Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Am I really directing?

So I took the tap on the shoulder and I ran with it. I am now the Athletic Director at the high school and I am also thinking, "what on earth have I done." More people have come up to me with congratulatory smirks then I care to count. There have been the, "kiss your personal life goodbye" comments as well as the, "good luck with the parents" comments. If I stop and think about it I may run from the building screaming.

My days are filled with coaches yelling at me, kids stomping their feet, officials complaining about waves on the ocean, and grass that grows faster than a dry sponge in water. Why do people like to say, "That's not MY job." If everyone says that, then how will anything get done?

I have had the speedy induction into the world of budgetary spreadsheets that seem as sensible as a schizophrenics mind. Why is it that when I show up, everyone needs new equipment because they have never gotten any before? There are papers on my desk that I cannot identify or even remember how they got there. I thought we were going green.

If something is broken, how could nobody have done it? If something is missing, how could nobody have taken it?

I have talked to so many new people on the phone that I cannot remember who I am speaking to as I am speaking to them. I have gone through several full sized lined pads of paper in a month because I have so many notes I don't know where to put them. Again...going green?

The brand new bleachers are bent after one football game. Everyone and their brother is complaining about the brand-spanking new press box because it is either too low, too hot, too long, or too something else they haven't thought of yet. The cannon man wants me to build him a shelf for the cannon. The handicap ramp looks like a skate-boarders dream and an administrators nightmare.

Parents want to know why their kid is playing, isn't playing, or doesn't want to play. Kids want to know why they can't get their team to buy them sneakers or a car.

I am becoming a professional doodler at meetings. I hope I haven't missed anything important.

...and I wouldn't trade this job for anything right now. I am having a ball!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Question #2 Why does new technology make them squirm...

Poor things...I've noticed that teachers tend to get that glazed-over look when the Tech Guys start to talk about technology in the classroom. In faculty meetings, I can see some are praying for the pain to stop while an excited tech nerd is describing the latest and greatest tech tool we now have available to us. For a myriad of reasons, many of us tend to shy away from including technology tools in our daily routines and when the truly technologically advanced people begin to speak, we try to just go to our happy places on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean. Just like an iguana, if we close our eyes we believe that the person in front of us will no longer exist.

Problem is, we are raising kids in a technology driven world. Who hasn't heard the joke about not understanding something on your computer and asking a 4 year old to help figure it out...its not a joke...its probably true. And I am certain we can all agree that we as teachers are now preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist.

So how do we get teachers to accept...no...embrace technology as a tool that will advance our educational practices rather than allow children to circumvent learning the basics. I recently sat in a short professional development session where a fellow teacher was asked to show us what she had been doing with her freshman history classes in the blogging world. My eyes were wider than the first time I saw a shiny red 1968 Mustang convertible. There must be a way to harness this type of excitement and pass it on.

My Theory: Use the latest buzz in education..the PLC, PLN, CFG...whatever you want to call it (does it really matter?). Get together a group of True Tech Nerds (TTN) and Tech Nerd Wannabes (TNW), give them some snack, step back, and see what happens.

So far so good. Our first gathering of the MVRHS Tech Squad went off without a hitch. The snack was good, the technology worked and most importantly, people showed up. Without much idea of what was to happen, there were a few TTNs and quite a few TNWs came in looking rather hopeful. The first participants were hand selected in hopes that their enthusiasm would be helpful in getting the ball rolling...and I was not disappointed.

We all learned about a great global learning project called iEarn, which has been around for 20 years. Little did we know that one of our own had been instrumental in making this phenomenal project so great and he is actually been asked to travel to Morocco to promote it. Whoa! Imagine what you find out when you talk to your colleagues!

I was able to show a simple tool we already have at our fingertips on EdLine. By using the "discussion" option, we can have protected class blogs about any topic under the sun. There were some wide eyes a-poppin' when using my non-caffeine driven hyperactivity I started pulling up Twitter, Delicious, TinyURL and other web tools in combination with the blogs my classes had been doing. We could check on trending topics, reserch them on the internet quickly, bookmark the trusted sites and then post those crazy long urls in a useable format. Whoa!

Now I've thrown the ball up in the air and am waiting to see who will catch it and run. The trick to this seems to lie in the sustainability factor. Can we keep the enthusiasm going? I am going to schedule these gatherings every few weeks to see how people are doing and to see what other exciting things are happening.

I'm looking for some feedback here. What's the next step? What am I missing? What haven't I thought of? I would love to hear some thoughts from the global classroom.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Top Ten Reasons Why I Can't Participate in Gym Class

Since its Friday and I'm in a great mood, lets have a little fun. I'm thinking this will be a work in progress for the rest of my career but really...there are some beauties that I just have to share. Kids can be so creative when the need strikes and for some, getting out of gym class is a life-long venture.

Being of the female gender I feel it is only right that I be allowed to poke fun at some of our hysterical and hystrionic ways. Thus only the excuses I get from the girls are included in this post. The boys are a whole different ball of wax...come to think of it I think there was actually one excuse about wax from a boy...I'll save that for another day.

Please note, many of these excuses were given with a high-pitched, screeching sort of voice similar to that of a bird of prey as it swoops down upon its quarry. Therefore intense capitalization and extra punctuation is necessary to properly convey the tone.
Many of these girls should have gotten credit for all of the foot stomping done while screeching.


How can I run around today!!! My shirt doesn't match my shorts!!!!


What do you mean we are going outside??!! The sun is shining!!!!! AAHHHHH!!!


I just can't. Not today.


I just had a test in math and my fingers hurt.


Can someone else do this for me? (in reference to running)


Do we actually have to move in this class? I don't think I can.


If I have to change my skirt then I'm not playing. (Note: skirt was barely a mini)


My mom said that I'm not normal so I shouldn't run around today.


But I have cramps. You have no idea how that feels.


Umm...ahhh....ummm....Ms. Mincone? I can't participate in gym today because...I....ahhh....stapled my bum.

I have absolutely no idea how one goes about stapling their bum and to this day, I still do not know. I did not ask how or why. I simply inquired if the staple was still lodged in flesh and if bleeding was currently underway. The answer to both was no so the child was instructed to get changed and start participating.

So as you sit at your desk or on the couch reading this post, please try to think of a better excuse as to why you aren't up and moving around.

Now get up and get moving!!!

I don't want to hear it!!!!!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Being the guinea pig

I'm jumping into the idea of self-guided professional development online. Of course this concept is not foreign to me as I have already received a MEd online. While attending the ASCD 2009 conference in Orlando, my colleague and I came across IDE (Innovative Designs for Education). Among other topics, the discussion of professional development was intriguing and we were offered a free trial username and password. The pricing is too good to be true if we can get it rolling by the end of April.

So I'm starting an online workshop this evening. The title is "Writing Great Rubrics." It seems fitting as we are looking into how to better facilitate writing across the curriculum. In theory, this workshop should take me approximately 8 hours in total with some sort of finished product at the end. Ultimately, I would like to be able to report my thoughts and results to my principal in a few days. It seems like an interesting tool for me and my colleagues.

So here goes nothin'!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Question #1

A new day brings with it new questions. The problem is I haven't always answered the questions from the day before. Thus I have notebooks full of questions. There are times when I think I have come up with a new and exciting idea or question to answer only to realize I started a similar project in months past. I have always considered myself willing and able to learn new things easily and have readily jumped into the technological world with both feet. But for some reason I have not made full use (or any use) of the Web 2.0 craze to help organize and answer the multitude of questions that come from my brain everyday. So here we go.

Question #1
As we attempt to ban things like personal electronic devices and even certain websites within the school building, I am left wondering about the message sent to students. Are we saying, "You cannot possibly be trusted to responsibly use these technologies and therefore we must 'protect' you from them." Are we giving students a rebellious reason to want to use a cell phone or find a way into a website? What happens when they leave the building and have access everywhere else? Let's get real here...if we block a website the kids will find a way into that site if they really want to be there. The kids taught me about free web proxies one day when I couldn't get to a video I wanted to show them. Some middle school students told me today that in the bathroom at school, kids are "texting like crazy." This just a day after I was proudly told by a teacher from that same school that cell phones are totally banned in that school.

So many teachers feel they are making use of technology if they embed PowerPoint presentations into their lectures or show a YouTube video on the Smartboard. In fact there are so many opportunities to make use of a seemingly endless parade of new technologies, we are really negligent if we don't jump in with both feet and start trying new things. From podcasting to connecting in the global classroom, there just isn't enough time in the day to learn everything out there. So I'll take a deep breath, focus, and just get started.

My quest today (and of course for many days to come) is to develop strategies to integrate old, new, and future technology into the high school classroom. As a quick example, I have students in my class who enter assignments and reminders into their calendars immediately on their smartphones. These are the same kids who would have lost their assignment notebooks and previously not completed homework. So I am jumping in with both feet to ask students to use technology responsibly within our classroom.

Solution #1
Different forms of social networking seems to be the nerve center of many in terms of what we are diverting students from. But the sheer number of sites available and types of networking to utilize is almost ridiculous and certainly overwhelming. From Twitter to Blogger to Facebook and beyond, we have choices to connect with people both personally and professionally. I have been reading blogs by some like bengrey who question how we can integrate things like Twitter into everyday life...even at church. He is so lucky his wife didn't beat him with a stick when he posted to Twitter during a sermon from his iPhone but it begs the question, "Can the tradition in our lives be mingled with the technology we are developing?" (I have ashamedly become slightly addicted to Twitter already and am struggling to find a way to keep it from taking over.) So I decided the simple thing to do would be to jump in using technology already available to teachers at our school through our EdLine accounts. One baby step at a time.

Instead of asking for a weekly current events assignment to be handed in on a multitude of pages printed out absent-mindedly, I now ask the kids to blog through our school website. We started with a single topic which everyone would discuss. The class can only see and post to their blog. The "outside world" cannot see what they are doing.

We will be moving on to multiple posts of topics that each student finds interesting. So far so good. They are required to post their initial thoughts and then to respond to at least one classmate. The kids have been going crazy with some of their responses...so much so that I feel as though I may have created a monster (or two). That single required peer response has blossomed into multiple responses to many peers.

The concern from colleagues has been that we will loose the face to face discussion component. I too worried about that but today, a miracle happened. I pulled up the blog on the Smartboard and began a class discussion about the posts. One particular student who has never spoken during class happened to be one of the first to post to the blog. Her comment intrigued some of the other students and they began to ask her some questions. The normally silent student, who likely thought that none of her classmates ever noticed her, was now leading the class discussion! It was spectacular!! You could actually see how proud she was of herself as her peers asked her questions and listened to her answers. And to be honest, I have the feeling that this young lady is truly a genius just waiting for her moment to shine. Perhaps this was that defining moment...who knows but it sure was fun.

Score one for technology.

So now what? What else can I do with the whole blogging idea? Another colleague suggested we use a blog format as part of a take-home test. Hmmmm...I may get that rolling this weekend.

...and even if it hurts my brain, I am going to figure out how to use Twitter in the classroom.