Ed Camp Awesome

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!

What’s the Difference?

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

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, Hello 2014

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!

Hello 2014:
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!

Building & Managing Relationships

Building relationships with students & colleagues is essential to a school finding success in this storm of standardized testing.  Many times we do not take time to in invest in the relationships with others, because we feel that other things are more important.  Some believe that the subject content is the most important part of the school day.  Others may feel that intervention time, or another allotted amount of time is the most important.  I am not questioning whether these times throughout our day are important, because they are.  However the time you take each day to build relationships with your students is & should be the most important time of your day.

It takes less time to let a student know how much they mean to you then it does to teach your content material.  A simple handshake, pat on the shoulder, a word of encouragement goes along way in building relationships with your students.  Our students want to get to know us not just as their teachers, but as individual outside the classroom.  They want to know that you are real with them & not just playing teacher when you are in the classroom.  By building relationships with our students daily, we will not have to worry about the assessments being passed down by the powers that be.  Students will learn from those that they have developed relationships with, & exceed every expectation or assessment that comes before them.

We must also develop those same relationship with our colleagues.  If we all band together & work together as a team, student achievement will increase.  Educators are more willing to share their ideas & failures with those that they have an established relationship with.  Being able to go talk to other educators, to work through challenges together, & trusting their advice is invaluable.  I have been blessed to have formed some great relationships with colleagues both near & far.

Establishing those relationships are only the beginning.  They must be build with trust & acceptance for our differences.  Building relationships in your school climate & beyond is what will unlock the hidden door for student success.  These relationships must also be maintained & managed much like a garden.  If we never visit the seeds that we have sewn, how will we know when our garden needs tending?  We must work to keep our relationships ever growing & expanding.  Unfortunately, as any gardener knows, you must pull some weeds, prune some limbs, & even remove some relationships that have not produced positive outcomes.  But with removing those relationships, we now have more room in our garden to build new, positive, & exciting relationships that we can plant the seeds for!  Building & maintaining relationships is hard work, & they are not created or managed on their own.  However, putting the time & energy into your relationships, you will reap rewards that make all the work well worth it! Handshake_0

Expect the Unexpected

There are times in my life when patterns emerge out of no where, & cause me to begin thinking very deeply about who I am, where I am going, & what I want to do when I get there.  This has been the case the past couple of weeks.  I have been reading Teach Like a Pirate for the past month & the more I read the book, the more drawn I am to this philosophy.  I don’t know if I am really drawn to it, or that it feels very natural to me.  I have thought of myself as an out of the box thinker.  I am willing to try anything once (except for skydiving or  jumping from extreme heights).  I challenge myself to look at the bigger picture and then separate it into smaller puzzle pieces that when put together, can create a more beautiful picture then I originally began with.  Most of the time, I become frustrated with the process before I get to see the product.  Every once in a while, I stay the course and get to enjoy the beautiful outcome.

I stumbled upon this blog post from Marc & Angel called 10 habits You Must Quit to Be Happy a few days ago.  As I looked through their list of habits, I found that I have all of these 10 habits that show them selves from time to time.  Some are there more than others, but several are apparent more often then I would like to admit.  I find myself being a much happier person when I am just being me.  I do not know why I have let these habits come into my life and steal my happiness away.  I see these habits in many different significant areas of my life.  Work, home, professional learning opportunities, & many more areas that I did not realize.  Extremely eye opening read for me!
Within a couple of days of reading this blog, I found another blog that dropped me to the floor like a rock.  Dr. Justin Tarte wrote a blog post called My Challenge to You & when I begin reading it, it was very eye opening.  Many of the quotes that were listed, I have either said outright, said in a different way, or thought but never actually spoke.  Even though I have not personally met Dr. Tarte, I know he was talking directly to me.  I must change my own thinking in order to make the impact that I desire in education. The negativity must be pushed to the side in order to positively effect student success.

These three experiences are challenging me into becoming the educator I need to be.  To teach with passion everyday!  To stand in the gap for those with differences despite how others may view me.  To leave the negativity to those that enjoy gossip & drama.  To be happy & grateful for the person I am, & what I have to offer the world.  A great man once told me that I would always be under-appreciated for how intelligent I was.  He said it was my cross to bear.  I have reflected on these words many times.  I may not be appreciated by those who do not understand why or what I do, but those that it matters to will always see the true me & what I can do.  Teach Like A Pirate gives me validation for who I am as an educator & a person.  I must shed those things that bring me down in life, so that I may become the pirate in education I am destined to become.

EdCamp Ft. Worth

WOW! Let me just start with that!  This was my second EdCamp and I can officially say that my mind was blown on Saturday! Since EdCamp Waller, I have been anticipating attending my next EdCamp.  The excitement has grown each day, and my excitement met a room full of equally excited educators at every session I attended.  I have a tendency to stay to myself and quiet in large groups or with people I do not know very well.  I do not want others to think I am a “know it all, that doesn’t really know anything.”  I love helping others individually to find their own success, I just do not want to seem overly pushy.  I can say, I am embracing assisting others & not keeping to myself.

I attended four great sessions on Saturday, but wished I could have attended every session that was available.  I am currently reading Teach Like A Pirate so I had to attend that session first.  The open dialogue that Misty facilitated was awesome. I assisted some of the other educators sitting with me to understand some of the discussion that was taking place closer to the front.  Misty shared some history about Dave Burgess with us & answered questions that others had about her passion for this style of teaching.  She explained that it is not a fad, it is a philosophy about teaching our students.  We have to change our mindset about always doing what we are told, & do what is best for our students.  After this session, I finally was able to meet my #SCItlap shipmate face to face.  One of the highlights of my day for sure!

I then moved on to the Blogging session with Rafranz.  I had just met Rafranz Saturday morning, so I was excited to learn from her.  What I did not realize is that Rafranz wanted to learn as much from us, as we wanted to learn from her.  I created several blogs, but have not used them as much as I would have liked.  Rafranz changed that for me! She empowered me to speak freely and let my voice be heard by all.  I struggled with knowing what to blog about.  She told us to keep a book with us at all times for blogging ideas and inspiration. I will now be an active blogger with the knowledge my friend, Rafranz, shared with me.  My goal this year is to blog at least 3 times a week!

All I need to say next is Augmented Reality!  If you missed this session, you missed a mind blowing experience.  Ninja Todd & Ninja Stacey demonstrated how to use Aurasma to engage our students by giving them something out of the ordinary to explore.  By creating & using auras, what was a simple picture, comes to life with animation.  The learning potential is endless for our students when we use the great technological tools to help them explore items that we can not see with the naked eye.  My mind is still trying to recover from being blown again during this session.

The final session was with students from Fayetteville ISD sharing how they use Chromebooks at their school.  It was awesome to reverse roles with the students & allow them to become the teachers while we were the students.  They handled themselves very well in a room full of educators asking questions about the Chrome platform.  They inspired me to always be willing to move between the teacher and student roles, & to allow for a seamless transition between the two.

There is still so much more I could share about EdCamp Ft. Worth.  From meeting new people, connecting with others that I have talked to on Twitter, to the conversation about #txidea chat session with Matt & Jon.  I am officially addicted to EdCamps!

EdCamp Waller

My head is still spinning from the excitement and knowledge gained from Ed Camp Waller.  I was not sure what to expect, but I knew I was going with some great people.  I found myself learning how to enhance what I am currently doing, but also affirmed in my endeavors in my classroom.  Sometimes I feel alone in striving to have my student think for themselves, work independently & with a group, and become problem solvers.  I am misunderstood for the way I push my students to greatness.  Attending the Ed Camp in Waller on Saturday allowed me to feel the joy of teaching again with like minded individuals.  Every  session that I attended had something that I could bring into my classroom, and something in it that I already do in my classroom.

I love teaching, I hate the mucky muck that clogs up the teaching juices and gets in the way of educating our future.  My desire is to always stay fueled and ready to challenge my students and other teachers to look at education in a different light.  Learning is fluid, we all learn in different ways.  I like that at Ed Camp Waller, there were avenues for the experienced and inexperienced attendees.  I cannot wait for a chance to attend another Ed Camp!

Cells R Us

My students created some awesome cells during our discover of cells a couple of weeks ago.  They were to be creative and resourceful with the materials that they used in creating their cells.  Some of the projects were made from cakes, pies, clay, play dough, and anything else my kids could get their hands on.  They were so excited to look at the other projects and show their peers their own creations.  I am posting some of the pictures on here for you to look at.  I lost the pictures of the cakes and one animal cell made from fruit.  My phone decided to fry the motherboard without warning.  Enjoy these creative minds!