Monday, June 19, 2017

Wrapping up another year

I teach sixth grade, so I will be saying goodbye to my students in about a week. I'll see them in the hallways, but it won't be the same. They'll never be in my classroom again. That's weird to think about right now, when all I do is see them.
It has me wondering; did I serve them as best I could? Did I impart all the wisdom I could into their little brains? Did I ignite a spark, or reaffirm a defeatist attitude?
I have to be honest, there are some kids I won't miss. You know the kids I'm talking about; the ones that needed us the most. They were a challenge every day. I hope I served them as best I could.
Some kids were lovely, and I enjoyed having them in my classroom. But so many more kids that were somewhere in between. I didn't get to know them very well. They were the middle of the road; never being a problem but never really shining either. They did their work, they seemed to be happy and I gave them their grades. Since they weren't on my radar in some way, did I serve them as best I could? Did they get all they were able to from my class without me making a conscious decision to focus on them as individuals?
I wish I could talk to a student of mine from ten years ago and ask them questions. First, do you remember me or anything I taught you? Then, did what you learned from me come in handy in HS and beyond? Was I effective in teaching you things I thought you should know? I'd like to think I did.
No matter what I do now, it won't change the fact that another year is gone. I hope I made a difference.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

This Year's #NYCSchoolsTech Summit

I have mentioned the #NYCSchoolsTech Summit to certain people and they ask me if they should go. I say "of course" and launch into a 20 minute lecture that makes them sorry they asked. To spare you the 20 minutes, I'm going to explain it to you here.

We #NYCSchoolsTech teachers are already pretty connected through our Facebook groups, Google+ groups, and Twitter, but on July 26th, we get to see everyone in 3D and have conversations with the faces behind the minds we’ve come to know so well.

We laugh and we learn. Mostly we laugh. No one else gets our nerd jokes quite like we do.

It also has the feeling of a county fair. Everyone brings their best to show off what they do well. It's not a prize pig, but it's an interesting way to use iPads in their classroom. It's not the biggest pumpkin, but it's how to engage ESL students with coding games. Seeing what everyone else is doing is inspiring and creates fan clubs for hardworking everyday people.

It's the easiest way to find out what products you will be asking for and hopefully using next year. Salespeople are just trying to make your life easier, stop by a booth and let them try. You even get some cool swag for your troubles. Totebag, anyone?

It's a powerful approach to touch base with, discover, or create your tribe. What better way to find your people than the person sitting next to you in a session learning right alongside you? They're right where you are, and that's who you want around you.

Never been to a Summit? Don’t worry. There’s the #NYCSchoolsTech Summit Newbie meetup that will help get you started. Been around a while and love the #NYCSchoolsTech group on Facebook? Meet your friends in the group during the afternoon meetup.  What to learn how to Get Going with Google or just meet up with Google Educators? There are sessions for that.  Want to learn something cool like how to use your OneNote Notebook for lesson plans? You can come to my session.  

I love everyone who comes to the Summit because these are the people who have decided to spend a precious summer day becoming a better teacher. Those are the people to be around.
For all these reasons and more is why I'll be at the Summit, and you should too.

So what are you waiting for? Register to attend at SchoolTechnologySummit.com?
IMG_2693.JPG
Here's my storify from last year's Summit to get you ramped up.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

So I accidentally blew up on Twitter last week.

National Teacher Day was May 9th, and I wanted to recognize that in a small way. I had a graphic that I created for a previous Twitter Chat, so I opened it back up, changed the top, and posted it with two small sentences and hash tagged it with #NationalTeachersDay. I tagged my usual tribe in the graphic so they would re-tweet it for me; they’re awesome like that. After that, I went about my day.

What I didn’t expect was the amount of alerts of how many people liked or re-tweeted it. Throughout the day, the numbers climbed. Some were from accounts just looking for exposure, but most of them were teachers from around the country. The tweet took on a life of its own. By the end of the day, the tweet had over 350 likes and over 200 re-tweets. It felt good to know that I warmed a bunch of hearts that day, but it was also proved the power of a single voice and the influence it can have quickly and globally. I know people are worried about what they see from our commander-in-chief on Twitter these days, but you can’t deny the power of one person’s voice. Just make sure you use yours for good.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What I've learned from tiny little dictators


These North Korean officers are standing there proudly and why shouldn't they? They're wearing enough bling on their uniforms to set off metal detectors.
If you notice along the side of my blog, I've got some micro-credentials: Google, Microsoft, CommonSense, etc. I'm proud of the work I've done to earn them and to display the badges on my blog. I realize that my students should get the same opportunities. Technology class grades are usually not a big deal on report cards, so I have to make them a big deal in my room.
I have some graphic design experience, so I created some badges for my students. When they finished certain modules online, or mastered a unit of work, I've created a badge for it. Google Classroom makes it easy to email just those students I select, and I send them a congratulations email with the badge linked to it. I tell them to post their badge to their blog, and it gets the rest of the class racing to see how fast they can get one too.

Learning something new should be it's own reward, but sometimes it's nice to show off a little.
We're all still looking for little gold stars.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Learning in the Airport

I knew I was going to be stuck in an airport for a few hours, and I was actually looking forward to it. I brought books, my iPod, and a bunch of work to do. I tend to bring this stuff with me everywhere I go, hoping I will get something done but I rarely do.
With only my carry-on beside me, I was able to plow through a pile of things on my to-do list. I let my mind wander, and I had complete thoughts without distractions. It was magical. Why doesn't this happen more often, I wonder?
The difference at the airport is the environment. There were really no distractions. After I took in the bored faces around me, I was able to settle in and get work done. I didn't stop to get some laundry done, or turn on the TV. I was off the grid and it was wonderful.
I know with so much technology at my fingertips I can work anywhere. The problem is, with so much technology at my fingertips to distract me, I don't. My relationship with my phone is unhealthy, and that's something I will deal with in the future. But for now, I'm wondering the next time I need to get something done, I should drop off the grid and go hide somewhere. If that doesn't work, I'll go buy a plane ticket.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Parent Teacher Conference is a learning experience for me

While staying late sitting in my classroom until its dark is not the way I want to spend a day, I do find Parent Teacher Conference Night a way for me to be a better teacher.
I love seeing the family dynamic. Kids can be so funny; they behave one way in the classroom and act completely different around their parents. Seeing how much the parent loves their child is also a reminder that the kid in my class is actually someone's child. They're young and out in the world without their parent next to them, and that is sometimes a scary thing. After I met with one father, I watched him tousle his son's head, say "Let's go, handsome" and my heart just melted. They're not just my students, they're someone's pride and joy. I need to keep that in mind more often.
Some of my students are the family translator. Many of my students have parents that don't speak English, and they translate for them. These kids are taking on an adult job in some ways, being the go-between for their parents and the outside world. There's even students who have an active role in the child care for their little brothers and sisters. They seem so grown up sometimes, when they’re not. I need to keep that in mind too.
I learn a lot about my students, but I also learn about me. I find out ways I could support my students better; what I'm doing or not doing in my classroom to help the learning. It's helpful to listen to the students from their point of view and the discussions they have at home about my class. I can always use some suggestions for improvement.
What is really great is when the parents thank me for the job I'm doing, and tell me how much my students love my class. I know it’s not about me; I teach technology and kids love it anyway, so I can’t take all the credit. It is nice to hear though that my students look forward to my class. Those are the times that make the late nights worth it.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Second First Year

I've mentioned the gym before on this blog, and how I go often. It's one of the things that I do that I'm most proud. I'm proud that I went that first year and lost all that weight (40 pounds) but actually, since I recently hit the two year anniversary, I'm more proud of myself now.
Sticking with something when you see results is one thing, but sticking with something that doesn’t show big results is another. I go to the gym now because I feel better than when I don’t. I'm not losing the weight I once did, but I'm keeping if off. The gym is now a part of my regular schedule. I never had to remind myself to eat or sleep, and now I don't have to remind myself to go workout. I just go without thinking about it.
I'm trying to remind my students that when they first learn something, it can be life changing, like learning how to write. It came with its own reward. But learning how to write well, and the mechanics of writing, isn't as glamorous but still very important. It's what you do the second year that really shows your character.
There are only two qualities that can guarantee success in anything you do: commitment and perseverance. That's what I know and desperately want my students to understand.