#Resilient and #Successful

She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.

Elizabeth Edwards

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At the beginning of 2018, I wrote about my #OneWord for the year. I chose #resilient as my word. I chose resilient because 2017 was a tough one for me personally, and I felt that my personal life was affecting my professional life. No, I did not lose my job or anything like that, but the things that happened outside of the office didn’t distract me so much as they frustrated me because I did not feel that I had control of my life. Too much was going on, and I did not want to wallow in a pool of self pity nor did I not want to achieve the goals I had set for myself professionally. I was made of stronger stuff than that. I come from ‘good people’ as we like to say in Georgia. So I decided that I would take a look at what happened in 2017 and move beyond it in 2018.

Now that I am just hours away from beginning 2019, I can say that my #OneWord was a very good choice. I was resilient. Things happened. I dealt with them and moved on. Most of the time. I am not perfect, so I am not going to pretend that I handled all situations in the best possible manner. Not always, but I did eventually move on. I recovered from my gallbladder surgery. Having it out meant a change in my diet, but I feel much better than I have in years, and I don’t necessarily miss the things I can no longer eat. My family suffered the loss of my mother’s last sibling in October. My Aunt was only 57 when she succumbed breast cancer. Losing her was hard for many reasons. She was only seven years older than I am. She was my mother’s last sibling. She was my fellow softball coach, Girl Scout Troop Leader, and travel companion. When I first graduated from college, we spent a lot of time together. I didn’t have a job, and she was always up for going somewhere or doing something. I lived with her and her daughter briefly after I finished graduate school and began my teaching career. There are days that I still can’t believe she is gone.

The young man who came to live with me in 2017 for 235 days went home. When he left, I believed that I had seen the last of him. Thankfully, he is once again part of my life. His mother lets him call, come over, and continue to participate in Cub Scouts every week. I am still waiting for my forever child. The little one tells me that he will be around to play with my child and has already made plans to go to Disney World with us once the adoption is finalized. I never would have believed such a thing this time last year. However, I promised myself that I would let things happen according to God’s will, and this appears to be His will.

My work projects for 2018 are being carried over to 2019. The mobile STEAM bus I mentioned previously is still in progress. It should be on the road in the next month or so. I can’t wait to see our students in our district actively engaged in learning. The bus will be the culmination of a seventeen year dream to have something that honors the memory of my mother. She devoted herself to a life of service for the children in whatever community we happened to be in at the time. Unfortunately, she lost a battle with cancer in 2001. I want to continue her legacy, and this bus is just part of a bigger plan. My first solo book will be out sometime this year. I am blessed to be part of the EduMatch Publishing family. I say first because it is my intention to write many books. There is an English teacher still inside me who longs to get words on paper and books in the hands of students.

Looking ahead…

  1. Turning 50 this year is a big deal for me. I have a plan to see all 50 States before the end of the calendar year. There are only 8 left on my list. Not sure how to make it happen, but since I have a degree in planning, I’m sure I can figure it out.
  2. #BringingBubbaHome is still at the forefront of all I do. I want to be a mother and will continue with my plans to adopt a child from foster care. My village is praying for me, and my caseworker is taking great care to make sure the right child ends up in my home. I look forward to the day I can be a mom and everything that comes with it.
  3. My book. It’s being worked on, and I am excited to see the finished product. This will be a dream come true for many reasons. I have a story to tell, and I also want to start and/or continue a conversation about educating children of color. I have a voice, a story, and an obligation to share both with the world.
  4. ISTE 2019. The conference is returning to Philadelphia which is exciting to me for a few reasons. ISTE 2015 was the first BIG edtech conference in which I was a presenter. I got out of my comfort zone and connected with educators from around the world. This year’s conference will mean that I have begun my term as the ISTE Edtech Coaches Professional Learning Network President. At the conclusion of the conference, I will spend the next year working with a phenomenal group of edtech coaches on the leadership team as well as the thousands of educators from around the world. I have learned so much from these educators and can’t wait to continue the work that has been happening for many years.
  5. #FaginatorTech will continue to be who I am on a daily basis. I have a job that I love as an instructional technology coach. I get to work with the hardest working teachers who provide love, guidance, and so many opportunities for the students in our district. There are so many things that I want to learn more about, so of course, I am making my list of new tech tools to learn for the year. I have to stay on top of my game. I’m okay with that. I am a lifelong learner and do not plan on stopping the learning anytime soon.
  6. The Unknown. Other things may come up. Who knows. I am a Girl Scout and a Boy Scout. I know how to ‘Be Prepared’. Whatever comes my way in 2019, I will be #Intentional about it. I will love, speak, and live with intention.

Until next time…

 

Google Expeditions

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. –Saint Augustine

My motto is, “Have suitcase, will travel.” If I could spend the rest of my days traveling, I would. However, I do not have access to unlimited funds, so I work. I work as an educator and encourage all of my former students to see as much of the world as they possibly can. I travel bitmojiknow that not all students are able to explore our country or the world right now, so to me, being able to use Google Expeditions is a way to expose them to as many experiences as possible so that maybe, just maybe a spark will be lit and later in life they will take off on grand adventures and do great things.

When Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions hit the scene, I desperately wanted to get my hands on a headset. When I had the opportunity at ISTE, I was absolutely amazed and felt like our students would be just as awestruck as I was. I begged my boss, but because of budget limitations, it was not possible at the time. Finally, right before Christmas this year (great gift, I know), we found a way to build our own kits that would be put in the hands of our teachers. This is how we were able to expose our students to the world beyond their classrooms and our city.

Our Process – Phase 1

We initially purchased 15 Kxox V2s from Knox Labs. Instead of purchasing the Google Cardboards from Google (strictly a financial decision), we went to a different retailer. This is a pilot project and we want to make sure that it is feasible to move forward before we make a huge financial investment. Making a decision on what kind of device to use for the kit was a harder decision. After doing some research and not getting a conclusive Google Expeditions kit Contentsanswer as to the suitability of an iPod Touch, we made the decision to utilize iPhones. In our district, all building administrators and central office administrators are issued iPhones. Some were eligible for an upgrade, so we upgraded them and retrieved their old phones. Once the phones were reset to factory condition, my colleague Robin Harris and I set up the phones with the appropriate apps. We also disabled the features that would allow the students to add or delete apps.  The only apps that are on the phones are the ones for virtual reality. Everything else is hidden, and all of the apps are in the same location on each phone.   We also put a pass code on the phones.

We purchased boxes from Office Max. In each box, we put 15 cardboardGoogle Expeditions Checkout Form headsets – they are numbered, two power strips, and charging cables. There is also a checklist in the box indicating the contents of each box.  Robin created a Google Form that we use to keep up with the location of the boxes. Once the boxes were finished, they were ready to be put in use.

Another Box – Phase 2

After we had some success with the first set of boxes, we decided it was time to do another set. We purchased 15 more Google Cardboard headsets and upgraded the phones for the maintenance department. We again reset the phones and added the apps. Now we have 30 headsets and devices that can be checked out by our teachers. This time we added a release form that must be signed when the boxes are checked out and in. Teachers will be held responsible if something happens to any of the devices or accessories. Upon completion of the lessons, Google Expeditions Teacher Agreementteachers are asked to complete a short Google Form to reflect on the experience and also to give us feedback or suggestions. We are also working on creating a list of available expeditions for the teachers to use. As we make plans for next school year, we will offer additional trainings for the teachers. We want to make sure that they know how to successfully lead an expedition and seeing it from the student’s perspective will help tremendously.

Future Considerations

Going forward with this project will mean making some changes. For instance, we purchased the cardboard headsets. They will not withstand the wear and tear inflicted by constant student use. In the near future, we will have to purchase sturdier headsets. I would like to encourage more schools to purchase some and have us provide training and curricular support. If more schools purchase kits, then more students will have access. I am hoping that at some point, Google will enable features that allow teachers or students to create their own expeditions. Talk about 21st Century Skills! I am looking forward to having them ready for the next school year. Having two kits in use will give us good data to analyze. Also, I am eager to get my hands on an iPod Touch to see if they work or not. If they do, I think that we may be able to get more kits because we won’t have to worry about having cell phones. We can purchase iPods for much less money.

Until Next Time,autodraw 5-9-2017 (2)

#OneWord 2016

Life is not about making others happy.  Life is about sharing your happiness with others. — Unknown

For the last five weeks, I have been recovering from major surgery. Although I am a planner, and I did a LOT of planning, I was unprepared for all that came after I got out of the operating room.  From the moment that my surgery was scheduled, I had my handy dandy Google Keep to-do list, and I added items just as soon as they popped into my head. By the time I went to bed the night before the surgery, everything was checked off my list. Everything.  I tried to plan for every contingency, and I read everything I could get my hands on. I even watched a YouTube video of my surgical procedure.  I went to several stores and purchased all kinds of things – just in case.  You would think that with all the planning I did beforehand, I would have been better prepared. I was not. I can safely say that the only thing I really needed was the socks.

In retrospect, what got me through my recovery could not have been planned. I got through my recovery because people shared.  I did none of the sharing, but after reflecting on my journey to a better quality of life post-surgery, I realized how very important sharing is. That realization came as a result of many people in my life who were willing to do just that for me. On the heals of my realization, I decided that my #OneWord for 2016 would be #share.  Yes, I know that I am almost three weeks into the New Year, but I am of the opinion that late is better than never. Besides, I am still recovering from major surgery :-).  Moving forward into 2016, I plan to do more sharing of my time, talents, and treasures.

Time

Time is a valuable asset.  In my opinion, giving of your time is one of the most selfless things a person can do. As a child, I valued the time my parents gave. I remember spending hours watching my mother as she prepared delicious meals and sweets for our family and friends. My dad was a soldier in the Army. Although he worked a full day and went to school at night, there were many evenings that he and other dads would join the neighborhood kids as we played baseball.  In the last month since my surgery, I have been blessed to have been visited by many friends.  They didn’t have to come by my house to check on me; they chose to give their time to visit.

380683_10150916701263495_1786097225_nI recently visited with high school classmates I had not seen since we graduated. I graduated in 1987. There is really not a good reason to not see friends. I plan to make more time to be with my friends. Spending time with friends and even strangers is a gift.

 

 

Talents

10690092_10100807492346128_3639217814012418563_n (1)Everybody has a talent. Many will say they don’t have a talent, but they do. Sometimes we just have a hard time identifying what our talent(s) may be.  I love to organize and volunteer. If I am not volunteering, I feel lost.  Right now, there are three organizations that are receiving my talents – the University of West Georgia Alumni Association, the Flint River Council Boy Scouts of America, and the American Red Cross. Each organization is dear to me for different reasons, and I feel strongly about giving back. I can’t write big checks, but I can give my time and my talents. Once my recovery is complete, I will jump back into my role as a volunteer. I have missed the connections I made with the people I’ve met.

Treasures

Money. I’d love to have more money. I don’t; however, I can give what I am able when I am able.  There are lots of people who can write big checks, but I am not one of them.  I am a public school employee with limited financial resources.  What I do know is this – I can give a modest donation and paired with other modest donations, a difference can be made. 10628438_10152249039966854_847612148131057242_n

 

In 2016, I plan to give my time to those I care about and organizations whose missions are in line with my personal values. My plan is to apply my #OneWord to my personal life, but I think that as a tech coach, #sharing would benefit the teachers in my district, the students, myself, and maybe even the whole world.

#OneWord

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Maya Angelou

241370_10150597038840570_1955179_oMy mother would have been 68 today.  I say would have because she lost her battle with metastatic vaginal melanoma thirteen years ago.  Before her diagnosis, she worked in our local school system as a kindergarten para-professional.  She did other things as well.  She founded a mentoring program at her elementary school, the Men and Women of Orrs.  It started out as a way to get positive male role models for some of the boys at the school and grew into a program that served both boys and girls and as a result, the students were able to spend quality one on one time with adults. My mother was able to get sponsors for the program, organize field trips, and was featured in an ad in People magazine. She was a Girl Scout leader, a Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader, a room mother, PTA officer, band parent, and an Army wife. I really can’t put into words all of what she did because she did so much.  She did everything that needed to be done, and she did it with passion.  She baked, sewed, worked outside of the home, and managed to move our family each time the Army said move. Unfortunately, the cancer diagnosis robbed her and us.  Once she was told her cancer was terminal (she was given six months to live), she gave up.  I’m not judging because I don’t know what I would do in that situation.  I suppose she really didn’t give up.  She was given six months to live.  She held the cancer off for eighteen months.

I speak of my mother today because it’s her birthday, and because I want to honor her memory.  I think she knew I wanted to be a teacher; however, she passed away three years before I started teaching.  I think she would be happy with the teacher I became. As I make more of a concerted effort to blog, I have been trying to get focused on my not-so-new anymore job.  I came across an idea last week that really struck a chord with me.  I have been making resolutions for a long time, and I have been not keeping resolutions for even longer. While looking at Twitter, I noticed the hashtag #OneWord.  I did some reading and realized that I didn’t need to make resolutions for this year.  Why set myself up for failure?  There are a lots of things I need to do.  I know it so why make a list.  I needed to find my #OneWord for the year, and let that word drive everything I do.  Because I have been thinking of my mom and all that she did, it came to me that my #OneWord is #passion. She did everything with passion, and it served her well.  I can do the same.

For 2015, I will let passion be my guide.  

As an instructional technology coach, I will approach my job with passion.  The teachers in my district deserve my very best. If I give them my best, they will be better equipped to share our district technology initiatives with our students.  We are here for the students.

As a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend, I will approach my life with passion.  I owe it to myself, my family, and friends. Life is short. There is a great big world outside of my home. Living a life with passion means I will love, laugh, and most important, LIVE. I will go, do, see, explore, and learn.

Happy Birthday, Mom.  You lived your life with passion.  For you, I will do the same.

Looking Back, Around, and Ahead

“We keep moving forward , opening new doors and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” –Walt Disney

It’s almost the end of another year.  I have had 16,697 days during the course of my lifetime to get things right. I haven’t. Am I going to spend the last couple of days of this year wishing I could do things differently?  Nope. Been there.  Done that. Instead, I am going to focus on the good things of this year and the even better things that will happen next year.  I am not trying to gloss over the not-so-good things that have happened.  Why? Because those things have happened, I’ve learned from them, and I am ready to move forward.  If I spend time worrying about what I did, I will miss out on new opportunities. I’ve already been here for a lot of days. I  want to make good use of the ones I have left.

At the beginning of 2014, I thought about all the things I wanted to accomplish. Some were personal; some were professional. I have spent a large part of my life thinking that I can always do better. I am always wanting to improve who I am and what I do. Not much has changed in that sense. I want to do better. I want to be better. I AM better than I was this time last year. I WILL be better than I am this time next year.  Self-improvement is a continuous process. I can’t stop. I won’t stop. This time last year, I was a high school English teacher as well as the varsity swim coach and the student council adviser. I went to work each day hoping to teach some English lessons and a lot of life lessons. I wanted to do the same with the extracurricular activities for which I was responsible. As a teacher and coach, it was my duty. A duty I took seriously.  Now that I am no longer those things, I cherish the times I had with my students. I would like to think I taught more than English. They also taught me a good bit.

Two of my swim team members who are now studying at the University of Georgia.

Being a teacher and a coach defined most of my life. Most of my waking hours were spent at the school teaching, meeting, advising, and just being. My away from school hours were spent preparing for the hours at the school.  There wasn’t much to my life outside of the school. At the time, I was okay with things being that way. Now, I wish things had been different. I don’t mean I wish I wasn’t a teacher. I just wish that I had balanced more of Leslie with Ms. Fagin or the Faginator as some of my students called me. As the year progressed, I became more involved with the Alumni Association at my college alma mater, the University of West Georgia. I graduated from UWG for the first time in 1992 and the second in 2003. In the early years, I had other commitments, so I was not involved with the Alumni Association. On a whim, I decided to apply for a seat on the board. I was accepted and have enjoyed every moment since.

spring alumni weekend 2014This is probably the first thing that I have done that is just for me.  I am not a teacher, a Scout leader, a 4-H volunteer, club adviser, or team coach.  I am Leslie Fagin, graduate, giving back to my university.  As a board member, I have the awesome opportunity to serve ice cream to incoming students and their parents during Summer Orientation.  Serving ice cream allows me to think back to my times at what was then West Georgia College with an enrollment of a little more than 6,000 to what is now the University of West Georgia with an enrollment of more than 12,000. I remember my days, the friendships made, the lessons learned, the opportunities taken and the opportunities missed. Serving ice cream connects me with the new students and allows me to remain a part of the history of the University for just a little longer. I also have the honor of helping to plan Spring Alumni Weekend events and Fall Homecoming Week events. Although I am really a baseball fan, I have enjoyed fall at West Georgia.  The Alumni Association hosts a tailgate before each home football game. I don’t make all of them, but the ones I have attended have been refreshing. I have had conversations with members of the Blue Coats. The Blue Coats are the ambassadors for the University. They are well-rounded students who went through a stringent vetting process in order to represent the University at various functions. I love talking to them.  They are in awe of how much things have changed since my time on campus.  I also get to speak with alumni who graduated from our school long before I was ever born. I like hearing their stories. Our stories may be different, but we have a common bond. We love the University, regardless of the name on our degrees.

ELA academy pictureAs 2014 progressed, so did I. The opportunity to apply to present at a conference was given to me. Most won’t believe this, but I do not like public speaking. I get incredibly nervous, don’t sleep the night beforehand, and cannot eat at all for fear of not keeping food down. However, I do it because the profession I was called to do requires it. Okay, maybe required isn’t the right word. Speaking in front of my students was not hard. Speaking in front of adults is. When the Georgia Department of Education put out a call for proposals for the Summer Academies for English Language Arts, I worked with two colleagues and put in a proposal. After presenting our proposal in front of members of the Griffin RESA, we were accepted. My team agreed that we would present at two conferences.  The first one was at Kennesaw State University and the second was at the Coastal Georgia Center of Georgia Southern University. Of course, I was incredibly nervous, but we did well. Until I presented at the conferences, I did not realize that I would like presenting.  While presenting, I felt a sense of validation that I had not felt as a classroom teacher. I loved teaching, but rarely did I get immediate feedback nor validation. As a presenter, I got both, and I liked it. A lot.

About the time of the conferences was when I realized that I needed to make a move professionally. I did, and that’s how I became an Instructional Technology Coach for my local school system. My world is different now. It’s a good different. I am getting the validation that I was not getting as a classroom teacher.  My need for validation is probably because I am 45 years old and spent a large part of my life taking care of others. I am now taking care of me. I am getting to go to schools and train teachers on using technology. I do social media. I do conference presentations. I judge FIRST Lego League competitions. I work with students during the Hour of Code events in our district. I create, collaborate, communicate, and critically think.  In doing those things, I am taking care of me. It’s different, but it’s good. I can see me doing this for a while.

What’s ahead? Who knows. There are so many things on the horizon. I am going to dig deeper into the world of Google. IGoogle Educator certificate completed the Google Educator course a couple of weeks ago.  I want to apply for the Google Teacher Academy. I also want to attend a Google Summit this coming up year. I am presenting at the Georgia Council of Teachers of English Conference in February.  My topic is digital storytelling. I have recently discovered that I like photography. I want to use that love as a basis for future conference presentations. Technology and photography go hand in hand in my world. I am going to share that love with Georgia teachers. Our students have stories to tell. We just need to give them a voice.

0701141207My big deal next year is ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education conference. I attended for the very first time this past summer. It was a technology nerd’s dream come true kind of place. In 2015, it will be in Philadelphia. I’ll be there AND presenting there with my friend and co-worker Robin.  Getting notification that our proposal was accepted was absolutely incredible.  There was such a high that night. I was all over Twitter and Facebook sharing the news.  Right before bed, it hit me. I was going to be presenting at the biggest technology conference in the world.  Me. Leslie Renee Fagin. The little shy girl who doesn’t like public speaking will be speaking at an international conference.  I couldn’t help it. The tears just flowed. I am excited, nervous, and also thankful.  I am curious to see where my path will go in 2015. I do know I will learn more, share more, and get out more.

My Teacher, My Mentor

“Do you know the secret of the true scholar?  In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him; and in that I am his pupil.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

I became a teacher after I had worked in the non-profit world and obtained an MS in Rural and Small Town Planning.  When I began graduate school, my intention was to pursue an MPA and continue working as a non-profit executive.  That was my plan.  God had a different plan.  One morning I woke up and realized I really wanted to be a teacher.  I looked around and found that the local alternative school was in need of a middle school language arts teacher.  I had previously taken the Teacher Certification Test and passed it, so I was eligible to teach with a provisional certificate. I interviewed and was hired.

I was hired to begin teaching in the middle of the school year.  The students had not had a fully certified teacher for the entire first semester, and I had not had any training as a teacher.  I was not nominated for Disney’s First Year Teacher Award probably in large part because I had NO idea what I was doing.  I managed behavior. I did not teach.  We made it to the end of the year.

The next year was better. Why?  I became a TAPP (Teacher Alternative Preparation Program) Teacher.  As a program participant, I was required to submit lesson plans, attend mentor meetings, and reflect on my teaching practices.  I would not have made it through the program if it weren’t for my mentor.  I was fortunate in that my mentor loved baseball, had a dry sense of humor like me, and was super organized.  Mike had the most detailed mind I had ever come across plus he was so very intelligent.  Over the course of the two years we had to work together, he observed me, shared resources with me, and most importantly, he helped shaped me into the teacher I became.  Mike always made sure he had time to answer my questions, and he encouraged me without being over-the-top syrupy or fake.  I knew when he said I did something well that he meant it.  He chose his words carefully, and I always knew that he was sincere.

I finished TAPP and received my clear renewable teaching certificate.  I was so very happy, yet at the same time I was sad.  I knew that our time together would end.  We worked together just one more year, and then we both left the school to work in other places.  I went back to my alma mater and he left to work in another county,   I often wish that I could see him and talk to him.  I want to tell him how much his help meant to me.  I want to let him know that I turned out to be a pretty okay teacher.  I just really want to say thanks for being an inspiration to a totally unprepared teacher wannabe who ended up being Teacher of the Year.  Well done, Mike.  You had a hand in all of what I have done.