Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I forgot how fun it is to make these, so I was playing with it and needed a place to keep it. This seems as good a place as any... Here is my twitter page as a tag cloud, made with Tagxedo.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why do I do what I do?

I don’t know some days to be honest. It’s been rough. It’s a hard road to travel. But you know what? Even on the roughest days, I love them. I may not want to deal with them, I may not break through today, but I love them. I want them to get better. I want them to develop the skills they need to survive and thrive. I love them.

I teach hard kids. I love them.

On days like today, it is very hard to rationalize the level of education, the level of desire to continue to learn and be better, the energy that is needed, the stress level, the pay, the everything. So many hoops to jump through, obstacles to bypass, but I love them. I must. I love them.

I was lurking on a recent #edchat about why teachers leave within 5 years of entering the profession. This seems to be a hot topic lately. I saw it in #edchat, I’ve seen a lot of articles, etc. One article says it comes down to respect, we have to feel respected for what we do. I get that. I’m 10 years in. In #edchat I think the consensus I saw (and please comment below if not accurate) that it comes down to feeling that you are doing something successfully. That may mean helping students, helping a school, working with teachers, success has many faces. Unfortunately you can be successful in one area and frustrated in many others, and that causes an imbalance that leads to questioning things again.

I think I help my students. I think they learn from me. I have data to show it even (hahaha). I feel like they have skills when they leave my classroom that they didn’t have before. Is that enough to keep me here? It’s all I have right now. I love them.

For me, it’s because I love them.

I want to be respected, not sure if I am. On many levels disrespect is rampant, from nefarious negotiation tactics to parents who support their kid calling me horrible names in class. Colleagues respect me for the most part, or at least they are willing to use my work product and let me build curriculum for them. (Hmm, not sure if that is a good example or not.)

It is because I love them. As I tell my own son, the one I read Harry Potter to at night, "
You are a hard kid to parent, but you are worth it and I wouldn’t trade you for any other in the world." My kids in my classroom are my kids. I love them. I see them in the community now as adults and parents and even though they made me pull my hair out and it took everything I had to get them to capitalize ‘I’ and not use ‘allot’ as a word, they grow into adults and I am proud. I hope I had something to do with that transformation. I love them.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Feelings and Right

Sometimes it is hard to say and do what is right. Sometimes we get our feelings hurt when we try to do what is right.

I remember the first time my feelings were hurt in my prior position. My friend, my colleague and my mentor was the culprit and it is something that will stick with me, but it was also something that was necessary, even if I didn’t like it.

I was described as too willing to succumb to authority. I have too much respect for the people in power and when they said ‘do this,’ I didn’t question it enough. She was right, but it hurt.

Unfortunately in the world of education there are too many conflicting interests where there really should be only one, the students. The students are why we are here, they are who our energy should be focused on. But we all know there are many other factors that must be considered, there is no way around it. There is funding and money, there are people and egos, there is hierarchy and politics, and these things all must be factored in when making decisions.

I believed that we all had the best interests of students at heart and that if the ‘grownups’ made a decision it was what they believed was best for the students. Naive. So naive I am embarrassed now at how naive I was.

Now, it was my turn to point out that decisions from the ‘grownups’ must not be trusted implicitly. And it hurt feelings. Unfortunately, that is why we have the hierarchy. The checks and balances of many people is needed.

This is not to say that the ‘grownups’ do not have the students’ interests at heart, but that they have to answer to a balance sheet. It takes those of us in the classrooms to stand up and shout when the balance sheet is not working in the favor of the students. We have to know what is going on around us and not just do blindly what we are told to do. There are many factors involved in decisions, and sometimes we have to point them out the decision makers, not because they choose not to see, just because their focus is on administrative tasks, while our focus is on the students. It is our job to stand up for the students when they come into conflict with the balance sheet.

Feelings be damned, what is right it right. I had to learn. It stung, but it was necessary.

Friday, October 11, 2013

RaNdom RamBlinGs

I started this blog with the intention of using it as a way to reflect on my teaching and myself as a teacher, to share insights and epiphanies with the world at large or with no one other than a receptacle of my thought in written form. 

I have been stuck.

I want to be positive and uplifting and reflective for growth, but it just wasn't coming.

So I decided to keep an eye out for subjects I wanted to write about, and I even have one post that I haven't posted yet because it is still on paper from when I wrote it while watching my son swim. 

Even that strategy has been hampered by a rough start. So maybe if I vent, and get it off my chest I can get past the roadblock and get back to it. Here goes...

It has been a rough start of the year for me. My role has changed and I am adjusting. While I came to grips with this change in role, that doesn't mean I was, or am, happy about the change. 

I made an agreement at home to reduce my workload, so I gave up one additional position, my Teacher on Special Assignment position. I gave it up willingly because no matter how much I agree with the vision and the goals of the position, the realities of the position were political roadblocks and not actually creating the help and support for students that I wanted. That was hard for me. I wanted to help students in an institutional way. I wanted to be a part of the creation and launch of a support system that could carry on and really help students. But the grownups got in the way. The politics were always in the way. So, no matter how much the philosophy meant to me, and how hard it was to face the reality that it just wasn't working, I did face it and I walked away from it. This is still hard because the system I was working towards building has completely faltered and the kids are the ones who are and will suffer from that. 

On top of that, one of the roles I really enjoyed was taken from me. This is the one that has caused me much grief and, honestly, heartache. Again, I came to accept this last May, but once the doors opened and the kids flooded in, and the change became real it has been difficult. I loved being the chair of my department. I really liked being involved in the school as a large entity, meeting with the other department chairs and working to find solutions to common problems. However, I am not one to sugar coat my opinions and I have heard that I don't have a very good poker face, so I rubbed the members of my own department the wrong way. They chose to find a new department chair. Ok. I was shocked at the time, and my feelings were hurt of course. People had decided I wasn't doing a good job. I'm not used to that. I went through stages of upset, from eager to see the other person struggle, eager to see the group struggle, to now I really do just want to be a positive part of the team. 

Unfortunately, or fortunately, being out of that circle and able to have the same view as my peers, some other things have come to light. I realize that I was manipulated by my superiors. I realize that I was fed misinformation in order to believe that I was making decisions on my own, but I really wasn't. I feel like a puppet. I also have come to some conclusions as to the beginnings of the movement to replace me. I don't think it was as much a ground swell as I was led to believe. I think it was contrived. Some of the things I was told in order to convince me to make decisions, I now know to be lies or half truths. And while all of this really sucks, and is crushing to my self esteem in thinking I am an independent thinker, what is even worse is that I know I am still being used as a game piece in order to manipulate others. As much as I want to be removed from it all, I was asked early on (and refused) to be the bad news guy a couple of times in order to keep the new person seen as all positive. Also, in order to deflect responsibility the grownups are telling her to get everything from me, instead of providing the information and materials and necessary knowledge to her from the correct spigot of information. I am tired of being played. I am tired of being viewed as the bad guy for decisions that aren't mine. 

I do have to make a conscious effort to 'not care' when I see things that bother me, when decisions are made that I disagree with, or when people are acting contrary to what I think is right. I am hoping that after the 153rd time I see a colleague being disrespectful during training, or an administrator telling different stories to different teachers (lies) because each one has different opinions, or try to reach people in my department to ask questions but they aren't available because they leave at lunch, or have to tell a kid that politics determine teacher schedules instead of student need... maybe after the 153rd time, I won't have to pretend not to care anymore. Maybe I just won't. It is sad to me that the way for me to be happy in my job is to not care about how things work institutionally, but it is just the truth.

My focus is on the students in my classroom and being the best teacher I can be. When school is over, I go home, I play with my kids, I take them to their activities, I help with their homework and after school events. I am really enjoying this as well. In the hustle, hustle, hustle of always being so busy at work, the kids' activities always felt like a chore. Every now and then that frame of mind invades again and I remind myself that this is what I want to do, I am not lying or convincing, I just need to remember. And I take a deep breath, watch my son cannon ball into the water, my daughter dance across the floor, paint something, or sit down and read, and I think:

I like this. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Goals for this year

My Goals for this Year:

1. Implement Google Docs with English classes

2. Implement 20% time

3. ReMake my learning space in a way that works. 

It can’t just look cool, feel cozy, and be different from before. I have struggled with my space since I first came into teaching. I have never liked my classroom set up but I have also never been able to tweak it in any way that either made learning better or life easier (and I don’t think any change I have ever made did either of those things, let alone both).

A few things that have held me back in the past, and my current thinking.

A. My room is pretty small.

It's not tiny, but not much wiggle room once everything that’s currently in there is in there. I need to reevaluate much of the items I have. Some furniture that was needed to house the stuff (see below) can go. This is hard for me, but I need the space more than the stuff.  

B. My room is used on the weekends as a testing site, in need of standard row seating.  

I’m not going to worry about this anymore. There are enough classrooms on our site that they can avoid mine if my changes do not allow for standardized testing. Darn.

C. Stuff. 

We all have stuff, and I could be classified as a borderline hoarder, definitely a pack rat, but I seriously have had the need for the ‘stuff.’ The past two years I have held multiple roles at my school including Chairperson of a core department (17 people at its largest in my time)  and as an Intervention Coordinator. Both of these roles came with stuff, lots of stuff. My room was the supply closet for the entire department keeping items on hand to have available to teachers on a moment’s notice. I also received orders of materials like workbooks and other consumables and had to sort and manage the delivery to their recipients. Much of my cabinet space has been taken over by the supplies and the materials, and then to house the tech pieces as they failed to use for parts or to hang onto until recycling is reasonable. Now, I am eliminating the stuff and reclaiming my storage!

Because of goals 1 and 2, my classes (students) will be moving around a lot as I aim to work in computer labs and foster collaborative work. I want goal #3 to support this.


Obviously, Goal #3 is on my mind today. I have been thinking and shopping and planning for how to make my classroom the environment I want it to be. My current plan is to set up my room in thirds. An area with carpet, a couch, etc., an area with the standard desks, and then an area with tables and chairs. I hope that this will foster collaborative working among the students, allow students to be comfortable in the learning environment, and still be able to have whole class instruction, large group activity, small group activity, and individual worktime. Today I went to see a colleague who also has a carpet shop in town (awesome!!) and got a 12X8 carpet and tomorrow my husband and I will go check out a couch at Goodwill that looks like it will work for me. 

It looks like I will move from hope to action this year.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sunday, July 14, 2013

iSTE for me

It has been a few days since I have gotten home from #iste13 and I have been marinating in the information. This was my second trip to iSTE as an attendee, but also my first experience as a presenter. That level of being inside the conference does make a difference in the experience, even though I didn't want to admit it at the time. I was nervous, anxious, but now I am so glad that I did participate at that level, it was exhilarating. Going to this conference with one year under my belt, I knew what to expect: total brain overload. I knew to take it easy, absorb what I could, connect where I could, share everything I could, and go with the flow. Now 4 days later, the information that has been marinating in my brain is starting to take form into action steps and a to-do list, and even better: a to-learn list.

Some of my highlights cannot go unmentioned.

Definitely on this trip Adam Bellows was my NorthStar. I ended up in 2 of his sessions learning about various tools, discussing pedagogy behind the tools, and then he was the closing keynote speaker as well. I have yet to process all of the tools he shared, but his message has sunk in: Know the tools that are out there, use them to suit your students needs, but the focus is the student and the learning; the tool is a tool, not a secret weapon in the battle against illiteracy.

Presenting with a friend, Cathleen Petty, on a subject that we have worked passionately on, appropriate placement in high school English Language Arts, is also a highlight. We have presented together before and as friends and colleagues we complement each other in such a role. We got a HUGE compliment on our presentation from Principal William King and many others who came through and listened to our information, then asked question after question. The fact they had questions told me we were on the right path.

I also had the opportunity to present in the Google Booth on the Exhibition Hall floor. This had me nervous. Those nerves were NOT alleviated in any way having my presentation follow that of Shree Bose, Google Science Fair Winner. I presented to the crowd on my use of Google Voice as a great tool for educators that is highly under utilized, and I got a good response from the crowd. I was happy. Those 15 minutes went by very fast!

I cannot go without mentioning that I got to see in person (or f2f) many members of my PLN and expand that PLN as well. It is at iSTE that I get to come into contact with many people that I have been following for years. I cannot even attempt to name them all here, so I will not name any. I will say again, I tweeted it the first time, that it is humbling to meet these people, and it is shocking when they are just as excited to meet me. But that did happen a couple of times on this trip as well. I didn't know what to do with that.

And finally, my own geeky adventure in collaborative notes. I have yet to transcribe my paper notes from the conference (it is a very long story as to why a geek like myself was on paper for a geek conference), however, my notes have been shared and added to and shared some more by many. I hope they continue to develop as others do as I have done, and continue to marinate, reflect, and learn.

And, I got to try out Google Glass! Whoo hooo!!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Getting Started

It is time for me to get into the blogging world. I am a huge tech fan, one who recognizes the need for reflection and review to make ideas really take hold and grow, so those two components fit neatly together into the voice in my head that started out whispering, but now sounds rather demanding saying: Get Blogging!

As a starting point, I will start with information about myself and just see where it takes me. I have been teaching for almost 10 years and for at least the last half of it I have been an edtech enthusiast. Unfortunately, at the same time, I started taking on leadership roles at my school that inhibited my ability to really focus on integrating the technology into my classroom the way I wanted to. For the upcoming school year I have reduced my load of outside responsibilities and will focus on what I love: teaching. 

So.... the point and purpose for me blogging will be to have a place to reflect on what goes on in my classroom. I will share my experiments, share my #eduwins as well as my struggles so I have a dedicated place to reflect and learn to improve my teaching. I look forward to interacting with others who may read this and share their own thoughts, ideas, and suggestions!