“Wear a garden hat tomorrow,” said Marina, so I did. I wear many hats at work, some obvious and some subtle. The teacher hat looks ancient, with numbers and letters dangling from the brim. The meeting hat is formal, up to date, and suitable for wearing in public. The diagnostic hat changes depending on the need, sometimes broad-brimmed and sometimes carrying a lamp to shine light on dark corners. Once in a while I get to wear my crafty hat, which is decorated with feathers and crocheted bobbles. The mom hat comes out for nurturing moments and disciplinary times.
This week I am a teacher for math, reading and history. I am a diagnostician giving placement tests to future students. I am an educational therapist, modifying and adapting lessons so puzzled students can understand them. I am an educational consultant at an IEP meeting with a school district, describing how a shared student learns, what he needs to learn, and which technology might help him learn. And, as technologically challenged as I am (my older son Nate says I am a 50’s woman, which means to him that I would be happy to use a typewriter and a ditto machine at work), I am the one who turns text into speech when I scan the biology book in Kurzweil, edit it, and share it with students who have print disabilities.
When I say I wear many hats, I am picturing the various jobs I do every week. At a small school like ours, every employee helps out, and everyone does a variety of tasks. It keeps life interesting, challenging, colorful, and definitely not routine.
For a number of years I have been observing a number of both interesting and troubling aspects involving the internet and social media. As a result, some random thoughts and rants.
I love email. Email is a great way to communicate quickly and access a number of people at the same time. What concerns me is the possible effect email is having on the English language and people’s ability to use it in an educated manner. It appears that for many people the use of email eliminates the need to use proper grammar and spell correctly or to actually read what one is sending. This fact is not limited to communications among friends, but in business communications as well. When the school receives resumes for a job opening, the resumes are usually free of errors. However, the number of errors in the email that many times serves as a cover letter for the resume is surprising.
I find it interesting how social media has seemingly increased people’s need to stay connected to friends and even to people you will probably never meet in person. Perhaps people have always possessed a basic need to stay in contact with other people and the different types of social media have just made it easier to connect. A recent article in the paper made me think that the old saying, “everything in moderation” can be applicable to social media. In the recent National Football League draft of college players, it was reported that a college player who was expected to be a high draft pick was selected much lower in the draft due to his lack of engagement in what amounted to a job interview. It seems that when the player and other potential draftees met with a number of teams, unlike the other players who interacted with their potential employer, this player spent most of his time texting on his phone. As this player played the quarterback position and these teams were looking for a person who had leadership skills and was able to communicate effectively, the player’s draft stock dropped dramatically. According to some experts, this drop probably cost the player approximately three million dollars in the first contract he will sign.
There is a great comedy routine which unfortunately has been removed from YouTube due to copyright issues. The routine was entitled something like “Technology is wonderful, but no one’s happy” The comedian talks about a young person sitting on an airplane attempting to connecting to a website. When it takes five seconds to connect, the person starts to rant and rave how slow the technology has become. The comedian jokes that the individual is flying at forty thousand feet, using technology that was probably not invented a year ago, and within five seconds has access to a variety of information that people could not have imagined thirty years ago. It seems the access we have to information is so great that many of us become impatient when, like the plane passenger, there is even a slight delay in getting what we want. I recently read an article that proposed the notion that the internet is creating a generation of impatient people. Perhaps there is some truth to this theory. However, I remember as a child people predicted that television was creating a generation of impatient people because an issue on television was always solved before the thirty or sixty minute episode was concluded when problems in real life typically could not be resolved as quickly or cleanly.
I am continually amazed at Facebook and the like. I would have thought that everyone had heard how important it was to be careful what you post on these types of accounts. I sometimes think to myself, why in the world you would post something like that when you should know that once something is in cyberspace it has the ability to last forever. That said, I am amused when a person commits a crime and details it on their Face book page or posts a video the crime on YouTube and is subsequently held responsible for their actions
Finally, it is increasingly distressing the degree of nastiness that many people exhibit when using social media. Perhaps I should not be that surprised that people act in this manner when they can hide behind the fact they can be anonymous online. When I was in college my roommates and I would play a game of hearts after dinner and before we started studying every night. With online games, we have started to renew this tradition once a month. I enjoy playing games so I started signing on and playing multiple people from all over the world. This was interesting as you could chat with your opponent as you played. Then again, too often than not, I exited a game because of nasty, racist, insulting, etc. comments. This type of behavior pales in comparison to the stories that one constantly reads about incidents of cyber bulling.
While this may sound like an old school rant about social media, the internet, people’s overwhelming need to be connected electronically, etc., it is really another argument for the important of people being taught and practicing digital citizenship and demonstrating a little common sense.
The End. The End of the Year. The End of the SCHOOL Year. It's interesting.
Is it the excitement of looking forward to the long days of summer? The dream of greater free time? The feeling in the pit of your stomach that THIS summer something special will happen? That you'll learn something new? Change the course of your life?
Or is the that dread that comes with knowing that you won't be seeing familiar faces? That knowledge that everyone is travelling and seeing bright new places except for you? The belief that it will rain all summer and that you won't get that tan (that is bad for you anyway...and you know it, but really?)
The end of the school year has two divergent schools of thought: great and extraordinary happiness or the depth of fear. This will probably depend upon where you are in life. A high school student? Hopefully you are reaching for that endless summer. A senior graduating from high school? That might be a summer a bit more fraught will fear and worry as you look toward the next step in your life. An adult with a 9-5 job? Well, you pretend that summer doesn't matter, but I can feel that wishful memory of summers past....and then there's teachers...
I myself have always fallen into the first camp in the spring. As the end of the year approaches I am sure that this summer will be the MOST exciting of my life. No really. That's a lot of summers. A few have actually lived up to it. Most couldn't live up to my insanely high hopes. That's ok.
When fall approaches each year most people realize that that summer blossom quickly faded. That the new beginning is actually in the fall. That great things will happen next school year, as the holidays approach, as the seasons change.
A Friend and Colleague: Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls
Posted by Heidi Schiessler at 4/25/2013
I wanted to dedicate this week’s blog to a teacher, friend and long time supporter of Mid-Peninsula High School, Jodi Wright. Jodi passed away earlier this month. For those of you who don’t know Jodi, she was a sometimes English, History and Math teacher at Mid-Peninsula for over 20 years; she began teaching at Mid-Peninsula in 1985. A graduate of University of Pacific in Stockton and Occidental College , where she earned a Masters Degree in Education, Jodi was a “born to be” teacher, she really had little choice. That’s how natural and dynamic she was in the classroom. Jodi was a true believer in the Mid-Peninsula way. Jodi said once “The School encourages staff as well as students, to take up new challenges and enjoy the adventure of education.” She was one of the most committed classroom and core teachers I have ever worked with, always putting the needs of her students first. She put in countless hours both at school and during her free time to assure that her students were getting the best and most current educational opportunities available. Jodi was also a dedicated wife and mother, loved fishing, hiking, storytelling, and her dogs, Bill and Trudy. Jodi would often transform into Esmeralda, the fortune teller, for our Mid-Peninsula Prom. Kids and faculty would line up as soon as Jodi sat down!
At Back to School Nights she would hand out her biography, sharing her background and experience with parents. I would like to share a part of her bio with you, “There is something about Mid-Peninsula that keeps me coming back. The staff at MPHS freely agrees to address a strong but simple mission, never forgetting that they began this work because “they liked kids and wanted to help them.” Jodi also said, “All of our advanced degrees and extra training must be superseded by genuine regard for young individuals, a belief that no adult in teaching should support stereotyping, rather they should support a simple basis of compassion.”
When asked to share a quote for her teacher page, she chose, “The supportive partnership of colleagues at Mid-Peninsula is among the finest, and its effects, stronger as a group than any one individual might make.”
Jodi, thank you for all of your devotion to our school and your tireless effort on behalf of all the students and young people you have touched along the way, you have truly made a difference. All of us that had the privilege of knowing you and working with you, as a teacher, friend and colleague, will be better and kinder human beings from just knowing you. Thank you for sharing your smile and wisdom!
One of the reasons why I love working at Mid-Pen (besides my beloved little minions and the delicious desserts made by Elli Howe that I greedily chow down on at least once a month during PA meetings) is that there is something to ALWAYS look forward to, always! The back to school BBQ, Halloween shenanigans, the Thanksgiving talent show and feast, movie day, the Valentine’s Day talent show, community service day, staff retreat, PROM (where I self-appoint myself as PROM QUEEN FOR YET ANOTHER ACADEMIC YEAR MUAHAHAHAHA), night of the arts, senior dinner are all events that I anxiously await all year; then there are events that I dread and wish would get pushed back a couple months, AKA GRADUATION, the WORST. I am expecting that this year will be at least a million times more difficult on my little Callahan heart than last year, because I have had 365 more days to get to know the beautiful little creatures, and I find myself more attached to the them than ever; not to mention I am losing 3 of my little baby core-lings (who apparently aren’t really babies because they are all getting ready for college next year).
This is my second year at Mid-Pen and I have had plenty of time to wrap my head around the fact that kids come to our school so they can learn, mature, vote for me for Prom Queen, graduate, and LEAVE for bigger and better things, however I haven’t quite grown accustom to the notion that these little people that I care so much about won’t be back next year. The more time I spend thinking about how I won’t see my “cherubs” the more active my lacrimal gland becomes. Now I know that each year my supply of ninjas gets replenished with new “freshman” and “transfer” ninjas, but the things is I’m not ready to part with the 2013 ninja cohort. I’ve spent two years training them in of all my Amanda-isms and I’m just plum not ready for them to leave; I have NOOOOOO idea how parents do it.
As I look at my calendar and see April rapidly evolving into May, I realize that my days with the future graduates are numbered, and there is nothing that I can do to keep my little darlings at Mid-Pen for a little bit longer, at least nothing that wouldn’t result in me getting fired; I can see it already “Amanda, unlock the building, it’s Megan’s first day of college tomorrow, she needs to leave!!!” Or “Amanda, Robbie has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize today, and he can’t accept it because you keep extending core!” I constantly rack my brain coming up with legal ways to keep the kids at school. Here are a few of my ideas: convince the kids to randomly start flunking classes, make the kids ask the teachers to get rid of their credits, and hypnotize the kids and their families in order to convince them that is still 2012 and they are currently juniors; next year is Senior year, silly!
Deep down inside…somewhere, I “allegedly” know that all these ideas are somewhat irrational and are a smidge on the farfetched side. I guess it is only natural for kids who enter high school to eventually graduate, even if I don’t want them to. Whenever I find myself getting a little too sad about graduation I try to remember that places like Mid-Pen are very rare. Mid-Pen is very unique in the sense that once you are here, you are loved and accepted just for being who you are, and if the current kids stayed, there wouldn’t be space for the upcoming generations of kids who need an environment like Mid-Pen to thrive and be themselves. When that train of thought doesn’t make me happy, I go the selfish route, which typically ALWAYS works, and I get right down to the number aspect of things—the more kids that come to Mid-Pen, the more votes I can get for Prom Queen! Wahhhoooo!!!! Out with the old and in with the new…votes! Just kidding! On a more serious note, I can’t say how proud I am of all of this year’s future graduates, this is a very exciting time, and I wish them best in all their future endeavors (which better take place within proximity to the school)!
Spring Break: We wait for it with baited breath. We dream about it. We remember it fondly from our youth or remember what others did and we didn't. We see it as the beginning of the end of the school year (ok, maybe not everyone does, but I do...) It's that signal of the final race for the barn, hair flying behind you desperate for some rest...
Spring break is the final oasis before the mad dash. Or is it?
As per usual, I had plans for spring break. This included doctor appointments, house organization, finally having time to pick up my daughter from school and spend some quality time (rather than pick her up and, both of us crabby and tired. sit and watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates...)
I had high hopes, and dreams, of my office becoming a usable space again. A fantasy of organizing so that I could be ready for construction in the back of our house and hopefully get the car back into the garage. This would have been relaxing? Well, yes. It relaxes me to feel organized and a bit self-righteous.
What did I do? Well, my tech called and had a part for me, so yeah, I'll pop over to school. Whoops, that SMARTBoard issue, hmmmmm...we can troubleshoot on Wednesday, well, OK, let's get that done. My cousin? In San Jose for a tournament, well, it's not often that my family is nearby...Oh and let's not forget the conference to work out afterschool programs for next year AND two days of chaperoning.
It's only Wednesday. I almost feel too stressed to figure out how to cook dinner. AND there is swimming and tennis (we are trying stuff to see what we like right now....ugh.)
Maybe, just maybe, the point of break is to help us realize that our "daily grind" isn't so much a grind, but rather a haven of structure and regularity that keeps us sane in a sea of chaos. Too dramatic? Maybe, but next Monday isn't looking so bad.
Hopefully all have/had a successful and fun break.
Writing a blog about texting while working in a high school, one of the first things that dawned on me is that these kids don’t know how to pass a note! You have to be at least 15 years or older to remember the days of folding that one piece of paper up as small as you could and using your eyes to watch as it was handed from person to person until it landed in the receivers hand…. without the teacher seeing. Oh, these kids are missing out! As an adult in my 30s, I get to look back on love letters and secrets about who was dating who, now, you can save a text IPTLYF (I promise to love you forever) but it’s not exactly the same.
I will admit, we did have technology (if you call it that) when I was in High School… the beeper. We used to have numerical codes that we knew meant “meet me in the bathroom” or “let’s hang after school”. One of my personal favorites, “831” meaning “I love you”. Eight letters, three words, one meaning… However, we have entered an entire new world of “the cell phone” and even more “the texting”. Kids, adolescents, adults, everyone is texting. We live in a world that now relies on cell phones, connection, and the expectation for an immediate response. If someone doesn’t respond to a text within moments we wonder “what happened to them”. The craziness of this new world is that we text about EVERYTHING! People text about business meetings, dates, breaking up, making plans, happy birthday, happy anniversary, sexting, nothing is off limits, there is no topic that is reserved for the good ol' face-to-face or a phone call. And so I wonder, what will happen to the generations to come. Will a love letter never be written? Will conversations completely come to a stop? Will the cell phone completely take over? I have to go… need to text back the plans for tonight, the friend from college, my mother, and the Board member who just asked a question…. Why am I even sitting at a computer?
The only way I can articulate how I feel presently is by quoting Bilbo Baggin’s in The Fellowship of the Ring, when he said “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” Work right now is extremely busy. Between planning reunions, development, helping plan our school’s big fundraiser, and volunteering 4 hours a week, I do not find much time for myself. In lieu of writing about my mile long laundry list of things to do I am going to write about the one thing that ALWAYS makes me happy, MY LITTLE CHUNKY BEAR!!!!!
Chunky Bear is the cutest, fattest, fluffiest, medium sized dog in the world (I may or may not be a little biased). No matter how bad of a day I have seeing Chunks or even a picture of him makes me do a 180; I don’t know what it is about my portly, four legged buddy, but being around him just mellows me out. My favorite thing about Chunky Doodle is that right after he inhales his kibbles and bits, he likes to be left alone; I identify. One of my favorite things to do with my little baby bear is to play fetch, whereas other dogs never tire and are relentless, Chunks’s zeal to play fetch is ephemeral; after about 3 or 4 throws he is D-O-N-E, done! Just like I am with this blog.
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half... empty or half full" question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: "How heavy is this glass of water?"
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything."
It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!
Source: Science is Madness
I encourage us all to try and remember that incorporating balance into our lives is key to managing our stress. We cannot avoid life’s challenges or stressors but we can work on managing them in a way so they do not rule our moods. As mentioned above, it is important to put the burdens aside. We need to spend some time enjoying our lives, with loved ones and doing the things we enjoy. We need to do the things that help rejuvenate our minds, bodies and spirits so that the stressors and pressures of life don’t exhaust us. As adults, we need to model this healthy balance for our youth. The pressures that surround our teenagers are immense and they are still learning how to manage the pressures of life. I believe this is an ongoing process for us all. Personally, some days I do a better job at it than other days. But by managing our own stress in healthy ways, we will be happier people and in turn we are also providing a modeling service to the younger people in our lives. We all need relief from the pressures of day to day life, whether they be the pressures experienced as a working adult, as a parent, or the pressures of being an adolescent.
So, as we head into spring, I encourage myself and all to take more time to enjoy the longer days of sunlight, get away from our work, our bills, our computers, our cell phones, and take time to enjoy.
As per usual I find myself mired in how life is about the give and the take. It's about change. It's really more of the same as it's increasingly different. And it's about choices... But I digress.
I was thinking that Spring is truly a time of renewal for me. Nope, not talking about flowers (although my tulips looked great until I had to cut them to send to my daughter's teacher for teacher appreciation) but rather professional renewal.
Professionally, for me, spring is the mother-lode. This year, like last, I have had two great professional opportunities that I enjoy. But to take advantage of this great boon I must also leave my small daughter (no so small as she used to be) and husband to spend time away from home. It's difficult to make the choice and to tell my family that, yes, I enjoy this time away. That I get something from this time away that I can't get with them. Yet, as much as I take away from these great opportunities I feel that I give up as much.
This February I spent 4 days in Anaheim as part of an accreditation team. This is a wonderful opportunity to see a school at its best. The faculty are showing their best efforts, the students are aware of strangers on campus and want to show their school at its best. Watching what teachers are doing at other schools, and seeing what is being accomplished brings a plethora of ideas. It also brings a modicum of dissatisfaction that "we don't do that". I have never returned from an accreditation without a list of new demands for Doug. This is part of the give on this. Other schools are not Mid-Pen. We don't or can't or won't do things that other schools do. It may be because of money, or culture, or just because ultimately its not the best. This, like leaving my family, brings the whole lift of energy down a bit. On the other hand, this has brought many wonderful ideas that I have been able to implement or use in more of a Mid-Pen fashion. Give and take.
Next week I am headed back to Southern California to Palm Springs for the CUE Conference. This conference (Computer Using Educators) is one that I've been allowed to take or send a team to for the last seven or eight years. The beauty of the team approach is that after a day at the conference we can meet up and review and, hopefully enthuse about what we've seen and heard. Plans begin to form. It's a great way to get to know colleagues whom I really don't know. And, of course, a great place to get a list of new mandates that I'd like at Mid-Pen. It's true, I think that every teacher's class should have a sister class in Barcelona and be web conferencing daily....no really...why not? It's easy....(another phrase I'm not allowed to use.)
So, as I move forward with my spring renewal and anticipate round two, I am also a bit sad and worried about leaving my family. Yep, full circle. You have to give to take. Or take to give? The phrase never really made any sense. But I'll miss my daughter, and probably something awesome will happen and I'll have to hear about it on the phone instead of seeing it happen. I'll miss my husband, but he'll step up and show what an awesome dad he is. I'll miss the cats, who are like dogs in their slavish devotion. And for this I'll get new knowledge and bring a lot of enthusiasm and hopefully crazy ideas back to Mid-Pen....