This old dog.

Stop. Just stop.
Stop. Just stop.

Much ado is being made about age these days. Maybe it’s my own resentment of being a digital pioneer, and constantly being reminded I’m in charge of training children for jobs that don’t exist yet (for Pete’s sake, it’s not like I’m asking them to be farriers or corset-stay carvers!) At the NCCE, included in one lecture’s description was “NOT YOUR PARENTS’ TEXTBOOK!” which, yes, using the “o” word — offended me a tad. And not only am I playing a shoddy offense but defense as well. In this political climate my sons’ generation is constantly maligned: labeled entitled, privileged, whiny, and naive. My friend John Spencer gets it. VSauce has a great video about “Juvonoia,” the idea that younger generations are lame.

So I suppose if those younger than I are a bit miffed and allow for casual ageism to creep into the conversations, I must try not to cast my own disapproving glare.

via GIPHY

But ageism is actually quite horrifying. We’re all living longer, and creating a world where each generation gets a little smarter (thank you unleaded gasoline!) and a bit more savvy with all these critical thinking skills we’ve been touting. We’re creating awesome smart monsters humans. And while young folks may think of us as “elders” in their capitulating apologies, it has very real consequences.

Yes, young woman, you are contributing quite a bit. But over-40s are not quite “elders” yet.

So why does this get to me? Perhaps because it has an ‘ism’ at the end. “Ism’s” connote binary decision making: yes or no, black or white, up or down. Ageism is permission to assume someone cannot learn something about anything, but usually, especially technology, because they are old. Is it as bad as racism? I can’t make that claim. Its consequences may mean someone doesn’t get hired, so while we elders are trying to pay for our millennials’ college, we also can’t save for retirement. This article feels like a biography. Ageism decreases opportunity and allows for mocking on good days, and discrimination on bad. There’s that binary thinking again.

That moment when you realize someday you too, will be old as....never mind.
That moment when you realize someday you too, will be old as….never mind.

So, tiny examples: if I see something cool, guess what I do? I try to figure out how it was done. One of my little goals right now is to create gif doodles. Believe it or not, I can’t find any good tutorials, and this is making me feel a bit doddy. But they’re so cool! Not as cool as the Silicon Valley holographic mustache, but still…

http://reallifedoodles.tumblr.com

Is there something you’d like to learn how to do? Can anyone help me with this? I’ve fallen in a gif and can’t get up!

 

PS I know how to use Snapchat. I just choose not to. My students laugh at me because my husband is my only friend. /sigh You’ll understand when you’re older.

Write now!

Recently our administration sent out a valuable PD article, ‘Write More, Grade Less: Five Practices for Effectively Grading Writing’ by Lisa Lucas. Having been a big believer in the quick write for years, this sparked a renewed interest in R.A.F.T.S. writing. In addition to our drabbles, R.A.F.T.S. prompts can be content-focused, creative, and imaginative. Middle school students, in particular, feel the squeeze away from creative writing and often freeze up. RAFTS are not new, but they are tried and true.

 

And don’t forget about this! https://www.writeabout.com

 

My Inner Buttercup.

 

She's the toughest fighter...
She’s the toughest fighter…

All over social media my colleagues post ‘hang in there!’ Or, ‘is it a full moon?’ kinds of posts. Spring break for our district (and my son’s) occurred the first week of April, and we have quite a ways to go. In the Love shack, we have our own things going on: three years ago we managed to get our older son through his senior year, and now it’s time for our younger son, and it’s a{…………….} time and experience.

Daniel and his friend Nate at my school, job shadowing teachers. My son would be an amazing teacher, and I hope he considers this path.
Daniel and his friend Nate at my school, job shadowing teachers. My son would be an amazing teacher, and I hope he considers this path. (Daniel is the one in the Seahawks sweatshirt.)

In addition to our personal lives, which always seem to go off the crazy train rails this time of year, we’re so focused on student learning, testing, classroom management, data collection, etc. we may be overlooking a key element to unnecessary stress, and that is stress from other colleagues. So this morning, I poured myself a large cup of magical coffee (see Exhibit A) and decided to collect my thoughts on stress, colleagues, and collegial relationships. My first order of business: don’t be a jerk.

Exhibit A: magical beans
Exhibit A: magical beans

So how do we cause each other stress? Well, it all depends. We may have long-standing philosophical differences that start to rub raw this time of year, or projects and collaborations that fall apart (group work doesn’t always work for adults, either). There may be personal grudges, or simply someone flat-out doesn’t like us. (And young padawan, that’s completely cool.) Dealing with one’s own or others’ overt or hidden mental illnesses shadow and taint our own reflective and critical thinking capacities: if we’re worried how something we say or do may be misconstrued, work and flow become mired down and muddy. These ideas are intended to keep me on track, try to be the best teacher and colleague I can until the year’s over. (And then I can be a jerk again?)

start a blog

Disclaimer: I write for myself. If anything I say resonates with others, so be it. Writing is my therapy and helps my process and reflection. Think of it as advice columns for oneself.

How to Get to Summer In One Piece:

  1. Embrace the monster: if you see your inner demons taking up residence, acknowledge them, and ask them to hold tight until the end of June. Monsters and inner demons are notoriously impatient and guaranteed they will disappear by then.via GIPHY

2. Use your defense mechanisms wisely, or let them go entirely. You don’t need to shoot blood out of your eye or slime someone, as Sir Texas Horned Toad, or Lady Hagfish, you just need to make sure you’re not being a doormat or conceding or capitulating too quickly. Process and breathe. (Although that blood-eye thing would come in handy. What a cool writing prompt: what animal defensive mechanism super-power would you choose?)

Disarm with Cuteness! http://www.fws.gov
Disarm with Cuteness!
http://www.fws.gov

3. Watch something. Here are a few TED talks about stress, patience, and mindfulness. 

One of my dear friends told me years ago my life lesson would be ‘patience.’ Thinking back and realizing I most likely had ADD then, (and learned coping strategies on my own), this may have been well-intended advice but not exactly doable for me. Patience sometimes feels like unnecessary waiting, but there’s a difference between considering points of view waiting and waiting passively to be trampled on. If instincts create a flight/fight response, something might be up, spidey senses tingling and all that:t tap into that patience thing now.

bizarrocode

4. Or…Don’t be mindful: escape. Last night after a weird week with Bizarro-World events, I and my husband watched a movie or two, and I played with our puppy. Lovely.

IMG_1776
This was taken a few weeks ago, and I love the joy–

4. Play your way. Clearly if others are doing their best to drag you into their mind games, change the rules. Take your ball and go home. If this happens, you’re not being petulant or punitive, it’s really okay to go. Ever watch kids play a board game, and there’s that one kid who bosses everyone, changes the rules to suit the game-play, and flips the board if things aren’t going their way? It happens with adults, too, only much more subtly.

sore-loser-child-in-game

5. Be around people who love you, no matter what.

My boys and my mom from a past trip: trying to plan for a summer road trip as I type...
My boys and my mom from a past trip: trying to plan for a summer road trip as I type…

6. Look at something beautiful, create something beautiful.

tumblr_ntotwasPQ41qa53wno1_1280
Seriously: this exists!? I love our planet.

7. Take time to appreciate your moment in the universe.

If stress from colleagues is like a pebble in your shoe, stop and take out the pebble. If you’re working in a toxic environment, you may need other allies or support. It might not be your destiny to clean it but get out of the way so others can. And be honest: are you the one causing the stress? Or you contributing to the drama? Dang: are you the pebble?! Well, if you can honestly say you’re operating with integrity and attempting with every best effort to act with empathy and maintain dignity for yourself and others, then no. You’re the rock. (Get it?)

From Lifehacker:

She also advocates that you take the high road and never sacrifice your personal integrity in an attempt to get revenge or “fight fire with fire,” which we wholeheartedly agree with. She suggests you stay engaged at work too—noting that as long as you draw a paycheck you have an obligation to bring your best to your job every day. We’d temper that point a bit—if your work environment is toxic to the point where you feel awful every day, you’re already not bringing your A-game. Do what’s required, but don’t dump energy into a job that doesn’t appreciate your effort. Disengage a bit and spend that extra time and energy looking for something better, whether it’s a transfer to a new department or a new job entirely.

Personally, I love my job. I’m having a fantastic year: my students are doing amazing work, it’s a blast teaching Humanities, and we’re all thriving. My own confidence is bolstered from last year, where I, and others, were on the precipice of jumping from panic and not from pride. Reminding myself I am good at many things, still have a lot to learn, and some colleagues find my friendship and professional collaborations useful is valuable. It’s okay to own the good things about ourselves, even if others are actively trying to tear us down. We are on our own adventures, and everyone’s got stuff on their minds and weighing on their hearts.

Paulo Coehlho quote

 

I need to remind myself to be kind, be patient, and do good work, and see it through. My younger son is my focus now, and my students. Honoring their hard work and growth are my core beliefs, not a game.

And June is just around the corner.

summer

Get a job, sir.

John Spencer recently put a question out on Facebook and then wrote a post, Why Aren’t Schools Teaching This?, about his love of copywriting, and how useful and authentic it is to teach students about clear writing.

Why aren’t schools teaching a lot of things?

Well, perhaps for one glaringly obvious reason is subjecting teachers to the PD that relates only to instruction, and not careers or avocations. We grow out of touch with what the ‘real world’ looks like. John was surprised that one of my past incarnations was one of a copywriter. Yup, that gig, and a few other things:

  • Babysitter (start the timeline of work at age 9)
  • Busgirl at a Chinese-Mongolian barbecue
  • Pizza maker
  • Babysitter again.
  • Retail–department store x2 summers
  • Men’s haberdashery salesgirl and suit measurement taker-er
  • Housecleaner
  • Waitress (excelled)
  • Waitress again (fired for not cleaning salad area properly)
  • Pizza DELIVERY girl (eek)
  • Credit card company customer service phone representative
  • Secretary (not good)
  • Sales/marketing
  • Sales/copywriting
  • Secretary again (not good at all)
  • Back to the sales/copywriting company (happy)
  • Mom
  • Baby room painter
  • Jewelry maker
  • Back to retail…
  • Retail again…
  • Starbucks
  • Teacher (started around 41…)

Going for full disclosure here: we have sheltered/coddled/protected/promoted/encouraged/supported (choose your parenting judgment choice or style) our sons regarding working. We have never expected them to work a part-time job, and for myself, I am conflicted about that to some degree. (But I’m always conflicted about every decision I make, to be candid.) My husband and I both worked at early ages, learning responsibility, those  soft skills everyone’s infatuated with these days, and encountered so many characters and kinds of bosses, leaders, supervisors, it’s enough to write a Dickens’ novel. When the focus is solely on school, the result may be more academia, and less hope for life after school. If the job of school is to help kids get jobs, it’s never really done that. The dubious HuffingtonPost posted an article, Seven Things They Should Teach in School, and I argue three of them are outdated.

Except for how to split up a check at a restaurant...
Except for how to split up a check at a restaurant…

Did at any point in time during school did someone teach me how to do my taxes? No, of course not. But yet somehow between knowing good CPAs, and TurboTax, I can ‘adult’ this just fine. What school may have helped me with is knowing why it’s important to pay taxes, what my civic duties are, and how taxes support our nation’s defense, education, and other infrastructure considerations. (AND why I caucus/vote!) Did school teach me how to clear a table, be courteous to customers, and work fast? No, but my mom sure did. Did school teach me how to write copy for pharmaceutical marketing/trade show copy? Nope. Not that either. It taught me grammar, spelling, and organization. Heck, back in THOSE days this concept of audience and voice was not introduced. Sentence diagramming, though, I rocked at that.

Sentence-diagram-conjunction-independent
I actually like are vegetables disgusting The.

I strayed from point: back to teachers, PD, and not making ‘real world’ connections. How about instead of learning new instructional strategies, we teachers have professionals lead our professional development? Folks who are in the ‘other’ working world come and provide seminars and how-to’s with hands-on learning about skills and crafts in their fields? We did some of that already at our school, a career day for students, and I learned so much from the woman who spoke, hosted in my classroom. Not sure the students got it, but it put me back to the year my dad came and spoke to me and my classmates in second grade. Recently the University of Washington medical school came to my middle school–but wow what a cool day that would have been for teachers, too!

We all know teaching provides multiple transferable skills, and how important it is for students to have mentors and know what the next steps might be. I guess my concluding notion is that schools should not try to cover every possible knowledge hole, that the act of thinking critically, being good decision makers, growing with integrity and grace are more than enough. And if you can add a few ‘real world’ strategies in the mix, it’s not more, it’s awesome.

Here are some things I’ve tried in the past:

  • “Ad agency” – from my copywriting days I created a lesson where students worked in small ‘ad agencies’ to create a dog food ad based on either logos, pathos, or ethos. Grand fun. (This was pre-Mad Men days, so no scotch and cigarrettes, thank you very much.)
  • Amendments in Action: mentioned in another post — find real world examples of our Amendments in action, being enjoyed, supported or challenged:
"I got arrested in 2009 for protesting army recruitment. Then I got arrested in 2011 for protesting foreclosures after Hurricane Sandy. And I'm about to get arrested again, because on May 14th we're going to Albany to protest fossil fuels." -
“I got arrested in 2009 for protesting army recruitment. Then I got arrested in 2011 for protesting foreclosures after Hurricane Sandy. And I’m about to get arrested again, because on May 14th we’re going to Albany to protest fossil fuels.” -Humans of New York
  • Field Journals: simple as this: make a field journal, walk outside to the gravel, field, etc. and draw sketches and label what you see or question.
  • Interviews: the best ones came from the year I had students interview a family member.
  • Movie making: documentaries and journalism
  • Yellow Fever unit: how do humans deal with an epidemic depending on culture, technology (medical/scientific knowledge) of its time?

I have more, but I believe we all do. If you begin to look through your instructional practices through the notion of ‘real world-ism’ we can all find the triple-threat of pragmatism, engagement, and creativity.

Duly noted.

einstein-desk-662x614

No lie: just spent 15 minutes trying to find an article I read about annotating that was so perfect, so clear and meaningful surely I bookmarked it, saved it, so it could be easily digitally retrieved upon demand. Nope. Can’t find it. My digital life is too messy, too cluttered to find anything easily. So, I’ll cut my losses and just post what I did find.

From Why You Should Have a Messy Desk
From Why You Should Have a Messy Desk

But this isn’t about my messiness; it’s about annotating as a means to curation. What are some tools to promote annotating media in order to create mentorship, ownership, and reach the ultimate rung on the taxonomy scale: creativity?

OH MY GOSH I FOUND IT! (See? If I just hung out in my bathrobe and drank cold coffee long enough, I knew I could conjure information!)

Documenting Learning https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/documenting-learning/

documenting-for-as-learning-tolisano2

 

Digital Annotations:

Software folks are coming out with ways to annotate on-line. I’ve found two:

Genius: http://genius.com

Genius can be a little….dodgy. It combines a social media context as well as pure annotations. Not for the faint of heart.

Scrible:

https://www.scrible.com/

Scrible is in beta, and so far I think it’s great.

Thinglink also grand fun.

Obviously, Google has options, but until I can figure out how to share things and not have YoloSwag69 make a mess out of shared documents, I’ve shied away from those.

Here’s a Prezi I put together a few months ago. It could use an update.

In the classroom:

Poetry: New Hope
Poetry: New Hope

Showing thinking and participating together is always fun. (And I am envious of this teacher’s amazing board handwriting…!)

Apps

These are some I am going to test soon:

Orion Markup: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/orion-markup-image-notes-annotations/id1014671845?mt=12

Annotations: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/annotations/id885557228?mt=12

Deskscribble: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/deskscribble/id422170726?mt=12

There are many, too many to list, in terms of screencasts, annotations on screen, capturing, photography and text mash-ups, but I will always love WordSwag and Skitch:

IMG_0348

This article has a comprehensive list of How Annotation Reshapes Student Reading. Read it, print it out, turn it into a rubric/student reflection sheet. As always, ThreeTeachersTalk provide great information.provide great information.

Postscript: Been doing some research on apps that read aloud, or will help some of my struggling readers. If it’s tough to read, it’s tough to annotate.

Read4Me

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/read4me/id402454684?mt=12

VoiceDream

http://www.voicedream.com

FreeSpeech

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/freespeech-build-language/id1089150955?mt=12

And random acts of creativity:

http://www.abandonedamerica.us

http://www.buzzfeed.com/danieldalton/urban-exploration-photography#.fwZe8NDzo

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/abandoned-places_us_55e76c3ae4b0c818f61a89eb

http://mentalfloss.com/article/65567/26-breathtaking-pictures-abandoned-and-forgotten-places