27 March 2013

Daddy, Can You Fix It?

Image Source: Here

I recently flew with my daughter on a solo flight to El Paso, TX to visit my paternal grandfather for his 80th birthday. It was a wonderful trip where we met up with my parents, who had made the long drive to be there as well. This trip had many learning opportunities for me, but the one I'd like to focus on involved a souvenir my daughter received from my mom that didn't last nearly as long as it should have.

While in El Paso, we visited a store called The El Paso Saddle Blanket Company, which if you are ever remotely near El Paso is worth a visit. This place has a little bit of everything, including beautifully beaded jewelry. My mom decided she wanted to buy my 3 year old a necklace and my daughter was very excited to have the present, so much so that she then wore it for the rest of the trip.

Skip ahead a few weeks and we are back home and my daughter is still loving the necklace and keeps telling us it was a present from grandma. However, due to her "extreme" love for the necklace, my daughter decided to try and wear it as a belt and while sliding in over her shoulders the beaded necklace shattered. Then the tears began. "Daddy," she pleaded, "can you fix it?" And like a dagger the words hit me because I knew that beadwork wasn't one of my talents. I'm not sure who was more crushed, my daughter because her beautiful beaded necklace was destroyed, or me because my little girl mistakenly thought I could fix it.

Just then it hit me, I may not have the skills needed to fix this shattered memory, but I did know someone who could, a mother of one of my students. I got in touch with her as soon as possible and explained the situation and she agreed to take a look, while informing me she could make no promises. After looking over the wreckage, she agreed to fix the necklace, but let me know it would look different since she had no idea what the original design was like. My main request was that it be made of a stretchy string.

I had no way of fixing the necklace, but I knew someone who could and was able to get in contact with them. As teachers, we don't know all the answers, and we don't have to as long as we know where to find them. We need to make sure we have trusted confidants with whom we can go in times of need and struggle. By having a strong Professional Learning Network (PLN) who can help us, we become even better teachers and our students do nothing more than benefit from the influence of others. We shouldn't be embarrassed or afraid that we don't know all the answers, unless we aren't willing to look for them.

What happened with the necklace? This parent came through and delivered not only one, but two beautiful necklaces that are very much 3 year old proof with stretchy string and all!

Cross posted on Teacher-Dad.blogspot.com.

26 March 2013

I'm Sorry

I think two of the most powerful words in the entire English language are "I'm sorry." I'm not a perfect person and nor do I believe one such person exists today but I have learned that when I mess up, when I make a mistake, I need to apologize as quickly as possible.

Recently while planning out some events with my grade level team in our weekly PLC meeting, I was mistaken about the events of a particular presentation happening in our future. I didn't realize my mistake until well past the end of the meeting as I was going back over the calendar. I felt horrible! The first thing I did once I realized I was wrong was send out an email to my grade level colleagues and made sure I apologized for my inaccuracies, as well as my snippy and rude mannerisms during the meeting.

The next day I went to find the colleague I had been particularly snippy with to apologize in person and she was in talking to my other teammates. I was shocked when the first thing out of both of their mouse was, "Thank you for being humble and recognizing that you were wrong. And even more for apologizing for it, that's an important skill many people don't seem to have or want." I was shocked! Here I was coming to apologize and try and make amends and I was being told that I had done the right thing by being willing to apologize so quickly.

I don't hide that I have goals and aspirations to end up in educational leadership, in fact I'll be starting an educational administrative endorsement this fall. I feel that recognizing when you are wrong and being willing to apologize is one of the most valuable skills that anyone in education, especially those educational leadership, should have. It seems that some of the best administrators I have worked with all share that trait and are willing to go out of their way to make their wrongs into rights. I only hope that I will be able to keep up this skill I have when I become an administrator one day.

As I started this post, I don't believe I'm perfect and I don't believe I'm anywhere near being perfect. I mess up on a daily basis but one thing that I feel like I'm good at is recognizing my mess ups and being willing to apologize.

22 March 2013

Music Education Rocks!

I just came across the amazing music video of 2 then-teens playing one of my all-time favorite songs, "Let It Be" by The Beatles on a violin and cello. This is a perfect example of why it is important to keep music in the classroom because without it, life would be horribly boring! Please enjoy the amazing string rendition of "Let It Be" below. Please support music in your classrooms any chance you get!

I found this video at I Waste So Much Time, which is one of my guilty pleasures. I love all the crazy stuff there.

20 March 2013

Reaching for Success

Image Source: 70Decibels.com

Not too long ago I wrote about my love of podcasts and some of my favorite shows that I listen to. It so happens that the majority these podcasts belong to the 70Decibels Network which has recently been acquired by another favorite podcast network, the 5by5 Network full of awesome shows! I am so happy for the fellas over at 70Decibels and especially for Myke Hurley one of the co-founders and current Executive Producer of the network and all its shows. iMyke, as he is known on the interwebs, has worked hard to create a wide assortment of incredible shows on the network and has done the whole thing in his "spare time" since he has a day job. Hopefully this latest step of being acquired by 5by5 will allow him the opportunity to finally go full time with podcasting so he can continue to create even more great content. Maybe he might even help to create an education-themed podcast for all of us educators. (hint, hint)

Image Source: 5by5.tv
Why would I bring this news up on an education-themed website? Because in order for Myke to achieve his goal of going full-time with podcasting, he must make sacrifices and work hard. He has to continue learning and keep informed of the latest trends in podcasting to be able to continue bringing his listeners high quality shows. Myke is a great example for anyone who has a dream and a goal. As educators we need to have as many different examples of hard working, successful people to share with our students so they can see the benefit of being a continual learner. We can't be the only example for our students of this way of life.

The other reason, and maybe the more important reason I bring up Myke and 70Decibel's story is that I love what he is doing and think all my readers should go ahead and take a listen. I can almost guarantee you will find something you enjoy. I am currently subscribed to and listen to every show on the network, it's all that good! So go ahead and take a few minutes to see if there is anything on the current 70Decibels Network, soon to be 5by5 Network, that makes you want to listen. I bet there's at least one or two shows.

08 March 2013

UCET 2013 Conference

As this post goes live, I will be getting ready to attend the 2013 UCET Conference in Sandy, Utah. UCET is the Utah Coalition for Educational Technology and is the Utah affiliate for ISTE.

If you are ever in the Salt Lake City area in early March, you should definitely try to attend this wonderful conference on education and technology. I have been attending this conference since 2011 and I don't see any end in sight for my regular attendance. This is one of my favorite ways to spend my professional development time because I am able to meet new friends, see old friends, learn great education and technology tricks, and recharge my batteries for the tail end of the school year. I wrote about an experience I had at a previous conference not long ago and have to admit, those one-on-one discussions I have at UCET are one of the main reasons I keep coming back.

If you ever find yourself in need of a recharge and are willing and/or able to get to Salt Lake City, Utah, I can guarantee this is a great conference to attend. If you will be attending UCET 2013, come find me and say hello, I'll be presenting 2 different presentations amongst 3 different times and will be spending some time at the SUECON booth in between attending interesting sessions, so come and say hello. I'd love to connect with you and get to know you a little better. Hopefully, I'll see you at UCET 2013!

06 March 2013

Funding Your Dream

I recently came across what looks to be an extremely helpful app for grading student writing papers. The app is called Markup and it's coming from the San Kim, one of the creators of the ever popular ShowMe App which is currently ranked #62 on the Apple iOS Education AppStore. ShowMe is a great app that allows users to "record voice-over whiteboard tutorials and share them online." While I haven't used ShowMe as frequently as I should, this new app Markup sounds very interesting.

The idea behind the app is to help create paperless classrooms where students can submit writing assignments to their teachers digitally and yet still allow teachers to correct and mark their paper as though it were on paper. Their video from Kickstarter is below.

As interesting as this project is, I think what is more interesting is the way in which the San Kim and crew are going about to create and fund it. Kickstarter is a website where people can create a webpage about a project they are either working on or wanting to create and then ask the regular human being to help fund their idea. If you find the idea interesting and wish to contribute, you can choose to "back" the project. By backing the project, you decide a dollar amount you wish to pay to the developer/creator and then if the funding goal is met, you pay the amount you decided upon. If the funding goal is not met, then you don't pay a penny. It's an all or nothing game, and I find it incredibly awesome. Each creator establishes certain dollar amounts they hope to receive and then create reward tiers based on dollar amounts contributed. And did I mention that each project only gets up to 60 days to be funded, although they recommend keeping it around 30 days.

If you have never been on the site I suggest you look around and see what is out there. I guarantee you will find at least one project that interests you. If you create an account you can star projects to more easily find them later.

So take a few minutes and get to know a fun, and possibly expensive, site where you can help aspiring creators achieve their dreams all while getting a little something for yourself. And if you think the idea of the Markup App is interesting, why not help out San Kim and crew and make a pledge to help them get funded, they only have until Wednesday, March 20th to see their dream come true.

Disclosure: I have not yet decided to fund the Markup app, but will probably do so before the March 20th deadline.

05 March 2013

To This Day

I just came across this amazing video on the ever funny site I Waste So Much Time discussing the horrors of school violence and bullying. I don't know how prevalent this video has become on the inter-webs, but I want it to blow up! Please take a few minutes (about 7.5) and then continue reading.

Pretty impressive huh? After watching that video I feel like I want to single-handedly take on bullying in my school. There are so many amazing things said, but I think the most important part is that we can never really understand the power our words have on others. We think the things we say are harmless and no big deal, but we couldn't be more wrong. I'm not sure if I'll show this to my 4th graders, but part of my is thinking they may see it before the year is over. I will definitely share it with my faculty and colleagues.

The author of the poem, Shane Koyczan wrote a post about how you can get involved by using the hashtag #ToThisDay to share ideas about stopping the bullying.

Please help me help Shane and blanket the world over with this amazing message. We may never end bullying, but we can certainly try and maybe even take a few bullies down with us!

04 March 2013

Daddy, Come Play with Me!

Come play with me Daddy!
"Daddy, come play with me" is a phrase I hear all the time and I love it! I have a 3 year old daughter who is so sweet and loving and yet, I don't always give her the time and attention she deserves because I have "obligations" that must be fulfilled. Now, there are certainly things I do that must be done like going to school, work, or religious duties, but there are also a number of other things I let get in the way of that valuable time with my daughter.

How many times do I come home to an anxious daughter, she literally runs to the door everyday to unlock it so I can come in, only to allow technology or work get in the way? I have found that she is only excited for the first 5-10 minutes and then she loses interest if I'm not able to devout some time to her. It is incredibly sad how frequently I let those crucial moments pass with without playing and enjoying her sweet kindness and love.

How frequently do we allow ourselves the opportunity to "play" with our students at recess? Are we too "busy" to go out and play? Now, I recognize that we can't always go outside and play at recess because as teachers, we legitimately have to use that recess time to prepare for lessons, talk with a colleague, or heaven forbid we need to use the restroom during the day! The question though, do we really need to do those things every recess break?

I am in my 5th year as a classroom teacher and I am embarrassed how infrequently I allow myself to play while at recess! I go out for my recess duty rotation as needed, one time you shouldn't play, but actually be vigilant for safety and concerns of the students, but do I go out and play? Not really and that bothers me. In my first year teaching, I went out to play at least once per week. Once a week! I haven't been outside to play at all this year, we are in March just in case you forgot. We are ⅔ of the way through our school year and I have yet to go out and play. I need to change that ASAP!

I think one of the best thing we can do as teachers is go out and play with our students. Show them we are not just there to teach them academics, but also how to have fun. We should spend time running and playing to show them physical exercise is good for us all, especially as adults! I am going to set a goal of returning to my once a week recess play time with my students for the remainder of the school year so they can see how much fun I really am!

Even more important than the play time at school, is the play time at home with my kids. I think the best thing to do in this case is to make sure when I walk in my lovingly unlocked front door that I am ready to give my sweetheart daughter a couple of my first moments home so she can see how much Daddy loves her!

"Come play with me Daddy" needs to be a phrase I continue to hear for many, many years from this little girl and the only way to make sure that happens is to actually do just that. Drop the work, the electronics, everything and just spend some time playing with my little girl!

Cross posted on Teacher-Dad.blogspot.com

01 March 2013

Principal Term Limits?

While reading the great blog of Pernille Ripp, I came across a post she wrote back in December about whether or not principals should have term limits and it really made me think. It caused me to think so much that I am just now getting around to responding some 3 months later.

Before I entered the world of education I was a Business major who was ready to take over a family run business as the 3rd generation owner. My parents were proud but my grandparents were even prouder, especially my grandmother. So you can only imagine their disappointment when I told them I wasn't going into the family business but instead going into education. They were heartbroken and my grandmother, well, I don't think she talked to me for a few days, maybe even weeks after she found out.

Before my change of heart, I had worked with the family business for a number of years and had spent time in each and every position within the company. Why would I have done that, other than the fact that I was the child who lived with the boss and had to do EVERYTHING that was asked of me because I couldn't get fired, just grounded? I worked in every position within the company so I would know exactly what it was like for my employees to work for the company. I had to know what they were doing so they couldn't pull one over on me. I had to know what was required of them before I could ask them to do their jobs.

I feel that a principal is kind of that same position. They need to know what their teachers are doing so that when s/he asks them to do something/teach something, they know what the teachers are doing. The principal is the Lead Teacher of a school, meaning, they had better be able to teach the faculty as effectively, if not more so than the teachers teach their classes.

Pernille suggests that a being a principal should be a 4-5 year job with the principal then having to spend at least a year back in the classroom to "remember" what it's like to be a full-time teacher. If they decide to go back into the administrative office, they would have to re-apply for an open position. While I agree to some extent with Pernille, I like the idea of having a principal spend a year in the classroom every 4-5 years, I don't agree with the re-application process. I think there is a better solution that can actually have some collaboration and training built in.

Every 4-5 years, all principals must spend 1 year back in the regular classroom, but not in their own school. They should trade classrooms/offices with a teacher who has admirations to become a principal someday, a teacher who has their administrative endorsement and is waiting for a principal job to open up. By switching with that teacher, the principal gets to spend a year back in the classroom with students, at a different school, and have the ability to collaborate with the principal of the new school to help with training or guidance. Meanwhile, the teacher spends a year in the role of principal working with a different staff, at a different school, learning firsthand what it means to be a principal.

I realize the logistics of this plan might be a little hairy to work out, but I think it could be a win-win situation for both the principal (spending time back in the classroom remembering what it's actually like) and the teacher (real-life on the job training and practice where they can see first hand if an administrative position is really what they want). I would love to see something like this go into effect, but I don't know that I would want to manage the situations.

Another idea, what if principals had to spend X number of days in the classroom as a substitute teacher for the day? Meaning, the principal spends the entire day in a classroom while the regular teacher is able to work on other projects like observing other teachers or working on something for the school. What about something like that? Could that idea be more possible and reasonable? I would love to have my principal spend a day in my classroom as a substitute while I spent some time going around and helping the rest of my colleagues with technology issues and questions. I like it so much, that I might just suggest it to him tomorrow and see what he says.

No matter the scenario, I think having principals back in the classroom every so often is a good thing for the entire education system.

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