Building the New

On my busiest and most stressful days I like to remind myself that my life is a compilation of my past choices.  You don’t make choices in your life just once. You choose and then with each and every day that passes you choose again and again the things that matter, make you happy, and are worthy of your time.  So I remind myself that I get to choose EVERY DAY. The alternative to this (for me) is seeing only the obligations and requirements before you. When I get in this mindset, I tend to get frustrated by all of the immediate WANTS that I can’t have because of all of the MUSTS on my to-do list.

Last year at about this time I decided it was time for a new challenge. I’d been offered several jobs over the previous year that while interesting, were not the right fit for me or my family, or weren’t the direction I wanted to go.   So I sat down with my wife and we talked about what the right job would look like. I was really worried (afraid even) about how a move would unsettle the many pieces of my life that were in balance; being present for my wife & kids, teaching and the classroom, traveling and presenting at conferences, my consulting work, writing and publishing, all of the pieces of life that go together to give each day meaning.

Shortly thereafter I applied and was hired to be a Social Studies Department Chair.  This year has been about adapting to that role, getting to know the people in my department, getting to know the school and community and working to reconstruct a strong classroom and course curriculum.  Surprisingly the hardest part of this was rebuilding my classroom because I had so many ideas about what I wanted that new experience to be like for my students.  You have to surrender the comfort of habit to build something new and ambitious.

The upside to the change has been the growth that comes with challenging yourself and the opportunity to help others grow as teachers. That is what I have loved about twitter from the very start (back in the wonderful early days of #sschat) and my favorite part about working with teachers across the country. There is no better feeling than hearing what passionate teachers or students want to accomplish and then helping them to get there.   Despite the challenges, actually more BECAUSE of the challenges,  I’m loving the job, and I’m glad I made the leap for all that I have learned.  I have gained so much and I feel i’m in a place where I have much to offer.

While the actual jobs skills are important, the most important things that I learned were about what is and is not important to me.  Crisis makes you prioritize and clarify.  I have an idea of where I want to go now, and what I have to do to get there. My vision for the next few years is taking shape.  That is exciting, and it is what led me to make the change in the first place.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 3.53.19 PM

One of the things that I put aside in order to find balance was writing, both articles and for this blog. In hindsight I think that was a mistake.  The time I spend writing has always helped me to sharpen my thoughts and serves as an outlet, something that I now see would have been welcome this semester. Rather than taking my time, I think it would have been a welcome opportunity for expression.

I feel I’m in a better place, with a better vision of my future and where I’m g(r)o(w)ing.


Thoughts on #EdCampMke

Two days after attending #EdCampMKE I am experiencing what I like to call the #EdcampBump. For a period of time after any EdCamp my mind races and I start to see old lessons and the challenges that I face very differently.  The materials that I produce after an Edcamp have a very different feel to them.  Even more powerful is that the materials and content that my students produce in the weeks after I attend and #EdCamp are very different too.


One of the things that I like about the Edcamp model is that there is no institutional inertia holding them in place. They are driven by the ideas and interests, problems and concerns of the people who attend them.  There is no set philosophy that they must adhere to and no agenda that must be followed.  If the schedule does not meet your needs it is not the fault of the planners, it is on you to speak up and fix it.  For this reason I believe that in 10 years the Edcamp model will be just as relevant as it is today since it will not have to shed a previously embrace set of institutional policies and values.

Case in point was the impromptu Smackdown session that was run in the café’ late on Saturday.  It was thought up and made real.  While I was participating I was following several Google docs from the sessions that I was interested in but chose not to attend.  The Smackdown was a priority for me because of our upcoming 1:1 pilot.

Overall it is a day that I get to plan.  I set my priorities for learning. I seek out further knowledge when necessary.  It is as learning should be.  Mostly, I knew what I needed and I set out to get it but several times people in sessions made it clear to me that there where new places that I could grow.

Edcamps are a growth medium where ideas germinate and spread, where a first year teacher has as much right to share ideas and sessions as a 20 year veteran.  Edcamps foster sharing like no other PD experience I have ever attended.  Edcmaps foster a sense of community among the teachers that attend them that I have never seen replicated in another format.  Teachers helping teachers, giving everything they have to offer and sharing their passions, what could be better than that.

I could say so much more here but rather than go on and on I wanted to list some of the moments at #edcampmke that have stuck with me and mean the most.

  1. The session “What has your Attention?”  Just talking about what we were passionate about.  I have a list of things to read. I left and my soul felt good.
  2. Listening to Wisconsin teachers who have been through a lot and are facing some hardships put it all aside and discuss how to best serve their students with fewer resources.
  3. Watching my sister-in-law experience an #Edcamp for the first time and talking about running one herself.
  4. Discussing how to manage your public face and digital life on twitter and in blogs without losing who you are or the honesty of what you are saying.
  5.  Talking to others from 1:1 schools about the concerns of the community and the “Why?” Behind such programs.
  6. Explaining twitter to someone who had no idea it could be used for education. I remember thinking the same thing just a few short years ago.
  7. And soo many more.

So thank you to the organizers of EdCamp Milwaukee for a very well run day. Thank you to all of you who shared your thoughts and passions and contributed to my growth.  Growth is life.

Goodbye to Forward into History

Sometimes moving forward means leaving things behind.  In the past two years I have grown so much as a teacher and blogging has been a big part of that.  Writing has helped me to process my goals, my job and my life. I have every intention to continue. But, recently I have felt that I need a fresh start on a new blog, not so narrowly focused on teaching or technology or any one thing. I kept writing blog posts that I did not post because they were outside my current definition of what the blog should be.

So I will reinvent my blog here. It is me. It is what I am learning and where I will grow.  I hope that it will better represent me in my totality rather than any one component, be it father, husband, or teacher. Our growth is like the legs on a table.  If any one part grows too fast or independently of the others, the table becomes unstable.

Here is a link to my past blogs.