Which Way Do I Go?

“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad.  My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: love, belonging, trust, joy and creativity to name a few.” –Brene Brown

When I was a little girl, I thought I was going to grow up and become a Supreme Court Justice.  My plan also included a husband and six children.  The life I am living is vastly different than the one I had planned.  I realized somewhere along the way that you can’t really plan your life.  It just happens.  Somewhere along the way, my plans changed and I ended up where I am today.  Today I am an instructional technology coach.  I used to be a 4-H Program Assistant, a Girl Scout Field Executive, a Girl Scout Community Development Manager, a Girl Scout Leadership Development and Product Sales Manager, a Girl Scout Program Manager, a Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club Director of Education, and a teacher.  Throw in jobs during my undergraduate career and the time right after graduation.  I’ve done a lot and had a lot of experiences.  I am glad that all of what happened has happened because that’s how I got to be where I am now.

Today’s blog challenge asked me to envision how my teaching will change over the next five  years.  I don’t think I can.  Actually, I don’t want to.  I think if I plan how my teaching will be, I will miss something along the way.  I am where I am now because I let myself, or maybe God led me, experience things that weren’t planned.  When I began my career with the Girl Scouts, I expected to spend thirty years working for the organization.  I planned to move up through the ranks and become the Executive Director of a local council or even of the entire organization.  While I was making those plans, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  She fought for 18 months but eventually died.  Not long after her diagnosis, I left my job in California to return home.  I knew my place was at home with my mother.  That experience wasn’t planned, but it was necessary for my growth as a person and as a Christian.

After my mother’s death, I began graduate school and earned a degree in Rural and Small Town Planning.  While in school, I made plans to work as a planner.  Of course, my plans changed.  Shortly before I graduated, I realized I really wanted to become a teacher.  I applied for a job as a teacher, and that’s what I have done for the last 11 years.  True to form, I began my teaching career planning to spend 30 years in the classroom.  I taught and again went back to graduate school.  A little voice in my head told me to obtain my leadership certification.  I did because I thought I would become a school administrator.  That didn’t happen or at least it hasn’t happened yet.  At the end of the last school year, I applied for the job I currently have.  It wasn’t planned.  It just happened.

When I make plans, things change.  I can’t say for sure how I see myself in five years. If I am still doing what I do now, I would like to think that I would be more comfortable speaking in public.  Although I wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice, I have never liked public speaking.  I’m not sure how I would have done as a lawyer in a court room.  I also would like to think that I would be well-versed in all aspects of my job.  I don’t like not knowing something.  Technology changes all the time, and I want to be the person who knows everything.  I know that’s not realistic, but that’s how I am.  I just like to absorb knowledge. I don’t think my teaching will change over the next five years.  I will change, but my teaching will not.  I won’t predict what will happen. I will just enjoy whatever experiences I have along the way.

A Brand New Day

“Every day I feel is a blessing from God.  And I consider it a new beginning.  Yeah, everything is beautiful.” –Prince

I’m not a morning person.  I am a middle of the day kind of person; however, as far as the school day is concerned, my favorite part of the day is the beginning.  I know that goes against who I am as a person, but the beginning of the day is a brand new day.  Whatever not-so-nice stuff I said the day before is done and over with. I can move on, and the students can move on. From time to time I say not-so-nice things.  Not often, but sometimes.  A new day means that the students can start fresh.  When they come in the room, I am at the door to greet them and get them started on a new learning adventure or a continuation of the adventure from the day before.  A new day means that if they did not understand the day before, there is another opportunity to master the content.  A new beginning means they have another chance at almost anything and everything.

As an instructional technology coach, I still feel the same way.  I like the beginning of the day.  When everything works for me in the morning, I am able to get up and out of the house soon enough so that I can get to the office and have a few moments of quiet time.  I like to have time to think about what needs to be done for the day and make a plan.  I like anticipating what is to come.  My days are very different although I do the same thing at each school.  The teachers are different, their readiness levels are different, and their expectations are different.  I like having time to mentally prepare for what’s ahead.  I like the quiet of the morning and having time to watch the day unfold.  It’s pretty awesome if you think about it.

I also like getting to work before the others so I can get a good parking space.

One Third of the Way There and Only Three Days Behind

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” –Henry David Thoreau

Today’s posting is different.  I don’t think I am supposed to be as reflective or maybe I’m wrong.  I’m supposed to list different things about myself.  I have a list to follow.  Let’s see how I do with simple directions.

Share five random facts about yourself

  1. I have beautiful feet.  No, really.  I do.  23504_10150175185995570_4788811_n23504_10150175186005570_4875383_n
  2. I did not learn to walk until I was 14 months old.  Even at a young age, I was more cerebral than physical.
  3. I hate dirty laundry if it’s not mine.
  4. I really hate peanut butter and jelly in the same jar.  I hate peanut butter, but I really hate it when it’s mixed with jelly.
  5. I have been hoping to get a twin brother or sister all my life.  I think it might happen before I die.  Anything is possible if you just believe.

Share four things from your Bucket List

  1. Go on a mission trip.
  2. Drive cross country.
  3. Write a book.
  4. Run in a 5K

Share three things that you hope for this year as a person or educator

  1. Grow in my walk with Christ
  2. Present at the ISTE Conference in Philadelphia
  3. Go back to school and finish my doctorate

Share two things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator

  1. Shaelinda’s death two weeks before she graduated.
  2. Making the mistake of watching the episode of America’s Most Wanted when they talked about her murder.

Share one thing you wish more people knew about you

  1. All I really want is to be happy and make a difference.  That’s all.

A Card and a Hug

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and the soul of a child.”

Teachers are accustomed to not getting all the recognition we think we deserve or for that matter need.  We work, work, work, and work and oftentimes do what others consider impossible or not worthwhile. We do it because that’s what we are called to do.  However, it is nice to know that we are appreciated.  I am just like my educator colleagues.  I want someone to acknowledge what I have done.  I don’t want a parade down Taylor Street or anything like that, but some recognition would be nice.  After a lot of deep reflection, I realized that being appreciated by my students means a lot more than being recognized by the adults in the building.  Don’t get me wrong, I am truly grateful to those who voted me Teacher of the Year in 2010, but in the long run, who is really going to remember that?  I have a couple of plaques and a ring, and I have the remembrance of being speechless after my named was called for the honor, but what will carry me through the rest of my career?  Will it be the plaque and rings or will it be something else?

0913140911a (1)Surprisingly enough, it is the something else that will carry me through the days when I need a little push so I can continue to do God’s work.  I spent eleven years in the classroom, and for eleven years I knew there were students who no matter how hard I tried, I could not make a connection.  I suppose that some just didn’t get my charm.  Perhaps they didn’t like my teaching methods, or just maybe, they didn’t like me.  I hate to admit that I am bothered by the fact that I care whether or not the kids liked me.  I did and still do although I’m not teaching anymore.  In the few months since I have not been a teacher, I have been thinking a lot about being a teacher.  Why?  I don’t know.  I think I have been thinking a lot about teaching because of the card I carry in my purse.  There are a lot of things in my purse, but the card is special.  It is special because it was given to me by one of those kids I thought I was not reaching.  I taught her for three years, and each year she would tell me she wanted to be in my class the next year.  I did not believe her words.  I thought she was just saying it because kids will tell a teacher anything if they think it will help their grade.  They don’t realize that their grade is just that, THEIR grade.  I don’t randomly give grades because kids say nice things to me.

It was the end of the school year, and a lot was going on.  I was trying to get my kids ready for the End of Course Test, finish grading research papers, and hold on to my sanity.  It had been a tough year, and I was ready for summer.  The day I received the card was a normal day.  I had been speaking to the principal while in the faculty dining room.  Whe0913140912n we came out, we ran into the student and her father.  They were looking for the principal; however, she had also been looking for me.  She handed me the card, thanked me, and hugged me.  I was floored.  She had not been my student in a year although she would speak whenever she saw me.  The principal took her and her father to his office so they could speak.  I stopped in the hall and read the card.  It brought tears to my eyes.  In the time it took me to read the card, I realized I was wrong.  She didn’t dislike me, and I HAD gotten through to her.  Her words meant more to me than the Teacher of the Year plaques and the ring.  Why?  Because a student told me, Leslie Fagin, that I mattered to her and she thanked me.  She didn’t have to give me the card.  I doubt her parents told her to do so.  She did it on her own.

I carry the card in my purse as a reminder.  When I reach in to get money or medicine or even a snack, I feel the envelope, and I remember.  I remember that I mattered to at least one.  As far as accomplishments go, mattering to the students is more important than anything else.  I doubt people realize that about me.  I always cared about my students regardless of what they thought or what others said.  They mattered to me, and I suppose, for some, I mattered.

I’d Make an Excellent Contestant on ‘Let’s Make a Deal’

“I probably do have an obsessive personality, but striving for perfection has served me well.”  –Tom Ford

They say you can tell a lot about a woman by looking at the contents of her purse.  I suppose the same could be said by looking in someone’s desk drawers.  I spend the bulk of my day at work, so it’s natural that what is in and on my desk should reflect who I am.  My desk does indeed tell a lot about me.  On the top of my desk I have pictures of those who are important to me.  I like looking over the top of my computer and seeing the faces of my nieces and nephews.  They make me happy.  I also have pictures of former students.  The students wanted me to have a picture of us together.  The fact that they liked me enough to want to be permanently linked to me says a lot.  Those picture are on my desk as well.

The inside of my desk is a bit different; however, the inside of my desk REALLY tells the story of who I am.  My desk has six drawers.  One drawer holds my purse.  It’s really only in there because my sister has drilled into my head that if I leave my purse on the floor, I will forever be broke.  I’m broke no matter where I put my purse, but I listen because I’m the younger sister.  Another drawer holds my snacks.  Food is important to me so I always have some near.  My colleagues know that so they are often asking for snacks.  I like being the keeper of the food not because I want people to be dependent on me but because I like the interaction that always follows when they come and ask for chocolate, dried apricots, or whatever else may be in my drawer.  I said I have six drawers.  I’ve told you what’s in two of them so that leaves the contents of four to be revealed.  I will admit. I am obsessive compulsive.  I have too many compulsions to list in this posting.  I will save that for another day.

Contents of drawer three, four, five and six?  Office supplies. Yes, I said it. Office supplies. I have Sharpies, black ink pens, red ink pens, yellow Post-It Notes, multi-colored Post-It Notes, Binder Clips of assorted sizes, paper clips of assorted sizes, envelopes – business and letter sized, magnetic Binder Clips, two staplers, a three-ring hole punch, note cards, and notepads.  I have no real need for all of these office supplies, but I keep them just because I MIGHT need them one day.  My new job is in technology.  I do a lot of work on the computer.  Actually, everything I do is on the computer, iPad, or some other electronic device.   I have the office supplies because I get a rush every time I go to Office Max, Office Depot, Walmart, or anywhere else office supplies are sold.  I buy, buy, buy just because I like to collect office supplies.  I also like to collect First Aid kits, flashlights, and disaster supplies.  No real need now but maybe in the future.

What does that tell you about me?  It tells you that I like to be prepared.  What am I prepared for?  Pretty much anything and everything.  Why?  Just because.  I don’t like not knowing the answer to something or not having what I need when I need it. I makes me feel ill-prepared and not at my best.  I dislike being unprepared.  Years ago, I was the Scoutmaster of a Boy Scout Troop.  We went on a ten-mile backpacking trip.  My pack weighed seventy pounds.  Why?  Because I had some of everything in there in case I needed it.  Did I need half of what I had?  No.  Do I regret the extra weight? No, because I would have spent most of the trip wishing I had it.  That’s just who I am which works for me because my need to always be prepared means that I don’t do anything half-way.  I am always reading because I like having knowledge.  I don’t like not knowing.  Today, a former colleague commented on the fact that my phone extension is 411.  She thinks it’s funny because I am always looking for and giving out information.  She’s right.  It’s an appropriate descriptor of who I am.

Perhaps next time we can discuss the contents of my purse.  Probably not. I’d end up in therapy no doubt.  I can’t let too many of my compulsions out there for the world to know.  I’ll keep those secrets.

Show Me the Way

“Every kid needs a mentor.  Everybody needs a mentor.”  –Donovan Bailey

In the semi-short time I have been alive (that’s a euphemism for being middle-aged and not wanting to admit it), I have done a lot of things and volunteered for a lot of worthy causes.  I think the organization I have spent the longest amount of time with has been the Boy Scouts of America.  My oldest nephew joined when he was in 2nd grade, and he continued until he became an Eagle Scout.  Because I am the type of person I am, I went all in as a volunteer.  I started out as the Pack Advancement Chair and held various positions including Den Leader, Cubmaster, Troop Advancement Chair, Unit Commissioner, and Scoutmaster.  All the while I was involved, I participated in and conducted many training sessions.  The one that made the most impact on me was Wood Badge.  

Wood Badge is the highest level of adult training for Boy Scout volunteers.  It consists of two phases of training – the practical phase and the application phase.  The practical phase meant I spent six days working and living in a camp site in a patrol with strangers while at the same time receiving leadership training.  The application phase meant I had to do five projects that were my ‘tickets’.  I had 18 months to complete my tickets, and then I received my Wood Badge Beads.  I later served on four Wood Badge Courses as part of the staff.

I said all that to say this. During my training, we were taught the EDGE leadership model.  Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, Enable. I like the model.  I think that’s what a good mentor does.  Explains, Demonstrates. Guides. Enables. Nothing more, nothing less.  

It’s almost midnight, so this is going to be a short post. It’s been a super long day, and I need to go to bed. Early morning Google Apps training tomorrow after a long day of training today and an hour long ride to sit in a two-hour long bus driver safety meeting and then an hour long ride home. I love going to bed tired and happy.  I also love that I am still writing my blog.

What I See Today and What Will Be Tomorrow!

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”

 –Marianne Williamson

 

In the short time I have been an instructional technology coach, I have come across teachers who say that technology isn’t for them.  They say they don’t get it, and they don’t think they ever will.  I heard that a lot when I was a classroom teacher, and I said it a lot in every single math, science, and physical education class I ever took.  Well, except for the Basic Camp Management class I took in college.  I excelled in that class.  I learned so much that quarter in college, and I have used every bit of that knowledge in every job since then.  I understand that some people are intimidated by technology.  I am lucky because I have always been fascinated by computers, gadgets, and the Internet.  Even though I understand that some people don’t want to use technology, I feel that if I show them just a little, they will become sort of intrigued and want more.  That’s my hope at least. I’m going to try my best to make sure that happens.

photo 1I am supposed to go into the schools to deliver training.  The topics range from Google Apps to Mimio to Digital Citizenship.  I would like to offer advanced sessions for those who want more than what I can do during their planning period.  I would like to get a group together and teach them about digital storytelling and student blogging.  In my mind, I think that teachers would be willing to do some after school training sessions here at our office.  We have a lab, and I like to think of the lab as my classroom.  I picture teachers working together for a common goal.  I picture myself as the facilitator – providing the place and basic instruction – and they run with it.  I could also do other training sessions as well.  I just want the teachers to feel comfortable with technology and not feel that they can’t use it and use it well.  I don’t want them to feel so intimidated that they never use it.  If that happens, they lose and their students lose.  

 In this now empty lab, I see so many possibilities. I see teachers from this district working as a group.  In time, they will reach out to teachers across the country and globe.  They will bring that knowledge into their classrooms and create a powerful learning environment for their students.  Imagine that – global learning experiences right here in Griffin, Georgia.  That’s what I see when I see the empty lab.  I see the world.