He Had A Name

As I read about the death of my friend, Deven Black, something stuck with me… and I couldn’t let go of it.

The headline read, “Homeless man dies…”

Not “Former teacher.” Not “Friend of many.” Not any other label that would have said more about the man who lived on this planet for 62 years.  Not “Deven Black.” There it was in stark contrast to the human being behind it. “Homeless man.” *

I wanted to scream, “HE HAD A NAME!”

I’m not just writing about this, because Deven was my friend. I’m writing this, because this is how people are labeled… as if there is nothing more descriptive about them when it comes to news. This is how we describe human beings.

I’m not going into detail about what happened to Deven in the last few years. That’s not my story to share. What I will say is that I know Deven had a mental illness. That some of the things that happened – or things that he did – were not characteristic of the Deven I knew. Mental illness does that. It takes away the person – the husband, the father, the friend, the professional – and turns him into someone else. Sometimes, that person is barely recognizable to those who knew him best.

As I’m writing this, so many other people… people with names… come to mind. I doubt there’s a single person reading this who hasn’t had some experience with mental illness in their circle of friends, family, or acquaintances. Maybe you, dear reader, have fought your own battle with those demons. I don’t know.

What I do know is that our nation treats people with mental illnesses abominably… like it’s their fault. As if they could just will themselves to be better. “If you try hard enough, you can NOT be mentally ill.” No one would say that to someone going through another type of illness, most especially a terminal illness. And mental illness can be just that – a terminal illness – if it’s not treated properly.

Mental health care is expensive. If you don’t have the money, your mental illness does not get treated. We have basically doomed a very large percentage of our country who cannot afford the proper mental health care. Those people – people with names –  many of whom are living in poverty, have little to no chance of living with a mental illness.

In Deven’s case, someone else’s mental illness was the cause of Deven’s death. I don’t want to go into that right now. I can’t go into that right now. The system failed that young man, too.

What I do want to think about is why Deven was in a homeless shelter in the first place. How someone who fell through the cracks in the system had no other options but to be in a homeless shelter… that’s what I can’t let go of. I can’t let go of the fact that so many people who are living on our streets in this country are not there by choice. And that many of us look the other way and “comfort” ourselves by thinking that their “bad choices are what caused them to be there, so really… what can I do? If they would just try harder and make better choices, they wouldn’t be in that situation.”

It’s really easy to look the other way when you assign blame to someone else… then you don’t have to do anything.

Deven isn’t the only person who becomes a statistic. There are others who suffer every day. People with names. This is someone’s child. And now… that person is another nameless statistic. These statistics are staggering… and if you’re living in poverty and a person of color, the statistics are worse. 

The “solution” for many who are homeless is prison. I’ve heard politicians say, “Well, at least they’re getting the health care they need now.” Really? That’s the best we can do??

We have to speak up. We have to tell our government leaders that we can do better… that we must do better. How many others like Deven have simply disappeared? People who have so much to give to the world around them. If we raise our collective voices, we can’t be ignored. When a significant percentage of our population is affected, we can’t turn around and ignore them. Use your voice. Tell your representatives that this is unacceptable. Those of us who are able must speak up for those who are not.

It’s ironic that Deven died on the day Canadians were tweeting with #belltalks – Mental Health issues were being discussed all across their nation. Their national and local leaders were involved. That’s a start for people who are often ignored and forgotten.

Speak up. Be loud. We can’t afford to forget those who are ignored. We can’t afford to forget their names.

His name was Deven, and he was my friend. I’m not going to forget him.

 

*A couple of articles later updated their headlines to say, “Homeless ex-teacher.” I’m not sure it’s any better, and I’m not linking to them.

Hurry Up and Learn

I just finished my 20th year in education: 12 years in a classroom and 8 years in technology professional development (with about 3.5 years in corporate technology in between).

As a teacher of children, I’m patient. I see the look in the eyes of the children who don’t “get it” yet, and I am able to work with them until I see that lightbulb go off. I never want my students to feel rushed or hurried in their learning, because that’s not what learning is about. “Hurry up and learn” makes absolutely no sense.

With adults, I haven’t always been as patient. I will admit to listening to people talking about education and thinking, “come on already!” But just as it is detrimental to students, this lack of patience can be harmful to bringing along the adults, too. I’ve learned to be more patient as I’ve gotten older and seen that same look in the eyes of adults.

When I was in tech PD, I was responsible for a lot of different types of training, including those that were program or tool specific. My favorite sessions to write and help lead were the sessions that were more about philosophy, pedagogy, and modes of learning… and then looking to see which tools we could use to help accomplish the goals. I’m very curious by nature, and when I don’t know how something works, I teach myself. Over the years, I’ve learned that not everyone is like that, and that’s okay.

What I continue to remind myself is that, regardless of where I am in my own journey, there are many others still at the beginning. Step one. If I’m impatient with them, then my goal of helping others to move forward breaks down… and those people are discouraged.

I don’t want to be that person who turns someone off from new ideas or trying something for the first time, yet I’ve seen this happen (often) in our network. Shaming another educator (or parent or student or whomever) for not knowing what everyone else apparently already knows is not okay. It doesn’t make you seem like an expert… it makes you seem like a jerk. Think back to your best models and teachers. I’m guessing they weren’t jerks.

Sometimes the people around you who are the most resistant to learning something new are the ones who are the most insecure about their learning. People used to ask me what I thought the difference between teaching children and teaching adults was. I always responded, “Adults are more challenging, because they don’t give themselves as much grace as children do.”

Finding a safe place and a certain level of comfort is important to help cautious learners take risks. That can look different for everyone. Some prefer to tinker independently, and others need a helping hand.

If you go to a conference, hopefully you’ll find sessions that meet your needs. Personally, I learn best in sessions where I can participate and discuss. I like to verbally process what I’m learning and doing.

Some people like great storytellers. Keynotes and lectures- the good ones, anyway- can be great for a lot of people. A good storyteller wraps you up in her story, shares the emotional connections to the learning with you, and makes you feel the learning. Lectures aren’t for everyone, but I don’t think we should throw them out completely just because some people don’t like them.

For the record, shaming a mode of how information is shared isn’t okay, either. I’ve seen a lot of backlash toward keynotes and lectures at conferences. Yet, the good keynotes are often packed. Ignite sessions are always packed. This tells me SOME people still find them useful. If you don’t, then don’t go. Seems like a simple solution.

The point of this I guess is simple: find what works for you. Ask for help when you need it. Mentor others who are just beginning to learn things you have already learned. If you don’t like lectures, find something else. If you prefer someone showing you step-by-step how something is done, look for a workshop that caters to that need.

Most importantly, be encouraging. Check your snark level. I love snark more than most, but I’m learning to hold back… because what I might think is old news or something we all SHOULD know isn’t necessarily the same for someone else.

We’re all at different levels in our learning, and we learn at different paces. If we truly below that we should honor those differences in kids, we should honor that in the adult learners, too.

It’s All About Context

Apologies to Meghan Trainor and her 2014 earworm… but it really is all about context

Have you ever heard a parent or teacher say something to the effect, “My child/student has regressed in the last 6 months. She knew this stuff last year! She passed tests and everything.”

Learning is fluid. Period. Brains are remarkable and in constant states of learning, unlearning, and relearning.  (Research in neuroplasticity is fascinating, and if you have any contact with kids, I hope you are reading about it.)

But here’s the deal: if your child has truly LEARNED something, she most likely won’t forget it or regress. While there are exceptions, most kids do not forget things they have truly learned.

What is more likely the case is that something was introduced without context. Kids- and adults- forget things they have committed to short-term memory that do not connect to something meaningful and relevant in their lives.

(OR… the context was only briefly visited because there wasn’t enough time to develop a real connection. Mile-wide curriculum that’s about an inch deep doesn’t leave a lot of room or time for context. But I digress…)

I’m on a math kick, so let’s use this as an example.

Young children who learn to count to ten do not actually understand counting. They’re simply mimicking a verbal pattern they memorized. Put 4 objects in front of a child who has just learned to count to 10, and he’ll point to each object, multiple times, and count to 10, not 4. This is a developmental issue, because the child does not connect the numbers he learned to say versus the number of objects in front of him.

If you put 3+2=5 in front of a child, she might memorize it easily, but if you give her the same number of objects to count, can she separate it into a group of 3 and a group of 2?

Children do not have context for numbers in print UNLESS they have something concrete in front of them. Even still, they need more exposure and experience with the concrete long before they begin to comprehend the abstract (number sentences in print).

I feel the same way about teaching music. Children should be singing songs and playing instruments long before they ever learn musical notation. You can memorize where the notes go on a staff and which note’s duration is a “ta” or a “ti-ti,” but if you have not had extensive experience with playing and singing those notes, you have no context for the notation. Some really brilliant man named Karl Orff believed this, too. (My fellow music teachers are laughing at me right now, because Orff is a really big deal).

Think about this: small children learn the alphabet song long before they’re able to make sense of the letters in the alphabet. You can recite the alphabet but not know which letters make which sounds. And you most definitely cannot read simply by reciting the alphabet.

I can sing hundreds of songs in various languages –  Italian, Portuguese, German, etc. – but I did not LEARN these languages. I memorized them and how to pronounce words in these languages. There’s no context there, other than what’s in the songs.

Those in real estate have their mantra, “Location, location, location.”

Educators should add to their repertoire, “Context, context, context.” Context helps kids make connections and move to deeper understanding, even if that deeper understanding happens down the road.

A recent example…

My 5 and 6 year old students have been using base ten blocks to help them think about adding and subtracting larger numbers. They know that, to subtract 35 from 50, they will have to swap out a ten for 10 ones. If I gave them 50-35 and taught them to “borrow,” some of them would remember HOW to do this, but they would not understand WHY. Most of them would not understand how to borrow and would become easily frustrated. Developmentally, they’re not in this place yet, but when working with the base ten blocks… every single one of them knows he has to swap a ten for 10 ones. There’s context there.

When I asked them to help me cover a wall with some paper, we learned that we had to measure the wall first. Our tape measure wasn’t long enough to measure the entire wall, so we measured in two steps. The tape measure ends at 120 inches. The second measurement was 58 inches.

I asked them to add 120 and 58. Blank stares. (Of course)

When I asked them what 120 would look like in base ten blocks (without actually using the blocks), they were able to tell me it was one blue (100) and 2 greens (10). I asked them to pretend the blue one was put off to the side for now. “You have two greens and 58. What does that mean?” They counted 58… 68… 78.

The said, “The answer is 78!” When I reminded them we still had a blue one off to the side, they were able to quickly say, “it’s 178!”

They did all of this in their heads without actually handling the base ten blocks. Because of our previous work with the blocks, they now have context about place value and adding larger numbers. Are they consistently able to do this? No. Not yet, and I want to really emphasize yet. They are 5 / 6 year old kids! But if they are able to get context in everything we’re doing – math and all the other things we learn every day – think about where they can go!

I could share so many more examples, but this post would never end. I will share a “part two” soon, because I have another wonderful example of poetry and context with my students.

My Identity

For too long, I have identified myself as an educator.

Of course I paid lip service to the fact that I am also a wife and mother, and that my family always came before my career.

But that was a lie. Mostly to myself.

Words and actions are not equal. It doesn’t matter what you say is most important if your actions don’t reflect it.

And I get it… as educators, we often must LIVE our careers. We take home with us the worries over those kids who need us so much. We must constantly think about how we can help each and every child in our classrooms to move forward in their learning. We tend to love these children as if they were our own (because they kind of are).

This is what has taken me nearly 20 years in education to discover: if I am not my best self in every OTHER aspect of my life, I can’t be the best teacher I can be within the classroom. No matter how much I concentrate on my career… if I’m suffering somewhere else, it shows in the classroom too.

A speaker came to our school a couple of weeks ago to talk to the kids about identity. He said something that has stuck with me every single day since:
“If I am what I do, then I must always do more to be more.” When is it enough?

Hmmm.

My perspective before was: If I’m going to be a good teacher, I need to learn more about teaching, connect with other teachers, blog and tweet constantly to reflect and learn, attend edcamps and conferences, present at conferences, keep my name “out there” so I get invited to speak at more conferences, focus on becoming a featured speaker at conferences, reach for that pinnacle of speaking at conferences- the keynote, start writing a book…

Pretty soon, this was all I was doing. Doing more to be more. (Was it always more about becoming a good classroom teacher? Or more about becoming Super Educator?)

And all along, I was growing more and more dissatisfied. My kids grew up somewhere along the way. My relationship with my husband (who, by the way, was extremely supportive of all of it) suffered. I didn’t have a lot of local friends.

Please don’t take this as criticism if your life looks like what I described above. That’s not my intent. This is about me and what hasn’t been working for me.

So… I backed off. A lot. Without quitting any of it, I reduced everything professional, and kicked up everything personal. I’m working way harder at being Michelle than michellek107 or the blogger behind the posts here.

I’ve already written posts about balance between personal and professional life, but I don’t think the balance can be what I thought it should be. 50/50 is rough for me, because the educator part of me is selfish and needy. And because the personal side always gives in.

In addition to the “do more to be more” quote rolling around in my head, I’ve also been thinking about the “oxygen mask on planes” analogy. If I don’t put my mask on first, I’m no good to anyone when the oxygen in the air runs out.

My oxygen ran out.

So, this is what you’ll probably see from me for now…

    A lot of tweets from my classroom (@TeamBaldwin)

    More personal photos, but fewer posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

    Fewer face to face sightings at conferences

    And most importantly, a happier human being who happens to be an educator.

So, if you ask me to introduce myself, I’ll tell you I’m Michelle. I’m married to Jon who is my favorite person on the entire planet. We have four great kids: Bailey, Jon, Amanda, and Carlye. (The rest of my family is awesome, too… but I’m not listing them now, because that will become a new blog post.)

We have two dogs, Diego and Paco, and they’re pretty spoiled and loved.

I love to sing, play piano and ukulele, read, go to movies, golf, and spend time outside… especially in the mountains.

Oh, and I teach, too. I love teaching so much… but that’s not all there is to me.

Innovate West 2014

In May, I attended Innovate West at Connect Charter School in Calgary, Alberta.

Why did I travel all the way to Calgary for an education conference?

US policy makers: take note.

The educators in Alberta get it. Period. And the Connect Charter School is a great example. Inquiry model, problem-based learning, outdoor education, and an environment where the kids are thriving.

Is it a perfect system? No, but I really believe they’re on the right track when it comes to how students learn and how they should be assessed.

My favorite day was Friday. The Connect students led tours around their building and explained how they learn. They were so proud to share their school, and every single student, regardless of age, was able to articulate how this school is different and how it works for them. I’ve visited this school for three years now, and the day of the tour is always my favorite.

Friday night, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Innovate West audience as one of three keynote speakers. I love sharing the story of my students and our classroom. The things my students come up with in our inquiry-based school always amaze me! It was an incredible opportunity to share the the things they learn, say, think, and do on a daily basis.

The conference hosts had invited a local Calgary artist, Sam Hester, to create a “sketch note” drawing of the three keynotes. After I finished and walked over to her work, I was immediately overjoyed with what I saw. My students were living on that page! I couldn’t wait to share it with them when I returned to school the next week!

With Sam’s permission, I’m sharing the portion of her work where she drew my kids.

20140613-165328.jpg

In my next post, I’ll share the learning that happened for me at Innovate West. I can’t recommend highly enough this conference… and what it’s like to attend a conference outside your “own backyard.” It’s good to see and hear different perspectives and methods of how we should be thinking about teaching and learning.

Victims

I’m not sure I’ve ever been as disappointed in my edu-network as I have been in the last 48 hours.

I watched as a blog post written by a young woman went viral. She detailed events as she remembered them, and they were hard to read.

I watched as my friends and people I admire reposted and retweeted this blog post. They shared it with horrified comments and mutual disgust.

Out of all those friends who shared the viral post, ONE thought to consider and comment about the fact that we were reading only one side of the story.

ONE PERSON.

We read stories about victims, and we want to immediately support them.

I get that.

We absolutely should support victims and then try to do what we can to change the culture around us.

However, we need to be certain we don’t create additional victims in doing so. And that’s exactly what I saw happening today.

There’s a reason we don’t try cases in the “court of public opinion.” Mob mentality rarely looks at facts or the reasons for due process.

When due process is ignored, we open the door to persecute those who have been falsely accused. Some of them never recover. Additionally, that often leads to more victims being ignored or treated as if they are not truthful.

I’m involved in this particular situation, because I was a witness to the events of one of those accounts in the viral post. My recollection of those facts are different from what was written. I’m not going to discuss any of those things here, because I have already done so by phone with the parties involved. I have supported people on both “sides” of this situation, and I will continue to do so.

IN PRIVATE.

Do I want to change the culture around me to make it a better, safer, more supportive place? Yes.

I will not push my agenda, however, at the expense of any person’s reputation, no matter what I THINK might have happened. Instead of raising awareness about a bigger cultural issue, this has become a “witch hunt.”

If you do not personally know the facts about events that took place, who are you to make a judgment about another person’s character? And what are the implications on people’s lives if what you think happened did NOT happen?

I have watched as people have assailed the character of the young woman in this situation.

I have watched as people have assailed the character of one of the men she has implicated.

NONE of you making these judgment calls were there, yet you’re calling for people to ban the accused from attending conferences. Calling for people to unfollow them and un-invite them from any future conferences. Demanding or acting entitled to details and explanations that should have been handled privately in the first place.

How about we take off our judging hats, listen more, and ask what would be the best course of action for the future?

There are REAL lives that will be affected now. How did YOUR actions in the last 48 hours hurt the people involved? (ALL of the people, not just the one you choose to support.)

Every person involved in this situation is someone’s child.

Did you stop to think that this was someone’s son or daughter? Did you consider that maybe there were other loved ones who are now impacted by your actions as well?

Or did you not consider that before pressing the retweet or share button?

I teach my students to think critically before the share anything publicly. So do many of you.

I saw some people learn the hard way today that they can’t really take back what they have posted or shared.

Now, the question is, how will they make amends for the damage they have done?

And…

How will you change your future actions in deciding what you share and how you share?

Do Something

(This post is very disjointed and extremely poorly written. I apologize for the quality of the writing, but this topic is entirely too important to sit on and wait until I can make it better.)

 

When the Dunn trial verdict was announced and “breaking news” alerts started popping up, I was stunned. Again.

I don’t even know what to say… what to do. So much injustice. I cry for Jordan Davis’ family. And Trayvon Martin’s family. And Marissa Alexander.* This list is too long, and I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

I never had to tell my children to be careful what they wear, so that they wouldn’t appear threatening to white people. (This link is to a heartbreaking blog post written by my friend, Rafranz Davis, about a conversation she had with her son after the Zimmerman trial verdict last summer.)

I never had to worry that my children would be accused of something they didn’t do, and then fear the “law” would automatically assume their guilt, due to the color of their skin.

Raising my children in Nebraska… I didn’t have to fear that it was the worst state per capita in the US (!) to grow up male and black. 

No parent should have to worry about their children like this. And yet, they do.

This is a HUMAN BEING problem.

  • I’m angry reading about another child taken too soon.
  • I’m angry that white men are considered justified in “standing their ground,” but a young black mother is not. 
  • I’m angry reading labels such as “black on black” crime… as if that makes anything okay. It’s dismissive and de-humanizing.
  • I’m angry hearing people talk about statistics of homicide amongst children of color… they are not statistics. Statistics are easy to dismiss. Each and every one is someone’s child. 
  • I’m angry that the topic of white privilege ruffles the feathers of so many white people… as if it can be denied. 

 

More than anything else,  I’m angry about the injustice of it all. It doesn’t have to be like this.

 

On Saturday, all I could think of was the Edmund Burke quote:

 “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” 

We can’t just sit back and assume someone else will do something. That this is someone else’s problem. We need to address issues of racism, privilege, and how we can all work together as people.

Things I know I can do now:

  • help my students learn to be caring, empathetic people who value life.
  • listen to, learn from, and share the voices of those who refuse to be silent: Melinda Anderson, José Vilson, Mikki Kendall, and Suey Park are all writers you should know.
  • speak up… silence only maintains the status quo.
  • small things matter, too. If we wait for the grandiose gestures, we do nothing.

DO SOMETHING. Say something. Your silence and inaction speaks volumes more than you know.

(I’m not opening up comments on this post, because this is not about me. If you have a reaction, write about it. And then do something.)

 

*If you haven’t been keeping up with Angela Corey’s continued prosecution of Marissa Alexander, please do. Read more here and help contribute to legal funds here:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/marissa-alexander-freedom-fundraiser

Homework from Dean

This was the post that was supposed to be fun, light-hearted, and published last weekend. Something else happened. And another blog post was written. This one stayed in Draft for a while.

 

It’s ok to be silly sometimes. There are days when being an educator is uplifting and purpose-filled. And there are some days when I feel like we all take ourselves so very seriously. Levity can be freeing and much needed… and that’s why I’m participating in this “silly” meme.

On top of that, I love learning about the people from whom I learn. Sometimes, knowing that “he” is a dog lover or that “she” is a Phillies fan helps us to make deeper connections with each other. That is a very good thing.

I don’t do a very good job of balancing professional and personal, nor do I take time often enough to just think about fun for me.

So…

Dean tagged me.

11 Random Facts About Myself

  1. When I’m nervous, I talk. A. LOT. Sometimes, I make sense, and sometimes, I don’t. My apologies if you have ever been subjected to that from me. 
  2. I’m socially awkward. Meeting new people can be stressful for me. I don’t know how to end conversations, and awkward silences make me really nervous. (see #1)
  3. When my parents used to leave the house to run errands, I would play the piano and sing. One day, they came home and “discovered” my musical talent. They forced me to sing in church and try out for music activities in school. I eventually majored in music.
  4. My years in music and performing on stage have contributed greatly to my ability to speak in front of large groups of people. Also the reason most people don’t realize I’m awkward and shy.
  5. I used to play in a women’s golf league. We played 9 holes every Monday night in the spring/summer. My best net score- due to a very high handicap- was 19. Par was 36.
  6. In high school, I had mono for 2 years.
  7. I have a paralyzing fear of heights.
  8. I love dogs, and dogs love me. Friends call me a dog whisperer.
  9. I have a specific coffee cup for Saturdays and a different one for Sundays. I don’t use them for any other day but the “designated” day.
  10. I have to be in the mood to eat chocolate, and that doesn’t happen very often.
  11. I would rather be somewhere really cold than somewhere warm. I’m happiest when outside temps are between 0 and 40F (-17 and 4C). Anything over 65F/18C makes me a little cranky.

Questions from Dean:

  1. How do you feel about pants? Overrated, but necessary in public.
  2. What was the last movie you saw in a theatre? Catching Fire.
  3. Where are your car keys? In a box by my front door.
  4. What time is it? 8:30pm.
  5. What’s the last tweet you favorited? Roberto Luongo’s Ugly Christmas Sweater tweet with Ryan Kesler (Canucks)
  6. Outside of your immediate family, which relative do you like to spend time with? Hard to choose, since I have a great family. If I had to choose, my nieces and nephews.
  7. Have you ever been to Saskatchewan? Not yet. I have a goal to visit every Canadian province in the next 5 years.
  8. How long did it take you to walk to school as a kid? The longest walk was about 30 -45 minutes. 
  9. Besides you,  blogger should I be paying attention to? http://thejourneyisthegoal.wordpress.com/ by @backcountrynut
  10. Name one golf course. Torrey Pines.
  11. What’s your favorite Seinfeld episode or line? “Well, if it isn’t Chesty LaRue!”

Now It’s Your Turn!

  1. Carol McLaughlin
  2. Sean Beaton
  3. Laurel Beaton
  4. Deirdre Bailey
  5. Kristina Peters
  6. Dan Roberts – The ChickenMan
  7. Michelle Hiebert
  8. Rafranz Davis
  9. Jamie Fath
  10. Christine Ruder
  11. Brent Catlett
  12. I know this is 12… but if you’re reading this and want to participate, I want to know more about you.

 

Questions for You:

  1. What’s the happiest thing you can think of? 
  2. What DO you want to be when you grow up?
  3. Favorite Monty Python quote?
  4. What’s the worst time zone?
  5. Do you have any weird food issues? Describe.
  6. Describe the scene in front of you right now.
  7. How many books are you currently reading? Which ones?
  8. Tell me something you’re proud of yourself for doing/being, but too modest to “toot your own horn.”
  9. If you could make up a name for yourself or change your name, what would it be?
  10. Who is someone you wish more people knew about on Twitter and/or blogs?
  11. What is your favorite education story from your experience?

 

Here’s how it works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

Post back here with a link after you write this. 

Coping

I have at least 5 blogs posts ready to publish right now, but this is the one I need to post.

This probably will be my least cohesive/coherent post, and I apologize for that. This one is just for me. To process. And to cope.

 

1. On Friday, while we were ensuring our students were safe, my thoughts scrambled all over the place:

  • Arapahoe HS is just over and down the street from us. We have former students there. We have siblings of our students who attend that school. We have friends who teach there. Keep it together.
  • You have a job to do and protocol to follow. Thank God for that.
  • Keep calm. The kids are reading you, and they need to feel safe.
  • Remind the kids that they are safe.
  • The faces of the people I know at Arapahoe keep appearing in front of me. I need to become unfeeling and “automatic” for a little while, so I can keep it together. Having protocol and well-defined procedures helps with that.
  • How many more times will this happen in my career as an educator?

 

2. After details surface the next day, my thoughts are still rather scrambled, but also weary.

  • My heart is so, so heavy for the families of the injured students. For Claire. For the family of the boy who walked into that school with a gun. For the students and staff who experienced it all. For the community who will begin the long process of attempting to heal.
  • I worry that speculation and the need to blame will cause more problems than do any good.
  • Nearly 3 years ago, I sat locked in an office with about 25 kindergartners wondering the same things as I am today. Feeling the same things I felt on Friday. A friend was lost that day. Another friend was critically hurt. More friends affected. I can imagine that they are reliving that day all over again… as are countless others who have gone through the exact same thing.

 

3. Last night, at a company event, my husband shared this with his co-workers:

  • “As a teacher, she knows more people who have been killed or injured on the job than I do.”
  • He’s a former marine.

 

4. There are a lot of people want to attribute tragedies to “evil.”

  • What happened at Columbine was “evil.”
  • What happened on September 11th, 2001 was “evil.”
  • What happened at the Toronto mall, the Omaha Westroads mall, Millard South High School,  the Aurora theater, Sandy Hook, and numerous other tragic events…  was “evil.”
  • (I’m not linking to those events. Most of you don’t need me to do so, because you’re well aware of them. That fact is tragic.)
  • When we assign “evil” to these things, I feel we stop trying to DO ANYTHING ABOUT THEM. It takes the responsibility off our shoulders and blames some unseen demon, some “badness” in the world.
  • Speculation is maddening… before details are even released, people assume they know what is going on. This is almost as bad as misplaced blame.
  • Misinformation is spread like wildfire. Don’t fuel that.

 

5. I know that the main focus for a lot of people will be on gun control.

  • I don’t own a gun, and I’m not going to take a stand one way or the other here. 
  • I DO want to know how a child (18 yrs old is still a child) is able to purchase a gun several months after being suspended for  threatening someone’s life. (if the facts are wrong about these details, I will immediately correct them. This is what I know from reports so far.)
  • I don’t know that there was any bullying in this case. From personal accounts I won’t share, it doesn’t seem to be the case.
  • After the shootings in Aurora and Sandy Hook, more people started talking about mental health care. Social services. Has anything changed?

 

6. I have to focus on myself right now, right this very minute – not because ANY of this is about me – but because I need to process and cope before I walk into our school tomorrow. Before I sit with my students and help them return to as much normalcy as I can give them. Before we enter the week of many events where we’ll celebrate Christmas. And joy. And love. That’s what they need from me this week.

 

For anyone affected by Friday, my heart is with you. My prayers are with you. Maybe you were there. Maybe you had to relive another event all over again. I pray that you have someone to help you through your own method of coping.

 

 

No More Rock Stars

My brain is still basking in the afterglow of so many great conversations and connections from ISTE13 in San Antonio. I love that we can continue them via blogs, Twitter, and other social media. The post I’m writing today is one that I’ve tried to finish for more than 6 months.

rockstar

cc photo by Rev Stan

When I first started meeting face-to-face those people that I had admired, respected, and learned from in virtual spaces, I will admit that I was a little in awe.  After meeting more and more really incredible educators, I realized that I was putting them up on pedestals… but they had never asked me to do that. It was awkward for them. I may have called some of them “rocks stars” at some point even.

That term has been bandied about quite often in our education circles lately – in blogs and comments, as well as on Twitter. Do we really want to identify some people as “edu-rock-stars?” I’m not certain I want to associate with anyone who considers him/herself as a rock star.

If you think about the term “rock star,” these are things that come to mind (or through a quick search):

  • untouchable/unattainable to the common everyday person
  • elitist/exclusive mindset
  • traveling with an entourage, including bodyguards
  • riders on their contracts for performance venues – think “insisting no one make eye contact with you, everything in the dressing room must be white, Cristal on ice at all times, drinking water at exactly 65 degrees F,” etc. (ever read the Smoking Gun Backstage page? You can’t make this stuff up!)
  • VIP treatment – immediate seating in restaurants, special perks or rewards wherever they stay, closed boutiques for private shopping, private dining away from the little people, etc.
  • bad boy/girl behavior- trashing hotels, punching the paparazzi, etc.
  • arriving obscenely late, regardless of what time you’re expected to perform/appear

 

I know those are extreme examples, but do we really want any of those types of behaviors, even in the smallest degree, from people who are supposed to have the best interests of children in mind?

Here’s the thing: great people share their stories and learn WITH others who are also sharing their stories. They do not expect adoration, special treatment, or even celebrity status. That’s why they’re great educators… what they do comes from their hearts, not their egos.

So please pardon me when I take offense to hearing someone referring to a person in their educational network as a rock star. I know it’s meant as a compliment, but is it really?

Here’s how it has played out, most recently at ISTE13. These are statements that I overheard more than once throughout the conference:

  • “I almost didn’t introduce myself to you. You’re such a rock star, and I was nervous to say hello.”
  • “Oh, So And So is such a rock star. He couldn’t possibly learn anything from me. I’m just an unknown teacher.”

I know it’s human nature to want to rank and sort ourselves… sadly. I think, however, that most people are uncomfortable being given rock star status. Why can’t we walk up to a person and tell her that she is someone we admire, or that we really enjoyed his session or blog post?  That starts a conversation. Learning from each other should be about the conversations we can have, not about stroking egos.

On the other hand, if someone you interact with actually welcomes rock star status, he/she probably isn’t worth your time. Learning isn’t going to be a two-way street with rock stars.

Just something to think about. It’s not about how many followers you have on Twitter, how many people know your name, or how many people want to meet you.

  • Are you sharing what you do?
  • Are you including your stories?
  • Are you lifting up and sharing the successes of the people around you?
  • Are you reflecting on what you have learned?

If you can answer yes to any of those questions, then you are worth someone’s time. I want to meet YOU, not a rock star.