Monday, April 3, 2017

Five Years

In my teaching career, I started out as you do. I was a substitute in a handful of school districts near my parents' home. I worked at a summer day camp with friends from college (thanks, Andrea!), and I was clumsily sending resumes to every school in metro Detroit that even exhaled funny. 

From my first teaching gig at Summit Academy North until now at Palencia Elementary, I've grown so much as an educator. I've had overwhelmingly positive experiences at most of the schools where I've worked. The years that were rough or unpleasant were still filled with wonderful students and teachers from whom I learned so much. Through the years, though, some things have stayed true from the beginning. 

First of all, it's always been (and always will be) about the relationships. Looking back, even at the beginning, it was about building a community. Proficient scores are great, but happy people who learn to try harder mean more to me. 

Another constant has been pushing the boundaries. I work best when I'm given guidelines. I'll see how far I can stretch the parameters, but I do want to be a team player in the long run, I just want to do it in the most novel way that I can. It occurs to me that this doesn't work in every situation. It's why the one school that didn't work out for me was a dead end, boundary pushing wasn't in the plan there. It's okay, though, that led me to working in St. Johns County Schools, and I've experienced so much love, joy, and success here with the amazing students and teachers I've known.

I started at Hastings Elementary on a part time gig, and then moved around to Mill Creek Elementary, Wards Creek Elementary, and finally Palencia Elementary. I've gotten to help open two schools, I've co-founded EdCamp St. Augustine, and I've done as many silly, crazy, and fun things with my students as I could juggle each year. 

In all that time, this twenty year career as a teacher, I've never been in any place for longer than five years. And as my fifth year at Palencia is coming up on it's close, that itch is there again. This time, though, I'm finding myself frustrated with the state of education. It's not the teachers, the students, or the schools. The best people I know go to work each day with the purpose of leading their charges a little farther toward being grown. I love teaching and education so much. When I look at the people driving education policy, though, I feel like they're not looking at the map correctly. 

I suppose that at this point, I should start working toward school administration, but that doesn't call to me, and so I find myself looking to the companies and people pushing the argument in the right direction. This year, I'm keeping my tradition of getting itchy after five, as I head out to work with Buncee, a company that provides a creation and presentation tool for students and educators to create interactive classroom content, allowing learners of all ages to visualize concepts and communicate creatively. When I learned about Buncee, I thought, "That's it!" For goodness sake, their mission reads:

At Buncee, our goal is to provide classrooms with technology that makes learning fun and empowers student voice.

By golly, that's right up my alley! And so I'm Buncee bound. I'm still in St. Augustine. I'll be finishing out my school year with some of the best students (oh gosh, they're so awesome!) and teachers I've worked with. And next year? I'll be free to visit with people who want to play with Buncee for their classrooms, to learn and share ideas, and to further the mission of creation and fun in the classroom. It's time for a new adventure, and I'm excited to be on it. If you wanna check out Buncee, head over to My kids and I sure like creating in Buncee.

Cheers, I love you!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sometimes you get lucky!

Luck doesn't usually happen without preparation. In my case, today, luck comes from a year and a half of building a community, from the experience of writing for a chat each week, and from twenty years of teaching.

I was having trouble coming up with a chat topic for the #2PencilChat this week. I had ideas, but then I realized that it was going to be Valentine's Day, and I thought, "I should probably do a love chat." We did one after the Orlando shootings last year. But that was a different type of love chat. That was about using love in the classroom and in your career. Our Valentine's Chat was going to be a letter to the things we love.

It felt kind of hack to me. Like, yeah, duh, easy. But the thing is, the #2PencilChat - even with its somewhat rotating cast list - has consistently been a weekly meeting of big-hearted and creative souls. In a year and a half, I don't think that's wavered. I'm really happy about that. The only credit I can take for this is that I've been able to come up with decent enough questions each week to keep these awesome people interested. Even so, it makes me feel super good each week.

But again, list your favorite this, list your favorite that, it felt hacky to me. But the crew came through, as ALWAYS. By the end of the evening, it was very clear that we had a valuable resource. The people we love (Q1)? What a great resource for WHO to follow on Twitter. My favorite peoples' favorite people? Amazing. And the same happened with other questions. We have the best companies for teachers to engage, the best project ideas, the best quotes, the best sources of inspiration, it was an amazing night.

I was gonna compile it, but one of my favorite resources makes it so I don't have to. Participate has a great tool for creating chat transcripts, and it's embed-able.

Check it out, just click on the Questions and Answers tab to get to the meat of the chat: