Category Archives: Education

The Wall (no, not that one. let’s not get all political)

The midyear slump can be a killer; when faced with “the wall” remember to take it down the same way you put it up, brick by brick.

Last week was my favorite week in the school year, mid year exam week. I’m going to be selfish for a moment here; it’s my favorite week not because I get to see how one test exemplifies the lessons and imparted knowledge of my teaching this past semester, but rather, it’s my favorite because it’s a lull before the new semester. A time to reflect and plan for what’s to come (and we get more than 18 minutes for lunch). We secondary teachers get an opportunity to furiously grade,and plan but in a much more relaxed and quiet atmosphere.

This year wasn’t the same, because the levity that I usually associate with the week was limited by the other projects I have taken on this year. When I stopped to take a breather, I realized I had hit the Wall.

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I’ve hit the Wall plenty of times in the past. Usually it’s in March where everybody seems to be high strung with the “I’m so sick of winter” blues, April seems like ages away, and then you realize you’ve got to start taking your son to baseball practice, when it’s cold.

This Wall was different.

The difference was that I had created it. Each brick was another project, or task, or responsibility that I willingly accepted. The mortar that held all of these bricks together was the effort, or lack thereof, I had put into each project. The ominous National Board candidacy process I began, the January term grad class (which I should have put more effort into), attempting to get back in shape, the resolution to make more family time, a second “remote” contract job, facilitating professional learning for my union, more stringent feedback guidelines for my students, are all “bricks” of my own creation. I dug the mud, I shaped the brick, I fired the kiln and I mortared them together. It was a beautiful wall, but it was too big to be purposeful and thus became the Wall.

Walls can be debilitating. Instead of finding solutions, the gut reaction is to curl up in a ball at the base and wait for someone to come by and help; perhaps they help you climb over it, or cut a door in it, or simply knock it down. My wall was different. I liked my bricks, I didn’t want to move past, or cut them out, or knock them down. I wanted to save them, rebuild them, maybe make a beautiful arch, become a mason of my projects so to speak.

Sounds good, right?

Now that we’re a week into the second semester, I’ve got a little rhythm going. What I’ve managed to do is scrape out some of that mortar holding my Wall together. Each brick is still in perfect condition, but I’ve placed some off to the side. My wall is about half the size it once was. I can see past it. More importantly I have these wonderful bricks that I plan on using as I draw up some new plans.

There’s a good chance that someone or something can come by and throw up a whole new row of bricks in the next few months, baseball season will be here before you know it. If that happens, I’ll just have to see if my plan works for not just my wall, but for others as well.

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My Love/ Hate Relationship with PLNs

 

I opened my twitter account in November of 2007 after an inspiring weekend at the JEA/ NSPA Fall Conference in Philadelphia.  I was hooked, and proceeded to follow everything and everyone I found interesting.  My life became awash with news, at first in a good way, then began a slow transition to what one might call a pedantic obsession with facts that most people don’t need to know. The overarching problem was, the more I followed the more I had to sort between whom was eating a delicious hamburger and the latest exploits of George W.  It became exhausting.  Finally after a few months, I abandoned it.

Two years later (roughly) the hashtag phenomena began,  and I, who considered myself an early adopter (for my age group) was busy with other things. I let my account remain in stasis while I chased other fads and my one year old son.

Long story short, I’m back and active.  However, that initial feeling of having this incredible knowledge base at the swipe of my finger is regressing to frustration.  The difference, it’s not so much news as it is the PLNs (Professional Learning Networks) of which I attempt to be a part.

The PLN craze is in full swing in the education world.  And while I have walked away with some outstanding new knowledge, I can’t shake the feeling that all too often I log off with the same frustrated feeling I have after a poor professional development training.

Educators in general love talking about themselves, we do.  I do it constantly as do many of my colleagues.  The issue is, that there are two general reasons for talking about ourselves, our classrooms, our students, or our buildings.

  1. We love what we do and want to share best practice.
  2. We feel the need to justify ourselves, or prove that we’re doing everything we can.

It is the latter that makes me walk away from my screen.  We’ve all been there, I love a “job well done” just as much as anyone else, but I’m here for the knowledge.  What is my, “take away” beyond more questions, and the restless night’s sleep that results?

It sounds harsh, but it’s the reality.  If I’m rushing through my other obligations to engage in a professional conversation, I’d like to leave with something, if nothing more than a new book to read, a new strategy to implement, or a new colleague to collaborate with, but too often I leave with questions, and a sinking guilt that I rushed the last two pages of Captain Underpants with my oldest son.

Note:  #aplitchat has always left me wanting to log in to Powell’s and buy books.  #edchatri #slowchatela and #totallyrossome have their brilliant moments as well.

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