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.

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.

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.

The Best Part of Being a Teacher

“If your actions in the classroom inspire children to achieve more, question more, and dream more, you are indeed worthy of the title ‘Teacher’.”   –Robert Jeohn Meehan

The best thing about being a teacher is not having your students as students anymore.  No, I’m not saying that I did a happy dance at the end of the school year or when a student’s schedule changed and I was no longer the teacher.  I am saying that my favorite part of being a teacher is when my students have moved on to the next phase of life.  After my students graduated, many went on to college, the Armed Forces, or technical school.  Some chose to start families and joined the work force.  Regardless of their post high school choices, they are doing well.  I like that.  I like that because they are leading productive lives.  Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I can keep up with them.  I see posts, Tweets, and pictures of them, and I know they are happy, doing well, and putting to use some or all of what I taught them.  Also, thanks to the wonders of living in a small town, I see them in Walmart, Kroger, or Friday night football games.  I also see their parents and get updates from them.

By the way, I did do a happy dance at the end of the school year, but it had nothing to do with not having students anymore.  It had everything to do with being able to sleep late, stay up late, and wear flip flops.  

 

It’s Almost a Habit

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist’.” –Maria Montessori

No teacher likes to hear the word evaluation.  I think that it evokes the same feeling of dread our students get when we start talking about the state mandated tests.  They don’t like the tests; we don’t like being evaluated.  I’m no different. I’m not teaching anymore, but I still have to be evaluated.  Otherwise, how would my district know if I am doing my job or not?  For today’s part of my blog challenge, I am supposed to write about one area of my teacher evaluation in which I would like to improve.  Well, I am new to this instructional technology coaching thing, and I am not really sure on what I will be evaluated.  I guess it’s like being a teacher, and I am evaluated on my performance.  Performance as an instructional tech coach is different, I suppose.  I don’t do lesson plans although I do have to work with my colleague who handles the elementary schools in our district to devise a training plan for the schools.  I don’t have an assigned duty – thank goodness.  I don’t have to worry about a rigorous or academically challenging learning environment, so what do I have to focus on for self- improvement or even professional improvement for that matter?  It all comes down to how well I convey the information so that the teachers can expose their students to that whole big world out there.  It’s possible through the wonders of the Internet and technology.  Lest I jinx myself and work myself out of a job, I dare say I want them to be able to work without me. However, that’s kind of what teachers do.  We teach our kids so that they can do for themselves without us.  We are preparing them for the world beyond the classroom.  

Since I am starting from scratch, so to speak, I think I should focus on how many presentations I do that are not tied to training teachers in the school setting.  The bulk of my job is to go into the schools and train teachers.  I can do that.  What I would like to do more of is outside of the school professional development.  I would like to present at conferences and do online collaborations and training sessions.  I also think there is opportunity to do some digital citizenship training sessions for parents.  Some of them have absolutely no idea what their children are doing while online.  They need to know.  Seriously.  

I guess I should make a plan.  In the next couple of weeks, I will be presenting at a local technology drive in conference.  I have also applied to present at the Georgia Educational Technology Conference; hopefully, my co-worker and I will be selected.  In my mind, I can see myself presenting at ISTE  in Philadelphia next year.  On what, I have no idea.  I just want to do it.  I also want to run up the steps that Rocky Balboa ran up in all of the Rocky movies.  Perhaps I will get lucky and in shape and do both.

Until tomorrow.  This is impressive.  I have written for three days.  I think I can do this twenty-seven more times.

A Star is Born…Maybe

“Good, bad, or indifferent, if you are not investing in new technology, you are going to get left behind.” –Phillip Green

 

I am on a roll.  Two days in a row. Watch out, world.  I may just beat this Thirty-day Blog Challenge after all.  Today I am reflecting on the one piece of technology that I would like to try this year and why.  I also have to discuss what I am hoping to see from this edtech integration.

As a tech person, it’s hard for me to pick just one piece of technology.  I love gadgets of all kinds.  I would love to have Google Glasses, and I would love to have a MacBook.  I know that a laptop is not new, but having a MacBook would be new to me.  I’ve been a PC person since forever, and I want to venture to the other side. I want to be a Mac person.  Anyway, I digress.  My new piece of technology for this year is a Swivl Camera.  I have one.  I just haven’t used it to its full advantage yet.  ASwivl Camera is a pretty cool device.  It allows me to record my training presentations using an iPad.  The device is designed to give a 360 degree view.  Once I record the presentation, I can upload the video for others to watch or for me to critique myself.  I have an instructional tech coach website.  It’s my intention to upload videos of my presentations so that teachers can review what they learned during the training or see it for the very first time if they missed the initial presentation.  I just haven’t gotten that far yet. I’m still getting my feet wet with the training part.  I think I am almost ready to venture a little farther away from the shore.

This is a Swivl unit. It works with an iPad to record the presentation.

This move away from the shore is going to stretch my comfort level.  I like getting out and interacting with the teachers. I love sharing the new stuff with them.  I also like showing them how to use the not-so-new stuff.  What will be my challenge is when I sit down and watch myself.  I need to watch myself so that I can get better.  I need to know if I am giving adequate attention to each participant in my sessions.  Am I being clear?  Are their questions being answered?  Do I have a good balance of instructional material and interactive material?  Are the participants knowledgeable enough to take what they have learned and implement it in their classes?  Bottom line, am I getting my job done?

I want to be better.  Not so very long ago, I was a classroom teacher.  I remember those ‘light-bulb moments’. I loved seeing my students get it for the very first time. I want those same moments with my teachers.  For those who are die-hard MicroSoft fans, I want to see their faces when they realize they can so so much more with the Google Apps suite.  They can have their students collaborate in real-time.  They can make comments on their students work as their students are working so that the students get immediate feedback.  They can also rest easy when they realize that they will no longer have to hear, “I lost my flash drive so I can’t turn in my work”.  I look forward to the moment when they host their first Google Hangout and meet teachers and students from across the globe.  I also can’t wait to see the anti-Twitter teachers turn to Twitter for professional learning and development.  I don’t think I am asking for a lot.  I want my teachers to be the best they can be and if that means I have to watch myself on video, I will do it.  Teachers do what they have to for their students.  Instructional tech coaches do the same for their teachers.  There is still a teacher inside of me.  I can’t turn her off.  I don’t want to turn her off.  The instructional tech coach will be using Swivl so that the teacher inside of her can do better for the teachers in the district.  Perhaps the videos will be the start of something big.  Perhaps a video series down the road.  Who knows where this will lead…

My Ideal School Year

“We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves.  It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.”

 –Earl Nightingale

I love challenges.  Most of the time, I am able to tackle the challenge and find success.  I hope that with this new challenge, I am able to find victory.  It’s a simple challenge.  Probably.  Maybe. Probably not in my case.  I came across a Thirty-day Blog Challenge.  At first I dismissed the thought.  I love my blog, and I think about posting often.  However, my intention rarely turns into a posting.  Life happens, and I get sidetracked.  I want this time to be different.  So, I have taken the challenge.  The reason is simple.  As a technology coach, I feel that I should model what I am telling teaches, and I also want to document my journey in my new position.  Let’s see how it works out for me.  

In the first day of the challenge, I have been tasked with describing my goals for the new school year.  Our school year started a month ago, but I think that the year is still fresh enough for me to be able to discuss my goals.  My goals are simple, or so I’d like to think.  Actually, I only have one real goal.  My goal is to be successful at my job.  I am a new instructional technology coach.  The position is not a new one in my district, but it is new for me.  Previously, there was one person who occupied the job, and she was charged with providing services to all of the teachers in our district.  Although we are not a super large district, we are large enough that one person 

A New Beginning

Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.
— Andy Rooney

23504_10150175186055570_5977637_n

Rigor, relevance, and relationships!

Our school district welcomed 106 new teachers to our family this week.  As has been the tradition for many years, New Teacher Orientation was held.  Our new teachers learned about the mission and vision of the district, the educator’s code of ethics, Response to Intervention (RTI), Project Wisdom and PBIS, the use of the Mimio, teacher websites, and Google Apps for Education.  Being part of the team delivering training to the new teachers was an experience for me.  In the fall of 2007, I was new to the district and participated in a similar training.  I remember being anxious, eager, and overwhelmed all at the same time.  Although I was new to the district, I was not new to teaching.  I had previously worked at the local alternative school yet I was filled with a variety of conflicting emotions.  Yesterday, I delivered the Google Apps for Education training to the new teachers.  Oddly enough, I believe many of those teachers were anxious, eager, and overwhelmed just as I was when I began my career here.

As I was talking to them about implementing Google Apps, I looked around the room.  I saw so many different emotions on their faces.  Some were so excited because they were thinking about the many uses for Google Apps, and others were frustrated because they did not think they were grasping the material as quickly as they should.  Standing at the front of the room yesterday reminded me of my many days in the classroom.  As I presented the material, I wondered if I was getting through to the new teachers just as I often wondered if I was getting through to my students.   Being an Instructional Technology Coach is a lot like being a teacher.  You plan and plan and plan and have no idea of the outcome of the lesson.  You have no idea how your students are going to receive what you are saying.  I wondered yesterday about my lesson, and I wondered how the new teachers would feel once the school year began, and they were presenting lessons.  I wasn’t tasked with talking to the new teachers about anything other than Google Apps, but if I could have, I would have shared some of my own thoughts about teaching, building relationships, and making a difference.

327358_10150860407985570_1863101243_o

With my Student Council leadership at the Homecoming Pep Rally in 2012

Teaching is hard.  I don’t mean hard like calculus, physics, or any of the math and science classes I struggled with as a student, but hard emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  I can admit there were days I cried.  I cried at the untimely deaths of several of my students, I cried because of my students and for my students, and I cried just because I didn’t know what else to do.  There were many days I would leave school, go home, get a glass of orange juice, and go to bed.  I remember my first year at Griffin High.  I taught five sections of ninth grade literature and one section of honors tenth grade literature.  Many of my ninth grade students played football.  Inevitably, the question would be asked every Friday in the Fall, “Are you going to the game tonight?”  My intentions were always good; however, I never made it to a single game that first year.  It’s not because I didn’t want to go.  As a proud Griffin High graduate, I understand the seriousness of Friday nights in Griffin.  Griffin football is a tradition.  Let me rephrase that.  Griffin football is a winning tradition and very important to this community.  I did not go to any games that first year because I was so physically drained by the end of the week.  I would go home each Friday afternoon with every intention of going to the game later that evening.  I would go home, sit down to eat dinner, and wake up on Saturday morning still sitting on the couch wearing the clothes I wore to work the day before.  I was tired, and my body demanded rest at the end of each week in order to be prepared for the next.  With every fiber of my being, I know that God called me to be a teacher, but there were many days I questioned His wisdom.  I wondered if I was reaching my students; I wondered if they knew how much I cared; I wondered if somebody else could do a better job.  Each time I felt like I should pursue other employment opportunities, God sent a message telling me to stay put.  I listened.

I stayed because that’s where I was supposed to be.  Yes, I was frustrated on many occasions, but I also found many reasons to be proud of my students and for my students. I was proud of the work I was doing with the debate team, the student council, and the swim team.  My students found success in and out of the classroom.  They were leaders in our award winning JROTC Bear Battalion, our state championship winning football team, and student government leaders at such prestigious universities like the University of Georgia and Oral Roberts University.  I am not even presumptive enough to think that their success was because of me; however, I do think that in spite of my sometimes gruff exterior, they knew I cared and wanted the best for them.  I have taught all grade levels from 6th grade thru 12th grade.  One of my biggest joys is seeing my students walk across the field after receiving their diplomas.  One  year, during a conversation with my seniors, one of them announced that he would not be participating in graduation because it really wasn’t that big of a deal.   Looking back, I probably got angrier than I should have, but I did get angry.  I told him and his classmates that by not participating, he was denying his teachers, and in particular me, the opportunity to see the results of our hard work.  I told the class that since I don’t have children of my own, being able to watch them receive their diploma was a big deal to me because to me, they were my children. I also told the young man that he was being selfish.  Not my finest teacher moment, I know.  I finished my speech, and we went on with the lesson.  I didn’t think any more about the conversation.  Fast forward to graduation.  I am sitting on the field with my colleagues, and we are watching our students receive diplomas amid cheers and well-wishes from the school administration and the board of education.  I always sit on the front row of the faculty section so I can have a good seat.  I want to be able to see my kids when they achieve one of the best moments in their high school career.  When the young man who had earlier said he would not participate in the graduation ceremony came down from the stage, he stopped in front of me and said, “I did this for you.”  He remembered.  He remembered how important it was for me to see him graduate.  When it seems like we don’t make a difference or that we are toiling in vain, we have to remember times like that.  He remembered.

As we begin another year of educating students in our district, it serves me well to remember that God called me to teach.  I’m not teaching students anymore, but I am still a teacher.  It feels a little 10399780_272260270569_665334_nodd knowing that there will be a new group of students at Griffin High, and I won’t be a part of their educational journey; however, I am okay with that knowledge.  There are others there to take my place.  I am okay with it because I know that others have been called to teach as well.  I saw the joy and anticipation in the eyes of the new teachers at orientation.  I could sense that they were ready to face any and all challenges presented to them.  I can rest easy and move on to the next phase in my career because I know that there will be someone to take my place at graduation next year.  They will cheer just as loudly as I did.  They will have made a difference.  They will know it, and the students will know it.

I will say it again.  Teaching is hard.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done, but it is also the most rewarding thing I have ever done.  My wish for our new teachers is that they remember why they became teachers in the first place, and let those reasons guide them in their classrooms every single day of the school year.  On my first day of new teacher orientation, the group of new teachers was told, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  It’s true.  Care about the students as if they are your own.  They will appreciate it, and let you know they appreciate just when you need it the most.

 

 

 

 

Memories from #EdCampHome

“Camp isn’t a place you visit, it’s a place that becomes part of you.” –Anonymous

 

 

As a child, I begged my parents to let me go to summer camp.  They agreed, and I spent one of the best weeks of my life at a camp with some of the girls who attended my school.  There were a few new girls, but for the most part, I knew the girls who shared the A-frame cabin with me.  We hiked, gossiped as only pre-teen girls can do, stayed up way past curfew, and spent an uncomfortable night on the camp tennis courts. The fact that we were on concrete didn’t dampen our spirits.  We were at camp, sleeping outside of the cabin, and nothing else mattered.  That was my first experience with summer camp, and I never forgot it.  I would later go on to work at a residential camp in the North Georgia mountains.  Out of all my summer jobs, that was perhaps my most favorite.  There is something special about being away from everything and getting to know other people, and most importantly, yourself.  Who I am now has a lot to do with my experiences that summer.  There is a part of me who still longs to be at camp.  I suppose those longings will never go away.

As an adult, I have often wished that I could go back to the days of my childhood and spend every summer at camp.  I wish that there was a place where I could go and spend lazy days at the waterfront, sneak out of cabin and visit the cute boy I’d been eyeing all week, and then I could sit on my bunk and write letters home telling of my grand adventures. Perhaps when I retire, I can cash out my teacher retirement and make an adults only camp.  Others share my dream, right?

After a twenty plus year hiatus, I went to camp again.  Actually, I didn’t go anywhere except to my living room.  Through the magic of the Internet, Google Hangouts, and the dedication of some wonderful educators, I participated in my very first #edcampHome.  I had heard of attending edcamps before but time and life got in the way of attending.  Now I have a new job, and I have time to attend.  While researching other things, I saw the ad for #edcampHome.  Being intrigued, I looked and was instantly hooked on the idea of virtual learning.  I admit that I think I know a lot about pretty much everything.  In the last week or so, I realized I don’t know as much as I thought.  I will start my new job as an Instructional Technology Coach in a week.  I have had some pre-work assignments to do, and while trying to complete my tasks, I found myself quickly getting overwhelmed.  In an effort to get one thing done, I would come across something else and something else, and the next thing I know, I’ve forgotten what I started looking for in the first place.

Without a second  moment’s thought, I registered for #edcampHome and joined the Google+ Community.  I guess I was so anxious for camp to start, I misread the camp information and was sitting in front of my computer promptly at 4:00 P.M.  I couldn’t understand why I was seeing a message telling me camp would start in 3 hours.  Oh, 4:00 P.M. PST means Pacific Coast Time.  I live on the East Coast, so camp was not about to start for me.  So, patiently I waited.  Okay, maybe not patiently.  I quickly cooked dinner, wolfed it down, and situated myself in front of the computer again.  I can admit now that I was giddy or as giddy as a 45-year-old can be sitting in front of a computer waiting to chat with strangers at a place called #edcampHome about unknown topics.

From the moment the broadcast went live, I was hooked.  I was fascinated because I was seeing people from all over the world, and we were all there for the same purpose.  We wanted to discuss the very things that would help our students be successful in and out of the classroom.  We were like-minded people working towards a common goal.  Nevermind that we were in different places with different job responsibilities.  We brought those differences together in order to facilitate discussions on too may topics for me to list.  Having never attended an edcamp before, I wasn’t sure if I was going about session sign ups the right way.  I signed up for a couple of classes and waited to see where I would end up.  Luck was on my side.  My first session was on student blogging.  I have been a blogger on and off for a number of years.  I have not been consistent with it though my desire is to be a world-famous writer.  Go figure.  I want to write but don’t have time.

In my first session on student blogging, I was joined by @SLOlifeKevin, @MathButler, @KOgden97, and @HeckAwesome.  I hope I didn’t leave anyone out.  If I did, sorry!  We had a good dialog about student blogging – what platform to use, whether or not we should reach out beyond our schools, involving parents, and so much more.  We talked so much and shared so many ideas that we sort of went over the allotted time.  Before the end of the night, we had exchanged emails and had a plan to connect teachers and classes with others so that our students can be engaged in writing and commenting on the writing of others.  All of this came from a 30+ minute Google Hangout.  It really is like camp.  You go to camp no knowing anyone, and you share so much that you become friends.  In 30 minutes, we became friends.

My second session was on planning an edcamp. As stated previously, I’ve never been to one, but I am fascinated with the thought of hosting one in my school district.  Although I have been an English teacher for the past eleven years, I am a secret planner.  Perhaps secret is not really the right word.  I have a degree in planning, and love to plan things.  Putting on an edcamp is on my professional bucket list.  I want to share the joy I found with others.  Plus, it’s just fun to put on events.  My fellow edcamp wannabe planners were @SLOlifeKevin, @MathButler, @Ms_Cabiness, @mraclark29, and @megmagwire.  Again, apologies if I forgot someone.  We tossed around ideas, suggestions, how-twos and what not.  I will be attending my first in person edcamp next week. I’m looking forward to it and planning on taking copious notes so that when we have our event, we will be ready.

When I went to summer camp for the first time in 1981, I did not realize the impact it would have on my life.  Every summer in high school, I was a teen leader at Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Eatonton, Georgia.  Spring quarter 1988, I enrolled in a class called Basic Camp Management because I knew I would be working at Camp Woodmont that summer, and I knew that at some point in my life, the information gained in that class would be valuable.  My father disagreed and called it Basket Weaving 101.  Twenty-six years later, I still use that knowledge and have for every job I have had in my adult life.  Participating in #edcampHome was new yet familiar.  Just like my first experience at camp, the things I learned and did became part of who I am; the same can be said of my experience online with #edcampHome.  It wasn’t a place I visited; it is now a part of who I am and will continue to be.