If I Were a Wizard

The programmers of tomorrow are the wizards of the future. –Gabe Newell

 

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I have been a day dreamer for as long as I can remember. I spent a lot of time as a child dreaming about far away places I’d like to visit, creations I’d like to invent, and people I wanted to emulate. Part of why I was such a day dreamer was because I was an avid reader. I picked up a book and began reading at age 4 and haven’t stopped since. As a child, my mother would have to force me to put down my book and go outside to play. I ruined many a library a book because I often dropped them in the tub. Yes, I read in the bathtub. I read all the time – at school when I should have been working, at church when I should have been listening to the sermon, and even in the bed when I should have been sleeping. Reading is my escape, and I never want to lose that.

This past Friday I had the opportunity to read If I Were a Wizard to two fifth grade classes at Crescent Elementary School in Griffin, Georgia. It was World Read Aloud Day, and I was so excited to be able to share my love of reading with students in our district. I had two copies of Paul Hamilton’s book (I’m not sure why I bought two) so I decided I would read his book to the students. It was the perfect choice although to me it was just a random decision. I had not read the book before, but I realized I was instantly in love with the message not long after I began reading to the first class. If you have not read the book before, I do not want to spoil the plot although I will have to tell you enough to get my point across. The plot of the book is that a teacher asks her class the usual question of, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The underlying concept is to teach children about coding, but the point of my post is not about coding. Of course she received the usual responses such as a doctor, lawyer, football player, and such. One young man, Ralph, responded with, “I want to be a wizard!” He goes on to tell of the things he would do as a wizard. His wizardry was not the usual hocus pocus type, but more along the lines of helping people to make their lives easier, better, and meaningful. After I finished reading the book, the students and I had a conversation about theme, helping others, and following our dreams. I read the book to the second class and went back to my office with a lot to think about all because of this children’s book.

Part of my deep self-reflection came from the experience reading to our students and part came from the training I attended/coordinated the day before. A number of years ago, I became aware of sketchnoting and saw the wonderful work by many educators including Sylvia Duckworth.  I was fascinated and wanted to try my hand at creating works like hers and many others. I did a significant amount of research (Internet stalking) and found out all I could about how Sylvia sketchnotes (her tools, methods, and anything else I could find). I quickly went out and purchased an iPad and downloaded Procreate. I’ve played around with it and tried to teach myself. I was not quite successful in teaching myself. I kept seeing sketchnotes on social media, at #ISTE, and this year at GaETC, the conference committee had sketchnoters create sketchnotes of the spotlight sessions. I knew that our teachers and students would benefit from learning the art. Many of our students are visual learners, and as educators, we know that we have to meet our students where they are. Teaching them how to connect words, symbols, and images to the content would surely help them retain the information being shared in class. Not only that, but engaging them in creating their own sketchnotes would give those students who are doodlers something to do that is productive and meaningful. Through some luck and  a partnership with our Federal Programs Director, I was able to secure some Title funding to bring Sylvia to our district. Her sessions put a fire into the participants. I’ve never seen anything like it. All day long, our participants were Tweeting,  Facebooking, and talking about how they could implement sketchnoting in their classes. One of my colleagues who attended shared her knowledge with her nine-year old son. He was instantly intrigued by the thought of being able to draw his thoughts and use them to study what his teachers shared in class. That very night, he was practicing what his mother taught him. He even tried to “permanently borrow” her copy of Sylvia’s book. I was able to give him a copy of his own, and he made his mother take him to the store to get his own sketchnoting supplies.

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Friday morning, another participant shared a picture with me via social media. She was already teaching her students how to use sketchnoting. She is a speech language pathologists and is always looking for new ways to engage her students. When I tell you, she was on fire after leaving the training, she was on FIRE!!! Here’s a quick video of her reaction after being trained by Sylvia.

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Photo Credit: @RobinHarris417

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Photo Credit: @RobinHarris417

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I think that although our teachers received a superb training and excellent tools to engage their students, and two classes of fifth grade students had the opportunity to hear a life affirming story, I received confirmation that although sometimes we expect things to go one way, they go the way they are supposed to. I never thought of myself as a wizard, but I am. I help people (teachers and students) find their way and give them the tools to be successful. This past week is the week I needed. I have applied on several different occasions to become an assistant principal. This last time I applied, I did not get an interview. That was like a punch in the gut. I felt like I was ready and would be an asset to any school in our district. I let the rejection bother me for a while. It’s not anymore. I am where I am supposed to be at this time in my career. Will I be an assistant principal later? Who knows? Will I still have the ability to be a wizard and impact lives? Of course. However, at this moment in my career and my life, I am doing what matters. I am making magic for the most important people in our district – our teachers and students. Is there anything more important? What I do know is that I am a wizard and the teachers and students will continue to get the very best wizard that they deserve.

 

Until next time…

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My First but Certainly Not My Last

The solution often turns out more beautiful than the puzzle.–Richard Dawkins

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Periodically I go through phases in which I think I need a hobby. Towards the end of last year, I decided (again) that my hobby would be putting puzzles together. At another point in my life, I was all about putting puzzles together.  I like the challenge of trying to figure out where the pieces go. I like the time it allows me to think and focus on a specific task. I really like the sense of accomplishment I get when I finish the puzzle. Of course, I am always left wondering what do I do when I am done with the puzzle?  I’ve spent so much time putting it together and then what comes next? Taking it apart and starting another one? More times than not, that’s what happens. I admire the beauty of what I have done and then jump into the next challenge. My co-workers and I are doing puzzles at lunch. We eat our food and then sit around the table working together towards a common goal. Sometimes we talk and other times, we sit in a comfortable silence. Just like when I am finished, we sit back and admire our handy work and then move on to the next puzzle.

This past weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the GAFE Southern Summit held at Rising Starr Middle School in Fayetteville, Georgia. GAFE Summits are put on by the EdTechTeam, and they work in partnership with a local school system or organization to host the event. In this case, they worked with my fantastic friend Kate Crawford who is the Coordinator of Instructional Technology for the Fayette County School System.  Working together, the EdTechTeam and the Fayette County Instructional Technology Department put on one heck of a professional learning opportunity.  I remember speaking with Kate prior to the 2015 Summit, and she asked if I would be attending. I told her no because I felt it was too much money, and at the time, I did not see the value in it. After spending two days in Google heaven, I wish I could take those words back. I WAS WRONG.

From the moment I received my registration confirmation in the mail, I was excited about attending. Not sure why.  This wasn’t my first conference. I’ve been to ISTE and GaETC twice. I have also attended a couple of Edcamps, and we even hosted the first ever Edcamp Griffin this past fall. The GAFE Southern Summit just had a different feel to it even before I ever set foot on the Rising Starr Middle School campus. Saturday morning I was up and ready to go. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I got myself out the door, drove to my colleague Robin’s house to pick her up, and we were off. Disclaimer: Robin and I are not morning people. We rode in relative silence all the way to Fayetteville. Our respective quiet times are an everyday occurrence in our office. We have to have time to wake up and process the fact that we are no longer in the comfort of our warm and cozy beds. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the conference and walked up to a  gregarious group of Google people. They were laughing, talking, welcoming people, and for reasons known only to God and them, they were taking selfies. Who does that before noon? Not us. GAFE Southern Summit 2016_picmonkeyedActually, it quickly became us. Who could resist Dave Hotler? His smile and charm are contagious. I quickly forgot that I was out of bed, functioning, and began to absorb all that the GAFE Southern Summit had to offer. We checked in, decorated nametags, and enjoyed a delicious breakfast provided by Panera Bread.

Remember, Robin and I are not morning people. Rushton Hurley’s keynote was exactly what two non-morning people needed at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. “The only person to whom you ever need to compare yourself is the you who you were yesterday.” Rushton hit the nail on the head. I don’t want to suffer from CIS (Comparative Inadequacy Syndrome) because I already suffer from CRS (Can’t Remember Stuff). I want to be better, do better, live better!  I do not need to compare myself to anybody else. I am who I am!  What a way to start the conference!

From Rushton’s keynote to multiple interactive sessions, my brain was constantly spinning. How did I miss the usefulness of ClassFlow? I had heard of it, but I had not taken time to truly sit down and play with it. We will call that a loss for Leslie. However, that loss has turned into a win. I have another tool for my tech coach tool kit. More tools for my tool kit: BreakoutEDU. OMG! My group did not finish before time ran out, but I loved trying to figure out the clues. I can see so many uses for it in my professional learning sessions and in the classroom.  I’m planning on having one when school starts in the fall.  Cat Flippen shared SO much with Google Geo Tools, Google Hangouts, and Google Hangouts on Air. My mind is already thinking how I can use the video managing feature in YouTube to make my video for my next Google Innovator application. The first time I applied, I was not accepted. This time will be different. I have had a lot of time for self-reflection, and I have a new sense of determination. The ideas won’t stop coming!   Anyway, back to the Summit. The Demo Slam at the end of the day was phenomenal! I’ve seen them done at Edcamps before, but none of the ones I attended had such trash talk flowing freely. It was great to see the sense of competitiveness yet affection among the presenters. I like how they are passionate about their chosen apps, about winning, and about respecting the craft of their fellow educators.  It was pure, clean fun with a hint of a competitive edge to it. Donnie Piercey shared How Not to EdTech in the Sunday morning keynote. Loved it!  As an ed tech person, thinking about how to do it wrong is well, very thought provoking.  Speaking of thought provoking, Dave’s session on Capturing Creativity caused me to step back and think about whether or not I was encouraged to be creative as a child, a teen making the transition to adulthood, and even in my past and current jobs. Did I encourage my students?  Am I encouraging the teachers I work with?  I don’t have a definite answer. Yet.

There were many more sessions at the Summit.  There were probably over 300 educators in attendance. So much knowledge in one place. So much learning, sharing, and exploring. Once I got home Sunday evening, I tried to figure out how I was going to put all this knowledge into use. How could I share it with the teachers in my district who in turn will share it with the students?  I realized, as tired as I was, that going to the GAFE Southern Summit was a lot like putting together a puzzle.  Saturday morning I had all these pieces and no idea how they fit together. Saturday evening I had the outside frame together. By Sunday evening, most of the inside was done.  In order for me to finish the puzzle, I have to get a plan for disseminating all the Google goodness I learned about during the weekend. Once I start sharing and the teachers start doing and the students are creating, collaborating, and communicating, then the beauty of the completed puzzle will be done.  I can step back, admire my handiwork, and find another puzzle to put together.

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I’ve Arrived. Almost.

I’ve learned in my life that it’s important to be able to step outside my comfort zone and be challenged with something you’re not familiar or accustomed to. That challenge will allow you to see what you can do.  –J.R. Martinez

The year I turned 30, I decided I would go on a trip every single month for the year.  It did not have to be a huge trip, but I had to get out and see stuff. I felt like 30 was a big deal, so I needed to do it big. In retrospect, I had gotten complacent with what I was doing, and I wanted more. Wanting more seems to be a recurring theme in my life. Almost 17 years later, I still want more. My plans to go somewhere every month took off. I went to North Carolina to ski and hike with friends, Gatlinburg for a singles conference, Mobile for a work conference, Alabama for a singles conference (yes, I am still single even though I spent a lot of time at singles conferences), Ohio for my grandfather’s funeral (not really a vacation, but I counted it anyway),  and the Grand Canyon which included stops in Washington, DC, Chicago, and New Orleans.

Not long after I returned from the Grand Canyon, I started to pursue employment opportunities that would take me away from my home in Griffin, GA. I interviewed for a job in Lake Jackson, Texas and decided that was not the place for me.  I next applied for a job in San Jose, California.  Every since I was a little girl, I wanted to live in California. I remember watching the shows from the ’70’s, CHIPS and Charlie’s Angels especially, and I imagined myself living, working, and playing near the beach. Moving 3,000 miles across the country based on childhood dreams seemed like a perfectly logical thing to do.  I applied for the job, had a phone interview, and was invited to meet with the executives while in Kansas City, Missouri while at the National Girl Scout Council meeting. Based on the interview, I was convinced I would not be offered a job. I was wrong. At the end of October, I received a phone call asking me to come work for the Girl Scouts of Santa Clara County Council. I accepted the job and began the process of leaving one job, my family, and my whole life to start anew in California. I did not know anybody. I did not have a place to live. I had not even seen my office.  Other than what I saw on the internet, I had no idea what I was getting into by moving to San Jose. However, I stepped out on faith.  On Saturday, November 27, 1999, I put my little red Hyundai Accent in reverse, backed out of my parents driveway, and headed out west towards new dreams, opportunities, and challenges.

Going to California was the best and worst thing I could have done for myself. I ended up only staying in California for 7 months. The week after I left, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. A month later, we found out it was terminal. I came home because I wanted to be with my mother as she lived the last days of her life. Although I wanted to come home immediately, my parents convinced me to stay until July. I did, and I am glad I followed their advice. I needed to leave home. I needed to step out of my comfort zone. I needed to know that I could do what others said I couldn’t.  Moving to California would mean that I had finally arrived, albeit a few years late, to adulthood.

I feel the same way now. I have been an instructional technology coach for nearly two years. I have done a lot of training sessions with teachers, presented at numerous local, state, and international conferences, and maintained somewhat of an online presence, yet I am finally at the point where I feel like I am actually coaching.  I can’t put a word to what I would call what I have been doing, but now I am coaching. I am helping a school as they pilot a 1:1 Chromebook rollout. My job entails working with two teachers as they transition to a more deliberate and focused use of technology on a daily basis. This feels more like coaching than what I have been doing for the past two years. In my coaching sessions, I am sharing with them what and how to implement SAMR. We will examine data, create rigorous lesson plans, engage (hopefully) the students, and see positive academic growth. I will model lessons for the teachers. I am excited about the direction in which my coaching is heading. I guess I can say that I have almost arrived at being a real live instructional technology coach. Finally.

I suppose that just like the day I left home and headed to California not knowing what I was getting into, I have no idea how this will turn out. That’s not even really an issue at this point because I have to prove to myself that I am capable of being not just an instructional technology coach, but a darn good one. I am all about challenges and accomplishing goals. I think that all of the jobs I’ve had prepared me for this moment in my career. It’s time for me to take what I have learned and what I have done and do more. Doing more will challenge me and show me what I am made of. I am long past the year I turned 30, but I still need to step out of my comfort zone and have some excitement, incredible learning experiences, and a reason to keep striving for the next set of goals.25184_10150177512170570_2019967_n

 

#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.