Better Than Last Year…My Hope

“You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better.  By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better.”  — Coach John Wooden

Baseball is my favorite sport. Okay, maybe it is my co-favorite sport. I also love swimming. I can’t swim, but I love watching it, and I loved my time as the coach of the Griffin High Swim Team – the Bearacudas. I can, however, play ball. I played on my very first organized ball team when I was in the second grade. My team was the Yankees, and I haveyankees been a fan of the New York Yankees ever since. I only played baseball for one year. The next year, girls were not allowed to play baseball. I made the All Star Team, and there were many dads who had issue with the fact that their sons lost their spots to girls. I played softball from that point on and did well. I always made the All Star Team each year I played. When it wasn’t ball season, I played baseball with the other kids in the neighborhood. We played during the summer, in the fall, after school, and even in the evenings when our dads got home from work. Baseball was my life. I collected baseball cards and spent many nights watching the Yankees on TV. I thought I knew everything there was to know about baseball. In reality, I knew very little. I knew about the game, but I didn’t know the game.

As an adult, I coached a 9-10 year old girls softball team. In two seasons, we won three games. I could give lots of reasons why we didn’t win more games, but that won’t change the fact that I was not a good softball coach. I did not focus on what I needed to do to get better as a coach. I spent a lot of time trying to make the girls better. I never looked at what I needed to do. My team probably would have had better seasons if I had worked on being a better coach. I am not sure if I will ever take on coaching a youth sports team again, but if I do, I know what I will do differently.

As an instructional technology coach, I am always thinking about how to do things differently. My how to do things differently project for this year is that I am doing a one on one coaching project with one of the teachers in my district. She teaches middle school social studies and science. I am a bit nervous because I have not taught science before. I am certified to teach middle school social studies although I never have. Science is totally new to me. I am stretching my wings which is a good thing because I am going to be asking my teacher to do the same. I expect to see a lot of growth for both of us between now and the end of the year.

We met for the first time this week. We spent an hour discussing how she is currently doing things in her classroom. We talked about data collection, assessment types, class content, digital resources available, and digital citizenship.  Our initial plan is for me to come to her c and spend a day observing her teach. I want to see how she is currently integrating technology.  I have an observation form that I will use each time I conduct a walkthrough in any of the classrooms in the schools in which I work.  I have looked at 6th grade science and social studies standards, and she sent me her lesson plans and curriculum maps. Prior to our first meeting, I set up a Google Classroom and put several tech-coaching-projectresources in it.  I also included a short video on SAMR, a graphic with a variety of Google Google Tools that can be used in her class, and several questions for her to answer to get her to start reflecting on her practice of integrating technology.  Google Classroom is going to be the method that we use to house resources and communicate with one another. One of the resources I shared with her was a self assessment on SAMR. Right now, she is saying that most of her tech integration falls within the augmentation stage.  Our goal is to get her to more of the modification activities.

I will spend an entire day with her classes next week. I will record the day’s activities so that we can review the positives and the not so positives during our next planning session.  All of our classrooms are equipped with cameras and sound systems so that teachers can record lessons and share them with their colleagues. We want teachers to be able to grow as professionals and one way they can do that is by reflecting on what works and what does not work. Working collaboratively with others gives them the chance to get feedback and suggestions. I will use the recordings from our time together to help both of us grow. Also, the recordings will be artifacts for my coaching portfolio.  Next week promises to be full of new opportunities for both of us. I will be back in the classroom helping a colleague and at the same time, I will be learning how I can be a better coach. I anticipate having a winning season.

 

My First but Certainly Not My Last

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’ve Arrived. Almost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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.

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.

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.