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today was a good day

My first period: my friend’s first period. Her second period. My other friend’s third period. My fourth, fifth, and sixth periods. Almost 170 students signing up and starting blogging on the Digital Dogs’ blog. 

I KNEW they could do it!

And, I even recognized some writers in the crowd. Those who lingered a little longer, or confessed to having Tumblrs and Wattpads. I have writer-adar.

Yes, I realize their posts are not works of grand literary import. Pfft. Putting in your first HTML embed is addicting. Sharing content, and seeing your words published is this generation’s ‘Andy Warhol fifteen minutes of fame on television,’ but this screen is more relevant and powerful.

It’s working…

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That’s not a mouse.

If you don't see it you don't have middle school teacher x-ray vision. Sorry. Thanks for playing.
If you don’t see it you don’t have middle school teacher x-ray vision. Sorry. Thanks for playing.

Today was our first day back.

Wait. Let me try again.

Today was our first day back!

The increase in exclamation points tripled this past year. But mental exclamation points serve to keep us going. We are only as positive as our punctuation, people. All in all, a really good day. Woke up at 3:45AM instead of 3, didn’t stress about anything really, knew it would be a little chaotic, and managed to adult hard getting myself and my new student teacher coffee. I say ‘new’ which seems redundant because I’ve never had a student teacher before, so the new is for me.

Folks were surprised I’ve never had a student teacher before. I said ‘building human capacity’ wasn’t a top priority for some administrators in the past.

Was diplomatically complimented this morning: my ideas may not have been reaching the staff or have had a receptive audience but now there is someone in place who can share my ideas. So I’ve got that going for me. Wait, what just happened? It’s cool, it’s cool. Last year was the first time in a long time I was on a functional, responsive and collaborative PLC. But with our turnover in my building, it would be easy to assume no one listens to me because they might not like me. Nope, that’s not it. They just don’t know me. Literally. There and gone. And to my credit, those who do know me tend to like me. I’ve got a 99% success rate.* No one listens to anyone when the staff is on survival mode. This year, too, I’m on a great PLC grade level team. I can’t wait to work with veterans and rookies alike. But I may have blown it already when it comes to first impressions. *sigh* But first impressions are easy to make and difficult to untangle.

What first impressions do our students make?

Well…

The schedule on this first day involves students getting schedules, and shorted ‘nice to meet you’ classroom times. I put white butcher paper and markers on the table with directions to talk, scribble, doodle, etc. This young man created this piece of art, and when I asked him about it, apparently it’s a mouse. See the big ears? And the long body?

Yes, yes I see it. And so does your group of wannabe alpha males at the table.

We’ll take care of this on Day II. I have some impressions already, too.

 

Postscript:

The bigger picture...
The bigger picture…the dragon especially is poignant.

*Standard deviation of likeability scale not subject to peer review.

 

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Cinderella, Minecraft, and Secret Super Ninja Powers

Last week I related to my students, a small table group, about how I explained the theme(s) of the original Cinderella to a grown-up that morning. I pontificated on those themes with this group, verbosely elaborating the bigger ideas of dysfunctional, blended families, distracted or neglectful parents, father/daughter relationships , and the price of greed (it was the original Grimms’ Cinderella, with cut-off toes and heels, pecked out eyeballs, you know–the works).

Small Ukrainian student looks up at me, and says, quietly: “Mrs. Love, are those your super powers?”

I look at him, at first not understanding, and then realize, “Oh, D….., you mean my ability to come up with the big or main idea of something so fast?” He says yes, and then says, “Well, Mrs. Love, that is not a very good super power…”

I bust out laughing. I told him I could also turn invisible, but that would scare him, and the abilitiy to decipher themes is the only real super power I have.

Now I’m reconsidering my super powers. Today is a testing day, and I find myself with time to actually read blogs, and now share that anecdote. I read Teacher Tom’s post on a hashtag, and it’s pretty impressive. He is pretty clear in that students have been complaining about the same things since anyone taught anyone anything. I do want students, and teachers too, to rethink some of their methods, and consider that even though all knowledge may not be pragmatically or immediately applied, it is still a good thing in and of itself. Just because I don’t personally use algebra doesn’t mean that I am sorry for the experience of having taken it. If anything, it enhances my ability and buffs my super powers. I know have an understanding of what it’s like to learn something uncomfortable and challenging. Is that all students want every experience to be breezy and blissful? I offer this idea: life is contrast, and education provides those options to fill in our own life chiaroscuros.

Detour: With the help of my younger son and the insistence of a few students, I started a Minecraft Mondays at school. My mission, to help this band of stalwart builders not only create their virtual worlds, but to learn to be kind to one another in the process, ambassadors as it were, as they are creating the social fabric they want to wrap themselves in. I am not a Minecraft player. I don’t want to be a Minecraft player. But I do know the excitement players feel. They live for this club. And, my agenda is to make sure they go out in those virtual world with some manners. There exists this fourth dimension, and it is just as real as any we face. I would link more information about Minecraft if I could, but alas, all is blocked.

Blocked. Blocked. Blocked.

And here is what I wish my super powers really were: the ability to protect students from the dangers of the world via transparency and knowledge. They could use that right away.

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Are you going to answer that call (to adventure)? Seeking the Epic Win Face.

This author has quite a thesis: Want to save the world? Play video games:

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/02/07/tech-report-good-news-society-needs-you/

This is link to her TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.html

Her thesis, that in the game world, we achieve, we overcome, we are better than our “real” selves, is a premise that may take me weeks to untangle. However you may understand, validate, approach, appreciate, endorse, discredit, repudiate, or just laugh at her findings and beliefs, (anecdotal, personal, or data-based), you must admit, this is defining a collective borg of the population. They/we do learn differently, they/we do problem solve with different pathways than perhaps they/we are used to.

Consider: I heard this story on the radio driving to work on Monday morning. Admittedly, was awake, but not in a place to write down much information. Her name and the story flew by so fast, that all I could do was remember to make a mental note of it, that it would be something interesting to listen to later.

When I had time, I went to the local radio station’s website, used every search word I could – nada. It linked me to NPR, again, all the search words, time of day, everything – nothing. I have had frustrating issues with NPR’s search engine before; I would say it’s user error, but I know how to find information. (Turns out it wasn’t an NPR program, but the local radio station that played it should have turned it up.)

Couldn’t find it anywhere.

So, I went old school on it. I called the radio station.

And having been so trained, so institutionalized, that when a real person answered the phone saying it was the business line, I immediately thought I should apologize and try another number. The kind woman said she could probably help — I told her my dilemma, gave her my name and phone number, and she said she would do some research, and give me a call back.

She did.

A human called me back. With information.

Why I find this astonishing I am not sure. We all need epic wins, real world and virtual world. How do we bridge the two so we are not working for the virtual world?

I have a lot more to think and say about this. But I am going to see some real faces here soon, so better get my game face on.

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Be your own hero.

One of my favorite treats is driving on a Sunday and listening to the Tavis Smiley Show. Yesterday was especially resonating. I caught the tail-end of “Where do we go from here? The prospect of peace in the 21st century,” a discussion with some of the greatest scholars, leaders, and thinkers of our time.

At one juncture, the conversation turned to be about ‘who will our heroes be, who will we look up to?’ and Vincent Harding, with his even, slow-paced voice, reminded us to consider not having a “one” who will “save” us, but in a truly rich, democratic, and free society, we must look within ourselves and to each other for providing the safety and community we can achieve.

In my heart, I know we have always known what to do. Why we turn away from it, I can’t really say. The reasons are as complicated as we are, but it is just as simple, too: we know how to treat each other.

If you have time, it’s worth a listen, at least the last hour or so. Does talking change anything? Or is it only action? I’m contemplating on one thing I can do today to help bring peace. What can I teach, what can I share, what can I create? And I’ll go from there.

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