Wednesday, April 5, 2017


I've spent the last three work days doing things for other people. All my work is piling up.

I have nothing left and it is only Wednesday night.

Tomorrow I have maybe 2 hours to myself. That is a wee bit stressful.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


I'm sitting in the car outside a random house waiting for my daughter to finish a music lesson. There is something coming up so she had hire an accompanist to help her practice. This is in addition to her usual lessons. 

Lots of waiting as a parent. Lots.

Work has been stressful. Most of my week has been helping other people. Then I go home and try to get some work done, all the other stuff I needed to do that day but could not.

And dealing with a little smugness with a sprinkle of rudeness. That is hard to take some days.

A year or so ago I started looking into the big idea of mindfulness. One strategy that I learned about was listening to sounds. Try to just concentrate on just one sound, nothing else. Just that one. Then add in a second, consciously hold both sounds simultaneously. 

Hold two sounds is really hard.

After doing that for a while everything just relaxes.

Sitting in the car now with the windows down a bit. Just holding two or three bird songs in my head. Some days it is really hard but it always helps clear my mind.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Saw this on the stairs today.

I had just wrapped up teaching some 5th graders about germs and how they spread. I was walking (kinda running) down the hall to another classroom to help with a skype issue when I saw this. 

I love this idea and fully believe in it. It is like karma, just put that kindness out there. The world does not always return it to you but that kindness will land on the person who needs it.

This idea opened me up today. This message set on a better path.

I'm sure after a while it becomes invisible to some but not me, not today.

So what is your kindness that you will set free into the world?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Love/Hate Relationship

I have tried almost everything to get it to work. Consulted people and the web. Dumped money, time and effort but the results have yielded nothing.

I am about to give up on it. Totally start over.

Today I decided to give it one last try.

If my lawn does not start turning around this year I am starting over from scratch. Ripping it out and just buying sod. Well... paying someone else to do it for me. I am starting to realize that I am not a lawn guy.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

I have a magical book.

A friend of mine lent me a book the other day. She said it would only take me like a night or less to read it. So far four nights later and I'm only on page 166.

Why is this book so magical?

It never fails. I pick it up and someone starts talking to me.

Last night while the kids were at karate I was so sure I could finish the book. I'm pretty much a quiet guy, sticks to himself and doesn't say much. Two parents talked with me the whole hour. I'm not sure that ever happened before.

The family was out today. I decided to get a bit of reading in, two words later they come back home!

I am hopeful I can finish this thing tonight!

By the way I think I am the last person on earth, or maybe just this house, who has never read about the one and only Ivan.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Jar of Awesome

We all experience great things every day. I always think I will remember them forever but I forget most of the greatness I experience. I am human and I forget.

I read about the Jar of Awesome. The idea is to write down your awesome experiences on a little note and drop it into the jar.

When you have a bad day or just out of gas, reach into the jar and relive the greatness.

Here are two things I put into my jar today. Memories I never want to forget.

I put a request out on facebook for advice on how to care for a slug as I know nothing about caring for such a delicate pet. Got some really great advice from Joe the Genius. I was able to relay information to a very grateful student. We then talked about the possibility of the Wolly Monmouth being brought back to life through a little DNA science. Our concern is figuring out where it could live so it would be protected and could be studied. Maybe an island near Russia?

I was able to talk to my brother for a bit today. Every conversation I have had with him always leaves me in a better place, never fails. We talked and laughed about our adventures from years ago. Recalling those long lost days always brings us to tears, laughing so hard my stomach still hurts. Funny how some bonds are foraged and how they are unbreakable. I am always sad when we hang up and so thankful for one more chat.

Both of these notes helped put me on the right side of gratitude.

Thought I would post a great picture of my brother. Crow on the left and I'm on the right, fast asleep. This was after spending a week or so in the jungle. Okinawa 1992.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Being a parent means you will be waiting a lot.

Last night I sat outside while Sam had her private music lesson. It can be a long thirty minutes in the car.

Tomorrow we take Aidan to a drum lesson. For those thirty minutes I sit in front of a little stage. Four random kids practice week after week the same 21 Pilots song, over and over again.

Friday night from 8-9 and Saturday from 1-2 I sit in the karate studio while the kids practice. Those are some smelly hours.

Those are just some of the times I just sit and wait.

I also think of the hundreds of dollars that we pay for this privilege. I really mean that. When I wrote the check for Sam's lessons I smiled. I felt proud that I am able to do this for her.

When I was young I dreamed of playing sports, any sport. I so wished I could take music lessons of any kind but none of this was in the cards. Some days it was luck that we had money to buy milk for breakfast.

Sometimes life is fulled of these choices. We could either be annoyed or proud, mad or happy. While it isn't easy I try to look for tiny little diamond among the coal.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Stay Alert. Stay Alive.

I can't exactly recall but I think that is what Captain Fey always said. You know Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Yeah, that is exactly who Captain Fey looked like. Not sure about Flea, but the captain always smoked Marlboro Lights and drank Diet Coke.

I was driving on the highway and saw this board. It is difficult to see in the image but the statement on it is what the captain always used to say to us, stay alert stay alive.

If I am leaving the kids home alone, that is the advice I give them. Sometimes I throw in another, keep your head on a swivel.

Both are bits of great advice. Today I really don't have to be alert for the same things the captain was warning us about. Today I use the same idea for keeping an open mind.

Too many times we see things as deep as an inch. We see things as other people tell us to see them. Sometimes I don't want to be influenced. I need to be alert. I need to keep my eyes and ear open. When I do that I start to really see new opportunities and that is worth staying alert for.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Alley. Like an alternate universe worth exploring.

I remember having an alley as a kid. I taught myself to ride a bike in an alley. My friends and I got into plenty of mischief in an alley. An alley was like a dark alternate universe that was worth exploring. Entering another alley on a different block felt as if we needed a passport. All different types of trash cans, dogs and vehicles of all kinds. What was in those cans was even different for what is in the cans on our block.

Where I live now we don't have an alley. The only place around here that I have seen alleys is in the city.

As I walked back and forth from the conference I came across this alley. It capture my imagination immediately. 

I stood gazing for a long while and as I turned around to leave I froze. At my feet was the word top. I know it was missing the s but it still hit me.

At the conference I was introduced to a really interesting idea about a makerspace for high school, which is a concept that I have really been struggling with. This sign in the alley connected me back to an article, or maybe it was a TED talk, about faking it until you make it. It connected me to the mindset books, and to me those books and the video were all about believing in yourself.

Sometimes I get full of doubt, that creeping feeling that maybe my ideas are not good enough, won't make sense or are too disconnected. This small sign reminded me to go for it, that my idea is worth pursuing. If it was left in my head it would reside there and never have the chance to blossom.

While this idea might not be the top, it will be a step to get us there. The journey is always messy. Any worthwhile adventure is never easy. The rewards along the way on the difficult journeys are always much sweeter.

Message received. Go for the top.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Wet Shoes

It was raining and I decided to still park a mile away and walk to the conference. I knew my feet would be wet but I really didn't mind.

If it ain't raining, we ain't training.
That was our motto for years. We spent days in the rain and mud. It wasn't too bad while it was warm but in the cold was a totally different experience.

We spent the night outside in the jungle during a tsunami. That was interesting.
Spent hours circling a small building in the rain without any kind of rain gear. The radio was well protected so the higher ups were happy.
I remember laying in a pool of mud while zeroing in the 60. Freezing.
One Friday we were stuck on a hill in the slow, cold rain. They forgot to pick us up.
I am well versed in misery.

Today I had a smile on my face. A few hours of wet feet makes me remember the rain that fell years ago.

Crow, Rocco and I. Sometime in 1992, NTA, Japan.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Mile To The Conference.

I am super fortunate to be able to attend a library conference downtown St. Louis this week. I know parking can be expensive so I parked about an mile away in an old historic district. This might be the only day this week that isn't raining so it was a perfect day to walk.

I love this neighborhood and the most of these houses are very close to being 200 years old.

Looking down this street I always wonder what it was like when the main mode of transportation was horse and buggy. Some of the houses still have the large granite block to help riders dismount. I think the only thing they are used for is smashing your car doors on.

Almost into downtown. A short bridge over the tracks.

Always love this part. I used to ride the rails a bit when I was younger. Miss those lazy train trips.

Sadly I am here. Just before I entered the hotel I can see the arch and one of the court houses. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Showing up.

Every spring there is this duck that shows up by the gym every morning. It never fails, walk out and there it is. I've never seen a nest or any other duck evidence. It is almost as if he is checking on everyone to make sure they made it to the gym OK.

We are now almost on work eve, the day before we return to work after spring break.

I was thinking about my buddy the duck, how will I show up the first day after break?

Will I...

  • be ready for what faces me the rest of the school year?
  • bring my full self and not some tired shell of a person?

We are in the last few months of school. We have to endure the test and look forward to the sunshine of May.

I think that I will create something that I just read about, the Jar of Awesome. There are so many good things that happen each day but those usually fade quickly. We usually just remember the bad. I think the jar will help me show up each day and look for the good. When something good happens you write it down on a little slip of paper and place it into the jar. Not having a good day? Just reach in and relive the memory.

Now all I need is a jar and Monday to hurry up and get here.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sometimes it is hard to convince someone to learn.

Today was pretty much our last day of spring break. Tomorrow is just a regular Saturday filled with all the things that make a weekend busy, most of them are kid related.

We went to the art museum to check out an exhibit that will soon be on the CBS Sunday Morning TV show. I thought it would be pretty interesting to see it in person and then watch it from another point of view in a week or so.

Normally the tickets are $15 a person but on Friday they give them away for free. The only catch was we would have to wait almost two hours before we could see the exhibit. After about an hour Aidan, the 11 year old in the picture above, was done. I'm sure you have seen this in your own children or those you work with.

We found a very quiet exhibit that was all drawing created by a famous artist. No one else was in this part so Aidan was trying to stack up all the handheld lenses to see if he could get a super detailed look, really I think he was just trying to amuse himself.

I can't recall who said it or the exact conversation around it but we came to the conclusion that to fill your head with greatness, you must be exposed to greatness.

It seemed super profound at the time. Now that I write it I start to think about my own kids, have we done enough to expose them to the greatness this world has to offer? Sometimes the news, peers, etc do not always reflect the great opportunities that are just outside our door.

With the statement of greatness in my mind I am sitting here plotting our next steps to see the world for what it really is.

Looking back at the other images that I had taken and this one hits me. Greatness before my eyes. In the exhibit Aidan found a great old classic and read it out loud to Sam. Totally spontaneous. Amazing things are happening all the time, sometimes right before our eyes.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hidden Figures

Saw the movie today.

So many ideas and thoughts.

One of the biggest was some of their problem solving techniques.

Have ideas...

Love the idea of looking beyond the problem to the math that doesn't exist yet.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Does it always need to mean something?

Had a conversation with another teacher at Panara yesterday. I was left wondering if what we did in the classroom always had to mean something. We tie everything to a standard, a learning target/goal and keep many of our lessons within those boundaries, but are we artificially limiting ourselves?  Do we steal the wonder due to the time limits we feel pressured to keep?

After the meeting the kids and I went to a local sculpture park. We found this on one edge, a series of what looked like four foot high metal buoys. Maybe they were to symbolize something, maybe placed here for kids to climb on or people to scratch initials into. I wondered if it really mattered, maybe it was just to allow you to make sense of it your own way.

We couldn't find any description of what the sculpture was all about. I wondered if we let kids climb over it, struggle to read the carvings, pounded on them to hear and feel to make sense of it. Then we come in and add the artists intended meaning if we would have walked away with more.

I wonder if we would have read the plaque if the kids would have just shrugged after hearing the information and moved on. Do we sometimes kill the wonder?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Yellow Footprints

It had been nearly twenty-four hours since we woke up and our final destination was at last outside the windows of a well worn white bus. I had never been on a bus ride that was dead silent, packed to the gills but no one said a word.

The door suddenly opened and a thin, foul mouthed man jumped onto the bus and just started yelling. I'm not sure what he said but he was angry. After adjusting to his speed and pitch all he really wanted us to do is call him sir and move like lighting. He wanted us to move and stand on some yellow footprints outside the bus in the dimly lit area next to a building.

The stress began to mount as he had us stand and then sit over and over again. We did not move fast enough. We did not yell loud enough. No matter what we did it just wasn't good enough.

Once outside and on the footprints we faced a sign that held a number of new laws we were subjected to. I really had no clue what it really meant other than I would be held accountable in some unseen and unfamiliar court if I violated some obscure law. 

I had a vague understanding of the pain and suffering that would soon follow. I could tell some deeply regretted the choice they made to land them here. I just had one small movie clip running through my head, over and over again. There was one scene from An Officer and a Gentleman where Gunny Foley was trying to run Mayo out of the military. Mayo stated that he had no where else to go. 

I had no where else to go. I really had no options, no future, nothing. If this didn't work out there was no where to really even send me home to.

Backed into a corner like that powers you to move forward or cower in the corner. I chose to move forward.

Little did I know then these footprints were the first steps to living life and not just surviving it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Epic Spring Break

Today was an epic spring break day. We decided to pack a lot in as this would be the best weather day of the week.

Our first stop was at the history museum. I really liked how the exhibits are easy to engage with at various levels. The kids are watching a video about a historic home ownership case that started in St. Louis. If you didn't want to watch the video you could have read one of two posters. One was for kids, pretty much summed up what you were looking at in two sentences. The other poster was larger but still easy to read within a minute. 

We were all shocked at how much of what we read and watched was very recent history. 

The other exhibit we saw was about route 66. I loved this old juke box. Only about 22 total songs on this thing. I'm pretty sure I have access to at least 22 million on my phone so why can't I find anything to listen to?

We stopped by the loop for lunch and happened by the Chuck Berry statute.

Lunch at Mission Taco.

I count spring break, even when we don't go anywhere, as vacation. So I splurged a bit and bought myself some nitrogen infused coffee. I'm not even sure how to explain the flavor but it was worth every penny!

We can't make it out of the loop without stopping by the book store. We only purchased one book today, The Wicked Will Rise. I really like this place as it is one of the very few independent bookstores left.

We stopped by the new Korean ice cream place. It was the most interesting thing I have seen in some time. They pour the liquid onto what looks like a super chilled pizza plate. Then they start working it.

After maybe 5 minutes the ice cream is spread out into a flat rectangle.

The final step is to scrape and curl the ice cream.
It was delicious but expensive.

We stopped by Micro Center to pick up a Raspberry Pi camera and I impulsively picked up the new Zero. I don't really have a project in mind but I thought I should have it anyway.

Back at home I decided to mount a few pictures I took awhile ago. I don't like frames so I had some floating shelves made. I now just mount my pictures to foam board. Makes it much easier to decorate with new images. Today I started mounting them without my wife's input. We shall see how this goes!

While I worked Sam read her new book.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

You can't do it alone.

Just saw the Lego Batman movie today. The big message was the same as last time, you can't do it alone.

Sometimes I think people want the glory, maybe it is a trust issue but I struggle to see why people insist to go it alone when there is a team ready to help.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I'm thankful for...

I downloaded a new app to monitor my data usage on my phone. It appears I have used over 20 gigs on Spotify? While I'm not sure that is entirely accurate I do listen to a lot of Spotify.

I'm on an unlimited data plan so I'm not really concerned with how much I've used. 

 There was a movie years ago about that Apollo spacecraft that ran into trouble. The engineers on Earth had to solve the carbon monoxide issue with just a few random parts. I'm sure you know they were successful. 

I have heard that it is easier to innovate when you have a limited set of resources. 

Sometimes when you have little you can start to think about all the other possibilities that are available once you start opening up your mind.

Just thinking about some new ideas on how to help teachers. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Everyone has a story to tell.

I am not stationed in a school building which makes it difficult to connect with other teachers outside of professional development sessions. Some days I really struggle to make an actual meaningful connection.

I was reading about a method a sales person uses to grow their business. So I modified it to fit me and it has really made a difference.

I used two simple cups and five paperclips. When I make a contact with a teacher I move a paperclip from the start of the day cup to the end of the day cup. My only rule is that the contact has to be face to face, electronic does not count. I already have plenty of virtual connections, I wanted to increase my human contacts.

This physical cups are right by my coffee reminding me to get out and find people.

I sometimes just go to a building and walk around. These walkabouts have made new connections that I would not have had otherwise.

I think if I was back in the classroom I would do something similar but each paperclip (or stick) would have a student name on it. I would strive to make a contact with each student once a week. My goal would be to talk about things that were not classroom related. The best conversations I remember about my classroom were things that were not directly related to any standard or lesson. I'm positive that is what my kids also remember.

Side note. I do get hassled about my messy desk. Below is a wide shot of what it looks like right now. Below, on and above my desk is full of stuff. There is that saying about a messy desk and a messy mind. Totally get that. So what does that mean if you have an empty desk?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

It is always the darkest before the light.

There are so many changes happening here in the district. I think this uncertainty will be with us for the next two or three years. That is a very long time to be living on the edge. 

I was just about to start a session with some teachers and the sky caught my eye.

There were times in my life that I spent many hours outside. It was always the coldest and darkest just before the Sun started to rise. 

I took another picture a few minutes later. While it was still pretty cold the colors began to really emerge. 

While it is always darkest before the light, the light always comes. Sometimes not right away, sometimes not exactly how you imaged it but it comes.

Maybe the survival tactic is being the light for those who can't see the light, those who don't remember that the light always shines again.

Then again maybe it the old idea of some see the glass as half empty and some see it as half full. Did you know that there is a lesser known third option? That same exact glass is simply refillable. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Small Moment - Connecting a lifetime ago to today.

I can't recall how we even got on this topic. Maybe it was the birthday dinner at a Japanese restaurant or my son and his obsession with Nerf guns.

Somehow the kids got me talking how the small town outside the base in Japan. Kinville, also know by some other names, was a two street town right outside Camp Hansen, Okinawa. The streets were lined with restaurants, bars, a few shops and the best vending machines I have ever seen.

One day after I arrived I was wandering the streets looking for somewhere to eat. Someone on base told me to look for the White Kitchen and to order the yakisoba. Down a narrow and slightly dank street I found what had to be the right place but the sign read White Kichen.

I told the kids of my adventures ordering off a menu that consisted of a language that I couldn't read and tons of slick looking pictures. The first time being this far away and totally alone, it was pretty much the best day of my life up to that point.

I ended up ordering what would soon be my all time favorite dish, squid yakisoba. The food arrived and on the side of the dish sat chopsticks. I had never used chopsticks. The staff could tell I had no idea what to do, before I knew it they were teaching me! The language barrier was pretty big but we worked together until I had it down.

My visits to the White Kichen stretched from that day to the day we left the island. While the food was amazing I would give just about anything to return and have one last meal with a few of my buddies.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I would have paid big money for this book!

Today I experienced something that was out of this world. If only I would have had this years ago!

Years ago I would read a book on writing but something would get lost in translation. I could never make the jump between what it was telling me to do and actually being able to do it in my classroom with actual kids. I would try but the books just seemed too wordy, I just couldn't picture myself doing whatever it was with actual people.

Today I was a part of a small group of teachers. Our task was to look at a piece of writing and using a flow chart see where we might start with a writing goal for that student. I have not taught writing in ten years so I was pretty sure what I had picked would not even be close to what the student needed. To my shock, we all picked the same exact thing!

I don't think it was some magical ability that I have but it was through the power of this book that made it happen.

If I would have picked this goal when I was teaching I would have struggled to find the exact lesson or plan to help that one student with their issue. Through the magical book we were able to turn to a perfect min lesson that was just what this student needed.

The book, The Writing Strategies by Jennifer Serravallo, alone would not have brought me all the answers. While I watched the webinars, the facebook live chats and listened to a few Heinemann podcasts they could only get me so far. The class that I am in is being taught by one of our mentor teachers. I have learned more from her in the last few weeks than I have in the last ten years. No joke.

While I am not in the classroom, other than teaching a PLTW class to some 5th graders, I'm sure some wonder why I am in this class. I think the minute we stop learning is the minute we start dying. Learning for the sake of learning is pretty sweet and I'm fortunate to have this opportunity. The other thing is I am curious about how writing is being taught in the classroom.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Spent hours on one lesson

Never volunteer for anything, that is one life lesson taught to me in the Corps. 

Well... this year I volunteered to teach a one hour class to a group of 5th graders in one building.. This was my 10th year out of the classroom. It is not like riding a bike! While the class sizes were larger than I anticipated, about 32, I'm making some progress.

I'm doing a pilot for the elementary version of PLTW. Some of the science has been difficult for the kids. I can empathize the teachers who only get 47 minutes to teach a subject before the kids leave for the next subject. Some days it feels like I don't get anywhere before the bell.

I spent much of today reviewing, testing and creating a lesson that might take a billion years or two hours to complete. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

some days I hate iTunes!

iTunes - some days I really do not like you.

There is one music teacher who has everything set up in iTunes. Playlists ready to go at one click, tons of music for any occasion.

Backing up and moving these files to another computer isn't always smooth.

Today I was back to fix a similar issue on a different computer. The best part was the solution suddenly came to me the other day while I was at the gym. Love when that happens.

The fix was just one tiny file, a directory of sorts - that needed to be moved from the old system to the new. Once installed it was like magic. All playlists were filled, missing files suddenly showed up.

My big takeaway was think time. I had to get away from the problem for a bit for the solution to come. Do we give ourselves enough time to do that?

This makes me think a meeting the other day. We jump to solutions so quickly before we really understand the issues. We try to fix things for others removing the opportunity for a struggle. We, the outsiders, force the solution because we believe we know best.

Embrace the struggle. Allow time to pass. Solutions will come.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

What are we really looking at?

In a meeting yesterday looking at some data. The data wasn't about student achievement but technology usage. I was reminded of one of the most important things, stop reacting and look deeper.

It seems like we really want to jump into solution mode, find what we think is the issue and then tell someone how to solve it.

Our tech director is pretty much a genius. I fear the day he retires.

As we all looked and started to offer reasons, excuses and ideas, he stopped us. Our redirected attention was to think about what people were using instead of some interactive software we saw lower usage numbers on.

We thought back ten years and how the classrooms teaching looked now. We talked about what we saw in the classrooms today. Much of what we saw then was a lot of whole class instruction around an interactive board. Today we see a lot of small group, centers and such.

I think if we would have jumped into solution mode we might have pushed teachers into a direction we don't want them to go.

I read this article a few weeks ago about about asking the right questions. This was a great reminder to me to look a little deeper and not to react too quickly.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Bits of joy.

Epic day.
Lunch with my daughter.
The restaurant was totally full so we had to take it to go.
A huge cookie was worth it!

Her favorite pass time is reading. Not kidding, she read one of those books and part of another in less than three hours.

I also got a massive amount of planning done for my biomed PLTW class. Pretty pumped about this. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Making Your Own Sunshine

Saw this a while back and loved the idea. These past few weeks have been pretty difficult at work and I predict the next few will be the same.

So what am I doing to create my own sunshine?

Talked to a few teachers who I know are just happy people. That totally helps.

We have a 1/2 day tomorrow. Usually I would just work. Tomorrow I'm picking up the middle schooler and we are going out to lunch. Then maybe a bakery. 

I'm setting up my calendar now for next week. I am creating opportunities of greatness. 

In the Corps we used to say the sometimes false moto (motivation) was the only motivation that could be found and it was good enough. I guess a modern day version would be fake it till you make it and that isn't 1/2 bad advice.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Are we too academic?

When did we stop having fun in the classroom? 

Why do we need to over school things or make it all about academics?

I am dreading what will happen to things like breakout and minecraft over the next twelve months. 

I fear that we will kill the wonder in the eclipse and make it a worksheet-like experience.

Is it the tests that kill the fun? Are we too worried about what others will think so we make sure it is tightly bound to the standards or what we think are the standards?

Some days I just hit a wall and get sad about the loss of joy.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It would be unfortunate if we were all alike.

Someone once told me that I must have a super messy mind as my desk is, in their words, a disaster. The image does not do my desk justice. There is stuff under it, tons of junk all over it and above it isn't any better.

There was a time in my life that my set up was identical with everyone around me. What was in my left breast pocket was exactly the same as everyone else. Open up my top drawer and theirs, exactly the same contents. Under our beds had the exact same set up, black boots, jungle boots, go fasters (tennis shoes) and then shower shoes. In that order. In that exact order.

I sometimes wonder if my desk organization has anything to do with my past where everything was hyper organized.

Makes me think of that idea that everyone you meet is dealing with a lot more than you ever see. I wonder how many of the behaviors we encounter, the ones that might annoy us, are the result of something in the past. Wouldn't we be more tolerant if we somehow knew that backstory?

Now how do we get the backstory without prying?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Summer 2017

We are deep into creating some classes for our teachers this summer. What I want to do is create some fun while learning at the same time.

This is something that was on a series of Post-Its and in my paper notebook. Trying to get the wording just right. This just a draft.

  Have you ever seen a picture someone took and it just spoke to you? You try to recreate it but struggle to find that original spark. It is almost as if the photographer has some kind of magical formula.
  Join us as we discover the art of cell phone photography. We will learn how to set up that right shot, edit it and share you new creation. You will learn the techniques to make your shots as memorable as the professionals.
  These techniques can be applied when you add images to your Facebook pages and blogs. The ideas can also be quickly taught to your students to help them create images that will bring their projects to life.
Install these free apps on your mobile device:
  • Google photos
  • Snapseed
  • picmonkey

Summer is a time for renewal and trying new things. Creating a class that is 100% student focused isn't always the right mix. Too hard to imagine a class you have never met. We also just wrapped up some of the most stressful weeks of the year, why add to that stress?

What we are thinking is teaching how to get a good shot, use an app to edit it and then share it. This is super useful for the summer as most teachers are at home with their own kids. We all take a billion pictures, why not learn a few things to get the most out of each shot?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Building Empathy

I was getting gas and really struggled with these new pumps. I saw the little image of how to insert the card but it just wasn't making sense. After two tries the pump locked me out! I was perplexed. My primary role is all things technology, how could this pump defeat me?

This tiny little lesson made me think of how many of our teachers and students experience this level of frustration daily from the tech they use. Time is short and the pressure is high. When things don't go right it is much easier to just turn around and do it the way it has always been done.

At the gas station I almost paid cash, I almost sent my kids in with my card to pay but I pressed on. It was only a matter of time before I figured it out.

This gets me thinking about the times when we offered some Appy Hours before and after school. This allowed the teachers time to meet up at a local St. Louis Bread Company and talk about the latest apps they were using. A low to no stress environment that allowed for the conversation to wander from apps to lessons to their own children.

These learning opportunities might just be what some need to explore new areas and bring something back to the classroom.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Is it ever good enough?

Was reading about all the websites that were down the other day. It appears someone at Amazon typed in in incorrect letter or symbol which resulted in many websites inaccessible.

I looked up AWS and it appears they have a 99% up time. 99% of the time everything is perfect. I wish I had that level of amazingness.

Reminds me a little of that awards show. Someone made a small error and they are now fired.

Both of these were human errors. As far as I know no one lost a life. Maybe some were disappointed in not winning or accessing some website.

Certain elements of the media were all over these mistakes. How do we keep pushing our teachers and students if the general public seems to celebrate the negative sides of failure?

I'm confident that Amazon will create a new solution to prevent this mistake from happening again. They will learn from the mistake. I think that is what we need to report on and investigate.

Someone told me it wasn't how many times you fall down, you just need to keep getting up.

Friday, March 3, 2017

False Starts

Saw this at the gym and it really spoke to me. How many false starts am I allowed?

I travel to two pre-K, five elementary, two middle and one high school building. While I don't visit every building ever day I am sometimes stretched mentally and physically. When I say sometimes I really mean always.

The other day I was in an elementary classroom to talk about Skype and breakout. Skype wouldn't install, I knew the issue but was semi-powerless to solve it. I was able to get it resolved before I left but that took time away from what we really wanted to do. We could not really move forward without getting Skype running which killed the momentum of the project. 

Then I mistakenly locked a lock for breakout and it may be permanently locked.

All good intentions aside, sometimes I feel I can only get so far in the tiny amount of plan time teachers are afforded. 

Some days all I seem to be able to do is get things half accomplished.That eats at me.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Strumbellas have me thinking.

I have only been on one concert guest list in my whole life and I totally regret not getting a picture of it that night.

This past summer the Strumbellas came to play to a sold out crowd in St. Louis. As I watched them play my mind drifted to how often they must play each of these songs. Once the band leaves St. Louis they were headed somewhere east to do it all over again. That pace goes on for months. How do they keep it fresh every time? Each city, each person in the crowd expects to see a show full of energy and excitement.

Piles of money and the love of what you do can only carry you so far, how do they prevent burnout?

My thoughts eventually drifted to myself and the teachers around me. I know we can all look either in the mirror or into the eyes of the people we work with and see those telltale signs of burnout.

These ideas bring me to today. I read something, or maybe it was a video, that talked about the career plateau. It stated that within the first five years teachers stop growing, they get good at delivering the content and stop improving. While I am not sure that is totally accurate I can see how initiative fatigue can really drag people down.

 There are a few teacher who come to mind that seem to buck that trend. I wonder if it is because they will try new things often in the classroom. They will publicly share what they are doing, what went well and when it is a total disaster.

I wonder if that is the key to helping curb burnout. Try new things. Take risks. I assume what the musicians do is play off the audience, use their energy to power them through the set. I know that when I work with a group of energetic teachers you can help but feed off of that.

I don't know if the novelty of new things will help but it appears to be a step in the right direction.

My daughter at the show. If you don't Instagram it did it really happen?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Finding the balance - is now a good time to get out of the way?

I spend many of my days helping teachers. Most of the time we are focused on educational technology. Today we took a risk and tried an experiment.

This was session seven of seven, we will not meet again until next year. I'm pretty confident that the group does not need any new ideas, they have been idead to death. we give them ideas, the buildings and teams give them ideas, they read about ideas online. Idea overload.

We built a session that mirrored the 20% time/genius hour idea. They had time to figure out what to work on, shared that idea verbally and then they got to work.

Sometimes I struggle with figuring out when to help and when to let the struggle happen. 

The picture above is a great example of learning to back off and let ideas flow. One teacher is helping the other with creating a pretty great project using Google Sites. While I could jump in I think I would kill the conversation and flow of ideas. 

I know I struggled with this in the classroom. I heard someone say that the kids should do most of the talking, they are the ones who should go home exhausted. That is sometimes hard to do because if I am not talking am I doing my job?

The secondary pain is time. While many PD opportunities just load content and ideas they don't leave time to think and create. Finding that balance, thinking/creation time, is very difficult. When is it too much or not enough?