUT, the joy that you get from chasing your passion will be more than worth it.
        • Use all of the free avenues available to you (i.e. Twitter chats, conferences on The Future of Education, Google Hangouts, etc…be creative!)
        • Organize your time wisely! (I <3 Kanban Flow, a Chrome extension.)
    3. Make lists. If you’re one of those people who is always flooded with thoughts, you may be struck with a great idea, only to lose it minutes later.  This is why lists can come in handy.  I like to use Evernote because it can sync across multiple devices.  Check this old post for more tips.
    4. Be an innovator.  Allow me to be dead honest for a moment.  A lot of the time, I get more credit than I deserve.  I did not invent any of the topics on which I present (maybe in the future, I’ll invent something.  Who knows?).  Most of the praise I get comes from being an innovator/early adopter.
      Photo credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/45/DiffusionOfInnovation.png

      I was first introduced to this chart during an educational technology class I took a couple semesters ago.  You can apply it to technology, but really, it goes along with most concepts.  Example: I happened to be in the right place at the right time when I heard about flipping, and was able to share my experiences with others.  If this infographic is correct, you can see how the practice has grown. Here’s how to be an innovator:

      • Stay connected to the latest developments in your field.  Do this by learning everything you can about your passion.  Go to conferences, connect on Twitter, etc.
      • If you see a strategy that may work for you, try it.  The worst that can happen is that you learn from your mistakes.
      • If the strategy pays off, don’t do it in isolation…tell others about it so that they can reap the benefits as well.  It’s not bragging; sharing is caring.  To that point:
    5. Never walk alone.  Just like the grown-ups in your life told you when you were little, always have a buddy.  As a matter of fact, get as many good buddies as you can!  Build up that PLN.  It’s a learning party, people!  As I keep saying, I love Twitter…it’s totally changed my life.  You never know what allies you will find.
      • Use social media to your advantage.
      • Go to conferences.  Find tips here if you’re a little shy.

 

Conclusion

PBL…it’s not just for students.  Just remember to stay true to your passion.  You may see results, and you may not.  Either way is fine…it’s all about feeding your soul and doing what makes you happy.

Do it for the vine YOU!!!

(Thanks, Mr. Johnson.)

 

What’s your passion?  Chime in here.

 

 

 

After #ISTE2014, my head is spinning… (aka five spinning hacks)

Hey guys.  Thanks for tuning into yet another random blog post.  I just returned from #ISTE2014, via Google Teacher Academy (#GTAATL), via Canada’s Flipped Learning Conference (#canflip14), via Innovative Education Colorado (#InnEdCo14), via iPadpalooza (#iplza14).  The day before that was the last day of work.  Right before that,  I had a teary goodbye with my students, preceded by a mad dash to pack up my room, preceded by a mad dash to finish the yearbook, and other random end of the year madness.  So, yeah…it’s been intense. These last few weeks,  I have learned so freaking much and met/hung with so many cool people face-to-face, that I can’t even begin to process all the awesomeness.  I will spare you until another blog post.  Maybe. Anywhoooooo…this blog post will go in a slightly different direction than my usual educational technology topics.  Today, I want to talk a little bit about work-life balance.

This is How I Roll

A few months ago, I posted a video about how technology helped me get in shape.  Right now, I’m in a more rounded shape (ha!), but I’m happy to say that I’ve maintained a net loss of 40 pounds.  If you missed it, here it is again:

Today, I made the very tough decision to get off the couch, despite the jet lag, and go to spin class.  My definition of spinning, which may or may not be quite accurate, is stationary cycling.  It’s not like those big clunky bikes you see in most places…they look more like the Tour de France bikes.

Photo attribution: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/57/Spinbike_details.jpg

I’ve been doing spin class off and on for about seven or eight years, but I really got into it about a year and a half ago.  I really like spinning, because it forces me to clear my head and disconnect for an hour, and focus on what I’m doing.  Cell phone use is highly discouraged, which is exactly the excuse I need to leave it alone. I have to shout out a couple of awesome instructors.  I have seen some great ones, but the three whom I have enjoyed the most are named Reem, Tee, and Michael.  If you are in the DMV, I highly recommend you check out their classes.  Tonight was Reem’s class, and I’m so glad I went.  By the time it was over, I even had the energy to lift some weights.  Total difference from how I came in, like a zombie. Here are five spinning hacks for the newbies, and anyone else who may want some tips.

Five Spinning Hacks

  1. Get your settings right.  This is very important, otherwise you won’t be comfortable.  Well, let me not mislead you.  The first few times, your derriere will probably be very uncomfortable, thanks to the saddle, but stick with it and your body will adjust.  The Hack:
    • In terms of the adjustable settings, stand next to the bike, and set the seat at approximately hip level.
    • If there’s a horizontal setting for the seat, adjust to your preference.  I like to push my seat forward, personally, since I’m kind of vertically challenged.    Taller people may like theirs backwards.  The goal is to be able to reach the handlebars from a seated position without too much strain.
    • The handlebar vertical position is based on your preference.  I like mine high, because it hurts my back to bend down too far.
    • Make note of your settings once you have found the perfect balance.  This will save you the trouble of having to go through all that hassle in the future.
  2. Adjust your resistance.  Spin instructors have different styles, but many of them ask you to adjust your resistance based on your RPE (rate of perceived exertion).  Some of them may call it a scale of 1-10.  One is no resistance, and 10 feels like you’re pushing through mud.  The Virgo in me has found a hack for this to keep it somewhat quantitative.  The Hack:
    • On old-school bikes (i.e. manual models): Before class begins, get on the bike.  From a seated position, keep turning the knob to add resistance until your legs can no longer pedal.  That is your level 10.  Turn the knob the other way to release resistance.  Each full turn of the knob takes you down a number.  Before class starts, get to a level three or so.  That’s usually where you need to be for warm-up.  Don’t panic if it all starts feeling the same after five.  Trust me, your legs will thank me later.
    • On new-school bikes (i.e. digital models):  I usually do the same process here.  Push the resistance until you can’t pedal anymore.  From there, I try to break down the levels into multiples of 10, and go from there.  For example, if my RPE of 10 is a level 20, then my 1 RPE would be level 2, 2 RPE would be level 4, etc.
    • Find whatever system works best for you.  This is just my strategy, and it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all.  Winging it may work just as well for some folks.
  3. Water.  I suck at drinking water.  Spin class will force you to drink.  Some people sweat so much that they leave puddles on the floor.  I have witnessed maintenance coming with a mop when class was over.  One instructor even brought a “Caution: Wet Floor” sign with him, and used it as a prize for the hardest worker.  If he put it next to your bike, you were the big winner.  The struggle is real in spin class.
    Photo attribution: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a3/Yellow_wet_floor_caution_sign_in_English.JPG/360px-Yellow_wet_floor_caution_sign_in_English.JPG

    The Hack:

      • Want to get through a 20 oz bottle?  Take three sips every time the song changes.
      • Is water gross to you?  If so, flavor it with Mio, or Crystal Light, or something like that.
      • Even better…use this stuff.
  4. Gear.  You don’t have to have any special shoes or clothes for spinning.  Gym clothes and tennis shoes work just fine.  Just make sure your laces are tied, so the bike doesn’t try to eat them.  True story…it happened to me tonight.  However, proper cycling shoes do make a difference, as they have harder soles.  I can’t really put the difference into words, but you’ll understand when you put them on.  The skies will open up, and birds will start to sing.  In addition, certain spinning clothes may be useful.  The Hack:
    • Only invest in spin gear when you decide that you want to continue.  I don’t want to hear, “Sarahdateechur told me to spend $100 on this stuff, and it was a waste of money.”  Stick with the basics until you know if spinning is right for you.
    • You can get cheaper spin shoes on Amazon.com.  Check out this deal that I got. Advantage: They have stepped my spin game up, big time.  Disadvantage: I didn’t get to try them out first, so they’re kind of narrow.  Also, the European sizes are a little confusing to us in the States.  But you can use a size converter, such as this one and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
    • I also got a sauna suit that I wear under my workout clothes sometimes. It makes a lot of claims.  Advantage: I can’t vouch for all of the benefits, but what I can say is that it makes you sweat a lot more.  This, in turn, makes you drink more water.  Win-win.  Disadvantage:  You smell like rubber really badly until you wash it…a lot.
  5. Have fun.  One thing that was keeping me from spin class, prior to the weight loss, was that I was afraid of being judged.  I imagined that the room would be full of these fit, Barbie and Ken look-alikes, pitying me for being the “big girl.”  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Spin class is full of all types of people.  And, furthermore, who gives a crap?!? Forgive my French.  The Hack:
    • The best quote I have ever heard went a little something like this: “What others think of me is none of my business.”  Let that sink in, rinse, and repeat.  You are your own worst critic.  Nobody else is paying you any mind, except to give you your props for being part of the spin community.  I have a hypothesis that most people are like me, looking at themselves in the mirror, making sure their RPE 10 faces don’t look too…cough…inappropriate.
    • If anyone does say anything off-kilter to you, realize that it’s a problem with them and not with you.  Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but don’t let one person derail you from your mission.  This is just like anything else in life…you may deal with negative people, but you have to let them roll off your back.
    • Soak in the music and relax.  Make spin class fun.  If you prefer to go it alone, there’s a great app called iRideInside, available from the App Store for iOS (possibly for Android, too).

 

The Cool-Down

Well, that was a lot longer than I had anticipated.  Congratulations for making it to the end of our ride.  As educators, we have a lot on our plate, and exercise is a great way for us to take a mental break, while doing something good for our bodies.  Schedule time in your day to take care of yourself.  However, before you leave, please chime in with a comment and/or by answering the poll below.  Happy summer!

Want more fitness tips?  Click here for my Fitness board on Pinterest.

The Sunshine Award

First of all, I’d like to give a huge shoutout and virtual hug to Tammy Neil, my new Google+ buddy.  Thanks so much for this nomination!  It’s so great to connect with awesome educators around the globe.

Before I begin, quick announcement…drumroll please….I have upgraded my blog via this WordPress thingie, and now you can access it directly at sarahdateechur.com.  Yaaaaaay!!!  Yet another URL for me to remember lolol.

One more shoutout to the organizers of #edcampHOME (do hashtags work on this? Hello? Is this thing on?), for such a great opportunity to learn and grow as an educator.  I had a wonderful time, and I can’t wait for version 3.0.

That being said, let’s get this show on the road!

Plenty of Sunshine

Forgive the plagiarizing, but taken from Tammy’s blog, this is how this thing works:

(Begin quote here.)

  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List 11 bloggers: they should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate
  • Let those 11 bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

(End quote here).  Ok let’s do this!

Acknowledge the nominating blogger.

Tammy, you are super-awesome.  I’m so looking forward to learning with you!

Share 11 random facts about yourself.

Let the plagiarism continue lol.  This time, I shall plagiarize myself, from my Blogger account.

  1. I’m a vegetarian, and have been since the age of eight.  I made this decision on my own, after engaging in a “gross out contest.” I don’t remember exactly what was said that turned me off meat, but I think it had to do with hot dogs.
  2. I’ve got legs. I know how to use them.
  3. I write very complex and confusing to-do lists on a daily basis.
  4. I was the captain of my high school’s It’s Academic team my senior year (RIP Mac McGary). A former captain from a previous year went on to win on Jeopardy.
  5. I missed going on TV for It’s Academic because Honors Choir was the same weekend.
  6. When I was 21, I started a record label with my friends.  I have random, horrible music floating around the Internet.
  7. I fear many things, including heights and planes.  That’s why I threw myself out of one in October 2011.  Skydiving didn’t cure me…it made things worse.
  8. So…I signed up for a private flying lesson.  That actually did help.
  9. I have a story for nearly every situation.
  10. I have a song for nearly every situation.
  11. My greatest strengths are usually my greatest weaknesses, because I tend to go hard or not at all.

The 11 Questions

Q: What is your favorite subject/grade level? Why?

A: Ooooh, this is a toughie lol.  I love all of the different grades I’ve taught for different reasons.  Right now, I’m loving middle school, because the kids are so independent, and overall a great group of kids.

Q: What is your preference cheese or pepperoni?

A:  Cheese.  Yummmmmm.

Q: What made you want to teach/work with children?

A:  I think it was destined lol.  Almost every job I’ve ever had since I was 13 years old involved children.  First I was a soccer referee, then I worked in the daycare at the gym.  When I was in college, I worked two years at a summer camp.  It was written in the stars.

Q: What made you start blogging?

A:  I grew up in a family of writers, so once again, this was destiny.  My mom and my dad both published newsletters when I was a kid, so I got a group of my first grade buddies together, and we made our own.  “Cool News” lol.  Fast forward 25 years in the future, and here I am.

Q: If you were able to go back through time and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?

A: Live in the present. Don’t worry so much about the future, and don’t dwell on the past. Time will continue, no matter what, so take time to smell the roses (still need to follow this advice).

Q: What one movie should NEVER be remade? Why?

A:  I’m a huge Aaliyah fan, so I’m going to go with, “Queen of the Damned.”  She did such a great job playing Akasha!

Q: What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it to others?

A:  The last book I finished was called, “Liespotting.”  It was pretty good, but it focused a lot on the corporate world.  I liked the interpersonal parts more…I hope they come up with a sequel focusing more on that.

I also recently finished reading a novel called, “Gone Girl.”  It was pretty cool.

Q: What would your ideal classroom look like?

A:  My class is starting to look the way I envisioned it in my head at the beginning of the year.  We’re doing a lot of flipped/blended instruction, as well as gamification of my Tech class.  I think I want to do gamification in English next year, too.  We’ve also started using blogs.  Yay.

Q: What is your favorite app? Why?

A:  It’s so hard to pick just one!  Ugh!  Hmmm…in the classroom, I’d have to go with ClassDojo.  It’s been the biggest game-changer for me, next to Twitter.

Q: Who is your hero? Why?

A: My parents are my heroes.  They are incredible people, who inspire me to do my best.  I’m very proud of them.

Q: Who was your favorite teacher? Why?

A:  Experience is the best teacher, although definitely not my favorite.  Haha.  Seriously, though, I’ve been fortunate to have some great teachers.  I wonder if any of them are online and connected?  I’ll need to look them up.  Would be awesome to have them in my PLN.

For the last three parts, please find my answers here.

Ok, beautiful people, tune in at 1 PM EST for a discussion of Gamification in the Classroom!  Hope to hang out with you soon.  Peace in the Middle East.  Audi 5000.  Lexus 450.

 

Cybersecurity in 2014

Happy early 2014 everyone.  Here is the archive to a discussion on cybersecurity in the new year, telling you how to protect yourself from various threats.

If you are interested, join me Sunday at 1 PM EST as we do an interactive walkthrough of the Wix web designer.  Oriented towards the complete novice, more advanced users are encouraged to contact me to sit in on the Google Hangout panel to share their experiences.  RSVP/contact me here: https://plus.google.com/events/c0f2aff92sve785frsa98ceek7o

Thanks!

I keep forgettin’…

I was going to wait on this post until the new year. The topic has been in my “To-Blog” list for quite some time now, but after reading this article in the Huffington Post, I was inspired to go on ahead and write it.

My long-term memory is impeccable…I can still spout off my first grade best friend’s phone number.  I remember every detail of my grandmother’s apartment.  I remember being carried back to my crib as a toddler.

Short-term memory?  Ehh, not so much.

Too Young for “Senior Moments?”

When I was a kid, grown-ups used to tell me that if I had a thought that passed through my mind then disappeared (aka a “senior moment,” as many people call it), it probably wasn’t that important.  I’ve noticed that the older I’ve become, these senior moments have become more and more the norm.  What’s super-frustrating is when you know it was something important, but you just can’t freakin’ remember!

Take this situation, for example.  Right before break, I promised my co-workers that I would burn a CD for a school roller-skating party.  I came home, set up the playlist, then went upstairs to grab a blank CD.  When I got to my home office, I forgot why I was in the room.  So, I went back downstairs.  Five minutes later, I remembered…oh yeah, the CD!  I went back upstairs to get the CD, and almost forgot why I was there yet again.  Le sigh.

The Accident

Unfortunately, these moments happen more frequently than I’d like to admit, especially for someone my age (*cough cough* twenty-tween *cough*).  So, naturally, I attributed my shortcomings to an accident I had a little over two years ago.

*cue dream sequence music and zig-zags*

Two years ago, back in September 2011, I had a bad fall.  Prior to this incident, I was a freakin learning machine!  I was built for the academic life, soaking up information like a sponge, writing papers in record time, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah.  But one night, that all changed.  Dun dun dun.

I will save you all of the yucky, gory details…long story short, I ended up with staples in my head, and a very bad concussion.

If you’ve never had a concussion, let me tell you, it was quite an experience.  I found it fascinating, although incredibly sucky.  These are the main things I remember, from the following week:

  • My mind was moving at normal speed, but my body wasn’t responding as fast.
  • I’d try to send a text, but I realized that I couldn’t spell anything right.
  • I would sleep all day.
  • Strangers started being really nice to me, for no apparent reason.

Within a few weeks, on the surface, it appeared that I had returned to normal.  However, things were far from being the same.  For over a year, I was very emotional about everything.  I had little patience, and hardly any attention span.  This made teaching and studying very difficult.  However, my family, colleagues, and professors were very supportive.

Eventually, the moodiness and impatience diminished, and I found strategies to cope with the forgetfulness and lack of attention span (which have yet to ).  Most of these included technology.

My iLife

My students are always teasing me about my brand loyalty to Apple.  99.99999% of the time, I have either an iPhone (or iPad…or iMac…or MacBook) somewhere on my person.  However, these products help me to stay organized.  Here are a few apps that I have found useful, and you may, too (concussion or not):

  1. Evernote: allows you to take notes, and sync them across all your devices.  Even supports pictures, audio, and videos.  You can create different notebooks to organize the information you collect.  Teechur bonus: You can use Evernote to create electronic portfolios of student work.
  2. 30/30:  allows you to set up to-do lists with a specified amount of time to spend on each task.  This helps me with the whole attention thing, as I tend to get restless unless I’m multitasking.  Since multitasking may be counterproductive, this app helps me to stay focused on one activity, and reduces my anxiety by showing me how much time I have left.  Teechur bonus: Sound familiar?  A lot of people (including the little ones that we teach) can probably relate.
  3. Pinterest/Diigo/Pocket/etc.: (includes all the apps that can bookmark interesting content for later.)  I worry less about missing important information and can stay focused on the task at hand.  Teechur bonus: All these useful links come in handy when collaborating with my PLN.  (Did you know that you can set up Diigo to sync with your favorites on Twitter?)
  4. Parkmobile: never forget to run out and feed the meter again.  Also, it can even find your car for you.  Winning!
  5. Calendar:  Ohhhh, this is a lifesaver.  It’s pretty self-explanatory, but I have to say that I love how it auto-syncs with my Google calendars.  I must have about 15 different calendars floating around, from work to workouts, from social activities to gigs.  Electronic calendars that sync across devices?  Total game-changer.  I was sick of losing the paper one, anyway.

Closing Thought

Jerry Springer, I am not.  However, the Huffington Post article that I read today really gave me some food for thought.  After I read it, I wondered if maybe I became too reliable on all of this tech?  Is it possible that I could have made a full recovery, if not for these crutches on which I continue to lean?  *lawyer voice*  And is it not a coincidence that this aforementioned incident coincided with the release of the iPhone 4S, packaged with Siri and iOS5?  Is this just a classic case of “the butler did it?”  Just blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-accident???

Ok, I’m done lol.  Maybe one day, when I have a few weeks of leisure time to kick back, I can try to unplug totally and see what happens.

Leisure time…pshhhh…who am I kidding?  I’m a “teechur.”

What are your favorite productivity apps?  Chime in below.