My Top 10 Most Awesomest Experiences of 2013
Today was meant to serve as my first day back on the job after a nice, long, relaxing winter break, but Mother Nature has dissimilar interests. An arctic blast moved in last night (and still currently remains) bringing with it subzero temperatures that southwest Ohio has not experienced in about 20 years. What better time to revisit and rekindle a few amiable, humorous and memorable experiences from the past year? Having recently taken on a new job, and completing a fairly intense yet extremely enlightening semester in my Instructional Technology in Education MS degree program, my goal here is to reflect on an immensely edifying past few months. *Separating professional and personal experiences, I’ll focus on the professional side of things, however (being a human who experiences emotions, feelings and all) some of these do tend to overlap.
In keeping with the New Years spirit, I’ve put together my own Top 10 list. At the risk of being cliche, I’m calling this ‘My Top 10 Most Awesomest Experiences of 2013’. How’s that for Tier II vocab, huh?
Let’s get this rockin’…
10. New roles and responsibilities – With my new position as Technology Instructional Coach (it’s a mouthful, I know), a ton of new jobs, duties and responsibilities have been put in front of me. Although anything new and unfamiliar can be a bit uncomfortable at the start of things, being able to craft and hone a new set of skills that build upon my past experiences in the classroom and my current Masters experience is a fantastic and challenging opportunity. Life-long learner has become an overused expression as of late, but I’m feeling like one at the present time. It’s a welcomed self-imposed tag.
9. Playing with toys – “So, you’re telling me that this job requires teaching kids how to play with iPads and Chromebooks (ie. – toys that teach) on a daily basis?” Ok, I’m sold. Now, obviously things do go a bit deeper than this, but when it comes down to it I get to teach our young-ins how to navigate, explore and apply digital devices in order to enhance the learning experience. They love. I love it. All in a day’s work.
8. Having a stake in the greater good – As a classroom teacher, I was in charge of making sure that all 160 or so of my students acquired certain levels of skills and knowledge as they pertained to the 9th grade physical science curriculum. Although and extremely powerful and challenging expectation, I was limited in the number of students I felt I could reach on a daily basis. With the new job, I relish in the idea of having a stake in the empowerment of all our district’s teachers regarding new skills, abilities and attitudes that they take into the classroom to help create a more meaningful, engaging and successful learning experience.
7. Developing professional development – Ah, professional development…the gift and the curse. Sometimes a teacher’s best friend, and other times their worst enemy. In getting my hands dirty creating and delivering professional development on a very routine basis now, it is my overarching goal to make training and the acquisition of new content meaningful and worthwhile for all those involved. As a teacher, I take into account what I enjoyed (and despised) regarding all the PD I sat through on the other side of things (and still do to this day). If you can’t take away at least one meaningful piece of information at the conclusion of a PD session that I’ve been a part of creating, then I didn’t do my job. Please let me know if that’s the case.
6. Classroom Antics – This past summer I was presented with the uniquie expereicence as serving as a camp instructor at the summer technology enrichment camp, Classroom Antics.It’s goal: to present students with a fun and enriching camp experience that motivates, inspires and gets students excited about the world of technology. My role within the camp was as the instructor for both the LEGO robotics and video game design classes. Although immensely challenging at first having very limited experience with either of the two concepts, I quickly got my footing and had a blast with both the learning and teaching experience. Watching these campers explore and create within these technologies was truly fascinating in all that they could accomplish. I worked with some incredibly fun and brilliant youngsters from all over the Cincinnati area, and established some new connections with my fellow camp instructors and colleagues. Absolutely looking forward to next summer and my second go around with Classroom Antics.
5. Crafting a professional portfolio -Those of you who have spent time either working with WordPress, or created any other type of website, blog, online portfolio, etc. know the immense pains and extreme joys that come along with web design. Epic fails in theme experimentation, the overwhelming feelings of working with HTML and CSS, on top of never being able to get those darn margins lined up quite like you want them to are all problems that I’m slowly starting to work through in this never-ending learning endeavor. Having taken a course dedicated to this process last semester, I was afforded time in getting things looking exactly how I wanted them. (Or at least how I thought I wanted them…I have since changed things entirely :/) Hundreds of hours (no joke) spent on the site thus far, and I’m still working out the kinks on exactly how I want things to look and behave. Through all the joys and sorrows, I will say that I’m learning a ton. Those feelings of “sweet!” are slowly starting to outnumber those “d’oh!” moments, so I’m getting there…a constantly shifting and evolving lesson in patience and troubleshooting.
4. Teaching across the spectrum -Coming from an isolated world of working predominantly with 9th grade students in a science classroom, I am LOVING the opportunity to work with students of all ages across all content areas. These past few months have brought about some really cool classroom experiences ranging from working with iPads in a elementary physical education class to introducing middle school students to the ‘Hour of Code’ to working with journalism students and how to collaborate on a story budget through Google Docs. Although I’m missing having my own students to work with on a daily basis, but getting to experience the full gamut of personalities, intellects and learning personas that represent our student body has really opened my eyes to the world of education outside of Room 107.
3. Making new personal/professional connections – Being secluded to one particular building during most of my career didn’t necessarily lend itself to creating and building new relationships with the wealth of talent and personalities that we have in our 600 member teaching faculty across the entire district. Getting out to all our schools now on regular basis is giving me the opportunity to meet and work with a ton of new and exciting educators; teachers, administrators and building staff included. Although the name game is one I feel I may never master and win, it’s extremely enlightening and welcoming to be crossing paths with so many talented professionals.
2.Working with a new team – Upon first starting the new job, I experienced feelings of isolation and of being remote. Moving out of the classroom and away from a core group of individuals with whom I had worked with over a number of years was an extremely foreign and unwelcome change. I had grown accustomed to certain daily interactions, laughs and shared experiences that would no longer be a part of day. It didn’t take long, however, to settle in with my new team. I have the privilege of working with an extremely talented and innovative group of individuals who push me out of my comfort zone and challenge me to think differently day in and day out. The amount of growth that I feel I have experienced over the past several months is entirely due to the new ideas and vantage points that I am privileged to through the new relationships I am cultivating in this newly found core group of educators. I feel very lucky to again be a surrounded by such a dedicated and focused group of colleagues.
1. Saying good bye to the classroom – All too often I’m asked the question, “So, do you miss teaching?”, with my answer always being a resounding, “Yes, very much so.” Now, do I miss the lesson plans, the hours spent after school and on weekends grading papers and planning lessons, as well as the occasional office referral? No, maybe not so much. But the ‘teaching’ aspect I miss terribly. With the ‘teaching’ side of things come those fabled “light bulb moments”, the report and relationships that accompany the teacher-student dynamic, as well as the satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from the rare moments when you instinctively know you’ve made a difference with that one hard to reach student. So, saying good bye to the classroom makes it to Number 1 on my list not because I’m glad to leave it behind, but because of the immense and profound impact that those last few days in the classroom had on me. Those last teachable moment that I had with my awesome group of kiddos, their momentous goodbyes and accolades of accomplishment, as well as the continued interactions that I have with so many of all my past students still to this day, will be forever lasting and cherished moments. Thank you to all those students that made leaving the classroom such a terribly hard decision.