I just finished reading a great book. It’s the kind of book where I nod my head often in agreement, laugh out loud at anecdotes expertly placed in the context of a chapter lesson, and cry uncontrollably at the end….wait…what? Yeah I was surprised too!

So I, of course, have to blog it out.

This book opened old flesh wounds for me. I know I connect with gifted kids because of the way that I see and do things differently. Being different is hard, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it empowers me, but it is hard. Sometimes emotionally hard, when others be-little what I spend time doing in my room, and act as if I am not really teaching. Professionally hard, when I am evaluated on a set of in the box standards for what my students should be doing each minute of the day instead of looking at the outcome of knowledge. Personally hard because I have spent hours, days, years creating and designing and researching….at the expense of my own family, always trying to manage that balance between school and home, knowing the powerful impact it will have on these future citizens, only to be reprimanded for not following the plan. It’s hard to sacrifice time with my own son and feel the daggers being thrown , and still choose to fight for my students.

I have given up many things these past two or three years, and I think some of the tears were about missed opportunities with those students. I still flew the pirate flag occasionally, but most of the time the white flag was out, and I taught in the box I was handed…the same box that every other teacher gets. I did it partly for some personal health reasons, but that really isn’t the whole reason. I did it because I was tired. I will never get those kids back, and that makes me sad.

I also cried I think because I am scared. Scared to face the oncoming marauders..again. I am inspired to get back up and wield my sword once again, but the wounds of past battles remind me that it will not be easy, it will not be popular, it will not be pretty. I will have to build up my mental and physical self, my skin will have to become thick again, and I will have to work hard to keep the balance of work and home because my son needs me to be present and engaged.

My final burst of tears was about what other people think…something Dave talks about. This is a transition year for us. New building, new teams, fairly new principal. Even without flying my flag, this would be a hard year. I will expose myself to people I barely know. I will cause waves in the new pond, and that will force my principal to analyze me and decide whether or not he can afford to let the waves roll, or if he has to get me back in the box for the sake of controlling the masses. I respect him, and I don’t want to cause him extra stress in an already stressful year.

So what will I do? Lay down my sword and leave the fight to a younger, less scarred pirate? I doubt it. I will most likely grab the sword, run into the oncoming year, and raise my pirate flag proudly over my ship. I just wish I felt better about it than I do right now.

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This isn’t the first time I have had this conversation with myself. It’s not even the first time I have had this conversation with some of you! It seems, however, that I need to hear it again, re-calibrate my sense of balance, so I am hoping you will all chime in and help me on this one.

I am all about having kids learn with passion, I want to give even more focus to that this year. I am also trying to figure out how to better embed reading and writing into my other content areas, include more primary source documents, and maintain a student centered classroom…hmmm…already I am out of energy:). Just kidding, keep reading.

SO, I am also moving into a new building, in a new room in which I have no pre-conceived notions about what it should look like, where things should go, etc. here’s my idea…4th grade here is all about Missouri studies…rules and laws, settlements, landscape, cities, economics of regions, right up through westward expansion, civil war…and comparing the Missouri of then and now. I already set up my room as a little community with a constitution draft in the first week, a job and payment system, so I am thinking why not start the year as a new state, declare ourselves, let the kids decide everything…what do we need to establish order, jobs, rural and urban regions. (Rural is book corner, urban is computers). So it would be this constant reference to the history and evolution of Missouri as we go through the year, and by May we would be talking about what the future of Missouri might look like. Huge idea, very sketchy in my head, but cool I think. What do you think?

Next question…how does this allow for my students to learn with passion? Is it already too structured for them to be able to make it their own? What if they just aren’t passionate about Missouri history? It’s that balance between letting go and keeping enough control to teach what I need to teach…I can give them a chunk of time in the day to work on passion projects, I had already had that in my head, but is that enough?

OK..please help me hash this out all you brilliant minds! Rip it apart, I can take it, and thanks in advance for taking time to help me out!

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Today I made a decision about my social network. It came from what I must say is a surprising revelation about how many people in my district are now on twitter! When I started on twitter, a small handful of my nerdiest and most geeky friends were there, and so I started with them, then reached further to build my network. I followed and had conversations with people around the world, and when I needed answers they were out there waiting to help. Twitter was a place for my brain to stretch, and where I could say things that I may not be comfortable bringing up in a room full of teachers in my district.

Now twitter is “the deal” around here, and so I had to say to myself “self, why aren’t you you growing locally?” Six years ago I had to look outside my district, now I can draw inspiration from the people who actually live in my zip code! That’s progress! I am ever hopeful that our district is moving in the right direction.

Yet, as I sit here and click the follow button repeatedly, a twinge of fear bubbles to the surface. I am exposing my soft underbelly to people who I might pass in the halls, see at a baseball game, stand behind in line at Starbucks. Do I want them to see me?

I suppose I would be a hypocrite if I said no, because for years I have been saying how isolated and different from others I have felt, and now they are here, waiting to connect. So I guess it’s time to grow locally!

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Took a walk through the new office today, my first step towards starting over in a new place. I just moved across the parking lot, but it might as well be miles away. I didn’t go down my hallway, didn’t peek in my new classroom, I just don’t feel like thinking about it yet. The faces in the office are the same, but it all just felt out of place. My stuff is all in the new place, but the memories are still back across the parking lot…I started my career at Branson over there, my son and his teacher kids friends played games and drove the janitors crazy after school in that building, I watched some teachers come and go, and said goodbye to my mentor and friend as he moved on and up in his career. Most of all though, I felt the love in that building, the bond between teachers, kids, and staff that made it easy to walk through the doors each day and face whatever crazy situation that came up together. As I laid a hand on the door of my new place this morning, I can’t say that I felt comfortable, but the more I visit, the better it will become. Next time I will venture down the hallway, start measuring and thinking about bulletin boards and what will go in each cabinet. Many of my teacher friends made the move with me, but some did not. Change is good, but not always easy. I guess I should be happy I have a job, and I am. I just need a little more time to get over starting over.

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Years have passed since I have written here, and yet every time I come back to delete I feel the need to create.

For reasons outside of my control, I have gone astray…given up the fight…forgotten what it is like to truly teach with technology the way I used to, the way I was taught to by my forever friend and mentor Cindy Matzat.

When I started in my current school, technology was the wave, and I rode it. My son was in Kindergarten, I had a classroom of eager students and a closet full of handhelds (yes, you remember those).

Fast forward..my son is in 4th grade, technology is on the back burner, and it’s all about the lit. Model now. I have a classroom of eager students and a closet full of mini laptops that I can use “if I can fit it in the model”.

Fast forward…my son is in 7th grade, the district administrators have discovered iPads, and I am following my superintendent on twitter. They are back on the technology wagon, and encouraging me to get on it…it’s the next big thing! Hmmmm….well OK, if you say so:) never mind I have been tweeting for years, and blogging since 2007…as long as I get to take another lap around the tech track! Bring it on!

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I had abandoned this blog for several reasons, but today I felt compelled to come back.  I had started this blog as a sort of personal log of my professional life, and I decided to stroll down memory lane and see what had been on my mind a year ago…two years ago even. 

I have to say it was fun, and sad at the same time for me. 

Fun because I like to look back, and read my own thoughts..it always reminds me of how much I like to write for pleasure…not for an assignment, a professional reflection, a guided reading lesson plan, a grid full of data….just write down what I think..for fun.  I like that.

Sad because it became somewhat obvious to me that I seem to be  on a never ending carousel, going around and around….same battles, same conflicting feelings, same…same…same…  Perhaps the specifics of what caused me to write are different, but the overall feeling of being forced inside the box when I know all I really want to be is outside the box is the same as it was a year ago.  Have I gotten anywhere?  Has anything changed?  Will it ever? 

Again, another blog about my frustration at being a part of the education system…yet I still am not ready to give up…still would not dream of quitting teaching…so I guess I’ll just hang on and keep going around and around until I figure out a way to stop the carousel….or get off.

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This is a quick post to drum up some help for my METC connections lounge.  We have talked many times about how we are not reaching the right people, preaching to the choir, cocktail parties, etc.  This is my attempt to build the bridge, meet new folks, bring them over to the dark side where the bloggers hang out :)  If you are coming to METC, and you read this, please go here, add your name to the grid, and spend some time helping out some newbies while you are conferencing!  I promise it will be painless, and probably fun :)  See you soon!

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I’m back from the silence, and writing again.  Seems like someone else has been driving the bus lately, and I am just along for the ride.  I don’t know exactly who is driving, and I am not sure how I got on this bus, but I am telling you that it has been quite a long bumpy ride so far, and this is my conscious effort to get off the bus, or start driving it myself perhaps.

Do you ever just feel like you have lost control, and you can’t put a finger on when it happened?  It doesn’t happen all at once, because then you would realize it.  It happens a tiny bit at a time…one little thing gets chipped away, then another, and when you turn around to see where you have been, you realize how far off course you are.  Who picked this road?  How did we get turned in this direction?  Is my GPS broken?

I did a lot of bus driving last year, and I liked it.  I took some risks, helped make decisions, paved the road.  I also took some hits for it, and decided it was time for me to let someone else drive for awhile.  I needed to nap in the back seat, eat some cheetos, see if someone else could do a better job of driving than I did.   So I napped, and the bus moved on, and now that I am awake and feeling refreshed I can’t imagine how we got where we are!  I guess that is what happens when you nap….someone else takes the wheel and takes the bus in their own direction.  Now I am left wondering if I am even on the right bus.  Maybe I need to drive again, but it seems like we will only be covering the same road we have traveled before, and when I get tired again, the bus will turn back the way we came and all of our progress will be lost.

If you haven’t quit reading this by now, I am surprised.  I don’t know that this post really has an audience, or needs one.  I am just at a point of internal conflict I suppose, and for the first time in 16 years I am not really sure that I want to be doing this anymore.  Not because I don’t love it, but because I don’t think I am doing it well anymore.  I let someone else drive the bus, and now I don’t know if I can get the wheel back again.  What shall I do?  I know not……

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Just a quick shout out to my network!  Thanks for the ideas about what I might do with my Google Docs problem today.  i have been so out of the loop lately, I was not sure that anyone would respond.  First round of triage came from across the building, when my BFF dropped what she was doing to come to my rescue.  We managed to find a temporary solution, but neither of us had really tried getting a whole classroom full of kids on a google doc at once, so we were stumped.  Then I put the call out on twitter and plurk for some help.  I should have known you all wouldn’t leave me hanging!  My buddy Jen Wagner and I worked through things on skype, and took a minute to catch up with each others lives.  Lisa, Kelly, and Stephanie shed some light on my problems, and gave me some ideas for what to try tomorrow.  So, once again I am grateful for the tools that help us connect for this kind of reason, but also I miss knowing what everyone is doing, what Bernie is grilling, who Jakes is rooting for….but for some reason I just can’t get my feet under me this year, and so I will continue to make myself scarce until I can get a handle on things.  I just had to stop and say thank you for the help, and I am ready to jump back in tomorrow with some new ideas:)  You guys ROCK!

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One of the best days of the year happened yesterday for me.  I saw my new class list for the first time.  Every year, it is like getting the biggest package under the christmas tree for me.  I go over and over the list, looking for names of siblings I have had in the past, wondering if I know any of the parents already, deciphering the notes from past teachers.  I look at those names, and start wondering just how I am going to pull all of this together again and create a loving, creative, self engaging group from this new batch of learners.  I always remind myself to wipe the slate clean, for myself and these kids.  Sure, I read what past teachers say, I consider things like scores and behaviors.  But I also remember that kids get to start over when they come to me, and they may be someone totally different in my classroom….or they may not….but they get that chance.  My slate also gets wiped clean, because I need to give these kids a chance to make their path, because they may not be able to follow the one left behind by past students.  It is always amazing to me how different each group is from the last.  How great is that, the feeling of wiping it all clean, and just seeing what happens?  How many people have jobs where they get to do that every year? 

I have been more nervous than usual about this year, for a lot of reasons.  My district is in transition, and we have all moved, been put in new teams.  We begin year 2 of PLC release time, and I feel the gloves coming off in terms of getting past the “lets all agree and be nice” stage.  We opened a huge can of worms last year by throwing out our referral process and starting RtI , and this year we really need to pick up the pieces and make that work.  My partner in crime, eMINTS, and collaboration has gone to another grade level.  I spent alot of time this summer convincing myself that none of this would affect me, but that was easy to say in May.  Can I protect my classroom from the chaos?  Will my principal still understand how important it is for me to teach the way I do, even if it means I am on a different page than the rest of the team?  His answer to the chaos is to implement more structure, but I don’t know how that will fit with my teaching style.  I don’t want to be a problem child…I respect him, and he does not need more stress.  How important is it to be true to my own beliefs about what students need?  Maybe I should just be a good soldier this year, and hope that things calm down next year.

So this is where my post stopped, and sat in draft for a week, until I read this inspiring post from Bud Hunt.  It made me realize some things. 

One-take risks for the sake of learning.  Teaching the way I do is a risk, and it’s not like I haven’t known that for years.  I have been lucky these past two years to have a bubble of support around me, and that is not totally gone…just a bit further away.  It does not mean that I back away from what I know is right for my students, I just have to be ready to live with the consequences.  I can do that!

Two-chill out! Maybe everything will be fine.  I may have to take smaller steps, walk a bit more softly, rattle a few less cages this year.  Perhaps this will be the year when I find a better balance between home and school, and let a few things go for the sake of sanity, personal relationships, and hallway harmony.  I can do that!

Three-I don’t need permission to do what I know is right for my students.  The classroom is the one place where my students and I create our own safe zone, get things done, take care of each other.  I need to protect the special place we create together.  I can do that!

“Model always what you want your students to do.”  I can’t stop doing what I am doing…because I would never want my students to do that.

“We so need you to do well.”  I can do that!

Thanks Bud, for the inspiration!  You helped me clean my slate…now I am ready :)

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