Gripe all you want about the bothersome torture of social media (oh wait...you are reading my social media, so maybe you don't feel that way), but I am going to tell you some of the blessings I see.
No, I'm not just talking about the silly cartoons that we pass back and forth via Facebook like this one for dog lovers:
But I'm also talking about just funny life stories that happen to my friends. One of my dearest friends from college, Beth Underwood Patterson, also happened to be my little sister in my sorority. She SO needs to write a book of all the antics that happen to her. And she is a brilliant storyteller, so (with her permission), I will share one of her stories with you:
Another wobbly start to Tuesday, my friends. Last week? You may recall that I got my fingers stuck in the Ronald McDonald House change box. This morning? After a pretty sleepless night due to Clara’s insulin pump, I headed off to McD’s for Joe’s breakfast treat before his driver’s ed class. I did this without having had even one drop of coffee. I repeat: I tried to accomplish a life task withOUT my morning manna. This did not bode well. I ordered quickly, paid quickly, and popped my change in the collection box, without injury. I zipped home and called out, “Hey Junior, I’ve got your hash-.......” when I realized that I did not, in fact, have his breakfast treats. Coffee-free, I had tootled right through the 2nd spot- that place where the McD’s crew actually hands you the goods- and headed home. I headed back to McD’s, but not before grabbing a quick sip (cup) of java. When I arrived at the second window, the young man smiled at me. I asked him, “Has this ever happened to you before this morning?” He shook his head, still smiling, and said, “Nope. You’re my first.” I laughed and said, “Well, now you have a funny story to go home and share tonight. Have a great day!” His response? “I will now!”
Without the benefit of Facebook, I likely would not have heard that story.
So many funny stories and pictures are at our fingertips, thanks to Social Media, and who doesn't want/need to laugh?
I find myself so enthusiastic about reading other people's tweets (for the most part, because there are naturally some crazy things that come across my feed) and LinkedIn articles and Facebook posts. Where else, for example, could you have found out what people are eating for dinner or that there are rugs that are washable and ready to put back down on your floor immediately? Seriously, I have learned so many professional development tips that I can use with my own graduate level students from being on social media. For example, I just read words of wisdom from Danny Steele on Twitter: "It's good to know the content. It's great to know the pedagogy. It's imperative to know the students." Yes!
3. Re-connect with people from my past
Many people with whom I talk say this is what keeps them FROM getting on social media, but for me...it has truly been a blessing in so many ways. As a former guidance counselor and former principal, I now keep in touch with the teachers with whom I work. I am so excited to call them "friends" and not just former co-workers or "the rockstar teachers who used to work with me". In addition, I can keep in touch with students who have graduated from high school or college who were in grade school when I was their guidance counselor or principal (that's where I draw the line---they need to have graduated first). To see one of "my" kids tell me a Say No to Drugs song we used to sing together or to hear one of them say they still remember the puppets I used to use to teach them lessons about character absolutely fills my bucket.
One of the best connections I made via social media was after I was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 1/2 years ago. Throughout my journey of diagnosis, treatment of a double mastectomy, and healing, I shared my story and Dave's and my faith and humor. What was so incredible was being able to hear two people tell me they went to get mammograms after not ever having had one before (and one found a spot that needed to be removed). WOW! Likewise, the wife of the man who built a house for Dave and me when we lived in Florida got diagnosed with cancer a few months after me, and we are now VERY close friends....all because of a continued relationship with one another with God at the epi-center.
For these reasons and so many more, I am eternally grateful for social media. Please "like" my posts, "re-tweet" my tweets, and "comment" on my blog all you want...or not! The choice is yours.
How are you at making lemonade out of lemons? I am typically a glass-half-full person, so I have always considered myself to be pretty good at it. That can all go out the window, however, when a flight home (after being gone a long time) gets cancelled or someone is talking while I trying to pray quietly in church (big deals, right? Insert your own sarcastic emoji). I'm also really good at making lemonade out of someone else's lemons. You know the game: someone else complains that it is too hot outside, and I just want to roll my eyes. We live in weather that gets up to 114 degrees, and I just want to say, "Hop in a pool" or "Wear a short-sleeved dress" (I would have to carry a sweater). In other words, first-world problems that occur to others are ones I always have a solution for. My issues? Now those are big deals.
So, at a university for which I teach several Educational Leadership classes, we moved to a new electronic platform several months ago. Great! I'm all good with new technology. In fact, I love it. I joke with my workshop participants that, "I love technology! I just love it even more when it works without glitches." I also tell them that I hesitate to let them know that my doctorate was in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialty in Technology, lest something goes wrong with my audio or video and I can't fix it. Who needs that judgment? :)
Back to the change in electronic platform. We were told to transfer over our Discussion Questions and Announcements for the courses we teach, as the "old version" would soon disappear. Okay, that's fine, I figured. I had converted most all my old courses to the new platform. What we weren't told (or maybe I, along with all of my fellow professors, missed the memo) was that the new platform had a feature that our course information would completely disappear five weeks after the course ended. So, picture this: I've taught an Education Finance class three months ago on the new platform. I want to use my same announcements and first responses to the Discussion Questions that are part of the "set" curriculum for that course. But when I was assigned the Education Finance course that starts this week, I couldn't find the materials from the last time I taught the course. What?! How could this be? I called and wrote emails, asking questions like: Can someone please tell me the reason why that material could not be available to a professor 2 or 3 months after the last time I taught the exact same course? Otherwise, I am reinventing the wheel. This would be akin to a high school teacher being told they couldn't use the same material for their 2nd period American History course as they did for their 1st period course. What would be the reason? This is current material, and all of us who teach know the students are going to change the dynamics of the course each time so much, I can never predict where the discussion will ultimately go. BUT...I can at least have access to the same starting point!! No one could give me the answer to my question, except it costs more to keep materials archived. I guess that makes sense, but it still didn't keep my lemons from beginning to taste pretty sour!! The "solution" I was given was: make a Word document that includes the Announcements and the initial posts for each Discussion Questions. Super. That will be great for future occurrences, but for this course, the horse has left the barn! So that platitude actually frustrated me even more.
I spent a couple of futile hours looking for any hints from the textbook that would show me what I had used in the past...to no avail. Finally, I put on my big girl panties and said to myself, "There is no crying over spilled milk" (I know, I am mixing lemonade and milk, which is likely quite disconcerting to some of you). I decided to simply start everything from scratch. I actually got the new version of the Finance textbook, printed out some new articles, and checked out a couple of ideas from fellow professors on how to use videos and memes to engage the online students in the material (and to get to know me, as a person, a bit better). Pretty soon, I had materials covering our couch, our ottoman, and our coffee table. I was ON FIRE! I got so excited about the analogies I was able to make, the new "take" I was using for some of the topics during the course, and the provocative questions I was going to use to engage the students in the learning.
What had frustrated me to no end three days before has now become a subject for which I am more passionate (yes, it is Education Finance, you didn't read that incorrectly) than I ever been before teaching this course. I absolutely cannot wait for the students to start on Thursday. My lemonade is strawberry-infused and half-frozen with bits of real pieces of strawberries in it. In other words, I truly was able to make something that totally was eating my lunch into something that I was ecstatic about.
What did it take to get me there?
Acceptance was the answer to all my frustration and venting. And after acceptance, my "get your butt in gear" mode kicked in as well.
We all likely have times in which we are frustrated by what look like minor problems to outsiders. What do you do when this happens to you? I want to hear from you! Most certainly, we can all benefit from the support of one another.
In the meantime, I am going to make some lemonade, as it is scorching hot in Tucson today! :)
I don't know of too many other professions besides education in which there is a beginning and an end, every single year. You may be able to think of a few (tax seasons starts and ends, etc.), but not in the same way that educators experience it. Having so many friends and colleagues in the world of education (from student teachers to elementary, middle, high teachers, college professors and beyond), I am acutely aware of the "new beginnings" that happen around this time of year. Yes, for some of you in the Northeast, it won't happen for a bit longer, but here in Tucson, students went back to school last Monday.
I have so many great and nervous memories of starting school as a child (we moved around a lot---when the rent went up in the apartment complex my single mother had rented for us, we had to move again). Would I make new friends? Would my teacher be nice? Would I have to walk home from school by myself? These (and more) were the questions I always asked. When I became a teacher, the questions were no less frightening and exciting at the same time: Would I get a student who was too tough for me to handle? How would I form relationships as soon as possible with the parents of my students? How could I best collaborate with other teachers in the school if I was the only special education teacher there?
Now, after being a teacher, guidance counselor, principal, professor, student teacher supervisor, and consultant for so many schools, districts, and universities around the globe, I find myself just a little bit jealous of those who are in the classroom, getting their rooms ready, meeting parents and students, and reconnecting with their teammates with whom they will collaborate throughout the year. I have so many great memories of those first few days of school when I was a principal at the best school in the world (I hope and pray everyone thinks their school is the best school in the world, by the way). Watching the school buses pull up to the bus ramp was amazing, as they unloaded students who I mostly knew (so we did a LOT of hugging), but also meeting the new ones who were shy and wondering all those questions I had wondered as a kid, myself. One of the best parts of that day, though, was walking through every single classroom to meet the new students I hadn't met at Open House, and to welcome back every student and every teacher. The only way to get to know the Kinder kids, in my opinion, was to go in and read a story to them or to bring in one of my puppets who would tell them about some of the rules of our school. Melba the Mouse would tell them in a high squeaky voice, "EEK! I am very scared of loud noises, so could you please make sure you use soft voices in the hallway." Libby the Lab would tell Mud the Chocolate Lab to quit making messes, and if there was trash or a mess somewhere, we should just clean it up instead of always expecting our custodial staff to do it.
I would get to know those students by name, because I learned a long time ago as a guidance counselor who had "hall duty" between every passing period, that saying, "Hey, hey, hey, you need to walk in the hallway" had much less effect than saying, "Jeremy, come here. What did we talk about the reason we need to walk in the hallway?" Relationships matter to me. Why in the world wouldn't they matter to our students? One of the Kindergarten teachers who taught with me when I was a principal (who has long since retired but her legacy of reminding me of "Mother Earth, who would gather all the woodland creatures around her" will live on forever) used to say to me within the first day or so, "Oh my...this class is the toughest class I've ever had. I'm afraid they are so immature, they will never learn what they need to learn before the end of the year." I made a deal with "Rina" (pseudonym to protect the innocent): no comments like that until the first month has passed. Why? Because, inevitably, by the first two weeks, she had totally changed her tune. They were now her babies and she was going to prepare them for 1st grade, no matter what! And you know what? She and the other amazing Kinder teachers we were always blessed to have at Edge did the exact same thing---transformed those babies (and truly, some of them seemed little more than that) to reading, writing, math and science-loving students who thrived in a challenging learning environment.
If ever you want to see some amazing teaching in action, I have several suggestions for you, as I have been blessed to be able to roam the country and beyond to walk through classrooms and watch captivated students learning about fractions, history, experiments, choral concepts, and so much more. But if you happen to be in Niceville, Florida and run across Edge Elementary School in Okaloosa County, you might just give Dr. Samantha Dawson (the current principal) a call and see if you can get a tour. It's a pretty special place.
Praying for all teachers and students who are headed back to school and hoping that everyone remembers that our students come from such diverse backgrounds. As one of my participants in a workshop in Las Vegas last week said, "Because we all have such different background experiences, each of the 37 of us in this room are likely to take away something different from the work we have done today. I think that is like the students we teach, and we need to remember that." Amen to that!
Have a blessed school year, and don't ever forget that students will not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
I have been teaching the entire week, workshops for new and seasoned teachers in Arizona, Nevada, and California, as well as the classes I teach online for teachers who are wanting to become school leaders. To say it has been a busy and exhausting week is a massive understatement. I can't remember who it was I heard say this (probably because I am so exhausted), but some educator once said that, if we are doing well at our jobs, we should be able to send our students home exhausted from learning at the end of the day and we should go home ready to dance the night away. Well, I am doing half of that right. I believe that most all of my adult participants I teach leave my workshop sessions or 6-week online courses cognitively challenged and spent. I just can't seem to master that piece where I am not exhausted. My feet, alone, are screaming at me for wearing heels after a day of facilitating learning, during which time I walk around monitoring the student learning the entire 6 -7 hours I am teaching.
I was thinking about how much I have learned from my "students" this week. Let me just name a few:
*One of my "new" teachers on Monday in Arizona mentioned that she believes that teaching is the hardest job in the world but we would never continue to do it if we didn't believe in the power of "paying it forward". YES!
*Teachers I worked with in California on Tuesday and Wednesday learned some brand new engagement strategies they are excited to begin using in their classrooms starting this next week. One participant told me they used to think that it would be hard to engage their students in lessons, but now they believe that if they think differently about their planning, they can add engaging pieces to each lesson they teach and get students to help encourage others to be motivated by the learning. YES!!
*Teachers I worked with in Las Vegas yesterday are starting in a brand new school. While they are pumped up about the notion of "building" this school, they spent a week of learning about the curriculum they would be using, the expectations of them, and then Ta-Dah! they finished the week with an entire day of learning with me. They honestly could have come in, exhausted and ready to be DONE. Au contraire....there was so much energy in that room, it was palpable. SO many people in this group said so many amazing things, but here are a couple:
+After a week of sitting and learning, I was afraid I would be exhausted and not be able to learn one more thing on Friday. Instead, I'm leaving with a notebook full of great ideas I can't wait to try.
+The teacher's energy about the learning (in addition to the content knowledge) rubs off on even the most tired students.
+You model every instructional practice you are teaching us. This is SO much better than a "sit and get" workshop.
And then, I came home late last night and read something so powerful that one of my online students had said. We've been talking about how to avoid the "Negative Network" at school, and what to do about it if you are the school leader. Some students mentioned that they stay away from negative people and that they try to only associate with positive-vibe people. But we who are school leaders do not have that luxury, do we? We are tasked with trying to be as inclusive as we can possibly be; therefore, we can't simply ignore the pessimistic members of our staff. We have to face conflict, at times, and try to bridge gaps, making for a most difficult job.
One of my students, Emily, wrote a discussion post that I have to steal:
"We try to follow the idea of 'honoring the absent'. This idea leads staff to remember not to talk or gossip about someone who is not present at that time. It can be difficult but is the right thing to do. This concept can be used with students as well. Sometimes the teachers' lounge can be an open forum when it comes to students. Again, honoring the absent allows us to pretend the student's grandma is in the room and to choose our words carefully. This idea is definitely a lead by example experience. It is easier to handle gossip if you already have a plan of how to respond. Replies like, 'I hear you' or 'I understand how you feel' can be game changers when it comes to keeping the morale and culture positive and not feeding in to the gossip" (personal communication, Emily R. 2019).
I couldn't be more proud to be an educator right now if I tried! I adore what I do for a living and can't think of anything about which I would or could be more passionate.
I pray that you feel the same way about the work you do. Are you always prepared and listening for new thoughts that you can add to your repertoire to continue your work as a lifelong learner? I hope so!