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.

 

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

 

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.

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.

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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.

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.