An Identity Crisis and a Fresh Start

Spring break is officially over. The light is at the end of the tunnel; 8 weeks until summer. And here I am sitting at a crossroad in my professional career.

For the last 6 years, I have identified as an English Teacher.
For the last 3 years, I have identified as a graduate student.

Once May comes and goes, both of these things will no longer be a part of my present, they will be a part of my past.

When it comes to the Grad school, I won’t miss the homework, I won’t miss staying up until midnight cramming the last bits of research and APA formatting to make the final touches on a project. I won’t miss the constant due dates looming over my head. But I’m a learner, and I thrive in that environment. In many ways, the last three years of grad school have taught me more about myself as a learner than all of my previous years of undergrad. I finally found my calling, my niche, my tribe.

When it comes to teaching English, I won’t miss the hours of grading essays; I won’t miss re-reading novels and articles I’ve read 8 times just to sharpen my lessons; I won’t miss the late work, or even the excuses that come with it. But the last 6 years have taught me so much about being an educator that I can’t help but wonder how I ever survived my first years of teaching.

I could list thank yous to every administrator, teacher, and student that has had an immediate and lasting impact on me, but I know that there isn’t time for that. So now, it’s not about looking in the past and reminiscing or missing, it’s about taking every opportunity I have in front of me to continue the work of a passionate educator.

It’s a bittersweet moment. I am in a liminal state of trying to find where I belong, of where I fit, of where I call home in a school. But I know having the experience of teaching for the last 6 years and completing my Master’s in Information and Learning Technologies has armed me with the tools I need to begin this new journey. To pave the way for my next adventure.

Onward and upward. In education, the journey is so much more important than the destination. It’s time to embrace my own motto of:

“True education is a kind of never ending story — a matter of continual beginnings, of habitual fresh starts, of persistent newness.” ~Tolkien

To everyone who has helped me, guided me, counseled me, laughed with me, here’s to you. Here’s to my never ending story!

Embrace the Uncomfortable – Rapid Reaction from #picademy

I’m sitting here in the airport ready to head home, and my head is spinning. I spent the last two days immersed in a fully hands-on learning experience unlike any other.

When I applied, I knew Raspberry Pis existed, but didn’t really know anything else. About a month ago, I received an email that congratulated me on being accepted to the final US Picademy of 2016.  There were about 500 applicants for this cohort, and I was extremely lucky and honored to be selected to attend. I knew this academy would be right up my alley, but way out of my comfort zone.

I decided that I was going to embrace the uncomfortable.

I’ve been keeping my eye on the maker movement now for several years, and have even taken a graduate course that had making and makerspaces as a primary focus. But, still, I didn’t really know where to start. I think my fear has always been—and still is to a certain extent—that I wouldn’t be the best at it. But again, I had to tell myself:

EMBRACE THE UNCOMFORTABLE.

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My new Raspberry Pi 3 with Babbage!

After a night of meeting the other cohort members, our instructors, and the amazing hosts from TACC (Texas Advanced Computing Center), I became a little more comfortable in my skin but was still unsure about what I had gotten myself into.

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Taking a selfie with the PiCamera using a Sketch Filter

Day 1: It was a fast-paced firestorm of experimenting and getting our feet wet with a Raspberry Pi. I found myself at times feeling so overwhelmed because I didn’t know why what I was typing in the code was making things happen. And other times, I latched on to something and went crazy while I was supposed to be listening to someone teach.

Day 2: If day one was a firestorm, then day two was trial by fire. We heard from some great speakers in the morning who shared what Raspberry Pi and digital making has done for them and their students. We also heard from a student, Ethan, who started a company by 5th grade, and has now shifted his business model after learning about Raspberry Pi.

After the speakers, we were given 4 hours to work on building a Raspberry Pi project. This provided so many of us to worry about what project we would tackle, but with the guidance of the instructors, we finally decided on a project: a Teddy Bear camera and song machine.

Initially, we found amazing success with our code in the first 15 minutes, but then we realized, when we wanted to make it more difficult, we really needed the support of the room. This project work time was easily the best part of the whole academy. Check out our video of our 1st prototype:

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img_1186I have to admit, that I still feel a little over my head, but Picademy has given me some confidence in knowing that embracing the uncomfortable is the right place to be. When we are uncomfortable, we can grow. Now, there’s lots of work to be done, and I can’t wait to process more and dive head first into digital making and computer science!

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Drawing More and Why I Feel I Can’t

I have done an activity as a teacher, now, several times. Each time, it produces almost the same results. I use it to talk about creativity with my students, but little did I know that I need my own lesson.
I give my students a blank piece of paper and a marker and then tell them that they have 5 minutes to create something. Continually, students freeze. Not just for a second, but for most of the time allotted. The students who get going, love the activity, but about 75% don’t know what to do. I start seeing students looking at their peers’ papers wondering if what they are doing is good enough. What I point out to my students is that they are conditioned to expect rules and procedures for everything they do in school. And when those rules or procedures aren’t given—or heaven forbid, the assignment is open ended—they struggle.

I consider myself a visual/spatial person. I love to visualize things and images stick in my head. But I have always felt inadequate when it comes to illustrating my own thinking. I don’t know if there was a specific moment that I felt that my artistic side decided to take a permanent vacation, or what.

When I was asked to draw a picture for my graduate course this week, I found myself struggling to get started. I didn’t want it to be bad, but I knew that it wouldn’t live up to my own expectations. I needed to sit through my own lesson.

At the Google Innovator Academy in February, we had the opportunity to hear from Sylvia Duckworth who has had some amazing sketchnotes shared around the internet countless times. ShSketchnote Timelapsee encouraged us to try our hand at sketchnoting and not let our fears overcome us.  At the ISTE Conference in Denver this past summer, I was lucky enough to present a short session at the Google Teacher Theater. My friend, Jess, and I gave a session that was sketch-noted as we presented.  After looking at the sketchnote, I couldn’t help but realize that the visual representation of our session was summed up perfectly in images and short headlines.

Knowing that I don’t have to have requisite skills in drawing and art to be able to illustrate thoughts, I still find it extremely demanding and difficult to take an artistic approach to my thinking. I have always struggled with the mind map, because I always felt that others were better than mine. As if somehow, because my spiderweb was less attractive than someone else’s, I had lesser ideas. This has been inhibiting in my life. I let my fear of perfection and excellence cloud my judgment. This limits my creativity, and getting thoughts on paper.

Maybe if I can overcome this fear, I can demonstrate my learning. It can serve to be a starting point for all things creative. It could allow me to really try something new. It might just be a way for me to actually attempt to accept my inner creative side. But, I am weak. And will probably succumb to my perfectionist attitude. But for now, at least someone was able to illustrate my thinking for me.

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Everyday Carry #MTV16 Edition

Anytime that I go to a tech conference, I have the essentials that I carry with me. Because I have the privilege to attend the Google Innovator Academy that I am heading to on Wednesday, my normal everyday carry items will be a little different—a little more techy and .

I thought it would be fun to do an everyday carry  version of what I will be carrying to the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA.