I have been doing a lot of thinking the past month and a half about my current situation. Where do I go from here? What is my next step in furthering my career in education? After leaving my previous district due to actions beyond my control, these thoughts as well as many others have crossed my mind. They have left me wondering what risks have I not taken that have landed me in this situation. There have been a few interviews here and there, but nothing has come of those yet. But I feel that I have a great opportunity to explore different options and find the best place to work for me. I talked with my students many times about Dreaming BIG, and chasing their dreams. Have I listened to my own words and chased my dreams? There was a time that I said I would never enter the field of education because the monetary rewards were not appealing to me. When I began my journey to becoming an educator, I wanted to be the best teacher I could possibly be. I wanted to teach my students to love learning, become critical thinkers, and to be passionate about what they pursued. These are still vital in the cornerstones of my educational foundation. However, many changes have occurred in how I view and deliver these. I have taken a few risks along the way such as changing how I spend my instructional time. I have gone from spending most of my time talking to more time for my students doing. For this, I had to change my mindset. Others did not agree with my practice, but I knew it was best for my students. Trying my version of a blended classroom to meet the needs of my students was another. I also stopped sending homework home because it became a punitive obstacle for many of my students. I was afraid of what others might think of the changes I had made. I was afraid that I would fail and be asked why I attempted this ridiculousness. I was also afraid that if I succeeded what would I do next to top this feat. My students thrived in this model that I had transformed into my own. Their scores were some of the highest in the school, even the district. The success was bitter sweet. I had to leave because of pressure from others because they did not understand or did not want to understand the benefits of my student’s classroom experience. So now here I am, looking for whatever is next in my journey. What am I afraid of? Am I afraid that I will have to move beyond my comfort zone to continue my journey? Am I afraid that I will find the success I have been longing for? Am I afraid that I will fail miserably at new endeavors? To these questions I have to say, YES! I am afraid that I will find success and failures as I always have since I began this journey many years ago. I know that failure is a key part of having success. Failing is just so difficult! To grow as an educator you must experience failure and rise from it to become a Phoenix. Success and failures will be experiences as they always have. We should not be afraid of them. We need to embrace them, and look for opportunities to grow. The opportunities for success are there beyond the risk and failure. It is time we become fearless and embrace what we want to become. This is what I expect my students to do. It is time to learn the lessons I teach for myself.
Please take a moment a vote for me on the Bammy Awards!
I was asked to be a guest on #EdChat Radio with Tom Whitby and Nancy Blair after a Twitter chat about this topic. I was interested in this topic as soon as it came across my feed. Being passionate about giving students a voice in their education, I was drawn into the conversation. Empowering all stakeholders united for one common goal is something that I have was a very timely topic. We should all be working to better education for our children. Not creating one high stakes assessment over another to beat them down and have them loose heart over their education. We need to be a united front to form education into the model that we want for our children, and grandchildren. Removing the us vs. them mentality from administration, teachers, students, and parents will empower us to focus on the true issues in education. We need to be really with each other, admit when we make mistakes, and allow partnerships to form so that our voices can be heard loud and clear. With the age of high stakes testing that we live in today, I believe that this abuse of assessments continues to drive a wedge between all of us. Students need to be the focus of education, not money, testing, or playing the blame game.
I am very excited and optimistic about 2015! I am hoping that I will begin to take steps to improve myself in every aspect of my life. Taking baby steps, learning to crawl well before I try to run, will be the challenge for me. If I can teach myself to slow down and smell the fruits of my labors, I feel I will grow more in and out of education. My last new year’s post, I set some goals for me to strive for in the upcoming year. Some were accomplished, and many were put off. One of the most important ones for me was to blog at least once a week. I fell very short of this goal, however, I will set this goal for myself again with every intention of reaching it. To many times I catch myself looking for what is next instead of focusing on the hear and now. My new goal for 2015 will be to slow down life and be attentive to what is here and now. I will still be attending conferences, Ed Camps, and doing consulting work; I just want to take the time to enjoy what I am doing right then rather then looking for what is next. I do not feel I have been the best educational pirate that I can be in the past year. I have had to take a step back and re-anchor my feet in the educational soil. I am firmly planted and ready to put on my pirate gear for 2015. Gear that involves taking chances, teaching with passion, creating an experience instead of a lesson. My ship will sail through the troubled waters that come with being an educator. I will search for the treasure that come from helping students reach their full potential. That they can reach their dreams if they are willing to put in the hard work to reach their goals. Welcome 2015, I welcome the challenges that you will bring this year! Arrgh!
Wow! I have come full circle with Ed Camps. This was my 10th Ed Camp to attend, and the anniversary of my first Ed Camp I attended at Waller ISD. A lot has changed in the past year, and my love of learning has increased. Don Jacobs invited me to attend Ed Camp Waller last year when I had no idea what an Ed Camp was. I am so glad I took a chance and went along from the ride. I have met so many amazing people and today, that trend continues. I have grown so much as an educator in the past year. Twitter has become my go to resource for education. There are so many amazing people in my PLN that I would might have never met if it was not for Ed Camps and Twitter. Thank you to all of those I have met along the way!
We had to endure some rough weather to make it to Ed Camp Region 5, but it was well worth it. My wife and I drove to Warren, Texas on the Friday night before Ed Camp Region 5. We saw cars that were flipped over, numerous downed trees, and several towns in total darkness from the storm just ahead of us. A few times we thought about stopping for the night. The Nash’s told us to keep driving, and they were going to wait up for us to get there. The Nash’s were very gracious hosts, they told us to make ourselves at home, and they treated us just like family. Mr. Nash fixed breakfast for us on Saturday morning, and Mrs. Nash took us to see their bed & breakfast inn. We will definitely make a trip back to see the Nash’s and stay at the Happy Hill B&B.
As my wife and I walked up to the doors of Warren High School, we were greeted with a big hug and huge smile from Daisy. She asked how our trip was and we began to tell her of our adventures. She showed us were to go in a sign in. I began to look over the board to see what I could assist them with. I facilitated one on iPad Apps in the morning, and another one on Aurasma in the afternoon. I also sat in on Summer’s session on connecting classrooms globally. I was very interested in what she had to say. I really enjoy connecting my classes with other classroom in other places. Angela presented Mystery Skyping that she has been doing with her class this year. We connected to Jena & Marty through her Skype account during her session. Another wonderful way to connect classrooms to each other. At the end of the day, there were great prizes to be had and goodbyes as well. It was wonderful to connect with wonderful educators in Warren. We will be heading back to see them during the summer.
Ed Camp Awesome was my 8th Ed Camp to attend, and one of my favorites. There was so much excitement built before Ed Camp Awesome began, and it certainly lived up to the hype. From breakfast provided by Chilosos, to t-shirts being thrown from a balcony, to great prizes provided by sponsors, the day was full of fun and learning. The organizers kept the excitement building throughout the day by offering prizes via the school’s intercom system. They also continued selfie with Stuart from the TCEA 2014 Conference. I was very excited to reconnect with some of my Twitter/Ed Camp friends as well as meeting new friends to add to my PLN. I did host a session on Aurasma at this Ed Camp. We had a great time of sharing and collaborating with each other. It had been a while since I had attended an Ed Camp, this one what the best one I could have attended. There was no time to put my tip toes in the water, they went right for the high dive board!
How can we get all our students to measure up to the ever changing standards? Everyone is looking for a quick fix in education. There has become a great disconnect between stakeholders in education. Politicians change policies and standards to force all students to reach a predetermined standardized score. This score will determine the effectiveness of their teachers, school, district, community, and ultimately their funding for the upcoming school years. Once our students begin reaching and surpassing the high standards that have been set, a new deck is introduced and a new game begins. This new game is built to help our students compete in the world market and become very successful. We have had standardized testing for many years and have seen the ups and downs that it causes for students. What is a child who is low performing on standardized testing to do when the test is not on their academic readiness level? What is the difference?
Many schools begin to examine the newest game of academic excellence for all to see where the best place is to attack it. They begin looking for different Professional Development to send their staff to for training. Some spend a large portion of their budget to locate the newest trendsetters of education that will transform any school into a prize wining institution of higher learning. Staff is sent on a quest to find the sacred education piece that will make their school or district better then any other. Books, computers, tablets, and every other possible tool that could be used to solve a problem is purchased. They get lost in the amount of educational resources that they have acquired to teach students. Many educators are not comfortable or do not know how to use these tools effectively in the classroom. Are these tools and curriculum support systems going to help all of students reach the lofty goal of standardized testing? What is the difference?
What makes the difference in our schools? Do we have the best resource for achieving excellence under our noses? What is the difference? The teacher in the classroom is the difference. They wear many different hats other then just an educator. Teachers are counselors, nurses, advocates, parents, and so much more to their students. The job description of a teacher does not list these as part of their jobs, but it comes with the territory. I have talked with countless students who were having issues with other students, at home, or where just down on themselves. I have wiped tears from their eyes and listened to their stories. I have bandaged many fingers, arms, legs, and heads. I have met with many parents that felt they were at the end of their rope and did not know what to do next for their child. I spent hours worrying about my students who were in bad situations. All of this was done without receiving extra pay or acknowledgement of these deeds. Why do I do these things? Because that is what great teachers do! If we want to have our students achieve greatness, they have to have great teachers. Someone has to teach the standards, teach the content, wipe away the tears, encourage, & sometimes push our students to achieve what is expected of them. However, teachers are at the bottom of the list when it comes to educational reform. We are in the trenches with the students everyday, know how to meet their individual needs, and how to help them learn in their unique way. If you want to see a difference in education, you must change the priorities first. The educators need to be one of the highest priorities, not the lowest. Educators are leaving our profession in droves. They feel that the lack of pay and respect is not worth the amount of work they do everyday. If educators & students are not at the forefront of the decision making, we will continue to see a decline in qualified, dynamic, influential educators. With this decline in educators, student might begin to ask, “What is the difference?”
Learning to teach is something that we must all continue to do. It is not enough just to teach, but to learn in order to teach. If we have stopped learning, we are allowing ourselves to become ineffective teachers. Many people label us as teachers, those that teach others. But shouldn’t that label first be, we are learners. How can we teach what we have not learned ourselves? To remain effective in this time of high stakes testing, teachers must be willing to become learners first, to keep themselves marketable. If you continue to learn more about your profession you can become the change you want to see in it. I have begun to redefine my role in education as a learner first. I must be willing to learn from every opportunity that comes my way. Everyday has multiple opportunities to learn about your environment, those around you, and most importantly, yourself. If we begin to look for those opportunities to learn, we can become more connected to our students. We can begin to learn with our students instead of directing the teaching ourselves. Learning is an interactive process that allows everyone to engage in the process. Teaching is one perspective that is being voiced to the masses. There is a time and place for direct teaching, do not misunderstand me. But the learning does not occur during the teaching, it occurs afterwards. Students must have time to practice what has been taught for true learning to happen. If we begin to look at everyday as a time that we can learn and grow, we as educators will inspire our students to do the same. As I stated before, I am redefining myself in education. I am a learner first. I teach because I learn, not the other way around.
Make a difference in someone else’s life, it will impact them and you!
So Long 2013:
It has taken me a while to decide exactly how I wanted to write this post. I have had a flood of emotions over take me in the last weeks of 2013. There were some positives as well, but the negative created a dark shadow over my time off with my family.
I graduated in December 2013 with a Master’s Degrees in Educational Technology Leadership. My wife also graduated with her Master’s Degree as well. We worked very had to accomplish these goals.
I also had the opportunity to meet some great people in 2013. I attended Ed Camp Waller with Don, Christie, Lisa, & Lori. My educational world has never been the same! I met Todd and joined him, as well as other passionate people who are challenging the statuesque of education, in an awesome day of learning. I have now attended six different Ed Camps all over the state of Texas & online. I have met some great people like Misty, Matt, Jon, Sydney, Michelle, Greg, Amber, Amy, Mindy, Christy, Urbie, & many, many more I do not have space to mention. At Ed Camp West Texas, I was asked to present a session on Teach Like a Pirate, a book by Dave Burgess. I was unsure of what to say, but my inter-pirate took over and it was truly a highlight for me. The only thing that was better then speaking about this awesome book was meeting Dave Burgess in person. He is truly a passionate educator that understands the importance of taking risks to achieve greatness!
Not only have Ed Camps impacted me, Twitter as broaden my horizons more then I ever thought possible. I have connected with great educators from all over the world that are passionate about teaching our children. There are to many to list all together but some of the ones that come to my mind are Kim, Daisy, Brad, Drew, Benton, Jess, Jessica, Paul, Principal EL and so many others that I enjoy learning with & being inspired by. I could not imaging my life’s journey without these awesome, supportive people. Thank you to all of you for helping me become a better person then I believed I could be. From every tweet, to Ed Camp meet ups, & in person encounters, you have and continue to inspire me!
This year my goal is to become the best me that I can be! To stay positive and true to myself no matter what others have to say about me. Another goal is to take risks more often. Have been wanting to publish a children’s book for years, it just sits on the shelf. This is the year that I will self publish my book, look for it soon at Amazon. I have been active on Twitter, but I want to make better connections with my PLN. Learning and growing with them instead of sitting on the sidelines so much. This blog is also the beginning of another goal of mine. I am committing to blogging once a week for my educational journey. How will I know how far I have come if I do not know where I started at? I am challenging myself to be a better father and husband, & to become healthier so that I can be here for my family. These may not seem like much, but they are enough to keep me busy this year. When I accomplish all of these, then I will write a new blog for new goals to reach.
PS Thank you, Rafranz!