What’s Your Job?


Monday morning I was watching the Today show and they had this 31 year old guy who wrote a book or article about things 20 year olds don’t understand.  One of the things he said is something that has been on my mind lately, he said “social media is not your job, it’s just part of it.” I guess that’s why most don’t get paid for it,  right?

See this summer has been difficult,  if you read my blog or tweets you know I will be starting another school year as a classroom teacher not a technology specialist.  I’ve had trouble dealing with the rejection & and reality of it and many have given me a lot of advice. Most of it comes back to I need to tell more people what I do and what I can do in the social media and technology world.  That’s hard for me.  I’m that person who’s helps someone or does a project then moves on, usually letting others take the credit.  Doesn’t bother me (except in coaching cheerleading because it was hard lol).  Some had said I need to put more of my skills online.  If I was jobless (I am lucky to have a job) it would be so much easier for me to do that.

Two summers ago I started a blog where I was going to post apps & tools hoping to do exactly what I said above.  But once school started I didn’t keep up with it. Why?  Shouldn’t be too hard because I bookmark tools every day.  I’ve also had the suggestion my blog needs to focus more on technology than just teaching. But you see,  I have this other job,  my real job. And for 9 months of the year my number one focus is my classroom of students.  Are they becoming scientists? Are they growing as people? Am I the best teacher I can be? That’s my job.  When I spend time blogging or researching that has to be the priority.

Few years ago when I discovered twitter and started developing my PLN,  I didn’t do that. I spent time focusing on the learning,  getting followers by RTing tweets and participating in chats (so darn ashamed of that, wasn’t too successful bc it was fake and stupid). I looked for sites to post NOT sites to learn from that will help my students and then share with my PLN who I already learn from.  It becomes addictive but for me it was wrong.  My job was to teach math to 90 6th graders.  I didn’t do that great of a job doing that that year. Was surprised I even got tenure. Huge wake up call for me.  When I reflected on that year I saw how my PLN had helped me but through learning from them I also saw how I let my students down and had to find a middle ground. Adjustment of my outlook took over. 

Recently I was having a conversation online with a friend of mine.  Started talking about going back to school and she let it slip her administration was not very supportive. Her admins were never around,  never helped,  didn’t take time to get to know the teachers,  etc.  Then it hit me, that admin and crew have been pretty big in the twitterverse lately.  Starting their own & pushing chats and posting their successes and ideas. (y’all know I’m not a chat fan, but I know y’all benefit from them so no negative) These things I’ve learned they never shared or helped their teachers with. So how does that make sense? (she may kill me for posting this.)

You see,  social media is not your job.  Your job is what you most likely put in that twitter bio.  That comes first,  then when you have time,  comes the other.  This totally does not apply to those starting their own business or don’t have a job and are in process of searching. Jamie Vandergrift is an excellent example how she couldn’t find a teaching job and over last year has used social media to start her own business,  many of you have. This is not about you. But if you have a job,  that needs to be your focus.  Look at what you are missing out on in your classroom as a teacher or building if you are admin or specialist
and blog or tweet second. So yeah,  I have trouble pointing out what I do in social media because my district and school as well as over 200 parents have trusted me to teach.  They pay me pretty good money to teach.  To enhance the life and care for 160 preteens.  That’s a pretty tough job,  so probably not going to blow it off.  Three weeks and back to that being my focus. Be careful going back to school,  we have had all this time to focus on and enjoy learning in this space.  This space is now moving back to 2nd place. 

A Slow Leak or a Blow Out? Both Leave You Stranded

Motivation. What motivates you? What motivates your students? What motivates teachers to use new tech? These are questions we hear do often. These are questions where if we knew the answer our jobs all of a sudden become a whole lot easier. If humans weren’t so darn complicated we would know the answer.


More I read about motivation I read that money & rewards are not good motivators. It’s hard for me to believe these things are not important (hold on I’m going to be coming back to this) but Pink’s Drive pretty much drilled this into my head. He teaches that self-determination is key. Maslow found that growth needs are based on curiosity and exploration and at the highest level focus on need for self-fulfillment and reaching potential. This goes for all ages. If you study Knowles’ ideas within andragogy, adults are motivated when learning is problem centered with more internal motivators. My dear brilliant friend Angela Maiers (who I may say has better shoe collection than I do) will tell you our passions drive us.

So we have all these factors that can come into play when looking at motivators. I see all of these in my everyday life. To me the internal is huge. Passion, problem solving, & drive to learn is big. The external is not as big for me. I think it can be for some, you see people who count followers or RTs or popularity. I’m kind of along lines of Michelle Baldwin’s post about not liking the whole ‘rock star’ deal. It is not comfortable to me. Unfortunately the lack of external drive can be a negative because I sit back often and watch others take credit for my work or allows others to ‘use’ my knowledge and skills for their gain and usually I’m ok with it. Dumb, I know. It’s just part of who I am. We are all different. We all are motivated so differently and mine are these quiet internal things. (Except laughs. If I can get a laugh I’m pretty satisfied.)

Our students are same way. They are all motivated by something different. Yet there is something that triggers motivation in them. It’s our job to find it and nurture it. Might not be as easy as it sounds but we know that the internal can fuel for longer than the external. We have to dig for it. Some times we just need to ask or observe. But it can happen.

So with all of this said here is my point and my question – what demotivates people? I’m sure bums are not people who have never had a passion or never had dreams of future success. I’m sure that kid that comes to school everyday and his only activity is to put head on desk & cover it with a hoodie was at one time motivated by something, right? So what has taken away their motivation to succeed? To be part of something?

I don’t know answer. I don’t know why I’m still motivated to do what I do. Y’all know educational technology & professional development/working with teachers are my passions. I’m not sure what motivates me, it’s not money or rewards. I probably work harder or just as hard as those who have full time teach coaching positions yet I never get a dime. Blogging & social media has opened up this whole can of worms people helping others & its our source of PD for free. We work extra hard because we do our everyday jobs then add this too it. Then pay our own way to conferences, we must be insane, or something is driving this. This one has been hard for me because my children question me about this. This may be what breaks me.

This summer has been a huge lesson in failure and being turned down but here I am, still reading blogs for research and learning and still writing. I’m kind of asking because deep down I want to not be so driven. It would make failure easier to bare. May make it easier to just quit. We hear from gaming fans that failure doesn’t stop motivation. So what the heck is it? Something has caused these students to stop wanting to learn. Unfortunately I’m afraid I’m starting down that path personally and it’s a scary feeling. Do students feel it coming on, like a nail in your tire, or is it sudden, like getting a blow out while going 70 mph?

I’m starting to become terrified. I see myself losing motivation in my future. I know I’m not as motivated to go back to school as I was last year, because I again won’t be spending the day diving into my passion. I don’t want to become that kid with my head down all day. Even more terrifying is that the hoodie kid will come out of my classroom. That I’m going to screw something up and be the cause to take away motivation. Why isn’t there more research on this? I’m a big believer in learning from failure but at what point does that failure finally break that person? Love that schools give kids chances to have do-overs but at what point does that frustrate the child to no return. We have to find that motivation and we have to nurture it. Holy crap I don’t want a kid to ever leave my classroom feeling as broken as I have this summer. It’s beyond terrifying. We have to make this a goal next year, find what drives and motivate. If we don’t look for that motivation are we doing the opposite & is that causing permanent damage?

It’s Not Preparation For Life.

Last few weeks I’ve been asked a lot “Why do you teach science?” It’s odd because until recently I had not been asked that question. The reason has a lamer (is that a word) and less deep than the answer to why I enrolled in education school (it was an accident, I was pre-law and they messed up my schedule). So I’m a science teacher because 3 yrs ago I was beyond stressed. I teach 6th grade, which in state of Alabama is technically elementary. So I could teach any subject because I have elem certification. Could, but it’s not wise for anyone to make me an ELA teacher. Reading, I can do, but it’s the rest of it I cannot wrap my math/science/tech brain around, I do well just to send a tweet without a typo. Anyway I was a math teacher. I really love math so I was excited to teach it. But after a couple of years the stress of meeting all requirements, testing, kids who already hated math, and a group of complaining parents during my tenure year when I had just had a baby and was finishing my thesis for Ed.S. was too much. So my principal gave me the option of teaching science the next year. Took me 3 weeks into the next school year to realize I just got the break of a lifetime.

You see, there is only one science standardized test in Alabama and that’s in 7th grade. Doesn’t weigh heavy on AYP either. Now don’t get my wrong, if you’ve read my blog over this past year you know my job is not stress-free. I (un)fortunately I care whether or not they learn but it’s just a little easier without that stupid test hanging over my head. Without the test being my focus I get to have a new focus: Teach my students to be scientist & ask questions, teach importance of space exploration, teach students to preserve our Earth for future generations, and last teach them survival on this Earth.


So this week we are at the beach. Those that know me know that the ocean is my real home. Like Buffett says “the sea’s in my veins.” I’m not a son but I am a daughter of a son of a sailor. Close enough, right? When we walked the kids out on the beach the first thing I looked for was the sand bar & breaks in it. You see, rip currents are caused by breaks in the sand bar. Water is trying to get back into the ocean, it finds a way back out through that break. Think pulling the plug in tub, all water rushes to drain. So anyway first thing I do is point out the break to my kids and explain to stay away because of rip currents, they know this stuff because its common discussion. I see a family swimming in the area of the broken sand bar and out of mouth flies “Didn’t their 6th grade teacher teach them about rip currents?” Of course all adults standing there said probably not and looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

I take a day every ocean unit and discuss with the kids rip currents. Odds of my students going to beach are pretty high so to me it’s important. To me if just one actually listens and remembers how to look for them as well as how to escape one, my job is awesome, right? May not be solving for X or finding the main idea, but X could be death or main idea could be surviving vs drowning.

April 2011, I made my students blog about their safe place during a tornado. They complained it was lame. Mostly because many of them didn’t know. So they had to ask their parents, middle school kids aren’t fans of talking to their parents. On April 27, 2011 at 5:30 a small tornado came within a few miles of school and caused damage to a few of my students’ homes. By the end of the night our state had been hit by 59 tornadoes, the largest outbreak of EF5s, well tornadoes period, in history, and 238 people had lost their lives. A week later when we finally got back to school, students blogged about that day and the majority of them blogged about being in that safe place that day. I remember reading the posts and literally breaking down at their reflections of that day (as well as the volunteerism they participated in in the days afterwards).

You see when we take away the stress and the pressures of the tests out we get to do so much more. We get to focus on life. Yeah it’s easier for me because Earth/Space science does effect their lives more but I could just make it about facts. I could ignore the human part of it. But I choose not too. I hate when teachers focus so much on “preparing students for the future” mostly because when they say that they are referring to tech, and we all know tech we are using today is not even close to the future. But also because why can’t we just prepare students for life? Life today. Life tomorrow. Life later this month. Then eventually life in the distance future. In the hall outside the front office at my school has this quote:

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey

Kids live today. They don’t live in the future. We need to focus on both. If we educators spent as much time worrying about our students instead of what’s on the tests they will learn so much more. I also can bet it may not be obvious at that moment but they are listening and they are learning exactly what they need to. I’m glad I don’t teach math anymore because if my focus was on finishing standards on time & preparing for tests, I sucked. And you really shouldn’t do things you suck at unless you have a plan to grow & get better. I know if I taught math next year, my focus would be completely different than it was last time. I’d totally chill out more & take the time to nurture the students’ learning as well as focus on their “today” lives not their “future-you-must-know-this” lives.

I don’t know, maybe I’m off base with this. If I am, I’m sure someone will call me out. I’m ok with that. And hey, who knows, none of my students may even remember my rip current lessons.