Friday, February 27, 2015

#youredustory, Week 8

Prompt: "What was the defining moment you decided to be a teacher?"

I'd love to say that there was a moment of clarity when I just knew with absolute certainty that I would be a teacher. However, that isn't the case.

When I graduated from college I knew I wanted to do something to make the world a better place but I wasn't sure how. How exactly do you change the world with a history degree?

My high school guidance counselor was a huge influence on me while in high school and had done the Peace Corps in his younger days. Based on my uncertainty about what to do with my life but armed with a desire to do something to help others out and my knowledge of the Peace Corps I applied to become a volunteer. I spent two years teaching student math, science, English, and geography in northern Namibia while coaching soccer, building a school fence, teaching some computer skills, coaching soccer, and writing an Oshiwambo language manual. It was quite an experience, and despite my minimal training I really enjoyed teaching.

Finding creatures in the sound in NC
Then I got home and wasn't sure what was next. I had enjoyed teaching but wasn't sure if it was what I wanted to do. On a whim I applied to be an environmental educator on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I spent two years living on a barrier island on the coast and wandered around outside with kids and did a lot of hands-on science with a wide variety of age ranges.    

It was while in North Carolina that I slowly started to realize that education was what I wanted to do. However, at what level? I was fascinated by southern African history and debated going and getting a PhD and becoming a professor. However, the cutthroat process of getting tenure and actually being able to teach - not just try to get published - seemed like a less than ideal career for me. The prospect of teaching high schoolers was appealing. And I would actually get to teach! So, five plus years after graduating from college I headed back to school and got a masters degree and a teaching credential.

The rest, as they say, is history.


More information on #youredustory can be found here. Consider joining in the fun!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

#youredustory, Week 7

Y on Wymount by arbyreed from flickr

Prompt: "People don't buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it" Simon Sinek - Why do you do what you do?

This might sound a bit grandiose. If so, sorry - that isn't my intent. It is, however, what I believe. It isn't a belief that I push on others; it is something I try to hold myself to.

I believe that people are put on earth to maximize the amount of good that they can do for our world. It isn't a religious thing - I'm not religious - but more just a strong belief in social justice. We are here - I believe - to try to maximize our positive impact on the world.

I think it especially important for me to do this. If you wanted to paint a picture of privilege on this earth, you could paint a picture of me. Gender, race, perceived religious affiliation, sexual orientation, physical ability: the only thing I'm not is rich. If I, at the height of privilege, am not going to work to make our world a better place, who can be expected to do that?

Given that privilege, the belief that I need to maximize the positive impact I can make on the world, and my skillset, I need to be involved in education.

That's WHY I do what I do.

Yes, I love working with kids. I love building relationships. I love seeing light bulbs come on. I love watching kids grow up over the two years I get to teach them. I love getting to talk to old students who are out doing great things in the world. I love the challenge of trying to have the best classroom that I can. I love the edufriends who make me think about why I do what I do.

Really, though, I teach because I believe it is maximizing the positive impact that I can have on the world.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

#youredustory, Week 6

Prompt: What is connected learning and WIIFM?

Connected learning is removing the walls from your classroom, building, and/or district and letting others see in. It is sharing what is working for you and your learners, but equally importantly what is not working for you and your learners. Too often we only focus on sharing the former.

Connected learning lets us see over walls between schools
Brasov city wall from Wikimedia by Angelbo
What’s in it for me? (Yes, I had to look up what WIIFM meant.) For me, connected learning has allowed me to look into so many other classrooms. It has allowed me to see the things that teachers are doing that allow their students to own and drive their learning. It has allowed me to see structures administrators are using at their sites to drive innovative practices at their school.

Connected learning has built a network of people across the world that make me want to be better - not in a competitive “I need to be a better teacher than you are” way but in a “I see the cool opportunities you’re giving your students and I know I need to do more” kind of way. It has raised the bar on what I thought was possible, but also on what I expect of myself and my students.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

#youredustory, Week 5

Prompt: Define "learning" in 100 words or less.
Sorry - I had to resort to bullet points this week to get out the ideas I wanted to share. Thanks for the prompt, Shawn! (This part doesn’t count towards my 100 words…)

Collaborative, socially constructed
Often messy
Influenced by student passions, interests, or questions
Powerfully driven by curiosity
Focused but flexible
Is more easily done when students feel comfortable, known, and heard
Needs to come after relationships with students have been built
Needs to be deep in a few areas, not shallow in many areas
Should be focused on skills, not content - content is the vehicle
Everyone doesn’t need to learn the same thing all the time
Involves risk-taking and failure
Connects from class to class and to real life
Is demonstrated in ways that work for the individual student

Messy learning in my room

Monday, February 2, 2015

What You Look For

I’m not a huge lover of New Year’s resolutions: it often seems forced and arbitrary to all of a sudden change your lifestyle or habits based on a random date. That being said, I made some promises to follow through on around the new year.

One of them was to take a picture every day of 2015 (and hopefully beyond). I’m using an IFTTT recipe to toss them all on a website that I’ll work on. Someday.

But it’s been interesting: knowing that I have to take and publish a picture every day has me on the lookout for the interesting. The beautiful. The random. Something that I can either toss up online right away or that I can edit into something intriguing.


Worry all the time about the small group of kids that aren’t working? That aren’t engaged? That aren’t thinking in the way you’d like them to? That’s all you’ll see. And you’ll miss all the great things other students - the vast majority of them - are doing.

I was so guilty of this in late October and early November. After a tough week this last week, during 20time last Friday I made a deliberate attempt to watch for the joy. For the learning. For the curiosity.

And it was an absolute dream to watch kids struggle with coding. Or try to dig into an article about the meaning of dreams. Or to have an extended conversation about why a student’s project about a Minecraft mod wouldn’t work because of an update that happened somewhere (Note: I’ve got no idea how to help many projects this year, like this one. Which is great.)

The quiet feel of focused productivity was cleansing.

It helped that that was what I was choosing to look for.

Coding during 20time