Updates and Musings

I’m constantly amazed by how timing works out. I’m teaching my second year at my tiny school, comfortable enough to branch out and experiment with non-traditional teaching methods. I have a smaller group this year than last year, but in some ways that’s OK. The group I have has a culture I can work with, so I tried the StrengthsExplorer and then started dabbling with Genius Hour. And right when I decided to make that attempt, Don Wettrick announced his Global Innovation Exchange Challenge. So I jumped on it. I figured the worst that could happen is that it would flop and we might have a slightly embarrassing skype call with another class in a month.

But that isn’t what’s happening. I planned an hour a week for this project, and somehow it has taken over almost everything we do. I don’t know if my students’ plan really fits the definition of “innovative” – but the big thing I see is that they’re choosing to take action to fix a problem – and a substantial one at that. That’s huge for them. The project deserves its own blog post, so I’ll save the rest of the details for later.  Continue reading

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Disrupting My Routine

 

I feel like I’ve been on information overload lately. The more podcasts I listen to, books and blogs I read, and TED talks I watch, the more vast the problems in education appear. My reading list is growing faster than I can afford – a lot of the books I want to read aren’t available at the library, even through inter-library loan. But maybe that’s a good thing. I can only absorb so much at once. (Plus, my reading time is limited with an infant and toddler taking my attention.)

I’m also getting a crash course in using social media professionally. It’s a little embarrassing how much of this stuff intimidates me. It’s embarrassing to say that I’ve never even Skyped without someone else setting up the call. Facebook and WordPress are my comfort zones. Anything beyond that makes me nervous. And yet, I find myself entering into the world of Twitter chats, MOOC’s, and Skyping with other classrooms. It’s starting to snowball, and I’m just hoping I come out more knowledgeable and connected in the process, rather than getting overwhelmed.

Seriously. It’s gotten to the point where I literally pray before stepping on the elliptical to listen to another podcast. God, what do you want me to pull out of this one? Where should my focus be? What’s my place in all this? Help me to do what I should be doing!

Because if there’s one piece of hope for me in all this, it’s that my conviction has grown so much stronger. There is a place for me in all this, though I can’t exactly see what it is yet.

Continue reading

Exploring Genius

In addition to the StrengthsExplorer curriculum that started the year (I have students writing personal narratives based on their strengths right now – I’ll let you know how that goes after we get past the first drafts), I’ve also been exploring the idea of doing Genius Hour with my students.

I’ve admitted before and I’ll confess again – I’m not the most tech-savvy person in the world. I blog, but that’s mostly personal reflections typed out of the world to see. There’s not much on here but basic word processing, and maybe the occasional embedded image or video. I’ve been on Facebook since the early days, but in every other area I’m slow to the game. I got my first smart phone in 2015. I like technology in the classroom if I can see its value to what I’m teaching, but I resist tech for tech’s sake.  Continue reading

Testing the Waters

Testing… testing… Is this thing on?

After two years of silence, I’ve probably lost most of my loyal followers, but that’s OK. I’m here now because I need to write and process ideas again, and this is a good place to do that. I always lose the spiral notebooks I scribble in.

If any of my former readers are still following, here’s my life update in a nutshell: The nomadic lifestyle is done for good. I’m now the mother of two sweet girls, the wife of a practicing optometrist, and a part time middle school language arts teacher – yes, I am a teacher “for real” again!

I’ll be honest – this job isn’t my ideal niche, but I’m happy to have it. I enjoy the students, the schedule is fantastic, and I have more autonomy in my curriculum than I’d ever imagined possible. I do miss working with high school students, though.   Continue reading

Wishful Thinking

This video popped up on my Newsfeed today.  Give it a watch.  It’s pretty powerful.

What would you write on the board?

Everything I’d write has to do with my career.  It’s hard to call them regrets, because I wouldn’t change any of the decisions I’ve made.  I don’t regret what I did in supporting my husband.  I love where we are now, and so much of that is because of the sacrifices we’ve both made over the years.  But I do wish that I’d been able to do some things that just haven’t worked out for me yet.

Keep reading!

Things I’ve Picked Up from Hanging Out with / Being Facebook Friends with College Professors

I have a lot of teacher friends.  Not colleagues or coworkers – friends.  I hang out with them on weekends and watch Packers games with them.  Some are related to me, some by blood and others by marriage, so we share in family gatherings.  And, yeah, we’re Facebook friends.  Like anyone, they post about the joys and frustrations of their jobs occasionally (within reason – no name dropping or boss bashing).  And some of these friends teach at the college level.

This post is directed at my younger readers – the teens who are not yet in college and the young adults making their way through higher education now.  Kids, when I say I know what you need to do to get ready for college, it’s not just because I’ve been there before.  I may also be friends with your future professors.  They tell me things – things that probably should be common sense, but apparently isn’t since they’re dealing with this stuff on a daily basis.  So consider me your inside source on college professors and take this well-meaning advice, both for your sake and theirs. Keep reading!

The gears are still turning.

I got a call from a teacher friend yesterday.  She calls a lot, actually.  She likes to use me as a sounding board as she plans out her curriculum and lesson plans.  Yesterday she was formulating a plan for an independent reading project, but over the years and countless phone hours we’ve hashed through job applications, challenging students, and administration difficulties as well as mountains of curriculum ideas.  Truthfully, she’s very good at her job, so my end of the conversation usually ends up sounding like various forms of the phrase, “yeah, that sounds good.”  Occasionally I offer ideas or raise a concern or two, but mostly, I think she just needs to talk through whatever it is that she’s planning, and I’m an understanding ear willing to listen.

I like it.  I feel like it keeps me fresh, keeps my brain engaged in a field that could have easily passed me by time after time.  It’s funny when I compare our career trajectories, though.  We like to say we’ve had some very similar experiences.  We met in college and went through our first year teaching at the same time.  A few years later we found ourselves job hunting again at the same time.  We’ve both worked in an urban demographic for a year, and both left knowing that it wasn’t the right place for us.  We have a similar way of relating to teenagers, both enjoy teaching literature more than writing, and share many pedagogical perspectives.

Keep reading!

Dreams Deferred, or Waiting on a Promise?

I got that pang again the other day, the “it’s back to school time and I don’t have a job” sinking feeling in my gut. I’ve felt it too many times, often enough to have a name for it.

I am glad for the past year at home.  As I’ve said before, I think I needed it.  But every time someone brings up how good it is that I can be a stay-at-home mom, I’m quick to jump in with the “for now.”  It’s a gut response, a primal instinct to defend the career I worked so hard to establish, a refusal to let go of dreams that have been pushed to the back burner yet again.  I poured so much of myself into becoming a good teacher, and I’ve haven’t really seen that work come to fruition in the ways that I’d hoped yet. Yes, being at home is a blessing.  This time with my daughter is as precious as it is irreplaceable.  But those dreams haven’t gone away.  It’s still hard watching my teacher friends prepare for another school year.  A good friend just finished training to teach AP Literature, and while I’ve loved hearing about it, man, I’m jealous!

Keep reading!

Living Deliberately (or A Mom Who Reads)

Disclaimer:  I promised this wouldn’t turn into a “mommy blog” and I intend to keep it that way.  This post will use the word “mom” a lot, and because of that I debated whether or not to share it here.  I decided, yes, it applies, because it’s less about my daughter and more about how I prioritize life.  That can apply to anyone, parent or not.

Not long after my daughter was born, I got an iPhone.  Yes, I finally caved and joined the smart phone world.  I’ll admit, it’s been nice.  It’s so much easier to look things up, answer e-mails, etc, one-handed while holding a baby.  Plus, Netflix kept me from going completely crazy during that first month of all-nighters..  However, the other day as I sat feeding my daughter and looking things up on my phone, I realized how easy it would be to fall into that pattern.  As nice as the smart phone is, I don’t want to be that mom who’s staring at her phone all the time.  I started thinking about reading.  Digital books are nice and convenient, but I want to read physical, paper books now more than ever.  I want my daughter to see me reading, not staring at a phone.  That led me to the whole concept of leading by example.  So much of my adult life has been defined by my career and my role as a wife.  Entrance into motherhood seems like a good time to take another look at my life-priorities and how I spend my time.  What traits do I want my daughter to see modeled in me and learn from me as she grows up?  I grabbed a piece of paper (which was thankfully within arm’s reach) and started jotting down the kind of mom – the kind of person – that I want to be.

Keep reading!

On Teaching Job Applications 

I went into “application mode” yesterday.  It’s a weird mental zone teachers must enter to fill out their pages and pages of job applications.  Adults in other professions, give me some perspective.  Do job applications in other fields come with an average of 12 essay questions attached?  (That’s a literal number, not an exaggeration.)  In addition to the standard questions about training, work history, and individual strengths and weaknesses, do you have to elaborate on things like educational philosophies, disciplinary and instructional strategies, and hypothetical interpersonal situations for pages at a time?  Or are teachers alone in this?  And of course, the questions are just different enough that I can’t simply copy and paste answers between one application and another.  I shudder to think of the number of hours of my life I’ve spent simply on job application essay questions.

Keep reading!