Teaching, Unbound

EdTech Conference Thoughts

Teachers with tech tools are like nifflers with shiny things. We see them and we have to have them. Kept to a manageable minimum, tech tools are innocuous, but like our beastly counterpart, we keep stuffing them into our pouches until they’re spilling out and tripping up our best practices in the classroom.

I used to be a niffler, and to some extent, I still am. I love tech tools: the bells and whistles and lights shining in my eyes like Christmas lights or fireworks. I get wrapped up in the buzz of “What’s new? What’s hot? What’s now?”. But something happened to me about 4 years ago. I failed as a teacher. I failed as an instructional coach, and I failed as a human being. None of the tools I had collected saved me from that failure

Without going into the soul-bearing aspects of that failure, I came out on the other side understanding that if I were going to be recognized for anything it would need to be as a consummate educator dedicated to best practices and to the advocacy of equitable access for students. I came out on the other side understanding it’s not the tech tool that will get me there, no matter how “cutting edge” I stayed or how many tools I sprayed and prayed would stick. What would get me there is reflecting on my practice and understanding that in education we have to move beyond implementation to transformation.

The same analogy can be applied to almost any educational program, book, philosophy, and Golden Gate Bridge people try to sell you. We shove them into our pockets and down our students’ throats without first considering whether what we’re doing will help students, especially disenfranchised students and students of color. I think in education we’ve become so desperate for something, anything, to work that instead of acknowledging the issues and addressing the problems, we put little pink plastic band-aids on them. When those band-aids inevitably fail, we wonder why they didn’t cure the hurt, and we blame someone else and find another shiny thing to hold up the dam. Instead, what we really need to do is blame ourselves and take a good long look at the reflection staring back at us from the water escaping.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying… At some point, we need a Newt Scamander to watch out for us and occasionally shake us free of all that baggage and bring us back to our senses. It’s okay to enjoy tech tools. But it’s not okay to forget that it’s not about the tool. It’s about you and the young people sitting in your schools. Don’t sacrifice reflecting on and pushing for best practices for the sake of the next best thing.

Be a Newt Scamander for yourself so you can be a Dumbledore for your students.

Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

Musings

Internal Editor

Where do I even begin with what needs to be said? Fingers pressed to my forehead, I contemplate all the words I know are inside of me and try to figure out how to edit them before they make their way onto the page. Or once they do make it onto the page I hit the “delete” key until what is left is nothing like what needs to be said.

Here’s the thing: I want to be a writer. Here’s the problem: My internal editor says I’m crap. And I believe her.

From stream-of-consciousness to word association, I’ve tried all the ways to turn my brain off and turn the writing on, but it’s never just… easy. Listen – I know writing isn’t easy. It takes time to hone your craft. It takes getting told “no” ninety-nine times before you’re told “yes”. It takes finding honest readers who will tell you your writing is crap and then give you suggestions on how to fix it. However, it would be nice to even get words on the page, to begin with, to get to those stages. Even now as I write this, I’m thinking of all the things I need to do before bedtime rolls around and I have to get ready to go to work tomorrow. Therein lies part of my problem.

I make a living as an English teacher. I spend most of my day teaching others how to write and how to read. As glamorous as that might sound, I get little time to further teach myself how to write and how to read, not the least of which do any of that for fun. And before you start in about “weekends” and “holidays” and “summers”, let me just straight up tell you: All that “time off” I spend thinking about YOUR kids and how I’m going to be a better teacher for YOUR kids. Lest this digresses into a rant, I’ll move on.

Prior to, oh, ten minutes ago, when I edited myself to write “I make a living as an English teacher”, I would claim “I am a teacher”. It may not seem like it, but there is a big difference in the way these two sentences are worded. The first implies my occupation is a temporary one, a stop on the way to something more. While the second implies that my identity is formed by being a teacher. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching, but I think it’s high-time I am seen as something more by myself, by my students, by my administrators, and by society.

In a “take a left at the light, go down two blocks, cross the bridge, and take the first right at the mailbox shaped like a duck” way, that’s really what I’m trying to get at. My internal editor both keeps me from being a writer and keeps me locked into a job where I am finding less-and-less reasons to stay. This started out as musings on how we inhibit our ability to actualize what we want in life (e.g..: be a writer) and ended up something on the way to realizing what part of the problem may be (i.e.: the unhealthy and impossible tasks placed on being a teacher in the 21st-century).

It’s nothing profound, according to my internal editor, but at least it’s a start.

Featured Image by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Three Line Tales, Unbound

The Cattle Herders

Something enigmatic and yearning played about the edges of this moment when the marching of cattle plumed the dust of memories into the morning. Time to reflect and reminisce would come and bring with it the mercy of fulfillment that only weary muscles, dirtied hands, and reddened faces produced. For now, a determined and knowing grin cast low beneath the brim of a stetson welcomed the new day with the beating of horse’s hooves.

In response to: Three Line Tales – Week Ninety-Five
In response to Daily Prompt: Mercy
Featured Image: Tobias Keller via Unsplash
Special thanks to Sonya at Only 100 Words for hosting these Three Line Tales every week
Musings, Prose, Unbound

The Smallness of Us

There are these moments when I picture myself benevolently aged, a bittersweet smile of the past playing about the crow-footed corners of my eyes.  What I wouldn’t give to have a conversation with her.  The woman who weathered storms.  The woman who brought storms.  

What would she think of me with my self-pity and social angst?  

“Child,” she would say, sipping Zinfandel through her favorite My Little Pony mug a lover from long ago gave to her, “It is not the darkness in the life of an artist that creates art.  It is the hope that the darkness will end that helps the artist create life through art.”

I would cast a side-eyed glance at her, but since we occupy the same mind and body, she would guffaw at me and kiss her teeth as she knocked back another swig.

“It’s just like that story we loved as a girl and would always cry at every time we came back to it.  You know… the one where the guy crashes his plane in the desert and meets the alien boy and he tells him this story about a fox and a rose,” she would prattle on.

“Le Petit Prince,” I’d sigh back.  “Everything that is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“Exactly. Except there are also scars the eye cannot see, but that doesn’t mean we let them pervert our heart,” she’d sagely nod in the annoying way old people do right before she takes another gulp which causes Twilight Sparkle to mock me with her smug smile.  “Like this wine.  The fruit of which is sweet from the vine but fermented can leave a bitter aftertaste both in the mouth and in the actions taken under imbibed persuasion.”  

Adding punctuation to her words, she would put the mug down and lean forward in her chair, donning the doggedness that my mother wore when you knew she was right, when you knew she didn’t bring the storm but was the storm, “We must savor the delicacies of our lives, no matter how bitter.  We must not take for granted the world within the smallness of us.”

In response to Daily Prompt: Savor
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Storm” by Free-Photos (CC0 Public Domain)
Poetry, Unbound

Star Stuff

This is a notion I’ve heard many times before but which didn’t fully realize until I shared the room with individuals from all over the world: Hungary, Croatia, the Netherlands, and Italy. The full gravity of it hit me when a Syrian refugee and educator shared stories of how she would play music for her students to drown out the sound of airplanes and bombs. Carl Sagan says we are all made of stars. Instead of trying to dim them because of their differences, I think it’s time we celebrate the things that make our fellow stars shine.

We all are made of
oxygen
hydrogen
nitrogen
calcium
and phosphorus.

We all feel
anger
fear
love
loss
and happiness.

There are a million things that we aren’t.
There are a million and one things that we are.
When we look at comparisons,
holding ourselves up to
a mirror
or someone we think should be our mirror,
we always look at the one thing that makes us different.

By doing so, we either
negate the other person
because we believe our difference is more important,
or we negate ourselves
because we believe our difference makes us somehow deficient.

In reality,
we should be looking
at the one thing that makes each of us unique
and celebrating the miracle of improbability
that created it.

It’s all in the connotation of things.
The way we see things in either:
lightness or darkness.
love or hate.
lament or celebration.

We all try to dim
our fellow stars,
but it doesn’t have to be this way.

This post initially appear on Miss Ross’s Blog via my school district.
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Stars” by skeeze (CC0 Public Domain)