Monday, December 23, 2013

The Sunshine Award: Spread the Love

Last Thursday was a chaotic day: I watched my students do one of their Socratic seminar finals, calibrated Humanities papers with my work wife and Humanities partner-in-crime, had three meetings, went out to lunch with a bunch of teachers I work with, and packed for my holiday trip. It was a good day. A busy day - I essentially wasn't on social media all day.


At some point during the day, I did check my phone and saw that Eric Saibel had included me in a tweet about the Sunshine Awards. I saw it and made a note to myself to go check it out later.


I had seen the #SunshineAward hashtag thrown around a little bit on Twitter but hadn't really looked into it. Well, when I read Eric's post about what the awards were and saw that he included me in his post, I was honored: my day had been made. So thanks for taking the time to recognize my blog Eric - you absolutely made my Thursday!


And now I get to pass along the goodness of the Sunshine Award - which is what makes it fun. I'm all about some positive recognition for the smart folks around me. According to the rules of the Sunshine Award I am required to:


1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger
2. Share 11 random facts about myself.
3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for me.
4. List 11 bloggers that I believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love! (These people can't include the blogger who nominated me.)
5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers I nominate.


So, here goes nothing!


1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
Check - Eric, you rock! Thanks for making my day!


2.  Share 11 random facts about myself.
- I am a proud Midwesterner. I grew up in Madison, WI and even though I haven't lived there since high school I still have a lot of love for the Sconnie. And it's sports teams!

- My path to teaching was a meandering one: I spent two years teaching, doing HIV/AIDS work, and coaching the school soccer team in Olukonda, a small town in northern Namibia. After that, I spent two years teaching environmental education on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Finally, five year after I graduated from college, I went back to school and got my masters degree and teaching certification.

Stanford vs Notre Dame, 2013
- I'm an enormous sports fan, and college football is far and away my favorite sport. I've had Stanford football tickets since grad school. I love those six Saturday tailgates in the fall with friends.

- I've been lucky to travel a decent amount in my life. I've hit six continents - Antarctica is going to be a struggle - and forty-six states. Texas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota: I'll make it someday. Hawaii is on my list to get to soon though.

- The most beautiful places I've ever been in the world are Bryce Canyon National Park in the snow, the South Island of New Zealand, and the jaw-droppingly, painfully gorgeous singletrack above Crested Butte, CO.

- My hero is my maternal grandmother. She was a quiet, strong woman who I really got to know well as I grew into an adult after my grandfather died in the late 1990s. She was sarcastic and stubborn as heck: just like me. (And my mom, her daughter.)

- I've been brewing my own beer for over two years. I love the process - and the smell - of brewing. Plus, it's awesome to roll up to a tailgate or a BBQ with a handful of bombers of beer you made!

Sinopah Mountain, Glacier NP
- I love places that make me feel small. Standing on the top of a mountain is one of my favorite things to do in the world. These big mountains - and also giant trees - recenter me and remind me not to get too caught up in my worldly struggles: I'm a pretty small speck of dust on this gorgeous planet.

- This is why I've got a redwood tattooed on the inside of my left ankle.

- The first time I met my little sister - like in the hospital right after she was born - I ran across the room and bit her in the face. Then I tried to give her away to my grandparents. In my defense I was only two at the time. Thirty two years later we get along great though!

- Hillsdale High School - where I teach at - has small learning communities that divide up the incoming freshmen classes into groups of about 110 students. I then share a group of students for two years with the same math, English, and science teacher. I was lucky to get hired into the same four teacher team as two of my close friends from grad school. Getting to work closely these last five and a half years with my good friends Sarah and Johnny has been an absolute joy and a blessing.


3.  Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for me.
- What is the first (or next) book YOU write going to be about?
This one is a struggle for me. I've written a book chapter already but I felt weird about it. I strongly believe that we should be sharing our work, our curriculum, our classrooms - warts and all - with everyone. For free. Education is NOT a zero sum game. Everyone can win! The idea of writing a book is fine with me, but I'd be really uncomfortable publicizing it. If I were to write a book though I'd write about turning over control of our classrooms to our students. About how much fun it is to teach less and facilitate more. About how to get out of our kids' way and watch them be really awesome.


What is one place in particular you hope to visit in your lifetime?  Why?
- This is a tough one. Like really hard. Getting to see spectacular animals up close and personal - I once looked a small female leopard in the eyes from about four feet away and it was an absolute THRILL - in the Okavango Delta in Botswana while I lived in Africa was really cool. Based on these experiences, I'd love to go see animals in Kenya and Tanzania some day.


- What is one place you REALLY love that you know you’ll return to?
The place I've been that I'd return to the quickest is the South Island of New Zealand. Hands down. That one is easy!


- What is something NEW you’ll do (in life) in 2014?
Regularly reading books. I know, it doesn't sound new. But while I read a lot about education online, I don't read enough books.


- What is one book that has changed you?  Why/how?
I gained a new respect for literature reading both For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. The end of both of these books - where the characters are, who is there, what the characters are saying - is to the letter PERFECT. Wow. Love both of those books, but the endings really take them over the top.


- What practice/hobby/thing have you set aside that you’ll take up anew in 2014?
I didn't mountain bike enough in 2013. That needs to change for 2014.


- What is the best performance you’ve ever seen (any medium/venue/context…)?  Indulge us with a few details.
Can I get two? Okay, good. Stanford dismantling Oregon the day before my 34th birthday this year was masterful to watch. They won that game on the trenches. It was awesome. The second is the four song opening to Phish's second set in San Francisco on August 19, 2012. I LOVE Phish (no, I don't do drugs) and this tiny venue - only about 8,000 people - exploded to open the second set because of the things I like most about Phish: gorgeous improvisation and spectacular seguing together of songs. The segue into Sneaking Sally Through The Alley gave me goosebumps in the moment, and still does to this day.


- What type of body of water calls to you the most as a special getaway?  Any one spot in particular?
I love lakes. I spent a month every summer of my childhood on a small lake in New Hampshire. I love swimming and Pleasant Lake in Elkins, NH will always hold a special spot in my heart. Generally though, find me a cliff and some deep water and I will happily repeatedly hurl myself off of it. Repeatedly!


- You have a free pass to any restaurant in the world: where do you go, what do you order?
I have no idea where I'd go. Is that bad? But I know I'd be absolutely crushing a filet mignon medium rare with the best bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon on the menu.


- What kind of a “maker space” do you have in your house?  What does your dream maker space look like?
None sadly. Wherever my computer is? I don't really know what my dream maker space is. I'm not much of a tinkerer. I'm open to changing my mind about that though!


- What is the most important attribute to possess as a 21st Century educator/thinker/creator?
I already kind of mentioned this, but I think we need to share relentlessly. Share your successes AND your failures. Share your dreams. Your questions. Your curriculum. And do it for free!!!


4.  List 11 bloggers that I believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
This is tough. In no particular order:

- Shawn White: My edcampHome co-creator always makes me think with his posts.

- Moss Pike: Confession time - as recently as the end of last school year I wasn't following Moss in Twitter. I didn't know anything about this freaking SoCal ninja. Now I consider his thoughtful voice one of the most important in my PLN. Love me some Moss Pike!

- John Stevens: Passionate. Dedicated. Wants to make math class a better place. Won't take no for an answer.

- Matt Vaudrey: A second SoCal math teacher in a row. Matt does awesome stuff in his middle school math classes. His blog is funny and irreverent and ALWAYS contains at least one laugh out loud moment.

- Carolyn Durley: One of my favorite bloggers. Period. Carolyn is so thoughtful and her posts always make me pause and reflect.

- Andrew Thomasson: See reasoning for Cheryl Morris.

- Cheryl Morris: No, Cheryl and Andrew aren't the same person. I know this because I've hung out with Cheryl regularly and never met Andrew. Their student-centered English classes in the 2102-2013 school year embarrassed me into blowing up my class structure - for the second year in a row - and making my class a better, more student-driven place. I'll be forever on their debt for that implicit challenge they threw down to me.

- Victoria Olson: I don't spend enough time talking to elementary teachers. I think that meaningful tech integration into the classroom looks different in a high school class than in an elementary classroom. Similar to Carolyn Durley, Victoria's posts make me stop and reconsider my notions of what tech integration can be in any classroom, regardless of age.

- Catina Haugen: See reasoning for Amy Fadeji.

- Amy Fadeji: No, Catina and Amy aren't the same person either. However, they are both connected and blogging elementary principals from the northern part of the Bay Area of California. I love their insights! We need more connected administrators who share!

- Catlin Tucker: I love how Catlin shares so much of the awesome stuff she does with her students on her blog. A must read and full of resources.


5.  Post 11 questions for the bloggers I nominate.
- What is your go to beverage on Friday evening? Why?
- If you could make one change to the educational system in the US - or Canada, Victoria and Carolyn - what would it be?
- Describe your perfect day.
- What is the most important characteristic you look for in your friends?
- What is your proudest moment as an educator?
- Who is your hero? Why?
- What teacher had the biggest impact on your life? How did they impact you? Does this teacher know the impact they had on you?
- What needs to happen in 2014 for you to be reflecting on a successful year 52 weeks from now?
- Who is one must-follow educator on Twitter? Why are they so great? Tell me someone I haven't heard of!
- What is the biggest risk you've ever taken in your life? How did it work out?
- I'll let you off the hook with an easy one: when are you coming to the Bay Area next so we can hang out and I can steal all your best ideas? (With attribution of course!)


To the awesome eleven peeps above, please tag me in a tweet once you finish your post - I want to read it!

Eric, THANK YOU. This was a spectacularly fun blog post to write - you rock!