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.


“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.