Why Do I Blog?

IMG_0492Some people may wonder why do I blog? My simple reply is, I blog because it helps bring order to my mind. The longer answer is that I blog to reflect upon my craft of teaching, to share what has worked for me and what has not worked for me. I blog about my challenges and successes. I also blog about things I am thinking about and I blog about current trends and research in education.
My blogging does not have the same impact on the education world as someone like George Couros who posts about three times a week at The Principal of Change. Nor does my blogging have the same impact as Alice Keeler’s blog Teacher Tech. My blogging impacts me the most. Do I hope that my blogging helps others? Absolutely! Could I work at trying to blog on a more regular basis? Yep. Could I even create a blog that thousands of readers would flock to? I don’t know (shoulder shrug).
Many of the other Iowa teachers that I know use blogging in the same way as I do, although some of them do reach thousands of people on a regular basis. Blogging and reading blogs is sharing and we need more sharing/vulnerablility in education (read more about this at Aaron Maurer’s (@coffeechugbooks) blog here. I think that blogging will help me be a better teacher and a better person. I once said to a colleague (Coach DeMarco) that I don’t just want to be a teacher, I want to be a great teacher for my students. Coach D told me that I have to quit striving for perfection and just be me!
I have built relationships with my students and they are not perfect people, nor would I expect them to be. I love them just as they are. As long as I love them and challenge their thinking, I will be a great teacher in their minds. Coach D and I also talked about real learning and real learning doesn’t necessarily come from a book and definitely not from a worksheet assigned as home work. Real learning comes from asking meaningful questions and creating a classroom where we can talk about those questions, research those questions, write about those questions, reflect upon those questions. But how does one grade true learning? How does a teacher or sherpa distill that thinking, those discussions, those reflections into a single letter? Comments will be greatly appreciated, as I would like to know what you are thinking.
Why do you blog?
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Hour glass with wings

A Crazy Kind of Teacher

It has been almost one month since my last blog post. Wow, time flies when you’re…….swamped!

I have had the busiest, the most hectic, the most chaotic month than I can remember since I began teaching in 1995!! And I am loving every minute of it 😎 I began my first full-time teaching job since 2009 this August and it seems as though I have been caught in a whirlwind ever since. The year got started as any school year does, and I am at the top of my game in the classroom. It seems to be that all the other pieces of being a veteran teacher have gone out the window. No, the technology pieces are just fine although there have been days….. I have been keeping up with current trends, issues, and research in education like I never have before. Thanks to my Twitter PLN, news aggregators like Feedly (blogs), Flipboard (I have about a dozen magazines that I curate to including technology news, blogs, video games, social media). I also use sparingly Reddit, Tumblr, News 360, Pearl Trees, Pinterest, Zite, and Scoop.It, Rebel Mouse,Nuzzle, Instagram, and Google+.

Google Classroom is a very nice addition that could make my classroom paperless just as soon as all my high school students have a computer of some sort. It seems that Classroom just isn’t ready for the world of mobile learning. I have enjoyed gamifying my 9th grade religion class and using Cel.ly for class communication is awesome. Implementing so many technology pieces, which will include student blogging, flipped learning, and a possible digital textbook makes for a pretty busy first year at a new school. You might be wondering why does this sound so challenging to a veteran teacher? School culture and WADITW (we’ve always done it this way) as a common, sometimes never even stated, response.
I want to be a teacher leader and I have that role firmly established in the classroom by intentionally building relationships with my students. This alone takes a lot of time and planning. I figure that I should just be able to pick up where I left off teaching and dive right in. Whoa there, back the bus up! Some say that I am setting expectations too high for myself, that all I can be is me, and that I will never achieve perfection. I understand this on one level, but on another level, I want to put the best me possible in front of my students every day. Yes, I daresay, my goal is to be a national award winning teacher of the year. I don’t say this because I want an actual award, I say it because it is what my students deserve. If I don’t challenge myself to be the best and set the bar high, what am I really accomplishing for my students?
I was asked by students to be their coach for robotics, and so it is, I am now a robotics coach. Do I know anything about robots? Not a thing. This is where I put myself on the line and get out of my comfort zone (I’m a certified secondary social sciences teacher). Yes, my kids know more than I do and I am learning by leaps and bounds every day! I also want to start a one day a week club where students get together and play good old fashioned board games (we could sneak in some video games too). I see how important it is for even high school students to enjoy time at school by playing. Play involves most of Dr. Tony Wagner’s @DrTonyWagner 7 Survival Skills and we get to have fun learning.
Okay, so my reading of books has taken a hit, but like this video about Snap Chat explains, I am living in the moment and I am definitely living the dream! 😎

Reflections on My Teaching

imageOkay, so I blogged about once a week, but I did post on all 30 days worth of questions from @TeachThought.com‘s #ReflectiveTeacher challenge.

Day 25

The ideal collaboration between students–what would it look like? Collaboration between students would look like a global menagerie. Kids from all over the world would be working in Google Docs and communicating via various means all in an effort to solve a world problem.

Day 26

What are your three favorite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching? Twitter, Blogs, and Flipboard!

Day 27

What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching? Weekends and holidays mean time with my wife and kids and also time to look more in depth at lessons. I also use holidays and weekends to plan for the upcoming week. In my world, every holiday is a working holiday.

Day 28

Respond: Should technology drive curriculum, or vice versa? Neither. Technology is a tool just as a pencil is a tool. We don’t let pencils drive curriculum and we don’t let curriculum drive pencils. Kids needs should drive curriculum. Curriculum should be inquiry based and individualized for every unique individual. The days of one style fits all should be a vision of the past.

Day 29

How have you changed as an educator since you first started? I have changed a lot in the past fifteen years. My due dates are merely suggestions now and I don’t have classroom management issues. I can focus on developing relationships with students and less time on prepping or finding lessons. I listen to what students concerns are, what their stress level is at, and try to make them as comfortable and at ease as they can be when they are in the classroom. Gone are the days of crossword puzzles and lists of vocabulary words. Gone are the days of watching a video for a week. And gone are the days of keeping track of how many days late and what percentage off an assignment should get. I try to give students choice and voice and I demand that if something is worth doing that it is worth doing well. My students are now always in beta and nothing is ever truly finished.

Day 30

What would you do (as a teacher) if you weren’t afraid? I would direct students to find what they enjoy doing and to go for their dreams. I would redesign my classroom so that it was a true learning space. I would become a coach and mentor rather than an all knowing god. I would make sure that every student had an iPad and a MacBook Air. I would have my students blogging and working with kids all over the globe. Finally, I would get rid of the Internet filter wall. If we are to teach students to become responsible and ethical, then we can’t go around blocking everything that they encounter when they are outside the building.

What are your thoughts?

I now know why this challenge is so challenging 😎