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.


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.

Which Way Do I Go?

“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad.  My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: love, belonging, trust, joy and creativity to name a few.” –Brene Brown

When I was a little girl, I thought I was going to grow up and become a Supreme Court Justice.  My plan also included a husband and six children.  The life I am living is vastly different than the one I had planned.  I realized somewhere along the way that you can’t really plan your life.  It just happens.  Somewhere along the way, my plans changed and I ended up where I am today.  Today I am an instructional technology coach.  I used to be a 4-H Program Assistant, a Girl Scout Field Executive, a Girl Scout Community Development Manager, a Girl Scout Leadership Development and Product Sales Manager, a Girl Scout Program Manager, a Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club Director of Education, and a teacher.  Throw in jobs during my undergraduate career and the time right after graduation.  I’ve done a lot and had a lot of experiences.  I am glad that all of what happened has happened because that’s how I got to be where I am now.

Today’s blog challenge asked me to envision how my teaching will change over the next five  years.  I don’t think I can.  Actually, I don’t want to.  I think if I plan how my teaching will be, I will miss something along the way.  I am where I am now because I let myself, or maybe God led me, experience things that weren’t planned.  When I began my career with the Girl Scouts, I expected to spend thirty years working for the organization.  I planned to move up through the ranks and become the Executive Director of a local council or even of the entire organization.  While I was making those plans, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  She fought for 18 months but eventually died.  Not long after her diagnosis, I left my job in California to return home.  I knew my place was at home with my mother.  That experience wasn’t planned, but it was necessary for my growth as a person and as a Christian.

After my mother’s death, I began graduate school and earned a degree in Rural and Small Town Planning.  While in school, I made plans to work as a planner.  Of course, my plans changed.  Shortly before I graduated, I realized I really wanted to become a teacher.  I applied for a job as a teacher, and that’s what I have done for the last 11 years.  True to form, I began my teaching career planning to spend 30 years in the classroom.  I taught and again went back to graduate school.  A little voice in my head told me to obtain my leadership certification.  I did because I thought I would become a school administrator.  That didn’t happen or at least it hasn’t happened yet.  At the end of the last school year, I applied for the job I currently have.  It wasn’t planned.  It just happened.

When I make plans, things change.  I can’t say for sure how I see myself in five years. If I am still doing what I do now, I would like to think that I would be more comfortable speaking in public.  Although I wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice, I have never liked public speaking.  I’m not sure how I would have done as a lawyer in a court room.  I also would like to think that I would be well-versed in all aspects of my job.  I don’t like not knowing something.  Technology changes all the time, and I want to be the person who knows everything.  I know that’s not realistic, but that’s how I am.  I just like to absorb knowledge. I don’t think my teaching will change over the next five years.  I will change, but my teaching will not.  I won’t predict what will happen. I will just enjoy whatever experiences I have along the way.

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.