#PostYourDrafts: Bloggers’ Cafe

I wrote this post two years ago during my first ISTE, but I never finished, so it was sitting in my drafts folder.  I won’t finish it, but it was fun to go back and re-read it/re-live it, so I decided to post it. Here it is.


Hey guys, I’m at the Bloggers’ Cafe at ISTE so I might as well…blog…lol.  It’s been a while.  Hopefully I haven’t lost my mojo, but I feel like a total hypocrite for sitting here the past three days and not blogging at all.

These past three weeks have been intense, but amazing.  Hey, I asked for it, so I can’t complain.  I made a video about it here, but the quality sucks, so you may want to read this blog post about it instead.

Disclaimer: There is way too much awesomeness to cram into a regular blog post, so I’ll have to summarize.  Think of everything I write as 100x more awesome, and you may start to understand the level of awesomeness.

Brief Summary

  • June 13: Last day of school with the kids.  Lots of boo-hooing.
  • June 16: Last day with the teachers.  Lots of celebrating.
  • June 17: Flew out to Austin for iPadpalooza.
    • Hung out with totally awesome members of my PLN (TAMOMPLN) face to face.
  • June 18: Presented at iPadpalooza.
    • Hung out with TAMOMPLN.
    • Got on plane to Denver for InnEdCo.
    • Plane wouldn’t take off because it was too hot.
    • Missed shuttle to Copper Mountain.
    • Slept in airport.
  • June 19:  Changed in bathroom.  
    • Paid out the rear for private ride to Copper Mountain the next morning.  
    • Arrived to presentation 15 min before it started.
    • Connected with people.  
    • Hung out with TAMOMPLN.  Shout out to the crew for putting me on my first ever ski lift.
    • Took shuttle back to airport.
    • Caught plane to somewhere in Canada.
    • Went through customs.
    • Ran through the airport because I almost missed my connecting flight.
    • Found out the plane was late.
    • Flew to Kelowna and checked in without incident.
  • June 20: Presented at CanFlip.
    • Hung out with TAMOMPLN.
    • Rest of the day, no drama.

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.

Catharsis

Hello, hello.  This time it’s only been 24 days since my last post.  #progress

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 6.04.20 AM

Yesterday, I decided that I needed to begin on a journey to get better.  Not better as in “not sick,” but to become a better version of myself.  My 35th birthday will be in less than two months, and while I am happy with my life in general, there is still lots of room for me to grow as a person.  The last few months have been up and down, and after speaking with a couple of good friends, I realize that it’s probably because I have been holding a lot in.

I used to blog more consistently.  It’s definitely a release, and a way to reflect upon experiences.  It’s also good to be transparent.  Of course, everything in life doesn’t have to be an open book; however, we grow together by sharing, for better or for worse.  This has been forgotten, as I have started to feel like less of a human being and more of a human brand.  It ends today.  I will attempt to blog more frequently and more authentically, having been inspired by many of my close friends.

Thank you to all who have shared your insight to the world by hitting the publish button.  I think that I’m ready to re-enter the land of the living.  Save me a seat.

#EduMatch Bingo at #CUERockstar

Hey peeps! Long time no see 🙂

When I began this post, I was at #CueRockstar…however, it’s now the next day and I’m in Colorado.  Cue Rockstar was AWESOME!  I was faculty from June 21-23rd, and have learned so much through facilitating sessions.  My first session was about flipped/blended instruction, and the participants created fantastic products in a very short time.  I’ve encouraged them to tweet them out using the #CUERockstar hashtag, so maybe you may see them 🙂

The second day was about gamification.  I have presented on the topic multiple times, but usually it was to people who were new to intermediate level gamifiers.  Occasionally, there have been some advanced participants, but I have never been in a situation with so many in one place.  I loved it, because I learned new tricks from some of the rockstars in the room.  There were many things I hadn’t considered, and they gave me great food for thought by sharing what they were doing.  It was truly a collaborative learning space, and felt somewhat like an edcamp.

Yesterday was session three.  Since the format of CUE Rockstar is totally different than other conferences, and workshops are supposed to be hands-on, I wanted to tweak my usual “What is EduMatch?” presentation.  While this one is designed to be a discussion, and runs on audience participation, I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new: #EduMatchBingo.  I drew on influences from several cool things that I’ve been playing with, such as Mystery Hangouts and BreakoutEDU.

The idea came together last week when I was chatting with the #EduMatch crew on Voxer, preparing for a different session. I don’t know exactly where the inspiration came from, but as soon as I opened my mouth, a plan began to form.  The idea appealed to me so much that I decided to beta test it in the safe space at CUE Rockstar.  Here’s what we did:

 

Pre-Session

  1. I set up a Google Form where people from around the world (hosts) could sign up and answer a few basic questions, including their availability, preferred platform, and personal/professional facts about themselves.  (I wanted them to share some personal information because part of the mission of #EduMatch is building relationships.  This is important if we are to learn from and with each other.)
  2. Given their responses, I assigned them to different platforms for the morning and afternoon sessions (plus a third date next week).  I organized this on a separate sheet (Template Here)
  3. On a third sheet, I organized their responses into different lines.  It also served as a cheat sheet for the hosts to see their responses in an easy way, in order to make sure they gave all their answers.
  4. I found this Bingo Template from Alice Keeler that saved my life.  The directions are on the sheet.  I created and downloaded about 15 random bingo boards and put them into a Google Folder.
  5. The morning of, I placed all of the hosts into a Voxer group and communicated with them, reconfirming everyone’s availability and answering any questions when they arose.

Thank you to the following hosts, who had signed up at the time of this writing:

Beta Testing Round 1

At CUE Rockstar, the faculty members shred, or promo, their sessions at the beginning of each day. During the shred, I admitted my nerves and beginner’s mindset, saying that we were going to try something brand new for the first time, which could either be an epic win, or an epic need-to-overhaul (thanks Tammy Neil for changing my mindset regarding the word FAIL).

The first session ended up being both!  I was so thankful to see my new buddy Nishantha who came to play.  He was the sole participant, so we ended up competing head-to head to test for bugs.  There were many, so I noted them as we played.  Spoiler alert: he won!  A few ideas from session one:

  1. Add a slide that provides an overview of how to connect to the game boards through Google Drive.
  2. For platforms with sound and/or video (i.e. Google Hangout/Voxer), only play from one device.  Encourage participants to join the main #EduMatch Voxer group.
  3. Google Hangouts was the easiest platform to play, because it was synchronous.  Voxer was second, probably because of the speed of voice.  The text-based platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus) were a little clunky.

Nishantha also offered other good suggestions, such as pre-surveying the participants and getting matches based on their interests; as well as having people sign up to be hosts after playing the game.

Beta Test Round 2

With this new information on hand, I went back to the Voxer group to rally the hosts.  I created a PM Voxer group, and changed strategy a bit.  For example, I linked a slide to the #EduMatch Google Plus and Facebook groups, and asked the hosts to tweet to the hashtag #EduMatchBingo.  In addition, hosts frontloaded the text based platforms with their clues ahead of time.  The roles were more fluid and free-flowing, with anyone being encouraged to post their clues in advance on any/all platforms, but not to post all the answers in one place.  In addition, all hosts were invited to participate in the Voxer/Google Hangout conversation.

For the second round, we had three players: Linda, Judy, and Jed.  The second round was much smoother than the first, and we improvised small changes along the way.  For example:

  • One of the hosts asked how cryptic the clues should be.  In the morning, we had not covered this point.  In the afternoon round, we experimented with having them give their answers verbatim.  This made the game go by very quickly.  Ideally, the responses will be a little vague, but not too challenging.
  • Each participant could ask one question to the hosts on Voxer and Google Hangouts.  I passed them my phone, they introduced themselves, and asked their question.
  • At the end, we had an open dialogue on Google Hangouts, and participants were encouraged to join their new connections in our #EduMatch Voxer group.

There were many duplicate answers on the Bingo cards, which came as a result of having  six hosts per session.  As we continue to play and expand our database, there will be less duplicates, and the game will be more challenging to win.

Next Steps

Thank you to all of the players and hosts from Beta Test Day One.  Whenever we get #EduMatch swag printed, you all will get a special gift 🙂  After running through both sessions and debriefing, some of the following ideas emerged:

  • Continue running the game to refine the model.  Although we have most of the bugs out, Day One was played in small groups, with tech-savvy, connected participants.  Other factors for consideration may emerge later. For example, future players may not be on the social networks that we utilized, or know how to access their Google Drive.
  • In addition, the current model works well in small group settings.  For each round, I made only 15 bingo cards. However, I do intend to use this tool in other avenues, such as keynotes, edcamps, and featured speaker sessions in the near future.  At such sessions, there can be dozens to hundreds of people in one space.
  • One idea to address the first two bullet points is to do team bingo, as one of the participants suggested.
  • DocHub was a good tool to annotate on a PDF, however there may be another, easier solution.
  • A last idea is to create an app that will be able to do all of this in one place.  Since I have limited coding experience, I may have to do some edumatching to myself, in order to find someone who can help.  Perhaps other tools that are already out can work.

Thanks again to everyone for participating in this experiment.  I am looking forward to seeing it grow and develop, and would love to hear any feedback on how to make this better.

I Am Not My Body… (pt. 1)

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

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

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

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

This weekend, that changed.

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

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

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

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

Simple.  I am a soul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Two coming soon (hopefully).

Sticks and Stones, Inspired by #BFC530

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Not really.

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

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

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

A member of my PLN nailed it:

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

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

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

 

How to Cheat on Your Lunch Break to Get Fit

About two years (and X number of pounds) ago, I vlogged about how technology helped me get in shape.

I am happy to report that I am still in shape…a shape called “round.”  Hardy har har.

To be honest, I went to extreme measures to get those results.  This included counting, measuring, and weighing every single freaking little thing, giving up my social life, and feeling like crap in general.  I used to call it beast mode, but it was just a beast.  It wasn’t worth the misery, just to look good in my H&M jeans.  Plus, when life started happening, and I began to hit the road on the conference circuit, I soon realized that it wasn’t sustainable.

Since then, I’ve been looking for the perfect mix of diet, exercise, and life that will be maintainable over the long haul, regardless of where I go or how much control I have over the menu (as a vegetarian on the road, I’ll tell you that it looks more like being a carbitarian).

The current iteration involves intermittent fasting.  Many thanks to a good friend of mine, Shana White, who clarified my misconception of starving myself half to death. (By the way, I highly recommend you speak with a professional before starting any crazy diet or exercise plan.)  If you do your research, it’s pretty fascinating stuff.  Not easy, but fascinating!  Early results are promising.

What I am taking from beast mode, though, is the frequent exercise, especially at different points in the day.  I enjoy exercise, so it’s actually fun.  In addition, as my good friend Justin Schleider can tell you, exercise is a brain boost.  I love working out first thing in the morning, and some of my students could even tell the difference when I had worked out and when I hadn’t.  In the latter scenario, I tended to be grumpy and very Oscar-the-Grouch-ish.

My goal is to work out two times a day, once before work and once after work.  Some days, the second workout has to be bumped, out of necessity, to the lunch break.  What follows are some tips and tricks to cheat on lunch, and “get er done” when you’re in a pinch for time.  This is a tried and trusted method, endorsed by former administrators, as indicated by smiles and thumbs up.  To be clear, you are “cheating” on your lunch break, and not on anyone or anything else…please don’t be a cheater!

(Caveat: This is written from the perspective of someone who, when I was recently in the classroom, had a luxury of a 30-minute lunch break and a daily planning period of at least 45 minutes.  This may or may not apply to all readers.  Feel free to substitute various factors whenever applicable.)

How to Cheat on Lunch

The Wardrobe

If you are to be successful in your cheating, every minute counts.  This means, on cheat days, to minimize any and all wardrobe changes in order to save every precious second.  The suggested wardrobe for cheat days includes the following:

  • Fitted T-Shirt (one that looks professional under a blazer)
  • Slacks
  • Blazer or jacket
  • Professional-ish looking sneakers

(See Figure A)

FullSizeRender (6)
Figure A.

Your Bag of Tricks

A gym bag will suffice.  Just keep it in close proximity to you at all times.  You *must* have Dexter-like precision to be successful!

In the bag, keep, at a bare minimum:

  • Deodorant and baby wipes (or your students/coworkers will probably hate you)
  • Sweat pants or shorts

Optional items include a zip-up hoodie (depending on weather) and a lock (if using a locker).

 

The Execution

Before you begin, get familiar with HIIT (high intensity interval training).  This will be your best friend today.

As quickly as humanly possible, execute the following steps:

  1. Flee to a pre-identified changing space, preferably one that can be locked (i.e. bathroom stall, closet, empty classroom) and pull off the Clark Kent/Superman quick change.
  2. Speedwalk to the gym, outside, or your running location of choice.  Make sure you get your heart rate waaaaayyyy up, because this also doubles as your warm-up.  (This is also a good time to check/answer emails from your phone, en route.  Just watch where you walk, so you don’t accidentally bulldoze small children.)
  3.  Do rounds of HIIT for as long as you have time.  I usually go anywhere from 5-9 minutes.  You can accomplish this with props such as jump ropes, etc., but it’s also fine to stick with a run/walk combo.  Bonus points if you sweat!
  4. This is the part where you might want to ignore me.  I tend to skip the cool down when I’m super-pressed for time.  If you can carve out five minutes, though, it may be a good idea to gradually cool down and stretch.  Whatever you do, be sure to give your body enough time to ease back into normal mode, even if it’s while executing step five.
  5. Repeat step one in reverse.  Be sure to de-funk with baby wipes and deodorant.  This last step is mandatory.

Some helpful apps:

  • Runify: you can set up your Spotify playlist to match your runs.  They have pre-programmed times, or you can customize your own.
  • SworkIt: has lots of great stretches and other stuff.
  • Zombies, Run: run away from invisible zombies, trying to eat you.  When I used it, the missions seemed to be set up for half an hour.  They may have updated it.  Don’t run in the parking lot, or you may find yourself playing a human game of Frogger.

 

The Aftermath

If you have done this correctly, you will have gotten in a decent workout with time to spare.  You’re probably wondering, when to eat?

This is what planning periods are for, my friend.  In this case, multitasking is not a dirty word.  Trust me, you can scarf down a salad (wishful thinking) while grading papers.  It’s definitely do-able.

Pro-tip: Bring your lunch, or call to have it delivered right before your workout.  

If planning falls before lunch, then just run during planning and eat/plan during lunch.

Conclusion

In my experience, cheat days should not be every day.  These are for special times, when you need to get your workout on, but have minimal time to cram it in.  I used cheat days most frequently last year when I was coaching basketball, when our school team had games going to 9 p.m.

Depending on how speedy your de-funking abilities are, I would budget about 20 minutes total for the workout, including the quick-change.

I am no longer a classroom teacher, but this has saved my rear end many times.  I’m sure it will continue to do so in the future when time is tight.  Happy HIIT-ing, friends!

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

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

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

(Now up to 108 billion.)

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

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

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

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

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

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.