Monday, November 20, 2017

Inspire & Be Inspired

Years ago while still in high school, I made my decision that I wanted to go into education.  I was inspired by a lot of great teachers, from Mr. Pintar, my US History teacher and basketball coach, Mr. Caderette, my school's athletic director and my baseball coach, Mr. Linton, my government teacher and football coach, Mr. Bell, my biology teacher, Ms. Wojt, my earth science teacher, Mrs. Dewitt, my chemistry teacher, Mr. Meek, my Latin teacher (yes, Latin!), and Mr. Bennett, my PE teacher and football coach, just to name a few.  While I didn't end up pursuing biology and chemistry as my degree program as I had originally planned, my mind was made up by my sophomore year that education was going to be my career path.  I always told myself that as long as I was in the game, I wanted to be that inspiration to my students.  Over 12 years and thousands of students later, it is always comforting running into former students and hearing their stories and the kinds words that so many of them have in regards to their time with me.

Really, Chipotle?  
At my school, we have periodic releases of students to go back to a comprehensive school.  Students are assigned to my school for various infractions and as long as they take care of business by attending school, performing in the classroom, and staying out of trouble, their assignment to my school comes to an end.  Last Friday was one of the release days, so several of my students will be at a different school when we return from the Thanksgiving holiday break.  As the day progressed, I said goodbye and good luck to several students that will not be returning, with many of them thanking me for their time with me.  One such student shook my hand, thanked me and told me that he was going to miss me.  Another young lady stopped by my room between classes a couple of different times to see me, thank me, and tell me that she was going to miss me. I will definitely miss many of these students, but as I told them throughout the day, "No offense, but I don't want to see you ever again, unless it is randomly at Chipotle or something" (Why I chose Chipotle, I don't know, I like Chipotle, but it is far from my favorite place").

Clearly, throughout my career, I have had some form of inspiration on my students.  But my students have inspired me throughout my career as well.  When students in my classes have struggled, they have inspired me to better my craft so I can better serve them.  In a previous post, I talked about how I was not the innovative, technologically savvy educator that I like to think that I am today; my students were partly the reason as to why I am who I am professionally today.  When I have learned about some of the struggles that so many of my students have had to deal with, socially, economically, psychologically, and physically, it has inspired me to be a more empathetic and compassionate person, not so much of the "tough love" kind of person that I was, and still am to  an extent, early in my career.  More recently, I had a different form of inspiration from my students that has changed my approach some.

As a PE teacher, I get to work with students each day in some form of physical activity.  In my class, I give students a great deal of choice in what activities that they would like to do during class.  Basketball is popular, as is table tennis, and so is weightlifting.  One day a few weeks ago, some of my students were working on the bench press and asked if I could lift what they were working on, which was 135 pounds.  I told them that during my college football days and a couple of years ago when I was heavy into weightlifting (see what I did there?), I was bench pressing well over 300 pounds.  One of the boys challenged me to see if I still had it.  They set the bar up with 225 pounds and I told them that I hoped I could still get it at least 5 times.  When it was all said and done, I pressed the weight 10 times, something that I fully did not expect.  Word started getting around school that I had lifted that weight and kids were asking me in the hallway if I really did.  Since that day, I have been regularly lifting weights 2-3 times a week.  I am still working on motivating myself to start getting up early to get a cardio workout in, something that I have gotten away from since I hurt my knee a year or so ago.

Bottomline, my students inspired me to do something that I wasn't doing before.  Had it not been for those boys challenging me on the bench press, I probably would not be pursuing a regular weight training schedule.  My goal for the Thanksgiving holiday is to start getting back into the habit of not only weight training, but cardio training as well.  While I will most likely never be jacked like I was during my football days, it would be nice to cut weight, get stronger and more fit, and be a piece of eye candy for Mrs. Anderson.

Strive every day to be an inspiration to your students, your colleagues, your family, and your community.  At the same time, take inspiration from them as well and we will all work together to make our world a better place.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Expanding Horizons

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If you are reading this, first of all, thank a teacher.  Also, you must think that my post has something meaningful to say or something that you can learn about, whether it is from past experience in reading my posts or somebody has recommended my blog to you.  If the latter is the case, please pass along my thanks to your colleague for the recommendation.  Maybe you are a first time reader that happened to stumble upon my blog.  I hope that you can glean something useful from this post or others that I have written and will return for future posts.  The bottom line is that I write this blog for several reasons, including my love for writing, my love of sharing my knowledge and skills, and to contribute to the many professional learning networks in which I am proud to be a member.  

This love of sharing isn't limited to just my blog, tweeting ideas (and my blog), and participating in chats on various Voxer groups.  I also love to share at trainings and conferences, which is also one of the main reasons why I choose to volunteer so much of my times working with CUE-NV.  Over the course of my first few years of teaching, I didn't do a lot of presenting to staff and I certainly never had presented at a district level professional development day or at a regional or national conference.  I was too wrapped up in coaching football and working on my master's to sacrifice any more time and, regrettably, I didn't think that my voice was worth hearing at the time.  

Finally, a few years ago (the exact year is lost on me at this point), I started to come out of that shell.  I started to become more involved at my school on various committees and I was tasked with presenting to staff on various things on professional development days and during our "house meetings" after school once a month.  Then the million dollar question was asked of me:  "Would you be willing to present to educators during a Google Mini-Conference offered by the district?"  I was definitely stunned by the question, but without hesitation, I agreed to do so.  

At one of my previous schools, we were a pilot for the rollout for Google Apps for Education accounts.  Each teacher and student was given a GAFE account, along with everything that comes with that account.  While I already had been relatively tech-savvy and had incorporated a great deal of technology into my curriculum, I really took off with the account.  My classroom was incorporating aspects of the flipped classroom and I was nearly paperless, with a few exceptions.  When Google Classroom came out, the transition to paperless was complete.  Did I have access to one-to-one devices in my classroom?  By no means, but I was lucky enough to work at a school where students could and would bring their own devices, even if it was a simple flip phone that had access to the Internet (I am still amazed by the resiliency of a student that did not have any access to a device outside of her flip phone and wrote all of her assignments and even papers on that phone for me and her other classes).  Over the course of a couple of years, I became very savvy using the various Google tools, as well as other tools that I had delved into and had started making a name for myself.  My supervisor at the time had mentioned my name to some district-level educators, hence why I was asked.  

Fast forward a few years, and I cannot even begin to think about how many presentations I have made at various district conference, EdTech Team Google and Apple Summits, and CUE-NV events.  It occurred to me a few days ago that while I have presented dozens of times, I have never presented outside of Las Vegas.  I mentioned this to my wife, and she was surprised as well (she has this really unique "Really?"  when something confuses or surprises her, this was one of those moments).  I decided that it was high time to start looking into presenting in other areas to a new audience.  

Have you tried Pear Deck yet?  If not, you should...
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One of the requirements of the Pear Deck Certified Coaches cohort is that you present sessions on Pear Deck at a Google Summit.  This is easy; we have a Google Summit in Las Vegas every year, one that I have attended and/or presented at for several years now.  However, as much fun as I have had presenting at the Summit in Las Vegas, and submitted my presentations on Pear Deck and Google Keep for it, this was a great opportunity to present somewhere else.  I also submitted presentations for a Google Summit near Los Angeles in February.  Then a couple of days later, I noticed that there was going to be an event in January in Visalia that was organized by some of my virtual colleagues, Adam Juarez and Katherine Goyette.  I asked if they were looking for presentations, to which they said yes, so I submitted some presentations for their Tech Rodeo.  Now, just because I submitted doesn't mean that any of them will be accepted; however, if accepted, I look forward to expanding my reach a little bit more.  

My next step: completing my Google Certified Trainer requirements and application again (my last submission was rejected, but I know why and haven't had the time to go back to correct it).  I will need to recertify my Google Certified Educator Level 2 first, as well as redo the requirements for the trainer application, but I am not worried about that. I also need to consider submitting proposals for future events like Fall CUE and CUE National.  I think I am ready for that kind of an audience, something that I would have never said as early as 5 years ago.  

Until next time...