Just got called out on Twitter by Eric Johnson @yourkidsteacher, blogger and educator extraordinaire! The challenge is a series of questions originated by Anthony Purcell at Random Teacher Thoughts. I love the collaborative feel of this challenge and am honored that Eric has selected me to complete the questions. I encourage you to go through the exercise and share it because reflection is a huge part of the work we do, and these questions frame that quite nicely for teacher or administrator.
1) What has been your ONE biggest struggle this school year?
I work in a large, urban school district that comes with many challenges of scale. I am a perpetual optimist and idealist so one thing I have really struggled with is differentiating between things I can control and things I can't control. When I can get into the mental space where I am focused on my own sphere of influence, I am much more successful and at peace. But it is a struggle and something I am always having to remind myself.
2) Share TWO accomplishments you are proud of this school year.
a. I am proud that on our gifted program blog we have been able to feature some student bloggers, who reflect on their class experiences. I love adding student voice to the blog and enjoy seeing more entries throughout the year.
b. I am proud of the many things my teachers have been able to accomplish. They have started new academic programs and competitions, seized opportunities to connect with the community, and set up high school academy tours so that middle school students can make important decisions about their academic career. I am proud to be able to support the teachers and equip them with what they need to do their work well.
3) What THREE things do you wish to accomplish by the end of the school year?
a. I hope to accomplish my Innovation Project, which is to create a community of TED-Ed Educators in Birmingham who are able to run TED-Ed Clubs and TEDxYouth events in their schools through the TEDxBirmingham Educator Fellow Program.
b. I hope to become more familiar with Google Apps for Education and equip my staff with the tools available. I would also like to help my team communicate and collaborate using Google tools.
c. We were able to acquire teacher laptops and some Google Nexus devices for our program for the 2015-16 school year. I would like to acquire more technology for the upcoming school year so that the gifted ed classrooms move closer to 1:1 access during class.
4) Give FOUR reasons you remain in education in today's rough culture.
a. I believe you can make the most impact when you are right in the mix of things, so for the time being I feel I am where I am supposed to be. Teachers have the most impact, so I think if I can help good teachers stick in the profession then I am helping.
b. If not us, then who???
c. There are a lot of kids out there whose talents are not identified or nourished. This is the loss of a great resource. We need to keep finding what students love, and using that to engage them in learning.
d. Even on the worst days I would rather do this than a corporate desk job.
5) Which FIVE people do you hope will take the challenge of answering these questions?
a. Jimmy Juliano- amazing teacher and TED-Ed Club facilitator (our clubs got to connect years ago and then I got to meet him in New York!).
b. Amanda Dykes- I had to hear about her from Midwesterners but she lives right here in my town! She is also one of the TEDxBirmingham Educator Fellows and I can't wait to get to know her!
c. Beth Sanders- Heard about her from Canadian Will Gourley. Not sure if she has a blog- but she should! Also a neighboring educator.
d. Della Palacios- I am co-blogging with her for our TED-Ed projects. Even if not a fit for her blog I would love to hear her answers to these questions.
e. Al Elliot- Also do not know if he has a blog but love his ideas and stories. He is a TEDxBirmingham Educator Fellow and speaker! I always love hearing his thoughts on Ed.
It’s month 2 of my yearlong experiment of month-long focus areas rather than a New Year’s resolution. In January, I consumed all things finance and had a major focus on savings to recover from the holiday spending spree. It worked and I am back on steady footing with my accounts. My fellow educators will understand, we get paid on the last working day of the month (Mid-December), and not again until the end of January. Each year I forget about it until those last weeks of January when I’m eating Kraft Mac & Cheese.
For February I will be focused on organization. I had other plans, but then my boyfriend proposed, decided to move in all his stuff, and now there’s a wedding to plan! Hurrah! So I have got to get some systems in place so I don't go completely mad.
There’s a saying “When the student is ready the teacher will appear”. No clue who to credit that to but it fits right now because as I was seeking podcasts and blogs I ran across Note to Self, and just this week they are doing a challenge called Infomagical! And it is magical. Each day there is a new interactive that allows you to clear some of the chaos from your brain by controlling technology and information consumption. Yesterday the challenge taught us how to apply the KonMari method to the phone screen. A little activity that makes a world of difference. I also turned off notifications, sounds, and badges. Today, I’ve diagnosed myself with the plight of the 21st century: infomania.
The term infomania is used to describe a sometimes debilitating feeling of "information overload", caused by the combination of a backlog of information to process (usually in e-mail), and continuous interruptions from technologies like phones, instant messaging, and e-mail.
According to the podcast, this is the curse of curious people! There is so much information in a constant waterfall, like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory begging us to try everything, to click and click and click. So I am thankful to have a tool to begin organizing my brain. As for organizing stuff, I was an early adopter of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and spent days vertical folding and deciding whether or not things brought me joy. Some systems I set up were great, some a total flop. I am also influenced by The Minimalists, who, like Marie Kondo know that less is more. This month I will work on getting rid of the things I don’t need.
In February, I’ll be working on the organization of my things, my time, my projects, and my thoughts in order to have more space in my brain for the things that do bring me joy.
Education careers are tough. These entries are dedicated to making the lives of educators easier and empowering those who have chosen this path to reach their potential in work and life.