Category Archives: professional development

Arriving to South Africa

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about going half away around the world. My kids are 20+ hours and an ocean away from me. I’m traveling to a place with which I am unfamiliar. And this trip completes almost a month of being away from home. Did I mention the 16-hour flight with me confined to a seat? Yes, there are reasons for concern.

This trip to South Africa is a teaching trip. The paperwork at the end of the day says I am going to teach teachers educational technology. But as a teacher who uses a lot of tech… my heart has to justify traveling so far away from my family with the untouchables… It is never just about the technology.

What kept me coming to South Africa was a multi-fold reasoning. First, my kids. My own students and my children need constant modeling. By extending myself into new experiences, I am modeling growth, development, and lifelong learning. My students will benefit straight away with the connections being made, and perspective gained. My own two kids may not see the fruit of these labors for years, as they are little at the moment. In due time I expect they’ll come to respect my choices to take on challenges and opportunities.

The next reason is for personal growth. Much of my PLN speaks of spending the summer “filling up one’s cup” before returning to work. We expend so much of ourselves while teaching during the school year that our summer time is for learning, growing, sharing, and building up the good stuff – so that in the most difficult moments in the next nine months, we may remain grounded and patient because we have rebuilt our personal foundation during the summer.

I wanted to make the trip to be better as a global citizen. My students, at least some of them, live in a bubble – where the world they know is very sheltered or protected. The level of understanding of what the world has gone through is through an edited textbook or a tourist realm. If I can bring a small glimpse as to the reality of the human story, struggle, and strength back to my classroom then the work to get here was all worth it.

And, at the end of the day, as many of my colleagues from around the world have said, preached, recited, and sang – we are what we share. As a teacher, I am constantly amazed at my PLN. The teachers with whom I have connected and have worked are talented, passionate, caring, and invested in making the world better. They provide me with ideas, inspiration, and support. By going to South Africa, my hope is to provide colleagues, new and old, with anything they might find useful or valuable. Not only do I get to share with South African teachers, but I also want to share the trip itself. My pictures and videos, and stories, all to share. My newly connected classroom relationships to bridge continental divides. I am indebted to many individuals near and far. I stand on the shoulders of giants. We are all #BetterTogether.

I could not have done any of this without a team effort by my husband, family, friends, professional organizations, and sponsors. I feel very blessed and lucky to be going. With this opportunity, it is my goal to share as much as possible before, during, and after the experience.

coffee mug

My Take-Away from Macul 2013

coffee mugMacul Conference 2013 ended about 10 days ago. While I have been attending and/or working the conference for over 13 years, I will say without a doubt – that this conference ranks right at the top. There were enough quotables, sessions, events, and memories to take with me for a long time. But the most powerful, moving idea that the conference produced for me was to take permission to do what is right for kids and learning. No. Matter. What.

For the past several years, my job (and its duties) has been spun around, renamed, reallocated, redefined, and flipped on end. For a while, I was a walking contradiction. Asked to just be a “teacher,” and then undercut when teaching. Asked to carryout specific tasks, and then not supported when doing so. And something got lost. I became so “obedient” to the system – I lost the perspective of what was RIGHT. My colleagues looked at me differently – I was looking at me differently.

So much change brought forth an uncertainty. To whom do I listen? To whom do I give my time? Do I leave the classroom? Do I stay? Do I try and make a leap somewhere? And I became unhappy.

I had fallen so far away from what I love to do that I was actually convincing myself that maybe I should leave. Colleagues have said, “You are too talented to teach.” What does that mean????? “Too talented to teach.” I was approaching my graduates with fervor, earnestness, and a desire to know what I did that made those past classes so great. Why they miss yearbook class… Why we still stay in touch… What did I do right, and why was it so fun? The graduates gave their feedback. But it was Macul ’13 that brought it home.

In the end, Macul 2013 reminded me that a good teacher has nothing to fear. We are a strong collaborative group of highly talented individuals trying to grow the next generation. To instill confidence and passion into our students. To be that change we want to see in the world.

To say the past few years have been difficult would be an understatement. But this past week or so was such a gift. To watch colleagues in action. To remind oneself of what really makes teachers, including myself, happy. I look forward going forth in confidence knowing that I may shake the system; I may be called on the carpet to justify my actions; I will be going against a culture of routine homework assignments, grades, and procedural practices to do what’s right for kids. I wholly and fully welcome that conversation. It is overdue. Way overdue.

Back to the classroom with cleaner goggles on. Clarity. Perspective. Rejuvenation. Affirmation. And a deep desire to connect with my kids so the last few weeks of school, I can push the envelope and challenge them to grow even more.

I will leave this post with a special thank you to the CUE Macul Roadtrip team. I am indebted to them for their collegiality and pushing teachers everywhere to be the best for kids. Thank you.

Twittified

After reading Will Richardson’s post “On Twitter and Balance,” I had to sit back and reflect for a second. I have been twittering for a relatively short period of time, and yet I am completely hooked. I sign it at school. I sign in at home. And my big question was why?

Gary Stager said in his preso yesterday how nothing substantial is ever gained in Twitter. Is this true?

Helen Keller’s famous quote personifies my need for Twitter at this point, “Keep your face to the sunshine, and you cannot see the shadow.” Twitter has become the community of teachers that most don’t find in a school. A community of positive communication, true empathy at times, and a constant sounding board. And what makes it great is the idea of giving. In order for this educational community to exist there must be a certain amount of deprivatization of the classroom and personal practices. However, the current reality of the local HS situation leaves much to be desired. I wait for the day when my colleagues at the HS will be okay with exploring each others’ practices and presentations. Where dialogue is open and ideas are shared. Until then I have my twitterverse. Twitter provides an environment for system change that one cannot find in a local school on most days. It provides the climate of open-curriculum and community through which constructive dialogue, criticism and applause can be gleaned. At this point in our educational system, while trying to catch up with years of innovation, is there a thing as too much twittering – when the potential of a seamlessly small webapp could bring inherent change to a static antiquated system? I think not.

I tweet therefore I am the change I hope to bring to the system.