As you may know, there is a Google Innovator Academy happening in Toronto in just over a month. If you’re interested in Google Apps for Education and have an interesting project that you would like to propose I would really encourage you to apply. The deadline is August 30th!
I applied to the #MTV16 cohort for the Google Innovator Academy in Mountainview, CA in February 2016 with my idea of creating an Ojibwe Keyboard layout that would allow students to be able to type in Ojibwe syllabics. Unfortunately, I was not accepted.
It was a tough week when I found out because I really believed this project was important. So I decided to continue on with the project, and with the help of some students and teachers, we successfully created a keyboard layout for Macs and OSX.
This pushed me to re-apply for the next round.
I was fortunate enough to be accepted and I attended the most recent Academy that was held in Boulder, Colorado at the end of June this year after having my project proposal accepted and it was such a rewarding experience, I can’t say enough about the program, the people and how great it was to be immersed in the Google culture for three days of learning.
It is difficult to fully describe what attending this program is like. There is so much going on during the three days, I just tried to absorb as much as I possibly could.
The list of people who were running our program and presenting our sessions was an A-list of people involved with GAFE. The program Managers included Becky Evans from Google, Mark Wagner – CEO of EdTechTeam, as well as Wendy Gorton, and Michelle Armstrong also from EdTechTeam. In addition the team coaches were Sarah Thomas (Team Quiet Storm!), Jennie Magiera, Molly Schroeder, James Sanders, Kern Kelly, and Sergio Villegas. In addition to that we had numerous guest speakers from Google talk to us live and via video conference throughout our three day session. And that doesn’t even cover the expertise within the #COL16 cohort, each of whom bring their own passion and specialties to the group.
Here are some of my favourite moments during the Academy:
As my little grey car made its way up the winding curves of “Snake Hill” on my way to today’s Google Summit, for just a split second I was transported back in time (about 30+ years) to when I was driving, yet another little grey car (a ’73 Ford Cortina) up the same hill on my way to high school ~ wishing each time that the clutch didn’t slip and that I wasn’t going to be responsible for a long line up of vehicles behind me. As a former Saunders Sabre, this weekend I was a useful traveling companion as I knew the fastest route to the cafeteria, the numbering system for the classrooms and which seats in the auditorium gave you the best view.
During my time at Saunders, I had spent many a night, on the same stage that over the weekend welcomed several Google Educators, playing in the band and the orchestra. My spare periods and lunch hours were devoted to practicing over and over again until I could finger my way through a piece of music without looking at it and my breathing was rhythmically in time with the pace of the composition. So it was great to spend a few minutes with Mark Carbone, the Chief Information Officer with the Waterloo Board, another former Saunders music grad, and reminisce!
Once my nostalgia for my musical days dissipated (and I stopped wondering why I hadn’t continued playing), I started to reflect on what technology I had access to as a secondary student in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. I recall thinking that teachers who used the overhead, instead of just writing on the board, were making an effort to somehow engage us as learners. English, Math, History, Geography ~ all used novels and textbooks as the main source of information. Every once in a while, the old reel to reel would be pulled out and we’d see a movie. I recall our Sociology teacher had us take care of an “egg” as a project to highlight the challenges of parenting. I used to love the Chemistry classes when we’d pull out the microscopes, Bunsen burners and various objects to explore ~ mind you, as I recall, the exploration was controlled step by step. In remembering some of my classmates that control is probably the reason that Saunders is still standing.
I guess you could say that the sewing machine and various kitchen items used in Family Studies would be considered technology ~ after all a Singer sewing machine does amplify the speed in which you can shorten a skirt.
It was in typing class with Mr. Costello where we thought that we were actually using “technology”. And yet again, it was very controlled. We started the year with “aaa sss ddd fff” and by the end of the year if we were able to type “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” we had reached mastery. I guess that is as creative as one can get with a typewriter.
So in knowing the limitations of access to technology, what did teacher professional learning look like in the early 80s? What inspiration were our teachers given to push us to greater heights, to ensure that we followed our dreams and to bring out our inner super hero?
I wonder if 30 years from now, some educator will be reminiscing about the days gone by when Google Apps For Educators, Sphero, Google Cardboard and Plickers were the latest and greatest and that teachers used to come together for two full days at a thing called #gafesummit #maplesyrupedu
If they do, I hope that they remember it with fondness ~ as these past two days have been an incredible reminder about what being a truly dedicated educator is all about. And without bursting anyone’s bubble, it’s not about how to connect the latest and greatest technologically advanced tool to your computer, it’s about connecting with the learner that comes through your classroom door every day!
~ Susan Bruyns
This past weekend, I had an amazing opportunity to work with my friend and mentor, +Michelle Armstrong as a part of her EdTeachTeam for the Thunder Bay Google Summit. What a fantastic experience to be a part of this brilliant team of presenters and educators. Alongside +Michael Wacker , +Donnie Piercey , +Emily Fitzpatrick, +Scott Monahan and +Les Macbeth, I was a Spotlight Speaker for the Summit.
I have presented at Google Summits before, but this was my first time as part of the team. +Michelle knows how to lead. As our fearless and energetic leader, she had us all in great spirits and high energy. I enjoyed being able to be there for the Pre-Summit day. I didn't present that day, but I was able to help out by running errands for Michelle so we were prepared to get the Summit ready at the end of the Pre-Summit day. Once I picked up Michael Wacker from the airport, I dropped he and his amazing daughter off at St. Ignatius High School. Michael informed me that the errand I was about to run (getting balloons for the summit), was a rite of passage. I was determined not to screw up this rite!
I returned from Party City later with 8 bundles of balloons - the car was packed, the trunk of the car was packed. Unfortunately, 1 red balloon did not survive. Sorry +Michael. :(
The next day the Summit began, and Donnie kicked it off with a great keynote. This was the second time I had heard Donnie's keynote. He delivers it so well, and has such great things to say. His keynote was entitled, "How NOT to EdTech". I was pumped after listening to him, so when I went to deliver my first session, "'Doc'toring up Your Word Processing Power", I was ready. In every presentation I had done prior to this Summit, I always had HUGE nerves. This time was different. I went in with confidence - I had something to share. My first session was great, I think I helped out several people to get them started with Google Docs, and a few Tweets confirmed that.
My second session was to be held in the "Cafetorium" - a VERY large auditorium. I was on stage with an extremely large screen, and at a podium talking to an even larger room.
I anticipated having OUTRAGEOUS nerves, but I didn't! I just kept thinking to myself, "I can do this." Well, I did. I confidently presented my material. Now, the room wasn't an easy room to present to, as there was a huge feeling of being disconnected from your audience. The lighting was in your eyes when speaking, you couldn't see the audience, and when I asked if there were any questions, I got crickets. Yikes.
Once I left the cafetorium, I sat down and opened up my Tweetdeck to see if there was any feedback. It was positive. Whew.
I was now down presenting for day one, so now all I had to do was enjoy my day and help out as a team member. Part of helping out is being visible to attendees, chatting with people and asking them about their experience to get feedback. This was fun to do, and the energy of the attendees was very high. Everyone seemed to be enjoying their day, and they were eager to keep learning a lot. One thing about these Summits is that when you attend, you tend to FILL YOUR BRAIN. There is so much information, but so much valuable material to take back to your classroom. Everyone I spoke to was feeling excited and inspired.
To end the day, I conquered a fear that I have had since I started presenting at these Google Summits - the DEMO SLAM. A demo slam is a 3 minute "story" you tell to demo a tool that you think teachers should be using. I need to work on the "story" aspect of my slam, but I think I presented something valuable. I did my demo slam on the extension "drive20". It will open up 20 files at once from a person's Google Drive. It is valuable to me because I like to monitor kids as they are working, so instead of taking up so much time opening document after document, I can use Drive20 to open all documents at once and then get right to work! When I was done the slam, I was so happy I did it. I was shaking ridiculously the entire time, but the fact of the matter is - I conquered another fear.
Day 2 went by just as fast as day one, it maintained the same energy by all participants and the learning was abound. My sessions on day 2 went even better than day one, and Twitter was showing me that people liked it. My favorite parts of the day were the opening and closing keynotes. +Michael Wacker and +Michelle Armstrong deliver powerful messages. Michael reminds us to have compassion to connect with our students. I appreciated his genuine emotion that came through as he spoke. After getting to know Michael over the weekend, he is truly someone who is resoundingly compassionate, and he is one of the best people this world has to offer. Michelle is a mentor to me, and one of my favorite people on this planet. Her message is about not being afraid to fail. It is this message, but in different words, that she spoke to me personally a few years ago that urged me to follow this path to learn and grow in the EdTech world. When she delivers her keynote, you can see on people's faces the impact she is having. She inspires people to TRY, to take that #OneNewThing back to their classrooms and integrate it.
To me - these Summits are so much more than presenting, networking, and seeing feedback on Twitter - for me they have been about finding my courage, confidence, and self-assurance that I have great things I can share with educators. I am growing, I am inspired by my colleagues, and I am empowered with every session I present. This is a personal journey for me, and I am a better person professionally because I have been able to be a part of these Summits.
I am fortunate to be able to do this when given the opportunity. My school, @rundlecollege , +Jason Rogers and +Gary Sylven are amazing for supporting me. Our students benefit, and I hope to help my Rundle colleagues to benefit from my experiences with EdTechTeam.
~ Charity Helman
I used to really, really love roller coasters. I was one of those kids and teens who would hop off of a ride, only to run back into line, ready to ride it again. Some of my happiest days were those at theme parks, when the crowd was so small that the line was non-existent and I could twirl my finger around in a little circle to the ride operator, and they would send me through the coaster again.
In LA last fall, I rode a Universal Studios roller coaster four times in a row, just like this. I can’t believe I used to be able to ride all day. It took me hours to lose the dizziness I gained in four minutes of joy.
The last year of my life has been a real-life roller coaster, of the emotional variety. It’s been a roller coaster in the best possible way. It’s the emotional roller coaster of following my dreams.
You’re going to join me on a walkthrough of my ride, and the emotional ups and downs I’ve experienced. This is possible with the power of imagination, which I’m going to ask you to use for the next few minutes.
My ride started much like many roller coasters do. I had to slowly, laboriously walk up to the top, then trust the ride vehicle to take me safely up and down hills and through spirals and loop-de-loops. For twenty-two years, I walked towards the line-up for this rollercoaster. Along the way, I passed through schools and relationships. Then, I got in line for the ride. The line took me ten years. In those ten years, I passed through more schools, more relationships and got to bring hundreds of students with me on the journey up those stairs. I found a steady job, bought a house, got married, could explain my job in one word: “teacher” and felt pretty comfy.
Then I got to the front of the line. A few things happened to change my momentum completely. I got a book deal and my husband got a new job. The book deal took hold of the operating controls of the rollercoaster and sped up all my dreams. Captain Handsome’s new job was in a new city. I took a 100% pay cut and undexpectedly, found myself in the seat of a ride vehicle without a seatbelt. The ride I thought I knew was history. Getting to the front of the line, I realized the ride I’d planned to take many years down the road was now was the one I was about to embark on, but at a much faster speed and without the security measures I’d expected. I’d always wanted to write a book. I like new challenges and new adventures. I was ready to see where this ride took me.
My husband had already started his ride and, taking a deep breath, I followed.
The ride has taken me ten months so far. The first drop was stomach churning and heart wrenching. I had to leave my amazing grade ¾ students, The Gladiator Snails, two months before the school year ended.
Several months of the ride were incredibly boring to anyone watching from the ground, expecting screams of terror or joy. My rollercoaster was quiet, passing through coffee shops, libraries and cafes. I rode, laptop burning a hole in my lap, fingers flying over the keyboard as I poured my heart into 115 000 words of my first book. Days, weeks and months on the coaster were quiet.
There were bumps and turns as deadlines loomed, editors gave feedback and my Alpha and Beta reader teams dissected my words. Despite what looked so dull from the outside, my screams came. Some of them were silent. Some were witnessed by my most trusted friends and family. I screamed with frustration. I screamed with self doubt. I screamed with relief.
Some days, the coaster brought me high into the sky. I’d always wanted to share my stories and ideas, and my students’ stories and ideas with a larger audience. Getting to write a book allowed me to do that. Those days, all I could see what the big, blue sky.
My roller coaster has taken several long, low dips. I have had my breath literally taken away with really bad viruses that slowed down the speed of the ride and dragged me very low.
Some days, my stomach was in my throat, as I freefell. I questioned everything I did and everything I thought and everything I wrote.
Some days I dreaded having to face my computer and my thoughts. Some days I just wanted to get off the ride.
Some days, the tracks were heading upwards, yet I felt like I was being pulled downwards. I got mad at myself for not being grateful for the ride I was lucky enough to be on.
For months, my ride was intensely private, almost as if the tracks of my rollercoaster took me through dark, lonely buildings. I felt quiet and invisible. Sometimes I forgot the world. Sometimes, it felt like the world forgot me.
Then, the coaster would surprise me and I’d flip over, seeing the world in a new way. I realized that the coaster tracks were ones I’d built over the years and that, even though it felt unsafe and scary at times, that there were things guiding me on a strong path. I realized that the highest parts of my track were supported by people who love me and believe in me. I could see my former students and their families holding up the track. My husband was there to push my ride vehicle back up the tracks when it dipped and slowed. He could even lift it back onto the tracks when one wheel, or all of them, came off. My family and friends were there to build new supports as unexpected turns appeared. There were people there to believe in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.
Suddenly, the roller coaster stopped. My manuscript was finished, but not yet a book. The writing process was over. I had time to steer the rollercoaster in a new direction. I reconnected with people and with the world. I got outside more. I went on a trip. I worked to build other people’s rollercoasters and cheer them on as they rode.
A few days before I expected it to, the rollercoaster abruptly started again. My book was released. People who I hadn’t heard from in years started to stand alongside the rollercoaster tracks and cheer me on.
After the months of a quiet, solitary routine, I was riding through a bright, noisy world. It was the scariest part of the ride. People could see me now. They could even see into my head and heart through the words in my book. My track was being built faster than I could comprehend and I couldn’t come to terms with the new ride fast enough. I felt like I was watching someone else on the ride.
Trusted family and friends stepped in and slowed down the ride. They hopped into the ride vehicle next to me and rode with me. Through their eyes, I began to see more clearly where I had come from and what I had accomplished. They pointed out incredible directions that my ride could take next. I started to feel some of the pride they felt for me for myself. I began to breathe more easily.
I was launched into the sky when I got the first photos of people reading my book. People shared what they were learning from my words. My students were excited to see themselves in the pages. Suddenly, I couldn’t describe my job in one word anymore. Now, I was an educator (out of the classroom) and an author.
The book finished, I was no longer actively authoring and I was happy to stick my hands in the air and be taken on a ride, celebrating what I had accomplished. Even though I was feeling more relaxed, there was no end to the ride in sight.
I had to start building a new track. I had to steer my rollercoaster to somewhere new. The first, defined ride of writing a book had finished, but my journey had not. Once again, I found myself facing a huge drop into the unknown.
Even though the first part of the ride had its ups and downs, I feel so grateful to have had the chance to get on. I feel so lucky that I got to the front of the line. I feel brave for having taken the risk of getting on a new ride.
Right now, I’ve taken the fast-track once again. My ten-year goal of opening a school feels to far away. I don’t want to stay on the same ride for ten whole years. Instead, I’ve skipped over the track I thought I’d ride and am creating a new one. Looking past the dip to the track of my new ride, I can only see a fuzzy picture of it. I know that there are lots of dips and bumps, spins and flips. I like the future I see ahead.
My job, once again, has become harder to describe. I’m becoming an alphabetical list of roles. I am now an author, a blue sky thinker, a consultant, a designer and an educator.
After a deep breath, the coaster starts again and I fly past the huge dip, stomach threatening to come out my mouth. Right now, I am riding directly up, looking into a big blue sky, seeing dreams begin to materialize in the clouds above me. I don’t know what will come next, but I can’t wait to see.
In my previous life, I worked as an auditor in a public accounting firm. One of the companies I audited was Telesat Canada. Now as an auditor, one very important aspect of the audit is to understand the background of the organization so that you’re better informed when looking at the financial statements. For some reason, the history of Telesat and the milestones of the company (i.e. satellite launches) really left an imprint on me. Perhaps because as a telecommunications company, launching a satellite is so significant that it’s like giving birth to a child. The event is memorable, and has significant impact on how the company progresses. Being able to reflect on these significant moments, celebrate the achievements and continue to forge ahead in the vision of the company is valuable.
Likewise, I think as an educator, recognizing and reflecting on milestones in our teaching career is important for our professional growth and development. Being able to see significant moments in our journey, helps to shape our vision moving forward.
As I reflect on my teaching milestones, several significant events come into mind: My first teaching position at Joyce Public School that helped me to realize the impact that a school can have on a community; Participating in the Multiliteracies Research Project with Dr. Heather Lotherington that helped me to discover the power of action research in the classroom; Using a SMARTboard for the first time in my class that launched me into my passion for educational technology; Moving 12,000km away from the familiarity of a great school community to realize that my perspective of the greater global community was so limited; and most recently, attending the Google Teacher Academy #MTV14 (now Google Innovation Academy) that exploded my PLN and conception of Professional Development.
As I write this blog post and reflect on my amazing journey as a teacher, I’m thinking, “All of you might not work at Joyce P.S., or be interested in a SMARTboard in your classroom anymore, or think of teaching overseas, but I sure hope all of you consider applying to and attending a Google Innovation Academy.”
It’s been a week since the freshly minted innovators from the first Google Innovator Academy graduated in Mountainview, California. I had the privilege of being a coach at the academy, but secretly felt like a participant myself, as I was swept away by the inspiration, encouragement, camaraderie and general AWESOME-ness of the event.
Being a part of the shaping of the academy in itself was a privilege, as the process was project based learning at its BEST. While the vision of the Innovation Academy was spearheaded by Project Managers Becky Evans, Mark Wagner, Wendy Gorton and our very own #Maplesyrupedu Michelle Armstrong, the shaping of the academy was extremely organic and involved the input of all of the coaches (Kevin Brookhouser, Monica Martinez, Mark Hammons, Jay Atwood, Danieta Morgan, and myself). The strengths and skills of all the leaders were considered and infused into the formation of Sparks & Sprints session throughout the academy. The innovators were encouraged to dream big MOONSHOT size dreams, to be BreakoutEdu creators, to connect deeply and collaborate with their Tribe, to dance with their fears, and to consider their Hedgehogs, Toasts and BigRocks when pursuing their innovation projects. And of course, dashes of Googley-ness was sprinkled throughout the academy to inspire and excite (e.g. X-The Moonshot Factory, Dan Russell, Google Expeditions). The coming-together of the event was AWE-inspiring. But the most exciting part is that this is #OnlytheBeginning. All newly graduated innovators will be working on their innovation project throughout the year, while supported by an experienced Google Innovator. The journey continues for our amazing new innovators. This is how ALL Professional Development should look like.
The next Innovation Academy date will be announced soon. If you are not yet a Google Certified Innovator, I hope you will consider applying. It has been a significant milestone for myself and many veteran Innovators, I know it will also be a significant milestone for you.
By all accounts, I’m officially a grown-up. I have a steady job, two kids, bills, the whole deal. I seem to do an awful lot of chores, but they don’t grate on my nerves the way I did when I was a kid. Days seem shorter, my list of goals is focused, and quite often I hear my father’s words coming out of my own mouth.
Despite all the signs, I don’t want to give up certain parts of being a child. I think that’s why I chose a career that involves working with kids: I’m quite comfortable living with some of the lessons I continue to learn from children. Acting childish has some negative connotations, but I think there’s a lot of value in some childish traits. So here’s a list of things that every adult should remember about being a kid
In all honesty, most kids have a lot of “adult” traits, even if it’s in a slightly less robust form. Kids are responsible. Kids are honest. Kids are kind, caring, thoughtful. They can certainly lose these traits if we don’t nurture them, but I believe that every child aims to be a good and happy person.
We can do all of these things as adults, but we don’t need to do them exclusively. Adulting is hard sometimes - don’t be afraid to stop adulting and just enjoy life in the moment. Being a grown up means a lot of responsibility, but don’t forget that it also means that you have the freedom to retain the great things about being a kid.
Post by Sylvia Duckworth
A couple of weeks ago, thanks to my friend Sandra Chow, I was invited to experience Google Expeditions at Lawrence Heights Middle School (TDSB) in Toronto.
(Photo courtesy Julie Millan)
My first thought as the day unfolded was that the hype about Google Expeditions is well-deserved: this is one amazing tool. Students and teachers alike were enthralled from the beginning of the day to the end. Led by Chris Zhu from Google, teachers were able to choose from a list of about 100 different expeditions to try out with their students and we were given a brief training on how to use the app prior to our sessions.
Check out the excitement of these Joyce PS students!
The premise of the app is that you can take your students on virtual field trips around the world. The places we visited included: The Great Barrier Reef, The Moon, the Seven Wonders of the World, a rainforest in the Congo, and much more (in the rainforest, the students came face to face with a gorilla which provoked a lot of screams!)
However, you DO need the Google Cardboard viewers and devices (smartphones) to insert into the viewers to experience virtual reality. Fortunately, the Google Expeditions leader supplies these for your students: Chris came with 60 viewers and devices for us to use, so we were able to rotate many classes during the entire day.
Unfortunately, the Expeditions kit is not yet available to the public: Chris told us that it won’t be available until the end of the year. This means that the only way that you will get to experience the full Google Expeditions repertoire is if a Google rep comes to your school to demonstrate it. Many schools have applied but only a few get chosen.
If you are going to the EdTechTeam Ontario GAFE Summit on April 9/10 in Kitchener, you can experience Google Expeditions yourself! Yup, you read that right. Thanks to Google head office in Toronto, we have managed to secure a full kit of Google Expeditions (30 Android devices, 30 Google Cardboards, 1 teacher’s tablet) for the entire weekend. Sandra and I will be providing sessions all weekend long, allowing teachers a hands-on experience with the Expeditions app and Virtual Reality.
If you can’t make it to Kitchener, however, we have put a mini-presentation together with links to many Virtual Reality apps you can explore right away (but no Google Expeditions). For more information, you can also read Holly Clark’s blog post or Rolland Chidiac’s blogpost. In addition, Molly Schroeder has some great resources here, and Jim Sill’s resources are here.
Below are some photos taken of Lawrence Heights Middle School and Joyce Public School students and staff: What a great group! Thanks Julie Millan and Sandra Chow for sharing the images
"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently" -- Henry Ford
This is it – the start of a brand new year! I spent some time over the winter break coming up with my mantra for the new year: FAIL. This is the year I want to encourage students and teachers to FAIL. Now, before you start questioning whether lack of sun exposure during our cold and cloudy Canadian winter is making me talk crazy, check out my favourite definition of FAIL in the image below:
You need first to fail in order to learn. This is true whether in terms of trying out a new teaching methodology, designing a new unit, or using new technology in the classroom. The great thing about our profession is that we get to start fresh all the time - new units, terms, semesters, and every new school year. We keep what has worked, and learn from what has FAILED in order to plan for an even better learning environment in our classrooms. FAILing = future success, so long as we learn from our experiences and use the information gained to iterate and improve!
We expect our students to fail. We know that we are exposing them to new content and concepts, and that they might make some mistakes or experience some frustration before they come to that “a-ha” moment where the light bulb goes on and they actually “get it”. We encourage them to keep trying, because we know that with each failure they are actually learning what DOES work as well as what doesn’t, and that eventually this will help them put the puzzle pieces together in their brain in a way that makes the content make sense for them. Failure is the foundation of inquiry, of invention, of innovation, and of all meaningful, internalized learning. Failure is good!
As educators we often have such high expectations of ourselves that we won’t give ourselves permission to fail, especially in front of our students. I especially see this in terms of trying out new technology tools to help achieve learning goals in the classroom. We won’t use the SMARTboard that is hanging right on the wall in our classroom because we feel that we are not yet an “expert” at using it. We decide against doing a super-engaging video editing project with our students because we have never used YouTube Editor ourselves. We shy away from trying out Google Docs for an amazing, collaborative group project because we aren’t as comfortable with it as much as a more traditional, desktop-based word processing program. Why the double-standard, friends?! If we want our students to fail in order to learn, why won’t we be kind to ourselves and expect the same in our own learning? You don’t become an “expert” or even “comfortable” with a new tool without trying – and yes, failing – at using it a few times. If you allow yourself to try and fail, especially in front of your students, you might find that you actually improve the learning situation in your classroom. It is not only beneficial to model lifelong learning to your students, but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate ways that you problem-solve and persevere when a concept or answer does not come easily on the first try. In a culture often focused on instant gratification and easy (not best) solutions, by failing in front of your students, you would actually be teaching them important virtues such as creativity, determination, flexibility, and patience. What a gift!
I hope that you FAIL a lot in 2016, and that you encourage your students to do the same. I especially hope that you give yourself opportunities to FAIL with new technology and tools that will help you achieve intended learning outcomes/standards in your classroom in new and creative ways. Make this a wonderful year….. try something new and FAIL!
Sketchnote done by the amazing Sylvia Duckworth @Sylvia Duckworth
I am a Canadian gal and I want to give advice on how to survive winter. Not literally. I mean those winters we all experience in our lives. Those seasons in our minds when our ideas don’t flower. This is how to notice the signs that you are in a creative cozy time and how to come out the other end.
In Ontario, Canada (where I live) winter has finally arrived to put the other seasons to bed and tuck us all inside for most of the day. I love this cozy time, but in truth, I have been in my own state of hibernation since September. And now, with winter setting in, I am ready to come back into the world. Maybe not fully. After all, winter allows us to live like we are on a ship looking out a porthole or standing on deck for just a moment before returning to the cabin.
My friend Jeff asked me to write a blog post here for MapleSyrupEdu months ago. But, I had no words. Not one. I only had retweets, likes, reposts and the occasional picture on Instagram. My head was silent, not empty, just resting.
I was not burned out.
I was not recovering from anything.
No, nothing bad had happened to me personally or professionally.
I just wanted to cook and read and workout. I thought for a moment that maybe this was burnout or even depression. But, I only felt depressed when I started to worry that I might be depressed. No, it was part of a natural flow of any life and I am glad I didn’t fight it. If you listen to your body-mind, you know when it’s time to sit back and shut up for a while. Here are the signs that you are NOT burned out, but ready to sit back and get cozy:
Ideas 1 through 4 could sound like burn out. They’re not. Don’t get worried if your ideas go quiet and your passions cool slightly. It’s not a slump, it’s not the end of your creative juices, and it’s not depression (unless it is than by all means talk to someone). What is it? A normal part of living. Just part of the ups and downs of a thinking person’s life.
You will miss your passion. You will miss part of yourself that is resting. So, what to do? Well, I suggest you turn to your curiosity. Passion is young and youthful and full of fire and flames. Passion comes and goes. Curiosity is a more stable creative source. If passion seems to have left without a trace, pay attention to what you are curious about.
If your passion has taken a temporary leave, here is how you can stimulate your curiosity. If you nurture your curiosity, that wonderful heat and exuberance of passion will likely return. Here is how:
As you roll back into routine and try to get going on those things you promised yourself you would do in 2016, go easy on yourself. Maybe you are good to go and have a good supply of passion to power you through new projects. But, I’m guessing that if you have read this far in the blog post, maybe you have experienced what I experienced. Not burnout. Not depression. But definitely a lack of something. That’s okay. Steady work and staying curious are good strategies for the long game. And I’ve learned that ballet and bacon do wonders for the creative spirit. And if they don’t, they are life’s great pleasures so enjoy.
Do not become the perfectionist of mediocrity… this is a statement I have grown to love and in some sense live by. I wasn’t always a so called ‘perfectionist’, in fact if you were to ask many of my teachers growing up, they would probably say the opposite. I wouldn’t always complete my school work and when I did, it was done to the bare minimum. I did enough to get by, that’s it. I made sure I achieved the marks I needed to please everyone, but nothing more. As you can probably tell, the truth is, I hated school. Sure I enjoyed socializing, physical education and recess... but school was boring! From what I can remember, we would sit in rows and do worksheet after worksheet, read a book and answer the questions. There hardly was a time when we discussed topics. Structure, structure, structure. Sound like fun to you?
As you can probably guess, teaching was not a likely career choice for myself. In fact, I remember my parents suggesting it to me when I was in grade twelve, and I laughed. I believe my response was, “Who would want to commit to that life sentence!” They tried to have a ‘discussion’ with me explaining all the positives; pay, pension, holidays etc. (note nothing about the actual work!) So why did I choose this as a career then? Honestly I owe it all to a girl. A fantastic one at that! During university, I continued my ‘do enough to get by’ mentality, until I met Susie. She grounded me. She made me look at things in a different light. She was a very determined hard worker who knew she wanted to help people and teaching made sense. So I followed, my then girlfriend, to teachers college because I didn't have a better plan. That’s the honest truth. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so figured why not get another degree and see where that takes me. So off I went to teacher's college.
Fast forward almost eight years and here I am writing a blog post about education (oh and that girl, Susie, is now my wife and mother of our beautiful daughter, Olivia.) I must say things have worked out pretty great. I have settled into becoming an educator and have even found a niche, helping with the integration of assistive technology for students with various exceptionalities. I have spent considerable time learning my craft and sharing that learning through Professional Development conferences and sessions. I enjoy helping others grow. I love helping those who continually strive to be better. Technology is ever changing in education, love it or hate it, technology is here to stay. We can no longer sit in our classrooms trying to hide from it. We as educators need to continue our education and evolve with the times. I do not expect everyone to become an expert overnight. I guess what I expect is this: educators should never ‘become the perfectionist of mediocrity’. Having this as our goal will hopefully also prevent our students from falling into the same "do enough to get by/hating school" mentality. It is not alright to just be ok! We need to grow just as our students do!
image from: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Mediocrity-Green-Road-Sig-008.jpg
- Jeffrey Humphries