While I feel like this post will read like a brag sheet, I need to remember that the purpose of my blog is to document my journey: where I have been and where I am going. So here it goes...
The last three summers have led into major changes in my teaching routine: 3 years ago my school agreed to change to a block schedule and double the length of our class periods; 2 years ago I agreed to pilot a new textbook, and at the end of the pilot, the textbook I used did not get adopted; so last year I had to implement another new curriculum in another new textbook. This year the major change won't be time or textbooks, it will be with me, as our district has agreed to give teachers a classroom set of chromebooks.
I jumped at the chance to have my very own class chromebook cart, even though it meant signing up for a workshop at the beginning of my summer. I even agreed to join in a summer book study, even though I hadn't finished a book in over two years. [Another post for another day] Let me just say that my youngest daughter was born five weeks early, spent her first six weeks of her life in the NICU and quickly turned my priorities and schedule upside down. I do have a very nice bookcase full of books that I have read over the last twenty years, but since Makena was born I hadn't read a book cover to cover until this month.
After completing the summer workshop and finishing Part One of The Innovator's Mindset (our choice for the book study), I agreed to start blogging. This was a big thing for me, as I am the shy and quiet guy, but I wanted to make an online journal (or digital portfolio) for the upcoming year. After crossing blogging off of my summer checklist I decided to go after my Google Certification. I was able to make use of a quiet week by locking myself in the bedroom for an hour here and an hour there, until I had completed all of the training modules. I used 97% of the allotted test time, and I re-did a few tasks, but I passed the test on the first try. After that I purchased the book The Classroom Chef and promptly read (or devoured) THE ENTIRE BOOK [Woohoo!]. Two days ago I attended the #CATeachersSummit. And earlier today I finished reading The Innovator's Mindset. I have already finished half of a third book and several chapters of a fourth. I can say that I have made the most of my summer by attempting to learn, to read, to discuss, and to GROW.
The Teachers Summit concluded with Kelly Gallagher talking about "The 5% Teacher", the teachers that try to get five percent better every year. My goal for this summer has been to make myself better and I can honestly say that I have been actively working towards that goal. Despite the fact that I am ten years into my teaching career, I am still very much a student. In true student fashion, I am finishing this post at 2 AM Sunday night (or is it morning now?). And to make matters worse, I was almost done with it, so I decided to finally click to save my draft, only to find that my session had decided to "time out" and lose everything I had written...
So if you are reading this (thank you!) I am going to wrap this up by encouraging you to set aside time during your day (or night) to better yourself: open a book and read a chapter or two, join a twitter chat, expand your PLN, try out a new app or website that you may want to use in your class, write a blog post, or take the time to find and read other blogs that will inspire you (what I was doing at 2 AM yesterday). Start adding towards YOUR extra five percent!
Towards the end of last year, I found myself sitting at my desk, staring at the piles of paper that I had accumulated. We had just found out that our district would be rolling out classroom sets of Chromebooks to teachers that were interested. I knew I wanted to make a change. I want my students to be more engaged. I want to work smarter, not harder. It was then that my idea of starting a blog was born.
My initial thought was to use it more as a public diary to keep myself accountable to exploring new ideas and reflecting upon how they worked. Since it would be about experiences in my classroom, I could wait to start it until school had started back up. But then the universe had other ideas...
First, I began to notice other people around the district were starting up blogs. If they could do it, why not me too? Then, I was reading a book and the author cited an article, "Why Even the Worst Bloggers Are Making Us Smarter". Hmmm... So even if I am terrible at blogging it might prove helpful? A few hours later I received a message from someone asking me if I had ever considered starting a blog. I shared with her my previous thoughts. Her advice was to start now, rather than wait. But you don't understand, I am the shy and quiet guy. It is summer vacation, I am supposed to be relaxing. Why would I want to go and do something uncomfortable?
Ever since the blogging question was posed to me the universe has been sending hints my way. A few days later I ran into a fellow teacher at the store. She asked if I could send her the links to some of the things that I went over in a recent district PD session. Hmmm... So my experiences might be useful to someone else? Another math teacher in my district started blogging. I saw twitter posts from a former math teacher echoing my idea to use my blog as a reflection. And then, while reading Matt Miller's Ditch That Textbook, I found this quote in big block letters at the bottom of the page: "Ditch the excuses. Just start sharing, now."
If I were to ask a magic 8 ball whether I should start blogging now, I am pretty sure that it would tell me that "Signs Point to Yes". So here we are. It is time to start sharing. It is time to get uncomfortable. It is time to step outside of my comfort zone.