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.

No (Wo)Man Is an Island

“Leslie is a loner.  She does not play well with the other children.”  I don’t think I was meant to see that. Okay, I know I wasn’t supposed to see it, but I did. My sixth grade teacher wrote that statement in my school file. That was her observation at the end of the year. I saw it and was bothered, but I knew there was some truth to what she said. I am a loner. I didn’t always play well with other children. I’ve always been an introvert though many will disagree.  As a child, trying to get others to be my friend was hard.  I had a few, so I felt I was okay.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to moderate an EduMatch Tweet and Talk hosted by my friend Sarah Thomas.  Sarah has been doing the Tweet and Talks for a couple of months now. I have enjoyed being a panelist, and last night was my first time moderating the Google Hangout. I had suggested a topic to Sarah, and she suggested that I be the moderator. Being me, I was excited and reluctant. Excited because I want to branch out and connect with others but yet I was reluctant because I am afraid of branching out and connecting with others.  Makes no sense, I know.

During the course of the broadcast, I realized I missed talking with my PLN. I know how powerful Twitter and Voxer can be, but I found myself withdrawing into Leslie’s world over the last couple of months. I had gotten away from the Twitter chats and the Voxer groups partly because I have been incredibly busy but also because I have a tendency to seclude myself. As an instructional technology coach, I can’t do that. There is so much out there I need to know about. There are so many educators who are doing phenomenal things, and I am missing out because I am stuck in Leslie’s world. It’s not a bad place, but it’s not where I need to be all day every day. I miss asking questions about how to do something and getting different perspectives from others who are in the trenches just like I am. I also just miss the interaction.

What does that mean for me? I guess it means I have to make more of a deliberate effort to get re-connected to my PLN. I have questions about what I am doing and people in my PLN can help me navigate the ever-changing, sometimes murky, technology waters. I don’t have to do this alone. I can’t do it alone. I am not going to get anywhere by staying in Leslie’s world. It really is a great place, but there is a bigger world out there with some super smart people. Those people can help me, so I suppose I better get up and go to them.

The way to Everest in not a Yellow Brick Road.”  –Jon Krakauer

I am a list maker. I make lists before I go on vacation. My vacation lists have lists – what to pack, what souvenirs to purchase, what to see, what I can leave behind if there’s not room in my suitcase, and foods I have to try. There is even a list of emergency plans for just-in-case.  I make lists for what needs to be done at work. I secretly like to make lists for other people. I do that when I think they aren’t organized enough. My Bucket List even has lists.  I love my Bucket List (all three pages of it). A lot of careful planning has gone into the contents of my list. Not because I am trying to check things off so I can die. I just want to make sure I experience all that life has to offer. There is a natural curiosity inside of me. I want to see everything, go everywhere, and know everything. Some of the items are easier than others. Singing karaoke in front of a crowd isn’t too terribly difficult, but it’s on my list. It’s there because singing in public is not really who I am, so it’s a stretch for me to get up and sing. Plus, I can’t sing. I am tone-deaf. Of course, I don’t care that I can’t sing. I just want to do it.

Other things on my list include travel and lots of it. I want to see the world. I want to step foot on EVERY single continent. I want to see historical sites, try new foods, observe the locals in their home. I want to pick up a few foreign phrases, barter at the market, picnic while watching the Northern Lights. Some items are harder and will take careful planning. Since I am a planner, that won’t be hard. One item that is on the list is the Appalachian Trail. At first, I just said I would be happy spending the night on the trail. I thought a lot about the Trail and what it means to so many. Now, I want to hike the entire trail from start to finish, Georgia to Maine. I have no idea how or when I will do it, but it will get done.  By far, that will be the hardest thing for me to complete. I don’t really care that it’s hard. I just want to do it. I need to accomplish something that to most seems impossible. Heck, it seems impossible to me, but I will do it. I need a challenge in my life.

Not long ago, I read a book, No Summit Out of Sight: The True Story of the Youngest Person to Climb the Seven Summits. Jordan Romero is the youngest person to summit the highest mountain on each continent. My goals are not that lofty. I’m happy with the AT. I did feel inspired in his book when he said that people need to find their Everest. Find what challenges you and go for it. Because I am fond of hashtags, I am adopting #FindYourEverest as one of mine. I want to be challenged. I don’t want to take the easy way (not all the time); I want to have meaning in my life.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail will not be the only #FindYourEverest challenge for me. There will be others.  Still pondering…

Whatever the new challenges are, rest assured I won’t quit. Quitting means no more list making. Half the fun of doing something is making the corresponding list. Cue “Gonna Fly Now“…

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That’s the Philadelphia Museum of Art behind me!

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The City of Brotherly Love in the background.

The view from the top of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Yes, I made it to the top of the “Rocky” steps. Not an easy task, but I completed it.

#FindYourEverest

A New Beginning that Never Ends

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” –Albert Einstein

My last first day of school was in 1987. Just like in previous years, the night before was not a restful night for me.  Finally, I was a senior in high school. I stayed up all night because I was so excited. I wondered about my teachers, and I wondered if I would have classes with any of my friends. I gave little thought to my actual class work because I was a good student. I really did not have to put much effort into what I did at school. My grades were good, and I did not worry about getting into a good college.  Side note: I was accepted into every college that I applied to but decided to go the what was then known as West Georgia College. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who previously was a professor at the College called it the ‘Harvard of the South’. It was at West Georgia that my passion for service, leadership, and ultimately, servant leadership was born.

School starts in a couple of weeks for the students in my district. As an instructional technology coach, I work 210 days, so summer vacation is over for me. Going back to work does not bother me at all. I love what I do, and I look forward to learning new things and sharing my knowledge with the teachers. I’ve missed my colleagues, and I miss the day-to-day routine that comes with work.  I am just as excited about going back to work as I was about going back to school. There’s still a nerdy little kid inside of me.

Getting ready to go back to work made me think about school. I think about what the students need to do and what they will actually do. I think about their hopes and dreams and fears and insecurities.  I think about the teachers, and I think about the administrators.  From time to time, I wonder how things would be if I had my own school. Would I be a good administrator?  Would the students achieve academic success?  Would they have good character?  Would I be able to take off my principal hat and get involved in student activities? What about the teachers?  Would I be firm yet fair in their eyes?  Would I be the kind of instructional leader they could respect?  Would I be an effective school leader?  What would my school look like?

I wonder what things would be like if I had gotten a job as an assistant principal. I interviewed several times, yet I was not selected.  Each time I got the phone call, I felt more dejected than before. I felt I was qualified.  Why couldn’t the interview committee see that?  Looking back in retrospect, I realize that I wasn’t supposed to be an assistant principal.  At least not at that time in my career. I am where I am supposed to be.  I am full of anticipation for a new school year. I am fresh off the high that only an ISTE attendee can have.  I have so many ideas about what to do with the teachers and things I want to do for my own professional and personal growth.

As I mentionedIMG_2784ned in the beginning of my post, I graduated from high school in 1987. My class was the first class to graduate from the ‘new’ Griffin High School. Our motto, “A New Beginning That Never Ends”.  That’s how I feel.  I’m not new anymore, but my new job is a new beginning that never ends.  I am an instructional technology coach and with it comes so many possibilities.

Anticipation and Reality

“We are ever on the threshold of new journeys and new discoveries. Can you imagine the excitement of the Wright brothers on the morning of that first flight?  The anticipation of Jonas Salk as he analyzed the data that demonstrated a way to prevent polio?” –Joseph B. Wirthlin

I remember learning about anticipation in two ways. The first was watching tv. Heinz had amazing commercials.  I could sympathize with the characters in the commercials. Waiting for the ketchup to slowly drip out of the bottle and onto my burger or hotdog was excruciating when I was hungry. It seemed to take forever for the ketchup to end up on my food so I could eat. I also learned about anticipation every year on the night before the first day of school. I could never sleep because I was so anxious to get my year started. I was a good student and never really had trouble in school until 9th grade algebra, so I’m not sure why I was so anxious. I guess I just wanted to get started and hated the wait.  I still hate waiting. Not much has changed since I started school in the ’70’s. I want my ketchup on my food in a hurry, and I want school to get started yesterday.

I have been to the ISTE conference (International Society for Technology in Education) twice. Last year I had no idea what to expect, and I spent most of my time being overwhelmed. I was a brand new instructional technology coach, and I was at the biggest ed tech conference in the world. Although I was overwhelmed, I felt lost when it was over. I did not make many personal connections while I was there just because I was too afraid to speak to others. I have been shy since I was born, and that has not changed in the years since. I went to the Exhibit Hall and spoke to vendors. I remember a little about that experience, but since I was new and did not really know the overall technology plan for our district, I did not know where to focus my attention. I also went to sessions, but there was not an organized plan. I just went to the ones that caught my attention. After I got home, I could not figure out what I had accomplished. I did know that I wanted to go again, but this time I wanted to be more involved. I did not want to feel like I was a spectator. I wanted to be an active participant and contributor.

Because I wanted to be more involved, I submitted two presentation proposals. The first was a BYOD with my colleague Robin Harris and the second was an Ignite session. Both proposals were accepted. I was over the top excited. Actually, I cried the night I got word that the BYOD proposal was accepted. I could not believe that I would be presenting at a national conference. I could not believe that I, Leslie Fagin, was going to be an active contributor at the very same conference that had overwhelmed me the year before.

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Seeing my name above the door was very surreal. I felt like I had arrived.

Preparing for ISTE became an integral part of all I did at my job.  I wanted to make sure that I was more of a connected educator. I reached out on Google+, Twitter, and Voxer. I wanted to interact with others before I arrived in Philadelphia. Every day was one day closer to ISTE.  I read, made plans, worked on presentations, and dreamed about my debut of sorts at ISTE. In my mind, I was going to do a fabulous job of presenting and become an instant ed tech sensation.

I am at home now. I am not an ed tech sensation, yet I am not the same person I was before I left. One presentation went well and one went not-so-well. I connected face-to-face with friends made via social media. I connected with people in the Digital Storytelling Network Playground. Sharing knowledge in the playground was enlightening and validating for me. I’d like to do more of that both here and at other conferences. There are some other things I would like to work on before I go to Denver. Just like last year, I am already anticipating next year. However, unlike last year, I will not have unrealistic expectations. I will be an active contributor at the conference.  I will maintain the connections I made in Philadelphia and via social media.

Hard at work in the Digital Storytelling Network Playground at ISTE.

Hard at work in the Digital Storytelling Network Playground at ISTE.

I know what I need to do, and I will do it. There is that same sense of anticipation I had while waiting for the ketchup, school to start, and ISTE 2015 to get here. Oddly enough, as I pen this blog posting, there is a Rocky marathon on TV. I’ve seen all six movies, yet I watch anyway.  I watch partly because I just came from Philadelphia, and I like feeling connected to the City, and also because I totally get how Rocky felt each time he stepped into the ring. He anticipated greatness.  Even when Clubber Lang knocked him out, and he lost the fight, he got back up to fight another fight.  I wasn’t knocked out, but I did feel I didn’t accomplish all I set out to do. Next year will be different.

Teaching Teachers

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” –Mark Van Doren

During Christmas vacation, I had the opportunity to have breakfast with two former students.  I was touched when I received a text message that Thursday evening asking me if I had time to meet for breakfast the next morning.  In the six months or so since I haven’t been teaching, I have felt forgotten about as a teacher.  That makes no sense since I chose to not be a teacher anymore.  I suppose I feel like I am not a teacher, and I don’t make a difference anymore. Crazy, I know. Anyway, I met Cody and Paige for breakfast.  We ate, talked, laughed, and talked some more.  They are both freshmen in college.  We talked about their classes, their friends, their hopes, and their dreams. It was nice to sit down and enjoy them as grownups even though they are still kids to me. While at the restaurant, I had the opportunity to see another former student.  He goes to college at Oral Roberts University and was home for Christmas.  We didn’t chat much because he was working.  I asked him to stop by my office before he left town to return for his last year of college.

252204_10150633625000570_4042087_nMonday afternoon came, Zay came by.  He is the student body president at Oral Roberts University. He was the sophomore, junior, and student body president at our school.  He was captain of our debate team, and a leader in several other student organizations.  The fact that he has been a success in college is not really a surprise. He is about one of the most determined students I have ever met. If he says he is going to do something, he does it.  Our visit was a good one.  Since he graduated, we really had not had time to talk. Because he is so far from home, he is only home two times a  year. He comes home for Christmas, and he comes home for summer.  While he is home, he is working to earn money for school. He is a busy young man. We had a really good talk. Just like I enjoyed speaking with Cody and Paige, I enjoyed speaking with Zay. That night, I realized that my time impacting students is really over. The ones I had are finishing high school this year and will be in college next year. I spent a lot of time wondering if I was okay with knowing moments like those were over for me.

I am getting okay with it because I still have students. Some of my students are older than I am, but they are my students nevertheless.  I am teaching teachers how to use technology. The relationship is different from the one I had with my students, but there is still a student/teacher relationship. I am giving them knowledge that they can use to impact their students, increase their professional learning, and connect with educators across the globe.  To me, those are all good things.  I also know that I can have moments like that with the teachers.  Since I have started this job, I have done several training sessions on Google, Mimio, Digital Citizenship, and Safari Montage.  Robin and I also send out a newsletter every Tuesday, Tuesday Tech Tips.  Without fail, I will get an email from a teacher saying that they found a useful tip in the newsletter, and they can’t wait to try it out. I remember the day I was in Wal-Mart, and I ran into one of the math coaches for one of our high schools.  She was so excited about Hour of Code.  I was just as excited because I had never been enthusiastic about anything remotely related to math so to find a modicum of success at coding was a big deal to me.  The math coach felt the same.  She liked that we had events in most of the schools in the district and had shared resources with teachers.  She was doing it on her own.  We had a good conversation right there in frozen foods section of Wal-Mart.  The feeling was back.  I had a connection with someone. Something I had shared sparked an interest.  I felt like a teacher again. Nevermind that the woman and I had been colleagues for seven years.  I shared something with her that she was  unfamiliar with, and it sparked a desire for further study.

Because I am the kind of person I am, I have thought a lot about not teaching students anymore. Yes, my students are finishing high school this year.  They will go on to college, technical school, the military, or the workforce.  Unless they fall off the face of the Earth, I will no doubt have some contact with them.  There is Facebook, Twitter, and even Wal-Mart.  In a town like Griffin, you see everyone in Wal-Mart. Usually when you look less than your best, but that’s okay because it’s Wal-Mart.  I will see a former student or their parent or get connected with them via social media.  We will talk, and I will realize that the connection is still there.  It will be different, but it will still be there.  The same will be said of the teachers I work with.  Our relationship will change over time, but we will still learn from each other, and I will know that I continue to make a difference.  I also know that the learning will never stop. The cycle will continue.