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.

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.

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.