Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What Will Be on YOUR Tombstone?

We often talk about "what will be written on our tombstones." Probably in a joking manner, but the subject does arise. I'm not even sure whether they're called that anymore, not whether people have saying placed on them. Anyway, the point is that we want to be known for good things, making a dent in the world, and being a good person. We want positive, uplifing things to be said about us at our funerals, right? Well, it's kind of a given as the word eulogy means "good writing" so it's "kind of the rule" that is has to be that way.

I was asked to write a letter of recommendation for someone this week. It is also "the rule" that letters like this are also to be positive and "good" but we all know that people can find a way of avoiding the issues and writing a bland letter. I am happy to say that the one I drafted was one of easiest things I've written in some time. It got me thinking, however. I know I've said many positive things about this person [to others]. If someone who knows me and and is familiar with my teaching would read the letter, they'd know exactly about whom I was writing. But have I said these fabulous things to her face? Have I complimented her? I think not; at least not often enough and not recently enough. *cue shameful music*

Don't wait until it's "too late." Make a point to encounter someone and say how you feel, telling him or her which qualities they possess that you find appealing. We encounter enough negativity, right +Tom Whitford? Let's turn that around. What about today? What about now? Why wait until someone is dead until we say good things about them? People cannot wait around to read their own tombstones or listen to their own eulogies, as then it's too late. Say it to the person's face. Leave a note on their car, right +Todd Nesloney?

Better yet, instead of living life for what you'll be remembered for when you're gone, live life for what people get to enjoy you for today and now. Think about this: What would someone easily write on YOUR letter of recommendation?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Don't Vote Me Off the Island

In many verbal chats and text chats recently, I've run across educators judging themselves harshly and usually judging themselves against others and their accomplishments. Buckle your seatbelt; I'm letting out a secret. Each time, it was a woman who was at the keyboard or mobile device. (Please don't vote me off the island, ladies.)

Do men do this as well? Why are women so hard on themselves with regard to success? I've decided that for me, because yes I do this too, I gather a huge group of people in my head, and name all of those peoples' great feats, and then compare and contrast those to just mine alone. wonder I feel inadequate at times!

We are individuals. We all have gifts for which to be thankful and reasons for which to be appreciated. We cannot always put ourselves last and others first and do not always put ourselves first and others last. We deserve time to unplug, skip a blog post, or even serve cold cereal for supper. Teachers help create miracles every day whether it's helping a child to love reading, or to brainstorm for the creation a science project or learn how to write his or her name. Give yourselves credit for goodness sakes.

I think that many times, we tend to forget many of the important things we do and it takes someone else to point them out to us. Or we feel like we're bragging if we say something. Why is that? Why do we find it easier to focus on the negative? Why do we feel we're lacking versus basking the awesomeness that we help create?

This is why, blogging to document feelings, occurrences and yes, even taking time "toot our own horns" noting our feats of greatness is a wonderful and most appropriate. On any given "rainy day" in our lives, we can go back and see the roller coaster of life we've experienced.

Pay it forward and "like" on someone's Facebook status, reply to a Tweet or comment on a blog post. You just never know whose day will turn awesome due to your comment or in whose life you'll help create a happy moment.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Round Three: Ding Ding Ding

Today was bittersweet, as I started back to school. This is already year three of being an online instructor. Yes, I wish my summer was longer like when I worked in brick and mortar, but I like how I have the month of August to get reconnected to my co-workers and students and finish planning for the year ahead. I still hold fast to the notion that I just get "good at being on vacation" when it's time for it to end.

As I checked my school email last night, to be sure to be prepared for today's schedule, I found out that my administrator left. As I was to be "settling in" for the night, my mind immediately went into high gear as I was creating and solving problems in my head. I thought this might lead to an awkward day today.

I was pleasantly surprised (why I was surprised, I do not know) of how organized today was. We had a staff meeting in which the three new instructional coaches stepped up to the plate, divided up the most pressing of the Academic Administrator's duties among themselves, and took them on in the interim. Not one of them is asking for extra pay and they have been "back to work" for probably two weeks already. I have such dedicated, caring and "want the best for everyone" co-workers! I am reminded of that often. When there is work to be done, we never have a problem with waiting for someone to volunteer to do it; it just happens. Often, people will decide on something that needs to be done on their own. They will do whatever that unnamed task is and then share their work with the rest, saving the rest of us the time and effort. Having the privilege to work with such kind, proactive people is refreshing.

Also inspiriting, is the attitude of newly hired staff. We got to "meet" them today in our virtual staff meeting. I shared with them a Google doc that I created last year of all of the things I was taught when I started two years ago, but also all of the things I wish I'd known sooner. I shared that with them and it was well-received as were the thanks I was sent in return.

As you start back to school educators, or as you come back from a vacation or maybe just the weekend to your job, I challenge you. Do you step up to the plate when needed? How will you help a newbie? Is your attitude considered refreshing?

I hope your brain is in "high gear."

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Got Goosebumps?

I do some of my best thinking while curling my hair. Maybe that's why I keep doing it versus going with a "wash & go" hairstyle. :)

This morning, I realized how excited I am to be going back to work on Monday more connected than ever. I've considered myself a "connected educator" for quite some time, but as I hear my phone chirping to indicate a new vox (this was not a noun for me last year at this time), or chiming to indicate that my Twitter feed erupting, I know that instant PD or "do it myself learning" is right in my hands (or in my purse). As I've now added more professional contacts, my Facebook's notifications numbers ever increasing as well. Before I even got out of bed this morning, I'd connected with educators from all of the country and was added to another professional learning Voxer group.

It is SO empowering to be in charge of my learning! To be in the driver's seat to discover something that I want to learn in my own time and on my own terms about gives me goosebumps. What will be YOUR next "goosebumps moment?"

Friday, August 1, 2014

Don't Be a Patty

When I watch plays and musicals, I tend to look at the perimeter of the stage and watch the "extras" carefully. This comes from my 4N6 and One-Act play adjudicating, I'm sure. :)

Similarly, while watching a webinar about writing to meet Common Core Standards, I paid attention to the conversation happening in the chat box and was amazed. One woman stated that she does not let her students Google. I about fell over. Googling is reality. While I'm reading my books (on eReaders, course) I am always selecting the word to look it up if I'm not familiar with it. Many times, it will say "no definition available" but give me Google as an option. I'd be missing out on so much vocabulary building if it were not for Google. By the way, I am happy to say that a couple of people called her out on her statement. 

I also was floored that on woman ("Patty" featured in the screenshot, above) thought that since she has students who currently work on the family farm and have that as their "after graduation choice" that these standards are too high for them. Wow. I want ALL of my students to be able to write well and think well and be competitive. The whole point of CCSS is for students to be ready for the work force, whatever that may entail. Also, just because a student choose one career in middle or high school does not mean that he or she will be in that same career for the next 40 years. If someone had told me five years ago that I'd be quitting my current job and teaching middle schoolers online, I would have thought they were crazy. 

I liked how the presenter emphasized having an authentic audience for students' writing. Students do want to write something just for their teacher's desk. Grades do not motivate all students. Students will self-edit and care about their writing if they have an actual audience that cares. In a brick and mortar setting, I had my students participate in a Digital Citizenship project with +Jon Orech. They learned all aspects of this topic in various activities and discussions, but then were also mentored by high school students from the Chicago area. Jon oversaw those students, along with their classroom teacher. As soon as they knew that actual middle school students were going to be reading their blog posts, they asked for more time so they could go back and revise/edit their writing. It's all about the intrinsic motivation that gets students excited about their work and care to have it polished. During this webinar, only one teacher brought up the idea of blogging with students and not many, if any, responded to it. Hmmm. 

So, yes we need to raise the bar on our kids' writing. Yes we need to still let them "Google" and most definitely, we need to have them write for a larger audience than their teacher. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Not the "Same Old, Same Old"

My husband brought in the mail, like he does every day, and said that I'd gotten a letter from my school. I figured it was the usual - an agenda for the "back to school" plan as I start back to work this coming Monday. I opened the letter after supper and was ready for a check list of "to do" items or a "get ready for..."paragraph. I was pleasantly surprised that it was instead a thank you letter. I am not even kidding.

It's not that I was never thanked in my teaching career, but my current school takes the time to thank the staff and does it OFTEN. I am not used to this and it still takes me by surprise. I smiled and smiled and smiled more as I read the letter. I read the letter three times and then handed it to my husband so he could read it. He was even more excited than I. My son held his hand out, as he was curious what the obvious displays of happiness was all about, and wanted to read the letter as well.

It contained the "year-end metrics" that my school keeps track of throughout the year, but also reminded that the administration knows that we staff members made many more gains and made huge contributions that do not show up in these "metrics" and thanked me (and other staff members, as I'm sure they received it too) for the hard work and dedication to our school.

I always tell my children and my students, "One thing you can never over do is thanking someone." One thank you certainly goes a long way. It's SO nice to be appreciated; I can hardly put it into words.

Thank you. Really.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Count Your Blessings - Often

I am once again reminded that I am SO blessed! I just got done with dinner out with my girlfriends - girlfriends I've had since 3rd grade. I am so fortunate that we all live within an hour of one another and that we can make this happen. We call ourselves the "Fake Homemakers." There are actual "real" homemakers groups that meet monthly and discuss <insert something worthwhile and homemaker-ish>. We call ourselves "fake" since we are not sanctioned by the county (rebels), nor do we follow any rules. Our focus is simple: be together.

My circle of friends has gone through a time of many hardships. We've helped each other through job changes, divorces, deaths of parents, close family members and even children. These events lead us to the epiphany that things happen in life and that we never know how long we will have the gift of one another. We made a pact to get together on a monthly basis, but with no rules.

If we meet at someone's house, that is fine. We can eat off the best china, or paper plates. We can order in, or have a potluck. We can can cook a meal for the group or just have snacks. We'd like for it to be a "mommies' night out" but we'd rather you came with your kids versus staying home. In the past, we've had "field trips" and have gone places together. Some months, we bring optional "door prizes" which usually amounts to Christmas napkins in February or 4th of July decorations in August. (Tonight I got two cute pads of paper and a ring.)

All too often, life gets going in a whirlwind and we forget to just sit back, look around, and be thankful for the abundance that we have.