5 Things I Learned (as a teacher and parent) From the Movie Inside Out

I took my kids to see Inside Out today. They’ve been asking to see it and with heat index over 120 degrees I didn’t argue not sitting on the hot sand at beach all day. If you haven’t seen the movie, I definitely recommend it. If you are a teacher or parent, I more than recommend, I demand you go. I saw so much of what my middle school students went through during the movie. Heck, I could relate to most of it too.

Inside out

The movie is about a 11 year old who has to move from Minnesota to San Francisco. Instead of watching the movie from the outside world, you go through everything inside her brain which houses memories and emotions. Her emotions are the stars using memories to relay her feelings. So as this movie played I took away so much. Haven’t done a list in a while so here it is,

Top 5 Things I Learned From Inside Out:

5. Pixar is amazing. Seriously, Riley’s hair looked real. I push STEM so often, we forget it is more than just need for engineers. We need more kids thinking with STEAM concepts because they will be the ones creating Toy Story 6 and turning drawings into the most realistic characters ever.

4. Adult emotions are a lot different than a preteen. My son asked me why the parents’ emotions worked together better. Well even though we do have battles inside as adults, it’s nothing compared to what is going on inside a preteen’s head. We have had years to learn to control and work with emotions. Their emotions are still learning how to interact with each other. When all parts aren’t working together there is no harmony. They have not learned to control this yet. Be patient, by 15 they will have a better grasp.

3. We can’t control others’ emotions. Heck people have a hard enough time controlling their own emotions without someone else telling them how to feel and how to act. If someone is angry or afraid or even sad, you can’t tell them not to feel that way. I used to have this conversation all the time when my children were younger. I have no right to tell them not to be angry. I can teach them how to act when they are, but I never thought it necessary to tell them not to feel that way. But others didn’t agree. It’s a battle not worth fighting, emotions are just that and only thing you can do about them is be there for the person you love.

2. Sadness is an OK emotion. The entire movie plot started with the emotion Joy wanting to stop Riley from ever feeling the emotion Sadness. We learn a lot from sadness. We learn who our friends are, we learn to be happy through the sadness, and most importantly, sadness helps us make the right choices. As much as we don’t want to feel sad or see others sad, it is going to happen and that’s OK. Sadness is part of what makes us stronger.

1. Sometimes we lose Joy. Riley’s emotion Joy got lost. She couldn’t find it. Some lucky people go through their entire life never losing Joy. But some of us do. And that is the most lost you’ll ever feel. When that happens, please talk to someone. See a doctor. There is nothing wrong with admitting to losing Joy. There are people and medicines who can help you find her. Also, when someone you love loses Joy, be there for them. Don’t leave them alone to look for it. A year ago I lost Joy and in the process I saw who turned their back on me, who said they were tired of hearing about my other emotions, and these people added to the hiding of Joy. If you know someone, especially a child, who seems to lost Joy, be the person who steps up and looks for Joy with them without judgement. Maybe their Joy is in same place you found yours.

So much of this movie reminded me that we are not always in control of how we feel. We are not ever in control of how others feel. But we are in control of our actions and reactions. If you see someone, especially a child whose emotions seem to be lost or out of control step up and help. Depression and mental illness is becoming something more people are willing to talk about, but that doesn’t always help those going through it at the time. Become educated on ways you can help. It’s too important not to. Life is too important to allow emotions to be lost, they must all be present for our personality to be the real us.

(On a side note, as someone who lives with ADHD, I could write an entire dissertation on what my brain probably looks like. I mean a movie on voices inside my head?!)

Use Your ‘Teacher Voice’

Last week I got to be part of 2 amazing opportunities. Two opportunities that only happened because of social media. Who would’ve thought 6 years ago when I started tweeting and a year later blogging that anything would come of it? But it has and because of social media I have a voice. We all do. And as last week unfolded I saw how important that voice really is. I wasn’t sure I wanted to share about the opportunities because I didn’t want a ‘look at me’ situation. But as others keep asking about it and more I decompress what I learned, I feel like I should share.

On Wednesday I left work to get on a plane and head to Seattle. The whole thing was surreal because I was heading to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. If you are in education and/or follow education reform, you know this is the most influential organization in education. That can be positive or negative, depending on who you ask. I have yet to figure out why I was asked, but definitely honored I was. While there we had meetings where we talked about teachers in social media. Meeting with the brilliant Vicki Phillips and Carina Wong was pretty cool, women who have so much influence on me as well as in education. The best part was after lunch, meeting with Melinda Gates, yes THE Melinda Gates. Kinda crazy having someone with this much influence on the world actually asking our opinions and what we know. I rarely get asked that in my own office.

WP_20150528_001

I left Gates and hopped on a red eye – one that was late – and went to Washington DC. Another very cool opportunity, I was one of 100 who got to attend Edcamp Dept of Ed. So I spent the day meeting and having open discussions with educators from around the country. Some were my favorite people I rarely see face to face, some were others that I have never met or had conversations with. Huge thanks to Richard Cullata and his office as well as the amazing edcamp foundation for this day. A day spent brainstorming and comparing and sharing, you cannot beat that. The day ended with Arne Duncan telling a pretty touching story about a student in Chicago (don’t worry, I will share in another post I’m working on) that was a huge reminder of why we do what we do.

edcampusa

I look back on these whirlwind days and one thing was a constant – Teachers have voices. Teachers need their voice heard. I hear over and over, we need to do this, teachers should do that, but no one actually stops and asks the teachers. I think if Melinda Gates and Richard Cullata can stop and take a minute to hear what teachers have to say, and really listen, then why are we not doing that at a school level, a district level, even a state level? We are the experts. Yet politicians around the country are deciding on testing or trying to do away with standards, but they are not taking the time to listen. We can tout education reform all day every day but until it starts with teachers, the ones on the ground floor of this, there will never be any reform. And the scary part, real teachers, talented teacher, will become more and more frustrated and leave the profession. My children need good teachers, they need teachers who feel like they are making a difference, not just filling out paperwork and adding to data.

Also, teachers, make your voice heard!! I never imagine anyone would actually read my blog, especially people who have huge pull in the education world. But people do. You have a voice. Use it. We preach about student voice and real world audience, but you need to practice this as well. I know we have to be careful what we say, we need our job, but when you learn something, share. Others want to know!

CIPA, COPPA, and FERPA Beyond Digital Citizenship

Hey everyone! I’m back, I hope! It has been a busy end of school year! I never imagined it could be busier than actually being in the classroom, but it is! I have a few flights over the next few days so I hope to catch up on everything. I’ve had a few posts in my head for the past month, now time to get them out of that chaos and on to the ol’ blog.

Lately I have had a lot of discussions about student privacy, students online, teachers using social media, etc. Every time this comes up there are 3 acronyms I keep explaining often. FERPA, COPPA, and CIPA. I feel like in education we are some times in such a rush to post things online or our students do that we forget that we need to protect students in the process.  I feel that there is a gap in knowledge here. Before we start pushing teachers and students to get online and use social media, we need to think of the whole picture here. We need to know what rules to follow.

So what are these? Here is my attempt in layman’s terms to explain each of these.

FERPA – Family Educational Rights and Protection Act. This act really says that educational institutions cannot give away any student information. This does not often really touch a classroom teacher too much, but one thing you need to be careful about is registering students for websites without permission of parents. Giving out any directory information to a secondary source without asking or informing. That includes parent information. You have a parent’s email address or phone number, you cannot use it for anything other than what it was given to you for.

CIPA – Children’s Internet Protection Act – This is why you have filters on the internet at your school. We have to have filters for: obscene, child pornography, and anything harmful to children. I get a lot of complaints that we should just open the internet and forget about the filters. We can’t. Do I agree with some of the sites we filter? No not always. But understand this is why there are extremes.

COPPA – Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This is a huge one. You know when you sign up for a website and it asks you if you are 13 or asks for your birth date? This is why. Websites and social media sites collect information. Even gmail that is not through GAFE. It is the world we live in. But is a problem if someone is under 13. They are considered a child and are protected from this. So here is where this can become a problem: when you have students use a website that in their private policy states that someone has to be over 13 to use. You have students register without parent permission, we have a problem. When you get them to link their information to these sites. When you have accounts with these sites and post things about the students. Here is where the water gets mucky. Facebook is a perfect example of this, think of all the data they sale? This is why children have to be 13 to join.

If you are ever unsure about these, take the 10 minutes and check the private policy of a website. Yeah no one likes the fine print but your job as an educator is to protect students and you need to be sure you do so. Better safe than sorry.

We Have To Stop Pretending #makeschoolsdifferent

This morning I was tagged in a tweet from Scott McLeod that linked to his new blog post named “We have to stop pretending.” In the post he listed 5 things in education that we, obviously, have to stop doing or ignoring. Then he tagged 5 people he challenged to write a post with their 5 things. This afternoon, Beth Still posted a great list and tagged me in it. So here is my list:

We have to stop pretending:

  • It is cute or funny to “not be techie.”  Pleading ignorance at the stake of children’s learning is not funny. Ever. Stop.
  • Technology is just an add on to the real learning. Technology needs to stop being an extra or a check list. Curriculum departments need to work with instructional tech departments to really integrate it into everyday learning. Like the pencil.
  • Standards, Curriculum, and actual Teaching are synonymous. Common core is not a new way of teaching math. Also, no matter how many times we get new standards, lazy teachers are going to be lazy teachers.
  • PD happens during a special day or planning period. PD needs to be personalized and sought after regularly by whatever means you are comfortable with. Principals should be leaders in this and help their teachers find new ways to learn.
  • 2 hours (or less) of science a week in elementary schools is enough. The US is ranked ridiculously low in science and math. Yet not much has been done about this even though STEM is a huge buzzword right now. Science and math need to be combined and taught daily.

Ok it was hard to just stop at five. Please know this is not written to be offensive, it is written to make you think.  Think about what can we do as an education community to increase student learning and make schools a better place for all kids.

Now the even harder part, who to tag. I think I am going to tag Jenna Shaw, Todd Nesloney, Craig Badura, John Spencer, and Michelle Wilson. What do you think we need to stop pretending? Don’t forget to tag #makeschoolsdifferent

Who Are You Working For?

Have you had one of those moments when something simple happens and it hits you hard? It reminds you of what your purpose is? It changes the way you think about everything you do from them on? I had one of those moments a few weeks ago.

I was at a high school in the library, I had just finished working with some teachers, it was one of those PD moments when the tech was so disagreeable it took away from the PD and I was so frustrated that my morning was a total fall. I was helping the librarian with something and noticed a kid that was stressing over something. When I asked if he needed help he told me that he had downloaded the Word app on his phone and was trying to email the doc to his yahoo account so he could open it and print before it was due the next period. I asked him why couldn’t he just put it in his Google drive and print it from there. He looked at me and asked what a Google drive was. I just told him to have a seat and helped him with the GDrive phone app, gave him his account and password, how he can edit/share documents by having it up on 2 computers, and showed him how to upload the Word document to the drive. It probably took 5 minutes max. When done he looked at me and said, “thanks so much, you have changed my life! Can you come back and teach my teachers this?”

image

I spent 5 minutes with the kid and he says I changed his life. Because of something his teachers should’ve already taught him. I hated having to look him in the eye and admit to him that his teachers knew about Google Drive because I spent a day there walking each teacher through it. You see this kid told me he didn’t have a computer at home, he had to do all his work on his phone, he didn’t mind but it was hard. With docs we discussed how he could start on the computer at school and finish it on phone later then print at school or I showed him how to share with teacher and go paperless.

At least 3 days a week I do PD with teachers about using some type of tech to increase student learning. There is a reason behind this, these tools are what the kids need to use while learning the curriculum. But every single day I have at least one teacher push back. Every single time I have one teacher tell me they are not going to use a certain tech because they aren’t comfortable or they aren’t techy or they are doing fine doing what they’ve done in the past. Or my favorite “my kids are too young for this.” I used to just blow it off. Ignore it so I won’t take it personally.

No more. Now when I hear this I think of the kid who decided his life was changed for the better because he learned how to log into his Google account. You see, we have a job as educators to help our students. No one becomes a teacher to teach curriculum or prepare kids for tests, I hope. No we go into education to change lives. But as time goes on we become comfortable. And becoming comfortable is pure selfishness. When we decide we don’t want to change. When we blow off technology we are told to use because it makes us uncomfortable, we are cheating every student sitting in our class. This just doesn’t go for technology. When supervisors or coaches spend days teaching you lessons or pedagogy that they have researched and know work, why on earth do you ignore it and go back to the classroom the next day and teach the exact same lessons from last ten years? Because it’s easy? Well I’m glad it’s easy, but who are you working for? Yourself? Or your students?

We are a service industry. Like it or not. Our job is to serve the kids that walk in and out of our schools everyday. Just imagine if you did something every day that helps at least one child’s life become a little easier or gives them a chance for an “ah-ha” moment or just helps their self esteem. Just imagine how that group of students’ lives can change for the better.

Isn’t that why we became teachers? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t so we could resist change and cheat our students out of amazing experiences. No it’s to change lives. It’s to prepare kids for their future, for the world they will live in. So next time you start to think, “I don’t have time for that.” or “I don’t want to take the time to learn __.” remember that it’s not about you. It’s about your students.

Change Isn’t Always Easy, But You Can’t Keep Using Old Passwords

Today I had to change my password at work. Our passwords expire and must be changed or you get locked out of the system. This password is used for most things I do on a daily basis. I had to sign in everything again, not just on my desktop but my phone, my iPad and my laptop.  It was kind of a pain. I probably lost a total 5 to 10 minutes on this throughout the day. Not only was this annoying, but I had to retrain my fingers to type my password. Sixth months of the same password I never had to think about what I was typing, my fingers just hit the right keys. Now I have to think about it and watch myself type it slowly. And of course, the first time every time I punched in the wrong password. I have to retrain my brain and body all for a silly password.

image

So change can be a pain in the butt. It’s not easy. If it had been my choice I would have kept my old password and moved on with my life. The thing is, six months ago I probably would’ve said the same thing about my old password. Actually, I know I would have. But I didn’t get a choice, change had to be made. And in a week my brain will trained to use the new one.

Last week I stopped in a few professional development classes. I mostly went to see what they were learning so when I help teachers with tech, I can have an idea what they are focusing on curriculum-wise. In a science PD they were looking at the engineering strand of the new science standards. Those that know me know how happy this makes me. But while talking to one teacher I over heard another. She was bragging that all of her grades come from daily quizzes. She gives kids quizzes on their homework everyday. And she was bragging about it. Bragging. All while doing an activity that went through the process of planning engineering based lessons. You know, ones that would have offered authentic assessment.  She was like me today and still going back to that old password. Even though the old password doesn’t work anymore, she’s still typing it in. And yes she was also complaining that they never study. Password is invalid.

Later I went to a math PD. Teachers were planning lessons that focused on math concepts. Hands on activities that encouraged math talk, higher level thinking beyond the formulas. Immediately when I walked in, like as I walked through the door, a teacher says “Hey Amanda, not being ugly (southerners say this before saying something mean) but I have no need for GAFE. I’m a math teacher. There is no need for it when I need kids to work problems and that’s too hard in docs.” Totally caught me off guard. I was speechless. Finally looked at him and said that I hoped he was doing more than just having kids work formulas. Then I promised him a list of ways he could use it. But you see, as I walked around the room and looked at the lessons being planned, I could see ways to use GAFE with each one. No it’s not easy to work formulas in Docs, but the formulas are just one part of learning math. I started worrying if the lessons being planned were actually going to be used. I really hope they go back to the schools and use the new passwords instead of keep using the old passwords that we know do not work alone.

Change does suck but you don’t always get a choice. When we see change needs to occur, or when we are told change needs to occur, we need to start taking the steps towards the change instead of resisting. We have experts who are guiding us to make those changes, so take their advice, learn on them for help. The faster we start making the change, the easier the change will be. And one day we will look back and forget the old way. Just like we forget those old passwords we never use anymore.

Your #ADHD Students Suffer from More Than Just Trying To Sit Quietly

Take a moment and think about one thing you are really bad at. Something you have tried to do over and over and you just can’t do it. If it’s art, your hands just won’t draw what you want them to. If it’s math, those numbers just don’t make sense, no matter how much you memorize the visual isn’t there. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, no matter how hard you try. Some things we just don’t have the coordination for or our brain just isn’t wired that way.

Now imagine if that one thing you couldn’t do was something everyone else could. What if it was something you had to do everyday. And every time you failed, someone pointed it out, loudly. That is how my elementary and middle school life was everyday I walked into the school. I could not sit still and quiet for hours a day. I tried every single day. But no matter how hard I tried, I never could make it to the end of the day. It was so frustrating and eventually my self esteem suffered.

I have ADHD. I’m not embarrassed by it, or I’m not anymore. My parents didn’t realize it because teachers never told them. Probably didn’t because that was a “boy problem” when I was growing up. For some reason boys in my class couldn’t help it, but I was just causing trouble. Teachers disliked me and my grades dropped. I started reading books at age 2 but was failing 6th grade reading. That’s a problem.

Over time I learned to deal. It blows my mind I went through grad school twice  without medicine. I do take medicine now, but that took me years to realize it was OK to admit weakness. I’m OK with admitting the weakness now as well as I’m OK asking for help.

I tell this story because often ADHD students get a bad rap. Or ADHD itself does. And though it is more understood than it was back when I was in school, I feel like unless you live with it, you would probably be surprised at things people with ADHD deal with daily. It’s so much more than trying to sit still in a desk. So here are some things that I, and others, deal with that you probably never thought of being part of ADHD:

1. I actually can sit still for hours at a time, but it’s usually because I’m ‘hyper-attentive” of something. Like reading a book. I can read a book for hours and not stop to eat or even sleep. I’ve had a lot of parents say to me “he doesn’t have ADHD because he can sit in front of TV/xbox for hours.” Hyper-attention is just as big as a problem as anything else.

2. I’m just going to be late. I’m not being disrespectful of your time, there was just something that caught my attention and I didn’t know it. Even more in the mornings. I hate morning Amanda. Plus medicine doesn’t kick in until later. Students with ADHD aren’t late to your class on purpose, they just got wrapped up in a conversation or looking for something. Or even stayed after last class finishing something because they didn’t hear the bell.

3. I didn’t forget on purpose. Ever fill a cup until it overflowed? That’s my brain. Too much is going in, so other stuff ran out. I didn’t forget on purpose. Grocery store is a nightmare. I know something will be forgotten. And don’t tell me to make a list, I’ll forget the list. Don’t give students with ADHD more than one thing at a time to do. Especially oral list. If you do give a list make a check list. But don’t get mad if they just 1/2 finish every thing on the list. They can’t finish #2 on the list because started to think about #3.

4. I’m a picky eater. A lot of kids on ADHD are always getting hounded about eating because the medicine messes with appetite. So I see parents or teachers saying they have to eat everything off their plate. More than likely they don’t like stuff on their plates. Foods with odd textures (I get made fun of a lot because I hate potatoes and fries) or very strong smells, like seafood, are huge turn offs. Can’t even drink coffee because of the hot liquid. I get very overwhelmed by it and can’t enjoy the food. Don’t force it, find things they like. Chocolate or vanilla ice cream or milkshakes are great at fighting weight loss and or bland. Smells are the same way. I can lose hours of concentration because of a strong smell.

5. I do not sleep and rarely take naps. You can’t sleep if your brain cannot stop. I will go 3 days on 6 hours of sleep. If I do sleep, I usually toss and turn, even kick off covers. That means I have lack of sleep. Students with ADHD may have gone a few nights without sleep. Not good for learning. Also, ADHD meds are stimulants, if your student had caffeine added to that, they can go 24 hours without sleep.

6. I can snap. Not meaning to. But the impulsiveness that comes with ADHD can transfer over when I become angry. It’s humiliating, I don’t want to, I really cannot help it. Don’t hold it against your students personally when that happens. Notice signs that it may be coming, probably because someone is getting on there nerves doing one of the things I’ve listed.

7. If there is a crowd, you’ll find me in the corner. A quiet corner. It’s ironic because in a quiet room I’m probably the loudest and demand the most attention, but in a loud room, I’m the quietest. I get very overwhelmed and shut down. Remember this when you have activities in class that are loud and chaotic, students with ADHD may need to work in the hall or a quiet corner.

8. I can’t memorize things. Especially multiplication tables. I still don’t know them. I’m a pretty smart math brain but there is no memorization. I can do and understand calculus, but that doesn’t get you through 3rd grade math. Just get over it. Make sure students know why or how to figure it out, stop with the stop watches already. Speed and knowledge are not equals.

9. Repetition of sounds will make lose my mind. Tapping of a pencil will seriously have me shaking. Yes I know sometimes kids with ADHD do the tapping or humming, but they can’t handle others doing it. If you notice a kid doing that just walk by them and stop them before they start annoying others. Also, don’t put students with ADHD near each other or near the kid that does tap. Remember #6 above? Yeah that’s the number one thing that will make me snap.

10. I’m not organized. I am in my world but only because I had to make an effort to learn how to be organized for me. The worst thing on earth is a big binder with tabs. The school I used to work with required kids to have binders. Papers would come out and they would forget to put them back or at least in order. But a spiral notebook where I don’t have to take anything out, now we are talking. Also, it will take me weeks to get more paper once running out because can’t remember to get some. And stay away from locker, it’s a nightmare.

This is just a list of 10. I could make a list of 100. But I wanted to point this out because I see students all the time getting in trouble for things their brain really cannot control. No matter how hard they try they can’t do some things as well as others. You don’t yell at students for not being able to draw or understand math or read, but it’s become OK to yell at or punish students for not being able to sit still or for doing one of the 10 in the list above. Here are things that I was punished for or made failing grades because of in school: notebook checks, not ignoring the annoying kid tapping, Fs for not memorizing, made to participate in loud activities, in trouble for being sleepy, and being late. This doesn’t even include the typical, can’t sit still, won’t stop talking, etc. Thank God Class Dojo was not invented when I was in school or I think often that my self-esteem may not even have recovered. Could you imagine losing a point or mom getting an email for things you cannot help?? Some times we think we are just trying to teach self control, but please remember they are trying, they are just having a harder time teaching their brain to do something it was not made to do. I hope reading my story creates just a small bit of empathy towards students in your classroom. Put yourself in their shoes before you punish them.

#STEM is What Earth Needs, Literally

There are some days you will never forget. You hear the date and remember sights, sounds, feelings, etc. For most Alabamians, one of those dates are April 27, 2011.

On April 27, I remember the power going out when getting ready for school. Then getting to school and trying to figure out where everyone was and the chaos when I walked through the doors. I’ll never forgot the next 24 hours of pure stress and fear. Before it was all over, entire communities were destroyed and 249 people in my state lost their lives. It is a day I will never forget.

So imagine my feelings when I watched this:

Day after day I get on my soap box and tell anyone who will listen why we need to integrate STEM into our classrooms. I give reasons like, preparing them for their future, raising problem solvers, or even showing how STEM can actually support Common Core. But this right here, it puts it all into reality.

Our world is changing so fast. Usually we see this as a good thing. But it isn’t always. The Earth of 1915 and 2015 are not the same. Heck the earth of 1965 has gone through so many changes. Our future needs a society of people who not only understand these changes but the causes of them. And they not only understand, but they are looking for ways to stop the decline of our environment. We need to teach empathy along with problem solving so they understand why we need to take care of the Earth then come up with best ways to protect it. A society that understands science and the world they have been given will be more likely to find ways to restore it and prevent the deterioration of it. Train these students to think like engineers and they can change the world. Change it to a world we want to live in.

We don’t know if this theory is 100% true. But what we do know is that 249 people died and that pollution can have adverse effects on our Earth. We know that pollution is preventable. And I know I never want to experience another April 27.

Who Did I Help Today?

We all have a hero. Someone who shapes our thinking, our opinions, and how we handle situation. I have a hero. Lucky for me I lived with my hero for almost 20 years. She’s my mom.

No one on earth could ever compare to Vicky Countryman in my eyes from the time I was old enough to hero worship. As I get older and as she gets older, I realize just how amazing she really is. Watching her go to work with her chemo in her purse and it still plugged into her port or last year going to work in Nike’s because she has 4 plates in her leg from a roller skating accident was pretty darn inspiring. She has strength I wish I had. Physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Friday night my hero retired. She had worked at the same place since the day after her high school graduation. Forty four years later she retired as AVP of compliance for one of the largest credit unions in my state. Pretty good career if you ask me. I decided to go to her good bye at work (in typical Vicky fashion she refused a party because thought the attention was silly). I’m so glad I went because once again she inspired me.

image

You hear often of parents feeling pride when they hear compliments about their kids, I felt this pride for my parent. As her boss and she talked about their career together my mom became my hero again. Here’s why:

1. She started by saying how proud she was of everyone in the room. She spoke of the people sitting there and told them why she was proud of them. Talked about their growth personally and in the company. Most people don’t focus on others during a time like this.

2. She said she was asked for advice from a coworker and her advice was this “laugh it off, don’t take this place so seriously.” I love this. We all need to do this more. I am a big believer in laughing at what life gives you. You have to.

3. She ended with this, “everyday I leave here, the first thing I ask myself is ‘who did I help today?’ I’m back office staff, my job is to support those who are working with the public and are on the front lines of our company. If I’m not supporting them, I’m not doing my job. Now let’s eat cake.”

That last statement really hit me hard. As an instructional tech coach, I’m back office, my job is exactly what my mom’s was, to support those on the front lines. Those in the classrooms, in the schools, who are working with our students. Teachers need support everyday. I know what it like being in a classroom, I hope I never forget what they deal with every day. I don’t want to go into my schools and throw them a bunch of information and put unrealistic expectations on them. I also don’t want to walk out of a building without every teacher knowing that I’m there for them. First thing I do is give them my email. While I can’t be in the classroom of all 10,000 teachers in my district I can make sure when they reach out to me through email I can help them as quickly as possible. I sometimes feel like I’m drowning in emails and friends tell me so many times that I don’t have to answer all 40 something I get a day, if it is from a teacher, yes I do. That’s my job. That’s what I want to do, not push them off on someone else, help them the best I can. I’m not there yet, I have a lot of improvement before I am as helpful as she was. I need to judge less and ask what I can do to help more. I want to be that support system and over time I hope I will be.

Will I ever help as many people as my mom? Probably not. I don’t expect to. As she and I walked out of her office one last time, she said talked about how hard that ‘non party’ was. She said it was weird bc most people get cake everyone says bye and they leave and she couldn’t figure out why everyone kept sticking around talking to her and giving her the most thoughtful gifts. I probably looked at her like she grew another head. She didn’t get it. She reached her goal. She helped everyone. She was their support. I’m pretty lucky to have a hero like her, I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from her for 33 years now and can’t wait to learn from her 33 more.

The Education That MLK Fought For

I’m from the South. Birmingham, Alabama to be exact. If you have ever spoken to me, you know because it’s obvious. In the south, from the moment you step foot in a school you learn about the struggles of the civil rights movement. Even first year teachers have to go though Lee vs Macon training that focuses on racism and equality. Southern history is embarrassing but the purpose of learning history is learning to avoid mistakes of those in the past. And I think we are getting there. Watching protest going on around the country has made me thankful I live in a place where my kids are surrounded by people of all races and I’m so happy that they seriously do not see color when they look at their friends.

One of the main fights during the civil rights movement was desegregation of schools. Today it is insane to think that just 50 years ago your skin color determined your education. I could never imagine treating a student in my classroom any different because of their race. I am so thankful for those who fought and even gave their lives so my children can go to school and have friends of all races.

Today I saw this quote from Martin Luther King Jr.

image

I started thinking about what MLK and others went through so their children,  children of the our lifetime, and the future could have the education they deserve. BUT are we giving them the education that was fought so hard for? Would MLK look at education today and be proud? Would he determine it was worth dying for or would he be disappointed?

King nailed it here, education is to teach to think critically and intensively. Are we teaching this? How many times a day do you encourage this kind of thinking in your classroom? You can’t teach this with worksheets or test prep.

Just imagine if King had never thought critically. He would have accepted life as it was because that’s what he was told to think. His life and unfortunately lives of so many would have been and still would be different. You cannot change history by using our brains for just regurgitating facts and accepting things the way they are. As teachers you have the power to influence the thinkers and leaders of our future. Don’t take that for granted. One person can push for change, that one person may be in your classroom needing just a small push, don’t let that opportunity slip away.

Have a great week y’all!