21 December 2012

One Bad Experience

Image Source: Here

Listening to the Enough Podcast Episode 180 I was reminded of an Oatmeal comic that refers to how people react when they receive negative criticism online and I think it also relates to education. The comic (near the end) mentions that if 1,000 people online love your work you feel like everyone on the Internet loves you and if 1,000 people love your work and 1 person hates your work then everyone on the Internet hates you. Unfortunately, I think teachers sometimes do the exact same thing.

I'm just coming off of parent-teacher conferences and it was a mostly positive experience. I had a number of parents tell me their children love my class and what is being taught. They also expressed appreciation for what I am doing as a teacher. I was even told one of my students was 'studying' me because she wants to be a teacher and she likes what I am doing.

I don't mention these things to make myself sound amazing, but to bring home a point that the majority of my conferences were very positive. Even parents who weren't super happy with everything, most were able to recognize their children's growth and were happy they were happy. But like the Oatmeal cartoon, I had one experience that was really negative and it threw me for a loop.

I had a parent tell me they were so upset by my procedures that they were going to pull their child out of my class and there was nothing I could do about it. Without fully understanding why certain things happened, they chose to side 100% no-questions-asked with their 4th grader.

I was so upset and bothered by the lack of trust my whole weekend was turned upside down. I was difficult to be around. I was mopey. And I was acting completely unreasonable. I was letting one unhappy parent let me forget about the other 25+ happy parents. I was preparing for the absolute worst-case scenario and it was crazy.

I let one negative situation outweigh the many positives and was being unrealistic. When I mentioned it to a colleague they told me to not worry about it and consider it a blessing the kid would be gone from my class so I didn't have to deal with the parents again. But yet, I couldn't let it go.

As educators, many of us are too hard on ourselves and too critical of our abilities. I think that comes from caring about our students like they are our own. We need to recognize that we will have negative experiences with parents and students alike, but that we can't stop seeing the positive that goes on. The next time you're faced with some negativity, please take a minute and think back on all the positive moments you've had in your time in the classroom.

So what happened with my disgruntled parent? It turns out their spouse helped calm them down and even came in to talk with me about the situation. The final decision, both parents and the student want everything to remain as it is and not make any changes. All of that negativity and it turns out it was a false alarm. Yet another reason to not let yourself get so worked up about negative remarks.

17 December 2012

Missed Opportunity

Image Source: Here

While filling my car with gas the other night, I was witness to a situation that has haunted my dreams a little ever since. I watched a woman fighting with her partner and then start walking away while the partner drove off.

This may not seem too intense, but this particular gas station is about a seven-minute drive to town and it was also raining. What made things worse was that as I was watching, trying to decide if I should help or not, the woman was getting angry at those of us watching the situation unfold and she started yelling at us. I felt helpless. I wanted to offer her a ride yet, didn't dare because I didn't want to upset her anymore. So I did as she wanted and left her alone. Pulling out of that gas station and driving the other direction, my heart was breaking.

Sometimes teaching feels the same way. We have students who act tough and don't want our help, but deep-down NEED our help. How do we respond to those situations? Do we just ignore them and let them wallow in their anger, or do we go against their wishes and find a way to help them?

I may never see that woman from the gas station again in the flesh, but I will never forget the scene with her walking away in the cold, rainy night as I drove the other way. I don't ever want that same feeling at the end of the school year thinking back on my students and what could have been.

29 November 2012

Edu-Views: My Story

Note: This is the first post in a new series I am starting called Edu-views. This series will include interviews of people, educators and non-educators, discussing how their education affected their chosen career.

Every educator has a story of how they came into the profession. This is mine.

May 2000 - High School Diploma
May 2004 - Dixie State College of Utah (DSC) - Associate of Science, Pre-Business Emphasis
May 2008 - DSC - Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, ESL Endorsement
May 2012 - Southern Utah University - Master of Education, Educational Technology Endorsement

The above seems almost normal except for the long spacing between HS Diploma and BS in Elem Ed. First off, I attended DSC for a year after HS before serving a 2-year mission for my church. After returning from the mission, I continued towards a Business degree so I could take over my family's floral business. In the process, I married a beautiful woman in May 2005 and started a new adventure. A month after getting married, my maternal grandfather died in June 2005. This death really shook me as I was very close to my grandfather. I had spent my whole life living close to him and my grandmother, they started the family flower shop.

A couple of weeks after his passing I had the first of 4 or 5 dreams that all revolved around the same theme and merely got more and more detailed. That first dream, I was in the front of a room filled with children, was merely the start and I woke up in sweats thinking I had just had a nightmare! Over the course of a week or two, the dream repeated 3 or 4 more times, each adding more and more detail until after the final dream I woke up and wrote the following:
"I have been thinking a lot about teaching as a profession tonight. I don't exactly know why, but I haven't stopped thinking about it. Not just any sort of teaching, but teaching Elementary or Seminary. This is not the 1st time this has happened, but maybe I should look into a Major change, possibly with Business or CIT as a Minor or something.
Maybe Cameo really isn't for me after all? It's like I want to truly change the way learning happens, so that it's fun. I want to help children to learn and understand that it's cool to be smart." - Summer 2005
Shortly after writing the above statement, I looked into changing my Major and started working towards my Elementary Education degree that following Fall Semester, Fall 2005. I don't know exactly why I needed to make that change in my life, but I made it and am mostly happy with the decision.

That Fall semester was a little crazy because I was taking 2 Education pre-requisites, 2 Business requirements, 2 Computer Science courses, and 1 Religious Studies class designed around teaching teenagers; I was all over the campus and my mind was everywhere. It was during that semester that I realized just how much I wanted to get involved with education and "change the way learning happens."

That Spring I took another hodge-podge of coursework and then the following Fall semester I hit the ground running as an Education major. Since graduating with my BS in Elem Ed, I made the decision I would also continue with my educational goals and earn at least one Master degree and eventually work towards the completion of a PhD in Education as well. I am in my 5th year teaching and have completed my first Master degree and look forward to completing my Administration License in the next couple of years. I feel as an educator, I need to set an example to my students that higher education is an attainable goal. As educators we try to teach our students to be lifelong Learners and that is exactly what I am trying to be.

26 November 2012

Low-tech Learning at a High-Tech Conference

While attending the 2012 UCET Conference back in March, I had a discussion with a friend about the need to not let technology get in the way of teaching. This is not a new idea, many others have spoken of this same need, but what made it so interesting was the fact that it occurred at a technology conference some 289 miles away from our home district.

We were eating breakfast one morning and talking about how the year had gone up until that point and I mentioned that I was struggling with classroom procedures not being followed. I mentioned that it had been a different year for me because I had a student teacher for the first half of the year and I wondered if that might have been the cause. The student teacher was great! But whenever there is a change in leadership there will be a time of readjustment, which is where I was at when this discussion had occurred.

My friend asked how often I reviewed the classroom procedures and I responded that I took some time after returning from Christmas Break like I always do. Then he said something really profound that I had never thought of. He told me he always took at least one day after any break longer than three days away from school. Meaning, if we had a three- or four-day weekend he would always take that first day back and review the classroom procedures. It had never occurred to me that maybe the kids needed that kind of refresher after a "longer" break than just a regular weekend.

I would love to say that for the rest of the school year I was very rigorous in reviewing classroom procedures each time we were gone more than two days, but I wasn't. I did take time after I returned from the conference and review the procedures as well as after Spring Break (a five-day break in my district), but other than that, I wasn't too good at remembering to review.

So why am I sharing this idea of reviewing classroom procedures after any break more than three-days if I didn't even do it 100% of the time? Because I want to remember to do it and I was always taught that if you write something down you are more likely to actually remember it and I need all the help I can get to remember it. Also, I'm hoping this site can become a teaching/life resource for me to look back on and remember important ideas and techniques I have come across through teaching.

21 November 2012

Podcasts I'm Enjoying

Image Source: All Things D
While I am working on a review of my podcatcher of choice, Instacast, I thought I'd go over the list of podcasts I am listening to at the moment. I am not the kind of person to just listen to one genre of podcasts because my tastes are fairly diverse. With that said, there are a number of technology podcasts in my queue because that is one of my favorite topics.

In order to make this as easy to follow and easy to find, should you want to find them for your own subscribing purposes, I will list them according to their Network affiliation. While not all podcasts belong to a podcast network, a number of the podcasts I follow do. I will include links to the podcast's website so you can more easily find more information.

The 70Decibels Network:

Host: Myke Hurley
- The new version of The Bro Show based more on interviews of great Internet tech stars and less about tech news. Terry Lucy was a host initially, but decided to step aside and pursue other interests.

Enough - The Podcast:
Hosts: Patrick Rhone and Myke Hurley
- The podcast to accompany Patrick's website Minimal Mac where he discusses what is "enough" for Patrick. A great listen if you are wanting to contemplate what "enough" means to you.

The 512 Podcast:
Hosts: Stephen Hackett and Myke Hurley
- This is the podcast to accompany Stephen's site 512pixels.net and is all about technology, journalism, and design. This has become one of my go-to podcasts to make sure I listen to each week!

Write for You Life Podcast:
Hosts: Iain Broome and Myke Hurley
- This is a podcast all about writing and how to improve yours writing skills. Iain recently (August 2012) had his first novel (A is for Angelica) published and he shares all about his experiences in writing. The newest "Season" of the show will have Iain speaking with many other people and Myke will only occasionally appear as a guest host.

The Pen Addict:
Hosts: Brad Dowdy and Myke Hurley
- This is the podcast to complement Brad's site The Pen Addict where he reviews pens and paper. This podcast is a way for Brad and Myke to discuss their growing addictions to pens, paper, and all things analog.

Home Work:
Hosts: Aaron Mahnke and Dave Caolo
- This is a podcast for people who work from home. It has all kinds of great advice for staying productive and keeping balance in your life. Even though I don't "work from home" I still love learning about the different ideas these guys share.

11 Minutes:
Hosts: Myke Hurley, Terry Lucy and Dave Caolo
- This show is based on a conversation the three hosts have every week and then Myke edits it down to the best 11 minutes. This is more of a comedy show and I really enjoy it. In the newest "Season" the fellas have changed it to be a monthly show where it is now about an hour in length, even better for the comedy!

Mikes on Mics:
Hosts: Mike Vardy and Michael Schechter
- The two Mikes talk about all things productivity. They go over their struggles as well as their success and it's great resource for getting yourself in gear.

Hosts: Myke Hurley and Matt Alexander
- This is a podcast all about the competing ecosystems of Apple products. They plan to discuss many different systems, but are currently focusing on the Android ecosystem.

The Sci-Fi Cast:
Hosts: Dave Caolo and Ged Maheux
- This podcast is a great example of my geekiness coming out! Dave and Ged discuss all things Science Fiction and I have really grown to love this podcast. They discuss movies, books, and news as they pertain to Sci-Fi and is a lot of fun. If you enjoy some good Sci-Fi, do yourself a favor and check this one out!

Host: Gabe Weatherhead
- Gabe is known for writing the site MacDrifter and is an awesome writer. He has a great podcast all about living with technology in the family and making it all work out. He has great guests and I have learned a lot from the great discussions.

The 5by5 Network:

The B&B Podcast:
Hosts: Shawn Blanc and Ben Brooks
- A weekly podcast all about technology, productivity, writing, software, Apple, iOS products and the like. Ben, of The Brooks Review, tends to be a little more pessimistic while Shawn, of ShawnBlanc.net, is more of the optimist of the two. A great show that has lots of good insights.

Mac Power Users:
Hosts: David Sparks and Katie Floyd
- A show that is released a couple times a month where David, of MacSparky fame, and Katie pick a topic about something on the Mac and focus on it for the entire show. A few examples are shows they have done focused on; email, web automation tools, dumping Google, iTunes Match, Internet browsers, etc. They also have workflow shows where they interview guests about how they get their work done and the different apps they use to be productive. If you are a Mac user, this should be at the top of your list!

After Dark:
Hosts: All the hosts of the 5by5 Network
- This is show where the different hosts of the 5by5 Network continue recording after their show is done and you get to hear their conversations they continue having. This podcast has every 5by5 show included, but I only listen to the episodes that have to do with the B&B Podcast and Mac Power Users. Occasionally this podcast may not be as edited for language, so be aware. I haven't heard any major language issues, but I haven't listened to every episode released either.

EdReach - The Education Media Network:

Hosts: Meg Wilson and Kelly Dumont
- A weekly show all about Apple products in the classroom and making them more effectively work for education. Both Meg and Kelly are Apple Distinguished Educators and they always bring on a guest host who also is well-versed in EdTech lingo and uses.

Quick and Dirty Tips:

Grammar Girl:
Host: Mignon Fogarty
- This is a great show for tips and tricks on grammar. Grammar Girl is great because she always has excellent writing ideas and the shows are typically less than 10 minutes, which make them great for use in the classroom as well.

Tech Talker:
Host: Eric Escobar
- Like Grammar Girl, these are quick episodes, 10 minutes or less but this show all about technology tips and tricks. I have learned a lot from the Tech Talker and I really enjoy his simplified way of explaining what is going on.

Legal Lad:
Host: Adam Freidman
- This is a great show all about legal matters and how you can live "a more lawful life." Like the other shows on the QDT Network, this one is also usually 10 minutes or less. I started listening to this show during my School Law course I took for my Master's class this Summer and I've been hooked ever since.

Scientific American:

60-Second Science:
Hosts: Varied
- This a great quick podcast that is all about different scientific themes. They are always around 60-seconds or less and are a lot of fun. I have even used a couple of these in my classroom as a way to get kids excited about Science.

Not Associated with any particular network

Freakonomics Radio:
Hosts: Stephen Dubner and Stephen Levitt
- This is a podcast to go along with the Freakonomics books and website where they explore the "hidden side of things." It is a very interesting show and if you enjoyed reading the books, you should give this one a listen.

UEN Teacher Feature:
Hosts: Varied
- This is a podcast that UEN records where they focus on a different teacher in Utah each episode and discuss some of the ways they are being successful in the classroom. Even if you don't live in Utah, this is a great way to get ideas of successful teaching.

Previously Enjoyed - Not currently being updated with new material

The Bro Show:
Hosts: Myke Hurley and Terry Lucy
- The show that started the 70Decibels Network all about tech news and included some great interviews. It has since been retired, but you can still find the old shows for listening to. This site is the Libsyn site which hosts all their episodes, including the newer episodes of CMD+SPACE. To hear The Bro Show, you'll have to work your way backwards.

The Hurley Bird:
Host: Myke Hurley
- This was a show where Myke talked all about the behind the scenes of podcasting. The show stopped when he started writing a book with the same theme, but he has mentioned it may be coming back. You can still find the past episodes if you want to listen as well.

Chat Broome:
Host: Iain Broome
- This was Iain's one-man podcast where he would share his thoughts on life and writing that didn't fit on the Write For Your Life Podcast.

Hosts: Myke Hurley and Stephen Hackett
- This was a show where Myke and Stephen would discuss a different Wikipedia article each week. They had a rule to never edit the article and they would base what they talked about in each show mainly from what they read. I really enjoyed this show and hope they bring it back one day.

Cooking with Brett and Myke:
Hosts: Brett Kelly and Myke Hurley
- Although the title includes "Cooking" this is anything but a cooking show. The idea is Brett and Myke talk about whatever is going on in the tech world and how it relates to them. Myke as called it the "behind the scenes of the 70Decibels Network" show. Unfortunately, Cooking With ... has recently recorded its last show and is no longer being updated. Even still, it is well worth checking into the archives and taking a listen to.

Hosts: Chris Bowler and Shawn Blanc
- This was a great show all about the intersection of simplicity and creativity. It included interviews with people associated with the Fusion Ad Network. Shawn left hosting and Chris continued on for a while, but the show didn't last very long. I really liked the ideas shared and would like to see this one come back as well.

Host: Mike Vardy
- This was the precursor to the Mikes of Mics podcast that Mike is currently involved with. It dealt with productivity as well as offered tips and tricks. One of the most interesting aspects was that it tried to stay under 22 minutes in length.

Work Awesome:
Host: Mike Vardy
- The precursor to the ProductiVardy podcast. Mike hosted this one when he worked at the WorkAwesome website. It was an interview style show that again, dealt with productivity and tips and tricks. It was after Mike left the WorkAwesome website that he started the ProductiVardy show and I kind of see these two as the same show in more of a Season 1 and 2 idea.

I realize that is a pretty long list of podcasts, but I don't listen to all of them every day or even every week, but I have found that having a large variety is perfect for when I go running or am doing yard work. I also love to listen when I am cleaning my classroom or working on any project that doesn't require a lot of steady brain power.

Why don't you take a chance and give podcasts a try. These are just a fraction of the available shows you can find in iTunes or in your podcatcher of choice. I like to consider it my "Free Professional Development" moments.

19 November 2012

The Absentee Writer

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Catching Ideas When and Where They Come 

I have recently come to an understanding about why I have been absent from this blog. If I don't stop what I am doing and write down the thoughts in my head when they first show up, I forget them and lose the opportunity to share them. This isn't a new idea for me, but it is one I have been thinking on for a while. I am a follower of Patrick Rhone who writes online in a number of locations (Minimal Mac, his online Journal, and a newer site called iPad First to name a few) and records a podcast called Enough, which is a part of the 70Decibels Podcast Network. It was on one of the episodes of Enough (I don't recall which one, but I will try to update this with the actual show number) that Patrick talked about the way he writes and the fact that when his "writing brain" takes over, her has to write AT THAT VERY MOMENT or else the idea is gone. It doesn't matter where he is, it has to be written down or else the idea is lost and seldom ever found again.

This experience has happened to me a number of times and I have usually just figured I would remember the idea later and move on. Nine times out of 10 the idea has been lost and I have no recollection of what it was. There have been a few times however, where I have sat down and made of list of the ideas and then moved on without actually writing the full thought/story, which is where this post came from. This approach isn't the best either because the ideas aren't fully flushed out right away and may sit for months. (I had the idea for this post and four other posts come to me on 16 March 2012 and it is just now getting written.)

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this idea, other than to remind myself that if I get an idea that I need to write it down immediately so I don't lose it. And if possible, don't just write the idea, but the entire thought right then or else it may take another eight months to see it realized into an actual post.

17 March 2012

Hello Again!

I fear this site is a dying desire to stay active in the online world.

I have failed miserably with the upkeep of this site and I apologize to the readers as I have let it slip into the wastelands of the interwebs. I have great desire to write more frequently, not too difficult considering my last post was in July 2011, but I keep losing myself in other things. I have been given a number of additional assignments this year at school that have kept me busier than I would like to be. Add to that the fact I am working towards a Master's degree (set for completion Summer 2012) and even planning to continue on for an Administrative endorsement either Fall 2012 or Spring 2013. I may have lost my mind! Plus I am still a husband, father and son and I am what so many call busy.

With all this "busy" floating in my head, I still don't understand why I can't find time to do the things I really want to do, writing on this site being one. Every one of us has the same number of hours in a day and yet many of you out there find the time to keep posting to your sites on a regular basis, so what am I doing wrong? I think my main problem lies in the fact that I suffer from a condition known as "procrastination" mixed heavily with another condition known as "easily distracted." These two "conditions" don't mix well and have left me with more problems than I care to remember. When I should be working on homework, like right now for instance, my mind wants to be doing anything BUT homework and that leads to the "easily distracted" thing where I mess around online doing good things, just not the best things for that moment. At least I am using these moments to write here instead of mess around online watching YouTube videos or reading other people's great sites.

I think the other thing that gets in the way of my writing here is not being able to decide what kind of a person I want to be; early bird or night owl. For as long as I can remember I have been the quintessential night owl even to the point of pulling all-nighters quite regularly, usually due to the above "conditions" spoken of earlier. Being a night owl was only increased when I was involved in a couple of local bands which required playing shows at night followed by the "requisite" post-show meal that typically started around 11:00pm or later. With all the late nights I assumed my body was made for the night and totally detested the early hours of the day. I felt very vampire-esque; that was back when being a vampire was tough, back before the Twilight Saga ruined it! Then I started to get a little older (I'm still under 30 FYI) and it wasn't so easy to stay up half the night and then function properly as a teacher the next day. I realized I needed to start going to bed earlier and I have even considered joining the ranks of the early birds, but I just can't bring myself to it. As hard as I have tried, I can't seem to change my internal clock to recognize that it's okay to go to sleep before midnight.

My ideal schedule would be as follows:

5:30am - Wake up, read and write online
6:30am - Exercise (I would love to become a runner as well)
7:30am - Prepare for the day
8:00am - Leave for school
5:30pm - Return home
5:45pm - Family time (Dinner, play with kid(s), etc.)
8:00pm - Spouse time
9:30pm - Prepare for bed
10:00pm - Sleep

Doesn't that schedule seem great? I would love for that to be my schedule, but my actual schedule is more like the following:

8:00am - Wake up and rush to get ready for the day
8:30am - Leave for school
6:00pm - Return home
6:15pm - Family time (Rushed dinner, and getting the kid(s) ready for bed)
7:30pm - Spouse time (if any at all)
8:00pm - Homework and next day prep
12:00-2:00am - Prepare for bed and sleep

The first schedule sounds so much better and yet, I am struggling to allow myself to change who I currently am in order to become who I want to be. Am I cursed to live in this lifestyle without a chance of change? I'll be sure to keep you updated as I progress, but what are your thoughts and/or suggestions? I would love to hear them! I'm hoping to have this be the start of a writing renaissance and bring this site back from the dead.
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