A Card and a Hug

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

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

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

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

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

I’d Make an Excellent Contestant on ‘Let’s Make a Deal’

“I probably do have an obsessive personality, but striving for perfection has served me well.”  –Tom Ford

They say you can tell a lot about a woman by looking at the contents of her purse.  I suppose the same could be said by looking in someone’s desk drawers.  I spend the bulk of my day at work, so it’s natural that what is in and on my desk should reflect who I am.  My desk does indeed tell a lot about me.  On the top of my desk I have pictures of those who are important to me.  I like looking over the top of my computer and seeing the faces of my nieces and nephews.  They make me happy.  I also have pictures of former students.  The students wanted me to have a picture of us together.  The fact that they liked me enough to want to be permanently linked to me says a lot.  Those picture are on my desk as well.

The inside of my desk is a bit different; however, the inside of my desk REALLY tells the story of who I am.  My desk has six drawers.  One drawer holds my purse.  It’s really only in there because my sister has drilled into my head that if I leave my purse on the floor, I will forever be broke.  I’m broke no matter where I put my purse, but I listen because I’m the younger sister.  Another drawer holds my snacks.  Food is important to me so I always have some near.  My colleagues know that so they are often asking for snacks.  I like being the keeper of the food not because I want people to be dependent on me but because I like the interaction that always follows when they come and ask for chocolate, dried apricots, or whatever else may be in my drawer.  I said I have six drawers.  I’ve told you what’s in two of them so that leaves the contents of four to be revealed.  I will admit. I am obsessive compulsive.  I have too many compulsions to list in this posting.  I will save that for another day.

Contents of drawer three, four, five and six?  Office supplies. Yes, I said it. Office supplies. I have Sharpies, black ink pens, red ink pens, yellow Post-It Notes, multi-colored Post-It Notes, Binder Clips of assorted sizes, paper clips of assorted sizes, envelopes – business and letter sized, magnetic Binder Clips, two staplers, a three-ring hole punch, note cards, and notepads.  I have no real need for all of these office supplies, but I keep them just because I MIGHT need them one day.  My new job is in technology.  I do a lot of work on the computer.  Actually, everything I do is on the computer, iPad, or some other electronic device.   I have the office supplies because I get a rush every time I go to Office Max, Office Depot, Walmart, or anywhere else office supplies are sold.  I buy, buy, buy just because I like to collect office supplies.  I also like to collect First Aid kits, flashlights, and disaster supplies.  No real need now but maybe in the future.

What does that tell you about me?  It tells you that I like to be prepared.  What am I prepared for?  Pretty much anything and everything.  Why?  Just because.  I don’t like not knowing the answer to something or not having what I need when I need it. I makes me feel ill-prepared and not at my best.  I dislike being unprepared.  Years ago, I was the Scoutmaster of a Boy Scout Troop.  We went on a ten-mile backpacking trip.  My pack weighed seventy pounds.  Why?  Because I had some of everything in there in case I needed it.  Did I need half of what I had?  No.  Do I regret the extra weight? No, because I would have spent most of the trip wishing I had it.  That’s just who I am which works for me because my need to always be prepared means that I don’t do anything half-way.  I am always reading because I like having knowledge.  I don’t like not knowing.  Today, a former colleague commented on the fact that my phone extension is 411.  She thinks it’s funny because I am always looking for and giving out information.  She’s right.  It’s an appropriate descriptor of who I am.

Perhaps next time we can discuss the contents of my purse.  Probably not. I’d end up in therapy no doubt.  I can’t let too many of my compulsions out there for the world to know.  I’ll keep those secrets.

Show Me the Way

“Every kid needs a mentor.  Everybody needs a mentor.”  –Donovan Bailey

In the semi-short time I have been alive (that’s a euphemism for being middle-aged and not wanting to admit it), I have done a lot of things and volunteered for a lot of worthy causes.  I think the organization I have spent the longest amount of time with has been the Boy Scouts of America.  My oldest nephew joined when he was in 2nd grade, and he continued until he became an Eagle Scout.  Because I am the type of person I am, I went all in as a volunteer.  I started out as the Pack Advancement Chair and held various positions including Den Leader, Cubmaster, Troop Advancement Chair, Unit Commissioner, and Scoutmaster.  All the while I was involved, I participated in and conducted many training sessions.  The one that made the most impact on me was Wood Badge.  

Wood Badge is the highest level of adult training for Boy Scout volunteers.  It consists of two phases of training – the practical phase and the application phase.  The practical phase meant I spent six days working and living in a camp site in a patrol with strangers while at the same time receiving leadership training.  The application phase meant I had to do five projects that were my ‘tickets’.  I had 18 months to complete my tickets, and then I received my Wood Badge Beads.  I later served on four Wood Badge Courses as part of the staff.

I said all that to say this. During my training, we were taught the EDGE leadership model.  Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, Enable. I like the model.  I think that’s what a good mentor does.  Explains, Demonstrates. Guides. Enables. Nothing more, nothing less.  

It’s almost midnight, so this is going to be a short post. It’s been a super long day, and I need to go to bed. Early morning Google Apps training tomorrow after a long day of training today and an hour long ride to sit in a two-hour long bus driver safety meeting and then an hour long ride home. I love going to bed tired and happy.  I also love that I am still writing my blog.

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.

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.

A Star is Born…Maybe

“Good, bad, or indifferent, if you are not investing in new technology, you are going to get left behind.” –Phillip Green


I am on a roll.  Two days in a row. Watch out, world.  I may just beat this Thirty-day Blog Challenge after all.  Today I am reflecting on the one piece of technology that I would like to try this year and why.  I also have to discuss what I am hoping to see from this edtech integration.

As a tech person, it’s hard for me to pick just one piece of technology.  I love gadgets of all kinds.  I would love to have Google Glasses, and I would love to have a MacBook.  I know that a laptop is not new, but having a MacBook would be new to me.  I’ve been a PC person since forever, and I want to venture to the other side. I want to be a Mac person.  Anyway, I digress.  My new piece of technology for this year is a Swivl Camera.  I have one.  I just haven’t used it to its full advantage yet.  ASwivl Camera is a pretty cool device.  It allows me to record my training presentations using an iPad.  The device is designed to give a 360 degree view.  Once I record the presentation, I can upload the video for others to watch or for me to critique myself.  I have an instructional tech coach website.  It’s my intention to upload videos of my presentations so that teachers can review what they learned during the training or see it for the very first time if they missed the initial presentation.  I just haven’t gotten that far yet. I’m still getting my feet wet with the training part.  I think I am almost ready to venture a little farther away from the shore.

This is a Swivl unit. It works with an iPad to record the presentation.

This move away from the shore is going to stretch my comfort level.  I like getting out and interacting with the teachers. I love sharing the new stuff with them.  I also like showing them how to use the not-so-new stuff.  What will be my challenge is when I sit down and watch myself.  I need to watch myself so that I can get better.  I need to know if I am giving adequate attention to each participant in my sessions.  Am I being clear?  Are their questions being answered?  Do I have a good balance of instructional material and interactive material?  Are the participants knowledgeable enough to take what they have learned and implement it in their classes?  Bottom line, am I getting my job done?

I want to be better.  Not so very long ago, I was a classroom teacher.  I remember those ‘light-bulb moments’. I loved seeing my students get it for the very first time. I want those same moments with my teachers.  For those who are die-hard MicroSoft fans, I want to see their faces when they realize they can so so much more with the Google Apps suite.  They can have their students collaborate in real-time.  They can make comments on their students work as their students are working so that the students get immediate feedback.  They can also rest easy when they realize that they will no longer have to hear, “I lost my flash drive so I can’t turn in my work”.  I look forward to the moment when they host their first Google Hangout and meet teachers and students from across the globe.  I also can’t wait to see the anti-Twitter teachers turn to Twitter for professional learning and development.  I don’t think I am asking for a lot.  I want my teachers to be the best they can be and if that means I have to watch myself on video, I will do it.  Teachers do what they have to for their students.  Instructional tech coaches do the same for their teachers.  There is still a teacher inside of me.  I can’t turn her off.  I don’t want to turn her off.  The instructional tech coach will be using Swivl so that the teacher inside of her can do better for the teachers in the district.  Perhaps the videos will be the start of something big.  Perhaps a video series down the road.  Who knows where this will lead…