I Always Had the Power

It has been a while since my last negative post. For me it was a dark moment in my personal and professional life. I was looking for external people and things to fix the problems, not realizing one simple idea: I Always Had the Power.

Not that this idea was some magic wand that made everything better, but I knew I would have to work at making life better. At school I concentrated on what I still loved, the students. That meant working with my classes on projects and sponsoring two clubs this year. On the other hand I cut out everything that was bringing me down. That included many meetings, avoiding negative conversations, and reducing my volunteer rate. Pulling back made me realize that I do great things without being so visible around the building. In the process, I believe the time is respected more by others.

Then there is the other side of my professional life, sharing with others. There is such a joy sharing what I know and what I do with educators. In the past couple of months I was fortunate to fly to California to share iPad lessons, develop a new webinar series for MSET, and present movie-making projects at our district's conference, Powering Up With Technology. What amazing opportunities to meet educators with the same passion for technology in education. Just in the past two days I have received so many kind comments, it is the fuel to stay on a positive track and do what I love.

While life is not perfect, it is improving. The fact that I used my power to make change, that is even better.


Point of No Return?

So much time has passed and there has been so much going on, yet nothing posted here. Now I have returned as my path as an educator is foggy at best.

On first glance, no one would be able to tell there was a problem. My classes are great and hard-working. Still working in the fast lane as I deal with my own classes, work as the TAG coordinator, review the School Improvement Plan, help others with Tech Integration, and even help the district with their iPad initiative. All of that and two natural disasters, but I can't say that I am overly stressed. Just not happy....

I am still happy to be an educator, just not happy in my current position. This is the first time I have felt this way entering my seventh year in the same building. After much thought this feeling has two roots: losing too many talented colleagues and one comment made by an administrator.

Great colleagues have left before and I have been okay. Then a colleague left that meant more to me than I realized when she was here. She was an intellectual equal that was willing to take risks with me and truly cared about her students. While I have a lot of professional and personal relationships within the school, I think she was the only one that really understood me. As many from my PLN would understand, it is hard to be different.

Then there was "the comment." It was a moment that made me question almost everything I had done in the past seven years. There was a tailspin of emotion within a few short days. While the person that said "the comment" made an effort to make-up for the hurt, I have still not recovered. I have forgiven the transgression, I can't seem to get past it. It is hard to believe that the comment was a complete mistake and not a reflection of how the person really felt. From being de-valued like that in front of the entire staff, is it really possible to return to normal?

Some have said that I am really good at finding solutions to problems, not this time. Maybe it is one of those time heals all wounds situation. I hope so.


Ghosts of Conferences Past

As I sit here unable to sleep and not yet packed even though I am leaving later today, I started thinking about my experiences from previous NECC/ISTE conferences. Still a relative newbie to other attendees, each conference was a completely different experience for me. Looking back there were some lessons I learned that will hopefully make ISTE 2011 in Philly an even better experience.

San Antonio 2008: Complete Newbie
I sat at home online when I read about NECC in Atlanta and was determined I needed to go to this conference the following year. It was an overwhelming experience, I was too afraid to talk to anyone, and I was completely worn out trying to go to every session. Despite those three factors, I enjoyed the trip. The Riverwalk was so much fun and I loved the history of San Antonio.

D.C. 2009: In my neighborhood
This was the conference where I ventured into the Bloggers' Cafe and learned more there than most of the sessions I attended. I attempted to get over the shyness and that only happened in spurts. There was a new problem, I spent too much time with people I knew and worked with in the district. I love them, but I missed out on a lot of new connections.

Denver 2010: New Adventure
Third time around I felt a little more confident and I actually presented. I had a lot of fun because I said, "yes" more often than "no." This was the first time I had a room mate and I think that pushed me to venture out more. There were times that others diminished my confidence, but I blame myself for that.

So what can I gather from all this:
1. I do have a room mate this year.
2. I have said, "yes" to a lot already and "no" will be erased from my vocabulary.
3. Since the conference is close to home, I will limit my time with work colleagues.
4. I will take time to enjoy the city, even though I have been to Philly many times.
5. Balance sessions with informal conversations.
6. I am gonna be me and not worry about what others think.

May Philly 2011 be the best conference so far.


The Right Tool

Picking the right tool for the needs of the project seems to be a reoccuring theme for me lately. As much as I love Web Apps, I don't believe in using them because they are new or flashy. All online tools and software have their limits so they should only be chosen once you know what you want the outcome to be.

That brings me to this blog. A tool that I chose over three years ago to chronical my journey as a Technology Integration Teacher. Numerous times I have stated that my outcome was never a certain number of readers, even though I appreciate every person that took a moment out of their life to scan through my rants. While I have done a couple of reviews, this place has been my reflection pool. My time to stop to see where I have been and where I wanted to be in the future.

When I started this blog I never could have imagined how my life would have turned out. I feel so lucky to have had so many amazing opportunities so far. I felt such tremendous loss as I had to say goodbye to my biggest inspiration, my mother. Then the feeling of gratitude for so many amazing people in my life that have supported me through all of this. I am a different person than I was three years ago. My hope is that I am a better person that continues to learn and grow.

So at this point, is this blog the right tool? Now I use Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare on a daily basis. There are tools that I haven't even tried yet like Tumblr and Posterous. Despite all of these tools, I feel like I still want to hang on to my blog. It is like falling in love with a hammer all over again.


Tips for MSET 2011

This is my second year providing some MSET conference tips. Hopefully you will find this helpful and feel free to share.

If you have not registered for MSET, what are you waiting for?

MSET Conference Home


Finding Your Voice

On a windy Saturday, I spent my afternoon in a dark theater watching The King's Speech. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it. In my Ebert moment, two thumbs up and it should win the Oscar.

While I am not going to give away any details. the entire theme of the movie is overcoming life's obstacles and finding your voice. This seems to be perfect timing right now. My school is at that point of the year where there is too much complaining and not enough action.

My school isn't perfect, but what school is? We have good students overall, a staff with lots of experience, and an administration that supports so many ideas. We have all the parts, but seem to lack something that puts it all together. So many teachers, not just ones in my school, have great ideas they don't give a voice to. Why? Fear of the word No, extra work, colleagues' opinions, or something else?

If you have that good idea, give it a voice. As someone who has spoke up a time or two with good and bad results, here are some potentially helpful hints:
  1. Think it through! Stop before you run to the principal's office with that good idea that popped into your head. Try to look at your idea from all viewpoints to work out the potential problems.
  2. Be respectful. Do not start with complaints or what you have heard or seen. While this might seem like a way to support your idea, it is nothing more than a distraction.
  3. Put it in writing. While you want to sit face-to-face when proposing your idea to administration, it is easy to forget without something in writing. Either type out your ideas ahead of time or take notes during the meeting to polish up later.
  4. If possible, gather allies. The more people that support your idea, the easier it is to make it a reality.
  5. Follow-Up and Follow-Through. I am not going to say that more work won't be added to your load. If you care about your idea, this shouldn't be a problem. A good idea is like a fire, you need to supply fuel to keep it alive.
Now time to follow my own advice.


New Year, New Possibilities, Even Resolutions

I have to say the New Year celebration is my absolute favorite. Since I was a kid struggling to stay up until midnight, I loved the idea of a New Year. The idea of a clean slate and fresh start is so appealing. 365 unknown days lie ahead and anything bad from the last year just kinda melts away. Even with current personal and professional struggles, I have a huge amount of hope today for what is to come.

The only aspect of the New Year celebration I have never been fond is resolutions. Mainly because they just seem like empty promises that lead to self disappointment. So there are things I want to do in the new year, but not sure that I want to call them resolutions. Yet .....

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

So here is my initial list. Just like a real school improvement plan, it should change as the year progresses.

  1. To Stay as Positive as Possible! I know every day is not going to be sunshine and kittens, but I know the negative just drags me down.
  2. A yearly struggle for me: Try to maintain a balance. I want to have a little more fun in the new year.
  3. Push the Limits! I want to keep pushing the boundaries and not give up despite the powers that be.
  4. Be More Creative: Whether that is art on my iPad or keeping up with taking pictures each week.
  5. Seeking out new opportunities! Some of the best experiences from the past couple of years came from filling out applications and taking a chance.
There it is! Not a lot, but a workable list. Let 2011 be the best year yet!