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.


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.

A Card and a Hug

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and the soul of a child.”

Teachers are accustomed to not getting all the recognition we think we deserve or for that matter need.  We work, work, work, and work and oftentimes do what others consider impossible or not worthwhile. We do it because that’s what we are called to do.  However, it is nice to know that we are appreciated.  I am just like my educator colleagues.  I want someone to acknowledge what I have done.  I don’t want a parade down Taylor Street or anything like that, but some recognition would be nice.  After a lot of deep reflection, I realized that being appreciated by my students means a lot more than being recognized by the adults in the building.  Don’t get me wrong, I am truly grateful to those who voted me Teacher of the Year in 2010, but in the long run, who is really going to remember that?  I have a couple of plaques and a ring, and I have the remembrance of being speechless after my named was called for the honor, but what will carry me through the rest of my career?  Will it be the plaque and rings or will it be something else?

0913140911a (1)Surprisingly enough, it is the something else that will carry me through the days when I need a little push so I can continue to do God’s work.  I spent eleven years in the classroom, and for eleven years I knew there were students who no matter how hard I tried, I could not make a connection.  I suppose that some just didn’t get my charm.  Perhaps they didn’t like my teaching methods, or just maybe, they didn’t like me.  I hate to admit that I am bothered by the fact that I care whether or not the kids liked me.  I did and still do although I’m not teaching anymore.  In the few months since I have not been a teacher, I have been thinking a lot about being a teacher.  Why?  I don’t know.  I think I have been thinking a lot about teaching because of the card I carry in my purse.  There are a lot of things in my purse, but the card is special.  It is special because it was given to me by one of those kids I thought I was not reaching.  I taught her for three years, and each year she would tell me she wanted to be in my class the next year.  I did not believe her words.  I thought she was just saying it because kids will tell a teacher anything if they think it will help their grade.  They don’t realize that their grade is just that, THEIR grade.  I don’t randomly give grades because kids say nice things to me.

It was the end of the school year, and a lot was going on.  I was trying to get my kids ready for the End of Course Test, finish grading research papers, and hold on to my sanity.  It had been a tough year, and I was ready for summer.  The day I received the card was a normal day.  I had been speaking to the principal while in the faculty dining room.  Whe0913140912n we came out, we ran into the student and her father.  They were looking for the principal; however, she had also been looking for me.  She handed me the card, thanked me, and hugged me.  I was floored.  She had not been my student in a year although she would speak whenever she saw me.  The principal took her and her father to his office so they could speak.  I stopped in the hall and read the card.  It brought tears to my eyes.  In the time it took me to read the card, I realized I was wrong.  She didn’t dislike me, and I HAD gotten through to her.  Her words meant more to me than the Teacher of the Year plaques and the ring.  Why?  Because a student told me, Leslie Fagin, that I mattered to her and she thanked me.  She didn’t have to give me the card.  I doubt her parents told her to do so.  She did it on her own.

I carry the card in my purse as a reminder.  When I reach in to get money or medicine or even a snack, I feel the envelope, and I remember.  I remember that I mattered to at least one.  As far as accomplishments go, mattering to the students is more important than anything else.  I doubt people realize that about me.  I always cared about my students regardless of what they thought or what others said.  They mattered to me, and I suppose, for some, I mattered.

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.

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.

Am I Connected?

“Success seems to be connected with action.  Successful people keep moving.  They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” Conrad Hilton

Although I have been teaching for eleven years, I’ll be honest and admit that this year is the first time I’ve really heard about Connected Educators Month.  I suppose I was too busy trying to keep my head above water with everything that goes on in the life of a super busy educator.  Now that I’ve heard about it, I find myself questioning my connections.  Am I connected to my students? My fellow educators? My family? Myself?  All of these entities are important to my success as a teacher, family member, and person.

Perhaps my deeper connections are not what’s meant by the concept of Connected Educators Month, but I am going to dig deeper.  I want to know that what I am doing is enough for my students, my colleagues, my family, and of course, myself.  In my never ending quest to be a lifelong learner, I have become much more of a Twitter user.  As such, I’ve tweeted more in the professional sense than in the personal sense.  I have two accounts, and my school one is getting more use than my personal account.  I want to reach out to my students, their families, and my fellow educators both in my community and across the globe. I’m not going to be presumptuous enough to say that I am a genius or anything close, but I do feel that I have a lot of knowledge to share.  I also believe that I can learn from others, including my students, colleagues, family members, and friends.

My journey to be a connected educator is probably not unlike that of other educators.  I want to use the technology resources that are available to me to make learning more relevant to my students.  I want my students to be cognizant of colleges, universities, military branches, technical schools, jobs, and apprenticeships.  I want my students to know that they will have to make some choices about their lives after graduation.  Life is really not at all like the Game of  Life I played as a young girl.  I did not get to spin a spinner, pick college or career, and go from there.  It’s a little more complicated.  Life just happens to us, and I want to give my students the tools to be successful.  Technology can be one of those tools.  Right now, I am using Twitter to connect with my students.  I tweet assignments, announcements, motivational quotes, requests for information, college updates, and other school related events.  I’ve noticed that I get re-tweeted when I say that I am somewhere, and I see the students.  They want to know that I like the Band of Gold.  They like knowing that I’ve been to a community parade and snapped photos of the JROTC Drill Team.  They really liked it when I said my college band was not nearly as good as our high school band. Not only do they want us connected, they want us involved.  Twitter, Remind101, and Facebook allows me to be both connected and involved.

I want a give and take collaborative effort with my colleagues.  If I do this alone, I can hardly call myself a connected educator, can I?  As with my students, I want to be connected with my colleagues in my building, district, state, nation, and the world.  I firmly believe that we can all learn from each other, and I want to use social media to bridge the gap.  My new interest has been participating in Twitter chats.  I’m new to it, and not very good, but I do like lurking during the conversations.  I actually jumped in and tweeted a few times in my last chat.  I found that there are people out there who struggle with the same issues I do, and some even asked my advice.  I liked being asked questions.  I am at a point in my career where I want to know that I am still gaining useful skills that are shareable.  The students in my class require some of my knowledge, but I don’t always have a forum to share knowledge with adults outside of my immediate building.  Social media is giving me that avenue.  I admit.  I like it.  I like it a lot. I want to be connected with others who are in the same boat I am. We need each other, and events like Connected Educators Month are a stepping stone.

As I’ve pondered my connections with family and friends, I’ve realized that like my students, they need involvement.  I use social media to see pictures of my family and to share news, but the important stuff is revealed through face-to-face or phone-to-phone conversations.  Social media has its place, and I am old school enough to believe that I cannot be an effective family member of friend if I limit my contact with my people by only using social media, we are all missing out.  I cannot connect with my students using Twitter or Remind101 exclusively.  I cannot do the same with my family.  One of the questions that was asked during my Twitter chat the other night made me recall one of my favorite teachers.  I told the chat participants that he was caring, challenging, and determined to not let me quit. Students need teachers like that.  They need teachers like that who are connected to them so that they feel connected to the school.  This is my opinion, and my opinion only, but I believe some of our students drop out because they are not connected.  They are not connected to their classmates, teachers, schools, and sadly, their parents.

I know, this is supposed to be about Connected Educators Month.  It is.  It’s about an educator who is trying to maintain connections with those she comes in contact with on a somewhat regular basis.  Yes, some are about technology, but some are about life.  It’s those life connections that keep the students involved and coming back, and those students are why we are there in the first place.