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

Time for Action

No, I do not watch the news.  Yes, I do have a reason.

I’ve never been a fan of the news media for the most part.  When I was a kid, I instinctively questioned almost everything that I read or saw.  My parents, both publishers of community newsletters, taught me very early on that there was much more to the story than what we learned in history class.  I guess I figured that the news is just history being currently written, so  why trust that blindly?

In addition to the sheer bias (and not-so-subtle attempt at brainwashing) from many outlets, I have other reasons that I choose not to follow mainstream news.  For one, there is an emotional toll when people continue to be murdered, often for absolutely no reason other than being black in America.  However, we as citizens are often hard-pressed to receive a fair retelling of the facts.  False narratives generate more revenue for the news outlets, while simultaneously fueling stereotypes, creating negative and divisive public perceptions, and devaluing human lives.  Yellow journalism, indeed.

The past few weeks have been incredibly difficult, in light of all of the tragedies occurring around the world.  For a while, it seemed like every day we would wake up to more bad news.  I will not rehash old posts…if you feel so inclined, you can see what I have written here, here, and here in previous years (tl;dr: it never stops).  There is no progress…each summer brings more of the same, without repercussion. The list of those gone before their time, at the hands of those charged to protect and serve, grows ever longer.


One day, I woke up, and did not want to get out of bed.  This was the morning that I learned of the murder of Philando Castile.  Heard, mind you…did not watch (nor did I watch that of Alton Sterling).  Having heard the circumstances, as well as the emotion in the voices of my friends on Voxer, I had no desire to confirm the horrible images that I had playing in my mind.

I laid there, and thought.  I was paralyzed under the cloak of depression, until I decided that the only thing that would get me out of bed would be to try to do something, somehow.  Although dialogue is important, action is even more critical.


A couple of years ago, we began to see the rise of the citizen journalist, as many people now own some kind of phone with video-recording capabilities, and regularly use social media.  This has allowed us to see events unfolding first-hand, exposing the truth for what it is.  I remember one of the first times such a sick feeling crept in, after I had seen a video of Michael Brown’s corpse laying in the street.

I wasn’t alone.  As a result, a few friends and I had also tried to create a community action group through Facebook a couple of years ago.  We stumbled upon local resources such as the Washington Peace Center, and attended some community events. We had plans to do much more; however, it was hard to sustain over time. We simply lost momentum.

The morning July 7, emotions ran high on Voxer, as we comforted each other and tried to make sense of what happened.  We decided to create a new group that would brainstorm community action.  Currently, we are in the planning stages, trying to narrow a focus, but our planning document is here:

There are several members of this group, from different backgrounds, all with a different lens on the world; however, we do have a common goal.  We are all educators passionate about doing our part to contribute to a fairer and more just society.  The members of the group have shared amazing resources such as Join Campaign Zero and an ebook called You Have the Right by Laura Coates.  I look forward to exploring these resources in greater depth, in the coming weeks.

Although we may not always agree on all of the details, we can have dialogue in a respectful way to move forward towards our mission.  Healthy discourse paired with positive action will hopefully help us grow stronger as educators, and as human beings.  Soon, our group will branch out to involve other community members, but we will continue to keep our actions rooted in education, for future-oriented sustainability.

We are approaching the challenge using a design thinking model, a practice that I learned about this year.  (Source: IDEO Design Thinking Toolkit.)

Image-1 (1)

We discussed design thinking in the latest episode of #EduMatch Tweet & Talks.  The practice is based on brainstorming and iteration, with a focus on empathy.  Empathy is crucial to this project, as we are one community and have one goal: to do what we can to help build positive community relations.  Unity is our purpose.

I can no longer, in good conscience, sit back, twiddle my thumbs, and hope for a better tomorrow.  I challenge us all (especially myself) to keep the momentum going.  We can all do our part, whether it be through this project or something else.  We owe it to our students.

Got Questions?: A Quick Fix Inspired by my PLN

First, a huge shoutout to my #EduMatch family for helping me figure this one out.  Many thanks to you all for your amazing tips.

Update: One thing I forgot to add is that my class is taught in the computer lab, so this is more so a fix for classrooms that have access to technology (computer lab, 1:1, BYOD, etc.).  However, the steps focus heavily on Google Forms.  My friend in EduMatch (as stated below) had a great idea, that works well for schools with limited tech.

The Scenario:

I recently moved to teach at the high school level, and I must say, I am loving it!  The students are amazing, as are my coworkers, the administration, and the parents.  This is a wonderful experience.

Each of my six classes has its own culture.  The only constant is me, and even I try to adapt for each period.  Over these past four weeks, I’ve enjoyed learning about my students.  I have one particular period that is full of hard-working and sweet students, who tend to ask for a lot of help during independent time.

Questions are great!  I love them, but I would prefer that students help each other, because the best way to learn something is by teaching it.  Also, it often helps to learn from a peer.  Finally, there is only one of me, and about 30 of them, so sometimes it’s hard to keep straight who had a question, and in what order.  I know it must be frustrating to wait several minutes, and to be quite honest, my short-term memory isn’t the best, so people are occasionally skipped by mistake.

I posed this question in the #EduMatch Voxer group, and got some fantastic responses.  One of my fellow Edumatchers suggested that students put their names on the board, and that would solve my problem.  Someone else agreed, but said that some students may feel shy about doing so, and suggested QR codes going to a Google Form as a solution.  There was even an app proposed, similar to the system used at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  I downloaded it, but couldn’t figure out how to use it in the classroom, without creating paper tickets.

The Fix

Friday morning, I woke up inspired as it all came together.  All three of these suggestions had something to them, so I decided to synthesize them.  The result was a Google Form that I whipped up and beta tested in first period with upperclassmen.

Ms. Thomas, Help Me!

Here’s how I did it.

  1. Create a simple Google Form.
    1. If your school is GAFE, you can have it automatically collect the username of your students while they are signed into the domain.
    2. Make sure to put something along the lines of “ask 3 before you ask me,” or any variation of that in the description, as a gentle reminder that their classmates are also available to help.
  2. Add questions, such as “Your Name” (optional, if you already did 1.1), and “The Nature of Your Question.”  Feel free to add more if you wish.  I suggest the multiple choice format.  More on that later.
    1. I have three categories: about the assignment, need a pass, or other.
  3. Design it however you would like.  I didn’t do much with it, since it served a very basic purpose, and we were just trying it out.
  4. Copy the link and make it into a bit.ly with something easy to remember. (Mine is bit.ly/thomashelpme)
  5. Open the “View Responses” form.
  6. Apply conditional formatting to make every multiple choice option turn a different color.
    1. I picked multiple choice, because it is guaranteed to populate the responses exactly how you set it up, without being affected by punctuation, spacing, spelling, etc.
    2. Multiple choice is also great because students can add their own “Other” category, if it’s not listed as an option.  You can see at one glance what the student needs.
    3. Conditional formatting will allow you to take all the kids who don’t understand the assignment at once, and explain it to them.  This is a huge time-saver.
  7. Project the spreadsheet so that the students can all see it.  You may have to resize your window if you want to split your screen.  When students can see where they fall in the queue, they won’t get frustrated, because they will see that you are not ignoring them.

I’m so excited to try this out with the class in question.  I think it will go over well, as it has in my other classes.  The key will be to stick to protocol, but once we have it down, then it should work.  Please let me know if you have any tweaks or suggestions.

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.

Edu Match: Not a Dating Site

On Friday night, I was bored.  It was one of those rare days when I was home with nothing to do.  Well, I had plenty to do, but I didn’t feel like doing it.  That would have gone against everything that Friday night stood for.

Anyway, my mind started to wander as I was sitting on the couch, playing on my phone.  All of a sudden, I had a #showergem moment.  FYI, in case you’re wondering, here’s the definition of a #showergem.

Showergems

In other words, a #showergem is when your brain is on pause, and all of a sudden, you have an awesome idea.  Here are a few previous #showergems:

  • With seven billion people in the world, we are each only a dot.  But what a beautiful picture we make when we start to connect.
  • Being a connected educator is like using augmented reality on our profession.
  • Relationships are the most important things there are.
  • Everyone has their own version of the truth.  Why should you put anyone else’s above yours?  Don’t worry so much about what other people think of you.
  • Your mama’s so stupid, she stuck her head in the washer because it said, “Permanent Press.”

As I’m sure you can infer, the last one was from when I was in fifth grade.

Anyway, one common theme of my #showergems tends to deal with helping educators connect and collaborate.  This is the focus of most of the things that I choose to do in my free time.

I was sitting on my couch, playing on Voxer, chatting with one of my #eduhomies (new hashtag that I’m totally Columbusing, btw), telling her how she and my cousin would hit it off.  Not in a dating way, but they would have so much to talk about, since they geek out over the same things.

Ironically, I had been joking around with another #eduhomie about how we should team up and make a “Teachers Date Teachers” website.  Well, the #eduhomie was joking.  I was half-serious.  Kidding!  Maybe.  Totally.  Anyway.

So back to the story.  I made a remark in my vox to my #eduhomie that I pride myself in being an educational matchmaker.  Long story short, @edu_match was born.

In my research, I saw there was an #edmatch, but that was about fundraising.  There were a few @edumatch accounts, but none of them appeared to be what I had in mind.  So, I jumped in feet first, just adding the underscore to make it unique.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 7.40.54 AM

It was very silly, and I decided to keep it very Sarah.  Those of you who know me know exactly what I mean.  I was dead serious about fully exploring the potential, but I wasn’t going to do it if I wasn’t entertaining myself in the process.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 7.43.31 AM

Side note: even though I’m pretty Google-savvy, this was the first time I ever used Google Draw for anything.  I was not shy about admitting how horrible the logo is, but honestly, I don’t know if I’ll change it.  It sets a tone for how informal and fun this experiment is.  In addition, people love to tell me how horrible the logo is, and this is great!  Especially because it’s usually followed by, but the idea is awesome.

Personally, I’m more inclined to click on something that catches my attention, good or bad, and see exactly what it is.  I could, possibly, have the same effect with an awesome logo, but this experiment is still in its infancy, and I didn’t want to drop a ton of money on something that I wasn’t sure would work.

Similarly, people tend to think it is a “Teachers Date Teachers” project.  LOLOLOL.  I welcome the confusion, because that gives me the opportunity to clarify it.  In my experience, people are more engaged when they are trying to understand something, than if you try to cold-sell an idea.  Confusing people can be good, so I really play up the, “it’s not a dating site” factor.  The follow-up question is usually, “then, what is it?”

So glad you asked.

According to the website (s/o to the #eduhomie for the suggestion),

“we use the power of social media in order to help foster collaboration and connections among educators around the globe.

Each day, we have an #edtech Person of the Day, and tweet out several bits of information that they have supplied. You don’t need to do anything, and there is nothing to lose.”

“We” sounds better than “I.” But truly, it is “we.”  I treat this with the EdCamp mentality.  My job is to facilitate these connections, but it’s all driven by the people who sign up, and who participate.

Yesterday, we had our first #edtech Person of the Day.  I asked him how it was going midway through the day.  Much to my surprise, he said that he had a bunch of new followers.  I was so happy to hear that, but it inspired me to change the sign-up form a little.  I added a place for the Person of the Day to write a discussion question to ask the Twitterverse.  Although follows are good, engagement is better!

As of this morning, we have 10 people signed up to be featured.  Wow!!!  This is great.

I’m learning as I go along…for example, today, I have scheduled the tweets to promote our second Person of the Day.  This helps me tweet at odd hours of the night being in EST, but our friends on the Eastern Hemisphere are wide awake.  Maybe there is a script or something so that I can automate it 100%.  That would be awesome.  Also, I’m trying to figure out what happens if/when this gets huge.  It would kind of suck to sign up and have to wait for weeks or months before you are “on deck.”  Maybe eventually we will have multiple People of the Day.  Hmmmm.

Tl;dr version: If you have a crazy idea, jump in and do it.

If you have any suggestions, comments, or feedback, please share below.  Thanks!

Day 10 – Clubbin’

Today, we took the SRI.  Nothing to report.  Almost everybody finished.  Most of Third Period got through it a little too quickly for my taste.  I asked them if they checked their work and they assured me they did.  A lot of kids said it was “easy.”  The scores will speak for themselves.

In Fourth Period, the kids took a little longer.  For some reason, this made me feel a little better.  I think (hope) they were careful.  There are about five students who need more time tomororrow, which is fine.

The big excitement for the kids today was turning in their club pre-authorization forms.  I lead five different technology clubs for the students.  That may sound like a lot, but really, it’s helping everybody in the long run.  The kids learn some cool skills that they can bust out later in life, and I get some help and don’t lose my mind.  These are our five clubs:

  1. A/V: Sets up and breaks down equipment, and runs the sound board during chorus concerts and plays.
  2. Photography:  Captures special moments at our school through photos and videos.
  3. Morning Announcements: Produces and edits our morning announcements in the school, via Google Sites (see video below).
  4. Yearbook Committee: Open to eighth graders only.  My right hand, helping me plan fundraisers and design the school yearbook.
  5. Repair Squad: Helps teachers with basic troubleshooting.  Also designs websites, logos, etc. for our special events.

The eighth graders have first dibs.  They are super-excited, because they paid their dues last year and took all the sloppy seconds.  Poor seventh graders, last year there were no sixth grade slots left for them.  This year, I’ll try to keep this in mind, and save a few spots for the underclassmen (and underclasswomen lol).  Most groups will have seven slots, four for eighth graders, two for seventh, and one for sixth.  This will be first come, first-served.  With Yearbook, though, all seven slots will be filled with eighth graders.

One year, we even had a Music Production squad.  The eighth graders of two years ago were incredibly musical, and a student approached me with that idea, so we did it.  Last year, I was stretched really thin, especially coaching basketball.  Plus, the students were more into sports than anything else, so it worked out.  One seventh grader asked me to do a Drama Club, but I really couldn’t fit it into the schedule.  Maybe we’ll try it this year.  We might try a Ted-Ed Club later in the year, since I’m freed up a little bit, but I don’t want to bite off too much.

Anyway, I was bombarded by students for signatures, ever since the papers came out.  When they turned in their pre-authorization forms with all of the teacher signatures, I passed out permission slips for them and their parents to sign.  Hopefully we will get clubs underway shortly.  The sooner, the better.

On another note, I explained to students about the self-assessment for the collaborative work that I talked about yesterday.  I actually developed a Google Form, and asked students to fill it in tonight.  The evening is still young, so we shall see what they report back to me.  So far, a couple of students have filled it out, and the comments are very fair.  One said to divide the points for his/her group evenly, and that the assignment was challenging, but s/he appreciated the teamwork dynamic.  Another assigned points based on contribution, and had similar feedback about the process.

One last thing…as a team, we came up with a way to hold people responsible for checking out the shared iPads via QR Codes linking to a Google Form.  I played with the customization.  Here it is.

Tomorrow: Genius Day, because it’s my birthday and we’ll be smart if we want to!  Woohooooo!!!  Adios.