While watching the wonderful DaveBurgess during an #iaedchat live chat, he mentions how school culture change is like Rolling Snowballs Downhill. To me this was a funny statement. For one thing, being a true southern California girl, I've have little experience with creating snowballs. Another reason is that I know Dave happens to be from San Diego, one of the furthest places I can think of that would have snow! One of the members of the Twitter chat happening simultaneously with the YouTube chat joked he should have used sandcastles for his analogy. No offense to Mr. Burgess, but I believe sand castles make a better example.
First, when you are trying to build a sand castle, it's important to know the right combination of wet and dry(ish) sand. (Tried to build way too many sand castles that were total failures because I didn't understand this concept!). Next, you have to know when/where is the right time to build it. If you don't time it correctly with the tides, you cannot be successful. Last, you have to understand that there will be forces trying to knock down at least part of the castle at some time. The trick is to know how to reinforce what you have and how to get back up when it does happen. Now how does this apply to creating change within your school?
At the end of every school year, teachers are typically getting ready for a few months off. As mentioned in my previous blog “Summers Off?”, it doesn’t always mean that teachers are sitting around doing nothing. Even when taking a vacation a lot of time is spent thinking about the following school year. For example, while on a vacation to Maui a few years ago I spent quite a lot of time taking pictures of various types of plants to be used in our science unit. Some teachers go to conferences and other professional development opportunities. Other teachers teach summer school. Some do it for the extra pay (unfortunately teachers only get paid for the months we work). Those in special education may do it to continue work with their classes beyond the typical school year. This year, I am teaching summer school for a different reason. I am teaching it as a new adventure.
First a little background as to how it came about. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was looking for some summer work. I was happy to act as a guest teacher for my colleagues who were teaching the special education summer school in our district. It would give me a little pay and still have time for a break from teaching. Then I got a text from a friend of mine. Turns out her husband (who happens to be the assistant principal at my daughter’s middle school) had been “selling” me as a candidate to teach a tech class for summer school. Apparently, my self-proclaimed title of “Tech Queen” had made its way to others in the district. While I was totally flattered that he would do it, I felt unsure about my abilities to do it. It is for a middle school class, and I have not taught anything beyond 6th grade in 22 years. Secondly, were my skills really up to teaching a strictly tech class? I use tech all the time with my students, but there is always an academic purpose.
While I was trying to decide if I would even talk to the summer school principal about the job (IF if was even offered), a song (“Try Everything”) suddenly found its way into my head (See my "Ok to Fail?" blog post for more.) Funny that something I have been stressing to the kids on a regular basis was making it easier for me to make another personal decision. Once I had made the choice, all I had to do was wait. Luckily that was only a few hours. It was the quickest (and easiest) interview either of us have had (yes, we both mentioned it during the call!).
The class I am going to be teaching is Animations/Graphics/3D printing. While I am pretty comfortable with the topics, I have a little bit of exploring to do myself before the class starts in July. I am going to be teaching the topic with another teacher (this one from a local high school) which makes it a little easier to deal with some of the questions I might have about my adventure. Since we are leading the first sessions of this class for summer school, we are starting with a blank slate. That alone is kind of exciting. While I have a lot of freedom in my classroom in how I am accessing the standards for the students, this adventure takes on a whole new meaning to what teaching is about.
I look forward to this new adventure. Middle schoolers should be interesting. Having a different course topic will provide a break from what I usually do, while giving me a chance to expand what I can do with next year’s class as well.
This morning I participated in the Make A Difference PD (#MADPD, created by Peter Cameron and Derek Rhodenizer) event that was streamed through YouTube Live. While I have presented at a major conference, a few edcamps and various district events, this was a big deal for me. Presenters from Canada and the United States were going to be doing this. And they approached me. Talk about pressure!
One of the things that made me feel this conference was a little different was the fact that it was not just talking to a room full of like-minded people. We were going to be presenting to anyone who wanted to try something different. They could access the videos whenever they wanted to and be in the comfort of their home to do it. They could also refer to the full video, not just the presentation notes, whenever they needed.
At first the idea of doing a YouTube live event was scary. Thankfully I have some wonderful friends and colleagues who were willing to put themselves out there as well and participate in my sessions. None of us had done something like this before. Because we were doing it through a Google Hangout my experience with the #MysterySkype and #mysteryhangouts came in handy. We did a practice run last night to get the others comfortable with the format and to go over what they were going to do. The biggest parts were still mine. I asked that they give a little information about how the topic was affecting their students and the school in general. They could do that was the quick response.
What I discovered as I started the first of the three sessions was that it almost became more like a discussion in our staff room. There was ease in the way we talked to each other. I did my pre-made presentations to start us off and give the audience some background, but I think the most valuable parts came from what my colleagues and I shared together! Just like I have said many times to my students, it was the collaboration that made it better.
There were a few small issues for at least the first two sessions. One was noticeable but didn’t really take away from the presentation (or so I was told). I enjoyed this experience. Not sure if I am going to be doing any more videos, but who knows. I am hoping this event becomes an annual thing so we’ll see. Because this is an all day event, I was able to participate in or just watch other sessions as well. There are some amazing things going on in education right now! I hope that by taking the risk and doing the live videos other teachers are inspired to try something new.
Please check out the videos and let me know your thoughts!
Lights! Camera! Assess!
Student Blogging: Writing in a 21st Century Classroom
Student Tech Squads
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching