Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.
— Andy Rooney
Our school district welcomed 106 new teachers to our family this week. As has been the tradition for many years, New Teacher Orientation was held. Our new teachers learned about the mission and vision of the district, the educator’s code of ethics, Response to Intervention (RTI), Project Wisdom and PBIS, the use of the Mimio, teacher websites, and Google Apps for Education. Being part of the team delivering training to the new teachers was an experience for me. In the fall of 2007, I was new to the district and participated in a similar training. I remember being anxious, eager, and overwhelmed all at the same time. Although I was new to the district, I was not new to teaching. I had previously worked at the local alternative school yet I was filled with a variety of conflicting emotions. Yesterday, I delivered the Google Apps for Education training to the new teachers. Oddly enough, I believe many of those teachers were anxious, eager, and overwhelmed just as I was when I began my career here.
As I was talking to them about implementing Google Apps, I looked around the room. I saw so many different emotions on their faces. Some were so excited because they were thinking about the many uses for Google Apps, and others were frustrated because they did not think they were grasping the material as quickly as they should. Standing at the front of the room yesterday reminded me of my many days in the classroom. As I presented the material, I wondered if I was getting through to the new teachers just as I often wondered if I was getting through to my students. Being an Instructional Technology Coach is a lot like being a teacher. You plan and plan and plan and have no idea of the outcome of the lesson. You have no idea how your students are going to receive what you are saying. I wondered yesterday about my lesson, and I wondered how the new teachers would feel once the school year began, and they were presenting lessons. I wasn’t tasked with talking to the new teachers about anything other than Google Apps, but if I could have, I would have shared some of my own thoughts about teaching, building relationships, and making a difference.
Teaching is hard. I don’t mean hard like calculus, physics, or any of the math and science classes I struggled with as a student, but hard emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I can admit there were days I cried. I cried at the untimely deaths of several of my students, I cried because of my students and for my students, and I cried just because I didn’t know what else to do. There were many days I would leave school, go home, get a glass of orange juice, and go to bed. I remember my first year at Griffin High. I taught five sections of ninth grade literature and one section of honors tenth grade literature. Many of my ninth grade students played football. Inevitably, the question would be asked every Friday in the Fall, “Are you going to the game tonight?” My intentions were always good; however, I never made it to a single game that first year. It’s not because I didn’t want to go. As a proud Griffin High graduate, I understand the seriousness of Friday nights in Griffin. Griffin football is a tradition. Let me rephrase that. Griffin football is a winning tradition and very important to this community. I did not go to any games that first year because I was so physically drained by the end of the week. I would go home each Friday afternoon with every intention of going to the game later that evening. I would go home, sit down to eat dinner, and wake up on Saturday morning still sitting on the couch wearing the clothes I wore to work the day before. I was tired, and my body demanded rest at the end of each week in order to be prepared for the next. With every fiber of my being, I know that God called me to be a teacher, but there were many days I questioned His wisdom. I wondered if I was reaching my students; I wondered if they knew how much I cared; I wondered if somebody else could do a better job. Each time I felt like I should pursue other employment opportunities, God sent a message telling me to stay put. I listened.
I stayed because that’s where I was supposed to be. Yes, I was frustrated on many occasions, but I also found many reasons to be proud of my students and for my students. I was proud of the work I was doing with the debate team, the student council, and the swim team. My students found success in and out of the classroom. They were leaders in our award winning JROTC Bear Battalion, our state championship winning football team, and student government leaders at such prestigious universities like the University of Georgia and Oral Roberts University. I am not even presumptive enough to think that their success was because of me; however, I do think that in spite of my sometimes gruff exterior, they knew I cared and wanted the best for them. I have taught all grade levels from 6th grade thru 12th grade. One of my biggest joys is seeing my students walk across the field after receiving their diplomas. One year, during a conversation with my seniors, one of them announced that he would not be participating in graduation because it really wasn’t that big of a deal. Looking back, I probably got angrier than I should have, but I did get angry. I told him and his classmates that by not participating, he was denying his teachers, and in particular me, the opportunity to see the results of our hard work. I told the class that since I don’t have children of my own, being able to watch them receive their diploma was a big deal to me because to me, they were my children. I also told the young man that he was being selfish. Not my finest teacher moment, I know. I finished my speech, and we went on with the lesson. I didn’t think any more about the conversation. Fast forward to graduation. I am sitting on the field with my colleagues, and we are watching our students receive diplomas amid cheers and well-wishes from the school administration and the board of education. I always sit on the front row of the faculty section so I can have a good seat. I want to be able to see my kids when they achieve one of the best moments in their high school career. When the young man who had earlier said he would not participate in the graduation ceremony came down from the stage, he stopped in front of me and said, “I did this for you.” He remembered. He remembered how important it was for me to see him graduate. When it seems like we don’t make a difference or that we are toiling in vain, we have to remember times like that. He remembered.
As we begin another year of educating students in our district, it serves me well to remember that God called me to teach. I’m not teaching students anymore, but I am still a teacher. It feels a little odd knowing that there will be a new group of students at Griffin High, and I won’t be a part of their educational journey; however, I am okay with that knowledge. There are others there to take my place. I am okay with it because I know that others have been called to teach as well. I saw the joy and anticipation in the eyes of the new teachers at orientation. I could sense that they were ready to face any and all challenges presented to them. I can rest easy and move on to the next phase in my career because I know that there will be someone to take my place at graduation next year. They will cheer just as loudly as I did. They will have made a difference. They will know it, and the students will know it.
I will say it again. Teaching is hard. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, but it is also the most rewarding thing I have ever done. My wish for our new teachers is that they remember why they became teachers in the first place, and let those reasons guide them in their classrooms every single day of the school year. On my first day of new teacher orientation, the group of new teachers was told, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It’s true. Care about the students as if they are your own. They will appreciate it, and let you know they appreciate just when you need it the most.
“Camp isn’t a place you visit, it’s a place that becomes part of you.” –Anonymous
As a child, I begged my parents to let me go to summer camp. They agreed, and I spent one of the best weeks of my life at a camp with some of the girls who attended my school. There were a few new girls, but for the most part, I knew the girls who shared the A-frame cabin with me. We hiked, gossiped as only pre-teen girls can do, stayed up way past curfew, and spent an uncomfortable night on the camp tennis courts. The fact that we were on concrete didn’t dampen our spirits. We were at camp, sleeping outside of the cabin, and nothing else mattered. That was my first experience with summer camp, and I never forgot it. I would later go on to work at a residential camp in the North Georgia mountains. Out of all my summer jobs, that was perhaps my most favorite. There is something special about being away from everything and getting to know other people, and most importantly, yourself. Who I am now has a lot to do with my experiences that summer. There is a part of me who still longs to be at camp. I suppose those longings will never go away.
As an adult, I have often wished that I could go back to the days of my childhood and spend every summer at camp. I wish that there was a place where I could go and spend lazy days at the waterfront, sneak out of cabin and visit the cute boy I’d been eyeing all week, and then I could sit on my bunk and write letters home telling of my grand adventures. Perhaps when I retire, I can cash out my teacher retirement and make an adults only camp. Others share my dream, right?
After a twenty plus year hiatus, I went to camp again. Actually, I didn’t go anywhere except to my living room. Through the magic of the Internet, Google Hangouts, and the dedication of some wonderful educators, I participated in my very first #edcampHome. I had heard of attending edcamps before but time and life got in the way of attending. Now I have a new job, and I have time to attend. While researching other things, I saw the ad for #edcampHome. Being intrigued, I looked and was instantly hooked on the idea of virtual learning. I admit that I think I know a lot about pretty much everything. In the last week or so, I realized I don’t know as much as I thought. I will start my new job as an Instructional Technology Coach in a week. I have had some pre-work assignments to do, and while trying to complete my tasks, I found myself quickly getting overwhelmed. In an effort to get one thing done, I would come across something else and something else, and the next thing I know, I’ve forgotten what I started looking for in the first place.
Without a second moment’s thought, I registered for #edcampHome and joined the Google+ Community. I guess I was so anxious for camp to start, I misread the camp information and was sitting in front of my computer promptly at 4:00 P.M. I couldn’t understand why I was seeing a message telling me camp would start in 3 hours. Oh, 4:00 P.M. PST means Pacific Coast Time. I live on the East Coast, so camp was not about to start for me. So, patiently I waited. Okay, maybe not patiently. I quickly cooked dinner, wolfed it down, and situated myself in front of the computer again. I can admit now that I was giddy or as giddy as a 45-year-old can be sitting in front of a computer waiting to chat with strangers at a place called #edcampHome about unknown topics.
From the moment the broadcast went live, I was hooked. I was fascinated because I was seeing people from all over the world, and we were all there for the same purpose. We wanted to discuss the very things that would help our students be successful in and out of the classroom. We were like-minded people working towards a common goal. Nevermind that we were in different places with different job responsibilities. We brought those differences together in order to facilitate discussions on too may topics for me to list. Having never attended an edcamp before, I wasn’t sure if I was going about session sign ups the right way. I signed up for a couple of classes and waited to see where I would end up. Luck was on my side. My first session was on student blogging. I have been a blogger on and off for a number of years. I have not been consistent with it though my desire is to be a world-famous writer. Go figure. I want to write but don’t have time.
In my first session on student blogging, I was joined by @SLOlifeKevin, @MathButler, @KOgden97, and @HeckAwesome. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out. If I did, sorry! We had a good dialog about student blogging – what platform to use, whether or not we should reach out beyond our schools, involving parents, and so much more. We talked so much and shared so many ideas that we sort of went over the allotted time. Before the end of the night, we had exchanged emails and had a plan to connect teachers and classes with others so that our students can be engaged in writing and commenting on the writing of others. All of this came from a 30+ minute Google Hangout. It really is like camp. You go to camp no knowing anyone, and you share so much that you become friends. In 30 minutes, we became friends.
My second session was on planning an edcamp. As stated previously, I’ve never been to one, but I am fascinated with the thought of hosting one in my school district. Although I have been an English teacher for the past eleven years, I am a secret planner. Perhaps secret is not really the right word. I have a degree in planning, and love to plan things. Putting on an edcamp is on my professional bucket list. I want to share the joy I found with others. Plus, it’s just fun to put on events. My fellow edcamp wannabe planners were @SLOlifeKevin, @MathButler, @Ms_Cabiness, @mraclark29, and @megmagwire. Again, apologies if I forgot someone. We tossed around ideas, suggestions, how-twos and what not. I will be attending my first in person edcamp next week. I’m looking forward to it and planning on taking copious notes so that when we have our event, we will be ready.
When I went to summer camp for the first time in 1981, I did not realize the impact it would have on my life. Every summer in high school, I was a teen leader at Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Eatonton, Georgia. Spring quarter 1988, I enrolled in a class called Basic Camp Management because I knew I would be working at Camp Woodmont that summer, and I knew that at some point in my life, the information gained in that class would be valuable. My father disagreed and called it Basket Weaving 101. Twenty-six years later, I still use that knowledge and have for every job I have had in my adult life. Participating in #edcampHome was new yet familiar. Just like my first experience at camp, the things I learned and did became part of who I am; the same can be said of my experience online with #edcampHome. It wasn’t a place I visited; it is now a part of who I am and will continue to be.
“I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences. Today is one of those days.” –Sonia Sotomayor
I haven’t posted on here in a while. My intentions are always good, but then my life happens. I have to do better with my blog. I am in the process of transitioning from being a classroom teacher to an instructional technology coach. Wow! It’s been almost a week, and I still can’t believe it. I have always wanted to be a teacher although I became one through non-traditional means. Once I became a teacher, I sort of saw myself doing something else but within the scope of being an educator. Now that I am about to do something else, I am still in awe. Leslie Fagin, Instructional Technology Coach for the Griffin-Spalding County School System, sounds so very official. I’m official! Actually, I have always been official. My new job title doesn’t change who I am, what I believe, or what I want to accomplish in my lifetime. My new job title gives me an opportunity to expand my professional horizons, share my love of technology with my fellow educators which will in turn help our students become competitors in the global community.
Right now I’m in Atlanta at the International Society for Education in Technology Conference (ISTE). It’s my first job-related duty as an ITC. I am a planner. I have a degree in planning. Seriously. The very day I was offered and accepted this job, I was planning my time. I knew which sessions, posters, vendors, and exhibits I wanted to see. I was planning which of my Twitter crushes I wanted to meet. Heck, I even planned what foods I wanted to sample. Sadly, my planning was for naught. The moment I stepped foot into the Georgia World Congress and Convention Center, my internal processor crashed. There were way too many unexpected and unplanned for options. I tried to regroup and make a new plan. The planning portion of my brain fought hard, but the super small spontaneous side of my brain won. Flying by the seat of my pants is an unfamiliar concept to me. I ended up making several unplanned stops and am grateful for the deviation from the plan. My PLN has increased as a result. That’s the biggest benefit. I’m now navigating unfamiliar territory; I’m going to need those who have gone ahead to help me with my journey.
There is a lot to be done. My mind is all over the place. I know that this position is right for me. I need to step back and let the planner in me resurface. I know what needs to be done. Now, I am going to make my plan and share what I have learned. I am excited about the future and ready to go.