Be Different

My Daddy's Girl

My Daddy’s Girl

How does he feel? That closed mouthed man.
I wouldn’t dare ask; For what I might not hear.
Has he missed the lost years? Or is he relieved?
He had none of the problems. Frustrations. Or fears.
Does he regret his decisions? Does he realize?
I always wanted to be “daddy’s girl”, but I didn’t know how?
~ my 20-year-old self, March 1992

I wrote this poem in college. It was a rhythm assignment for a writing class. It expresses my feelings about the primitive relationship I had with my father. My parents divorced when I was three years old and it is simply hard to build a relationship with someone you talk to every other weekend. I have always used writing to express myself. For me, words seem to flow much easier through my hands than out of my mouth. That is also why I find it so hard to publicly share. – Something I am trying to make an effort to change this summer, so that I am not such a hypocrite when I tell teachers and students how purposeful it is to blog. – My writing is so often personal and even when it is not, it is still part of me… who I am… laid out for all to see. To be criticized. (because I don’t always use complete sentences) What I have learned over the past two years about blogging is that it is the humanity of the blog posts I read that connects me to that person. It is through the imperfections that I am able to learn most. Sounds like teaching.

So, why am I sharing this now? Our school year ended a month ago, but for me it was cut short by almost two weeks when my dad went in for a fairly routine test and has yet to go home. What I have learned about my dad over the years, and confirmed in the many hours I have spent with him over the past 6 weeks, is that he didn’t know how to have that relationship either. It has never been about him not wanting it. We are alike in many ways – deep feelers and thinkers, but also self-preservationists. I have spent more time with my dad over these last few weeks than I may have spent in my entire life because he has been so sick I wasn’t sure if I would ever get another chance. He is slowly getting better and the doctors think they can do some things to give him even more time. He and I have been given a chance to do things different.

In many ways, this has given me a better understanding of where some of the teachers I work with are coming from. It is easy to always do what you have always done. It is easy to continue in the known than to step into the unknown by taking a chance and doing something different. It’s easy, until it’s not. For creatures who are meant to grow and change, we sure do an excellent job of continuing to do the same thing over and over even when it is not the best thing. What do you need to do different? What changes for the better do you need to make? I can think of a few… and it is going to be hard, but undoubtedly worth it.


Don’t Go Changing To Try and Please Me

It’s one of those things you think you’ll grow out of. But you don’t. Trying to please others.

Most of my disappointing relationships, poor choices and even bad teaching experiences have been borne out of my trying to meet the expectations of others. It is one of those things that you don’t even realize you are doing until its done. You say something you really don’t mean because it fits into the conversation, or you want so bad for a relationship to work that you try to be everything you think the other person could ever want or need. Or you try to conduct your class the way you anticipate that your administrator wants, even when it feels wrong down to your bones. Pleasing others. Do our efforts ever accomplish their desired outcome? In my experiences, it has just made me miserable and caused me to fall flat on my face.

I have been thinking a lot about how this relates to the classroom. We fear trying something new because we know the other grade level teachers won’t be on board. We make decisions about how to conduct our classrooms based on what the next grade level will expect. We ask students to do things, sometimes beyond their developmental ability, because we look at expectations of middle school, high school or colleges to guide us. And what is the outcome? There will always be those students who do well at school, because they fit the mold. I wonder how many of them become teachers because school is what they are good at and expect the same from their students? However, I believe most students become disillusioned with the institution of learning and define themselves by their failure to meet our expectations, which are not really our expectations to begin with.  Are we making decisions based on what is best for the students or what is best for the teachers above us?

I almost always have more questions than answers, but here are a few things that I think would help.

  • Build confidence in teachers that they are the professionals in their classroom.
  • Develop a culture of appreciation for every level of education at your school.
  • Align standards, but encourage teachers to be creative in their instruction.
  • We focus a lot on telling students that being different is okay, but show them by giving them choices in learning and assessment.
  • Make time to allow for students and teachers to reflect. In my opinion, the process of reflecting and having conversations about our reflections will help all of us learn exponentially more about teaching, learning, and ourselves.

We talk a lot about change, but real change never comes until we individually take the journey ourselves to know who we are, be who we are, and understand where we want to go.

What do you think?

The only thing constant is…

My dream job until a few months ago was teaching Language Arts, specifically in Middle School. For the past two years, I have been living my dream as a 6th grade English teacher. Then everything changed…

Looking back over the past year, I can see that the change began happening when I started actively using Twitter as a network to connect to other educators. They even had a name for it! I was developing a Professional/Personal Learning Network (PLN). As I connected to teachers and administrators all over the world, watched and participated in #edchat, and read numerous blogs; I began to realize that while technology can have some pitfalls, if used well, it can afford us the ability to do all that we want and need to do as educators. Learning can become more personalized according to a student’s learning needs, styles and passions. While I began making changes in my own classroom, I also became aware of how difficult it was to make changes without the kind of support I had discovered and embraced in my PLN. That is when an opportunity came up that would allow me to help others navigate the use of technology within the curriculum as the PK-5 Technology Integration Leader/Teacher. I have always had trouble letting go of things… relationships, mementos, and dreams. After many conversations and some time of reflection, I began to realize my dream had changed and that it was ok to let go of what I thought I had always wanted. When this dream had first formed, I had no idea technology would be such an integral part of our lives. All of this made me think of a building. Just stay with me… Old Chicago Main Post Office
Occasionally something will pique my curiosity and I find myself obsessing over it for days, looking for any and all information I can find. That is the way it was with the Old Chicago Main Post Office building. My family and I had visited Chicago multiple times while accompanying my husband on business trips, but a few summers ago we decided to take the river tour. It was on that tour that I learned of the massive building featured in this August 1931 article in Popular Mechanics. Among its many features, it boasts 2.7 million square feet, an intricate system of conveyor belts and elevators to process mail, not to mention it has a six-lane expressway passing through it. It has been sitting empty since 1996 with brief interludes of activity while films such as Batman Returns, The Dark Knight series and Transformers series used it to create surreal settings for their movies. That summer it was being put up for auction with a starting bid of $300,000. You can read more of the sad and seemingly never-ending story of this colossal building here and here. The following is a quote from the New York Times Real Estate section in August 2009.

Gradually, however, the building became obsolete as the mail-sorting process was automated. “The column spacing and the ceiling height do not work for automated operations…”

This amazing marvel was so irrelevant that it was practically being given away. Today, after ultimately being purchased and fanciful plans laid out, it sits unchanged. The mail has moved on, but the building still stands. Cars still travel through the building each day, but nothing is happening inside. No one can quite figure out how to make this historic building relevant again.

Sound familiar? Like this building, I believe our education system, in many ways, has become obsolete. Technology has afforded us the ability to break away from the factory model of education. The same factory model that became obsolete in mail processing. We have to let go of some of the things we have always known, while still holding tightly to the things that matter. Change is hard. I get that. As a new PK-5 Technology Integration Leader-Teacher, I am sure I will encounter some who will resist change. As long as we can keep having the conversations, keep learning from each other, and keep in mind what really matters; I am ok with that. I know things can change.

Questions bouncing around in my head…

  • What is obsolete in our educational system? What doesn’t work?
  • How do we successfully let go of those things?
  • Can technology help us make those changes? How?
  • Have you used successfully used technology to support curriculum in your classroom? How?
  • What do you think is the most difficult thing to let go of as a teacher?
  • What are things we need to hold onto as we make changes?

Your feedback is always helpful and appreciated as we learn together!