Only Perfect People Need Reply

tumbleweed wrangler

 

Please remember that very few of us have it completely together.

 
We’re all bobbing along a spectrum of togetherness and only a handful of us are at the far end of zipped up. Some of us are at the floating-in-space end. Most of us are traveling somewhere in between (depending on the day, the hour, the minute) like  tumbleweeds rolling through the countryside in want of a place to rest.
 
Some people are skilled at making it seem like they are cool as can be all of the time, but in reality, most people have no idea what they are doing and we’re just hoping no one else notices.
 

 

Remember this because I know there are people out there who feel bad when they see how lovely other people’s lives appear to be.

 

Remember that if you are a person wondering why other people have more pristine lives than you that you are probably doing okay and if you’re not, other people will help you, if you ask.

 

Remember that if you want to portray a perfect life, it might actually hurt someone who is observing.

 

Be real, if you can.

If you see someone looking all perfect, most likely, they are just really good at filters–literal and metaphorical filters.

Correct me if I’m wrong, perfect people.

Kindness Ripples through @phsKINDNESS

phsKINDNESS

Some time ago, I assigned my very small (but mighty) Contemporary Literature (#phsCONlit) class their cornerstone assessment, which was designed to have them identify a social problem that they encountered in one or more of the texts (novels, articles, movies) we read throughout the duration of the semester. After reading countless articles about domestic abuse, teen suicide and bullying as well as novels Winter’s Bone by Daniel Wooddrell, Stitches by David Small, and Saint Iggy by K.L. Going, (and surmising that one of the root problems for the main characters in each of these books could be bullying behavior by both peers and adults) and viewing the documentary Bully (which was more straightforward in presenting bullying as a social problem), the six students (who prefer to remain anonymous) centered on bullying as their focal issue and narrowed that focus to cyberbullying, because it was a problem that they had ALL witnessed, been the recipient of, or participated in directly. (These were not easy conversations and it took a lot of trust.) The assessment tasked them with finding a possible solution for this problem. I pointed out to them that I noticed that I often see students tweeting (and retweeting) negative or unkind things, but that I couldn’t necessarily say the same thing for kind tweets. As a result of the assessment and the dialogue that occurred during the formulation stages of the project, they decided, as a group, to create a Twitter account that tweeted and retweeted nothing but kind words. And @phsKINDNESS was born.

Ironically, at the same time, an anonymous student (but maybe NOT so anonymous because students talk!) from our school created a Twitter account that posted nothing but unkind things. The six students in my class agreed that they would not follow it and that they would not “FAVORITE” or retweet anything that THAT account posted. (A couple of them were following the account and they realized that this was hypocritical and unfollowed it after our conversation.) For the record, the unkind account was deleted not too terribly long after its creation. Ours is still going strong. (One other remarkable moment in this process was when one of the students pulled out his cell phone and told us that he was then and there going to delete and block his ex-girlfriend’s phone number from his phone because all they did was bully each other and he was tired of it. I was so proud of him.)

Once the account was established, they began searching for kindness on Twitter and found it! We tweeted kind things; we retweeted kind things; we followed kind people. And then people started following us. The account quickly had 100 followers, mostly from our community and the Twitter education community. As of the creation of this blog post, we have 236 followers, which, for a non-celebrity account, is not too shabby, though, wouldn’t it be awesome if kindness received some celebrity? We also established an email address (phskindness@gmail.com) to encourage people to submit quotes about kindness and instances of kindness that they have witnessed on Twitter.

In 2014, two students (who were NOT part of the Contemp Lit class that created @phsKINDNESS) and I attended the Wicked Anti-Bullying Summit at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha, NE. The students who created the account graduated in 2014, but because of my attendance to The Summit, I have continued the account, with the assistance of those who pass along kindness via Twitter and our email account.  I also submitted our project to the The Summit’s project contest and it was selected as a winner. As a result, in either March or April, I get to take 100 students and teacher to a show at either The Orpheum Theatre or the Holland Performing Arts Center. I am going to invite the six students who started @phsKINDNESS, but I don’t know if they want to “out” themselves just yet. They are proud of what they did, but one thing we discussed is doing kind things for the sake of kindness rather than “getting credit.” In essence, whether they come or not, their kindness is being rewarded by paying it forward to the current students of PHS.

In a roundtable discussion with invited members of our school community, our principal asked the students how they planned to sustain this project after their graduation. As a group, we came to the conclusion that they would do so by the way they live. My hope is that they are doing just that, and I suspect that they are. The small but mighty group was an unlikely group of friends who had just the right synergy to pull off the project. My belief and my hope is that they will pay it forward with a lifetime of kindness. They know they have the power to do so.

Here’s a news report by local station WOWT, Channel 6

#NETA14InstaWalk: Another Dynamite Opportunity to Network at This Year’s Conference

The NETA convention always presents plenty of opportunities for educators from all over Nebraska and nearby states to connect on a personal level, from Tweet ups to a Twitter hashtag (#NETA14 this year!) to surrounding oneself with like-minded learners and educational movers and  shakers–in the flesh. Recently, NETA Board Member, soon-to-be President-Elect and Bald and Bearded Wonder, Josh Allen  approached me about hosting NETA’s first ever InstaWalk. Of course, being the social media-obsessed lady that I am, I totally geeked out about the prospect and so here we are.

We’ll be modeling ourselves after the ASCD Instawalk, but we will be putting our own Midwestern twist on it.

Essentially, the NETA14 InstaWalk will be a photo scavenger hunt for all conference attendees. We will share our photos via Instagram, using the #NETA14 hashtag and then we will regram some of the tagged photos on NETA’s very own (and very new) Instagram account (@nebedtech). I will also share some here on my blog. Naturally, I will be participating too because I do love me some Instagram. I have three accounts–> one personal one (@morgetron), one for my classroom (@mizmorgetron) and one for a special project that my Contemporary Literature students undertook this semester (@dollyfamilyrules). This will be yet another way to network with other attendees (and presenters), but will serve also as a virtual tour for anyone who can’t make it to the event this year.

To participate, follow these steps.

1. If you don’t have the Instagram app on your mobile device, download it from the app store and establish an account.

2.  On both Thursday and Friday of the conference, we will post the daily scavenger hunts in a couple of places … here on my blog and on NETA’s Instagram. Either check back here, or follow the NETA Instagram to see the prompts.

3. Fulfill the scavenger tasks throughout your NETA14 experience. Snap, share, search, interact.

4. Make sure to add #NETA14InstaWalk to all of your photo captions. This will send your photo to an Instagram backchannel that will allow everyone to see our photos in one place. Some of these photos will be regrammed on the NETA Instagram account. (Please note that if you have a PRIVATE Instagram account, you photos will not show up in the backchannel for everyone. They will only appear to those users who follow you. There are pros and cons to private accounts.)

5. This is for fun, so don’t let it stress you out! If you can’t fulfill one of the prompts, NBD. It’s not a contest; it’s strictly to make our conference experience more fun, so we hope you enjoy it!

6. If you’re more of a lurker, you can also watch the fun unfold by searching for the #NETA14 hashtag on Instagram (via the EXPLORE function) or clicking on the tag when it appears in the caption of a photo. However, I want to encourage you to pop your comfy lurking bubble and at least try one of the tasks. This will be a very supportive environment to test the waters of social media, if you haven’t done so before.

Krissy Venosdale hosted ASCD’s InstaWalk this year, and, thanks to Twitter, I will be picking her brain for pro-tips! Josh also suggested I reach out to Eliu Uati Paopao as a co-host and we will be putting our heads together this Wednesday for a brainstorming session via Google Hangout.

In addition to posting your photos, we also encourage you to comment on and “LIKE” others’ photos as well. Interaction is the goal here! You can also share your photos via Twitter or Facebook. Josh will be helping me to set up an IFTTT recipe to share these photos via the NETA Facebook page and Elui and I will share some of them via our personal Twitter feeds also (@epaopao & @morgetron).

We’ll be offering a Scavenger Hunt Preview sometime soon, so stay tuned for updates and make sure to follow us on Instagram –>

@nebedtech!

Instagram

Good learning is good learning.

This blog was originally concocted in an effort to document my experience as a teacher in the first year of a 1:1 iPad school. I certainly haven’t blogged as often as I originally intended, but I’ve noticed that most of my posts are not centered around iPads at all. My first post set that up though –> I wasn’t expecting our iPads to transform our school into some sort of megaplex of learning (anymore than it already is), but I was hopeful at the chance for all of my students to have equal access (or closer to equal access) to resources that were, at best spotty, in previous years. Closing that gap between HAVE and HAVE NOTS was what I appreciated most about the prospect of going 1:1. I believe our 1:1 initiative has done just that.

However, what this blog turned out to be more than anything was a place to share things that work for me (so that others may benefit) and to promote my students’ work and experience. Some of these things, work, and experiences involve iPads as a “star,” but most do not. In other words, though having iPads at our fingertips has been (mostly) wonderful, it hasn’t changed what I do in the classroom very much. It’s given me different ways to do it, but I’m still striving for the same outcomes, rolling with the same punches, and having similar successes and failures that I’ve had in years past.

When it comes down to it, most teachers I know have a knack for finding what works for their individual students regardless of the resources provided to them. I am grateful that my job and my students lives are easier because of the incredible educational instruments we as a school community have close at hand every day, but bottom line –> good teaching is good teaching AND, more importantly good learning is good learning. Both can transcend the devices we have at our disposal.

 

Want to make a kid’s day? Comment on his or her blog post. #comments4kids

A while back, William Chamberlain, a teacher from Noel, MO started the #comments4kids backchannel, which was devised for students and their teachers to promote their blog posts and garner eyeballs! (He wrote a blog post about it back in 2009 when he first planted the seed.) We’ve been using that hashtag for a couple of weeks now and it’s working! I’m glad I asked William about this concept because he pointed me in the direction of the aforementioned blog post and he told me about this resource –> COMMENTS4KIDS, which has many other resources for teachers/students seeking comments for student blogs. Also, I didn’t know that WEDNESDAY is the official #comments4kids day on Twitter, until I read his post. I’ve been using it indiscriminately … on all sorts of days of the week … and probably will continue to do so, because it seems that folks do check that backchannel on other days too because … like I said: It’s been working! (My Twitter followers have been helping too. THANKS DOOOoooOOooOods!)

Want to make a kid’s day? Comment on his or her blog post. If you have the time AND the *positive* energy to share, please consider visiting one of the following blogs to post some constructive comments of either encouragement or dialogue extension for my students.

Keaton D. * The love of my life, softball *http://conlitkd.edublogs.org/
“You’ve been gripping the ball this whole time.. To find out it was the other way around.”

Danny C. * contemporary literature blog * http://conlitdc.edublogs.org/
“Sponsored by Crosgrove Industries… Do NOT look us up”

Xiola K. * Passion Fashion Blog * http://phsapengxk.edublogs.org/
“fashion you can use”

Destiney H. * Tattoo Blog * http://phsapengdh.edublogs.org/
“all about tattoos”

Shelby T. * Seeing Red * http://phsapengst.edublogs.org/
“A young redheaded woman’s view on heated topics and government”

Kody S. * Kody’s Food Blog* http://kodysfoodblog.edublogs.org/
“food, food, and more food”

Truman S. * Aliens * http://conlitts.edublogs.org/
“What? Who? Where? Why?: Aliens”

Camden P. * Basketball Blog * http://conlitcp.edublogs.org/
“blog about all levels of basketball”

Nicole C. * Don’t worry. Be happy. * http://phsapengnc.edublogs.org/
“everything that makes me happy”

Jessica B. * Bitter Blonde * http://phsapengjb.edublogs.org/
“my pet peeves”

Megan I. * Pinterest Tutorials * http://phsapengmi.edublogs.org/
“seeing which/how Pinterest tutorials work”

Kylie M. * Important Problems * http://phsapengkm.edublogs.org/
“anything that I feel is important to discuss”

James E. * Farming * http://conlitje.edublogs.org/
“the farming life”

 

iFixate (a post of gratitude)

When I find something that works, I tend to fixate on it. Right now I am fixating on my students’ blogs. I have a few “greatest hits” as far as things that I’ve tried that have gone over well in my career and I’m officially adding blogging to the top of that list. I’ve tried blogging or some form of it in the past and nothing has worked as well as this year’s blogs. One year I had students “discuss” novels in the comments of a blog I posted. Another year I had students respond to literature in their own personal blogs. In the grad class I teach in the summer, I’ve tried group blogging and I’ve tried individual blogging, and grad students will do pretty much whatever their instructor asks, but that doesn’t mean that they will do it passionately. (It doesn’t mean they WON’T either, but it is the exception and not the rule.) One thing that I did differently this time is I asked the students to generate their own topic based on their personal passions. This seems to have done the trick for most of my students.

PASSION was the missing ingredient.

How silly of me to have overlooked this precious commodity. I mean, I have meant well over the years. I’ve made attempts to INSTILL passion in students, but when you get down to it, passion is innate, it is familial, it is written in the unique code of our DNA. It CAN be contagious, but there must be a seed of interest there in order for it to grow. YES, I am passionate about reading and writing, and so are SOME of my students, but for those who have other interests (which would include nearly every single student I encounter), blogging provides an opportunity to dig into their interests whilst practicing invaluable skills! It’s a win-win and it’s going to help us meet and exceed some standards along the way too.

I don’t want to give off the impression that this has gone off without some hitches … In fact, NOTHING! … *REPEAT* –> NOTHING! I do ever turns out PERFECTLY … I’m convinced there is no such thing as “perfect” in education, and I do think we do not SHARE our failures and imperfections enough! I could blog exclusively on my daily fails, but it’s more fun to promote what goes well!

Some students are still experiencing a bit of writer’s block and some suffer from apathy or Senioritis, but for the most part, this whole blog thing has proven to be an effective way for students to practice their writing and in many cases, their research and to stretch their thinking and creativity. And frankly, this is more interesting for me as a teacher than reading 80+ canned responses on a piece of literature half the students weren’t interested in anyway. It’s pretty painful to read through so many similar pieces of writing only to discover they are nothing more than regurgitations of what I said in class or — worse yet — responses designed to appear as if they are regurgitated forms of MY thought, but it’s clear that the writer is just “faking” it because he or she DIDN’T read the text AND/OR DIDN’T listen in class. That’s REALLY painful.

These blog entries are a delight AND I’m learning things about the topics the students have chosen and more importantly about the students themselves.

So, I’ve been fixating on these blogs and my TEACHER dashboard lately. I’ve been tweeting out my students’ links like crazy! I’m just as excited as the kids when they receive a comment from outside of our classroom and I’m off-the-charts, over-the-moon excited when I see someone has made another post, on their own time, just because they WANT to do it. I stumbled into a Twitter chat last night on “visible learning.” Talk about visible learning! This is why I teach!  This is why I’m still learning!  My students’ PASSION BLOGS have reignited my passion for teaching writing and for someone who’s been in “the biz” for nearly 14 years, that is so valuable. My students have given me this gift and I am so very full of gratitude.

 

iHug … Trees and iWin Awards

It’s not very often that I win prestigious awards, but tonight, the #EduBroAwards winners were announced and guess who won one? –>THIS GIRL<–. Of course, I created the category for which I was nominated, and … um … er … I nominated myself, but I WON, internerts! I WON!

You may not know this about me, but it’s about time I revealed this to the world: I am a stupendous tree hugger. When I hug a tree, it feels the love. Not everyone takes the time to hug trees, but I try to fit it in whenever I can.

Thanks Nicholas, yah big nerd and Tim, you big mustachioed hunk of a man, you! This was fun. You make the EduTweeterSphere a better place with your passion for education and your creative, humorous spirit. It is events like this that help ensure that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

VERY PRESTIGIOUS AWARD

And, just in case you don’t believe me, here is some proof of my stellar tree hugging ability. Feel free to leave testimonials about times you’ve seen me hugging trees in the comments. Go ahead … Don’t be shy, now.

May 2011, Washington D.C.

Bonus Trivia: Once time whilst at Mount Vernon, I hugged a tree that was planted by none other than President George Washington.

iThank You.

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

This job keeps me busy. I am grateful for that. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t busy, but sometimes I wish I had more time to write. So, I’ve been trying to make more time lately. I’ve been participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this month, and I am definitely not on point with where I should be in the highly coveted word-count game, but I’m further along that I would’ve been had I not participated in NaNoWriMo. As I tell my students, where writing is concerned, a start is better than a nothing.  Then there is this blog. I must make more time for this blog. Writing keeps me sane. Publishing for a genuine audience holds me accountable. Sanity and accountability are valuable commodities.

But what this post is really about is gratitude. So let’s get there …

I am thankful …

… for God and family (biological and chosen) above all (Duh. This seems to go without saying, but I cannot leave it off.)

… to be my students’ teacher.

We are a very serious bunch. And, yes, we are a single-gender class, but we still miss our man, Tim B.

I’m also thankful that my students humor me so often. (“Form a semi circle on the floor so I can get all of your heads in here. Okay no. Let’s make that a full circle. Come on, smash in there. There we go. A little to the left. Now right. Now everybody–cheese!”)

world lit in the great outdoors

… to work with colleagues whom I genuinely admire.

my travel buddies

at ESU 3 with Mrs. Janda

… for #nebedu, #nebedchat, #engchat, #edchat, #silly, and for Twitter, in general, as a daily source of professional development, inspiration,  humor and friendship.

… to have the honor of teaching my daughter and her friends during their final year of public education.

Homecoming 2012

… to coach students who have a passion for theater, for art, and for living life to its fullest potential.

just another day in Forensics class

the one-act ensemble and the Happy Princess

drama in drama class

... for being able to occasionally conduct class outside.

the straight line experiment

blog tag

… to work in a district that values innovation and professional development. (It’s good to be a Trojan!)

… for apps, especially photography apps.

iSwapFaces: Steven Franklin

PopDot: Matt B.

Retromatic: Mia

… to work in a community whose members value education and support the children and teachers of our schools.

… that I live in America.

… for this guy (I know this is old, but it’s still one of my favorites):

!BREAKDANCING BEAR!

and all the levity the internerts provide me.

… that one of my students is also participating in NaNoWriMo and is much closer to being on point with word count than I am.

… that I had time to write this post.

 

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

~Epicurus